Ebook News

On Saturday, I sold the one thousandth ebook of Death’s Angels. It was a nice milestone to pass. It comes in the first month in which I have sold over a thousand ebooks too. All in all I have sold a couple of thousand books in the Terrarch series and roughly 2400 ebooks in total including short stories and collections. I have also had roughly five thousand downloads of the Guardian of the Dawn since it went free.

I started selling ebooks in July and have released one of the Terrarch books roughly every six weeks since then. The last book, Shadowblood only went on sale this month. December will be the first month that the whole series will be available and I am curious to see how it goes.

Creating your own ebooks is pretty simple. It’s not quite as simple as saving a document on your word-processor but pretty close. If you know how to save a document you can learn how to create your own ebooks in about fifteen minutes. I am not kidding. You can do it all with free software as well. I’ll cover this in a future post.

It is amazing what the ebook revolution has made possible. The Terrarch sales numbers would be very good for a small press. I doubt any major publisher would be interested in selling in these numbers but if you consider the fact that the royalty rates are much higher (35% or 70% depending on price) it still looks perfectly possible to make a living doing this. It is certainly the most profitable hobby I have ever had.

When I started out, I mentioned the fact that I would be delighted to sell two books a day. For the past few months Death’s Angels has been averaging 13-15 books a day and the rest of the books in the series roughly 6-7 per day. There is usually a surge of sales during the initial release but these seem to be the way long term numbers fall.

Is there anything I learned that might prove useful to anyone else contemplating doing this? A few things. In my experience novels sell a lot better than short stories (not really a surprise there!) and a series is a very good idea. Releasing the latest book always seems to give a boost to the earlier ones.

What about marketing? My marketing has consisted of posting on this blog and on a couple of boards dedicated to the Kindle. There has been no advertising and very little tweeting. I strongly suspect most of the heavy lifting has been done by Amazon’s algorithms.

Is there anything you can do to increase sales? Well, my sales really took off when I reduced the price of Death’s Angels to 99 cents. This meant a huge fall in revenue for this book, not just from the drop in price but from the reduction of the royalty rate to 35% from 70%. On the other hand, sales of Death’s Angels increased by a factor of about 6. Sales on the later books increased by a factor of three.

There does not seem to be any difference in sales between prices of $2.99 or $3.99. The books sold equally well at either price. There was a definite fall-off in sales at $4.99, more than the increased royalty rate would make up for. For me this seems to fix the price for future releases. I would open a series with a 99 cent book and follow on with prices set at $3.99 for books of 75K or longer, less for shorter books.

If you do go in for this, I would also advise you to be patient. In my first month (really my first 3 weeks since I released on July 8th) I sold 38 books. This month I have sold more than a thousand. It takes sales time to build. The more books you have the more you will sell too (that seems only common sense, doesn’t it?)

For me, the biggest benefit is that epub had renewed my enthusiasm for writing. It’s not that I was not enjoying my work previously either, I enjoy writing Warhammer novels. But it was disheartening (to say the least) to go 6 years with out finding an English language publisher for the Terrarch series. Now at least a thousand people have bought a copy and maybe more will find it. It has a chance to reach its audience. When you consider it’s in a genre that is not exactly fashionable (Lovecraftian gunpowder military fantasy), that is all that can reasonably be asked.

There is something tremendously invigorating about the idea that you can write what makes you really enthusiastic even if it does not fit into the lengths or genres that publishers demand. You can write short stories or novellas or short novels or very, very long novels and you can find an audience. It might not be a huge one but it will be an audience. It makes me truly, truly grateful to be working in this field at this time and I would like to thank every single person who has bought one of these books.

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Comments

  1. Michael Mooney says:

    Well thank you for writing them. I finished Shadowblood on Sunday, just the thing to read as the winds howled across the moors of Argyll, You can’t throw a claymore around there without hitting a standing stone, ruined castle or hold-out Jacobite, and the final scenes of the tiny band of survivors making a last stand in a ruined farmhouse could have been happening outside.
    Excellent stuff.

  2. Those are really excellent numbers – well done!

    What is your split between Kindle and Smashwords?

    Have you tried giving the first book away free for a period to see what effect that had?

    The maximum price point ties in quite well with my own consumption of ebooks. I’ll pretty much buy anything that looks semi-interesting if it is GBP2.99 or under. Up to GBP3.99 and I need almost all positive reviews and a big file size to know that I am getting a full novel-sized book. Over 4 quid and it has to be something that I really want and from an author or publisher I trust.

    • It’s mostly Amazon, Nick. Smashwords is about 3-4%.

      I have considered free but I am happy with the sales I am getting at 99c. A lot of people have reported very good results by making the first book in the series free and a few have reported no change.

      Since I don’t have any direct access to any publisher except Amazon (not being in the US and being unwilling to jump through Apple’s hoops) the process of making things free and unfree through Smashwords is incredibly imprecise. A lot of people who go free Smashwords have reported extreme difficulty making their books unfree again.

  3. That’s all very useful info. I’m sure I read somewhere that Smashwords could reach around 15% of the market, but I am sure that it varies very much according to genre and whether authors are doing a lot of their own marketing sending potential buyers through to their own Smashwords store.

    Interesting that iBooks is doing so poorly but, then again, I hardly ever hear of anyone talking about them. It’s good that the Kindle Fire looks like it will give the iPad a run for its money.

    Also good to know that the Smashwords partners are a bit inflexible on changing prices. That would be a total disaster to try a test by giving away a book for free only to fin that it was stuck there indefinitely.

    • My thoughts precisely on using Smashwords to go free. That is why I experimented with Guardian of the Dawn. I am basically prepared to let it stay free if that is what happens. As an aside, the downloads for it were huge in the first six weeks and have since tapered off to not a lot more than my 99 cent books. I suspect what happens with setting books free is that you get a huge spike and then a fall. It’s like you burn through a large proportion of the books potential audience very quickly. I am guessing that with a series this might also give you a spike on the rest of the books sufficient to lift you onto the bestseller charts which also augments sales. What happens after that is anyone’s guess. I have been reading a lot recently that suggests Amazon’s algorithms are tuned to reward slower organic growth– which makes sense because it stops people gaming the system by getting all their mates to buy books on one day. If that is the case, I would be happy to stick with slower, long term growth if I can get it. I don’t know if any of this is true though. Mostly it’s just other people’s guesswork :).

      I suspect the Kindle Fire is going to be the Tablet “for the rest of us!” At least until Windows 8 comes along.

  4. Thank you so much for sharing your numbers with us, William. I’m always drawn to your covers on the Kindle Boards and it looks like a fantastic series. I’m surprised you haven’t done more promotion. I thought for sure you would’ve done more with covers as nice as yours.

    It’s good to know that you don’t necessarily need to go heavy on the marketing to see results. I’m under the belief that writing the next book is more important than join another social networking site.

    Best of luck to you in the coming year.

    • Thanks Emily,

      I don’t really have time to do much promotion :). Writing and blogging takes up most of the available work time and I like to have a life beyond my work. I think writing the next book is a completely viable strategy. I’m not really big on the whole self-promotion thing either.

      Good luck to you too!

  5. Great post, Bill. Really appreciate the detail and the numbers.

    • Thanks Matt,

      One of the thing that impressed me about the indie movement was the willingness of people to talk about numbers and not just the good ones. This is my small contribution to that sort of transparency. I’ll probably update it at intervals as and when I have something to say. I am already planning some sort of overview of how things have gone at six months in and one year in.

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