Saturday, April 30, 2011

How to Sell a Gazillion e-books (exaggeration free).

Well, I'm reaching the last day of the 3rd month of my eBook experiment. Since mid-February I've released several of my out-of-print books and one selection of short stories as eBooks. Here they are below.

The books are available on Amazon, iBooks and Smashwords.
My total sales were as follows:
February: 21 copies
March: 51 copies
April: 368 copies

Because I like graphs, I'll put this one in to the left. It does make it rather clear that there has been a large growth in the number of sales. Part of that is due to the fact that there are now more books available for purchase. I'll break down the individual sales:
Dust:  397 copies
Draugr: 18 copies
Haunting of Drang: 9
Shades: 16
Tribes: 1

Of the sales 440 total sales, 419 come from Amazon, the rest are spread between iBooks and Smashwords.  Obviously DUST is the biggest seller and (sniff) poor TRIBES is the least (and always the last one picked for the eBook "baseball" team). The books that have sold more are the ones that have been out longer. The reason for DUST's sales though are twofold. One is that I dropped the price to 99 cents about mid-March (from $2.99). The second is that DUST was listed on Pixel of Ink, which is a website that lists low-priced and free books for Kindle owners. Dust had sold 16 or so copies in the space of a month and a half. And started to pick up a bit once I lowered the price, but really grew after the listing.

In fact I kept track of the daily sales starting April 1st when the book was listed:
April sales:
1st-80 copies (Pixel Ink listing)
6-42 (have no idea why it suddenly jumped up here or the next day)
7 -40
14-15 (Daily Cheap Reads listing)
25-22 (holiday monday sales)
30-2 (so far)

So you can see that DUST, which used to average two or three sales a week has jumped to 6-10 copies a day. Obviously at 99 cents a copy (that's 35 cents for me), I'm not making a bundle (in fact only averaging about $3 a day or so). But my hope is that the book will continue to climb (even if it continues as this pace it will sell 4200 copies in a year's time). The more people who buy it the more it ends up in the "people who bought this also bought this" list. 
What the DUST buyers are Buying

Obviously the more times DUST is recommended the more times it has a chance to sell. At first I was going to leave the book at .99 cents for two months, but now I might wait until it has sold at least 1000 copies, just to see what kind of momentum it will gain from having so many recommendations. 

As far as my other books go I'll let them grow slowly. Draugr, The Haunting of Drang Island and (soon to be released) The Loki Wolf are more middle-grade novels, and I don't believe the market is that big for them yet. They're a long term investment. Shades is a collection of short stories and they tend not to sell as well (but I always have hope). For Tribes I bought an ad in Pixel of Ink to give the book a leg up because I believe the novel is attractive to both young adults and adults, and therefore has a wider audience for me to aim at. If only I'd put a vampire in the book! 

Which reminds me, I am considering writing a "direct-to-ebook" novel. Something short, snappy, and full of action and aimed at adults. I'd really like to test out everything I'm learning on a brand new project. Oh, but first I better finish writing the next book in The Hunchback Assignments.


Friday, April 29, 2011

Uncle Ray Bradbury

When I was twelve years old, I first met Uncle Ray. I found him in the back of the grade seven classroom in a cardboard box. In that box were paperbacks with torn covers and rough-edged pages whose best days were far behind them; they had fought the good storytelling fight. I dug through the jumble of books and clutched The Martian Chronicles.  The cover was orange, the planet mars was in the background, and in the foreground was the author’s floating, majestic face looking as though it had been carved in stone. Daring me to read it. His name was printed in letters that seemed to rise off the page. RAY BRADBURY.

I brought the book to my desk and when the final school bell of the day rang, I carried it along with my homework onto the school bus. It usually took forty minutes to get home to my parent’s ranch on the bus, so I opened the book. And I fell inside: I suddenly walked a world where a rocket could bring summer to winter, where Martians lived and breathed, where the macabre house of Usher could stand again. I did not want to leave Mars.
The book changed me. Oh, I had been altered by other books (The Hobbit, for example), but there was a deep, trance-like beauty in Brabdury’s prose. It lived, it breathed. His words could build temples. His words came from the deepest wells of the earth, of the soul. I was possessed by an overwhelming desire to read more. I wanted all his words, all his worlds inside of me. And so, in the next few months, I hunted for his books, demanding them from librarians, scouring bookshops, until they were in my possession. 
And in that time he became part of my family. I began to think of him as Uncle Ray. If I were to draw up the family tree he would be right there alongside my other uncles. After all, he has guided me, shaped me. And he was along for every family vacation, right there during every holiday.
Flash forward eighteen years. I had become a writer (a path I am certain his words helped me choose) and I had written my fourth novel, Dust. It was my ode to his words, his worlds. And, gathering my courage, I sent my book to him. I did not expect a reply. Just the thought that his hands might touch it, or even that the book might sit at his front door, was enough.
Three months later a letter from California arrived at my door. I stared at it. I turned it over in my hands. Finally, I opened it to discover this:
I was (and still am) dumbfounded that a man as busy as Bradbury (and obviously ill at the time), would take the precious minutes to write to me. The letter is framed and on the wall of my office, a daily inspiration.
One of the concepts in life is the whole idea of "paying it forward." In other words if someone helped you get into your position, then instead of paying them back you should pay it forward to the next generation. This is obviously what Bradbury was doing. And I thank him. And I will continue thank him by paying it forward myself.
I shouldn’t have been surprised by the letter, of course. After all, he is my Uncle Ray.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Worldwide eRelease of TRIBES

Today I'm releasing the ebook of my novel TRIBES worldwide (except Canada*). It will be the fifth ebook of my backlist that I've released so far. To recap here are the others:

I've really enjoyed the challenge of understanding how to create and market ebooks and of working with the various distributors. On a "gee where is my career going" level, it has been an experience to reread these books from my past. Some are even as old as fourteen. I mean that's grade nine for Pete's sake!

TRIBES is a short novel, weighing in at a little over 25,000 words, but it is dense with ideas: evolution, big bang, first love, suicide, grad week shenanigans. I still remember writing a note to myself that went something like this: anthropological study of high school students big bang science stuff. That's about how much sense my notes make sometimes. But soon Percy the anthropologist wannabee was appearing on the page telling me all about his high school and the dangerous tribes that lurked inside it: The Lipstick and Hairspray tribe, The Hockey Tribe, The Gee-The-Seventies-Were-Great-Even-Though-I-Wasn't-Born-Yet Tribe.

If I am allowed to have favourites out of my sixteen novels, this one is near the top. I just loved the way Percy's mind worked, his obsessive and tragic need to catalogue every experience. On another level I had always hoped for more for this novel. Just before it was going to be released there was a real buzz about the book (Spike Lee's movie company came close to optioning it and selling it to Disney) and both my editor and agent felt the book would really make a splash. It did well, was nominated for several awards, and grew a following, but it never really knocked on the door of true success. That's why I'm happy to have it out there as an ebook. We all deserve a second chance. In fact I'm big on third chances, too.

And I must say I adore the new cover created by Christopher Steininger. I had absolute confidence in his skills to create a brilliant piece of artwork and he didn't disappoint.  

Just click here for the official TRIBES page. It is available on Kindle and iBooks(and soon B&N and Kobo) for the existentially low price of $2.99.


*TRIBES. is not available in Canada at this point as an ebook, but is available in paper at fine bookstores everywhere.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

My E-Newsletter Winners

About every three to four months I send out a somewhat glib and perhaps funny newsletter about the "goings on" in my career. 

And I always, always have a contest where I give away stuff (because there should be some payoff for reading my newsletter). My latest contest had three giveaways. Here's the first one followed by some of the more creative answers:

1. For everyone. A free signed copy of Empire of Ruins. Just answer the question "What is the airspeed of an African pigeon?" Be creative.

"Hmmm hard to come up with airspeed of African pigeons as you don't specify if the pigeon is actually flying at the time or even if it is in the hold of a 747. I think I'll have to split the difference and say.... the envelope please... the envelope?... give me the damn envelope 156 ppm (pigeons per minute). Fast, I know but that's the best estimation."

"Zero…NATO has put up a no-fly zone."

"Depends how hard it farts. :)"

2. For teachers only. A Box of Tribes. That's right if you answer this question properly "What is 2 + 2 - 4=" you will receive a class set of TRIBES, my anthropogical study of high school in a novel.

"0 - which happens to be the name of one of the characters in Holes - one of our other favourite books (after all of yours)."

3. For everyone. A free copy of the ebooks Draugr and Dust. Just answer the question, "how much wood does a virtual eChuck chuck?"

"Virtually all of them !!"

"A virtual forest is chucked by the eChuck."

"The amount of wood a virtual echuck chucks, if a virtual eChuck could chuck wood, would be however much wood a virtual echuck chucks, whenever a virtual echuck would chuck wood."

The Winners were:
1. Cameron from Regina
2. Harriet from Winnipeg
3. Elizabeth from Calgary

See the fun we have with my eNewsletter? Feel welcome to join in the winnings and fun by signing up below:


Thursday, April 07, 2011

The Haunting of Drang on iBooks

Please don't let the cover scare you. I apologize if it causes you to recoil in fear. I just want to let you know that the book is now available on iBooks all across the world:
Cover of Drang
Just click here for the links to download it to your iPod or iPad (and if you have an iPad2 I don't want to hear about how great it is, okay? Some of us are completely happy with our first generation iPads, okay! Hmmph! There's nothing wrong with being old you ageist, iPad1 prejudiced person).
Oh, did that I speak that last bit out loud?

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

How to write novels and lose weight and make millions (Part 2)

Tempo Fitness 611T
Way back a long, long time (and twenty or so pounds) ago I added a treadmill to my desk. In fact the date was Feb. 9th, 2009 if you want to read that original post. Since then I haven't looked back. I do have a newer treadmill (a Tempo Fitness 611T) which I bought for $400.00 from Canadian Tire (it was on sale). I removed the plastic tray and added a wooden desktop (see below). The console detached nicely and could be attached to the top of the desk for easy access to the controls.
As you can also see I bought a wall shelf and that's where my iMac sits (I highly recommend the 27 inch monitor, it's so much better for editing and gaming). I use a wireless mouse and keyboard, very handy. I usually walk about 1.6kph (or 1mph) a very leisurely pace (I did walk faster, but due to an old knee injury this is the only speed I can maintain without extra stress on ligaments and such). I know everyone always wonders about numbers with authors. How many copies did your book sell? How many fan letters do you get? How much do you weigh? Okay, no one has asked how much I weigh (they're so polite). 
But here are the numbers:
Total number of hours walking since Jan 2009: 1320 hours
Total distance travelled: 2568.12 KM's (or 1595 miles)
Total number of books written: 2 1/4
Average distance traveled (per day): 5.5 km's (3.4 miles)
Average calories burned daily: 450

Yes, I do actually have a chart:
When I started I weighed 197 pounds (I feel odd about mentioning my weight, but I'm male so I'm allowed to... funny society we have, eh?). I've reached that goal a few times, but always bounced back up. In fact I have a graph (isn't this exciting?).

The graph shows a big loss of weight at the start, then a bounce upwards (which is entirely natural, the body goes into starvation mode after a weight loss and so you don't have to eat as much to gain weight). Generally where the graph is lower it was summertime, so I was more active and it went back up in the winter (the last spike is from a week at an all inclusive resort in Mexico...mmmm). I now think that my "natural" weight is somewhere around 182 pounds. I'm happy with that. I do eat more healthy (I'm a Nutrition Action fan), but I am known to "snack" far too often and I have KFC once a year. The nice thing about the treadmill desk is when I pick up a Coffee Crisp I can ask myself is this chocolate bar worth walking for an hour and a bit? The answer is always yes.

But more importantly, how has this affected my writing? I am much more alert, can write for a longer period of time, and one of the side affects of consistent exercise is that it fights off depression (which is something a good number of we writers seem to struggle with, especially since the invention of Amazon rankings). I don't sit in my office chair unless it's a task that demands I sit. If I'm not walking, I'm standing at my desk. In all I feel that the constant exercise has added to my ability to multi-task and tweet.

It doesn't do much for cardio, so I do use an exercise bike most mornings. And Tai Chi when I remember to.

There you go....the update! All written while I was walking.

Friday, April 01, 2011

Breaking the top 100 on the Amazon ekids list!

I don't usually update my blog twice a day, but something extremely interesting happened today on the ebook front. Just after I finished my last blog I noticed that my ebook

had sold three copies. I thought great! Social networking actually works! Then at lunch time it had sold 10 copies on Amazon. Considering it had only sold 14 copies all last month, I thought this was a perfect start to the month. Then it jumped to 20 copies, then 30 copies, and 40 copies...

I was shocked. I couldn't figure out why there this sudden climb. So I went to kindleboards (it's a great place for writers with ebooks to chat) and Monique Martin was kind enough to point out that Dust had appeared on Pixel of Ink, a site that features free and bargain books.

So the result, at the time of this posting (5:25 PM April 1st, 2011), is that Dust has sold 56 copies and climbed from #62,700 on the Amazon rankings to #1117 (I can't help it, I really want it to break the #1000 barrier). It is the 80th bestseller in Children's Literature eBooks (near Cassandra Clare and PC Cast) and is #6 in Spine Chilling Horror (below Amanda Hocking and Stephanie Meyer). So, obviously, I have to say thanks for being my fairy godmother Pixel of Ink!

And, it's not an April fool's joke. That's the best part.

Although, I may have worn out my refresh button.


The Amazing Ebook Experiment (update)

Well, I've sold 200,000 copies of my ebooks in the last two months. That's a so-so start but I'll have to live with it. Oh, wait, what's that you're saying? It's April 1st? You're right! How about I tell you the real amount.

Sorry, I couldn't resist.

So, as many of you know, I've been dabbling in the ebook world. I started on Feb 5th (with the release of DUST) and so far I've converted 4 books to the various formats (if you want to read my previous post on this topic it's here):

Hey, they look kind of nice all lined up like that! I hired two artists to do the covers for the first three books (Derek Mah and Christopher Steininger, respectively)  and I put the cover of SHADES together myself using an image from iStock Photo. I then uploaded the books to Amazon, Smashwords, and iTunes. Each time I released a novel I, of course, tweeted and Facebooked about it (I describe some of my promotions here). 

And here are the results so far (cue the drum roll): 68 copies sold.

Okay, that's not amazing, but I'm pragmatic about these things. Somewhere in the back of my mind I, of course, was hoping to add a few more zeroes to that number, but apparently, like everything to do with writing, you actually have to work at this! My plan from the start was to see this not as a sprint, but as a marathon. After all, these books will be on the shelves forever.

Here's the breakdown:

Amazon US
Draugr 13
Dust 7 (2.99) + 12 (.99) = 17
Shades 8
The Haunting of Drang 3
Total: 41

Amazon UK
Dust 2 (2.99) + 2 (.99) = 4
Total = 4

Draugr 6
Shades 2
Total = 8

Draugr 6
Dust 6
Shades 3
Total = 15

Grand Total = 68 copies

What the numbers tell me is that, of course, Amazon sells the most. And I am not reaching beyond my base yet (in fact I could probably name at least half the people who purchased the ebooks). I think this "expansion" will come over time as reviews of the books trickle down into the public consciousness and as the books pop up more often as "recommends" on Amazon. I'm really curious what the sales will be like six months from now. I do feel that the children's ebook market is still about two years behind that "grown up" market--just not that many young readers have ereaders yet.

All of the books are priced at $2.99 except for Dust which is .99 cents right now (I've explained my logic behind the lower price here). As you can see (just using the Amazon numbers) Dust has sold 9 copies at $2.99 and 14 copies at .99 cents. So obviously I'd make more money if I flipped it back up to $2.99. But I want to experiment with that price level for another month or so to see if the price point allows the book to get more traction.

Overall, I'm happy with the results. No, I won't be buying a new car. But I do consider this an investment in my future. And these books weren't making me any money before this so it really is a win win win situation.

I'll do another update at the six month mark. If things go well enough, I'll buy each of you a car (no money back guarantee).