Mark Terry

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Some E-Book Disclosure

June 24, 2010
As some of you know, I have published some books on the Kindle bookstore. One of those, DANCING IN THE DARK, was a thriller many publishers liked, but apparently not enough to actually publish. So I commissioned cover art and self-published it on the Kindle bookstore as an e-book, inspired by Joe Konrath's successes in this area. It never really took off, although after guest-blogging on Joe's site it took off for a couple days and sold enough copies to hit #42 or so on two of the Kindle E-Book bestseller lists. The price on DANCING IN THE DARK is $1.99.

I let it lie. Then, when Midnight Ink released the e-rights to the first two Derek Stillwater novels, The Devil's Pitchfork and The Serpent's Kiss, I commissioned new cover art (they didn't release the old) and got my friend Natasha Fondren to format the manuscripts and I put those up as e-books. I gave the pricing some thought and put them at $2.99.

I had a couple kids' books that I liked that we weren't able to place. Random came within inches of picking up THE BATTLE FOR ATLANTIS.

I wasn't sure I was going to mess around with these, actually. First, it's not my goal in my writing life to become a self-published e-author. Hey, if they went crazy and made a ton of money I'd probably change my mind about that, but it hadn't been my experience and time is money, etc., etc. I was also concerned about my impressions that users of e-books in general are not kids. Parents might have one around the house and they might be available for the kids to read on, but... well, no data to support that, but it's just not my impression that kids are buying books for themselves on the Kindle and parents probably are going for the books (if they're going for them at all) that they know their kids like, rather than trying something new.

But I decided, what the hell. So I tweaked 2 of the 3 manuscripts for kids books I had, THE BATTLE FOR ATLANTIS and MONSTER SEEKER, got Natasha to do her thing, and self-published them. I priced them at $1.99.

Royalties are still about a third of the price, although it's going up to 70% in July. Here's my royalty statement as of today for the month of June:

Title Sold Royalty
The Serpent's Kiss 9 $9.45
The Battle for Atlantis 1 $0.70
Dancing In The Dark 2 $1.40
The Devil's Pitchfork 14 $14.70
Monster Seeker 4 $2.80

Well, there are some interesting things here. By far my best sellers are The Serpent's Kiss and The Devil's Pitchfork. In some ways that's good. I hope the hope the people who bought those will go out and buy THE FALLEN, the third Derek Stillwater novel, which is available on Kindle, and which I was told yesterday will soon be available on the iBookstore. The Battle for Atlantis, well, that's just depressing. That one sale is me! I downloaded it to the iPad so I could make sure the formatting came out right and also make it available to my kids to read if they wanted to. Dancing In The Dark still hasn't picked up any traction.

Granted, $29.05 is better than nothing, and I made a little less than that last month. But the fact is, although it's not expensive to get a good cover and to have it formatted by someone who knows what they're doing, it adds up, and I'm still very much in the red on this, which is why I'm dragging my heels over putting up the remaining kids' book, THE FORTRESS OF DIAMONDS.

Much has been made about Joe Konrath's successes in this. Lee Goldberg has written about how he's been surprised by how much it's taken off. Robert W. Walker is completely sold on the idea, especially with his out-of-print books. Many others are having success with it.

I think it's rather early for me to say I'm not being successful with it. In fact, it appears that my sales are increasing each month, and I'm pleased overall that the two Derek Stillwater novels are the leaders here. I might be picking up some momentum. Also, the 2 Stillwater novels were out-of-print and Midnight Ink was dithering around with e-publishing and I wanted them out there and available for anybody who read THE FALLEN and was interested in reading more about Derek and his adventures. And I suspect when the 4th book, THE VALLEY OF SHADOWS, comes out next June, sales will pop a bit for those two books as well.

Honestly, I don't know what to make of Joe's success. Joe says he doesn't know why some of his e-books sell great and others don't. I don't know why DANCING IN THE DARK sales seem so sluggish even though it's been out for months.

"I Don't Know" covers a tremendous amount of ground when it comes to e-books and I started the whole thing as an experiment. To-date the results are rather hard to interpret. I'm pretty unsold on the idea of people who can't get traditionally published just e-publishing, but a number of people have done it successfully. Maybe it all depends on what you want out of it.

Let's put it this way. On the basis of what I've seen so far, I'm still leaning strongly toward traditional publishing venues.

And I'm still leaning strongly toward keeping my "day job" which is writing nonfiction.


Blogger LurkerMonkey said...

I think to some degree, success in e-books at this snapshot in time also means being committed to success in e-books. So the people who are doing well are also active on the Kindle boards, the e-book forums, they blog, they Twitter and Facebook, and they comment like crazy on other people's blogs. In the end, I'm thinking it comes down to good old-fashioned shoe leather in many cases.

9:10 AM  
Blogger Debra L Martin said...

Hi Mark,

I agree with Lurker Monkey. I'm on the Kindleboards and Goodreads boards always commenting getting my name out there. I've also been doing all those author interviews on my blog and even though visitors have been strong, it hasn't turned into sales for my books. Since May 27, I've had over 1200 visitors stop by the blog and I've sold 8 books.

I've spent so much time in the past 3 months marketing the books that I haven't written anything new and that's bad.

Everyone keeps saying you need more material out there to get sales, but you need to spend enormous amounts of time marketing yourself so where do you find the time to do that, to write and work full time?

I suppose if I wrote vampire, women's fiction or romance novels, sales might be better. Quite a few Indy authors have enjoyed great success in those genres. Somehow, I don't see my coauthor Dave warming up to that idea. Plus I really like to write science fiction and fantasy.

I don't know if there is any one answer to why one author sells better than the other. Joe certainly has been doing great, but not everyone can be Joe!


10:48 AM  
Anonymous Mike Dennis said...

Thoughtful post, Mark. What are you doing to promote your books? I have one on Kindle, Smashwords, Nook, et al, and it's going nowhere, despite promoting it heavily on my website, facebook, and elsewhere. Have you also put in a lot of time for nothing? Just curious.

1:25 PM  
Blogger Mark Terry said...

I haven't really promoted the e-books much at all. Since the beginning of April I've been very busy promoting my hardcover, The Fallen, doing blog tours, book signings, e-newsletters, FB, etc. I did send out an e-newsletter mentioning the e-books, but I haven't even had a chance to put up the 2 children's books on the website yet.

So no, I really haven't promoted them yet, if I will at all.

1:32 PM  

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