Thursday, December 8, 2011

Amazon's New KDP Direct Program - New Opportunities for Self-Publishing Authors!

Amazon keeps moving forward in new ways to compete in the publishing market. While undoubtedly some of these new ideas will need re-working or will vanish, they do present interesting opportunities for authors who choose to self-publish their work.

Today I enrolled several of my books that are available in Kindle Editions in the newly announced KDP Select program. This opportunity means I have a chance to share in the $500,000 Amazon has set aside for this program (not that I expect to rake in huge royalty payments) and starting in January my books will be eligible to continue in the program and earn additional royalties.

What exactly does the program entail for authors who self-publish and the readers who choose to participate? Here is some of the information direct from the Amazon site promoting the new program to authors:
  • Reach a new audience - Distribute books through the Kindle Owners' Lending Library and reach the growing number of US Amazon Prime members.
  • Earn a whole new source of royalties - Earn your share of $500,000 in December and at least $6 million throughout 2012 when readers borrow your books from the Kindle Owners' Lending Library.
  • Promote your book for free to readers worldwide - The newly launched Promotions Manager tool will allow you to directly control the promotion of free books.
  • Instant feedback - Check real-time performance of your books in the Kindle Owners' Lending Library.
I am particularly interested in the promotional aspect of this program for authors. Being able to launch a new Kindle book and make it available for FREE for five days is a great way promote a book and generate some sales rank positioning early in its life on Amazon.

Enrolling your titles in the program is easy and done from your Bookshelf in your KDP Member Dashboard page. It took me less than one minute to enroll the books I decided to make available in this program. You can just as easily cancel the enrollment of the book from the Bookshelf as you entered the title.

Just what is the Lending Program? Again, directly from the Amazon website describing the program, here is some basic information: 

What is the Kindle Owners' Lending Library?

The Kindle Owners' Lending Library is a collection of books that Amazon Prime members who own a kindle can borrow once a month, with no due dates. For more information, click here.

How is my share of the Kindle Owners' Lending Library fund calculated?

Your share of the Kindle Owners' Lending Library Fund is calculated based on a share of the total number of qualified borrows of all participating KDP titles. For example, if the monthly fund amount is $500,000 and the total qualified borrows of all participating KDP titles is 100,000 in December and if your book was borrowed 1,500 times, you will earn 1.5% (1,500/100,000 = 1.5%), or $7,500 in December.

If my books are distributed in the Kindle Owners' Lending Library, can customer still buy it?

Yes, your books will still be available for anyone to buy in the Kindle Store, like they've always been, and you will continue to earn royalties from those sales like you do today.

What does it mean to publish exclusively on Kindle?

When you choose KDP Select for a book, you're committing to make the digital format of that book available exclusively through KDP. During the period of exclusivity, you cannot distribute your book digitally anywhere else, including on your website, blogs, etc. However, you can continue to distribute your book in physical format, or in any format other than digital. See the KDP Select Terms and Conditions for more information.

To learn more about this new opportunity, click here!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Aaron Shepard's Sales Rank Express for Amazon is now functioning again!

I can't say it any better than Aaron himself. So, here is what he had to say about the return of his Sales Rank Express:

"Sales Rank Express, my own Amazon sales rank checker, is officially back in operation, after months offline due to changes at Amazon. And it now offers more than ever, including
  • Quick sales rank checking of multiple print books on Amazon in nine countries, including Spain, Italy, and China.
  • Sales rank checking for Kindle Books in four countries. (Just select “Kindle” in the Format menu for the country you want—U.S., U.K., Germany, or France.)
  • More detailed stats on Customer Reviews, with a breakdown by number of stars.
  • Charts of the last week’s sales ranks, with visible peaks that let you make quick sales estimates and spot trends. (To see charts, turn on “Tracking” for each title.)
Enjoy! And please spread the word to all your author and publisher friends!"

Friday, November 11, 2011

Can You Afford NOT to Self-Publish?

This past weekend I was examining a wide range of figures concerning my tiny publishing empire. I was mainly interested in comparing total sales, both print and ebook, of the current year with previous years. In the process I also looked at total revenue from sales.

One figure that jumped out at me was the monthly check I get from my first book. The amount has become very small. I was smart enough (my wife was smart enough) to retain the ebook rights. The book is still my number one seller, but the sales are almost all now Kindle sales with a couple of Nook sales per month thrown in.

What did I get from the first book's publisher? A nice cover, good formatting and editing and ever decreasing royalty check once the book peaked after its first 18 months of sales.

This all leads to the question I should have asked myself, "can I afford not to self-publish?" For the fun of it, I calculated all the costs of getting the first book to market if I had self-published it. Next, I calculated the difference between what I have been paid in royalties and what I would have been paid had I used CreateSpace.

Working on the premise sales would have been identical, I did not serve myself well by NOT self-publishing, to the tune of a loss of roughly 22% net profit. Granted, we are not talking millions of dollars. Still, when you are doing this as a second source of income, 22% is still a chunk of change.

So, if you have a book to publish, consider the financial pros and cons of having your book accepted for traditional publishing as opposed to self-publishing. You will have to do all the promotional work regardless of the approach you take.

Compare the advance and royalties you will be paid versus the income you believe you can generate if you self-publish. Be sure to include in your calculations the cost of editing, cover design, interior design and marketing and promotion. Know exactly how many copies you must sell to break even. After all, self-publishing is a business.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Amazon Kindle to Receive Major Overhaul

The soon to be released Amazon Kindle Fire is generating lots of interest at the moment and rightly so. What should be generating lots of interest is Amazon's announcement that Kindle Format 8 will feature HTML5 Support.

According to Amazon, this new supported format will allow for the creation of better books and allow authors of comics, graphic novels and picture books to produce these works in the Kindle format. Amazon has announced over 150 new formatting tools will be available including the long desired fixed layouts, nested tables and Scalable Vector Graphics.

Alas, Amazon claims the KF 8 will only be supported for the new Kindle Fire but over time plans include making KF8 available on previously released Kindle readers. The good news is the new KF8 format is compatable with existing Kindle PC desktop and mobile applications including the Kindle app for iTunes, iPhone and iPad.

Amazon claims the new Kindle Fire and other upcoming apps and devices will still be able to read the old Mobi 7 format.

This is good news for authors who self-publish ebooks. I am sure there will be the inevitable kinks and quirks to work out, but it seems e-books will become more and more like "real books." 

The next evolution will probably be to include sound and video in e-books.

Is Self-Publishing Still Self-Publishing?

Morris Rosenthal, one of the "godfathers" of the self-publishing industry has a really thought provoking blog post this week. He makes an interesting argument that many self-publishers are really Amazon publishers or write for Amazon Publishing. 

It is well worth reading and thinking about what Morris has to say.  Click here to go to his blog post.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Analysis of Panda and Its Impact on Websites

Morris Rosenthal wrote an interesting and insightful post on the impact of Google's Panda on traffic to websites. Since many self-publishing authors utilize a blog or a website to promote their work, this is a worthwhile article to read.

To get to the article click here.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Recent Trends in Self-publishing Sales Based on my Own Sales Data

The third quarter ends today, and even though I might sell some more books today via the magic of Amazon and Barnes and Noble, I have been wanting to sit down and look at these totals for about six weeks.

A quick run down for the past 2.75 years:

2009 POD Sales: 100% of total sales
2010 POD Sales: 96% of total sales     Kindle/Nook: 4% of total sales
2011 POD Sales: 48% of total sales     Kindle/Nook: 52% of total sales (Through the 3rd quarter)

For the first two quarters of 2011 I sold more POD books than ebooks.

2011 3rd Quarter POD Sales: 36% of total sales    Kindle/Nook: 64% of total sales

Total ebook sales: Kindle sales: 98.4% of total sales      Nook Sales: 1.6% of total sales

Some more information concerning sales.

Total POD titles available: 23
Total Kindle titles available: 7
Total Nook titles available: 1

I will tackle the issue of the Nook right off the bat. The lone Nook title I have is also my single best selling POD title and Kindle title and it has sold a grand total of 24 copies. Needless to say I am not in a big hurry to convert all of my POD titles that sell well into ePubit for sale at Barnes and Noble.

If I had any doubts that ebooks were the wave of the future, those doubts are not only gone, but the future is now.  My next non-fiction book is small and very much a niche book but it has the advantage of being one of those timeless topics. It will be my first experiment as a Kindle only book.

In the last three months, despite the economy and summer vacation (my target audience does not read during the summer) I have had the best three months ever. Not in terms of total revenue but rather in total copies of books sold. Almost exactly two-thirds of my sales were Kindle books, and therein lies the problem of sorts.

As POD sales declined, Kindle sales rose sharply in the last three months and my lone Nook book even started to sell a few copies each month. POD sales declined by 10% total from the 3rd quarter of 2010 and the 3rd quarter of 2011.

Excluding the 4th quarter figures for POD sales for 2010 and future 4th quarter POD sales for 2011, I am happy to say POD sales are up by 33% when comparing the first three quarters of 2010 and 2011, despite the decline is POD sales the past quarter.

Total sales for 2011, without the last quarter of 2011 included, are up by 37% over  all of 2010. The last quarter of the year has historically by far been my best quarter for sales so I am encouraged.

In general, it has been a really good year for the fledgling self-publishing empire! But there are some issues that require thought and planning from a financial perspective given what look like irreversible trends, mainly the rise of the ebook.

Hands down I make more money per sale for each POD book I sell. Simply raising the price of the Kindle edition does not make up for the net loss in revenue. I have found Kindle readers to be much more price sensitive than readers who purchase paperback editions. Experimental price increases in Kindle editions resulted in a significant drop in sales for the month the experiment was conducted. Restoring the original price restored and improved sales numbers. 

The issue is I have to sell nearly 2.5 Kindle books for each POD version of the same book to make the same amount of net profit. I write non-fiction for a niche market with a finite number of possible readers.

It is my hope that over time the market will sort this out and allow authors of non-fiction books with valuable content to charge an appropriate price for the information and not simply look at price alone. There has to be a happy medium in the mix somewhere.

In the mean time, I will inch up the prices of some of my Kindle books and work harder at the marketing and promotion end of things to convince readers to pay the higher price.

I would be interested to have any authors who read this blog and who would be willing to share information with others to post what their experience is changes in sales by book type have been.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Review of Catherine Parker's 301 Ways To Use Social Media to Boost Your Marketing

After cranking out four books this summer and in the midst of a fifth, I plan to take a bit of a break when the current book is done. Even though all of these books are non-fiction and the content is information I am extremely familiar with, it has been tiring.

The new books contain what I believe is valuable information for the niche market I write for. The sales for all but one of the new books have been dismal. I have nobody to blame but myself. I simply did not give the books the launch they needed.

These books can be "salvaged" as the information is not dated and won't be for many years. I just need to roll up my sleeves and get busy marketing the books. Being a one-man publishing empire can be taxing, especially since I have a "day job" as well.

Reading Joel Friedlander's posts about marketing books helped confirm it is time to take a break from writing and start marketing! I also spent an hour re-reading Catherine Parker's book 301 Ways To Use Social Media To Boost Your Marketing. I had already read the book, in Kindle format, earlier in the past summer and like any good reference book, it is a source I will refer to constantly in the coming months as I work on marketing all of my books.

Unlike many of the Kindle books I purchased that discuss using social media, blogging and the internet to market a business, I have the distinct feeling Ms. Parker's book is not a rehash, with very little editing, of blog posts turned into a Kindle book. She may very well have published all of this information earlier in blog form, but this book has the feel and read of a book specifically written to convey the information contained in its electronic pages.

There is no doubt in my mind Ms. Parker knows her stuff. She not only covers the popular Twitter, Facebook and admonition to have a blog, she covers less popular forms of social media in detail. Each chapter of the book has specific ideas and instructions on how to implement these concepts using the form of social media the chapter relates to.

Unlike many similar books that feature only one form of social media and championing its virtues while providing only a few tips, Ms. Parker delivers the full 301 ideas the title promises and many of the tips and ideas require several pages on a Kindle to convey everything she has to say.

The book covers developing a big picture strategy to using social media for marketing. The specific types of social media discussed include: blogging, Facebook, Twitter, FriendFeed, LinkedIn, Orkut,
Plaxo, Ning, MySpace, Meetup, Delicious, Digg, StumbleUpon, Google Reader, Reddit, Flickr, SmugMug, YouTube, various video sharing sites, Slideshare, Podcasting, Yelp, Epinions, RateItAll, Yahoo!Answers, eHow, Wikis and Wikipedia.

Details of how to set-up accounts or pages on each is provided. Suggestions on how to build a following and maintain it are part of the content Ms. Parker provides.

This book was worth every penny I paid for it. It is much better than the other Kindle books of a similar nature I have read, and alas, I have read quite a few and learned little until I purchased this book.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Basic Book Marketing for Self-Publishers - Joel Frielander's New Program

Writing the book, overseeing the design and getting it into production, either via traditional off-set press, print-on-demand or ebook, is just the start of the hard work. The book has to be marketed and sold. With the changes in the publishing industry this can be a bewildering process for experienced and novice author alike.

Joel Friedlander has done the self-publishing author a great service with his new series on book marketing for self-publishers. To read the three parts Joel has made available thus far, visit his blog at:

Friday, September 9, 2011

Amazon and LSI - End of the Short Discount POD Business Model?

Joel Friedlander has written a great post about what could be an end of the business model many self-publishers have been using, the short discount model using LSI as the POD printer. There are quite a few good comments to go with the informative article which does a good job of summarizing this confusing and troubling situation.

In the case of my best selling title, the move by Amazon has destroyed sales and it has yet to really recover. Here is the link to the blog post - be sure to read it. Everyone who sells POD titles needs to be aware of this situation.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Kindle Price Increases? POD Sales versus Kindle Sales - Something to Think About

Things change and with technology they seem to change faster and faster. When I published my first book print-on-demand (POD) was the way to go as a self-publishing author. POD using either Lightning Source or CreateSpace, combined with Amazon allowed an author to enter the world of self-publishing and not have to break the family bank to do so.

eBooks has produced more change and the ebook revolution is picking up more steam. Amazon's Kindle leads the way with B and N's Nook trailing along. If you are going to self-publish, you need to get on the ebook express or get left behind.

Amazon's Kindle is changing the publishing world quickly and to a lesser extent so is the B and N Nook. Kindle sales are climbing, already surpassing hardback sales at Amazon and if Kindle sales have not already done so, they will soon surpass paperback sales as well.

Amazon's fantastic 70% royalty for authors is great (if you follow the required Amazon pricing guidelines). Where else can you find that kind of a deal for a self-published author?

But what happens when your individual Kindle sales surpass your POD sales? This is a problem few have addressed in terms of profitability for the self-publishing author. Some have argued Kindle sales are sales an author would not have made otherwise. In my case that was certainly true a few months ago. It isn't now.

My total sales in terms of copies sold for Kindle this past month was nearly three times that of my more profitable POD sales, yet I made only 2/3s as much money on the Kindle sales.

Clearly, I need to change my pricing structure for my Kindle titles. But how much do I raise the price? One of the most attractive considerations for purchasing a Kindle book is the price. It is significantly less than the cost of purchasing a paperback. Yet, if I raise the price too high, might Kindle users balk at the price increase, even though the Kindle version is still much cheaper than its print counterpart?

I write non-fiction and am hardly a household name who can command higher prices. Raising my prices might result in lower sales in terms of volume which will have a negative impact on the Amazon long tail effect. 

Or will higher Kindle prices impact my total sales volume negatively? Why worry at all? My total combined sales is vastly higher than one year ago and so are my profits. The issue is as more and more customers purchase Kindle books and fewer and fewer purchase paper, over time my profits could decrease.

Fighting the ebook trend is pointless. All of my future books will appear sooner or later in both versions. The question is how do I make up the shortfall of anywhere from 2 to 6 dollars a copy difference between a Kindle edition and a POD edition?

It is one thing to deliberately price a Kindle version at a super low introductory price once both the POD and Kindle version are linked to drive the title up the Amazon search results quicker. It is another to leave the price too low and lose money over time. It is also an issue of "losing money" as more and more customers purchase the Kindle edition and POD sales decline.

Greater volume might well be the answer for a fiction author, but a niche market non-fiction author only has so many potential readers. This is an issue I believe many authors will face in the hurriedly approaching future. How do your optimally price a non-fiction ebook in the face of declining POD sales as your ebook sales increase?

Friday, August 19, 2011

Experiment in Self-Producing eBook Files for Kindle and ePub

One of the recurring bits of advice I have picked up time after time from successful fiction authors who have made the decision to self-publish is the importance of having more than one book in print. If readers buy one of your books and like it, they will want to buy another. Having multiple titles available fills the reader's desire to purchase more of your work. It is an important step in the path to profitability for an author.

I write non-fiction and while I have many ideas for full length books of over 150 pages, it takes a good bit of effort mentally to crank one of those out. I have even more ideas for short books. Many of these ideas for "books" will contain information of value to the readers who buy my books but will not contain enough content to create a book worth printing due to the short length.

These "books" are good candidates for short ebooks though. Inexpensive, short but with information of value. Of course, even paying the $39 for the CreateSpace Pro Plan and the $69 Kindle conversion fee, it takes quite a few sales at .99 a copy to break even. Then there is the fact the conversion is for a Kindle version only and not ePub, limiting sales to just the Amazon Kindle and not including sales for the Barnes and Noble Nook.

While my Kindle sales have been good, I have sold a grand total of 8 Nook books at the time of the writing of this post. Still, every little bit counts and it all adds up over time.

Some of my Kindle books have sold hundreds of copies and long ago paid back the cost of the conversion of the files. Other titles are still slowly working towards earning back the limited investment in the conversion process.

So, once again I am reconsidering converting these short titles myself. I plunked down a grand $2.99 for a Kindle book titled Stand Out! How to Create Professional ePub and Kindle 30 minutes or less! by e.e. pub. 

At times I am probably one of the people P.T. Barnum referred to when he said "there's a sucker born every minute." Still, I read the short book in about 30 minutes. For once, I actually understood what the author was talking about. If this process actually works, I will have not one, but two files. One for the Nook and one for the Kindle. Even better, the only investment I will have in each book is my time.

If the little short ebook sells well, great! If it doesn't sell well, the only investment lost is my time. Hopefully the few dollars I spent on yet another do-it-yourself ebook conversion book was worth the money.

I have a short book I can probably finish in a week or so. It has no photographs or diagrams like many of my longer books. Just text. 

If the finished product looks fine on my Kindle, I will be happy to let the readers of this blog know the procedures described in Stand Out! How to Create Professional ePub and Kindle 30 minutes or less! are as easy to follow as the author claims.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Amazon Kindle Busy - New Kindle Indie Bookstore and Other Features Launched

Amazon has been busy. If you don't receive the Kindle Newsletter you should sign up for it. Amazon has announced several new features for Kindle books as well as the Amazon Indie Kindle bookstore.  The software guys at Amazon have worked overtime it would seem and enabled the search inside feature for Kindle books. 

From the actual newsletter, "KDP titles are automatically enrolled in the Search Inside program for the Kindle Store. You should find the Search Inside feature enabled one week after your book is made available to readers for purchase. Search Inside the Book is a program that lets you search and browse millions of books across With Search Inside, Amazon search results include matches based on every word inside a book, not just results that match the title or author of the book. It's like browsing a gigantic bookstore with millions of searchable pages at your fingertips."

Amazon has also announced its new Kindle Cloud Reader. The new reader "enables customers to read Kindle books instantly using only their web browser - online or offline - with no downloading or installation required. As with all Kindle apps, Kindle Cloud Reader automatically synchronizes your Kindle library, as well as your last page read, bookmarks, notes, and highlights for all of your Kindle books, no matter how you choose to read them."

Amazon has launched a bookstore dedicated to Indie titles published for the Amazon Kindle. For a quick visit to the new Kindle Indie bookstore click on 

Friday, August 5, 2011

Aiming at Barnes & Noble? Making Money Selling Self-Published Books at B&N

Anyone new to self-publishing who has not already purchased a copy of Aaron Shepard's Aiming at Amazon needs to do so immediately and read it several times. While some of the concepts have changed slightly as a result of the current apparent dust-up between Amazon/CreateSpace and Lightning Source, the basic business model is still the best way for a self-publishing author to make money.

To sum up the book's idea in as few words as possible, Shepard presents a business model based on the idea of pointing all sales to Amazon and allowing the long tail effect of Amazon's computers do the work of marketing and selling the book. The more the book sells on Amazon, the more the long tail of Amazon works to sell the book.

It is a business model that works well for self-published authors and I have watched my own sale grow as a result of this approach. In fact, even with a dismal month of June 2011, I have already sold more books and earned more revenue during 2011 than in all of 2010. It is neat to watch this effect help your own self-publishing business grow.

But what about customers who simply prefer to shop at Barnes and Noble? If you use Lightning Source as your POD provider, the book will be available on B and N due to LSI's relationship with Ingram. If you use Amazon's CreateSpace as your POD provider, if you select the Expanded Distribution Channel your book will be made available on B and N, albeit at a lower profit margin than on Amazon.

Why make the book available on B and N if the business model employed is to aim as many sales as possible at Amazon? Because no matter what you do, there will be customers who are only going to shop and buy at B and N. By not making your book available at B and N, you have lost sales you would have made. You have also lost some word of mouth advertising as well.

It is a good business move to make your book available at B and N as well as Amazon. You don't have to steer your sales to B and N, simply make the book available.

B and N is working harder to attract self-published authors than in the past. You may now join the B and N Author's Affiliate Program and earn 6% of the sale of each of your books. To do so you must open an account with LinkShare and then apply for your website to be approved by B and N. It takes a bit of time for the approval process to take place.

In working my way through the process B and N has posted several notices if you look for them stating the program is just getting up and running and they are working hard to get websites approved and features operating for customers.

As soon as my website is approved I will briefly describe the process of getting links, etc. to sell your book through B and N on this blog. 

Competition is good for Amazon. Anything B and N can do to help authors who self-publish make more money by selling books via B and N should, in time, get Amazon's attention.

For those of us who want to offer our readers choices where they purchase our books, this is a nice development and a way for us to earn a little more for our work.

Friday, July 29, 2011

CreateSpace versus Lightning Source (Ingram Spark) - Title Comparison

With the current pressure from Amazon, or at least that is what it seems like, for self-published authors and Indie publishers to switch from Lightning Source to CreateSpace for POD services, I was curious just how many titles CreateSpace prints.

An advanced search on Amazon showed there are some 85,115 paperback titles, 18 hardcover books, 1,801 Kindle books and 4 audio CDs that are "published" by CreateSpace. I am sure this number is low and includes only items which have CreateSpace provided ISBNs or a similar method of indicating CreateSpace is the publisher.

I had to talk to Customer Service today about a new title I just made available on Amazon as well as some issues with switching an title from Lightning Source to CreateSpace for distribution via Amazon. I asked if she knew how many titles CreateSpace published and she just laughed and said she had no idea where to even begin to look to find out that information. 

Is the answer to this question a closely guarded secret? Who knows. I do know the change in policy on the part of Amazon has wreaked absolute havoc on my Amazon sales for my book at Lightning Source. I sold a grand total of THREE copies this month and on a bad month this book sells over 50 copies.  

The slide in Amazon search results has started as well. The book has dropped from 3rd in its primary category to 6th. Kindle sales for the book have remained strong and July has been Game Strategy's best month so far in the Kindle store.  Hopefully the change over to CreateSpace has taken place quick enough to prevent further erosion of sales rank in the search results. The book has not been ranked this low since it was introduced in 2009.

For those who are curious as to what I am  referring to concerning Amazon and Lightning Source, you will want to read Amazon expert Aaron Shepard's most recent post (July 6, 2011 and updated July 21, 2011) about Amazon's apparent change of policy.

Why was I curious about how many titles CreateSpace is the print-on-demand service for? I just wanted to see if Amazon's change in policy is to push authors to CreateSpace. The numbers were lower than I expected but certainly do not include all the titles with ISBNs owned by the authors or the small publishers who use CreateSpace for print-on-demand.

I will continue to look into this if for no reason other than to satisfy my own curiosity. A comparison of titles printed by CreateSpace and the total number of titles printed by Lightning Source might be interesting if I can obtain the numbers.

Note: Lightning Source is now part of IngramSpark.

Monday, July 18, 2011

The Law of Supply and Demand and the Increase in Popularity of the Kindle

I began offering Kindle versions of some of my books when CreateSpace initially offered their Kindle Conversion service for the low price of $69. This service is for books already published using CreateSpace so my lone book with Lightning Source had to be converted by another service. I choose to use eBook Architects for that project and while it cost more, the results were excellent and I received a file for the Nook as part of the purchase.

Kindle sales have grown to the point that I sell more Kindle books per month than POD and the revenue is starting to add up. Despite my fears, and the fears of some authors, offering both POD and Kindle versions does not seem to have hurt sales of the more profitable print versions.

So, as I prepare for the three peak months of the year for sales, I have been considering which of my  unconverted back list  titles are worth the investment of converting to Kindle. Since I have sold a grand total of one book for the BN Nook, the cost of having a title converted to a Nook friendly format is just not worth the investment at the moment.

Why not just have all of the titles done by CreateSpace? Well, it would seem there is a catch now. The conversion is just $69 IF you don't have charts, photographs, graphics, etc. Most of my books do and this dramatically increases the cost.

I have been shopping around looking for a balance between quality, cost and time required to do the conversion. CreateSpace is still the best bet for me. I have been happy with the results thus far and the price is still the best. Working with the customer service people and the actual teams that do the conversion work has become easier now that phone service is readily available.

What I have noticed in prices and waiting periods for work to be done seems to indicate the future in self-publishing is in ebooks if not the Kindle. The law of supply and demand says if demand outstrips supply, price goes up. This certainly seems to be the case with Kindle conversion services. The reputable companies that have positive references have all increased their prices and the time required to perform the conversions.

This would indicate more and more books are being converted to Kindle editions and the demands placed on the reputable companies for their services are driving prices and conversion times upward. If this trend continues there are some important implications for self-publishing authors.

First, as more books are offered in the Kindle format, the competition for Kindle sales will increase. For me, this means I need to convert my books to Kindle as soon as possible so I can promote my books and build their sales rankings at Amazon. As new books entire the market, the new books have to compete with mine for sales ranking position, not the other way around.

Print-on-demand will become the second option in printing, although it will remain to be more profitable until the Kindle pricing structure offered by Amazon changes. I doubt off-set printing will be used by self-publishing authors in the future.

Last, the low entry costs of publishing books in the Kindle format will increase as the demand for conversion services increases. The only way around this cost increase is to learn to do the conversion yourself. After several attempts, I have given up and will simply pay for the service. My time is too valuable to me.

Who knows what self-publishing ebooks will be like in just one calendar year from now. As much as I love paper books, I have not purchased one in nearly a year. I carry around about 100+ Kindle books in my small Kindle device.

Now if I can just figure out how to project material from my Kindle in my classroom for my students, that will be something.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

What's Going on With Amazon and Lightning Source? I'll Be Moving My Book to CreateSpace

I really don't like being treated like I am irrelevant, even if I am. I don't like being told what to do. Does anyone? For the most part, I like Amazon. As an Amazon customer I have no complaints. Amazon deserves its reputation as a customer centric business. 

As a CreateSpace customer I have no complaints. There have been problems at times, but CreateSpace has always resolved the problem to my satisfaction. Today, in a day and age where talking to a human on the phone to resolve a customer problem is rare, I talked to not one, but three, CreateSpace employees! Questions answered and issue resolved in less than 7 minutes!

Right now I am not very happy with Amazon as a tiny self-publisher. My best selling book, Game Strategy and Tactics for Basketball, is my lone book with Lightning Source. June is a terrible month for books sales for me, yet this title sold briskly. In fact, Amazon sold out its entire stock of the book.

At the time, I watched with interest as the number of books listed as remaining in stock dwindled, and in the month of June no less! Then it happened. The dreaded notice of ships in 2 to 3 weeks appeared. Amazon did not order copies to replace those it had just sold.

To make matters worse, August is when coaches go back to school and sales for this title begin to pick up with a peak for the year in the months of October, when practice starts, November and December. Now is not the time for this book to not be available.

Thank goodness for the Kindle version as it is selling well, but I still sell about 4 POD copies to each Kindle copy. At least I did until Amazon seemingly pulled the plug on Lightning Source.

It would seem I am not the only author experiencing this change with books printed and distributed through Lightning Source. Amazon has quietly been allowing its stock of books from LSI to sell out and then list as shipping in two or three weeks. Amazon is not talking about this current business tactic and there are quite a few self-published authors who use LSI and rely on Amazon for the bulk of their sales. LSI, when asked, is not more forthcoming with details either.

After following the ongoing discussion at the POD Publishers group on Yahoo, I have decided to utilize what Aaron Shepard refers to on his blog post on this important subject as Plan B. I am moving my book to CreateSpace for Amazon sales and leaving the title at LSI for Barnes and Nobles sales. I won't make as much per copy, but I will be selling copies.

Barnes and Noble does not generate very many sales for any of my titles and I doubt, after spending 2.5 years of "Aiming at Amazon" I can drive my sales to B and N in time to take advantage of the annual peak buying season for this title. I think my time and efforts are better spent writing more books and doing other things.

I have worked to hard to let this book die before it is ready. As of this morning it held the number four spot in the search rankings for books on the topic of coaching basketball. With no sales in the last three weeks, it won't be long before the title begins to decline in its sales ranking.

One consolation is I will be able to obtain copies directly from CreateSpace at a lower cost per copy than LSI. I sell copies when I speak at coaching clinics so this is an advantage of sorts. At least that is what I am telling myself.

More than the slightly lower profit per copy, I don't like being forced to go to "Plan B." I don't like being not informed by Amazon what is going on and I like even less like my tiny publishing firm are unimportant (though in the grand scheme of things it is and I know it). This is my business. I have worked hard and invested many hours and money that could have been spent elsewhere.

I am certain I am not the only self-published author who has watched in horror the events of the past four to six weeks as Amazon has put this plan into effect. Our efforts matter to us and Amazon could at least communicate in some form what is happening and if this is a permanent change or not.

In the mean time, I don't feel like I have a choice. This book is too valuable to me to let it die because of a change in Amazon stocking policy. So, I will do what must be done and make the change.

Amazon, love it and hate it. What's a self-publisher to do? Even if CreateSpace is owned by Amazon, at least I like them and you can talk to someone at CreateSpace.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Quick Review of BookCoverPro Cover Design Software

I took advantage of the 4th of July sale by BookCoverPro and purchased the Deluxe version of the company's book cover design software. So far I have successfully created two book covers using the company's templates that come as standard items in the software package.

Any time you obtain a new software package it takes quite some time, at least for me, to learn how to use all of the bells and whistles. Once I decided to try using the templates I had five roughed up covers within an hour. I selected one of the five rough attempts and honed into a nice looking cover even my wife thought looked good.

I did try to make a cover completely from scratch and after spending several hours gave up and went back to the templates for the second cover I created, a redesign of a cover for a book already in print. This is not a condemnation of the software, just a comment on the fact that to create something from scratch will take quite a bit more effort to master the learning curve.

Some authors may object to using templates out of the fear of creating a cookie cutter  book cover. BookCoverPro provides a wide range of backgrounds, the ability to change colors and other items to create a unique cover. Even with the permanent, fixed features of the templates, BookCoverPro allows for the creation of additional text boxes and the introduction of photographs and images from outside the selection made available by BookCoverPro.

The software can be purchased as a download or a CD. A 20+ page manual is available for download and provides basic instructions on the features of the software and is quite helpful. Yes, I read the directions!

For the money I spent this was a great deal. I can create a unique cover in a short period of time for less than half of what I would spend to have one professionally created, and that is on the low end of the cost spectrum for custom covers.

As with any investment in a business, the owner should look carefully at the benefits of the money invested. If you only have one or two books and do not plan to publish multiple books, you might be well served to pay a professional to create a unique cover for you.

If you plan to publish multiple books, even at the full price of $187 for the downloadable version and $202 for the CD version, this software is well worth the price. The basic BookCoverPro Standard version is available for $97 but comes with only one template, as opposed to 49 in the Deluxe version, and additional templates may be purchased for $14 each. For $212 a CD and downloadable package can be obtained. Additional licenses for the Deluxe version may be purchased for $99 each and additional licenses for the Standard package may be purchased for $59.

While I have not tried this feature yet, the software has tools to convert the cover designed for print to an e-book cover.

Perhaps the best feature of the software is every cover created by the software using the templates provided are designed to be used and accepted by the two main print-on-demand companies, CreateSpace and Lightning Source.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Lightning Source and Amazon - Do You Need To Move Your Books To CreateSpace?

Evidently the glitch I mentioned in an earlier post is not the issue causing my best selling title to show as being available in 2 to 3 weeks but rather is due to new tactics by Amazon. This particular book is printed by Lightning Source Inc.

Aaron Shepard seems to have a good understanding of what is going on and can explain the situation and how to resolve it much better than I can. With that said, I would like to steer you to his post about the issue of using LSI for your print-on-demand printer and dealing with Amazon.

A Glitch at Lightning Source? CreateSpace Chugging Along! Thank Goodness for Kindle!

My best selling book, Game Strategy and Tactics for Basketball, has hit the skids at Amazon. The glitch appears to be with Lightning Source and no one can seem to give me an answer as to what is going on. Normally, you will see in red letters an encouragement from Amazon to buy the book as only so many copies are left in stock! Nice push from Amazon.

In the past, as soon as the number of copies Amazon had sitting in a warehouse got down to two or three Amazon would stock up again, especially in the months of October, November and December. Now, sales have come to a screeching halt and an examination of the product listing shows the book will ship in 2 or 3 weeks.

The issue seems to be with Lightning Source and not Amazon. July is a slow month for books sales to begin with but when the book is your best selling title, you never like to see anything stand in the way of sales any time of the year.

All of my titles at CreateSpace are listed as available, in stock or with so many copies remaining in stock. A quick check of my Member Dashboard shows the books that usually sell this time of year are doing so and are selling through Amazon for the most part.

While I make less per sale, at least my Kindle edition of Game Strategy and Tactics for Basketball is still selling. Note to self, finish converting your remaining titles to Kindle editions as well.

CreateSpace is so much easier to use than Lightning Source that if it were not for the ability to set a short discount I would not use Lightning Source at all. I also had a support question for CreateSpace that was answered with in 12 hours. I still do not know what the issue at LSI is and it has been over a week since the issue cropped up.

Will keep you informed when this is resolved.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Job Loyalty and the Publishing Industry - I Wasn't Fast Enough

With the recession still lingering, Americans are not changing jobs as frequently these days. At least those of us who are fortunate enough to have jobs. I was checking my e-mail and found one of those news stories e-mail services often post when you sign-in to check your e-mail. It did not occur to me to bookmark the story and when I went back to do so, the story had been rotated off the page.

The story in question was about the ten jobs in the United States with the least turnover. Number six or seven on the list of ten was jobs in the legacy publishing industry. The average term of employment at the time of the study was 5.7 years with their current employer. The national average is 3.4 years.

I don't want to see anyone lose their job, unless they have done something to deserve it. You have to wonder though what is going on through the minds of many of the people currently employed by the legacy publishers. 

J.A. Konrath wrote a post yesterday about the bulk of the negative talk about self-publishing trends being a danger to the quality of books published. Konrath states most of the negative talk comes from legacy authors who feel threatened by current trends as well as the legacy publishers themselves.

With the number of authors simply opening up shop on their own, declining sales for the traditional publishers, and the stories that have to be floating around the offices of editors, designers and proofreaders who have gone freelance to serve the rising numbers of self-publishing authors, it has to be a source of concern for those who remain behind in the traditional publishing industry.

For many it must be a fearful time. They possess skills that have value in the self-publishing world but value the security of steady employment with benefits, not to mention the "respect" of working for a "real" publishing company. At what point in time does an individual decide to abandon security and go out on their own?

Another question that must be going through the minds of many of these skilled employees is what if I stay too long? When do I go out on my own? If I leave too soon and the self-publishing "craze" passes, how will I get my foot back in the door of a traditional publisher? What if I wait too long and when the number of self-publishing authors levels out and the editors, etc, who are established have locked up the industry?

We live in interesting times.

Friday, July 1, 2011

BookCoverPro Offering July 4th Sale on Deluxe Version of its Software!

For those who are interested in moving towards creating your own book covers, BookCoverPro is offering a sale for its BookCoverPro Deluxe version (download only) for the price of $99. The sale ends on July 4th.

I have no connection to the company nor do I own or use the software. However, I have been considering purchasing it and using it to create my own book covers.

California verus Amazon - Who Will Win? Technology and Changes in Self-Publishing

The state of California has gone after Amazon, and other on-line affiliate businesses, in an effort to generate tax revenue. Amazon has responded by thumbing its nose at California and canceling its relationship with the on-line vendors involved. For an excellent post complete with excerpts of statements by parties involved, visit The Publishing Maven's blog.

Over and over I have read if you want to draw readers to your blog, state something controversial. At the risk of offending any readers (they say never discuss politics and religion) here goes.

Governments, all of them, need to learn to live within their means. That means spend less or no more than what you take in. The rest of us have to live in this manner or face the consequences and our governments, local, state and national, all need to do the same. If you want to spend more money on one item, you have to spend less somewhere else. Living on a budget requires you operate in this manner.

The politicians in California, and everywhere else, I am fairly sure are surprised by Amazon's reaction. They shouldn't be. If someone poked me with a sharp object I would move quickly to remove myself from the general area of the person poking me. Businesses react the same way when it comes to costs the business operator can avoid or feels are cumbersome.

As to the brick and mortar stores who have trouble competing with Amazon, I say this, create your own on-line presence and develop a niche market that you serve best. Create loyal customers through fantastic service and make sure your products are quality. Work to create more customers through word-of-mouth advertising. In the case of book sellers, use Amazon to help sell your books or other products. The man in the brown truck is your friend! UPS is in the business of helping small businesses deliver their products quickly and efficiently.

Technology changes things in big ways. It is a historical fact. The arrival of first the railroad and then the automobile spelled the end of the horse and buggy as a common means of transportation. Machine guns and barbed wire changed how Europeans engaged in land warfare, resulting in the horrible slaughter of trench warfare in World War I. The personal computer and the internet has changed the world in profound ways and will continue to do so. The only real certainty is change will happen.

Technology has made self-publishing a viable business model today. While some of the stigma of self-publishing still remains, the powerful combination of Amazon, B&N,  the print-on-demand technology and business model, excellent and relatively easy to learn to use software and the recent development, acceptance and surge in e-book readers has made the world of self-publishing one in flux.

Within five to ten years, the world of publishing as it is now known will not exist. Those publishers who do not adapt to the new reality will go the way of the buggy maker. Those who do, will prosper.

Government needs to learn to adapt as well. Regardless of the political party in control of the government entity, governments must learn to spend less than the amount of revenue taken in. Tax increases are not the answer. Learning to operate like a business and being financially efficient are. If a government entity offers a service, it should be of a quality as high, or higher, than what private enterprise can or would offer. Why higher? Because the taxpayer has no say in whether or not to purchase the service. The private consumer does. Therefore, the service must be of a high quality since it is being imposed on the "consumer."

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Writing Effective Book Descriptions for Book Covers

The is a short but interesting post on creating effective book descriptions for book covers by Chris Robley on the BookBaby publishing blog. Covers do sell books so this is worth reading if you design your own book covers. It is certainly worth reading if you write the book description for your cover even if someone else is creating the design.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Be Sure To Link Editions On Amazon!

Several of my books are available both as paperback and Kindle editions. My latest book, Selecting A Print-on-Demand Company: Comparing CreateSpace and Lightning Source for POD Self-Publishing is available in both a paperback and a Kindle edition.

With my real job taking up more time and my second child graduating from Texas A&M and obtaining her first job as a Civil Engineer (proud father moment!), I simply forgot to ask Amazon to link the two editions. The Publishing Maven gently reminded me I needed to do so.

Evidently the linking of the two helps the books come up higher in the Amazon search algorithm. Every author wants his or her book coming up as high as possible in the search results! Shame on me for not taking care of this.

As per The Publishing Maven's directions, if you have both a print and a Kindle edition and want them linked, send an e-mail to the Kindle Direct support team requesting the editions to be linked on Amazon. Use the Contact Us link on the bottom of your Kindle Direct page. Be sure to include the ISBN of the print editon and the ASIN of the Kindle edition. It will take a few days to link the two editions and for the reviews to match-up as well.

Be sure to list the books in your bibliography on your Author Central page as well. It takes less than a minute to do so.

Taking these steps are ethical ways to work the Amazon system to insure your book's best possible listing in Amazon's search results.

Friday, June 24, 2011

The Importance and Value of a Back List for Self-publishing Authors

When I wrote my first book it never occurred to me I would write more. I am glad I did. While my first book sells well and has sold more copies than any other book I have written, it is a good thing it is not the only title in my list.

Last year the book in question sold more copies in print and Kindle versions combined than any other title I have. Yet in terms of total dollars, it only accounted for 30% of my sales in the last 18 months. The last 12 months have been the best in terms of sales and revenue generated since I began self-publishing. 

70% of my sales come from all of my other titles. Some titles sell very well, either as paperbacks or Kindle books. Other titles only sell a few single copies a month or a single copy every so often. It all adds up though.

Because of the low cost entry into self-publishing made possible by CreateSpace I have been able to keep my cost per title to produce as low as possible. Every book I have self-published except two have at least recouped the money invested to get the book into print. That is probably a better record than traditional publishing houses.

Print-on-demand and Kindle books allow authors to get their book to market with the lowest possible investment. Having more than one title allows an author to have multiple revenue streams from books sales. 

Another advantage of having multiple titles is readers who purchase and read one book and enjoy it or find the information contained of value will purchase other titles by the same author.

Books mature over time, saturating the target audience. Non-fiction books become out-of-date as time passes, making the content of little value. While this is not true for all books, it is true for many. Having a well developed back list lessons the impact of a star seller falling in the sales totals.

All too often authors forget publishing is a business. For self-publishing authors who desire for their publishing venture to be profitable, developing a back list is an essential step towards profitability over the long term.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Amazon Sells More Kindle Books Than Print for First Time!

Amazon announces it now sells more Kindle books than print books. The following is from the June issue of the Kindle Direct Newsletter.

Amazon began selling hardcover and paperback books in July 1995. Twelve years later in November 2007, Amazon introduced the revolutionary Kindle and began selling Kindle books. By July 2010, Kindle book sales had surpassed hardcover book sales, and six months later, Kindle books overtook paperback books to become the most popular format on Today, less than four years after introducing Kindle books, customers are now purchasing more Kindle books than all print books - hardcover and paperback - combined.

"Customers are now choosing Kindle books more often than print books. We had high hopes that this would happen eventually, but we never imagined it would happen this quickly - we've been selling print books for 15 years and Kindle books for less than four years," said Jeff Bezos, Founder and CEO, Since April 1, for every 100 print books has sold, it has sold 105 Kindle books. This includes sales of hardcover and paperback books by Amazon where there is no Kindle edition. Free Kindle books are excluded and if included would make the number even higher.

Indie Author Joins The Million Kindle Seller Club!

Self-publishing authors should take note! John Locke has become the first "Indie author" to sell a million Kindle books! This is an encouraging event for every author who toils outside of the establishment publishing world! The following excerpt is from the Amazon Kindle Direct Newsletter for the month of June.

John Locke is the newest member of the “Kindle Million Club,” and the first independently published author to receive this distinction.  As of June 19th, John Locke has sold 1,010,370 Kindle books using Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP). The Kindle Million Club recognizes authors whose books have sold over 1 million paid copies in the Kindle Store ( Locke joins Stieg Larsson, James Patterson, Nora Roberts, Charlaine Harris, Lee Child, Suzanne Collins and Michael Connelly in the Kindle Million Club.

“Kindle Direct Publishing has provided an opportunity for independent authors to compete on a level playing field with the giants of the book selling industry,” said John Locke. “Not only did KDP give me a chance, they helped at every turn. Quite simply, KDP is the greatest friend an author can have.”  

“It’s so exciting that self-publishing has allowed John Locke to achieve a milestone like this,” said Russ Grandinetti, Vice President of Kindle Content.  “We’re excited to see Kindle Direct Publishing succeeding for both authors and customers and are proud to welcome him to the Kindle Million Club.”

John Locke, of Louisville, KY., is the internationally bestselling author of nine novels including "Vegas Moon,” "Wish List,” "A Girl Like You,” "Follow the Stone,” "Don't Poke the Bear!" and the New York Times bestselling eBook, "Saving Rachel." Locke's latest book, "How I sold 1 Million eBooks in 5 Months," is a how-to marketing guide for self-published authors.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

CreateSpace Hosting June Seminar - Landing on TV and Radio Shows to Promote Your Book

CreateSpace is offering a June web seminar for authors interested in learning how to be booked as guests on television and radio shows to promote their book.  The link below will take you directly to the sign-up page for the web seminar.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Selecting a Print-on-Demand Company: Comparing CreateSpace and Lightning Source for Print-on-Demand Self-Publishing now available as a Kindle Book!

Selecting a Print-on-Demand Company: Comparing CreateSpace and Lightning Source for Print-on-Demand Self-Publishing is now available as a .99 Kindle book! For authors considering self-publishing using print-on-demand the two main suppliers of this service are Lightning Source and CreateSpace.

Both companies have their strong points and selecting a company to choose can be confusing for many individuals. Selecting a Print-on-Demand Company: Comparing CreateSpace and Lightning Source for Print-on-Demand Self-Publishing offers authors side-by-side comparisons, guiding questions to make a informed choice and expert commentary based on the experience of self-publishing authorities Joel Friedlander and Christy Pinheiro.

Data on Projected Kindle Sales for Amazon

The link below will take you to an article with data on the trends in Kindle sales on Amazon and the projected earnings for Amazon based on Kindle reader sales and Kindle book sales.

The Truth About Creating Brands People Love - A Book Review

The Truth About Creating Brands People Love, by Brian Till and Donna Heckler, is available from Amazon as a Kindle book, retailing for $9.99, and as a trade paperback selling for about $14. I purchased the Kindle version of this book, not thinking of it as a book for authors, but rather for the other parts of my fledgling business.

I was wrong to think creating a brand was not something important for a writer to consider. For fiction and non-fiction writers, brand creation is an important issue for one simple reason, we all want repeat customers! Readers who purchase books written by a single author have identified with the brand created by the author.  How many of us have waited with anticipation for the next novel by our favorite fiction writer or have purchased everything written by a non-fiction author who is an expert on a topic of concern or interest to us? These authors have successfully created a strong brand readers identify with.

Brand management, and brand creation, is not a common sense topic though it seems like it should be. Successful brands have behind them a great deal of planning, research and hard work. Companies, and authors, with successful brands work hard to maintain and protect the carefully crafted brand. A successful brand is worth more than its weight in gold!

The authors share a total of 51 truths about creating successful brands. Each of these truths is essentially a stand alone chapter in its own right yet the authors have sequenced the chapters in a logical order.
Each chapter is well written, easy to understand and provides useful information for the reader, regardless of the whether the reader has a background in business and marketing or not.

Without being a spoiler, I will say the material in this book makes very good sense, yet it is not "common sense" information for the most part. I am reading the book for a third time and have nearly filled up a legal pad with notes on things I need to do or change with my business and approach to self-publishing. It has been money well spent.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Will Kindle and other eBook Prices Eventually Have to Rise?

Everyone seems to be jumping on the ebook train right now. I certainly have. May, June and July are the slowest three months for me in terms of print book sales. The same is not true for Kindle sales so far. May of 2011 was good and this June is looking like it will be the best month ever for Kindle sales since I ventured into the Kindle market.

While introducing Kindle editions does not seem to have hurt my print sales, and in fact I believe it helped boost the sales of one print edition, it remains to be seen if the trend will continue. I plan to pay close attention to print and Kindle sales trends for the next year or so.

One of the reasons for this is the fear I have that my Kindle sales WILL negatively impact my print sales at some point in the future. Why is this a concern? I make considerably more money per sale for a print book than I do a Kindle book, even with Amazon's generous royalty system. The price of Kindle books is so much lower than the price of the print edition, there is no possible way to make up the difference in net profit per sale and still take advantage of Amazon's pricing/royalty structure.

My books are non-fiction niche market books. Selling my books for the lowest possible price to drive sales is not a long term strategy for me. I think this strategy works well for fiction, new fiction authors and general market non-fiction.

As ebook readers and reading books digitally becomes more common, this is going to become more and more of an issue. More so if authors bypass the publishing houses and deal directly with Amazon for Kindle sales. The math will drive the issue.

For example, if an author is going to sell a print edition of a book that nets $6 per copy and the Kindle edition only nets $2 per copy, it will take three Kindle book sales to match the profit of one print copy being sold.

If the book is going to only sell 5,000 copies total for the author, Kindle and print combined, the ratio of print to Kindle sales is a significant one. 5,000 print copies at $6 net is a $30K net profit. 5,000 Kindle copies is only $10K net. The difference of $20K is nothing to sneeze at.

As the market trends towards digital books, will authors need to drive the prices upwards so they can make a living selling their books in a digital format?

Right now, I suspect many of my Kindle sales are impulse, price driven purchases I would not have made otherwise. In the future this might not be the case when people by digital books as the dominant format of consuming books.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Print-on-Demand and Kindle Sales - A Comparison Revisited: Opportunity for Authors Who Self-Publish

Forbes magazine recently ran an article discussing the publishing industry's current attitude and misunderstanding of the ebook revolution in the publishing industry. The Publishing Maven posted a short blog post about this article.

Forbes states Amazon has for the first time sold more Kindle books than print books. Publisher's attitudes range from dismay to denial, claiming Amazon is simply making up the numbers. Perhaps buggy makers reacted the same way when automobiles first began to appear on the roads.

I think publishers are missing the point, and the opportunity, ebooks offer. One publisher complains there is less profit to be made in ebooks. For the publisher perhaps, but not for authors who self-publish directly and bypass the traditional publisher. Yes, the industry is changing but it does not mean publishing will no longer be profitable. It simply means the source of revenue is going to come from a different type of book, in this case digital instead of print.

Editors, designers and cover artists will still be necessary and might make a better living working as freelancers contracting directly with authors. Some of the big publishing houses will survive because they will adapt in time. Others will not. Self-publishing, I predict, will become more common and accepted in the publishing world. 

In my opinion, it is the move to self-publish and not the print-on-demand print model or ebooks driving the change in the publishing world. POD and ebooks are allowing authors to self-publish and make more money doing so. This, and not changes in technology, is what will lead to the demise of many of the traditional publishing houses.
In an earlier post I shared sales figures for the past few months of my print-on-demand paper books and Kindle sales. Today, even with a few hours left for books to sell, I totaled up my sales for the month of May. My books are seasonal to some extent in sales. Summer months are significantly slower. This May sales for print books dropped significantly from previous months but were still nearly double from a year ago in May of 2010 (note to self - you have got to find a way to get your customers to buy books year round!).

Kindle sales dropped this month as well but I still sold 63 Kindle books, only 4 fewer books than print books sold.

The one trend I have noticed since I introduced Kindle editions of several of my books is sales for ALL of my books have increased significantly, particularly the books available in both POD and Kindle editions. My best guess concerning this jump is Amazon must be combing the sales results for both versions, boosting each version higher in the search results.

My best selling Kindle book, The Game of Basketball, shows up first for an Amazon search for "basketball" and second for "coaching basketball." Game Strategy and Tactics for Basketball shows up third on Amazon for a search of coaching basketball. The Game of Basketball today was listed 7th in books and Game Strategy and Tactics for Basketball was listed 4th. 

Game Strategy and Tactics for Basketball is my best selling book in paperback and has sold well for two years. The introduction of the Kindle edition has not hurt sales of the print-on-demand edition and the past basketball season was the best yet for sales of this book. The Game of Basketball languished as a paperback with disappointing sales on Amazon. The introduction of the Kindle edition not only took off as a Kindle book, but seems to be driving sales of the paperback version as well.  The Game of Basketball has steadily climbed in Amazon paper book rankings and sales.

Perhaps what publishers resent is the opportunity for authors to self-publish and simply bypass the publishing houses. Publishers also seem to resent Amazon's role in all of this as well as the technology driving the changes.

People are still reading, and buying books, and this is a good thing. Technology and online retailers like Amazon are making it possible for authors to have direct access to distribution and customers, bypassing the old publishing gatekeepers. Books, editors, designers and authors are not going anywhere. Publishers might be going the way of buggy makers.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Paperback Sales versus E-book Sales in the Past Seven Months

With the end of May almost here, I sat down and took a quick look at my sales figures in the past few months, not in terms of income, but in terms of total books sold, both POD paperbacks and e-books (Kindle Books). The totals startled me a little bit and are indicative of the current trends in the publishing industry.

Starting with the month of November, 2010, and finishing with the month of May, 2011, I have sold 623 paperback books on Amazon (these numbers do not include Expanded Distribution Channel sales or specialty retailers). During the same time period I have sold 291 Kindle books. Please note as well, my first Kindle title went on sale in November and only sold 3 copies. The two totals combined indicate I have sold 914 total books during the past seven months. The 291 Kindle books account for roughly one third of my total sales.

The reason I compared sales from November of 2010 through May of 2011 is because I did not start selling Kindle books until November of 2010.

The Publishing Maven posted about ebooks making up such a large portion of the book market currently, basing her post on a recent article in Forbes Magazine. Joel Friedlander has been writing and commenting a great deal about ebooks lately at his blog, The Book Designer.

The lesson to be drawn from these sales figures, at least for me, is in the future, every edition of a new book I release will have at a minimum a POD paperback version and a Kindle edition of the title. Ebooks are here to stay but so, it would appear, are paperback books, at least for a few years longer.

Book Covers Do Make A Difference For On-line Sales

Aaron Shepard stubbornly claims simple book covers work best for internet sales, particularly on Amazon. I agree with him to a point. Aaron's covers are super simple and he takes a bit of grief for his covers. His books on self-publishing sell well because he is an expert and the content is valuable and worth the money spent by the customer. Aaron is not going to win any awards for cover design.

I do believe simple covers work best with the small size of the cover photos Amazon provides in the product listings.  Complex artwork and design simply does not show up well.

Even with Search Inside, customers will still judge a book by its cover. Detailed product description information, reviews, and tags all play a part in the customer's decision to buy a book. But it seems the cover still plays a role in encouraging the customer to click on the book's product page to examine all of the above items.

I have learned the hard way covers do play a role in this process. My book, Better Basketball Practices, is for individuals who want to plan, organized and conduct more efficient basketball practice sessions. This is actually an important topic for basketball coaches and very few coaches are able to conduct quality practices on a consistent basis. Sales for the book have been poor despite considerable positive feedback via e-mail from the coaches who have purchased the book.

The cover was ultra basic and while I thought the design was fine, The Publishing Maven hated it. In fact, she hated it so much she created a new cover design for me without asking. I simply received an e-mail with two design options attached. My feelings were not hurt in the slightest - male ego can cause you to do funny things - and I promptly uploaded the new cover file with CreateSpace.

The results have led me to believe covers do make a big difference, even for on-line sales. Sales for the month of May for all of my titles are annually either the lowest or second lowest for the year. Sales for this single title this month alone are equal to the total combined sales for this title since October when it was introduced. Anecdotal evidence, yes, but it has gotten my attention. Future releases will require high quality covers and over time and as I can afford it, some of my older titles will get new covers.

And no, Christie does not design and produce covers professionally. She simply created this one cover for me as a favor. Joel Friedlander, the The Book Designer does though.