Thursday, December 26, 2013

iBookstore, eBooks, Competition and Self-Publishing

Three of my non-fiction books became available in the Apple iBookstore on Monday, December 23rd, 2013.  On Tuesday, December 24th, I sold two copies of one of the titles.  

By itself, the sale of two ebooks is not noteworthy, even for me. Then I looked at my sales records. It took a month before I sold an ebook copy of my best selling book in paperback and second best Kindle seller after it became available in Amazon's Kindle Store.  It took six weeks to sell the first Kindle edition of my best selling ebook, of which I have sold over 3,500 copies of in just slightly over two years. 

Nothing to scream and shout about, but considering the average book sells just under 200 copies (read that a few times somewhere) and that book paid for replacing the heating and air conditioning system in my house, a new roof and a few other things, I think that's pretty good for a non-fiction niche book.

So when this title sells two copies in just its second day of being available in the Apple iBookstore, I am excited! With Apple now supposedly the number two ebook retailer behind the mighty Amazon, this in encouraging.

I don't expect to ever match the numbers I achieved with this title on Amazon, but with sales slowing for this title on Amazon, it would be nice to generate some significant sales somewhere for this title.

There is little doubt in my mind that part of the success of this book was the limited number of Kindle books available in the niche I write for. When the Kindle adoption "craze" was taking off, I benefited from good search results ranking and limited competition. I sold 1700 of those 3500+ copies in the month of January, 2012!

A quick search in the book's niche in the iBookstore revealed even fewer titles to compete with than were available in the Kindle store roughly two years ago. Now, there are 31 pages of search results of competing Kindle titles.

I counted the total number of titles in the iBookstore search and they would fill a total of 5 pages of search results on Amazon! Clearly, the title has a much better chance in the iBookstore in regaining sales momentum than it does in the Kindle store.

What am I hoping for? It is a good book, with a track record of success and has limited competition for at least the time being. Hopefully, the results of January 2012, can be repeated to a limited degree before Apple finds a way to significantly increase the number of titles it has available in the iBookstore.

What does this mean for authors who self-publish? Several important things I believe, starting with the need to find a way to get your books distributed to the iBookstore. Alas, Apple does not openly embrace self-publishing authors like Amazon has. This means you must find an aggregator who accepts titles from indie or self-publishing authors and has a distribution relationship with iBookstore. 

I narrowed my short list down to a pair of companies, Bookbaby and Draft2Digital, before going with the later. I plan to use Bookbaby for one additional title just to see how they compare in total sales as they distribute to a larger number of ebook retailers than Draft2Digital. At this time though, my main concern was getting a few titles listed via iBookstore to see how things go.

While Smashwords has worked well for a lot of indie authors, I just could not bring myself to subject my books to the "meatgrinder" I have heard so many horror stories about (though I have read several times recently that Smashwords has improved the process). For those who can figure out how to deal with the meatgrinder, Smashwords does seem to have a good track record with self-published authors.

The other important thing for authors I think is a chance to "get in early" as Apple grows its share of the ebook market. Your book may have a better chance at selling when there is less competition in the iBookstore.

Here is why I think Apple will gain a significant amount of the ebook market:
  • Apple/Mac/iPad/iPhone users are fanatics when it comes to Apple products. My youngest daughter has an iPhone and regularly enters into debates with anyone who challenges "the superiority" of any version of the iPhone. 
  • My place of work converted to Mac laptops and that has made a believer out of me.
  • Apple is in much better financial shape than Amazon's nearest traditional competitor, Barnes and Noble.
  • My wife tossed her Kindle HD the instant she opened her iPad for Christmas and she is NOT a Mac user or a fan of Mac (Given the fact I gave her the Kindle HD but not the iPad, I was a little chagrined at her quick abandonment for the iPad).
  • Truth be told, you can do more with an iPad than you can a Kindle.
  • Last of all, Mac is becoming the computer of first choice in educational systems. Students are learning to read and access media on Macs or iPads. They tend to stick with these devices once they have been introduced to them.
I don't foresee Apple's iBookstore taking away Amazon's number one position in the world of ebook sales. I do see the company in time cutting into Amazon's market share. While Amazon has been very good to me, I want to get my foot in the door while I can with Apple and enjoy the benefits of an expanding, loyal customer base with a supplier (Apple) who has a more limited supply of product (books) at  the moment than its biggest competitor (Amazon).

Take the time to find your way into the iBookstore and check the competition out. It may very well be worth your while to jump through the hoops necessary to make your book available in the iBookstore.

Now I need to get busy letting the readers of my other blog and my newsletter know my books are now available in the iBookstore!