This was another record month for my Kindle sales. Sales were up across the board — in March, I sold 1360 books, in April I sold 1798, and this month I sold 1919. I earned $1415 in April and this month I earned $1543.
THE WALK continues to be my bestselling title. I sold 629 copies in April and 720 this month.
GUILTY, one of my re-branded VIGILANTE novels, moved up to #3 with 184 copies sold compared to 125 last month.
There was one bit of troubling news…MY GUN HAS BULLETS went from selling 264 copies last month to 166 this month… I have no idea why sales plunged by 100 copies. That's a dramatic drop. I may need to try a new cover and see if that will stop the slide.
This will be the last month of Kindle sales under the old royalty system. Starting July 1, my royalties will go from 35% to 70% of each sale. I can't wait.
On April 17, I predicted in a post on this blog that I'd earn $1400 in Kindle royalties this month. I was right. I earned $1416. It was, by far, my best Kindle month since I began this experiment eleven months ago. Last month, I sold 1360 books…this month I sold 1798, an increase of 438 books and $400 in royalties. (Click on my royalty statement for a larger view).
I credit the surge this month to three things:
1. my bet with Joe Konrath, which resulted in new covers and titles for my Vigilante novels. It was a bet I was thrilled to lose.
Sales of the VIGILANTE books (now known, thanks to Joe, as The Jury Series) shot up enormously. For example, the previously titled .357 VIGILANTE #4: KILLSTORM sold 14 copies last month. This month, by rebranding the book GUILTY, I sold 125 copies. I now have someone re-reading the manuscripts of all four books, correcting the conversion errors that have bedeviled me since I posted them a few months ago.
Last month, THREE WAYS TO DIE sold 201 priced at 99 cents and earned $70. This month, I sold 169 and earned $103. Fewer sales, but higher royalties. I can live with that.
THE MAN WITH THE IRON-ON BADGE, priced at $2.99, quickly became my second best-selling title, if not in volume (234 copies sold) certainly in profits ($245). Those sales reassure me that my bestselling title, THE WALK, will do fine when, in late June, I raise the price from $1.99 to $2.99 to take advantage of Amazon's new royalty formula, which will give me a 70% royalty instead of the 35% I get now.
By the way, this month THE WALK sold 629 copies, earning me $440 (last month I sold 575 copies). A new high.
Changing the cover and title of BEYOND THE BEYOND boosted sales a bit. Last month, under the BEYOND title, I sold 73 copies. This month, rebranded as DEAD SPACE, I sold 92.
I can't wait to see how things shake out in July once my royalty doubles. Will my earning, if not my volume of sales, go up? Or will it level off? Or will the bubble burst and sales slowly begin to deteriorate? I don't know, but no matter what happens, I am already a winner. As I keep saying, this is all found money on out-of-print books that were packed away in my garage or in a dark corner of my hard-drive.
The following is an email exchange between me and Joe Konrath earlier this month:
TO: LEE GOLDBERG
FROM: JOE KONRATH
If I were you, I'd rename all the .357 Vigilante books getting rid of ".357" and "Vigilante" in their titles. The new covers should be generic–maybe a gun or some sort of weapon as the central image–but they should also tie together as a brand. And they should be done by an artist. Maybe a friend (you must have graphic artist friends) or maybe you can hold a contest on your blog. I'm convinced your covers and titles (which scream "Men's Action") are holding back sales of this fun series.
TO: JOE KONRATH
FROM: LEE GOLDBERG
I'm not sure that changing the covers for .357 VIGILANTE (or the titles) will help. The books are what they are — pulpy, mens action adventure novels from the 1980s. That is their appeal…and their drawback.
TO: LEE GOLDBERG
FROM: JOE KONRATH
Give me $XYZ. I'll give it to my graphic artist to redo the covers for the Vigilante books. Let me retitle them and do the product descriptions, and I bet your sales go up at least 25% in a two month period (compared to your last two months of sales.) If they don't, I'll give you the $XYZ back, and you get the covers for free. That's how sure I am those books will sell with the right packaging.
TO: JOE KONRATH
FROM: LEE GOLDBERG
You have a deal!
So I sat back and let Joe have his way with my books. Here's the original cover for .357 VIGILANTE:
It's only a little past mid-month, but already it's clear that he's won the bet and his repackaging is a success.
Last month, 357 VIGILANTE sold 59 copies or about 2 copies a day. This month, with the new title and cover, it has already sold 46 copies, or about 3 copies a day. It remains to be seen whether that pace of sales will continue for the rest of the month. But wait…
.357 VIGILANTE #4: KILLSTORM sold 14 copies last month. But with the new title and cover, it has sold 48 copies. That's right, the sales have more than tripled and the month isn't over yet. But wait, it gets even better…
.357 VIGILANTE: DIE MR. JURY sold 20 copies last month and now, with the new title and cover, it has sold 47 copies…the sales have more than doubled and the month isn't over yet. What's really surprising about this bump is that the book is priced at $4.99, making it the most expensive of my previously published/out-of-print titles on the Kindle. They aren't buying it because it's cheaper than everything else out there…I believe they are doing it because they think they are getting a great deal, four books for the price of one, a point Joe hammered home on the new cover far more effectively (and clearly) than I did on the old ones.
Based on these results, I quickly reworked the covers of MY GUN HAS BULLETS, THREE WAYS TO DIE and BEYOND THE BEYOND (retitling it DEAD SPACE) to take advantage of what I learned from the bet and from Joe's example.
What did I learn?
1. Your covers should have a clear, simple, striking image that will still pop out when the cover is reduced to the size of a postage stamp.
2. Your covers need to have a consistent, branded look.
3. Don't be afraid to experiment, to rethink everything about how your book is presented: the title, the cover art, the categories its listed under, the way you describe it, the way you've priced it. Just because your book has been posted, that doesn't mean it's been carved in stone and can't be altered. You need to adapt to find your audience. In other words, you can't just post your book on the Kindle and leave it. Your book will continue to need attention and, if necessary, updating to stoke sales.
I've taken Joe Konrath's advice and have been tinkering quite a bit with my covers…and discovering that it makes a big difference in sales. Here was my original cover for MY GUN HAS BULLETS:
It was the dust jacket on my hardcover and I didn't own the rights to the art, so I asked my sister to create a new cover for me. I loved what she came up with. I thought it looked classy and professional. Here it is:
But I wasn't selling as many copies as I thought I could. I just assumed people weren't responding to the book. But Joe blamed the cover, he said it was too bleak, too busy, it didn't pop. So as much as I liked that cover, I put the old one up for a while. Sales went up slightly, which got me thinking maybe another change couldn't hurt. So I created a new cover myself using stock photos (which I licensed) and Microsoft Paint It…
And sales have shot up. I sold 204 copies of MY GUN last month and I am already up to 170 this month. That means I've gone from selling about six copies-a-day to ten. Encouraged, I've changed the cover and title of BEYOND THE BEYOND. Here's the original cover
Here's the second one I tried:
And here's the one I have now.
I sold 70 copies last month…and I am already up to 60 now. I am still not selling as many as I would like, but at least it's cropping up. The new cover has only been up for a few days, so it's too soon to tell how it will pan out.
Meanwhile, again on Joe's advice, I scrapped the cover of THREE WAYS TO DIE. Here's the original:
And here's the first version of the new one, which was up last month:
And here's what I've got now, which has only been up for a week or two:
In addition to spiffing up the cover, I also jacked up the price from 99 cents to $1.99. As of today, I've sold 109 copies…so I am on track to sell just as many copies as last month (207) but I'll earn more money. I think the new cover has a lot to do with it.
I sold 160 copies in March, so far I've sold 145 this month. Sales are definitely up.
But that's not the whole story. All of this cover-tinkering was sparked by another experiment, also initiated by Joe, but I will tell you more about that later…
That said, this is shaping up to be my biggest Kindle month ever. As of 7 pm tonight, I have earned $810 in royalties. If sales continue at this rate, and that's a big if, I could reach about $1400 this month. But I will certainly top the nearly $1000 I earned in March.
This was my best month of Kindle sales since I began this venture in June. This month I sold about 1360 books and made about $975 (click on the image for a larger view of my royalty statement as of 9:47 pm, March 31st)
I sold 575 copies of THE WALK, earning $420, which is actually slightly down from February, when I sold 573 copies in 28 days, but it's still my best-selling title.
My friend Joe Konrath, who did amazingly well this month, strongly urged me to drop my new covers for MY GUN HAS BULLETS and BEYOND THE BEYOND because he felt they were the reason my sales weren't so good. So I took his advice and temporarily restored the original covers. The result? MY GUN sold 167 copies in February with the new cover (or roughly six copies a day) and sold 204 this month (or roughly seven copies a day) with the old cover. BEYOND sold 85 copies this month (about 3-a-day) and sold 73 this month (about 2 copies a day). My take? It's a wash. Even so, I'm thinking about creating two new covers for the books and seeing what happens.
Joe also suggested that if I dropped the Jack Webb cover for THREE WAYS TO DIE and replaced it with something bolder, I would see sales go up. Last month, I sold 140 copies of THREE WAYS, or 5-a-day. This month, with the new cover, I sold 201 books, or 6.5 copies a day. My take? It's up, and I like the new cover better anyway, so I'm sticking with the change.
The spike in sales this month came from releasing the Kindle edition of THE MAN WITH THE IRON ON BADGE mid-month, priced a $2.99, a dollar more than my other books. I sold 160 copies, earning $166.95. What's encouraging about this is that I earned more selling 160 copies of BADGE than I did selling 204 copies of MY GUN, which was priced a dollar less. It tells me that raising my prices to $2.99 across the board in July to take advantage of Amazon's new royalty rate may actually increase my profits rather than reduce them.
I also started offering "preview chapters" of Joe's books THE LIST and SUCKERS in THE WALK and MY GUN HAS BULLETS (and he did the same for me) in an experiment to see if the cross-polination/cross-promotion gooses our sales. But it's way too early to judge how that test is working.
But I've accepted a challenge and a little wager from my buddy Joe, who is proposing a radical approach to boosting sales of my VIGILANTE novels. I'll tell you more about that development later…but it should be very interesting, as well as a lot of fun.
I've also updated THE WALK to include the first three chapters of Joe's novel THE LIST… and MY GUN HAS BULLETS to include a chapter of his book SUCKERS. He's done the same for me. It will be interesting to see if this cross promotion boosts both of our sales. It could be a month or two, though, before we see a spike, if there is even going to be one, since lot of folks download books as impulse buys and then don't get around to reading them for quite a while.
I have to hand it to Joe, he has been the trailblazer when it comes to exploiting all the possible potential out of selling books on the Kindle. And he's been right more than he's been wrong…and has had the success to prove it. He's on track to earn more than $40K this year in Kindle royalties from stuff that was in a drawer.
My Kindle sales for February we up a tick from last month. THE WALK sold 573 copies in 28 days vs 536 in 31 days in January. MY GUN HAS BULLETS sold 167 copies and THREE WAYS TO DIE sold 136. Last month, BEYOND THE BEYOND, priced at $1.99, sold 71 copies so I lowered the price to 99 cents for February to see if I could jack up sales a bit…and sold 85 copies. I went from selling about 2 copies a day of BEYOND to 3, hardly worth the price cut, so I'm going to raise the price back to $1.99. I debating whether to raise the price of THE WALK to $2.99 to take advantage of the new Kindle royalty formula…but I am afraid what I will lose in sales volume will not make up for the increase in my royalty per book. (Click on the image for a larger view of my full royalty statement)
My overall royalties were $777 vs. $775 for January. If my sales continue at this pace, I could earn close to $10,000 this year from the Kindle. But thats nothing compared to how my friend Joe Konrath is doing. As of February 24, he'd earned $2750 last month in Kindle royalties on nine titles…if he keeps that up, he's going to earn $33,000 this year from Amazon on his out-of-print and previously unpublished manuscripts alone. Click on the image below to see his royalty statement in detail:
January was my best month yet in sales & royalties for my out-of-print books on the Kindle (click on the photo above for a larger, and clear, image of my royalty statement). THE WALK remained my best-selling title with 536 copies sold. MY GUN HAS BULLETS was a distant second with 164 copies sold. And coming up third was THREE WAYS TO DIE, my collection of previously published short stories, with 148 copies sold.
I lowered the price of my .357 VIGILANTE books from $2.89 to $1.99 and sales went up. It seems to me that Kindle readers are more inclined to take a chance on books if they are priced under two bucks.
All told, I made $775 in Kindle royalties this month…and all found money on out-of-print books that were boxed up and forgotten in my garage (I really do owe Joe Konrath a drink for getting me into this back in May). I credit the jump in my sales to all the people who got Kindles as Christmas gifts and were eager to test drive their new toy for as little money as possible. I suspect my sales will slowly decline once the novelty of the Kindle wears off, but THE WALK has already sold 50 copies in the first two days of February, so maybe I'm wrong (by the way, THE WALK has already sold more copies on the Kindle than it ever did in hardcover).
I'll be curious to see how my MONK books did on the Kindle during the same period…but it will be some time before I get my royalty reports from Penguin.
BEYOND THE BEYOND continues to sell poorly, or at least below my expectations, so I lowered the price in late January to 99 cents and sales immediately went up…though not by much. I'm hoping I can use the book as a "loss leader" to draw people to my other ebooks.
All of these Kindle editions of my out-of-print books have also been available for two months now as ebooks on Barnes & Noble (via Smashwords) and I have sold less than half-a-dozen… COMBINED. Clearly, B&N and the Nook have a long way to go to catch up to the Kindle.
-An Amazon account, which you already have if you have bought something from Amazon.
-The words. With luck, you still have the Word file that you submitted to your publisher. And again, with luck, they had you make changes on the file and re-send, rather than someone at the publisher someplace making changes. I’ve been proofing my old Word files before I post them on the Kindle. Nothing like not looking at something for five plus years to see typos.
And if you don’t have the words? You can scan in the book or manuscript […]For one book, I used blueleaf-book-scanning.com and because I didn’t ask for anything fancy and didn’t ask for my book back, it only cost $12.15, plus $4.75 to mail them the book. Then they emailed me a word file.
A cover image. My husband made me some new ones, using photos from istock.com. The photos were inexpensive, and my husband worked for free.
Her covers look really good, her books are priced right, and she got an established reputation as a mystery/thriller writer. I think her Kindle editions will do real well.
Last month was my most successful yet on the Kindle...THE WALK led the pack of my out-of-print titles, selling 515 copies. As of today, I've sold 116 copies of THE WALK, and the other titles are selling briskly too, so it looks like January could be pretty good month. It's not a pot of gold, but it's found money. Since May, I've earned a little over $3000 in royalties from the Kindle on out-of-print titles that were earning me nothing, so I can't complain.