The Other Side of the Coin

Dancing-dark-175  A few days ago, I talked about how successful Joe Konrath has been on the Kindle and I argued that he's an exceptional case. Well, now author Mark Terry shows us the flipside. He's put five books on the Kindle, a mix of out-of-print and unpublished stuff. So farthis month he has sold 30 books and earned $29. And that's an uptick on his previous month's sales. He writes, in part:

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

[…]I'm pretty unsold on the idea of people who can't get traditionally published just e-publishing, but a number of people have done it successfully. Maybe it all depends on what you want out of it.

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

People who look at Joe's success or, to a far lesser degree, mine publishing books on the Kindle and think that our sales are the norm are in for a rude surprise…particularly if they don't already have an established following or strong name recognition. Sure, there might be a handful of exceptions out there, but that's what they are, the exceptions. Sadly, I believe Mark's experience is closer to the norm for the majority of authors self-publishing their work for the Kindle.

11 thoughts on “The Other Side of the Coin”

  1. Maybe I’ve missed him, but I haven’t seen Mark posting regularly on the Amazon boards. The only way I’ve gotten noticed is to post there and on Kindleboards– not too much, and not too little. There’s a fine balance there, and a lot of already-established authors who are already pressed for time may feel they don’t have the time to do it right. But it’s how I brought myself to the attention of Amazon customers, and I think it’s the main reason my books are selling on Kindle. I’m nowhere near Joe’s level, of course, but I am selling quite a bit more than 30 books a month.

  2. And I would point out that my latest print novel, The Fallen, has totally rocked on reviews and exposure and according to early comments from my publisher, doing very well. Which I suspect in part explains why The Devil’s Pitchfork and The Serpent’s Kiss, which are the out-of-print Derek Stillwater novels returned to life on Kindle, have done the best in a fairly short period of time.
    It does appear as if they are gaining some momentum, although nothing spectacular yet–I’m still in the red on these.
    When I look at Joe’s success, I am reminded that his success in print wasn’t particularly typical either. And yet we all keep crankin’ along.

  3. I changed my covers over and over. Once of them had five different versions. I also tweaked product description.
    Just putting an ebook on Kindle and waiting, without trying variations, isn’t a very good experiment.

  4. The sale of 30 books in a month makes it a runaway bestseller compared to most self-pub titles. I read someplace else that average e-sales (for new writers) are between 5-15 copies, depending on the size of their families. Some may sell as many as 100 copies, but I wouldn’t count on it.
    But even writers who have been around the block many times can have slow sales. Maybe their fan base already has the book or they don’t have computers or they don’t know the book is available or money is short that week.
    Sadly, many aspiring writers, rather than writing a better book that will sell, turn to easy self-publishing after getting a few rejections. I’m glad those didn’t exist when I started out or I might have done the same thing.
    Hard to believe, but in a low point in the 90s I actually considered Publish America as an alternative to trying to sell a short story reprint collection to a commercial house. Thankfully, I was put off by their 1-dollar “advance.” Only later did I see what a ripoff they are.
    Konrath’s success is a major coolness, but optimistic neos will see that as their own potential and not factor in the inconvenient fact that he is known, and they are not. Each time I give a talk to a writing group, I work that in and tell the neos to take it to heart.
    Yes, their work is special, but it’s not that special in this big, wide, easily distracted world. Just because something amazing is for sale doesn’t mean people will buy it.

  5. I have been following your lead in that area, too. I am on my third covers for MY GUN HAS BULLETS and DEAD SPACE( aka BEYOND THE BEYOND) …and my second for MAN WITH THE IRON-ON BADGE.
    One of the great pluses of the Kindle format is the ability to change covers, titles, descriptions whenever you like…and to experiment until you see what works.

  6. It’s still an experiment, Joe, not over. I need a baseline. I probably should tweak Dancing In The Dark, but at the moment I’m swamped with 10 other things, including writing the next Derek Stillwater novel. I was also ghostwriting a nonfiction book under contract as well as other paying projects. Sometimes I have to focus on the big paying jobs. That’s just life.
    That said, the first change to the experiment was to get more books up. That took me a while because I was wrangling with my former publisher over the e-rights to The Devil’s Pitchfork and The Serpent’s Kiss. Those 2 have only been up a couple weeks and are doing far better than Dancing or the kids’ books, although those have only been up a couple weeks, too.

  7. The way it was explained to me was, that Publishing only had a few big players, making it a CLOSED ECONOMY, which means that prices go up and quality comes down. The “quality” of many fiction books is, I would say, rather low.
    Now that anybody can publish an e-book, Publishing becomes an OPEN ECONOMY, which means that prices come down and quality must go up if sales are to be achieved. Quality determines sales success.
    Right now, we are in an in-between, cross-over phase. Books that sell in print (Closed Economy) won’t sell, probably, as e-books (since quality is not high enough for the Open Economy.) The remedy is greatly increase the quality of e-book offerings. And since experienced writers can do this by working harder on their sentences and scenes, e-book success will come most likely to experienced writers.
    Ian Fleming had the same problem. His first four Bond novels (Casino Royale, Live and Let Die, Moonraker, and Diamonds Are Forever) tanked. He almost gave up writing. But he decided to give it one more try, and really upgrade the quality of his writing, and From Russia With Love was a hit. To see how he did it, one could read any of the first four, and then FRWL.
    The change-over to the e-book, Open Economy, will go in fits and starts, but then it will take off as the general quality of books starts rising rapidly, I bet.

  8. Mark, I had to flee out the door this morning to take my elderly father to the doctor (fun for the entire family, heh), but I wanted to add that since you’ve gotten new stuff up on Kindle in the past two weeks, there’s a good chance one or more of those books might get rolling eventually. My experience has been that for most of us indie types, it takes a while for people to find our books, but once they DO get found, they’ll sell steadily. There are of course exceptions– Joe’s one, of course, and I’m darned if I know how the ball got rolling so quickly on Vicki Tyley’s book (I’m very green over here!), but often, it takes a while for people to find you, even if you’ve already got a fanbase. “Keep crankin’ along” is very good advice indeed:-).
    Also, I saw your response on my blog, and I suggested there that maybe if you put the books you really want to promote on Kindle (your Derek Stillwater books) on the front page of your website at the bottom, that might help drive traffic over to Amazon too. Just a thought, which may or may not help.

  9. I don’t give my advice out to everyone, but Mark’s a damn fine guy so I’ll offer a couple of suggestions. (1)rename the book, Dancing in the Dark is too passive and to much of a cliche; get something with zing (trap, chase, run, impossible, etc.K); (2) redo the cover from scratch, get some drama going, lighting, etc; it shouldn’t say “interesting,” it should say “read me now!”; (2) be sure it’s in the following categories: fiction suspense, fiction thriller, fiction mys & detective hard boiled, fiction suspense, fiction woman protagonists; (3) add tags that include the names of all authors who sell in the same genre together with words like thriller, suspense, mystery, dtective, etc.; (4) lower the price point to $2.99 or lower, sell a bunch of copies in the same 4-6 hour period (via friends, multiple accounts, etc.) and get into the top 50 bestsellers of one of your categories; once you’re there, THAT is the advertising you need (not kindle boards, websites, blogging, tweets, etc.), which don’t do any good at all I don’t do any of that crap (in fact I’m ANTI network) and you’ll sell very well. Get in the top 50 and you’ll stay there, so long as your book actually is as good and the one’s that surround it.
    Get there, then hang in. That’s the key.
    Good luck, Dude
    PS, if that doesn’t work, add James Patterson in prominent red lettering as a co-author.

  10. Well one thing, that cover spells DEATH. Looks the same quailty one would expect out of a self-pubbed author going through a bad epublisher or a vanity. It’s really, really bad. Invest in a good cover at least.
    And the title could use a change. First thing that came to mind was a Bruce Springstein song.
    Oh, and one little nitpick. Her finger is on the trigger of a magnum that’s pointed near her face? For me it says “I don’t know how to handle a gun”.


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