You Can Become a Kindle Millionaire, Part 17: The Bet

The following is an email exchange between me and Joe Konrath earlier this month:



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. 



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. 



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.



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:

And here is what he did with it:

Vigilante 1
Here is the original cover for .357 VIGILANTE #2: MAKE THEM PAY:

And here is what he did with it:

Vigilante 2
Here's the original cover I cobbled together for .357 VIGILANTE: DIE MR. JURY, an omnibus collection of all four .357 VIGILANTE books:

Face and logo9
Here's the revamp I did for it last month:

Die Mr Jury1l
And here's what Joe did:

Jury Series
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 #2: MAKE THEM PAY sold 39 copies last month and now, with the new title and cover, it has already topped that by selling 43 copies. But wait…

.357 VIGILANTE #3: WHITE WASH sold 23 copies last month. So far this month, with the new title and cover, it has sold 27 copies.  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.

10 thoughts on “You Can Become a Kindle Millionaire, Part 17: The Bet”

  1. The new covers are striking. I think using your real name and featuring the reference to THE WALK probably helps bring in some readers, too.
    Your “Kindle Millionaire” series of posts is being very interesting to follow. Thanks for sharing all the details of the proces!

  2. What a fun (and profitable) challenge! I can see why the new covers would work so well when scaled down in size. The new ones with the sharp contrasts of color and lights and darks really ‘pop’ and attract the eye. Thank you for posting the before and after covers as well as the results. It was very illuminating. Congrats on the increase in sales!

  3. Lee, I think it’s great that you are experimenting with the cover art of your Kindle books for sale. I don’t want to sound negative, but I honestly did not like the original cover of “My Gun Has Bullets”. It’s a really good book, but does the cover say that? Same with your “Vigilante” books: good books, but good covers?? Your sister did yeoman sevice in trying to rebrand your covers, using the “CSI yellow tape” as the key market identification for your books. That part of the cover was great, but, honestly, the background was not, well, it didn’t grab me. So it’s good for you to continue to tinker with these covers.
    As you know, I’ve suggested several times that packaging the Vigilante books as one download makes sense. Your sales should pick up as this is a real deal.
    Joe Konrath’s offerings for your covers are really quite good. A real improvement, and I don’t want to knock them in any way. Joe obviously knows what he is talking about and he’s very successful at it.
    In my opinion, the most successful covers of all time are those of Graham Greene. One quick glance and I know it’s his books, and I’m interested. The basic colour is white. On top is his name in one primary colour. There is an iconic graphic. There is the name of the book. The brand is unmistakable and memorable. I have all of his books. Similarly, the “Diagnosis Murder” covers have a white background, the picture of Dick Van Dyck and a graphic in a primary colour. So are the “Monk” covers, which I adore due to the comic brilliance of Tony Shaloub. So I would like to look forward to such covers for your stand-alone novels.
    Just an aside: I read “The Man With the Iron-On Badge” and wasn’t keen on the title or the cover. Too young, too non-specific. The book exploded all the cliches of the PI genre only to have the hero/narrator accept them as true and satisfying in the end. What is needed, I would argue, is a title that sums up an image that reflects the core of the book: something like “The Maltese Falcon” or “The Thin Man”. Something the reader can see, an object. Greene did this with the graphic on the cover: a clear, clean image. For “The Man”, maybe an image of a badge being ironed on a shirt.
    Anyway, the stand-alone books are much better than the covers, and much, much better than the titles.

  4. Thanks for the details – I’m delighted that it’s working so well for you and that you’re freely sharing the experience. It’s one thing to hear the marketing and branding theories, but quite a bit more exciting to see them working for someone and with sufficient detail to prove the point clearly.

  5. Hi Lee,
    A thank you from myself also for this little series on Kindle sales. It has and I am sure, will continue to remain interesting.
    I was wondering if you had looked at any correlation between actual kindle sales and increases in your book sales? Being a relatively new piece of hardware I am wondering if your sales are following the hardware sales at all and if once the hardware sales plateau perhaps the book sales may as well(fingers crossed your’s don’t!). I was just thinking that as people buy the Kindles, new technology, new toy, start grabbing cheap reads, but perhaps that interest will taper off?
    Don’t want to sound negative as I think the Kindle is a great addition to our world but just some thoughts I had regarding your experiment.
    Best of luck for continued strong sales!

  6. This reminds me of something I’ve been wondering about. When a movie has a novelization (ie, Air Force One, The Fugitive, Mission Impossible), how exactly is that done from the script? Is there a technical name for the process, and what’s the process like? Do they watch the movie so they can provide the description, or are they just stuck with the script version, which isn’t always as detailed?

  7. David,
    I get my print sales reports quarterly, and I haven’t seen a correlation between my e-sales. My print sales keep going up…but they were doing that before I actively “published” my backlist on teh Kindle.
    Authors of novelizations work from a draft of the screenplay…and, in many cases, don’t see the film until it’s released in theatres. You can find out more about the process by reading the articles at There is a piece there called “Writing hte Novelization” that will answer all of your questions.


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