Question 5: Why did you decide to publish your work as ebooks?
First of all, thanks so much Jenny, for hosting me on your blog, Suspense Your Disbelief. I really appreciate the chance to talk about how I became an ebook author. Believe me, it’s not like I totally planned it. It just sort of happened.
It’s funny. There was a time when I would have sworn that ebooks would never really catch on in my lifetime. That was in the early days, before the Kindle made ebooks so much easier to buy and read. That was way back when I myself couldn’t imagine reading anything other than print books.
The decision to publish my work in ebook format was made quite by accident. I happened to notice both Joe Konrath and Lee Goldberg writing about the subject on their blogs.
Mind you, I was preparing at the time to republish IDENTITY CRISIS in print through Lulu. I hadn’t even thought about publishing it as an ebook. I didn’t even know the option of self-publishing ebooks existed. However, I did know that the ebook market was expanding exponentially. It seemed that it would only get bigger.
Joe was good enough to post the information about how to get started on Amazon. I seized upon this information and acted on it. On June 2, 2009, I uploaded my novel (in Word, which converts automatically) and put up the cover. I figured, “Hey, why not? I’ll pick up some spare change here and there. At the same time, selling the novel as an ebook will increase my exposure. Besides, the market for ebooks can only grow, right?” In short, it seemed like a no-brainer. A truly no-lose proposition.
When I first put the book up, I charged $1.59 per download. (It was slightly less than the $1.99 most midlist authors with backlists were charging at the time.) I started out slow, until I posted about my book to the forums. Then, things picked up significantly. I started selling anywhere from 40 to 70 ebooks a month. Which was okay, but I thought I could do better.
In a bid to encourage sales, I dropped the price to $.99 per download. I did this in early December 2009. Suddenly, my sales went through the roof. I was selling hundreds of downloads. In fact, I sold over 1,000 downloads each month (in January and February) after I dropped the price. I was, in fact, selling so many, I made more money selling them at $.99 than I had at $1.59.
At one point, my book reached #3 in the hardboiled mystery category in the Kindle Store. It maxed out there. Sales started to dwindle in March. (I attributed the boom to post-Christmas sales. People had probably gotten Kindles as gifts and bought up all the cheap downloads.)
I decided to raise the price to $1.99. My sales rank dropped, but my sales still exceeded what they were when I was charging $1.59. I found this development very exciting. It told me that I could use low price to promote my book and increase sales in a meaningful way. I could, in fact, use low price (along with the usual marketing and promotion) to develop a readership.
So, as summer approached, I put on my marketing thinking cap. What comes up in May and June? Graduations. Weddings. Anniversaries. People buy gifts for these occasions. Those gifts would no doubt include Kindles. What else? Summer vacations. People would buy Kindles for travel. Instead of lugging all those print books, people would want to download their beach reads onto Kindles.
This seemed like the perfect time, in short, to offer another promotion on my novel. I dropped the Amazon price to $.99 per download again, calling it my “summer special.”
My sales (once again) took off. I was (once again) selling hundreds of downloads per month. In July, I sold 1,234 downloads. In August, I sold 1,668 downloads. By mid-August, my book became the #1 hardboiled mystery on Amazon. The rank wavered a bit until late August, when the novel held fairly steady at #1 in that category.
While some naysayers were claiming I was only doing so well because I was selling my work so cheap, I couldn’t help but think I was doing it for a greater purpose. To enhance my rank and claim some bragging rights. To increase my work’s exposure.
The test came when summer ended. I made good on my promise and raised my price to $2.99 to take advantage of the new 70% royalty rate. I held my breath and waited to see what would happen. Would you believe my sales actually increased for a while? Would you believe I stayed at #1 in that category for about two weeks after I raised the price?
As I write this, my book still ranks in single digits in the hardboiled mystery category in the Kindle Store. I’m currently ranked in the top 15 in the hardboiled mystery category for all of Amazon. And it’s still among the Top 100 mysteries in the Kindle Store. Plus, I’ve sold more than 10,400 downloads of ONE TITLE to date. I think that’s saying something.
If you had asked me, back on June 2, 2009, why I was publishing my work as an ebook, I would have told you that I did it to pick up some spare change. Today, having achieved this level of ebook success (and now a proud owner of my own Kindle), my answer is so different.
I’m publishing my work as ebooks because I’m not a complete idiot.
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Thanks for reading, everyone! Don’t forget to leave a comment with your email address if you’d like to enter the drawing for the 10 autographed copies of IDENTITY CRISIS I’m giving away. (One entry per person, but comment as often as you like.)
The drawing will be held on my blog My Life on the Mid-List after the tour is finished. Check my blog for the entire tour schedule.
And please join me at my next stop tomorrow: Buried Under Books