Saturday, May 28, 2011

Kindle reality

The Kindle millionaires are quite willing to tout their sales numbers and earnings, but no one else seems willing to share their data. So, how about a little dose of reality from the bottom end?

But first, some background:

I'm an established writer with nearly 900 short story sales.

My stories have been spread across so many genres that I'm not particularly well known in any specific genre.

I have many titles available from many sources in many formats (Kindle, Nook, etc.) but I'm only sharing numbers from my self-published work, and my self-published work is currently available only from Amazon for Kindle.

I uploaded my first title in April 2010, an original sweet romance titled Unbridled Love: A Romance With Horse Sense. As of the end of April 2011, I had sold 38 copies. Mid-April I changed the cover and this month to date I've sold 17 copies.

In August and September 2010 I uploaded three hardboiled crime short stories ("Glass Houses," "Lesser of Two Evils," and "Pick,") and one mystery novella "Dreams Unborn," all previously published. They are offered individually. As of the end of April 2011, I've sold--all four titles combined--23 copies. This month to date: 0.

In April 2010 I uploaded Microchick, a collection of 24 previously published erotic SF, horror, and fantasy short stories. During April I sold 1 copy. This month to date: 3.

In April 2010 I uploaded Sex, Violence, & Half a Million Dollars, a collection of 23 previously published erotic hardboiled and noir crime fiction stories. In April I sold 8 copies. This month to date: 1.

Earlier this month I uploaded Spicy Confessions, a collection of four confession stories as by Rolinda Hay. Sales this month to date: 1.

I've done little promotion--links on my website, links on my blog, occasional mentions on Facebook, and this post, which might serve some promotional purpose.

Most of what I've made available for the Kindle is previously published work, so any income the stories generate is gravy, but the amount of money I'm earning in any particular month is negligible. (I'll clear $40 for May sales, my best month to date.)

I hope having real sales numbers, with real titles you can study (look at the covers, look at the product descriptions, look at the tags, look at the reviews [or lack of reviews]) will help you decide if self-publishing is worth your effort.

For me? Yes, but...


Anonymous said...

Rolinda Hay. *giggle*

Vera-Jane said...

Thanks for your reality check.

Fiona said...

Your numbers aren't a surprise. Guido Henkel has posted on his blog and at J.A. Konrath's about how bad his sales have been; Lorraine Bartlett over at Cozy Chicks has lamented about her abysmal sales; and, Kait Nolan blogged a couple of weeks ago that her sales had only enable her to pay her car off a few months early.

So, not everybody is J.A. Konrath or Amanda Hocking.

Brian Drake said...

Ah, you're dealing with what we all deal with. But be encouraged! Last year I couldn't give my books away. This year, through Jan-Feb-March, I sold a book a day; since April sales have been up and down. I don't think you're doing anything wrong, but after looking over your list on Amazon I have a few observations.

I like the cover of "Sex, Violence, and Half a Million Dollars", but perhaps the price is too high. I found that when I priced my work at $2.99, there weren't many takers. Once I dropped to .99, sales picked up. We can discuss the value of our effort/time/etc. and why we are too good for .99 but what I learned is that readers are more willing to take a chance with an unfamiliar writer when the price is .99. I think that's why I sell consistently if not as much as I would like. Perhaps you can try that and see what happens--try it for two months.

As for your other short stories... why are the covers bare white with black text? I like the layout of the text, but something needs to be in the white space. Perhaps this is turning readers away. You don't have to shell out a huge amount of money for a cover. I use a web site called Dreamstime ( where $100 buys me enough cover photos for five novels--basically, a year's worth of output. If you don't know how to manipulate the images to make a cover, I'm sure you know somebody who does, otherwise I can recommend somebody who will take the pics you buy and arrange them for you.

The product descriptions could be refined a bit, especially on the short stories. I'm still learning the difference between describing too much and not enough.

Keep it up and be patient. Too many "indies" have been tricked into thinking they'll sell ten million copies overnight.

Jacqueline Seewald said...

Hi, Michael,

As a fellow writer who hasn't as yet self-published e-books or short stories, I'm very interested in what you have to say on the subject. I think in general it's difficult to sell one's writing unless you're very famous. Good luck to all of us!

Jacqueline Seewald
THE TRUTH SLEUTH--new release

Michael Bracken said...


The primary reason I posted this information is summed up by your last paragraph. The top-selling/top money-making writers readily share their success. I haven't seen any bottom-enders share their sales figures, and few at either level post the information in a detailed, constructive way.

Although I expect my sales to improve over time, I don't expect to measure monthly sales in four figures any time soon. And $40/month for work that was sitting in a filing cabinet earning nothing is a nice bit of extra money. For me, that's one car payment/year.

About the covers:

The short stories were among the first things I made available for Kindle. At the time I was seeking a way to ensure that the cover information was legible at a small size (many covers aren't), brand the stories with a look that implied their hardboiled/noir nature, and make it clear that they were all from the same writer.

I think I accomplished that. But, as you mention, it may be to the detriment of sales.

I've also created all the other covers on my self-published Kindle work. I worked from a similar theory: make the title and byline legible at small sizes and have a consistent look/feel.

When I changed the covers of Unbridled Love--from just yellow text on red background (it was the first story I posted) by adding a photo and improving the layout of the text--sales increased significantly, so it is clear how important covers can be.

So, after I finish the four projects I'm currently preparing to post for Kindle, I may return to the covers of the short stories and redo them.

As you say, though not in these words, there's a learning curve involved in this process. I'm still on the front end of the curve, and this is not the publishing world where I feel most comfortable.

I've been writing professionally for 35+ years and I'm very much a write, submit, sell, write, submit, sell guy, not a write, upload to Kindle, cross fingers guy.

Michael Bracken said...

Vera-Jane, Fiona, Jacqueline,

Thank you for your comments. It's a crazy new publishing world and I'm just trying to make sense of my small part of it. Perhaps by sharing my experience, a few other writers will have more realistic expectations than they would have if all they read were posts by the top-sellers.

jrlindermuth said...

Rather than discouraging, I think your reality check should be encouraging in letting those who aren't making as much as Konrath, Hocking and some others know they aren't alone.
Thanks, Michael.

Earl Staggs said...

Michael, I'm impressed by the sales figures of Amanda Hocking and Joe Konrath like everyone else. I was also impressed by their sharing the secret to their success. They say you can't simply publish something and expect sales to follow. You're only a sprig in a huge forest. Both those people stress how important it is to get out and promote. They devoted large chunks of their time Facebooking, Tweeting, Blogging, and posting everywhere they could. Buyers don't come to you - you have to go out and find them. Their message is you have to make a sacrifice: trade writing time for selling time. That's not easy for some of us old "write-submit" writers, but. . .

Michael Bracken said...

You're right, Earl. Learning to promote ourselves/our work--without becoming that irritating "Buy My Book! Buy My Book!" guy that we all dread seeing on our lists--may be a difficult skill for guys like us to master. But we don't have much of a choice, do we? It's an adapt-or-die world out there.

I hope the message is encouraging, John. There are new readers we can reach and there is money to be made with self-publishing. But we might not all hit the jackpot, and those of us who do may not do it on day one with our first project.

Brian Drake said...

Regarding promotion, I have been inspired by an erotica author who uploads a short story every month yet does no promotion and, by selling her stories for .99, collects about $700 a month for the effort. The name of this author escapes me but it came up in conversation with another writer friend who actually talked to the lady. This author says that because she appears so frequently she is always on the "new release" list and gets attention that way.

I'm going to try a similar approach with adventure stories, all featuring the same character, all around 15-20,000 words, all appearing once a month, starting in January 2012. I'm outlining the stories now. I am very interested in seeing if I'll have even a small amount of the same result.

Promotion is tough, it's boring, and you never know when you're doing too much and irritating potential customers (I've given up telling friends and family--they simply do not care). Maybe appearing frequently will help.

Is this not what Konrath and Hocking did, too, uploading a ton of material on a consistent basis? The problem some of us have, I think, is that it takes time to get something up because we only have one or two books ready to go and our names do not appear in places where people see them often enough to get noticed.

Kaye George said...

Thanks so much, Michael for showing us some real figures! It's good to have something to compare to, something in my own range!

Anonymous said...

Michael, thanks. I'm just barely beginning to dip a toe in this pool myself and it's good to have a look at what lies (or doesn't lie) ahead. Like you, I'm thinking mainly of reprints though and as you say, even just a little bit is gravy.

Debra Purdy Kong said...

Thanks for sharing your interesting post, Michael. I think the dose of reality is needed. I follow Konratha's and Hocking's blogs and one thing I've noticed, especially from Konrath, is overnight successes are really rare. It takes months and months of tons of proper promotion, and even then the payback may be a year or two down the road. So, like everything, tenacity is a huge part of success, but you already know that. :)

Michael Bracken said...

Thanks, y'all, for all the new comments since I last checked in.

Jack said...

Too many epublications chasing too few actual readers.

Some of my by-line sales have been cut nearly in half since last year.

Shirley said...

I, too, am not making a lot on e-books. But I also don't promote a lot. I'm hoping to learn more as I go.

And look at it this way, they weren't making anything just "sitting" there.

I'm still game.