Fiction Writing and Other Oddities

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Amazon Publishing on the Kindle, Redux

Indie Publishing, Who'd Have Thunk It?
A quick blog, a few random thoughts on independent (indie) publishing, mostly centered on the Kindle...

I admit it, I never thought I'd give in to the lure of indie publishing. If nothing else, I'm a firm believer in the search for excellence and traditionally, excellence in publishing meant the whole agent/NY publishing thing.

Got a couple of agents, got a few books published, but they languished. I languished. I considered giving up, calling it quits, admitting that I was the one loser out of the group of six starry-eyed writers striving to be published who all went on to bigger and much better contracts.

But I'm stubborn, and I had all these books in my head dying to get out, and what the heck?

Then I started reading Konrath's blog. Things exploded in the indie world. Like an idiot, I realized that once again, I was behind the curve on something I should have been at least one step ahead of. I mean, I have a day job in the computer industry. I should have realized what was going on, much, much sooner.

Nonetheless, I finally took the plunge a few months ago. It has been a totally eye-opening experience in ways I really didn't expect.

Serendipity is alive and well and nesting in my Kindle.

What happened?

Well, I had a mystery (The Vital Principle) that I was talking to a publisher about, but the advance was small and I realized, well, if the book was good enough to be published, wasn't it good enough to be indie published? After more work, of course.

So I did.

A couple of months later, I'm doing...quite well. Not burning up the Internet, but nice, solid sales. In the meantime, I had another book I'd written and was almost ready to go. I got it ready and indie published that one (A Rose Before Dying). Again, nice solid sales. Enough so that I've now set into motion plans to retire early and write full time.


My trad books? They're starting to sell. With virtually no effort on my part (except, of course, I'm working on my next book which is a LOT of effort).

It's the reverse of what I had expected. I had expected traditionally published books to drive the sales of my indie books. What is happening is that my indie books are driving the sales of my trad books.

Is this some weird thing unique to me? No clue. No clue AT ALL.

But I will say this: writing the best book you can write is worth it. And the best advertising is your next book.

Finally, let me talk about a related subject that is near to my heart. Amazon rankings. If you're an author, you may be as addicted as I am to the rankings watch.

But what do they really mean?
It's all relative, my dear.

For a full and comprehensive discussion on Amazon rankings, I encourage you to look at the following link: Amazon Ranks Explained. In a nutshell, the rank is how well your book is selling that hour against all the other books on Amazon. It's calculated hourly.

While that link does a wonderful job of explaining the ranking system, the rank data is from 2008. I took my own data from 2011 and updated the table slightly to reflect the more recent information. Here's how the ranks roughly (and I mean ROUGHLY) break down as they relate to sales.

RANK                         Weekly Sales - 2011
    1,000                            210 copies (~30/day)
    5,000                            100 copies (~16/day)
  10,000                              70 copies (~10/day)
 100,000                             20 copies (~ 3/day)
 300,000                             15 copies (~ 2/day)
 500,000                               1 copy
1,000,000                             1 or 2 copies/month

Keep in mind a few things:
  1. This is relative to all the other books being sold, so if book sales are really slow across the board, the number of copies sold to earn a ranking will be less & vice versa.
  2. Huge jumps in rank within an hour, e.g. going from 114,000 to 44,000, doesn't mean you're selling between 3 and 10 copies that day or even that hour. It means that you may have sold one copy that hour, which was more than those above the 44,000 rank did, but less than those with lower ranks. For that specific hour.
  3. It's the average ranking for an entire week that may give you the best clue for your sales that week.
You really can't tell for sure what your sales are without getting the details, but if you're an author who has to wait for his or her publisher to release the figures, this at least gives you a swag number.

If you're an indie author, then of course you can check the daily numbers (like I do) from Amazon DTP. But it's still fun to look at rankings.

Best wishes for success!

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