EBOOKS VS PAPERBACKS
There has definitely been an uptick in sales this month for the ebook version of my first novel, Starstrikers. It’s been outselling my debut mystery novel Null_Pointer, by a 10-1 margin. Starstrikers is priced at .99 cents and Null_Pointer is priced at $4.00. Due to the fact that I’m a largely unknown author, I think people are less likely to throw down more than a buck to try me out. After those folks who purchased Starstrikers finish that book, I may see an uptick in N_P sales, if they in fact liked Starstrikers.
The irony here is that Starstrikers is a first novel and not the best example of my work. While Null_Pointer is a much better work of fiction and in a genre that has a bigger audience, it is simply not being purchased. In a time when Sci-Fi is supposed to not be selling very well unless you are a big name genre writer, my little debut Space Opera is gaining an audience. Albeit a very, very small one. Both novels are available for free in just about any ebook format you can think of. Both novels are also available in trade paperback on Amazon.
Sales of the Starstrikers paperback are dismal, but the Kindle version has reached as high as 13,000 in the Amazon rankings for Kindle books. Sales of the N_P paperback are pretty much non-existent. I’ve given more away in promotions than I have sold. One has to wonder whether producing a paper version of a novel is a worthwhile effort for a new author. Perhaps I should be concentrating my time and effort on producing ebooks and save the paperbacks for after I establish a “platform”. But the truth is, it really does not require that much more effort to make a paperback through the POD presses. Both ebooks and real books require the same outlay of money for cover design and editing. All that a paperback adds to the mix is typesetting.
So while it seems like making a paperback would be a losing proposition, in the end, it’s not so much. If I were using a traditional press, I would be stuck with a large amount of paperbacks and quite frankly, those are not selling at this point. As it stands now, after the ebooks gain an audience, those same folks will probably start to seek out a trophy and buy their favorite books in paperback. At some point, years down the line, the paperback sales may finally start to pick up.
As I have mentioned, both of my novels and a bunch of my short stories are available for free online. It’s interesting to see how popular they are on Scribd, a web site that specializes on presenting written works online for free. Null_Pointer, that mystery novel that nobody is buying in ebook or paperback form is actually my most popular story on Scribd. Over 10,000 people have looked at it and over 800 people have downloaded it. It’s been on the front page and has gained me over 6,000 followers on Scribd.
Clearly my largest audience have read my work for free. Is that leading to more sales? Probably, but no way to know for sure. Does it make sense to give my work away for free and try to sell it at the same time? Yes. Huh? Just look at the price of the Starstrikers ebook. Remember that 10-1 margin that it enjoys over the mystery novel? The free stuff is more popular by a 100-1 margin than the ebook that sales for a dollar. The trick to growing your audience or “platform” is to give it away for free, and then have options available for those who would like to buy your work.
If you own a Kindle, you can go to my website for Starstrikers and get a .mobi version for free. But you have to be willing to make the effort to do it. It’s more likely that you will just push the buy button and get it instantly. Apparently, if you are an unknown author, people are only willing to spend a buck to get your book instantly. Therefore, I will most likely drop the price of the Kindle version of Null_Pointer in the coming months to a buck.
Part of being a writer is getting out and seeing your audience. Interacting with the people who read your work and appreciate it. It is my belief that the value of having a POD in local bookstores, is entirely in public relations. The public needs to see your face and your book together. Can you sell enough books at signings and readings to justify producing them? No. Not as a beginning author. This is why people who only have a garage full of paperbacks to sell have a hard time making it. They have to spend a bunch of time out pounding the street to hand sell their work. I believe that time should be better spent, writing.
You can have thousands of people buying your ebooks, but until you get into the stores and start meeting them in person, you don’t really get that connection of having people you don’t know tell you they love your writing. For me, that is very rewarding and gives me the motivation to keep writing new stories. Knowing your audience in person, even if its only a few dozen people, is priceless.
The last remaining market for my novels is the audio book market. I’m in the middle of recording Null_Pointer at this time. It’s a slow process. Lots of learning new technology and lots of time spent reading into a microphone in my closet. I expect to be finished some time in the Spring. I suspect that the greatest audience for any author is in serialized audio fiction. I intend to tap into that market and grow my platform accordingly. Stay tuned.