Selling Ebooks

You may have noticed that some changes happened in June to my back list. The first change I made was that I raised prices on all of my ebooks across the board except for Corvette. Corvette is the introduction to my Star Saga and it is also the first book of at least three featuring the same crew. So it will always be .99 cents. I raised the other novellas to $2.99 and regular novels to $4.99. I did this because after having some success with Corvette, I wanted to increase the value of the rest of the Star Saga novels.

For that first week in June, sales stayed pretty much the same. Which in this case, is a good thing. The second change I did was take all my ebooks out of other markets and put them exclusively on Amazon in the Kindle Select Program. This earns me pages read and that, it turns out is where you make your money on Amazon. At least for now.

Did anyone protest not being able to get my books on Kobo or Nook? Nope. I have no audience there to protest. My sales on both of those platforms were dismal. Now that I’m all in on Amazon, sales are maintaining and not starting to dip, like you would expect three months after the release of a best seller. So far, June is going to be at least as successful as May was and that’s a good thing. Because sales of Corvette are eventually coming down. That’s normal.

Next month, I’m releasing a new novella set after the Starstrikers novel. I’ll do the usual pre-sale thing for a week before it launches and then hit my reader list with the announcement of when it comes out. So far my most successful pre-release was Devon’s Blade, but Corvette was close. I’d love to get at least 30 pre-sales of K’nat Trap so that launch day will make a splash. K’nat Trap will debut at $2.99 so that if needed, I can run sales on it later.

When you write your own novels and publish them yourself, like I do, you have to be part writer, part editor, part salesman and part cheerleader for your own work. It’s not easy and most writers decide to quite after seeing how much work is involved. But for those of us who persevere, you can find some success.

Hopefully K’nat Trap will have some success and that will carry sales over to the end of summer when I hope to be finished with Corvette II. I will try to get the third Corvette book out by Christmas to boost sales again. We’ll see if that happens. Starting next year I will be writing Book 5 of the Star Saga and that will take me much longer than the novellas. I hope to have it ready to publish by Fall of next year.

How well the Corvette sequels do, will determine how many more books in that series I write. If after the third book people are still loving them, I have plans to write another trilogy using the main character. So I could be writing more Captain Vance novellas on into 2018.

Below is the rise from obscurity that happened for me when I released Corvette in late March. The only thing that has sustained me three months later is my back list. I have far fewer sales for the other books in my series, but enough to keep income at a decent rate. Ideally, I would love to release a new novel every three months. But I simply don’t have that kind of time for writing. I suppose that will keep me at my day job until retirement or a movie deal. ;-) Which I’m totally fine with. At this rate I’m looking at about 30-40K per year from my fiction writing. Which is not a bad second job.



Discovery Engine


This is the year of finding an audience. Most of my writerly efforts will focus on marketing. I finally have three sequential books in my Star Saga series and just for good measure, two novellas set in between the three novels. Couple that with a anthology of short stories set before the series makes a total of six ebooks that are ready for public consumption.

My covers all match in style and are unique to my series, yet are still recognizable as Science Fiction. The ebooks are all edited and proofed and ready to be read. The website has a modern look and features all my books. I’ve joined professional indie writer’s groups and I’ve even got an author Facebook page! I know, right? Professional.

My next task is to create some advertising goals across all media that I frequent. It’s time to start spending money in order to start making money. I’ve started with a paid review and I’m now moving on to unpaid reviews from reviewers who are well respected in the genre. This is a slow process, but so was sending manuscripts to agents. The greatest sales spurt for any of my books came after a single web review by someone who I never figured had much of a reach.

I’ve also submitted to a contest for the first time. It wasn’t cheap, but I feel the odds were pretty good with one of my novellas. We’ll find out this September if that one paid off. I’d love to send out a manuscript to some traditional publishers, but all of my stories are set in the same universe. I just don’t see a publisher wanting one of them without the whole series. I’m not ready to give up the rights to that series. Short stories are different. I might try and write a short and send it to the big magazines to see if they will bite. It’s been years since I sent out shorts.

I’ll continue to use the email list to communicate with my readers. I may even try to do some YouTube videos. I even started an Instagram account. Ugh.

Other things I’m probably going to try include cross platform blog posts and of course Medium posts. Trying to get out there for people to find you is a bit like designing a discover engine. An algorithm that lets you plug in things about yourself and your books and turns that into word of mouth that results in book sales. We’ll see how I do.

Two New Editions of My Ebooks

I’ve managed to get new versions of Tyrmia and Tales From Ocherva, Volume One published to Kindle and Nook this week. Still waiting on Kobo, there appears to be some delay with them. But for now, you have new ebooks on two vendors. Yeah!

Tales From Ocherva is my first anthology of short stories that take place before Starforgers. If you enjoyed the androids and Silicants from that novel, you’ll love these stories. They all have a distinctly Space Western feel to them. They are action packed and fun to read. If you’re not careful, you might learn some important background details on Eighty-eight and Thirty-seven, not to mention Stellar Ranger Devon Ardel.

The Second Edition of my novel, Tyrmia has been reedited and cleaned up for your reading enjoyment. This novel is set in the Star Series a few years before Starveyors. Unlike the other Star Series novels, Tyrmia is more for mature readers. There are some adult situations and language in this novel. It’s the first of the Planetary Series of novels that I have planned. Most of the story takes place on one world like the old Planetary Romance novels from SF’s past.

This is the opening salvo of new ebooks due out in December. Stay tuned for new versions of Starforgers, Starstrikers and the debut of Starveyors.

What Publishing Services I Use and Why

eBook Readers GaloreMichael Porter via Compfight

Ebook Book Publishing Platforms

Kindle: Because they are the number one ebook market right now, and they understand my needs as an indie publisher. When it comes to letting authors do their own thing, Amazon is still the leader. Like it or lump it. I continue to dislike their proprietary formatting.

Nook: Because epub, and a monopoly is not a good thing. I’ve seen sales gradually improving for my books on the Nook. Their PubIt! service for indie publishers is second only to Amazon’s KDP.

Kobo: Because as an indie author, I like to support my local indie bookstores. Also – epub. I have just started to use Kobo and my books as of this post are not live there yet. But as soon as they are, I will link to my local indie bookstore – Rediscovered Books, so they get credit for as many ebook sales as possible.

Smashwords: I have some of my books available on Smashwords. I use them primarily to get my work into smaller markets that don’t have decent, author friendly services like the above three publishers. Please let me upload epubs!

I don’t own or use Apple operating systems so I can’t use iBookstore, and Google Books has no good plan for indie publishers to use their service. I tried using Gumroad and selling directly off this site with them, but only one person used the service in over six months. I still use Gumroad, but the links are now on the individual book pages on this site.

Paper Book Publishing Platforms

Lulu: I use Lulu, a North Carolina based company to print my ARCs. I usually print two copies of my unedited final draft for use by beta readers and myself. They are not for sale to the public. They have simple, white covers and are marked as ARC NOT FOR SALE.

Createspace:  I use Createspace to print the paper versions of my novels. I don’t have a large paper footprint right now, but in 2013 I will be making at least three if not four of my novels available in paperback. I use Createspace because they are easy to use and offer the formats and control that I need as an indie publisher.

Selling Your Own Ebooks

iRiver Story eBook Reader ReviewCreative Commons License Andrew Mason via Compfight

The one area I have not testing in this whole do-it-yourself aspect of self-publishing is selling ebooks myself. Cutting out the middle man and selling them directly to the reader. This is the ideal way to go, because it results in a higher profit margin for the seller.

Up until now, I have not dabbled in this area for two reasons. First, it has always been cost prohibitive to set up transaction tendering on the web and second, I have not had enough traffic on my website to justify the effort. But both of those reasons are now starting to become mute. Setting up a digital shop has become super easy and traffic to my site has picked up enough to where some folks might want to buy direct and get more options for the same cost.

I’ve started testing a new service called Gumroad which lets you sell just about any ditigal file you can upload to their servers. They take a small processing fee per sale and you get spared the hassle of setting up a digital store front. All you need is a Paypal account to get set up.

This weekend I have just one .epub of my novel Starforgers for sale. As I get more familiar with the store and the process, I will have all my books for sale this way and offer many more formats. From Kindle’s .mobi to plain old PDF. You can find the link to the right in the side bar. If you have an ereader that uses epub, give it a try and let me know how the process went. I’d really appreciate both the business and the report.

I’ll come back and tell you more about the setup in a week or so, when I get it all figured out and set up. In the mean time, anyone else have any experience using Gumroad or similar services?


Free Ebook Strategy Shift

Evolution of ReadersCreative Commons License John Blyberg via Compfight

I’ve changed up how I now use the Kindle Select Program. My novels and the anthology are now off the program and available in as many ebook stores as I can get them. But my related short stories are still in the Kindle Select Program. Instead of offering a short story free for the weekend, I have made it free for a solid five days. This means that you won’t see it for free again for about 90 days. But each week, I will feature a new story, so in a month you could get as many as four stories for free.

I wasn’t seeing any value to having the stories available for only two days out of the week. As for the novels, the Halo Effect that I was seeing when I offered them for free, is now no longer effective. Amazon changed their ways in the last few months and now offering books for free is kind of useless. Not sure what they were trying to do there, but they lost my books because of their changes.

The good news for most readers is that now only the short stories are exclusive to Kindle and all the other books are more widely available. Savvy readers will just buy the anthology and get most of my shorts on their chosen non-Kindle platform.

Ereader vs Phone

Day 179/365- Kindle   Galaxy Nexus

Roger Luo via Compfight  Sean Kelly via Compfight

I have recently come to a startling conclusion about my ebook reading habits. I don’t use my Kindle 3 nearly as much as I do my Galaxy Nexus phone, for reading ebooks. Before I had the Nexus phone, I used a Droid. The screen on the original Droid was small and not very comfortable for reading. But I read on it anyway because it was convenient. Standing in line or sitting and waiting for a haircut were perfect times for reading on the Droid.

But whenever I wanted to sit back, relax and read a good novel, I reached for my Kindle 3. It was bigger and easier to read than the tiny Droid screen. I could also take it outside whenever I wanted and I had a built-in light on the leather case, so I could read inside at night too. It was my default ebook reader.

Then I got the Nexus phone and much to my surprise, I find myself picking up the phone to do my reading and not the Kindle. I never imagined that the bigger screened Nexus phone would have changed my reading habits, but it has. Another reason I reach for the phone more than the Kindle is proximity. I usually always have my phone with me and I don’t have to get up and find it. Who knew I could be so lazy?

I have no problems reading on the Kindle 3. I love the experience. It’s singular and focused, just like a real book can be. No distractions, just me and the voice of the author in my head. I still use it to read, but just not as much as I used too.

The Nexus phone has the Kindle app and it also has the Nook app and a bevy of other reading apps. So my options of what to read expand when I’m reading on the phone. But that’s not really a big deal for me as most of my ebook library is on the Kindle.

What was interesting to me was that more and more I’ve passed on the Kindle and just read on the phone. Even when both were in reach on the couch. Sometimes it was whatever was closest but usually, the phone won out on the distance battle. In examining my reading activity on the phone, I realized that I was doing more than just reading a book on it. I was reading the news and checking in on Twitter and Google Plus. These are activities that you can’t really do on a Kindle 3.

But they are activities you can do on a tablet. So would I use a Kindle Fire or some other tablet as much for my reading? No way to tell, since I don’t own a tablet of any kind. However, I think the phone will win that battle too because of the convenience factor. The phone is still always closer to me in my pocket than any tablet would be.

I just found this interesting as a reader and thought I’d point it out to my fellow writers and readers. Will the larger screen phones start to compete with ereaders and tablets in your home?


Amazon, Apple and Microsoft

The new Big Three of digital publishing. Ugh! Can I have a new future please? No? Drat. Okay, then put me in two of the three major markets. Apple still makes me pay to play with purchasing an ISBN. Who knows what kind of lame format Microsoft will insist on after they consume B&N’s Nook inventory. Amazon is already in their own darn universe when it comes to ebook standards and availability. Really guys? Are you just trying to piss off everyone?

All three media companies want you to use their own ebook formats. Let’s continue to make the same dumb formatting decisions we made when the web first started. Remember the Netscape, IE, Apple/Linux web browser wars? Yeah, well ebooks are basically just fancy web pages folks. So the battle of the formats continues to rage.

As long as I continue to play the do-it-yourself publisher game, I’ll have to have my books formatted three different ways. Lame. This forces me to make decisions. If I want to be in all three markets, I need to spend more money converting my books. That’s just not in my financial future. Maybe after I start living off my ebook sales, I will have the money to be in all three markets, but for right now, it’s only going to be two. This assumes that Microsoft doesn’t mess with epub for another year or so. But you know they will, it’s in their company genes to make proprietary formats.

Since I make the lion’s share of my pittance from Amazon, I will have my ebooks there first. Since my ebooks are born as epubs, making them available on PubIt, is a no-brainer decision for now.

You may be wondering why I don’t just throw out a shingle and sell my books on the web site? Because I’m a largely unknown writer selling my own fiction and my audience is too small to justify the effort and money required to set that up correctly. When you are undiscovered, nobody comes to your house. Again, if I were selling thousands of books a day, I’d damn sure have a way to buy from this web site. But until that happens, I have to ride the long coat tails of the Big Three.

But over all, I can’t complain. My audience is mostly finding me on Amazon. Not in great numbers but about a hundred times greater than on B&N and Apple. So it makes sense to cater my ebooks to Amazon the hardest. You can have a thousand lines in the water, but if all the fish are in another pond, you’re not eating fish tonight.

I still feel like Google is sitting this one out. My local Indy bookstores are using them to sell ebooks, but Google’s author back-end is not easy to use and at times hostile to authors who publish themselves. It would be really great if Google spent some time to make their process easier. I’d love to be able to sell ebooks locally and let my favorite bookstores have a cut.


Mixed Bag

String is king
Creative Commons License Photo Credit: fixlr via Compfight

Book Sales Numbers

My April sales numbers are not in yet, being this is the last day of the month. But I thought I’d ball-park the numbers for you so you can see the difference from last month. Reason being, last month my novels were selling for $6.99 and this month they are back to $2.99. April’s numbers were comparable to March’s total number sold. Both months I sold around 35 books. Of course I made much more when the books had a higher price tag, but in the end, both months were pretty even in total books sold.

Not much can be made about those numbers. I expect that in May the sales numbers will rise a bit, especially since it will be the second straight month in which they were priced the same. There’s something to be said about consistency. So I won’t be tinkering anymore for the rest of the year. I’m sticking with the $2.99 price point until I can demonstrate consistently higher sales per month.

The New Ubuntu

I have a six year old MacBook that can’t be upgraded to Lion. So I reformatted it a month ago to dual boot Ubuntu Linux. Ubuntu upgraded in April and I let the installed version update itself. On that particular laptop, it was a huge improvement. Everything works better, including the twitchy touch pad drivers.

I downloaded the latest Linux Beta of Scrivener and called up my novel in it. That was Friday and I’ve not booted into the Mac side since. The Windows version of Scrivener is less feature rich than the Mac, but it works. It does the things I use Scrivener for and so far without error. As soon as they allow me to buy a Linux version, I will enthusiastically make that purchase. Until then, I get to re-install the beta every couple of months and hopefully get an even better version.

The new Ubuntu is really sweet. The best feature for me is making the Unity bar smaller so it takes up less screen space. Love that. It makes the OS look like its own unique desktop. I also updated the HP Mini laptop to 12.04 LTS and it’s doing well with it too. Double win.

So now we are back to two Linux laptops and a Windows laptop for the family.

My Next Laptop

When the old MacBook finally dies, and I have to replace it, I will most likely go with the new HP Folio 13. It has all the features I need, and with this latest version of Ubuntu, should work fine with all my applications.

Big Toe Woes

I was plate umpire for my oldest’s baseball team on Sunday. It was a good game, low static toward the umpires. Unfortunately, I took a fast ball to my left big toe. It still hurts today. My first umpire injury in two years. Small price to pay for watching the kids play the best game in the world.


Ebook Pricing Normalized

The future of books
Photo Credit: Johan Larsson via Compfight

My month long vacation in the stratosphere of ebook pricing is over. All of my novels are now $2.99 with the exception of the Mystery novel written under my pen name of Johnny Batch. That one is going to remain at .99 cents for a month or two in order to gain traction.

March’s price increase resulted in two of my SF books selling for $6.99 and one for $2.99. Oddly enough, they all sold about the same amount, plus or minus 5%. Combined sales were less than forty. So a considerable drop in numbers from February. Frankly, as a new author, I’d rather have more sales than higher profits per sale.

My second experiment, the one in which I tried out Amazon’s Kindle Select program, will end in late April for all of my novels. I will be keeping the individual short stories in the program and continue to run two-day sales every Friday and Saturday. I have enough shorts to keep them in good rotation every couple of months. Letting them be free does generate some interest in my novels. Plus, it’s a great way to check me out as a writer without spending a dime.

In late April or early May, all of my SF novels will be back in the Nook Store and they will be $2.99 just like in the Kindle Store. Even though sales are substantially lower on the Nook, I value the Nook audience enough to make sure my novels are always available to them. If you want to try my shorts on the Nook, I recommend the anthology – Tales From Ocherva, Volume One.