Where are the Hugo Ebooks

I first started reading Sci-Fi in the late 1970’s. But I didn’t read too many of the Hugo award winning books of that day. I read my favorites and the stuff that interested me at the time. But now I’m in my late forties and I write my own SF novels. As someone who writes in the genre, I think that reading the Hugo winning novels, especially the books from the seventies onward would be a good thing.

I do much of my reading on my Kindle. And love them or loath them, Amazon has the largest selection of ebooks in the world. I figured that of all genres, surly the one that professes to be about the future would have converted all of their award winning novels into ebooks by now, right? Wrong. This is just an informal survey of Hugo award winning novels from the seventies and only three are available as ebooks on Amazon.

There are some pretty big named writers in this list and I find it astounding that they are not yet available as ebooks. This discrepancy was first noticed when I went looking for the Kindle edition of Ringworld by Larry Niven. Not available.

1970 The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin

1971 Ringworld by Larry Niven [Ballantine, 1970]

1972 To Your Scattered Bodies Go by Philip José Farmer [Putnam, 1971]

1973 The Gods Themselves by Isaac Asimov [Galaxy]

1974 Rendezvous With Rama by Arthur C. Clarke [Galaxy]

1975 The Dispossessed by Ursula K. Le Guin [Harper & Row, 1974]

1976 The Forever War by Joe Haldeman [St. Martin’s, 1974]

1977 Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang by Kate Wilhelm [Harper & Row, 1976]

1978 Gateway by Frederik Pohl [Galaxy Nov,Dec 1976,Mar 1977; St. Martin’s, 1977]

1979 Dreamsnake by Vonda N. McIntyre [Houghton Mifflin, 1978]

I think it’s disgraceful that the best novels of the year for the seventies are not available to ebook readers. I’m afraid to look at the 80’s and 90’s, I mean before the 1970’s that’s not cool either, but at least you could argue that those novels are “dated” from a contemporary writer’s perspective. Still, all of the Hugo awarded novels should be available as ebooks in this day and age.

February Kindle Numbers

Time once again to disclose the sales numbers for novels and shorts I have on the US market. The UK market was far less and all the other foreign markets resulted in no sales. The novels and the anthology were all selling at $2.99 and the short stories were all selling for .99 cents.

The red numbers are for free downloads from products that were listed for free for up to three days on the Kindle Select program. As you can see, nobody purchased those products when they were not free. Big goose eggs in the Sold column for those items. However, the Halo Effect did result in 3 sales of short stories that were not given away.

# Title Downloaded Sold
1 Null Pointer (novel) 667 0
2 Ocherva (short story) 86 0
3 Red Allen (short story) 94 0
4 Silicant Remorse (short story) 0 1
5 Starforgers (novel) 0 61
6 Starstrikers (novel) 0 28
7 Tales From Ocherva V1 (anthology) 0 1
8 The Outlaw (short story) 80 0
9 The Renoke (short Story) 0 1
10 Tyrmia (novel) 0 27

It was a decent month for the novels that were not on sale. Three of them sold over 20 which is some kind of record for me. Well, it ought to be anyway. Combined with the UK numbers, I was averaging about 4.5 books a day. Slightly down from the 5 per day in January.

For March, I’m changing things up again. This time I’ll be raising the prices of the novels from $2.99 to $6.99. No, I’m not crazy. I’m experimenting with pricing and a bit with marketing. I won’t be doing any free give away’s for the novels in March. The short stories are still going to be free one every weekend.

Raising prices above five US dollars is something I’ve never tried. Some people have reported increased sales with higher prices, others have report reduced sales but level income, due to higher profits. I’m using March to test the upper limit of ebook pricing for me personally. If  the market totally falls off to nothing, I’ll adjust the pricing and try again next month. I have that kind of flexibility because I’m not making enough off these things to earn a living at it. If I were, I’d be much less flexible.

I’m also considering rotating my books in and out of the Kindle Select program every three months. This will let me turn on books for the Nook market while they are out of the Kindle Select program. But they will still be for sale on the Kindle, just not in the Select program. Something tells me that this could actually work, especially for those who have three or more books out.

Come on back in April and see how I did with the higher prices.


Kindle Select Numbers for January

Last month I experimented with two of my novels by putting them in the Kindle Select program and offering them for free for the maximum amount of days. Now that I have January’s numbers, I thought I’d share them.

The Kindle Select program is by far the most effective advertising I’ve ever done for my ebooks. Getting a novel on the free best seller list leads to many downloads as you can see, but it also leads to a fair chunk of paid customers after the free period ends. My four books were averaging about 10 sales per month last year. So that’s a huge increase for me in a single month. In fact, I earned more in January than I did all year last year.

I’m not seeing out of this world numbers like some authors have, but I’m also an unknown genre writer who writes Science Fiction. That’s the worst possible genre to be in if you  want to make money. I’ve never had huge numbers. January’s numbers are not huge either, but they are decent for me. The trick will be to see if I can maintain this level of sales and maybe grow it.

Already this month, I’m averaging about 5 books a day. So half-way through February, it looks like I’ve managed to maintain last month’s numbers. Keeping my fingers crossed that it continues.

Novel Free Downloads Sales
Starforgers 706 46
Starstrikers No Sale 29
Tyrmia 2122 68
TFO Anthology No Sale 2
 Totals 2828 145

So how do I propose to keep this good fortune going? By moving my entire short story inventory to Kindle Select and offering a free ebook every weekend. If you do this right and you have a large enough inventory of ebooks, you can keep offering free books all month long for the entire three months of the Kindle Select program.

I have two ebooks left to move over to Kindle Select, Starstrikers and Tales From Ocherva, Vol 1 anthology. I’ll work these two books into the rotation soon, giving each book two days only over a weekend to be free. Hopefully after a month or two of this Free Weekend strategy, people will catch on and begin looking for them.

Now if you were particularly cheap and patient, you could obtain my entire inventory for free. Does this concern me? Nope. Because far more people will not be able to wait and will be willing to spend $2.99 to read another book.

I’ve also started advertising the free weekend sales on this blog over in the right hand column. This makes it easy for a blog reader to obtain the sample when it becomes free. I Tweet about the sale on Friday and mention it on Google +. That’s about as far as my publicity efforts are going to go for now.

Stay tuned next month to see if my numbers go up, stay about the same or tumble back down again.


E-Book Sales (Other)

In the last post I showed you the numbers for my Kindle sales. This time I show you the less than spectacular sales for all other e-book outlets where I’m selling my fiction. These are sales totals for all of 2010.

Total Books Sold:

  • Smashwords: 28
  • Barnes & Noble: 2  <– One of these was me buying my own book!
  • Sony: 0
  • Kobo (formerly Shortcovers): 0
  • Apple: 0

As you can see, Smashwords and Barnes & Noble are the only other markets I have sold to. Somehow the Kobo market does not surprise me as I’m not sure they are even selling my books yet. Every time I check, nothing is there. I know for sure that Tales From Ocherva is in the Apple store, but I may be the only one who knows that. ;-)

I also know for sure that Starstrikers is in the Sony e-book store because I can see it there. If you notice to the left of the book, you can also spot Null_Pointer.  But still not seeing anything in the Kobo store. I don’t know how to get in the Borders e-book store, I assumed it was related to Kobo, which is why I’m not showing in the Borders catalog. For some reason I thought Kobo would be more self-publisher friendly, but they are not. Pity, their android reader is quite nice.

Smashwords has been very helpful in getting my books into other markets, but I will start doing it myself for Kindle, Apple and Barnes & Noble for the next book. I have better control and can upload my epub file directly through their author services.

E-book Catalogs are Disappointing

I’ve been slowly moving my paperback purchasing over to e-book purchasing. Using Kindle for Android, I have been enjoying many fine books from Mysteries, to SF and non-fiction. Reading on the Droid phone is very convenient but not as easy as reading on a single-use e-reader. So just as soon as the Kindle 3 ships, I will probably pick one up.

In the meantime, I purchased a Nook from Barnes and Noble. But it’s not really for me as much as my family, more specifically, the kids. Although I suspect the wife will use it on occasion too. I have been slowly acquiring YA fiction for my sons to read. Most new titles are readily available and are priced reasonably. But when I went to find the juvenile works of the three grand master of Science Fiction – Asimov, Clarke and Heinlein, I was appalled at what was unavailable in e-book form.

For Asimov, none of his juveniles are available and only the first three of his seminal Foundation books are digitized. Heinlein fares better with Space Cadet, Podkayne of Mars and Red Planet being available but no Have Spacesuit Will Travel! Clarke only has 2001 and Fountains of Paradise. These are very weak selections and it makes me sad that so many great books are not yet available as e-books.

Selling author back lists has been in the news lately with agents now acting as e-publishers. But that really doesn’t concern the reader in me. I just want to be able to read the classics of my genre in digital form. I mean SF invented e-books, it’s a little disgraceful that the masters of the genre are so hard to find in that medium. At least you can get The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy on your e-reader. I did, it was my first sale on the device.

Another interesting point I noticed while reading through the catalog on the Nook, was the lack of attention to formatting for many titles. It’s obvious that their conversion to epub is both sloppy and pathetic. It may be in B&N’s interest to hire QA folks to approve titles that they sell. Maybe this could even be a new job specialty for editors or HTML and CSS people.

My own book that is available on the Nook, Null_Pointer is one of the sloppy ones. But in my defense, Smashwords converted it for me and submitted it to B&N. For the book’s second edition I will be doing the epub conversion myself. If you are self-publishing e-books you simply must get a physical device to see how your book looks on the intended target. The Nook works great for this process, because you can load your own documents on it with a simple USB connection to a PC. I’m hopeful the PubIt! program that allows self-publishers to add their own titles to the B&N e-book store, will debut soon. I’d like to get my other  titles on the Nook by the end of the summer.

Buying by the Chapter

This NYT’s article on ebooks by Stephen Johnson is very good.  The bit near the end where he talks about books being sold by the chapter is interesting.  Not sure how that works for fiction if you are already giving away the first chapter.  It makes more sense for non-fiction books where each chapter can be considered separately.

I already sell short stories on Amazon Kindle for a buck each.  Books can have a lot of chapters in them, far more than the cost of just buying the book.  I could see it working for anthologies.  In fact, I really like that idea.  Mmm, perhaps I will try that some day when I get enough shorts for a decent antho.

I’ve heard of authors selling first drafts of their novels on Kindle for a reduced price, but I really don’t think that has much value.  Part of the value of a book is getting a finished, polished work of fiction.  Paying for a rough draft is kinda pointless.  However, I will be putting the various drafts of my future novels into their Writer’s Edition ebooks.  That way you are actually giving the nerdy unpolished bits away to those who would appreciate them the most, other writers.

Update – another good article that I have not yet finished reading.