Biba Jibun at Pseudopod and Adventures in E-book Publishing Update

First and foremost, “Biba Jibun” is now up at Pseudopod for your free listening pleasure, read by the talented Kara Grace. Enjoy!

Next, laid out in quasi-scientific fashion, an update on my foray into releasing some of my previously published and out-of-print short fiction as e-books:

METHODOLOGY
In November, I published three new e-books and also acquired e-book distribution rights (previously held by Norilana Books, the print edition publisher) for my Returning My Sister’s Face collection. That provided a nice initial sampling of offerings as well as a range of price points, with:

I used three distributors: Amazon (Kindle), B&N (Nook), and Smashwords (all e-reader formats). Amazon and B&N provide monthly reports while Smashwords provides a quarterly report. I published “Sinner” and “Achtromagk” in mid-November and Mortal Clay at the end of November, so for ease of this preliminary evaluation and analysis, I’m just going to look at the month of December.

RESULTS
Total units sold for the month of 12/2011: 59*

(*I also ran a few holiday freebie offers in December. I’m not including those in my “total units sold” figure.)

Units sold by title:

  • RMSF: 12
  • Mortal Clay: 10
  • Sinner: 25
  • Achtromagk: 12

Units sold by distributor by title:

Amazon: 41

  • RMSF: 7
  • Mortal Clay: 5
  • Sinner: 21
  • Achtromagk: 8
Smashwords: 15

  • RMSF: 4
  • Mortal Clay: 5
  • Sinner: 2
  • Achtromagk: 4
B&N: 3

  • RMSF: 1
  • Mortal Clay: 0
  • Sinner: 2
  • Achtromagk: 0

DISCUSSION
It’s clear that the lion’s share of sales came through Amazon, accounting for 41 out of 59 units sold; followed by Smashwords with 15 out of 59 units sold; and B&N trailing at a distant third with only 3 out of 59 units sold. Amazon’s position as most popular distribution channel is unsurprising, considering Amazon’s market share in online retail overall and the popularity of its Kindle devices. I’m a little surprised by how dismal my B&N sales were, considering that the Nook seems to be a pretty popular e-reader.

As for the per title data, “Sinner” outsold the other three titles by a wide margin, accounting for 25 out of 59 sales. Interestingly, “Achtromagk” and RMSF tied for the second best sales position, accounting for 12 sales each. Royalties, of course, are calculated as a percentage of list price. So even though I sold, by far, the most copies of “Sinner,” I earned the most royalties on the less-well-selling RMSF.

Of note, minimum list prices are fixed by distributors, as are royalty percentages. For example, Amazon stipulates on its pricing page as part of its terms and conditions two royalty tiers: 70% and 35%. In order to qualify for the 70% tier, the list price must be between $2.99 and $9.99. The absolute minimum list price (excluding “free”) is $0.99, which only earns a 35% royalty.

I was and am particularly interested in what’s more likely to entice readers (and generate more sales) as an e-book, a short story collection with a list price of at least $2.99 or an individual short work for $0.99, but I don’t believe it’s possible to make any sort of meaningful statistical analysis with my current results. Not enough data, too many variables, etc. If anyone’s got input, thoughts, or data on this, I’d like to hear from them.

CONCLUSION
Generally, I’m inclined to call this endeavor “reasonably successful.” I’m not going to get remotely wealthy or make the bestseller list, but it seems to be a worthwhile thing to do with my previously published and out-of-print works.

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3 Responses to Biba Jibun at Pseudopod and Adventures in E-book Publishing Update

  1. Thanks, Eugie, for this analysis. It’s always fascinating to me see the work that traditionally published authors are doing as they branch out into digital self-publishing. (To be clear, this from the perspective of a mostly un-published author.)

    What’s interesting in this analysis is that it belies some of the advice of a lot of self-publishing “gurus” who constantly advocate for a very, very low list-price, like somehow that will magically generate demand. It’s hard to draw firm conclusions from such a small set of data-points, but clearly a low list-price is not always the best option, if maximizing income is a desired goal.

  2. I too appreciate an author who is willing to give readers this kind of transparency.

    Do you have any thoughts on what you think it would be like for an unpublished author to start epublishing collections or short stories?

  3. Eugie Foster says:

    Stephen: There’s so many variables to consider, including price, I think we’re all still trying to determine best practices in this shiny, new e-book publishing arena.

    Michael: I decided when I started releasing my work as e-books that I would only do so for my previously published fiction, in part because that would eliminate much of the “make money, garner readers” pressure as those stories have, in effect, already earned their keep–both financially and readership-wise. It lets me view those twin goals with regard to my e-books as icing rather than writerly live-or-die. For a previously unpublished author, I think it’d be much harder going the self-published e-book route to achieve commensurate levels of monetary compensation and exposure that traditional publishing might offer for first publication. Then again, there are always exceptions.

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