Saturday, January 29, 2011

Plenty of Good News for Indie Authors and Publishers in the the Winter 2011 Kindle Nation Citizen Survey

by Stephen Windwalker
Why would an author or publisher be interested in the Winter 2011 Kindle Nation Citizen Survey?

Well, first, we all know that without other authors we would be nowhere, and one of the best things about other authors is that, with a very few, largely inexplicable exceptions, authors are voracious readers.
So, as a reader, you have every right to click here and participate in the survey. The deadline to participate is midnight Hawaii time Monday, January 31, 2011. There are 15 questions and most people tell me it takes them about 10 minutes from beginning to end.

But equally important is that the survey results are already shaping up to spell good news dramatic significance for indie authors and publishers. You can wait until you've completed the survey and you will be delivered automatically to a survey results link, or, if you're not the waiting kind, feel free to go ahead and click here to see the results now. Here are a few of the takeaways from the first 1,900 respondents:

Respondents continue to have strong positive feelings about bestselling authors (56% positive, 3% negative), but they don't think much of the big agency model publishers (10% positive, 41% negative). Indeed, they have much more positive feelings, for instance, about:
  • Independent and emerging authors (52% positive, 1% negative)
  • Small independent publishers (35.5% positive, 4% negative)
  • Kindle Nation Daily (71% positive, 2% negative)
Influences such as electronic and print media reviews, bestseller lists, Oprah, or big bookstore displays in pointing readers to the books that they actually buy are in decline. Instead, respondents ranked the following, in order, as far more likely to influence them to buy books:
  • recommended or listed by Amazon.
  • recommended, listed, or excerpted on Kindle Nation.
  • reading a free excerpt, author interview, or other material on Kindle Nation or another source.
  • recommended by a friend, relative, or colleague.
Indie authors and indie publishers cannot survive without indie readers, and increasingly, readers are acting as if they are in charge when it comes to selecting the books they will read or acting as if they, the readers, are the final price-setting authorities:
  • 89% of respondents identified with the statement, "I frequently choose to delay purchasing an ebook that I want to read if I believe that the price is too high."
  • 76% of respondents identified with the statement, "If publishers keep charging higher bestseller prices, I'll buy more backlist or indie titles."

Here, if you are interested, are links for our previous Kindle Nation Survey Results:

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Kindle Nation eBook of the Day Results Rock, Available in a Separate Spreadsheet; Availabilities in February

By Steve Windwalker
One thing that's been exciting for us here at KND has been that our newest and least expensive form of sponsorship, the Kindle Nation Daily eBook of the Day, has recently been catching up with its more expensive alternatives when it comes to results for authors and publishers. I've just broken out a spreadsheet isolating the past 4 weeks' KND-EBOD results and it is now public at We've added staff to help keep up with all of this, and we have availability as soon as February for KND-EBOD sponsorships.

One of the things that we've seen in the past month, as Rudy Kerkhoven suggested in his analysis above, is that the value of the same sales ranking as between, say, November and the present, has probably increased by a factor of 2 or 3 times. My hope is that by being totally transparent about sponsorship results we can help authors and publishers spend marketing dollars wisely, and also continue to play a role in helping to connect writers of distinction with the greatest readers in the world. (Pardon my sloganspeak, but what part of that is not true?) There are links to results for all of our different sponsorship offerings at the top of our Sponsorship Info Page at

Friday, January 21, 2011

indieKindle News for Authors and Publishers, January 21, 2011 - Featuring Indie Publisher David Niall Wilson's Post: "How Do I Sell My e-Book? A Publisher’s Thoughts"

Plenty of things to keep up for authors and indie publishers today, and here are just a few of them:
  • First, some news for authors and indie publishers from Amazon. The company announced today that it is expanding its 70 per cent royalty program for Kindle sales, already offered in the U.S. and U.K., to ebooks sold in Canada. In the same press release, Amazon announced almost parenthetically that it was changing the name of the Kindle Digital Text Platform to "Kindle Direct Publishing." So, we stop saying DTP. We start saying KDP.
  • Second, now that it has a spiffy new name, Kindle Digital Publishing launched a spiffy new (apparently) monthly newsletter for KDP authors and publishers. If you haven't seen it already in your inbox, you can read it here in your browser.
  • Third, if you haven't noticed already, Kindle Nation is conducting one of its twice-a-year major surveys of our readers, and there is plenty there that will be of interest to authors and publishers. Our last survey got about 2,000 responses from Kindle owners, and several of our questions and choices this time around focus in on what influences readers to buy Kindle books, and what kind of things create friction that keeps them from buying books even if they are interested in reading them. Most authors I know are also prolific readers, so I hope that you will click here to participate in the Winter 2011 Kindle Nation Citizen Survey and here to see the results.
  • And finally, I thought Crossroads Press publisher David Niall Wilson shared some important insights in his post today under the title How Do I Sell My e-Book? A Publisher’s Thoughts, so I was especially pleased when he agreed to allow me to cross-post it here.  You may notice that there's a nice mention of the Kindle Nation Daily sponsorship program toward the end, but all I can say is that it was totally unsolicited and unexpected.
The post first appeared this morning here at David's eponymous blog. And while you've got that clicker working you might want to check out these Crossroads Press listings in the Kindle Store.

Here's David:

By David Niall Wilson

I have seen far too many ‘gurus’ chime in on this subject, and after nearly a year in the business of growing a digital publishing company, I feel like I have some value-add to bring to the mix. I’m not a ‘guru’ and do not ever want to be considered one, but I have been doing this for a while now, and I’ve observed some things you might find usesful. It’s worth the effort, I think, to try and get it all into perspective in my own mind.

First of all, books are books. Stephen King’s eBooks sell better than those of a new writer no one has heard of. Blogs about and reviews of Stephen King books get more notice than those of lesser-known authors, and generate more sales. Authors – in short – who were already popular before putting their titles out in eBook format are still more popular than authors who were not. Authors who bring an audience from mass market publishing to their eBooks sell better than those with no track record. These are facts, and no amount of blogging, posturing, or tears will change them.

So what do you do?

There are solid answers. Covers matter. That said, you don’t need to go out and break the bank on a professional cover designer to get a very good, commercial cover. I’ve done some extensive analysis on our titles, and I can tell you that there is absolutely ZERO evidence in my data to show that the cover art is a huge factor unless it is godawful. If your little brother did it in Microsoft Paint, or you let Calibre generate it for you, or the colors are all mis-matched, you’re going to lose sales for the same reason a similar cover would not work on a print book. It looks amateurish.

That said, there is a lot that can be done with Photoshop, and there are people out there with some amazing artwork that won’t cost you an arm and a leg. You just have to look for them. Join the community at Deviant Art and meet some of the wonderful artists there. Browse the public domain photo sites. You may pay some for the rights to an image, but you can often find one you’ll like for a very reasonable price – or even free. Then all you need is to study some books, see what sort of font and text arrangement appeals to you, and find someone capable of dropping it onto your image. All that is a fancy way of saying – most of you aren’t going to make hundreds of dollars on your eBook right off the bat, and investing a bunch of cash in a cover is a serious risk that isn’t really necessary, in my opinion (and experience). Some of the covers we’ve used that I think are the most mundane have resulted in great selling titles, and several titles with amazing covers have not done well at all.

Copy-editing and format matter. If you just run a word document through some conversion program and slap it up, it’s not going to look good. If you don’t get at least one other set of eyes carefully going over your work, it’s not going to read well – it’s going to have typos. Almost no-one is perfect enough to write without errors…and though you may see them easily in another person’s work, you may also NOT catch them in your own. Do yourself a favor and – even if you have to pay a small fee for it – find a proof-reader worth their salt. Then salt them.

On most eBook sites you can assign “Tags” to your books. This might seem trivial, but it is not. There are whole groups out there cross-tagging one another’s books to bring the numbers of people “agreeing” with them high enough to bump them up the search ranks. On Amazon, for instance, if you search the word BLOOD – the book with the highest ranking on that search term is going to come up first. Also, books that have the word BLOOD in their title may start getting that book listed in the “related” products and sent out in “you might also be interested in” e-mail notices.

Price matters. If you are a known quantity,and you present new, original work, you can get more for your eBook. If you are NOT a known quantity, or if you are bringing back older work that can be bought used and cheap in print editions, don’t be greedy. If you charge the $2.99 league minimum at Amazon, you will get more per sale than you ever got from a print publisher per sale by a huge factor. Print books pay (average) 4-10 percent royalty. If you sell your book through Crossroad Press – for instance – you get 80 percent of $2.05 (about what Amazon pays us per sold title after deducting their “delivery” fee) – that’s a good chunk per sale, and it adds up fast. We sell new, original works higher – $3.99 and $4.99 – and those seem to be workable prices as well, but keep in mind what you are asking of your readers. Ignore everything else and buy my book. Give them as many reasons as you can.

Do a good write-up for the book. I sometimes have a hard time getting my authors to help with this, and I do what I can, but a good solid “hook” in the product description is crucial. In print publishing you usually have little or no input to what the publisher puts up as a description, but here – in the digital world – you can write it and even change it with impunity.

When you get reviews, respond to them positively, even the bad ones. Never drop to thelevel of a sour-voiced reviewer. You’re just playing into their game, and you’ll regret it before all is said and done. Remain professional.

Visit forums and bulletin boards and blogs that are related to a: your genre and b: eBooks in general. Be a pro-active part of their communities before blowing your own horn, or it will backfire.

Make sure your author info is available. Set up your Amazon Author’s Page. Set up your Smashwords profile. If you get reviews complaining about typos – proofread and re-publish. Never believe that because someone else did a thing, you can copy what they did and it will work for you…it’s not going to. Each book, and each author, is unique in some way, and requires an individual approach.

Product, product, product. If you have words sitting around out of print, or languishing for years without publication, I suggest you dust them off and get them out there. A body of work in eBook format can generate steady sales much more quickly and reliably than one, or two eBooks. One thing is certain – a story or novel on your hard drive for ten years unread made you no money at all.

The bottom line is – you don’t need a guru. You need hard work, patience, attention to detail, and the same bit of luck you always needed to succeed. It’s easier to get IN the door of digital publishing, but the doors are open very wide. In the old days readers clamored at the publishing door for more to read. Now those doors are big and revolving, and the readers disperse in all directions as they pass through. Latching onto them and drawing them to your work is a whole new ballgame. Pay attention, learn from what you see, don’t let ANYONE tell you the best way to do a thing is”blah blah” unless they can show that “blah blah” has worked for a lot of people over time. And just SAYING that it has worked isn’t enough. Show me stats on how that new expensive cover built sales. Show me, in other words, the money. And don’t do it by showing me someone already successful.

Also, don’t listen to tales of inflated sales. You can go to and put in the ASIN of any book there and track it. If it’s already being tracked, you just log in and add it to those you are tracking. This way, when someone claims a thousand sales, you can check, and if you see a title upcoming you want to keep an eye on to see if something someone did worked for promotion – you have some (albeit imperfect) stats. I’ve seen some eye-opening whoppers told on the net about huge sales that I observed personally through Novel Rank to be much smaller. Keep in mind that Novel Rank is not perfect, and that it only tracks from the moment you START tracking, so any sales prior to that you can’t see. Hype is what it is.

(Ed. Note: Although I think Novelrank is a worthwhile tool, I do want to point out my experience here that its software tends to undercount U.S. Kindle Store sales, especially in times of rapid growth such as the past few weeks. This is natural given the fact that the software must be based on backward-looking algorithms, but I'm just saying that I wouldn't use Novelrank numbers to challenge anyone's sales claims. --S.W.)

I am happy to offer advice if asked, but that’s all it is. I don’t know how to make your book sell better for CERTAIN – I only know what is working at Crossroad Press. We’ve grown in leaps and bounds, sales are up (best month ever happening now).

One last thing…Kindle Nation Daily sponsorship. While this is not a guaranteed success – I have found that if you listen to them – go in with a good cover price, a decent cover, at least a couple of good reviews on your book already (and not fluffy, gushing ones either – real reviews) – you can generate a good number of sales that last over several days…

We have sponsored several books there, and at least three of them did very, very well. I would recommend their service to anyone.

Enough for one day…


Friday, January 14, 2011

Just How Big is the Kindle Revolution? Our Estimates: Amazon Has Sold 12 Million Kindles, and There Were Over 10 Million Paid Kindle eBook Sales in the Last Week of 2010

By Steve Windwalker

Amazon inducted bestselling author Nora Roberts as the third member of its Kindle Million Club yesterday with a press release stating that Roberts "has sold 1,170,539 Kindle books under her name and her pseudonym J.D. Robb." So we now have the following members in the Kindle Million Club, and you can click on these links to fill your Kindles up with hundreds of their titles:
Come to think of it, when you look at the long lists of titles by Roberts and Patterson, it is all the more impressive that Larsson was able to storm the castle with a single trilogy. But there's definitely a lesson here for emerging authors, and it is a lesson that many Kindle Nation faves like Imogen Rose, Scott Nicholson, Paul Levine and J.A. Konrath have learned well: trilogies, series, and multiple titles allows authors great efficiencies when it comes to building exposure for their books.
While the Kindle Million Club will always be an elite club, it is also very likely that membership in the club will expand geometrically in the next few years. By this time next year I would expect the club to have about 10 members, and to be very close to inducting its first "indie author" member. By mid-decade we'll see a dozen members of the club who are operating, at least for current ebook purposes, without traditional publishers.

Which brings us back to a topic we've been discussing ever since the first month the Kindle came out back in late 2007: just how big is the Kindle revolution?

In last week's Kindle Nation weekly digest we hinted that I would be back this week with some analysis to support my belief that:
  • first, Amazon recently passed the 12-million mark in total Kindles shipped since November 2007; and
  • second, readers downloaded about 15 million Kindle ebooks, including 10 million paid books, during the final week of 2010.
Frankly, the details of triangulating in on how many Kindles there are in the world can get a little dull, but here are our estimated benchmarks for cumulative Kindle sales during the past three years and change:
  • Kindle Launch - November 19, 2007
  • 100,000 Kindles - March 2008
  • 750,000 Kindles - October 2008
  • 1 Million Kindles - March 2009 (Kindle 2 Ships)
  • 3 Million Kindles - December 2009
  • 4 Million Kindles - July 2010
  • 6 Million Kindles - August 2010 (Kindle 3 Ships)
  • 8.5 Million Kindles - December 12, 2010
  • 11 Million Kindles - December 24, 2010
  • 12 Million Kindles - January 2011
  • 22 Million Kindles - December 2011 (conservative projection)
  • 35 Million Kindles - December 2012 (conservative projection)
All of the figures for 2008 and 2009 are consistent with figures we estimated contemporaneously, and of course others then claimed at each of those points that our estimates were far too aggressive. In each case, however, the sales arc on which my figures were based was eventually confirmed and became the consensus view.

Now we're not trying to prove our case to a jury here, and of course Amazon doesn't disclose these numbers. But a few things that Amazon has said in the past year or so help, nonetheless, with the triangulation:
  • Jeff Bezos announced at the end of 2009 that Amazon had sold "millions of Kindles."
  • Amazon announced on December 13, 2010 that "in just the first 73 days of this holiday quarter, we've already sold millions of our all-new Kindles with the latest E Ink Pearl displays. In fact, in the last 73 days, readers have purchased more Kindles than we sold during all of 2009."
  • Amazon announced on October 24, 2007 that it had sold 2.5 million copies of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Book 7), with the 2007 holiday season still to come and the July 2009 paperback edition yet to be released. The Potter book has continued to sell briskly in the past three years (hardcover #1 for the entire year 2007, and both hardcover and paperback editions remain in the top 1,000 even now, in January 2011.
  • Amazon announced on December 27, 2010 that in just 4 months since its launch the Kindle  3 had already become "the bestselling product in Amazon's history, eclipsing Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Book 7)." That statement referred both to hardcover and paperback copies of the Potter book, for which I would estimate Amazon's total cumulative worldwide print sales to be about 7.1 million copies.
  • Finally, Amazon said throughout the month of December that it would not be shipping Kindles outside the U.S. in time for Christmas delivery, and all of the indications available to us here at Kindle Nation are that international Kindle shipments in the three weeks since Christmas have been very, very brisk.
I will leave you to connect your own dots there, if you are interested. Call me unrigourous, but this is not graduate school. Of course it doesn't really matter in the long run if Amazon has shipped 12 million Kindles to date or 11.75 million or 12.3 million, but if you come up with a figure of fewer than 11.5 million you haven't connected all the dots. The technical term is that they have shipped an even gazillion, and the Kindle's sales velocity is not slowing down. Au contraire.

So what about my claim that readers downloaded 15 million Kindle books, 10 million of them paid, in the last week of 2010? Actually, those figures are conservative, despite the fact that my friend and colleague Morris Rosenthal (who brings a lot to the table where statistical estimates of Amazon sales are concerned) puts the figure at 3 to 3.5 million.

There are some important numbers that I cannot share here because they involve confidential information concerning my own sales figures and figures that have been shared confidentially with me by other authors and publishers, so let's take a different approach. We'll call it "common sense," and there are several different ways we can come at this. Let's start with something we got from the world of the Nook:
  • Barnes and Noble issued a press release on December 30 saying both that it had sold "millions of Nooks" so far and that customers had downloaded "nearly one million NOOKbooks purchased and downloaded on Christmas Day alone." So we can extrapolate that on Christmas Day alone there was at least one ebook sold for every three Nooks.
  • We begin with the expectation that there were 11 million Kindles by December 25, but let's say that 1 million of those were secondary Kindles, defunct Kindles, etc. On the other 10 million Kindles, assuming that Kindle owners are every bit the active readers that Nook owners appear to be, that would lead us to conclude that they downloaded 3.3 million Kindle books on Christmas Day alone. 
  • Amazon stated earlier that about 20 percent of Kindle books are downloaded to Kindle apps on other devices. While Kindle device sales were certainly brisk ahead of Christmas, so were sales of all the other devices that run the Kindle purchasing and reading app. Thus it makes sense to stick with the 20 percent figure for Kindle purchases on other devices, and if we do the math, that would come to 825,000 Kindle books downloaded on other devices. Let's round it down to 4 million. Yep, that's 4 million Kindle books purchased and downloaded on Christmas Day.
  • While the annual rush period for print book publishers, retailers, and authors runs from Black Friday to Christmas Eve, it's a very different calendar in the ebook business. Sales peak on Christmas Day and hold at very high levels through the first week of January as people open new ebook readers. On December 25, 2009, I sold over 1,700 copies of my bestselling ebook, which was more than 3 times my sales on any previous day. But that ebook's daily sales did not slip below 1,000 copies a day on any of the next 10 days. That experience runs parallel to what I have witnessed but cannot disclose about dozens of other ebooks by other authors, so that I am confident that if Amazon sold 4 million Kindle books on Christmas Day, its sales for the following 6 days did not slip below 2 million copies a day, for a total of over 16 million Kindle books sold during the final week of 2010, and the figure is probably higher still by a million or more. Even if a third of the downloaded Kindle books were free, that still comes to over 10.5 million paid Kindle books.
Or here's another way to look at it, and we start again with the 11 million Kindles figure as of Christmas morning:
  • That figure includes 4 million previous-generation Kindles that were shipped by July 2010 and another 2 million Kindle 3s that were shipped prior to Labor Day. Let's say that no paid ebooks at all were purchased on a million of those units during the last week of 2010, and that only an average of 0.5 ebooks were purchased that week on the other 5 million units. So there's a very conservative start, with 2.5 million paid ebooks sold on those ancient Kindles.
  • Then let's take the 5 million new Kindles shipped since August. Let's say, again, that a million of those weren't used to download a single ebook for the final week of 2010. On the other 4 million, let's hypothesize something like this:
  • 1 million units downloaded 0.5 books each (0.5)
  • 1 million units downloaded 1.0 books each (1.0)
  • 1 million units downloaded 2.0 books each (2.0)
  • 1 million units downloaded 3.0 books each (3.0)
  • That comes to 9 million paid ebooks loaded directly to Kindles, and that would suggest 2.25 million ebooks loaded to Kindle apps on other devices, for a total of 11.25 million.
  • Again, I believe these models and the results of 10.5 to 11.25 million paid Kindle ebook sales for the last week of 2010 are conservative, because, for one thing, I believe that about 3 million Kindles were opened for the first time on or about Christmas Day and it would confound my understanding of human nature to think that, in the hands of people who love to read, those newly unwrapped Kindles led to only 6 million ebooks downloaded. I just don't see many of those folks saying, "I can't wait until Monday morning so I can go to the public library to find something to read."
We could go on and on, but I sense that your eyes have already long since glazed over. Again, it doesn't really matter if there were 11.25 million paid Kindle books sold during the last week of 2010 or 9.7 million, but we can be quite sure that the figure was far north of 3.5 million.

I have no doubt that there will be a few publishing industry insiders who read this post and conclude once again that I've been drinking that Kindle Kool-Aid again, and that I am totally caught up in the hype of the so-called "Kindle revolution." They will point out that everyone knows that ebook sales are really only 8 or 10 percent of the trade book market.

To which I say, yep, it's apple-flavored Kool-Aid and, well, how do you like these apples? ... as reported today by Bob Minzesheimer and Craig Wilson in their USA TODAY Book Buzz column:
E-books surge: Egads, as cartoon heroes would say. E-books had another great week after up to 5 million digital reading devices were unwrapped for the holidays. Last week, the e-book outsold the print version for 18 of the top 50 books on USA TODAY's Best-Selling Books list, including all three Stieg Larsson novels. The week before, 19 had higher e-book than print sales. That was the first time the top 50 list has had more than two titles in which the e-version outsold print.