My Kindle experiment

My Kindle experiment

Four weeks ago I put three of my books onto Kindle as an experiment – all priced at 99 cents.

I thought you might be interested to know that in all over the four weeks I have sold 7,529 copies  and that all three books got into the Top 20 in the UK Kindle Top 100 list. I was no way near as successful in the US, however!

The books are  -

Once Bitten – a thriller based around vampires in LA

The Basement – the hunt for a serial killer in NYC

Dreamer’s Cat – a virtual reality murder mystery

Prior to cutting the price to 99 cents on November 1, the three books had been available on Kindle for about a week at $2.99 but I had only sold a handful after publicising them on my blog.

Over the course of the first week I sold a total of 329.  By the end of the second week sales stood at 2,091. That means I sold 1,762 copies in the second week.

By the end of week three, my sales total 4,611. That means that in the third week I sold 2,520 copies.

By the end of the final week of the experiment my sales had hit 7,529, which means I sold 2,918 in the fourth week.

That means that sales increased week on week and are continuing to grow. I hope that will continue, but who knows?

I am also getting lots of good reviews, in the UK anyway. So far The Basement has been reviewed 17 times, Once Bitten 16 and Dreamer’s Cat 9 times. Almost all are favourable which I am certain has helped sales.

As I write this Once Bitten is at Number 3 in the UK Kindle eBook chart, The Basement is at Number 5 and Dreamer’s Cat is at Number 13.  On one day last week Once Bitten was the bestselling eBook in the UK, but I wasn’t in first position for long!

I have to say that I have been much less successful in the US. At the moment Once Bitten is number 7,244 on Kindle US, The Basement is number 11,453 with five reviews, and no one has reviewed Dreamer’s Cat in the States. It’s at number 11,263!

The difference between the two markets has been staggering!  Of the 7,529 copies sold over the past four weeks, only 239 were in the US.

Okay, I did nothing in the way of marketing or publicity other than to talk about the books on the Kindle forums in the UK and the US, but the difference really is amazing. I think it comes down to the way the two forums operate. In the UK, participants in the Kindle forum seem genuinely warm and helpful in the main, and seem keen to learn about new writers, especially when their books are available at a bargain price. I have now spoken to several US indie writers who have done well in the UK market, and they say the same. In fact several of the US writers I have spoken to sell many more copies in the UK than they do at home!

I have received lots of helpful advice from readers in the UK, and in particular have had many typos and bad breaks pointed out which I have been able to fix quickly. It’s like having a team of proofreaders on tap and that has been one of the really enjoyable things about the experiment – getting almost immediate feedback from readers and being able to act on it. It’s a nightmare when readers point out typos and mistakes in dead tree books because they can’t be fixed until the next edition. But with Kindle any changes can be up and running within twenty-four hours!

I’m still not sure what the experiment has been unsuccessful in the States. I got the feeling that those on the US forum were keener to talk about themselves than to learn about others. I guess it’s the equivalent of sitting down next to an American in a bar, he’ll spend the whole time talking about himself and not ask you a single question. It’s a bit like that on the US forum, where everyone is talking about what they have done and nobody is listening.  Whatever the reason, it’s very clear that simply talking about your book on the US Kindle forum achieves virtually nothing. They don’t seem to care. And they are quite scornful when someone appears to be trying to plug their book!

One thing that is clear to me is that US readers are less concerned about price than their UK counterparts!  A glance at the US Kindle Top 100 shows that most are full price books, whereas the UK Top 100 has many bargain books (including mine!)

One of the fascinating things was the way that the books sold.  The Basement, which is a serial killer story, sold well first, followed by the vampire story and then the science fiction story.

But by the second week the vampire story, Once Bitten, overtook The Basement and is now well ahead sales-wise.  So far I have sold 3,949 copies of Once Bitten, 2,796 copies of The Basement and 814 copies of Dreamer’s Cat.

For the first three weeks, The Basement and Once Bitten were in the Top 10 most of the time, but Dreamer’s Cat was well down the list, not even making the Top 250.

Then towards the middle of last week something happened to give it a boost and it became the best-selling science fiction download on Kindle UK and jumped into the eBooks Top 20. I still don’t know why!  There didn’t seem to be any word of mouth and I didn’t do anything, it just took off.

I do have one theory – that it’s Amazon’s automated recommendation system kicking in.  It could be that Dreamer’s Cat is now being recommended to Amazon buyers, either when they buy one of my books or maybe whenever they buy another science fiction title.

There’s no doubt that the hard bit is getting into the Top 100. Once you are there it’s a bit like riding a wave, and you keep gathering momentum.

So, onto the question of money!  I get about 16p (20 cents) a copy after withholding tax. Looking at the royalty statement for the week ending November 27 from Amazon, I see that I earned £475.36 (about $740) in the UK and $37.13 in the US.  That’s down a bit from the previous week where I earned £569.72 before tax in the UK (equivalent to $910) and $27.88 from the US.

So sales were up but earnings were down, which seems strange but I think it’s because a lot of this last week’s sales came on Sunday and haven’t yet shown up on the royalty statement.

But earning more than a grand in two weeks out of the UK is pretty good going, especially when you consider that the books are selling for just 72p!

Though, you have to remember that I paid £1,000 for the three covers, so I’ve only just recouped that money!

My original plan was to run the three books at 99 cents (72p) for a month and raise the price of at least one to $2.99 to see what happens. But there are going to be thousands of people opening up Kindles on Christmas morning and they’re all going to be online downloading books. I guess they’ll first buy a few bestsellers at the full price but I’m sure they’ll then start looking for bargains, if for no other reason than to experience the thrill of downloading a novel out of thin air. So I’ll continue to keep all three at the low price until 2011 and review it in the New Year.