Tags: kindle


The new iPad...an author's impressions

Last Friday, being a dutiful Mac cultist, I drank my iCool aid and headed down to my local Mac store to buy the latest version of the iPad, creatively titled The new iPad. I already owned a first generation iPad (which I blogged about here) and had found it absolutely essential to my life as a writer. I waited for the 3rd generation because I was looking forward to the rumoured retina screen (a fancy way of saying a very high-def screen) and the camera (which was lacking from the 1st generation iPad). I bought the 32GB white wi-fi, because I thought that would be enough storage space for me and I don't need a G4 connection. Wireless is most everywhere (and I do have portable Mifi wireless when needed).


The Screen

 Let's start with the screen. It's amazing. There, we're done with the screen. Okay, I'll leave it to others to explain exactly how many pixels it takes to make your eyeballs vibrate with explosive colour. But side by side it's very clear how much more "high def" this screen is. The icons for the apps have no pixelation. Does that make them easier to tap on? Nah, but it somehow makes them see more real. Netflix looks clearer. Movies sparkle. Youtube is ... well, still full of freaky videos. But they're even clearer and grosser now.


Reading Apps:


 I'm an ebook-a-holic (along with a paper-book-aholic and an audiobook-a-holic). My apps on my iPad for reading (and buying books) are as follows: Kindle app, Kobo app, iBooks, Nook, Nook for kids, Play Books, Stanza. These apps are pretty simple so I didn't notice a big difference in the speed in which they open. There is a difference in the fonts and how clear they are now to read. And I am especially impressed at how much more colourful the picture books that I have on my iPad look. Nothing replaces a "real" picture book, but the images on the iPad do leap off the page (Especially in Splat the Cat). I do have a few kids books apps that were designed for the iPod and I never noticed a big difference in clarity when they were on my old iPad, but now that I have The new Ipad, the blurred edges of the images becomes very obvious. So reading is even more of a pleasure on The new Ipad as long as what you're reading has been optimized for the iPad (though if I'm reading an ebook I often choose my Kindle because it's smaller and I'm not tempted to zoom around the internet). The new iPad is heavy enough that I usually have to prop it against my legs when I read.


Facetime and Skype

This machine is brilliant for using both these communication programs. The speaker on the back is able to put out more volume than the 1st generation iPad so it's easy to hear whoever you're Facetiming with and the mic seems to pick up fine. One could easily use this to Skype with a classroom just sitting in your reading chair or out in your back yard (assuming there wasn't much background noise). And, last night, my wife's bookclub was discussing Meg Wolitzer's latest novel and she was kind enough to do a Skype visit with the book club. It worked perfectly and in the hour and a half talk it burned 18% of the battery power. I set up a battery-powered speaker so that she could be heard clearly. I was tempted to set her up on a chair and put a coat around her, but decided that would be silly.


 Social Networking/Web Browsing


There isn't much difference between the iPads. I still use Hootsuite for most of my social "outreach": twitter and Facebook, that is. Things are faster, of course. The biggest difference is that Google+ is more accessible on this machine. Again surfing around the net does appear to be a smoother experience. I don't know if it's the extra speed of the machine or that there are more and more websites optimized for the iPad now.



I still use Keynote for my school presentation. This is by far the best aspect of the iPad for me. I can carry all of my presentations with me, and all I need extra is the VGA connector. No power cords, at all. I connect my iPad to the projector and plug in the sound and the iPad does the rest. I'm very impressed at how it runs everything I can throw at it: book trailers, mp3s, and SFX all embedded in my slides. I use my iPod Touch to run the presentation from the front of the classroom. And I can do a whole day of school visits without having to charge up. I don't miss the days when I had to lug my laptop and my projector and, sometimes, even my screen. There isn't a big change in how Keynote runs on the new iPad. Which is good, because it was running fine before.


 If I'm doing any writing on my iPad (and I do a little, usually with my wireless keyboard) I use Pages (which is my main word processor on my iMac, although I do all my first drafts in Scrivener). It's perfectly functional on the iPad, though obviously the screen is smaller. Apple's iCloud is effective, automatically updating documents between different iPods and iPads, but if I make a change on my computer it doesn't appear on my iPad. I have to upload it to icloud.com (simple drag and drop) and the new file appears on my iPad. I do hope someday there is full synchronization between all mac devices, of course. But this is workable.


I teach an online class through the New York Times Knowledge Network. One of the things I was curious about was whether or not I'd be able to mark papers while I was on the road with my iPad. It turns out I can. I download the document, convert it to a PDF using Pages, then use an app called iAnnotate PDF to do all my fancy mark ups. It has handy highlighting and note-making features. Plus you can circle words in red just using your finger. Such fun! Then I can email it to my student and hope they don't weep when they see all the marks.

So that's my first impressions of The new iPad, so far...


Navel Gazing Ebook Update: December Sales

Hello and welcome to my ebook navel gazing! What frabjous joy it brings! What slithy toves it creates! Okay, before you all pull out your vorpal blades I'll stop quoting Jabberwocky. In a snicker-snack that is!

December was officially my 2nd best ebook sales month since I started last February. Yes, that's 11 months of self-publishing. Funny how the time passes when you're navel gazing. We're almost at the 1 year celebration where I'll spend all my massive royalties on a party in the South Pacific. Or a party in a corner of my garage. Depending on funds, of course.

Herewith is the graph you've all been waiting for:

No new and amazing conclusions this month. Dust did take off and was in the top 100 for horror on Kindle US for a short time. That accounted for most of the sales (Dust is the blue colour on the graph). The Hunchback Assignments continued to sell moderately well in the UK. Total sales across all platforms was 833 copies (Dust sold 570 copies, so that gives you an idea of why there's so much blue in the above column). And total sales since February is 4554 copies (divided between the 9 books I have for sale). Kindle is still about 90% of my sales.

All in all I'm pleased with the response to the ebooks. And every little bit of money I make is going against my mortgage. If someone would just buy about 50,000 books it would all be paid off.

Happy mortgaging!


What happens when you outsell Stephen King: Sept eBook Sales

Well a few posts ago I told you how I miraculously sold more books than Stephen King (in a 48 hour period)!
Well, now I can report to you the amazingly stupendous results. Yes, this is breaking news folks! Last month DUST sold a whopping 1355 copies. Since the highest monthly total before that was 360 copies, I was bountifully pleased by this result. 
Now Dust was selling for $1.49 (that's .52 cents per book for me) for the majority of those sales and then I bumped it up to 1.99. (or .70 cents a book). The book has slowly dropped down the sales charts (from a high in the 600's) and seems to be levelling out at about 10000 on the sales charts in the US (and 4000 on the UK charts). That equals about 10 sales a day (but since I've bumped the price up to 2.99 I am making 2.05 per sale). I don't know how long it will hold at this level. What, you want to see an amazing chart? Here it is:

That chart shows dust jumping up from abut 160,000th place to 600th. Then slowly falling back down. Apparently what goes up must come down. Thanks a lot for the gravitational laws Newton!
At one point I had told myself I'd be happy if I made about $1000.00 in the space of a year. Since that goal was surpassed in the space of a month...well, I'm green with happiness. I don't expect next month's sales to be anywhere near the same amount as September. But if they continue at the level they're at today (about 10,000 on the charts) I'll actually make as much money through fewer sales (because at 2.99 I make a 70% royalty, at .99-2.98 it's a 35% royalty).
Here's the overall sales chart:

Isn't that pretty? And it has different colours, too. The blue colour represents the sales of DUST. But you can see that a few of my other books are starting to pick up a bit (in fact every book had increased sales over last month). The total for all books was 1467 copies sold.
So last month was a good one. And this month I now have all three of The Hunchback Assignments books available on kindle UK (in fact I'm giving away the first one to get my British cousins to try the series). We'll see if that strategy works.
Over and out,


How I Sold more ebooks than Stephen King (for 48 hours)

We interrupt regularly scheduled blogging for an ebook update. To my surprise and delight my epubbed novel

has shot up the Kindle charts in the US and UK and is outselling Stephen King. Yes, that Stephen King!

I blame him and Ray Bradbury for turning me into a writer (and Tolkien and Frank Herbert and...). I'll explain how the sales jump came about in a second, first a few braggardly details: Currently the book is #680 on the Kindle US store and #158 on Kindle UK. It has made several bestseller charts including #15 overall on the Kindle US  Horror charts and #4 in Children's Spine-Chilling Horror (who doesn't love chilling the spines of those children?). In the UK the numbers are even higher (it's a smaller market): #1 in Children's Horror and #2 in Horror overall.

Actually, that #1 spot deserves a graphic:

Now let me attempt to explain how it was achieved:

I sacrificed an organic carrot to the god of ebooks.

Oh, wait that's not it.  Dust has been for sale as an ebook since February and has once before briefly cracked the top 1000. At the start of September I priced the book at free (who can refuse free?) on iBooks as a brief promotion. This was discovered by Amazon (okay, I told them) and since they have a price matching clause in their epub agreement they matched the price. On iBooks I had given away about 5 free copies. Amazon Kindle beat that in the first five minutes.  In the course of a week I gave away about 8000 books on Amazon UK and 11000 on Amazon US (that's a swack load of free books). The book reached #32 on the US free charts and #5 on the UK free charts. For me it was free advertising (the vast majority who have downloaded a free book likely won't read it...assuming they're hoarders like me). More reviews began to appear within days on both websites. I changed the price of Dust to 1.49 on KindleUS (Dust had previously been .99 cents and not doing well, so I chose 1.49 because...well...because Seth Godin's book was 1.49 and it was in the top 10). Then I chose .99 for the UK price (I chose the .99 pence for the UK because most of their top 20 bestsellers were in that price range...I have to sell 2 ebooks to equal the royalty I receive on a paperback). I changed the price to $1.99 on iBooks (anyone bored of all these geeky details yet?) and emailed Amazon to let them know that the book was no longer free on their competition's website. They changed the book back to the prices I had chosen.

And, blammo (that's an official epub word for wow), it shot up the charts. A real chart? Sure, I've got a chart for you:

This is Dust's kindle sales in the US over the last month. The lower the number the better the sales. Like golf. But more literary. Dust started at #849 on AmazonUS paid 48 hours ago and #736 on Amazon UK and has been climbing ever since (warning here are even more geeky details: it takes about 67 copies sold in the space of 24 hours to climb from #849 to #700. To add more perspective Dust sold 48 copies last month...so that's more sales in a day than the book had all month). I don't know exactly why when it switched from free to paid status it ended up in such a good position on the charts. Is it because several people downloaded it accidentally thinking that it was free (Amazon does warn when a books price is changing)? Or is it some kind of magical algorithmic kindly thing? That part is beyond my limited IQ.

I don't expect this to last. I think Dust is successful because it has been on Amazon for over ten years in one format or another and has 20 reviews that average 4 stars. This lets prospective buyers know that it's a good gamble. I think that the fact that it's for young adults and doesn't have a romance angle or vampires, will limit the audience in the long run. I just want it to find its happy "sales" place.

And I'm enjoying the ebook ride right now. Go Dust go!



A Brobdingnagian-Sized Ebook Update

Yep, I'm going all literary with this update on my ebook sales. We all know from Gulliver's Travels that Brobdingnagian means giant-sized.* And this is a giant-sized report! Well, actually it's kind of small. It's more Lilliputian. But, really, who would click on a headline that says, "Author shouts out about lilliputian book sales!"?

 Anyway let's start with a chart!

Eeek! My sales have gone all Lilliputian! I was warned about the doldrums of August by other ebook publishers. Apparently sales do drop in August. Get off the beach and buy books everyone! Anyway, here are the numbers:

 Feb 12

March 43

April 377

May 204

June 139

July 154

August 72 

Abandon ship! That's it mateys, all hands off deck and swim for shore. Oh, wait there were some grand developments. I crossed the 1000 sales barrier. That's good.  And my little experiment last month of giving away this Norse horror book for free worked:


 I gave away 7545 copies. But when I switched the book back to "paid" status Amazon's magical algorithms made it shoot up the charts and it sold 33 copies in two weeks (the highest it had averaged was 18 copies in a month). So there was some small immediate benefit to giving it away (plus it now has several new positive reviews). And I hope over time those 7500 readers will look kindly on the other books in the series.

Hey and there's other good news. I released The Hunchback Assignments  and The Dark Deeps in the UK.

The Dark Deeps

That's one of the clever things about ebook publishing. My agent sold the rights to these books to several countries, but the UK hasn't picked it up yet. So, with the click of a button, I can invade the UK. My hope is to make a little noise over there. So far...3 copies sold! C'mon Britain, remember when we Canucks helped out with that Boer war thing? You can finally pay us back! I am doing a few experiments at the UK amazon with free books...which I'll update at a later date (see, I'm trying to make this all sooo mysterious).

Overall, I had hoped to be further ahead in the ebook world after 7 months. I think the real test of this experiment will come over the next few months which are traditionally the busiest in book sales. And, as I've said before, every copy sold is a copy I wasn't selling before. All of these books were either out of print or not for sale in selected countries, so I'm making money on them now.

And someday that Brobdingnagian load of royalties will come my way, right Gulliver! Right?


*next time you go to Starbucks refuse the Grande Latte and demand a Brobdingnagian latte. That'll shock their organic socks!


The Amazing Million Dollar Ebook Update: July Sales

Amazing new stupendous ebook developments this month!
Okay, maybe that's a bit of an overstatement, but I have discovered that "free" sells. Or at least it leads to numerous downloads. About the middle of June I made this book free on iBooks and Smashwords:

And now it's free on Kindle (just click the above image but click right now because this offer is only good for 12 10 9 minutes--kidding, I was going all slap chop on ya). There is a trick to this because you can't actually just choose "free" on Kindle. Instead Amazon will set your price to the same as the competition. So once Amazon "noticed" that Draugr was free on other websites it automatically made it free on Amazon kindle. Even though I'd read about other people having "free" success, it isn't until you see it for yourself that you believe it. The book became free on Kindle somewhere around July 6th. Within a day it had shot up the "free" charts to as high as #52. By that time there had been 2000 downloads. In the next two days there were another 3000 downloads. Then it began to drop out of the top 100 and the downloads have slowed to about 100 a day so that the total for July is 7402 copies. To put this in perspective the book first came out in 1997 and sold 5000 copies in the space of a year. It took 4 days to "sell" that same amount for free. So Amazon's distribution model really does work (no surprise, eh). In that same time only about 80 copies were downloaded free on iBooks and 0 on Smashwords. What? You want to see a chart? Okay!

This chart shows the # of total sales I've made in the last six months (it's the tiny column second from the right) and the green column is the total free books I've given away. Now how to get those "free" people to buy books? Ah, there's the rub and the dub (and why I did the little experiment). I hope that over time there will be an increase in the sales of the other two books in the series:

Aren't they cute? Don't you just want to take them home and cuddle them (on your eReader that is)? Anyway, my theory is that this massive # of downloads will lead to more sales of these two books in the next few months as people read Draugr. Or those thousands of copies of Draugr might sit unloved on people's kindles. Poor electronic words...just waiting to be read. I was pleasantly surprised that there was an immediate increase: Drang sold 4 copies in June and jumped to 18 copies in July on Kindle. Loki sold 7 copies in June and leapfrogged to 16 copies in July on Kindle. So that's a nice increase for both the books. Obviously, I'm not going to get rich from that (it is an extra $69.36 in my pocket, tho, since I make 2.04 per book--they sell for $2.99).

But what about my total sales you ask? Ah, I knew you wanted to see another chart. Consider yourself charted:

As you can see by that chart sales stayed steady for July. Here are the totally exciting numbers:

Feb: 12
March: 43
April: 377
May: 274
June: 139

July: 148
So there hasn't been a huge jump. In fact DUST sold 77 copies on Kindle in June and 79 in July. Gee, that is consistent! I still plan on keeping DUST at .99 cents until I've sold 1000 copies (it's at 727 right now). As a point of interest 126 copies of my books were sold on Kindle this month and 21 on B&N (0 on Smashwords and 0 on iBooks--hmmm guess buying every Apple product in existence doesn't help e-book sales). I don't know what that means other than, well, Kindle is king obviously. The good news is I've nearly sold 1000 copies in total. That should happen next month. Oh, and I haven't included Kobo numbers in this because they don't send me my report until mid way through the month...but I only expect 4 or 5 more sales through them.

By this point I had hoped I'd be making enough money to be on a beach somewhere with my feet up while I hired retired ewoks or sasquatches to bash out my novels. I mean isn't that what the internet promised? Easy riches? But I'm satisfied with chugging along. I've done all the experiments that I can think of so far (other than releasing a brand new book--which is in the works) but I may make other books free (there is a theory that if you make a book free and then switch it to "paid" status it will jump up the charts--there are many theories in the e-book biz, I'm finding. Amazon.com is like a bunch of pig entrails that we're all staring at to find the future).

Anyway, it's still fun. And yo! Look over there--it's a  another rainbow to chase!



How to sell a gazillion e-books (Part 3)

Well, I'm reaching the last day of the 3rd month of my eBook experiment. Since mid-February I've released several of my out-of-print books and one selection of short stories as eBooks. Here they are below.

The books are available on Amazon, iBooks and Smashwords.
My total sales were as follows:
February: 21 copies
March: 51 copies
April: 368 copies

Because I like graphs, I'll put this one in to the left. It does make it rather clear that there has been a large growth in the number of sales. Part of that is due to the fact that there are now more books available for purchase. I'll break down the individual sales:
Dust:  397 copies
Draugr: 18 copies
Haunting of Drang: 9
Shades: 16
Tribes: 1

Of the sales 440 total sales, 419 come from Amazon, the rest are spread between iBooks and Smashwords.  Obviously DUST is the biggest seller and (sniff) poor TRIBES is the least (and always the last one picked for the eBook "baseball" team). The books that have sold more are the ones that have been out longer. The reason for DUST's sales though are twofold. One is that I dropped the price to 99 cents about mid-March (from $2.99). The second is that DUST was listed on Pixel of Ink, which is a website that lists low-priced and free books for Kindle owners. Dust had sold 16 or so copies in the space of a month and a half. And started to pick up a bit once I lowered the price, but really grew after the listing.

In fact I kept track of the daily sales starting April 1st when the book was listed:
April sales:
1st-80 copies (Pixel Ink listing)
6-42 (have no idea why it suddenly jumped up here or the next day)
7 -40
14-15 (Daily Cheap Reads listing)
25-22 (holiday monday sales)
30-2 (so far)

So you can see that DUST, which used to average two or three sales a week has jumped to 6-10 copies a day. Obviously at 99 cents a copy (that's 35 cents for me), I'm not making a bundle (in fact only averaging about $3 a day or so). But my hope is that the book will continue to climb (even if it continues as this pace it will sell 4200 copies in a year's time). The more people who buy it the more it ends up in the "people who bought this also bought this" list. 

What the DUST buyers are Buying

Obviously the more times DUST is recommended the more times it has a chance to sell. At first I was going to leave the book at .99 cents for two months, but now I might wait until it has sold at least 1000 copies, just to see what kind of momentum it will gain from having so many recommendations. 

As far as my other books go I'll let them grow slowly. Draugr, The Haunting of Drang Island and (soon to be released) The Loki Wolf are more middle-grade novels, and I don't believe the market is that big for them yet. They're a long term investment. Shades is a collection of short stories and they tend not to sell as well (but I always have hope). For Tribes I bought an ad in Pixel of Ink to give the book a leg up because I believe the novel is attractive to both young adults and adults, and therefore has a wider audience for me to aim at. If only I'd put a vampire in the book! 

Which reminds me, I am considering writing a "direct-to-ebook" novel. Something short, snappy, and full of action and aimed at adults. I'd really like to test out everything I'm learning on a brand new project. Oh, but first I better finish writing the next book in The Hunchback Assignments.