A few words of questionable wisdom from author Al W Moe - you can leave questions on each blog or go to my profile for direct email.


Wednesday, January 6, 2016

How Many Book Sales to Make The New York Times Best Seller List?

There are a number of Best Seller lists, like USA Today, Wall Street Week and Barnes and Noble, but the one most everyone knows about is the New York Times Best Sellers list. To somehow crack the code to the list is a once-in-a-lifetime dream for most authors. For Savant types like John Grisham, Stephen King and Nicholas Sparks, the code seems to work for all their books. 
Today, making the New York Times Best Sellers list is easier than ever, with a total of 40 categories a book can land in from Hard Cover fiction and nonfiction to Paperback, E-books, Graphic, Children’s books and Young Adult. In addition, there are 22 monthly lists with sub-categories like Games, Family, Sports and Travel

Since each category has 10 to 15 books, there might be 800 different books listed at one time and the majority of the authors are represented by main-stream publishers. To sell the minimum of about 5,000 copies per week to make the lists, the books must be in retail outlets. What’s the methodology used? According to the New York Times:

Rankings reflect sales reported by vendors offering a wide range of general interest titles. The sales venues for print books include independent book retailers; national, regional and local chains; online and multimedia entertainment retailers; supermarkets, university, gift and discount department stores; and newsstands. E-book rankings reflect sales from leading online vendors of e-books in a variety of popular e-reader formats.”

How Many Books to Make the List?

The number of book sales to make any list varies greatly by time of year and by category. The 5,000 copy per week is a relative number that easily represents all major categories for the weekly lists. Even a book listed at #15 on the Hard Cover Fiction list is likely to be a major author whose books are found in book stores, gift shops, Walmart, Costco and the ever-popular airport lounge. If you want to be impressed by a book's sales, look at the number of weeks it has been on the list. A one-week blip is just that, one big week of sales. A book that hangs in the top ten for 20-weeks is a new life-style with all the perks...............

However, small categories in the monthly listings might surprise you. For instance, Tracey Stewarts Do Unto Animals is listed at number 10 in the monthly listing for Animals. It’s a very good book and congratulations to the author for making the New York Times Best Seller list. However, this was probably a labor of love, and a good one, but currently it wouldn’t make any other list or category.

It did make the Amazon Best Seller list by being #1 in the Animal Husbandry category. Again, well done. The book is currently listed as #3733 in paperback books and is #71,100 in the paid Kindle store. The author is selling lots of books, but not a clip that self-published authors can’t also shoot for with their Kindle books.

Amazon and the New York Times Lists

For lack of a better way of putting it, the New York Times Bes Sellers list is the Major Leagues. Amazon’s #1 Best Seller ranking is the minor leagues. Sure, if you get that ranking in “Fiction” you will be very, very rich. But Amazon has a whole lot more than 62 total categories.

The #3733 in paperback ranking is quite good; selling perhaps 20 to 30 copies per day just on Amazon. With bookstores and other outlets considered, that could be more than 100 copies per day. The Kindle numbers are a bit different.

In fact, for Kindle sales, the ranking of #71,131 is fairly mediocre. The book is number 4 in Animal Husbandry and number 51 in Animals, but sales-wise that’s only about 1 book sale per day. Everyone has a chance to do that if they produce a decent read for Kindle buyers.

Those numbers do point-out that you should also have your book listed with Create Space, especially since your income might be much more per copy for a paperback copy.

For instance, a Kindle book selling for $3.79 (yes, that’s what Vegas and the Mob sells for) brings in $2.65 per sale. At the same time, a Create Space (Amazon paperback copy) book listed at $12.95 nets $4.16 for the author.

If you want to be in the Top 10 of a common category on Amazon Kindle, choose a more obscure one than “crime” or “romance.” Obviously if you choose correctly, you can make a list with fewer sales. For instance, the #1 book under “blackjack” is currently selling at #37,656 which is probably 2 books per day!

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

The Ease of Draft 2 Digital

I've tried dozens of different avenues for marketing and selling books over the years, but the number of books that I have sold via Amazon outweigh all of my other efforts combined. Not that much of my marketing hasn't been geared to Kindle the past two years, but even with radio promos, local newspaper articles and some great reviews in newspapers across the states, Kindle has still managed to sell twice as many books for me as any other method.

That's a great thing, because the better you do on Kindle, the more Amazon helps by linking your book in advertisements, linking it to books other readers bought in conjunction with yours, and finding niche lists that you can actually reach the top ten on. And, of course all that marketing is free. Whoopie!

I mentioned Smashwords in the past, and while my records show that I somehow managed to sell a few hundred copies of my books through the great Smash Meatgrinder, the experience was anything but easy. I had to redo my word documents several times to meet (meat?) Smashwords format demands, so there were many hours of frustration and anger (I'm getting therapy) as I tried to just get my first book vetted for publication.

Fortunately, once I truly understood what needed to be done (basically, go to work, switch to that weird "view" where you can see all the crap in the background like spaces, indents, hard and soft returns etc.) I got good at making my books ready to issue, even with the trouble of putting pictures in. By my third book the process was fairly quick. I thought. Then came Draft2Digital.


As I said, having your word doc formatted makes everything easier, but then again, Draft2Digital says they don't need anything formatted. And, you don't need a title page or an ISBN or that Table of Contents you need for Kindle or Smash - that takes a lot of time. You just let them do the work. Free, quick, easy. How easy?

All I did was delete all the stuff that wasn't my actual chapters and photos, and place the same number of returns between every photo and chapter. Then I tried to browse and upload. It worked. All I had to do after that was insert my Author Photo, Bio, and choose for them to issue an ISBN (again, no cost), and then upload my cover.

Thirty seconds later I had a tiny image on screen of my cover and was asked where I wanted my "also by" notice, in front, in back, or both. Also by, meaning other books created for Draft2Digital. Well, I only had the one book, but I tried another book, and while I had to redo one page, it also took virtually no time, no que to wait in, just paste my current book's teaser, check the author bio (it already had my first book's bio, so it just inserted that), and named the book.

Oh, I also had to choose my book price - anywhere from free to whatever, and pick my distributors. I clicked them all and a day later, as you can see, I'm hooked up at all of the sites listed below. I went to Smashwords and Nook and "unpublished" my other copies, going with this new channel.

About KDP

I've been paid for thousands of books "loaned" through the KDP deal at Amazon, and I've waited to move books like Vegas and the Mob to other distributors and lose that income, but right now my income from "read pages" with Kindle Unlimited and the loaning is only 14% of my monthly totals on Kindle. Why is that important?

Well, I know that Amazon accounts for approximately 70% of all Digital book sales (Nook and Apple each count for about 10%, leaving only the remaining 10% for everyone else to fight over) and Smashwords as a distributor accounts for more sales than Draft2Digital, but D2D authors seem to make more money overall. So, I'm giving them a try.

If all goes great, I'll get 30% more sales on by books (more than twice the 14% I'll loose). Realistically, I'll be happy to get 20%. Either way, this forces me to market at little towards Nook and Apple and Kobo and who knows how that will go. One thing I know is that I'm in a small book group. Amazon has many more books to compete with than the others.

Below is just one of the many emails I've received to let me know what's going on with my books. I uploaded Vegas and the Mob on the 16th. I never got anything like that from Smashwords. I'll let you know how things stack up in a couple months. Thanks for reading!

 Your book

Vegas and the Mob

is now published to and can be viewed here.

All sales channels for this book:

Apple - Published on Nov. 17, 2015, 4:02 a.m.
Barnes & Noble - Published on Nov. 17, 2015, 4:19 p.m.
Kobo - Published on Nov. 16, 2015, 6:14 p.m.
Oyster - Submitted to Distributor on Nov. 16, 2015, 5:40 p.m.
Page Foundry - Published on Nov. 16, 2015, 8:06 p.m.
Scribd - Published on Nov. 16, 2015, 6:42 p.m.
Tolino - Published on Nov. 16, 2015, 6:35 p.m.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Why Kindle's Great

Anne Kelleher
There are certainly good points about publishing with a mainstream imprint, especially when it comes to marketing. A big first-printing guarantees a big marketing budget, often enough to catapult a good book to best-seller lists. But what about the hungry masses? What about those of us who toil all day and never get a contract? Well, that's the cool thing about eBooks and especially Amazon's Kindle.

Mainstream book publishers have definitely missed  gems on many occasions, the most recent of which is Kathryn Stockett's The Help, which was passed over by dozens of agents and publishers before being picked-up and entering the higher echelon of best sellers. It's a great read. It's also a bit pricey at $11.95 on Kindle.

That price helps illustrate that there is no better showcase in the world for your book than Amazon. The audience is huge, the page views are huge, and even without a major publisher, a good author can get their work seen - and still get paid.

Enter Anne Kelleher

Anne Kelleher is a long-time author with many popular books to her dust-jacket including Daughter of Prophecy (part of a Trilogy) that sold to Warner Books and propelled her to new fame. In turn, Anne went in search of a way to inspire new authors and co-founded the Greater Lehigh Valley Writing Group in Bethlehem, PA. It's now in it's 23rd year of drawing writers from all over the world and agents and editors from across the states. That's a legacy.

Today, Kelleher loves to teach and lecture on writing at the Writing Group and also plans a new symposium with Big Island Retreat 2016, held on the Big Island of Hawaii.  As for her writing, it's taken on a new life at Kindle.

Instead of using mass-market publishing, Kelleher has moved to her own imprint and the luxury of publishing on Kindle. With more than two-dozen books, she's certainly prolific, and with Kindle, we can all enjoy new issues like Free to Good Home at a very reasonable cost. Her writing is fluid, direct and without pretense. It's always a joy read her work. Kindle certainly isn't all there is to marketing a book, but it's the best start.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

How's Your Amazon Scout Program Book Doing?

I was late to the party here, didn't know about Amazon Scout until well after it launched the first books about six months ago. If you are like me,  Amazon had a brainstorm and came up wit the idea that perhaps it would be good to have a quasi-crowd-sourcing kind of publishing deal with independent authors. Damned if I understand any more now than I did 180 days ago.

The actual Kindle Scout site with information for authors is more detailed, but in a nutshell you will have to have a completed novel. In addition, you still have to have a quality cover, you still have to submit your work, and then you have to wait for about 45-days while Amazon hosts the first 5,000 words of your book at their Scout site so readers can pick and choose which books are really worth publishing.

That's right. The readers choose which books are hot and which are not, by voting. I like that idea, but then it gets weird. Amazon makes the final decisions, regardless of how "hot" your book remains during the 30-day period it is listed. If they choose your book, you get a $1,500 royalty advance (which is very cool), but of course that is hedged against future earnings, and Amazon pays only 50% of each ebook's sales price. Right now I get 70%. Is this a good deal?

What's Good?

Well, there is the possibility that the advance publicity and extra publicity Amazon will offer the chosen few will boost sales, but who knows? And, I have to admit, I'm perplexed about whether to submit a book and then drive my list of readers to the listing to get votes. Why? Because I would want them to vote for my book. And that's bad, why?

Well, to get readers to actually vote, Amazon offers a free copy to those who vote for winners. So if I drive a few hundred readers to take the time to actually view my first 5,000 words, and they vote for it, and it wins a publishing contract with Kindle Publishing, I just lost a few hundred sales. That's right. Say 200 people were going to buy my book at $3.99 and I was going to get 70% of those sales. That's about $550 I just lost.

Sure, I've got the $1,500 advance, but I also want my prior customers to boost my book's launch and help it rise in the rankings. I won't get that if they all get free copies! HMMM.

Of the 75 books that have been chosen and published, about half that I checked are doing well enough to be ranked in the top 50,000. That's a couple book sales a day. Those with better rankings (I saw one at #8,000, one at #12,000 and one at #17,000) are selling 10 to 20 copies a day. That's great, but are they selling because of the program, or simply because they were going to sell anyway?

Overall, since I saw many books that had been out several months and were listed at above 100,000 (that's less than a book a day in sales), we can assume that neither the pre-readers nor Amazon are able to predict with any great certainty which books are really worth the $1,500 advance. Sure, some will be easily picked, but many will still fail. Interesting.

What's your experience? Anyone submit and want to tell us about your good (or bad) fortune? Anybody get passed over and find that your self-published book is doing great?

Thursday, August 20, 2015

And then there's Smashwords

So what's your experience with Smashwords? Any great stories to tell or just trials and tribulations? I put a lot of time and effort into translating a few of my books to Smash, but I forget about them until I get a notice that my check is coming each quarter.

Granted, I don't give the site the kind of marketing I give my books on Amazon. And, my best selling book (Vegas and the Mob) is only on Amazon because I still think I like the KDP deal, but Smash grinds along and they are growing. Why miss out on an opportunity to sell more books?

I do remember when they had 80-million words printed. Today August 20, 2015, they boast:

Words Published: 13,474,208,470
Books Published: 372,137
Free Books: 56,376
So we can look back in a year and take a peek. In the meantime, you should make sure your books are in every possible sales opportunity there is. The more options, the better. And, so you understand how Smashwords works, they allow you to sell Ebooks. Sounds simple, right? It's not, because you have to follow their rules for changing the format of your book which is a big pain the ass. On the other hand, follow the advice (TO THE LETTER) and you'll eventually manage to get it all right. My books took several tries.
Smashwords accepts most everything, from novels to personal memoirs, to short an long fiction (which I did have some early success with). And, when you get all the kinks out you'll find that your book is distributed to "Apple iBooks (51 countries), Barnes & Noble, Kobo (which powers the bookstores of multiple other retailers such as FNAC in France and WH Smith in the U.K.), OverDrive, Flipkart, Oyster, txtr, Baker & Taylor (Blio.com and the Axis360 library platform), and others."
And, you get to set your prices, the size of each book's sample read, and you receive 85% of the net sales proceeds from your works (70.5% for affiliate sales) for sales at Smashwords.com retail operation, and authors earn 60% of the list price for sales though their distribution network
Really, it's worth the work. Just don't for get to follow the directions carefully (and completely) and advertise to your books at Smashwords.  Is there a catch? Well, if you use the KDP system and then use KDP Select, you can't publish anywhere else. So there's the rub. If you aren't selling too many books via KDP Select, the decision is easy to add more sales venues. If you are, you've got to weigh your options.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Failing for Success

If you don't quite get the logic of the title Failing for Success you are either extremely successful and never fail, or you are failing to learn. You should embrace your errors, own up them, and learn from them. Nobody does everything right, at least not the first time, so go ahead and fail, just make sure you do it in the name of future success!
Now the truth of the matter is that failing is learning, and learning leads to improvement if you let it. As you begin marketing your book, keep notes about what works, what approach gets you good contacts, what websites can help, which can't, and who can do you a favor (like a review). Don't feel bad about things that don't work, you'll know better the next time. And, make plans for your success.
Anyone can say "Gee, I want to sell 100 books this month," because that's probably an achievable goal, but it's just a desire, a wish, until you tie it to an action. Unfortunately that means you have to actually do something to achieve the goal you set, so make your wish and then set your goal.
A Wish: sell 100 copies of your new book in one month.
A Goal: contact two bookstores in your area and one media outlet (newspaper, magazine, TV, radio) every single day until you have sold 100 copies.
Does that goal seem managable? Sure, it's work, but you can do it. It's just four phone calls, 10 minutes of your day, for a month, maybe less. Of course once you reach your goal you'll want to set an even better goal!
Kindle Dreams
If you are selling only Ebooks, preferably on Kindle where you can take advantage of the KDP benefits, set a different kind of goal.
Same Wish: sell 100 copies of your Ebook in one month.
New Goal: contact two book review blogs everyday begging for a review of your book, find one cheap (free is always good) advertising program beyond book review blogs each day until you have sold 100 copies.
Now that you've got the idea, go give it a try. Make a wish, set a goal, and keep going until you get there. You can do it!

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Well Kindle Me Happy

After a year of marketing research based on three different authors (and their nine different books), their marketing plans, their previously hard-earned money spent (mostly from non-writing jobs), and their overall goals and aspirations, I have come to one very simple truth: Kindle.

While most of you already know that Kindle is King for many authors, the overall power of selling on Amazon in digital format compared to actual softbound (Think: Create Space) format is profound. And it doesn't seem to matter what the book genre was. That's what is a bit confusing and strange. But there's a reason: self-published authors aren't any better at getting their books into bookstores today than they were 20 years ago!

Still not surprised? I guess I shouldn't be either, but at this point I really can't see the good side of spending the bulk of your marketing and advertising budget on softbound or hardbound book sales, regardless of who prints 'em. Using Create Space from Amazon is easy and costs virtually nothing, and it doesn't get any easier, since once you finish getting your book formatted it can go live in a few days.

However, you'll probably find that no matter how much you press your marketing towards the softbound books that Create Space will ship to your customers, your Kindle orders will outshine your softbound books. Of course this assumes you'll put a reasonable price on both of your products. A softbound book that sells for $14.95 may get outsold by your Kindle edition at $4.95 by five to one. If you knock the Kindle price down to $2.95, you might see your sales of Kindle at 10-1 for softbound sales.

What's it all mean? It means that as a self-published, short-bankrolled author, your best bet is to put 90% of your marketing efforts into selling your Kindle product. Ignore this advice at your own risk!

As an aside, once your Create Space layout is approved, spend the $69 and let them format your Kindle book. Yes, you can do it yourself, but you'll spend a lot of hours getting it just right, and you're a writer, not a designer. I've done it both ways, and I'd rather spend my time writing, than saving the $69.

Don't be afraid to ask for reviews of your book! You might want to look at Good Kindle Reads, they'll get you started.