Thursday, August 21, 2008

Kindle vs the iTunes App Store (From an Author's View)

I'm a small publisher with a PR budget in the low three digits, so I'm always on the lookout for ways to get my books discovered by people who will enjoy them. My first book, Emperor Dad, was in fact, released as an ebook first, with a few family and friends sales, but it never achieved any great sales. When I finally broke down and decided that self-publishing was better than un-published, I produced trade paper editions. Awards came and I have refined my production skills so I now have three, (in a few weeks four) titles out that are getting very nice reviews. Still, sales are not large, and I'm on the lookout for ways to get my books in front of people's eyes.

In December, I discovered that it wasn't terribly hard to put out a book on Amazon's Kindle. I buckled down and converted Emperor Dad to Kindle format. I uploaded it to their system and waited. Nine months later, zero sales.

I wish I had a Kindle just so I could see if the book was really in their system or not. But I've never even seen one. Nobody I know has one of the bookreaders. Supposedly there are hundreds of thousands of them in existence, but I can't afford one. I suspect, with no evidence, that Amazon makes it a whole lot easier to discover a big name bestseller than it is to find something by a small publisher.

July. Graham Perks of Touch Tomes, who dove head-first into the iPhone App business, had talked to me earlier and now suggested publishing one of my titles as an iTunes App book. With my history of experimenting with ebook sales, it was a no-brainer to hand him the Emperor Dad files and let him run with it. In just a few days he had the book encapsulated into an iPhone App and formatted quite nicely. Today is the third day it's been out for sale. Early figures show twelve sales over two days.

Kindle: Nine Months, zero sales. App Store: two days, twelve sales.

It's the same book. It's the same non-existent PR campaign.

From an author's perspective, the iTunes App store is a great place to be. Think about it. Kindle has (in July) 140,000 titles to a customer base of supposedly 300,000 readers. Not all of those are fiction either. The iPhone user base growing rapidly, with supposedly 10 million units out there by the end of the year, and the App Store is very popular. And the books? 158. I just checked. Hey, as a reader, I might like the Kindle catalog, but as an author, this is the kind of front-facing, front of the store, prime exposure I'd never get on my budget. With millions of people coming to visit.

10 comments:

Benjie said...

Another thought that occurred to me: Amazon caters to people like me who prefer paper in hand to eBooks. I've read one positive review of the Kindle reader (and that from a guy who had it sent to him overseas).

Your audience will be by nature a younger and more tech-savvy bunch (you're writing great YA SF material). Great move going to the iTunes format--and apparently sales are proving it true.

Just don't stop with the pb-s for old die-hards like me.

Henry Melton said...

Benjie, if I had the time and energy (and the money), I'd publish all my books in every format and technology known to man. I'd license them to Hollywood, make audiobooks with professional actors, and craft gilt-edged massive hardbacks.

But, I'll go with what sells, and that definitely will always include a stack of bound paper you can hold in your hand.

Chris Meadows said...

Hey there. I saw your book on the iTunes app store, read the first few pages in Google; it looks worth checking out. And I do like ebooks.

But I'm not going to buy an ebook as an iPhone app that will be locked to only one platform. I'd really prefer to get it in a format that can be read on multiple devices—eReader, Mobipocket, HTML, etc.

Is it available anywhere in such a format? Fictionwise, for example?

Chris Meadows said...

Oh, one more thing—I was at the book's Amazon.com page, too. And while I don't have a Kindle myself, I always look for a "buy it on Kindle" link just out of curiosity—and I could not find one for your book.

That might be why you haven't gotten any Kindle sales. You might want to check with Amazon about it.

Henry Melton said...

@chris, based on your comments, I've gone back to the Kindle website and banged on the pipes and pushed a few more buttons. Maybe it will show up now. That would be nice.

About Fictionwise. Unfortunately, I can't do business with them at the current time because they require an exclusive contract. In other words, to publish with Fictionwise, I'd have to remove the Kindle, iPhone, and PDF versions that are already out there.

Chris Meadows said...

That's odd. I know that a lot of Baen Webscriptions books are also sold through Fictionwise, and I'm sure I've seen titles available on both them and the Kindle. Maybe it's a small-publisher thing.

Chris Meadows said...

I started a thread over on Mobileread.com to ask about possible other locations where you might be able to sell Emperor Dad as an e-book. Forum regulars have come through with a couple of good suggestions so far, and there will probably more to come.

Chris Meadows said...

Asked my local library to get a copy of Emperor Dad via interlibrary loan. When I stopped by to pick up another ILL book I'd requested, they told me they had decided to purchase the book instead. So, one more sale for you!

Henry Melton said...

Thanks Chris. BTW, I've been all over the Mobilread site trying to get a better sense of the e-book arena. I'll let you know when I find a way to put out more titles there.

Henry Melton said...

Correction: In an earlier comment I mentioned avoiding Fictionwise due to exclusivity. I have been corrected. Either I misread it at the time or something. Thanks for the feedback.