Jeremy D Brooks

Tag: amazon

The Book Pricing Game

by on Feb.25, 2011, under Writing

It’s been, oh…almost six months since Amity hit the mean streets of Amazon (mean jungles of Amazon?). I still, every single day, do something related to this book, be it shilling on Twitter, talking to people about it on email, hiding Amity bookmarks in library books, or obsessing over statistics.

The point is that it’s an ongoing process.

It seems to, still, be fairly well received, despite the lack of professional editing or artwork, and the disturbing nature of the story. I know quite well that there are a few typos in Amity…that’s actually on my to-do list this weekend (one of the benefits of self-pubbed ebooks is that you can make changes like that and it’s a seamless process to the marketplace). I also know that a lot of people don’t love the cover, but I’m hesitent to change that at this point; the cost of new artwork is certainly never going to pan out in increased book sales (although it was an important lesson for future books). It’s a process.

I’ve also been playing with the book prices (paperback and ebook), to interesting results.

If sales keep trending, this mouse will be mine in 287 more years.

When I first released the paperback, I set it at $13.99, which Amazon discounted right away to about $10. Which was great, because when Amazon discounts, you get paid on the full price. $10 seemed to be a point where people would take a chance on a new author, and I sold a small number of books (the actual number sold is close to 60, but a lot of those went to relatives and friends which, although awesome, isn’t reflective of pricing, per se). I would say maybe twenty copies were sold outside of that group.

At the beginning of the year, Amazon bumped it up to the full price of $13.99, which I then lowered to the current price of $11.96. Sales for the paperback since the beginning of the year: 1 copy. So, as a part of my weekend cleanup, I’m going to jack the price down again, basically wiping out the per-book profit. But, it’s important to keep in mind that this is all marketing and (knock on wood) building a fan base. As long as I’m not bleeding green, it’s all part of the process.

The ebook had a similar story. The initial price was $2.99, which Amazon did not discount. I sold very few units. The first four months, my paperback-to-ebook ratio was maybe 4:1. Around the beginning of February, I decided to take the ebook price down to $.99 (which Amazon discounted right away to $.89), and my sales started moving. Within one day, I sold six ebooks—a stark contrast to the four ebooks I had sold in the entire prior month. Unfortunately, I didn’t continue to sell six a day, but the trend has definitely kept upward. Sometime next week, I’ll put up a graph with the complete month-end specifics, but at this point, with 4 more days left in the month, I’m sitting at nineteen sales.

Big deal, right? Joe Konrath sold nineteen books in the time it took him to floss this morning. But, remember, Mythbusters: this is data! It shows how important the book price is in this environment: an untested author, a self-published book, and a book without a clear-cut genre. $.99, it would seem, is low enough to mitigate some of that risk.

Also, a cool side-effect: due to the spike in sales, Amity was, as of 2/21/2011, the #76 top seller in techno-thrillers, and (probably due to the small number of reviews), the #46 top-rated ebook on Amazon. All of which, in theory, may help sales, due to the additional exposure. Woot.

It’s a process, and a learning experience. Robert Swartwood brought up this same topic earlier today, and has more details from other writers. Next week: the graph.

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Amity First Chapter Preview

by on Oct.05, 2010, under Writing

Amazon just released this awesome new feature this morning: online book previews. Very nice. Beta, apparently, but looks pretty darn spiffy.

So, start your day with the disturbing opening to Amity, and a big bowl of fiber-rich cereal…

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Kindle 3 WiFi Review

by on Aug.29, 2010, under Reading

**updated 10/12/10 with landscape pic at bottom**

I got my Kindle 3 on Friday. I like it.

A standard ebook (native Amazon format) page.

As you may know, it doesn’t use backlighting like a computer screen or TV. The benefit is that it looks like a physical media like a book (because it basically is) and can be read in bright light. The downside is that you need good light to read, just like a physical print.

Considering that, even, the backplane (the “paper” underneath the “ink”) is darker than I expected, although the text is still pretty crisp and easy to read.

Navigation is a bit clunky, but that’s mostly a result of the fact that you’re not dealing with a PC-style display with a quick refresh and complex, aesthetic interface. Remember surfing the web around 1992, where everything was text and navigation was very cut and dry and basic? It’s like that. Here’s a better analogy: It reminds me of the navigation on a late 90s Palm Pilot: no frills, just text and click-click scrolling through options and delayed reactions to commands.

A single-sided PDF page on the K3

But, again, that’s because of the limitations of e-ink. If you don’t want an LCD, you pay in speed and aesthetics. And it’s really not that bad.

Page turns are slow, but still much faster than the Nook I played with last winter. Again, it’s e-ink.

It’s very small, somewhere between the size of a paperback study guide for Coriolanus my daughter got at Shakespeare camp last year, and a pamphlet called Ethical Guidelines for Nevada Politicians (although the latter contains only formatting guidelines for a shakedown letter and a yummy recipe for a gin fizz).

I tried it out with a few different formats, and learned something valuable: it doesn’t do well with static-sized documents. Which, if you’re considering your future as an ebook author, is critical.

It looks great for the native Amazon azw format (an implementation of .mobi, I believe). The text is clean, graphics, although grayscale, look fine and much sharper than older Kindles. The text–here is the important part–is interpreted, not just displayed. What that means is that the Kindle works like a web browser: it reads the text in an ebook and displays it based on the environmental variables set by the user: what size font, which font (standard, sans serif, etc), landscape/portrait, etc. The page is drawn dynamically according to those settings–which means that if on page seven you refer to “the diagram on page twenty five”, there is a good chance that said diagram does not, in fact, appear on page twenty five. It appears wherever it gets pushed based on the number of characters per page and the layout you’ve chosen.

A double-sided PDF. Publishers, don't do this. Ever.

Good part of that schema: no scrolling to read, adjustable font sizes for different readers. Bad part: you can’t refer to specific pages; also, if you use a generic mobi creator like Smashwords, you can’t create a table of contents with page numbers (mobi does support it, but it takes some work that Smashwords’ parsing engine does not support).

The K3 doesn’t fare so well with PDFs, which sucks because I have a ton of them and intended to finally get some of them read on my new toy. The problem is that the text is not parsable like a .mobi file–the Kindle treats the PDF essentially like an image, and in order to get a full PDF page on one Kindle page, the font is very small for a standard magazine/journal format. Very small. You can zoom in, but that means scrolling side to side and up and down to read which, because of the delay in drawing pages with e-ink, is not a good option. It’s distracting and basically unusable.

Landscape doesn't help. Still has to scroll vertically, which makes it worse.

Even worse: I have a couple of PDFs where the publisher chose to lay it out with two pages side by side on one PDF screen. These magazines are not just hard to read, but pretty much unusable on a Kindle. They’ll probably get deleted from my hard drive before I ever read them.

The lessons here: the Kindle seems to be a pretty good device for text, but, if you’re a publisher or author, you really need to consider a parsable ebook format like .mobi or epub to make it friendly for your readers. That blows your layout and graphics out (especially for magazines), but the alternative is bypassing e-ink readers and focusing on the smaller-but-growing iPad market. Or ignoring your ebook readers entirely and missing out on that market. Or limiting yourself to people who are willing to read PDFs on their PC–a small and shrinking market, I would argue.

(Note: click through the images for larger views)

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I Am Joe’s Guilty Conscience

by on Aug.16, 2010, under Random Yappings, Reading

I admit it: I am a total Kindle hypocrite.

I have been tearing Kindles for months. I like the device itself, but I strongly disagree with Amazon’s implementation of DRM and their clandestine information “sharing” system, wherein they can snoop and report on your reading activities: not only what you’re reading, but how often you read, what time of day, for how long, what you highlight, and the content of notes you leave. They also, apparently, have the ability (and, buried somewhere in the EULA, the right) to remove content from your Kindle.

When society collapses, this can be used to grind cornmeal.

I think we can all agree that ebooks aren’t going away–at least not until the Palahniukian apocalypse hits and we’re hunting bison in the Walmart parking lot with clubs and pointy sticks and 17 inch CRT monitors on makeshift trebuchets. I, as I announced last week, am ready to take the ebook leap in some form or fashion (most likely in self-pub form); it would be pretty dumb, I think, to jump into those waters without having a direct, first-hand sense of what kind of critter I’m trying to work with.

So, once AMZ announced the new Kindle units and the subsequent price drop, I ordered one. It only hurt for a second.

Why not a Sony or Nook or one of the low-end Borders units? Simple: Amazon owns the publishing distribution world. Enough said. I’d love to have one of each device, and I really feel strongly about having an epub-compatible unit some time in the future, but for now, Kindle 3 and its MOBI/PDF capability is it.

And I can’t wait. It isn’t slated to ship until the end of August (I ordered the same day as the announcement and got in on the first batch), but I’m really anxious to get my sweaty mits on it. I even have some magazines picked out to convert from paper subs to auto-push electronic.

Review forthcoming. If you come to Vegas, I’ll even let you touch it.

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Kindle==Firestarter

by on Jun.10, 2010, under Random Yappings, Writing

I read a post on Media Bistro yesterday that kind of threw me off-balance a bit (side note: I thought the word I wanted here was akimbo; Google image search “akimbo” with safe search turned off, I dare you). The post was about how Dan Brown’s works had surpassed the Bible as the most-highlighted text on the Kindle. My first thought was not, as one may expect, “Gosh, I wonder why that is?”.

No, my first thought was “Why the f**k is Amazon tracking what people highlight?!?”

You should see what they do for a DRM violation.

I have very much been getting the ereader bug again, but I think Amazon just squashed it under their gigantic heel. It makes me question the whole reasoning behind free 3G access on ereaders; even if, as one commenter pointed out, you can shut it off, I can’t help but wonder how explicit it is when you set your device up initially that your data is subject to snooping and marketing and public dissemination?

What an effective way to kill a great thing.

Anyway, Media Bistro have picked up on the real story on highlighting, and quoted my initial rant in a new article. Feel free to stop by and let Amazon know how you feel about being snooped upon while highlighting the best parts of Twilight.

‡‡‡‡‡

I just–literally, as I was typing this–got a partial request for Amity from a small publishing house I found on QueryTracker. They only wanted ten pages, so it’s kind of a partial-partial, but all I’ve gotten is rejections so far, and I’ll take what I can get. Like Bear Grylls says about the importance of starting a fire at night while stuck in the wilderness: most of the survival game is mental, and you need any lift you can get to keep you going forward.

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