Experiments in Publishing: Kindle Rush Results

Click here to lis­ten to this post as audio. (Right-click to down­load.)

As some of you already know, back on Decem­ber 27th, I released a sam­ple of my first short sto­ry col­lec­tion A Long Way from Dis­ney on Amazon’s Kin­dle store and used social media strate­gies to mar­ket it. I did this for var­i­ous rea­sons, but main­ly because, as I’ve said here on OC before, I believe authors need to take on the role of sci­en­tists and exper­i­ment with what’s pos­si­ble in today’s pub­lish­ing world. (If you’re inter­est­ed in how I pub­li­cized this, see my recent posts at AuthorBootCamp.com.)

From a sci­en­tif­ic point of view, the exper­i­ment was a great suc­cess. I learned a great deal, which I’ll dis­cuss below. I sold a lot of books (at $.99 each)–around 350 in the first week–and I got my name and sto­ries in front of a lot of new peo­ple. I also heard from a num­ber of them who read the book right away and real­ly loved it! For you authors out there, I hope you can relate: Get­ting pos­i­tive feed­back on your work from total strangers is about the best feed­back there is.

[For those of you keep­ing score at home, those sales put $260 into Amazon’s pock­et and $140 into mine. Not too shab­by, I think, but also not the split an author might hope for.]

Okay, with­out any fur­ther delay: Here are the Results (what I’ve learned) from Exper­i­ment 1:

1)   Timing can be essen­tial. I posi­tioned myself to hit the Kin­dle store just after Xmas, think­ing that with many new­ly gift­ed Kin­dles out there, a lot more Kin­dle ebooks would be sell­ing and that I could cash in on this rush. I was cor­rect in this pre­dic­tion (Ama­zon sold more ebooks than paper copies over Christ­mas), but what I didn’t pre­dict was how much hard­er this made it to reach the Top 100 Kin­dle best­seller list, a goal I had set for myself. I want­ed to hit the Top 100 because it would give the book addi­tion­al expo­sure and stim­u­late more buy­ing from new­bie Kin­dle own­ers look­ing for quick, cheap con­tent.

Ulti­mate­ly, I think choos­ing this time right after Xmas might have helped me sell a few more books. But by not hit­ting the Top 100 list, I missed a crit­i­cal chance to attract more atten­tion on the Kin­dle store. As author Rob Kroese post­ed on an Ama­zon Kin­dle dis­cus­sion board, he was able to hit 300 in books on the Kin­dle best­seller list pri­or to the hol­i­days by sell­ing 30 copies a day. Dur­ing the hol­i­days, he sold 60 copies per day and couldn’t crack the top 500. I should men­tion that the high­est rank­ing I got on Kin­dle Best­sellers was #250, which in ret­ro­spect was a great achieve­ment, even if it came short of my goal. On that note, I also hit #4 in Short Sto­ries, #16 in Lit­er­ary Fic­tion and #40 over­all in Fic­tion.

Would I have been able to reach my goal of the Top 100 at anoth­er time? I’m not so sure.

2)   Making the Kin­dle Top 100 list is actu­al­ly pret­ty hard for an inde­pen­dent author. Ini­tial­ly I fig­ured, how many copies of these books can they be sell­ing? Well, I learned that in actu­al­i­ty the answer can be quite high. A lot of the books on the Top 100 list are actu­al­ly FREE! The Kin­dle store includes many clas­sics in the pub­lic domain—Sher­lock Holmes, Pride and Prej­u­dice, Trea­sure Island, Lit­tle Women, etc. (You can find many of them in OC’s Free eBook col­lec­tion.) And when­ev­er some­one down­loads these free texts, Ama­zon counts it as a sale. It’s hard to com­pete against FREE.  And, for this rea­son, the best­selling ebooks list can be hard­er to climb than the paper ver­sion. (Back in March 08, I made #45 over­all in books on Ama­zon when I tried a sim­i­lar exper­i­ment with a print on demand pub­lish­er and my first nov­el, Jack Wakes Up.)

3) Free isn’t for every­one. So why shouldn’t I set the price of my book at FREE—the web’s new mag­ic price, accord­ing to Chris Anderson—as I’ve done with audio pod­cast ver­sions of all my fic­tion at my site and on iTunes? Well, because Amazon’s Dig­i­tal Text Plat­form (how you put your book up on the Kin­dle) won’t let me. That’s right, as an inde­pen­dent post­ing con­tent to the Kin­dle store, the low­est I can go in price is $.99. It’s true. So who’s post­ing these free­bies on the Kin­dle store? Pub­lish­ers. Includ­ing, you guessed it, “Pub­lic Domain Books.”

There are no sour grapes here. I hope no one will mis­read any of these state­ments as that. But there are some inter­est­ing lessons learned. Would I have made the Top 100 if I had put my book up at a less busy book-sell­ing time? Who knows. But if Rob Kroese can hit #300 by sell­ing 30 books in a day, I prob­a­bly would’ve had a good shot when I sold close to 200 copies on just the first day. I’ll just have to try anoth­er exper­i­ment at some point to find out. When I do, I’ll also cap­i­tal­ize on one more thing I learned in this exper­i­ment about actu­al buy­ing on the Kin­dle plat­form:

4) Non-Kin­dle-own­ers need edu­ca­tion if you want them to buy. Not too many peo­ple out there have a Kin­dle, but any Kin­dle book can be pur­chased on a PC or an iPhone/iPhone Touch. This means that a great many peo­ple can actu­al­ly buy a Kin­dle book, but many of them will need to be edu­cat­ed about how they can do this—something that I tried to enable, but could have done far bet­ter with in ret­ro­spect.

So how did I do? As a writer, the biggest suc­cess of this exper­i­ment was get­ting my fic­tion into more people’s hands and hear­ing strong feed­back from them. As for my writ­ing career and how to pro­ceed with pub­lish­ing exper­i­ments going for­ward, I learned a great deal. I hope you found it help­ful. To talk more about this with me, please com­ment on either of my writing/publishing web­sites: sethharwood.com or authorbootcamp.com, or hit me up on Twit­ter (@sethharwood) or Face­book.

What am I doing next? Going cross-plat­form with this experiment—taking the Kin­dle ver­sion of A Long Way from Dis­ney and bring­ing it to Smash­words (Sony read­er and oth­ers), Mobipock­et (Black­ber­ry) and the iTunes store as an App to enable the con­tent to be read on even more devices! I’ll be back to talk about how that all goes soon!

Seth Har­wood pod­casts his ideas on the pub­lish­ing indus­try and his fic­tion for free at sethharwood.com. His first nov­el, JACK WAKES UP, is in stores now.

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Comments (5)
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  • Greg says:

    Seth, it’ll be inter­est­ing to hear how your expe­ri­ence dif­fers with the oth­er devices. I’ve noticed with Kin­dle that although it does allow self-pub­lish­ers ease of entrance, I’d be inter­est­ed if you feel the same with the oth­er devices.

  • Seth Harwood says:

    Will do. I’ll be back to post on this. Right now, I think I’m head­ing toward hav­ing assis­tance with get­ting onto Smash­words, Mobi and iTunes all togeth­er. Rather than take the time to fig­ure it all out, I might just let a friend help me out.

    More on that as it comes.

    Thanks for your inter­est!


  • Just as an aside, e‑books in Mobipock­et for­mat can also be read on the Kin­dle and most e‑readers out there, not just Black­ber­ries (and Palms, for those who still have them — the for­mat was devel­oped for the Palm, IIRC). Ama­zon’s Kin­dle for­mat is lit­tle but a revamped ver­sion of Mobi.

    I say this because it seems many Kin­dle own­ers don’t real­ize this fact — they can get mate­r­i­al from pret­ty much every e‑bookstore out there, but for some rea­son many media sto­ries out there repeat ad nau­se­am that they’re “stuck with buy­ing on Ama­zon” when it’s not real­ly the case. Get­ting the books on Ama­zon is just a lit­tle more con­ve­nient, with wire­less deliv­ery and all.

    I don’t know how it would affect your exper­i­ment, but there it is. The point is that if you ever try to reach e‑reader own­ers no mat­ter the device they have, your best bet is Mobi, fol­lowed by ePub ver­sions (the only major e‑reader out there that does­n’t accept ePub is the Kin­dle, AFAIK).

  • Seth Harwood says:


    Inter­est­ing point. How can I buy Mobi books on my kin­dle? Or, if I buy them on my com­put­er from Mobipocket.com, how do I get them onto my Kin­dle?

    I’m intrigued. Thanks for the com­ment!


  • Theus says:

    I upload many arti­cles for aca­d­e­m­ic read­ing on my kin­dle. So then I have to place these into col­lec­tions one at a time ‑very time con­sum­ing.

    Does any­one have a hack to do this via the pc while copy­ing? I would like to copy the arti­cles direct­ly into the col­lec­tions..

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