Improbability is in the Details

Abra Staffin-Wiebe's Journal

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Ebooks - The First Bump
I had no expectations for how "Salvaging Scottwell" would do. It's a novelette, not a novel. I'm a relatively unknown science fiction author. I have no idea how many copies will sell. I priced it at $.99 since that sounded about right for something less than a novel. In the first two weeks, I've sold 18 copies. I'm guessing that's pretty much all off of the initial "telling friends, fans, and family." It's not a lot of sales, but I'm pretty happy with it.

The first sales bump spread out more than I had expected. For the first three days, I had multiple sales. Then it dropped down to about one sale a day, and now it appears to be at a couple of sales a week. Of course, this is without the distribution that Smashwords promises; that will take another couple of weeks to go through.

The first sales were mostly on Smashwords, then Amazon caught up and kept having a sale a day while Smashwords was dead. Now Amazon hasn't had any sales for a few days, but Smashwords is popping up now and then.

An acquaintance of mine who writes reviews did review "Salvaging Scottwell" on Amazon and Goodreads, and I do believe that prolonged the initial sales bump. Reviews are awesome! (If you've read this story and liked it, you should write one!)

Joel, a friend in my writing group, has added his own $.02 about the unpredictability of ebook sales:

From my experience, I'd consider waiting on the KDP Select for a while with a single story.

Here's why; I put out one of my short stories in February of 2011, distributing to the various avenues (it was a mystery story that had been previously published in an anthology). The most it sold in any one month was 12 (in January, 2012), which was through B&N's PubIt program. Then at the end of July, it suddenly took off, and sold about 200 copies in 10 days (also through PubIt). The only thing that I can account for this is that it became associated with some other books in the "also bought" category that were selling well, and therefor made this story more visible. Sales have cooled off again for that title, but I ended up selling about 400 copies of it in 2012.

One of my collections sells well at the Apple bookstore, but not anywhere else.

My novels tend to do better on Amazon.

So, imo, it's best to have your ebooks distributed as widely as possible, since you never exactly know which avenue it's going to click in. And the 'clicking' might take quite a while, too!

This makes the reliability of this experiment rather suspect, but I'm still looking forward to seeing what happens!

Sales So Far
18 copies sold total

11 copies sold of Salvaging Scottwell on Amazon (Kindle)

7 copies sold of Salvaging Scottwell on Smashwords (many formats)


I'm really impressed by Smashwords' usability. They've got neat graphs that show when people looked at the page, how many downloads there were when, and how many sample downloads there were. They make it easy to see where the ebook is in the distribution process to the different "channels" they offer--Sony, Apple, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Diesel, etc.

The distribution process does take longer than I expected. As of two weeks in, Salvaging Scottwell has been "shipped" to most of the channels, but it doesn't yet appear for sale on them. So all sales reported for Smashwords were purchased directly on their site. And it does not appear to capture what formats people downloaded the ebook in, alas.

Smashwords sends an email notification every time a copy of a book sells--as far as Amazon is concerned, that's peanuts, and you'd better log in to check your report if you want to know that kind of detail. That pretty much sums up the difference between them.

Amazon for Kindle (KDP)

I am not yet enrolled in KDP Select, which allows library lending and free days, and I haven't explored the communities. The reports available for KDP are pretty basic--so many sales per month, so much in royalties so far, etc. Their focus is clearly on the consumer, and honestly, that's as it should be. There were a lot of hoops to jump through to get it formatted right for them, but hopefully that pays off.

Posts in This Series
Ebooks - The Afterlife of Short Stories?
Ebooks - The First Bump
Ebooks - The Chirping of the Crickets

The most important thing is, you have it in place, ready to (seemingly) randomly take off the next time something you do or write about gets noticed. We can't really control how or when that happens, but it will happen.

Absolutely. I hate seeing published stories sitting around doing nothing after their brief time in the sun. I think it's super-important that whoever wants to give me their money has a way to do so! Finding the best way to do this is tricky, but I'm working on it.

You just sold one more copy on Smashwords. :-)

Yay! So Smashwords tells me. I hope you enjoy it! And I'm curious--what format did you download it in?

I'm sure I will, given how much I liked Circus of Brass & Bone. And I downloaded it as an .epub.

I snagged a copy (via amazon) and am glad I did. Very enjoyable.

Yay! I'm pleased you liked it.

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