Friday, July 23, 2010

Some Notes on Publishing Killing Trail: Part 3

This should be the final post on publishing Killing Trail via Amazon’s Kindle ebook program. This one is mostly about the text itself, and about my results so far.

Text Issues: I purposefully decided not to make the first line of the stories flush left. Printed books do this but it always bothers me. Perhaps I’ve read too much stuff in manuscript form. Anyway, since it was my book I’d, as Cartman says: “Do what I want!” I indented the first line of all paragraphs, which looks better to me and improves my reading experience.

Whatever you decide to do about indents, however, you use the “paragraph” function on your word processor to set the margins. If you use the space bar to indent, it won’t come out right. You can manipulate the margins directly for the first line if you don’t want it indented. Always remember, though, that you can kindlize different versions of your manuscript to study before uploading it. That way you can use trial and error, if needed, to get the indents right. I’ve seen quite a few Kindle books that have indents all over the place and it does detract from the reading experience.

I picked up the margin information from Natasha, and I also learned that you need to create a hard page break after each section, as at the end of the table of contents page, and the end of each story or chapter in your book. There are a couple of ways to do this. You can put your cursor where you want the break to be, click on the “insert” button on your MS Word Menu and select “Page Break.” Or, you can put the curser where you want the break to be and hit the CTRL – ENTER keys. This doesn’t mean, necessarily, that the table of contents page will always appear on one page in an actual Kindle document, because the amount of words on a page depends on the size font the reader selects. However, it does make sure that chapter 2 starts on a ‘new’ page rather than a few lines down on the same page as the end of chapter 1.

Uploading Your File: After you have your file the way you want it (or before), have a look at the “Getting Started Guide” offered by Amazon here. You can also register and login from that page, which you’ll need to do to publish for Kindle. There is a very helpful video that walks you through the publishing process here.

Getting Paid: Amazon will pay you by check, but only when you’ve accumulated about 100 bucks. If you want to get paid before that, you’ll need to give them a routing number for a checking account so that the money can be deposited directly into that account. They apparently do this about every 60 days. I decided to set up a new account just for writing purposes and used that routing number instead of the one to my primary checking account. I’m not sure there’s any risk, but I’d prefer to take a chance with a 100 dollars instead of the several hundred in my regular account. I haven’t gotten my first pay from Amazon yet.

My Results Thus Far: And now for the good news and bad news. That is: Sales. The good news is that, between Monday, July 5th at 8:39 a.m. and Friday, July 23rd at 1:30 p.m., I sold 33 copies of Killing Trail. I make $2.07 per book at %70 percent royalties on $2.99 (minus .03 cent delivery charge), so the total comes out, according to Amazon, at $61.08. That’s $61.08 I didn’t have before. That’s a nice dinner for two at our favorite restaurant. But that’s not the whole story, of course.

The bad news is that I sold only 33 copies of Killing Trail in about 2 and a half weeks, and I laid out 25 bucks in giveaways before I even started. The bad news is that I sent several hundred emails to folks, did a blitz on my blog and on Facebook, got a big front page write-up in my hometown paper, spent 8 hours or more a day for most of the first week promoting the book…and sold 33 copies. During that time I also bought about $35 dollars worth of Kindle ebooks (and some printed books) from friends, to help them promote their work, and I know that most of them did return the favor. Take away 60 from 61.08 and I’ve got about enough for a MacDonald’s value meal. That’s still not the whole story, of course.

Honestly, I didn’t expect to do a whole lot better than this. I said going in that I’d like to sell 50 copies in the first two weeks. I figured 100 copies was real pie in the sky stuff. And, of course, the book is out there now and may continue to sell some copies over time. I can hope a bit of buzz develops. I can hope.

And, I also had good news in the form of some very nice reviews of Killing Trail. Those who read it genuinely seemed to like it, and that means a whole lot to me. I’m sure others are doing much better with their ebooks than I’ve done. Maybe they’re better writers than I am. Or better promoters. Or both. But they can’t be any happier when someone tells them that their stories are valued. I’ll end with a couple more of those reviews below.

From: O’Neil de Noux
KILLING TRAIL is a wonderfully familiar dusty, road - a thrilling ride of vengeance, unfulfilled love, sweaty saloons, bushwhacks, shoot-em-ups, bloody villains and cowboy heroes. What is familiar is not cliché when penned by Charles Allen Gramlich. The stories in KILLING TRAIL follow the tracks great western writers have left (Zane Grey, Louis L'Amour, Elmore Leonard, William W. Johnstone, Ralph Compton, Loren Estleman, John Edward Ames - the list goes on and I can't list them all). Gramlich joins the posse with stories of vengeance, right versus wrong and bullets flying. I highly recommend this book.

From: Gary Addis
The stories in Charles Gramlich's Killing Trail collection offer plenty of action, and surprisingly thorough character development as well.


JR's Thumbprints said...

Hey Charles, when you kindlized "Killing Trail" did you have even margins on both sides. What I mean by that is did you or did you not have "ragged edges?" That was the tricky part I had to deal with in the design of my first ebook.

Charles Gramlich said...

I didn't right justify the margins in the manuscript I uploaded. I suspect that will cause problems on Kindle because folks can change the font size so dramatically. However, it came out right justified once it was published.

Angie said...

Charles -- on the sales numbers, I can see why 33 sales in 2.5 weeks is kind of depressing on the face of it, but you'll have a more accurate picture of how things are going in a couple of months, and then six months later, and then a year after that. A lot of folks will add a book they want to a wish list, whether the one on Amazon or one on another site that sells books or just a list on paper or on their computer, and pick a batch from the list whenever they have book money. I do that, and a lot of other people I know do too; that's why wish lists are so popular on retail sites.

I get wanting to see sales Right Now -- I'd certainly prefer if everyone dashed out and bought my own books as soon as they released :) -- but getting on those lists is the first step, and I'll bet Killing Trail is on a lot of them.

My bestselling e-book so far is A Spirit of Vengeance, and the first quarter sales were only 23% of the total. And that's so far; it's still selling in spurts. You have a long way to go before Killing Trail will have been out for a full quarter, and even then that'll only be a quarter.

You'll have that nice dinner -- just give it a bit more time. :)

And this:

But they can’t be any happier when someone tells them that their stories are valued.

Yep, that's always awesome. And that's why I still write fanfic, even if it's much less than I used to. A Hidden Magic has gotten one review so far, after having been out for about a month and a half. It was a wonderful review and I appreciate it very much. I've also gotten half a dozen notes from individuals telling me how much they enjoyed reading it, and that's awesome too. But I can post a piece of fanfic and within a couple of days get forty positive comments, including a bunch that quote the bits that they loved and say why, or tell me where they laughed or cried or cheered. That's worth an average royalty check right there. Of course, I'd love to have both the feedback and the money [wry smile] and I'm working toward that end, building up my backlist and my readership, and sales (and feedback) are increasing as I go.

But writing, like all art, is primarily about communication. Getting concrete confirmation that I'm communicating, that other people get what I'm saying and appreciate it and enjoy it, makes it worth the time and effort. There are easier ways of making more money than 99.9% of us will ever make with our writing -- that feedback is what this is all about.

Congrats on the reviews! :D

Angie, who has Killing Trail on her wish list and Bitter Steel sitting on her TBR pile

Tom Doolan said...

I'm no expert, but I'd wager that part of the slow sales is the genre. Western aren't the "in" thing these days, no matter how well-done they are. And yours is definitely well-done. I agree that, given time, you'll see much more success with this one.

Ty said...


About Amazon and the money thing: They've been paying me directly into one of my accounts for about six months now, and so far there hasn't been a problem (knock on wood). The money is there about the first of the month, and yep, it's about 60 or so days behind. My biggest gripe is the 60 days; whenever I have a good month on Kindle's DTP, I want my money now!

33 sales in two weeks isn't too bad for a new book, especially a Western (unless your name is L'Amour or maybe Johnstone). Don't fret it. More sales will come. They always do. I've yet to figure out what really affects my sales, other than that Amazon reviews tend to gain me a few.

Deka Black said...

Charles, part by part:

1-This series is good. with capital G. Is better learn from actual experiences rather from a arid "how to" book. This is far more closer to your readers/fellow writers.

2-This is my i-hope-good-new. Actually,i', without job. Like many others. But, this next wednesday i have a job interview. So, if i get it (knock wood until drill it), i have three plans:

-Help in my house

-A travel with my girlfriend (a saint, she have more patience than Saint Job!)

-And buy at least "Sword of Talera". Then you will can say "hey, i have a european reader!" ;)

And of course, good luck with your sales ^^

RK Sterling said...

Well, make that 34 now, Charles. :) I just got my copy.

And I feel you. Since I put my short story on Smashwords in April, I had 781 downloads when I offered it for free. But when I put the price at .99 last month, I sold 1-count it-1 copy. :/

Ron Scheer said...

Charles, my hats been off to you so long I'm getting a head cold.

There's so much to learn about how this new medium of distribution is going to work (and pay), but I keep thinking of Jakob Nielsen, the usability expert, and what he said about Web content: as long as something is out there and available to readers, they will continue to find it. I could be dead wrong about this, but epubs have a potentially endless shelf-life. Printed books just don't have that. Ebooks don't get remaindered; they don't go out of print.

When I kept a website that over time accumulated a truckload of pages, I could watch the traffic, and it didn't seem to matter how long something was up there, if it was useful, people kept finding it.

This seemed to bear out Nielsen's point. As long as it's there, readers will continue to find your book and want to have it.

And, remember there is a host of readers who haven't yet bought their kindle. Count me among them. Like most people, I'm not an early adopter; but the tipping point is rapidly approaching. When that happens, we'll start learning a whole lot more. Meanwhile, "Killing Trail" is on my wish list.

I applaud all that guerrilla marketing you did to launch the book and get it some attention. That wasn't a waste of time and effort. I've already written too much here, but as a former marketer, I'll just ask that you believe me.

You did good.

Travis Cody said...

It'll be 34 copies as soon as I get my Kindle, which I ordered last night. The reasons to buy finally exceeded the reasons to wait. I should get it on Tuesday.

Yours will be my first Kindle book purchase.

Charles Gramlich said...

Angie, thanks for the encouraging words. I'm certainly not bumming in general, just thinking about the work hours to payoff ratio. Trying to make a living from creative efforts is so tough. But the readers make all the difference. Not having done this before, I also kind of figured that 90 percent of the sales would take place in the first couple of weeks. I'll see, and hope some future quarters are good and steady.

Tom, I'm sure that's the case. I know someone who published an urban fantasy recently who seems to be doing quite a bit better in sales, but I know that is a popular genre right now. Still, there are a lot of folks I meet online who really do like westerns. I wouldn't have had many sales at all without some of those folks.

Ty Johnston, I'm trying to keep pretty careful records on everything so I can see what works and doesn't, both for myself and for my blog readers, who will get to hear all those reports down the line. 33 is definitely a whole better than 2.

Deka Black, I also know that the economy is not that great right now, so folks are struggling, here and over there. I appreciate the kind words. I've actually been pretty lucky lately in other monetary endevours, which has given me enough to buy some books. Not everyone is so lucky.

Kate Sterling, cool, Kate. Thankee. I've certainly downloaded quite a bit of free stuff myself. I'm going to go to Smashwords later this evening.

Ron Scheer, That's certainly what I'm hoping for, that an investment now will pay off down the line. Only time will tell, of course, and I do know quite a few people who are just now thinking of getting Kindles or ebook readers. And I don't think the ebook market is going to shrink anytime soon.

Travis Cody, hum, a Kindle virgin eh? :) Thanks, man. I appreciate it.

BStearns said...

Thanks for all this info Charles, it was very great insight. When I need to upload something in Kindle format, I know I will refer to these notes. Thanks!

Deka Black said...

You're welcome, Charles. ^^ By the way. I don't know if was your intention, but i started remember this series by his colours. The green article, the blue one...

pattinase (abbott) said...

Some one needs to go into the business of figuring out a way to publicize ebooks more widely-to get the word out beyond your personal reach. Then it will take off, I think. Until then, it's going to be slow going.

Charles Gramlich said...

Bryan, glad if it's been of help.

Deka Black, that actually was part of my intention. that's how I remember them too!

pattinase, the reviews are probably important for that. I need to see about getting more of those, although it's not so easy to ask for reviews when you can't send them an actual copy of the kindle book.

laughingwolf said...

thx for the update and tips, charles, have compiled all three into my notes, and passed em on to pals...

Cloudia said...

e publishing drove me mad with stuff like this! I'm coming to understand that I have attention issues that have shaped my whole approach to life and my life's results. I've done a LOT with discipline - I only realize how much now. My eyes glaze over when something like this is explained to me, but I've learned how to put brick on brick with intense focus.
Thanks for the insight, Doc :)

Aloha from Waikiki, Charles

Comfort Spiral

Aloha from Waikiki

Comfort Spiral

Charles Gramlich said...

Laughingwolf, I'll eventually put them all three together as well, probably for the Illuminata.

Cloudia, it depends on the topic. Sometimes I enjoy this kind of step by step focused thinking. Most of the time not.

Steve Malley said...

I'm loving the Trail, will write my review once I get my act together a little bit...

You gonna upload to Smashwords, too?

Charles Gramlich said...

Steve, I haven't really looked into smashwords. Can I upload it without any issues from Amazon?

Jessica Ferguson said...

Charles, thanks so much for details, details, details.
BTW, I have writer friends who swear by Twitter. Give it a try. I just tweeted a link to Killing Trail.

Charles Gramlich said...

Jess, I'll have to look into Twitter. I just don't know if I have any more time than I'm already using. Thanks for the tweet, though! :)

Jessica Ferguson said...

Hey know how short tweets are.:) Just tweet in the morning, again at lunch and then once in the evening. That'll get you started. When you decide to do it, be sure to put a bio and your blogsite on your profile. From what I've read, people don't like to follow anyone who doesn't have a bio.

D.B. Grady, one of our BWG members, connected with an editor on twitter and he's now writing for The Atlantic. He lives in Baton Rouge--you may know him. Of course, he tweets a lot and aggressively. I have shy tweets. I find twitter very intimidating. :0 Along with FB and other social networks that put me "out there." But you'd be great at it 'cause you actually have something to share! Have a great Sunday!

Heff said...

COMPLETELY off topic, but your photos are starting to SCARE THE HELL out of me !!!

Charles Gramlich said...

Jess, thanks for the info. I will definitely look into it and may give it a try. I should learn more about it at any rate.


Oh, did I laugh that out loud?
No need to worry, the colors are only to further obscure my overly handsome face.

Lana Gramlich said...

Don't feel bad, hon. The only photo book I've sold so far was to me. <:\

Issa's Untidy Hut said...

First off, this series will be incredibly helpful for quite sometime and you deserve a big thanks for that.

Second, I'm continuing to enjoy "Killing Trail" - great job.

Third, I think that you probably need to continue getting the word out. Question is, how to do it without sinking in tons of time without commensurate return. I know sidebars can be quite cluttered but a link to purchase Killing Trail on your sidebar would be great. Paypal on that sidebar next to the book would generate some sales - I got some Lillie subs that way when I added it. Since you've just got a separate account for amazon (I did the exact same thing when I became a seller for them) you can use that to set up Paypal at low risk (actually, no risk - I've been selling for amazon for years and never had a problem, ditto Paypal).

How about a quickie webpage for the book. Links and texts of reviews and blurbs from readers. Samples: the first two paragraphs of a story or a selective passage. I'm just thinking out loud here cause I'm no marketer myself.

Take a look at this webpage if you haven't seen it already ... Westerns Writers of American ... lots of contacts on the bar along the top.

The price of your volume should lure people in. Thank you for making it available so reasonably and for the great stories.

Charles Gramlich said...

Lana, well, your's is a bit more mulah than mine is sweetness.

Don, I have the covers on the sidebar clickable but I might be able to do that paypal thing. I'll have to see if I can set that up. I didn't know I could even do that. Thanks for the tip. Glad you are enjoying Killing Trail.

BernardL said...

It's a very promising start Charles. Very good series.

Charles Gramlich said...

Bernardl, I appreciate that, man.

Unknown said...

One thing should be noted about publishing to Kindle. When you go through the upload process, and think you're done, and get sent to your bookshelf, and see your book may not be done. If the "status" column shows READY, it has not yet been published to kindle. Scroll farther to the right than may be be displayed on your browser (I use Firefox) to a column labeled "actions". Click on the drop down then on EDIT. Your book is not in the kindle system and being readied for publication till the "status" shows the next step, which is IN REVIEW.

Charles Gramlich said...

Gary, thanks. You're right. There is a lag from the moment you upload it to when it is published. I should have pointed that out.