Looking back on my Kindle short-story project, here are the lessons I've learned in 2014. Hearken to my words, aspiring e-book authors, and let's see what you can gain my from my experiences...
*For starters, short-story collections sell better than individual short stories. I've sold nearly 30 copies of my collection Flashing Steel, Flashing Fire, which debuted in June. In contrast, my most successful short story has been I am the Wendigo, which had 14 sales or borrows this past year. My supervillain-protagonist tale Übermensch had 12 sales or borrows, while The Beast of the Bosporushad 11. This is something "the rock star of the small press" William Meikle has experienced as well--he's consolidated his short stories into multiple collections like Flower of Scotland, which I own, rather than selling them individually.
*Needs Must, the sequel to "Ubermensch," wasn't a strong seller (six buys or borrows), but it exceeded Illegal Alien and equaled Melon Heads. I'd posted before about how I worried that my Patel stories weren't selling well, so this is a pleasant surprise. I've got a partial for a third Andrew Patel story written, so maybe it'll see the light of day.
*If your product is cheap enough, you'll actually get more royalties per borrow than per buy. My royalty for a borrowed short story is nearly six times per that of a purchased short story. However, if your royalties are relatively high (say 70% of a $10 book, like FSFF), then a borrow rather than a buy is a significant step down. This might explain why so many authors more successful than I have been complaining about Kindle Unlimited I didn't put FSFF in KU because Nicor, one of the stories in the collection, is available elsewhere online. Unless the borrow rate goes up significantly (which Chuck Wendig has suggested in his recent blog post), it's going to stay where it is.
*I have made zero sales with "Nicor," possibly due to it being available online elsewhere for free. I was gambling on the cover art and the portability of a downloaded e-book vs. a website (you'll be able to read it whether you have an Internet connection or not) as something one couldn't get just by swinging by a website, but it looks like that gamble didn't pay off. Still, I'm not taking "Nicor" down anytime soon. Things might change.
*If you really want to make money, do what my friend Jeff Baker suggested and generate sales through volume. Most of my income lately has been coming from setting a story or two free for a couple days, which encourages the occasional buy or borrow. This risks becoming a source of diminishing returns if I don't keep supplying new material. However, posting FSFF on Amazon spiked my revenues for months. "Nicor" fizzled, but there are extenuating circumstances. I've got a kind of bizarro story I'm working on now called "Little People, Big Guns" that might be my first independently-published novella (I don't anticipate it being very long), since it's more goofy and comedic rather than the thoroughly-twisted stuff a lot of the bizarro markets seem to want.
(That said, maybe I should consider Eraserhead Press first--their novels Shatnerquest and Shatnerquake seem goofy rather than grotesque stuff like The Bighead. "Little People" might be too short for their purposes, but I haven't written too much of it yet.)
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