Lake Atitlan, Panajachel, Guatemala

Monday, July 4, 2011

Getting Kindle Sales

Some time ago I posted here about cracking the code on high ebook sales. Among the many excellent comments, the majority of input seemed to favor "cover, price, concept, and marketing."

Today I compare two titles and maybe come to some conclusions. The two books are put out by WiDo because I can get the numbers with just a phone call, and I'm basically lazy when it comes to research. Also, one of them is my own book, and being vain, I like to talk about myself and what I'm doing.

My novel, Uncut Diamonds, and Ghost Waves by W. Everett Prusso came out the same year, 2009, first published as print only.  I won't go into the details on price, format, sales history as print books, because it's the ebook sales I am most interested in here.

WiDo is dropping the Kindle prices on a few titles this summer as part of a Summer Read-in Special, beginning with these two. Since then, one of them has not done much better than it did before the price cut, while the other has been climbing at a faster pace than ever.

PRICE: They were $2.99 when they first came out on Kindle in 2010. A week ago they went to .99. They have been priced the same from the beginning of their ebook history.


I've always loved the Ghost Waves cover. It's original art, which might be rather outdated by today's YA trends, but it is intriguing, colorful and does a good job of telling what the book is about. I can't imagine this cover hurting sales, and personally I would pick this book up just by the cover. Now to Uncut Diamonds--

This also is original art, although with a more graphic design than Ghost Waves. It doesn't say anything about the book, shows no people, and is somewhat garish with that big flower diamond. I am trying to be objective here and not overly "aw shucks" humble, but if I didn't know anything about either book, I'd be more attracted to Prusso's cover than to mine. Although I do love how mine stands out, and perhaps that inspires the curiosity of potential readers.

CONCEPT: Here's where things really differ for these two books. Ghost Waves is about pirates, high seas adventure, four teens stranded when they fall off their ship as it rounds South America, and then there's the romance element. It is an exciting concept and a fun YA adventure/romance. It is plot-driven. It starts fast and keeps going at a pretty intense clip.

Uncut Diamonds is about a young Mormon couple living in central Illinois during the seventies, when "fuel bills were higher than house payments." It is "Steel Magnolias with Mormon characters," --a character-driven novel, starting slow, with a story that is hidden within the character's lives and dialogue. It is more about people than about plot.

One element they both have in common is Mormon characters, although Ghost Waves doesn't focus on religion nearly as much as Uncut Diamonds. Judging from these covers, and these concepts, which book would you predict has the higher sales?

*long thoughtful pause where everyone thinks about their answers*

*more expounding by me while you think* 

I have always figured that Ghost Waves would outsell Uncut Diamonds any day, anywhere. I wrote this particular novel more for the LDS/Mormon market, and it turned out that LDS women really did not care for it much. Too close to home, perhaps? The worst reviews I've received have been from LDS women. So the religion factor that's strong in Uncut Diamonds truly does limit its demographic. It is not preachy or didactic, because I can't stand that in books, but it does deal a lot with elements of being Mormon, and that's a religion, which might turn some readers off.

MARKETING:  Beyond the initial marketing push done by WiDo when it came out in print, there have been no extraordinary measures taken to promote either title beyond the first two years. Both of us did some signings at bookstores and spoke at several events-- libraries, book clubs, etc. Neither Prusso nor I hired any marketing services. We were advised by the publisher to start blogging and develop an online presence when our books came out. I began blogging at that time, and have kept at it steadily, adding Twitter and Facebook. Prusso set up a word press site, wrote a couple posts and was done there. I believe his daughter started a Facebook fan page for his book, but I don't know if it's still active as I couldn't find it.

COMPARISON RESULTS: Have you guessed which of these books is picking up steam on Kindle and which one is not? Well, here's the deal. Give us your best guess in your comment, with reasons why, and later this week I'll give you the answers. Of course, you can find out for yourself by looking at the Amazon ratings, but what fun would that be?

Come on, play my little game. What do you think?


  1. Your book is getting the best pick-up, because you have a continuing presence in the Blogsphere, along with FB and Twits.

  2. I would say uncut diamonds because the cover and premise are really quite original and I think everyone is looking for something 'different'. Nothing against the other book, but it does look a little too much like Pirates of the Caribbean. Do you think people might think it's rip off of the movie at first glance? Just speculating here. I don't tend to judge books by their covers, but you asked :o)

  3. I'm going to say Uncut Diamonds. You've got the more active blog and while you can pretty clearly see what Ghost Waves is likely to contain at face value, there could be more to Uncut Diamonds that might not be obvious from the cover. That kind of unknown factor can work to your advantage with a significant price drop, as people figure $0.99 is a small price for something that, though it's not their usual type of purchase, might surprise them.

  4. I do often take a longer look at a book based on its cover (When I am in a store) but it is always the first page that is the deciding factor for me. PRIOR to that it is seeeing and hearing about the book on the web that does prompt me to buy it FROM HOME in the first place. So my answer is Uncut Diamonds which I can now admit did not appeal to me because of the cover. Now that I have read the summary you just posted...I am very interested. Central Illinois ??!?! Thats me baby. Can't wait to read it

  5. From the way you've presented it in your post I'd say Diamonds is doing better. But you don't give us any indication of how they were doing before the price drop.

    The two books are clearly aimed at completely different markets so, it may have something to do with which group is more into ereaders and also buys more books. I would assume diamonds appeals to middle-aged women and Ghost Waves to younger women, maybe teens (total guess though).

    Personally I think the Diamonds cover is a lot better, the Waves one looks like a cheap video game.

    I try not to use phonetic spellings, I've read enough books where sentence structure and syntax is enough to give the rhythm of speech (especially southern american writers) for me to feel that's the better way.

    although some writers can really make a feature of it, Trainspotting being an obvious example, but that's rare, usually it's just annoying.

    Moody Writing

  6. The pirate book cover has dated - being more graphic and symbolic, uncut diamonds hasnt aged in the same way, it retains a freshness.

  7. Come on Karen, the covers have nothing to do with it either way.

    You are a blogging social dynamo while William hasn't been promoting at all to speak of.

    It's all about who is working their product and mostly themselves.

  8. I'm with the others here, Karen. I'll be it's Uncut Diamonds, but not really sure why, because they are so different and are for different markets. Your blog presence most likely has a lot to do with it.

  9. If there's no other special marketing going on, I would say Uncut Diamonds. Word of mouth makes a book take off but that WoM has to start somewhere, pretty much with the author. And it's not a one-time thing. You're active in the places where your readers are and that's what it takes.

  10. Since you're letting us guess, that means yours, although I would figure with the popularity of young adult the other one would be doing wel..

  11. I'm going to say yours, Karen, because I don't think YA sells that well on Kindle, unless it's by a major author. If you look at the top 100, the majority of the book are aimed at adults. That's my take on it, anyway!

  12. I'd guess that your Uncut Diamonds would be doing better because of your social media presence. I've read books after reading author blogs, and I have yours on my to read list.

  13. Hi Karen .. I have no idea .. but like the others I'd guess yours .. I'm looking forward to reading your finished research with verdict!

    Happy Fourth of July ..

    Cheers Hilary

  14. Hi,

    I don't think "Uncut Diamonds" has a bland cover. It had artistic merit, and in any case I'm a woman so Diamond anything catches my eye!!! ;)

    Maybe I should have called mine "Rape", it has a risque rape scene and maybe sales of my novella "Her Favoured Captain" would soar!! ;)


  15. I'd say your book outsells because it's less genre restrictive - or rather it's genre wide. I guess the cover of Ghost Waves immediately says - action adventure with pirates. While yours says - lit, women's lit, chicklit. Now I'm going to hide! take care

  16. I think Uncut Diamonds is the bigger seller. I think it appeals to a wider market. The cover is eye-catching and looks professional. Ghost Waves looks like a standard pirate story. Not everyone likes pirate stories. I also think there is a higher percentage of adults using kindle than teens (just a guess) therefore GW won't appeal to as many. Also the cover looks a bit dated and fussy.

  17. I LOVE your cover and I believe it's selling better. Pirate books are more limited. I my opinion human drama will always be a better sell.

    I've seen the difference between my two novels. My first an m/g fantasy. Charming, sweet, and a fun mystery. The other, an edgy Y/A contemporary.

    Which do you think has more interest?

  18. I'm interested to hear your answer, but I will say I've always thought the cover for Uncut Diamonds is striking.

  19. I'm guessing yours, Karen. I bought it on the strength of reading and liking your blog, and Ghost Waves, while it looks great, is only going to appeal to one kind of reader. However, I can see a lot of people deciding to give Uncut Diamonds a shot.

  20. I'm not sure about the marketing strategy bit but going on the cover alone I would pick Uncut Diamonds simply off the shelf because there's a bit of enigma there but I don't know if I'd buy it after reading the book blurb because as soon as I saw the title I thought black diamonds so my expectations are totally different to what its about. That could be just because I live in the city of Gold and Diamonds of course. The other cover has a Mills & boon thing about it which immediately has me thinking: I'm so over that. Which is doing better: Uncut Diamond is going by the intrigue alone.

  21. I didn't check the ratings on Amazon, but before posting this response I did go to Amazon to look at the titles. Uncut Diamonds has reviews, and is rated 4 stars (congrats!), while Ghost Waves has no ratings. On that alone, I'd say Uncut has the edge. I think a huge factor in what people buy (given the huge choice out there) is what shows up on their recommendations. While there, I bought three titles just because they were recommended and were highly rated.

  22. I would also say Uncut Diamonds. A presence is all important. You need to put yourself out there to keep interest alive. Your writing has reached such a worldwide audience through your excellent blogging. YAY Karen!

  23. First of all, can I just say, I loved Uncut Diamonds. Maybe it's because I'm not Mormon. It's the Mormonism that I found intriguing in the book. I love learning about different cultures and this book did just that.

    Now, on to the debate. Personally, I think yours is doing better because you market it a great deal more. However, I haven't read the pirate book so I can't say how much appeal it has. I like your cover better but it's true, it doesn't match the story at all. Can't wait to find out the results.

  24. OK, I'll play! At first I was going to say Ghost Waves, because of the cover and content, and because YA is hot. Then I was thinking Uncut Diamonds because of your superior and active web presence.

    But in the 99 cent game, I'm thinking it really comes down to getting on a list that touts your novel...which is both.


    I'm going to vote Uncut Diamonds.

    Can't wait to hear the results! Thanks for sharing this!

  25. By cover and concept, I would guess Ghost Waves, just because everyone seems to love Pirates of the Caribbean, so it's like free advertising for pirate books :)

    I don't know much about the demographic for ebooks, though.

    Uncut Diamonds would personally appeal to me as a woman, with or without Mormon elements. I can't wait to hear the results!

  26. I think it's Uncut Diamonds because of it's cover and concept.

  27. My vote is for Uncut Diamonds. I think the whole marketing concept would be really hard but I definitley think that is the future of writers. Really getting their stories out there.

  28. I'm going to say your book and not just because I like you. ;) There's a lot to be said for artists who keep a steady presence, even if it's not in an in-your-face sort of way. I find myself drifting away from celebrities I follow in different ways because they aren't there. How can you hope to connect if you're standing by yourself? So, go you!

  29. Brutal honesty; I'd pick Ghost Wars over Uncut Diamons if they were side by side on a display at a bookstore. I'm a fantasy reader first; given the choice. And yeah, the cover is a selling feature, b/c I expect a lot from the novel content based on the cover.

    However; if I were browsing WiDo covers expressly, I'd pick Uncut Diamonds, and the cover would have nothing to do with my choice. Well Uncut Diamonds cover wouldn't; but the fantasy/piracy theme wouldn't fit my concept of Wido publishing, so that cover would actually be a deterrant.

    Not that I'm opposed to religion in adventure; but I don't think I'd like to read it in a colonial pirate adventure. The appeal to Pirates of the Carribean - for me - isn't totally Johnny Depp, or the schwashbuckling moralality of good vs evil and the fine line; but it is the exploration of legends, myths, and alternate moral codes. No definitive lines.

    When I see such an adventure from WiDo publishing, I worry about the moral/religious content, and the bias of the publisher.

    And I bet I didn't at all get my point across here. Uncut Diamonds is more in line with my expectations of WiDo publishing; Ghost Waves would disappoint me with its religious persuasion.

    Maybe if Ghost Waves showed pilgrims, a more puritan style of dress, I'd be more likely to purchase it from this publisher. Side by side in an exclusive spiritual bookstore; Uncut Diamonds because I don't expect anything from the cover, but it is pretty and flashy. I'd read the back cover, which would have to sell me. The cover of Ghost needs a corroberating back blurb to make it sell b/c the cover tells a story about the novel also.

    Just my opinion as a reader, ya know.

  30. Uncut Diamonds and I know where I'm going after I leave this site--my Kindle needs a new book :)

  31. Like everyone here, Karen - I'd go for Diamonds. So blogging and being a social media whirl does really work? Great stuff!

  32. I can't believe you left your post on a cliffy! I'll guess that price cut in combination with a strong on-line presence sets Uncut Diamonds ahead in sales. Yes?

    And by the way, I love your cover.

  33. Reading the post, I would say the bigger seller should be your book. But, considering the subject matter of your book and the cover on his, I would say, his book. (I love your cover, but it seems to me that his might appeal to kids more. But that only works if kids are out there buying ebooks.)