Monday, September 14, 2009

The Great Ebook Experiment Part 2

I should win some sort of award for being disorganized, but if I won it I'd forget where I put it.

That said, I just realized when I switched ISPs, my previous ISP never killed my old email account. So I've spent the last few days wading through a few hundred emails from people who assumed I was ignoring them. And in doing that, I've been ignoring people who have emailed me recently.

But I'm very close to catching up. If you've contacted me about trying the ebook experiment, you'll hear from me by September 18th. If you haven't heard from me by then, try emailing me again at joekonrath(at)

Here's how this is going to work.

I'll need a ready-to-go chapter or excerpt from you, no more than 2500 words, sent to me as an email attachment in either MS Word .doc format or .rtf format.

Included at the end of the exceprt, please list:

1. The Title and your Author Name
2. Date and places the title is available
3. Your website URL
4. A brief two or three sentence bio

Here's an example:

"AFRAID by Jack Kilborn is available as an ebook, audiobook, and paperback, wherever books are sold. Jack Kilborn is the pen name for Joe Konrath, author of Whiskey Sour, Bloody Mary, and several other thrillers. You can find information about Joe at, where you can download many free ebooks."

I'll also need to know which ebook of mine you'd like the excerpt to appear in, along with two back-ups in case the first one is already full.

My plan is to upload the ebooks to Amazon Kindle on on my website on September 26th. They will run through all of October. After that, we'll pow-wow and discuss if this is getting results for people.

I've gotten a lot of private response about this, most of it favorable. Most people beleive:

Ebooks are here to stay.
Excerpts are a good form of advertising.
This is a pretty cheap experiment.

Will ads in ebooks become the norm? I'm betting yes. Ads appear in magazines, newspapers, radio, TV, and all over the Internet. Ebooks, with their zero cost to copy and distribute, seem to be a perfect medium for advertising. Especially non-intrusive ads that feature content.

Time will tell if I'm right...


Natasha Fondren said...

Good luck!

Since you're planning dates... Kindle is way backed up on publishing stuff. Weeks behind.

Maria said...

Yup, reports on Kindleboards are that for "updates" -- reloaded books, it's taking approximately 2 weeks. And that is if Amazon has no questions about any copyright information. Still, you can always shift your start and end dates.

Also--and this is relatively new, while your update is updating, it is most often, listed as "not available" when people try to download it.


Peter L. Winkler said...

"Ads appear in magazines, newspapers, radio, TV, and all over the Internet."

Radio, TV and in some sense, the internet are broadcast media. They reach far more people than does a book with middling sales. According to BookScan, 90% of books sell 2,000 or fewer copies. Successfull newspapers and magazines circulation can only be matched by the sales of a bestselling book.

The only ebooks that get enough eyeballs are bestsellers, so, if the top selling auhors deign to sell ad space in their books, it will be costly and quickly oversubscribed.

There will actually be few ebooks where buying ad space will benefit a fledgling author.

Joe Konrath said...

The only ebooks that get enough eyeballs are bestsellers

SERIAL, my free ebook, has been downloaded well over 120,000 times.

If all ebooks were free, funded by ads, I'd expect similar numbers. I also expect they'll be downloaded in even higher numbers, once more people get ereaders, either stand-alone readers like Kindle and Sony, or smartphone and mini-notebook readers like Stanza and B&N.

Project Gutenberg has 120,000 ebook downloads per day, and those are public domain and largely forgotten titles. What if they had popular books by name authors?

Yeah, I'm pretty convinced this is what the future holds...

Norm Cowie said...

I hate it when ebooks become me (the Norm).



s.w. vaughn said...

I think it's a fantastic idea - dare I say a stroke of genius - to make these "ads" actual excerpts, rather than flap-copy style things. Excerpts are so much more enticing than plot descriptions, no matter how jazzy they are.

If the excerpt is good enough to grab someone, there's a far better shot at actually getting sales from this type of advertising.

You go, Joe. :-)

agbaines said...

If all ebooks were free, funded by ads, I'd expect similar numbers

I'm not sure that's sustainable, at least not as the primary source of income. For starters, being free will certainly inflate the number of downloads, but I'm sure not everyone will actually read it. They just grabbed it because, hey, its free. They may glance at it for a minute and toss it. I know that I have a crap ton of mp3s left over from the glory days of Napster that I never listen to, but I still downloaded them because I could. Someone advertising in a free ebook with 120,000 hits will probably see a much lower return than someone advertising in a not free ebook with 120,000 hits (although these will be much more rare) simply because a greater percentage of the latter will actually be read so their adds will be seen.

Also, in order to make up your loss profits in sales you would have to overly bloat your book with the exerpts. Making up numbers, lets say that you would lose 90% of your downloads by charging $0.50 for the book. That means you would have 12,000 * $0.50 = $6,000 in sales. To make the same amount in a year (and I know with ebooks the shelf life is not limited, but bear with me) you would need to make $6,000 / 365 = $16.4 per day, which at your price is 16 people advertising (rounding down). You will therefore have 16*2500 words = 40,000 extra words tacked onto your 100,000 word or so novel. Thats a lot of bloat.

It just makes the process seem very circular. Authors advertise in the works of other authors, so that they can hope to attract enough readers in order to convince other authors that they should advertise with them. It's like a giant pyramid scheme. It only works if the pool of authors keeps growing exponentially. Otherwise authors just trade money back and forth and the whole thing collapses.

I think it may be a good supplement to the traditional distribution / royalty method, and a good service that established authors can extend to new ones, but it doesn't have the legs to stand on its own as the primary source of revenue.

Joe Konrath said...

They may glance at it for a minute and toss it.

That's how it is with all ads. What was the last magazine you read? Do you remember any of the ads? Did you read them or skip them?

We use DVRs and Tivo to skip commercials. There are whole sections of the newspaper I don't read, rendering those ads ineffective for me.

Also, in order to make up your loss profits in sales you would have to overly bloat your book with the exerpts.

Actually, I have a different business model in mind that won't require bloat and will still allow the writer to live comfortably while giving away books for free.

Excerpts are fine for this experiment. I don't think they'll be the way of the future. I think the way of the future will be print ads, ten per book, at a internet standard CPM.

The excerpt experiment is just a short term variation on a bigger idea.

Blue Tyson said...

Bloat from 200kb to 325kb not really a big deal, unless you have something lots slower than standard dialup, too.

R.J. Jagger said...

The gatekeepers for books right now are primarly the booksellers, and of those the primary gatekeepers are Amazon, BN and Borders. For the paper books sold by these gatekeepers, i.e., physical products, the fences are there. Customers must pay to get the product.

The fences are less ridgid with electronic books, but at least right now in history, they are still there. A consumer must pay to get the electronic book.

There are file sharing sites for ebooks. But they lack the organization, ease, thoroughness, customer review postings, quality and legitimacy of Amazon and BN. Also, the prices at these e-stores are reasonable.

Although the publshing landscape is changing, I don't foresee ebooks becoming a "always free to everyone" market. That means that authors whose works get filted through the gatekeepers will continue to get paid for their creations.

It's not all doom and gloom. For all you future Grishams out there, keep writing.

R.J. Jagger said...

oops, post the prior comment in your "stealing" post, not this one