Zombie Novellas

NOTE: This is about novellas, short stories and other ebooks that do not sell.  It is not about the Zombie novellas as a genre!

OK, lets say your novella or short story sold a few copies then went into rapid decline like This One did. Now, two years on, instead of giving you that small but consistent income you were hoping for, it has dropped to a sales rank so high it resembles the number of dollars you were dreaming of making when you started writing.

What should  you do?

Most folk (myself included to date) leave it up on Amazon. But is this a good idea? You may get an odd sale. Even the odd flurry of sales. But really, it is highly unlikely this little ebook will ever get resuscitated.

Its a goner. Shuffled off this mortal coil. Snuffed it. Gone to that great hard drive in the sky where nothing ever gets downloaded from.

You can try breathing life back into it with KDP freebies and whatever else springs to mind. But the crucial thing that seems to govern the life of almost all ebooks, is simply its age. As it gets older it gets less saleable. In the first few months of its existence it is fresh and new. It gets discovered by people looking for the fresh and the new.

Then as time goes on it gets discovered less and less. Its decreasing saleability due to its age meshes with its decreasing discovery. Then its rapidly down-hill from then on. It slides into the twilight zone to join the other couple of million Zombie novellas clogging up Amazons hard drives.

So What’s one to do with Zombie Novellas?

In my opinion, when it ceases to be able to sell more than at least few copies a month it ceases to have worth. You (me!) would be better taking it down and reworking and republishing it. Or if it really is a goner,  just taking it down.

Inevitably there will be ebooks that defy this. But most will not.

I also think it is worth getting rid of poor selling ebooks off your authorship. They are poorly selling for possibly good reasons. You can damage your reputation by having a dog amongst the diamonds.

Well, that is just my opinion. I’d love to know yours.

Kind regards


Sales Analysis: A Poor Selling Short Story

In the last post I displayed the statistics for the first of three short stories I wrote a  few years ago. The sales performance of this first ebook was hardly spectacular. But it took less than a day to write, format and then submit. It was also just an experiment. So taking all into account, it wasn’t bad. I made a couple of hundred quid. In this post I want take a real no-hoper and do some sales analysis.

A year after I published the first ebook I thought I would have another go using a related story using the same theme. The idea was to try and boost both stories by getting them to trade in off each other. But the performance of this second ebook was even worse than the first. I suspect its performance resembles many ebooks that get put up on Amazon.

The statistics for this second ebook are a closer match to the general age related decline of ebook sales than the first one was.

From an earlier post (Here), the proportion of all Amazon ebook sales compared to their age since release looks like this.

The decline in sales as an ebook ages

Now the (very mediocre) sales for this second ebook look like this

ebook sales graph


Even with Freebies the Sales Analysis is Dire

Even with two freebie sessions it wasn’t up to much.

ebook sales graph including free copies

Notice that the two freebie session that were run here were on the first day and on the day that formed the first peak in graph 2 (and also the first trough in graph 1). So it would appear that this second freebie simply hollowed out sales for that day.

Either way by the end of one year I think it is clear from this basic sales analysis that this Kindle short story was dead, assuming it was ever alive in the first place! So with this low performing ebook  it didn’t even take a year for us to figure out it was a lemon.

So what should I do with this and its (moderately) better performing, though now equally dead friend? That’s going to be another post.

Kind regards


Lifespan of a Short Story eBook.

In my last post (Here) I looked at how the ebook Novella and short story market appears to be overcrowded. I went on to surmise though that maybe it is not as bad as it first looks. Could it be that as most novellas and short stories seem to have a very brief shelf life? Which would mean the author of a new novella would be competing mostly with corpses.

If that is the case then there is some good news.

The good news is that the market is not swamped. Or at least, less swamped than we thought. Sadly though there is some bad news too.

The bad news is that you little Novella will not last long. Enjoy those royalties while you can!

In this post I thought I would try and gauge how long the average Novellas life is likely to be. Sadly I don’t have any data on real life Novellas but I do have some on a short story, published back in 2012. So I’m going to use that. As always this is JUST MY OPINION. This was published a loooong time ago and there were lots of things to distort its sales and marketability but even so, I think the data is quite interesting and maybe still relevant today.

A bit of background.

Eons ago ( well… 6 years) I was planning to get into publishing ebooks as a business.

I had a dastardly cunning plan. Sadly, that plan got trampled over by technological advances. Particularly by Amazon simplifying the production of mobi ebooks. (The Swine!)

Hey Ho. Never mind.

Anyway as part of this dastardly cunning plan I needed to actually produce a couple of ebooks simply to have something to experiment on. As a consequence of this I wrote a (very) short paranormal story.

More by luck than judgment I produced a great front cover (never managed it again!) and a killer title. It had interesting though unspectacular sales. Which was hardly surprising. (No I not putting it up here for you to buy!).

Needless to say beside KDP giveaways I wasn’t really marketing this. It sold itself.

As a result I would surmise that it is actually quite a good benchmark for many (if not most) short stories and novellas. With KDP Reports you can get the data of all sales (including give-aways) back to release date. So I plotted this out.

While it (sort of) proves my idea that short ebooks have a similarly short life, this particular short story seemed to gain life over the first year! Then it peaked and died.

Life of a Kindle short story

I’ve put the graph including giveaways below.

Life of a kindle short story including free copies

Comparing the two I do wonder whether the KDP giveaways (to be fair in 2012) were worthwhile or just cannibalized my potential mediocre sales. Is this typical or just an anomaly? I do not know.

So why did my crappy little story last so long? There are a number of possibilities. One is that in 2012/13 the ebook market was expanding explosively and maybe my crappy little story just rode the boom.

Maybe as well, people today have become less willing to pay for a 20 page story. Even if it was at the lowest price point. As a test I tried another KDP giveaway last month. I shifted 3 copies! Now I cannot even give it away!

But back to my idea that novellas may have a short but spectacular life.

Maybe we need to modify my idea that a novella or short story will immediately peak on release then die a quick death. Sometimes they may pick up speed and peak even a year after release. But after that peak (from this experience) it is down hill all the way.

I know it is all very anecdotal and based on old data, but it seems to stack up.

Inevitably there will be short stories and  novellas that sell for decades. But I would still suspect, (delayed peak or not) that most will be derelict within 18 months of launch.

Maybe it will be worth looking at why some ebooks “wear out” and others do not. But the next post is going to be some analysis on an even worse performing short story. This time it matches what I suspect happens to most 100 page or less stories on kindle. Then I’m going to give my opinion on what to do with a derelict ebook in the post after that.

Kind Regards


Novella Sales are NOT Dead!

(It is just old novellas smell funny)

So how do novella sales compare with other ebook formats? Look at this graph I picked up from Data Guy on AuthorsEarnings.com. Like all of the Data Guys information, it is immaculate. Everything on his site is worth a read. (Frankly I’m in awe). There is no reason to doubt the graph below at all. But, I do not think it tells the whole story.

Best Sellers by page count - authorearnings.com
reproduced from authorearnings.com

First let us look at it and agree what I think we are all seeing. Especially with regard to novella sales.

What it shows is that while there is a huge quantity of ebooks under 100 pages in length, they are not getting a proportionately similar quantity of downloads.

So from an quick look at this chart the novella author is presented with a number of less than savory options.

1. Live with the increased competition from their peers and fight harder in a crowded arena.
2. Pad out your novella to novel size proportions without destroying the plot. Then compete with the likes of Danielle Steele.

Either choice offers a daunting prospect for the new author.

But is this the whole story?

Novella sales – the decline with age

Let us look at how ebook sales depend on their year of release using Amazons 2017 sales. These are ALL ebooks novellas, novels, weighty (electronic) tomes of psychiatric data. Everything.

The decline of ebook sales since release date

Notice this is not a nice exponential declining curve, let alone a straight line.

In the first year of aging, sales virtually fall off a cliff. There is a noticeable kink at one year. While the rate of decline decreases, it is still painfully rapid. The we start a long tail of decline until we find 10 year old ebooks contribute a tiny fraction of Amazons revenue.

But it is much worse than this!

The fate of ebooks (and print books for that matter) is highly Darwinian. They die and (sales wise) they often become extinct.

I would suspect that the sales of 10 year old ebooks will be almost entirely taken up by a handful of ever-green titles. Most ebooks released 10 years ago will have no sales at all (or at best very few).

Using the Darwinian paradigm again, the rapid fall in year one is nothing short of a mass extinction.

Novella sales, Lemmings and mass extinctions

So does this apply to Novellas?

I would expect that Novellas are in essence the Lemmings of the publishing world. They lead that charge over the cliff edge. I would suspect that a huge proportion of Novellas are (sales-wise) extinct within 12 months to 2 years.

While there millions of Novellas on Amazon, I woulds suspect that very few other than the latest releases, get downloaded.

The net result of this is that while a new Novella ebook release may appear to have a huge mountain of competitors, a significant number (almost all?) will in fact be (sales-wise) derelict and so will not form any competition.

So maybe writing and selling Novellas isn’t such an uphill task after all!

Just don’t expect to make money out of them over the long term.

Which brings me to my next question:

How long is a Novella or short story’s brief but starry life? And what should you do when the sales drop to zero?

I have some anecdotal data and (more) opinion in the next post.

Kind Regards


Kindle eBook Sales USA versus UK

Just to wrap up the last set of blog posts on how many ebook sales you can expect from a specified sales rank, I thought I would just compare the pluses and minuses of  Amazon sales rank performance on the different Amazons. The series started On This Link

We know that by far the biggest market for ebooks is the USA. Below is the relative quantity of ebook sales by Amazon in 2017 by English speaking region. Bear in mind Germany is a bigger market than the UK.  Japan is nearly as big. There will be more on these two markets in a later post.

Relative ebook sales by English speaking country

In fact Amazon USA made five ebook sales for every one ebook sale in the UK.

The relative sizes of the USA and UK markets have interesting consequences for ebook sales ranking. In essence it would appear to be far easier to get on a best seller list in the UK than in the USA. But the consequence of this is that for a given sales rank you will be selling far less copies in the UK than on Amazon USA.

So there you go. Selling in the UK market has its good and bad points.

It is good because you get a higher sales ranking and so greater visibility in the UK.

But remember that visibility is to a smaller market.

UK ebook Sales: A marketing Pitch for the USA?

Still, it would be a great marketing pitch on Amazon.com for an author selling into the UK market to give their UK ranking in the USA ebook editorial. Even if you do not feature in the USA best sellers list you can gain some promotion from the UK list.

You know something like:

# 15 Best Seller in the the UK!  Three weeks running! (or whatever)

Kind Regards


Amazon Sales Rank (UK) The Long Tail

Amazon.com shifted over 400 million ebooks in 2016/17 Amazon.co.uk managed just short of 85 million. So the ratio of ebook sales between the two Amazons is of the order of 5:1. Unsurpringly the Amazon sales rank for the same ebook differs greatly between the two Amazons.

So, are the sales ranks of amazon.com and amazon.co.uk totally independent? I think so. Inevitably there will be books that sell well in the USA and badly in the UK and vice sa versa. So to have the same ranking for both would be self defeating.

Obviously for very popular books (international best sellers) then often the rankings will appear similar. But if you look at ebooks selling smaller numbers, especially into niche national markets, the divergence can be huge.

Which brings us to the point of this post which where I will attempt to explore the long tail on UK Amazon ebook sales and how it relates to Amazon UK Sales Rank.

In my last post (Here) I presented a graph of what I think the overall UK sales for Amazon Sales Rank will show. Sales rapidly tailed off for Sales ranks of 10,000 or more. The tail off was so rapid that in that graph the data was was illegible for any sales rank higher than 10,000. So here below is closer detail on sales rankings 10,000 and above in the UK

If you use a linear x-axis its shows just how appallingly brutal the fall off of sales gets for increasing page rank.


To make it a little easier to see the decline I have used a logarithmic scale for Sales rank in the graph below using the same data.

From an earlier post the USA benchmark of one sale per day gives you a Sales Rank of about 125,000. In the UK for the same sales rank you would be selling just over one per week. In the UK it looks like one sale a day will give you a sales rank of about 35,000 – 50,000.

The even Longer Tail

So what about the really low numbers? It gets difficult to graph out figures for anything below 100,000 so here it is as a table.

Bear in mind that when you get down to this very low level of sales every individual book sale will in all likely-hood significantly change your sales rank for a short period of time. So it would be best to think of these figures as a long term average.

Well anyway, that is my opinion. I think it holds together. Please feel free to agree/disagree in the comments section (moderation is on to avoid spam – but your contribution will appear shortly)

I would particularly be grateful for anyone to give me their figures so we can test this beyond my own input.

Kind Regards


Amazon Sales Rank (USA) Long Tail

In the last post (Here) I tried to graphically present how many ebook sales per month you could roughly expect for a particular sales ranking on Amazon. This was fine for those shifting 1000’s a month. For those with a sales rank under 10,000 it was useless. The resolution on the graph was simply not up to displaying the highs as well as the lows. The long tail of Amazon sales just blurred into the x-axis

So here is the long tail or sales rank in excess of 10,000.

The long tail of Amazon ebook sales

You can see the very rapid rate of sale decline with increasing sales rank. It is easier to get a gauge on this by using a logarithmic scale on the x axis (Sales Rank)


The long tail of Amazon ebook sales logarithmic

The (even longer) Long Tail

Again we lose resolution for those on a sale rank higher than about 100,000. So here is the even longer tail.

The even longer tale on Amazon ebook sales


What this tells us is that to sell one ebook a day you need a sale rank of around about 125,000.

If you have a sales rank of 1,000,000 then you will be selling about 30 ebooks a year. If the sale rank is 2,000,000 then you will be at the end of the long tail. You will be selling around 15 ebooks a year.

Bear in mind that at these very low sales it is highly likely that a couple of sales will massively shift that sales rank for a short period of time. So these estimates are very much for sales figures over a long time – like a year.

There are over 5 million ebooks on Amazon. So it would militate that over a year a large number of these ebooks, (maybe half or more) are selling virtually no copies at all.

This of course, only applies to Amazon.com. Ebook sales at Amazon.co.uk are approximately one fifth of those at Amazom.com. As you can imagine this significantly changes the number of books you can expect to sell for a given (UK) sales rank. See my next post for some more graphs. This time relating to UK ebook sales.

Thanks for your time.



Amazon USA Sales Rank

This is going to be one of a series of posts. I am starting with the Amazon USA sales rank  and how it can be used to give an indication of the number of ebooks being sold for that ranking. There are a number of tools out there that already do this and they (more of less) correlate with each other. But they are a little like a fruit machine. You put in your sales rank. Pull the handle. Out pops an estimate of the number of books you need to sell to achieve that sales ranking on Amazon.

I thought it would be nice to present this data graphically so we can all see what is going on right across the full Amazon USA sales rank spectrum. I intend going down to where a ebook is selling only a handful of copies a year. This is below the resolution of the fruit machines.

Also, as far as I can find, all the tools and other data relate solely to Amazon.com. In subsequent posts I will give figures for Amazon.co.uk which for me (being a Brit) is of at least the same interest if not more.

The figure we are interested in is the one that is listed at the bottom of the product details for a particular eBook. Its called Amazon Bestsellers Rank. All ebooks that have sales will have one. It looks like this (ebook chosen at random)

A typical Amazon USA Sales Rank

The fruit machines (or at least some of them) use data returned from authors who have revealed their sales figures as well as their sales ranking. There is also a range of published data that give ballpark figures for particular sales rankings. Though most of these are at least 2 years out of date.

I slung this all together, averaged the results, tweaked the figures slightly to accommodate the rise in Amazons rise in ebook sales to 2017, then put it into Open Office Calc and churned  out a set of graphs.

So is this accurate?

Well, no. This is going to be ball park only.

Bear in mind that for books selling low quantities then each sale may well significantly change the rank. Regard this as a running average and a rough one at that. But I do not think you will get anything better elsewhere ( at least for free!) It will also give you an idea of what to expect.

Its nice to be able to see roughly how high the mountain is sometimes. You do not need to know its exact altitude.

Here is the first graph for sale rank from 1 to 2,000,000. Obviously its great if you are ranked under 100 but after that things get blurred.

Amazon USA ebooks sold against sales rank

Notice on the above graph I have had to use a logarithmic scale on the x axis (Sales Rank). At least using this you can get a gauge of how sales fall rapidly with Sale rank. The bulk of the sales lie in Ranks 1 -1000. But simply because there are so many ebooks (5 million +) those that sell one copy a day or less make up 20% of Amazons sales. Anyone with an Amazon USA sales rank over 1000 will not be making a living out of this.

In my next post I’ll explore sales ranks in excess of 10,000 with a higher resolution

Thanks for your time.