Apr 13

Fellow ebook authors – what platform sells best for you?

It’s now been officially two full months since Gabriel’s Redemption has hit the ‘bookshelves’ of the major ebook distributors. I can honestly say I’m quite pleased with the sales; how could I not be? Three months ago I didn’t even have an ebook, just a collection of Scrivener scenes lumped into a manuscript that was undergoing some massive editing. And now, approaching 100 books sold, for a debut author? I’m thrilled. Rich? No. Satisfied so many people showed an interest in my work, and have been kind enough to leave some fantastic reviews? Absolutely.

But in looking (obsessing, perhaps) over the daily sales numbers in Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Smashwords (where in addition to direct to Smashwords customers, the novel is distributed to Borders/Kobo, iBooks, and Diesel), I noticed a very significant trend in sales. Amazon was cleaning the others’ clocks. I thought about it, trying to figure out why, and came up with a few possible reasons:

  • Public perception – ask anyone to name an ereader; you’ll hear Kindle, then Nook, then, huh? But Kindle will always be first. Whether it’s because of Joe Konrath, or Amanda Hocking, etc. or not, Kindle seems to hold the most mind share. But of course that leads into market share.
  • Market share – at last check, depending on what site you land on when you Google ‘ereader market share’, Kindle led the way with around half of the ereader market. Barnes & Noble recently stated they have 25% of ereader sales, though they backed it up with little to no proof. However, those are probably pretty good indications of where the market stands.*

*I’m not sure if the iPad has yet swept up the ereading public, but it’s certainly on its way…however, since I’ve sold a grand total of zero through iBooks I can’t even factor that in.

  • Me – Yes, me. My blog shows Amazon first, most tweets will have an Amazon link, and any time I’m only able to list one outlet to purchase the novel, I invariably list Amazon. Why? Probably because of the first two reasons. And the irony behind that is, I own a Kobo, a Nook, I’ve ordered an iPad, and there are four iPhones in my household. Not a Kindle to be found…

Looking at the numbers, I’m seeing around a 10-1 ratio of Kindle to Nook sales for Gabriel’s Redemption. Smashwords has a few sales, mostly when I do a promo code, but nothing consistent. So I sit and watch the KDP page, click refresh, and hold my breath, hoping the number goes up by one.

The question is – which platform sells for you? Do you see a significant difference in your ebook sales between Kindle and Nook? Which way, and why do you think that is? Any genre reason? Questions, questions…please help with answers, I can’t bear to keep clicking refresh…

About the author

Steve Umstead

Steve Umstead has been the owner of a Caribbean & Mexico travel company for the past ten+ years, but never forgot his lifelong dream of becoming an author. After a successful stab at National Novel Writing Month, he decided to pursue his dream more vigorously…but hasn’t given up the traveling.
Steve lives in scenic (tongue-in-cheek) New Jersey with his wife, two kids, and several bookshelves full of other authors’ science fiction novels. Gabriel’s Redemption was his debut novel, published in February of 2011.


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  1. B.C. Young

    I haven’t hit the sales numbers you’ve gained, but I can safely say that Amazon is where I have the majority of my sales. That will probably always be the case, unless they lose major market share.
    It’s funny that I can be jealous that you are reaching the 100 sold mark. Although, when I look at everything I’ve written, I’m near 50. So that’s pretty decent.

    1. Steve Umstead

      I’m inclined to agree, although there is some serious, vitriolic backlash going on right now against them with the ‘adverKindle’ they announced. Save $25 but look at ads; I’m sure it’s all inflamed rhetoric, but there’s a lot of unhappy Kindle users threatening to go Nook for the next model…

    2. Eric

      I have an iPad, but pretty much continue to exclusively buy books through Kindle (for the iPad) rather than Apple’s bookstore. My thinking was that Amazon is available for several other platforms and is independent of hardware (mostly.)

      I’m on the verge of self-publishing and this conversation has been really helpful, confirming my intent to only publish on Amazon as an e-book initially…and at $2.99.

  2. R. A. Evans

    Steve -

    Like yours, my e-book sales for Asylum Lake are 90% Amazon and then 10% everything else. I’m sure it has something to do with the ability of Amazon customers to be out there shopping for anything and everything all on one site. Plus, with the chain store uncertainty (B&N and Borders) there might just be more peace of mind with Amazon. Not owning an e-reader myself, I can’t even speak about which e-reader is best, but like you said in your post, the Kindle is synonymous with the term e-reader. Regardless, it’s always best to have all of your bases covered. I’ll continue to format my novels for any e-reader/distributor out there on the off chance that it will turn into a sale.

    1. Jarrett Rush

      Stability is the reason I went with a Kindle. I just didn’t trust that B&N or Borders would still be around.

      1. Steve Umstead

        I actually bought a Kobo at my local Borders using a handful of gift cards I had lying around, mostly for my kids, but it’s great. Since it syncs with my computers and takes ePub, I can get books from multiple sources and load it, so it’ll probably work forever. As for buying books directly with it…not so much.

  3. Jarrett Rush

    On the book I have for sale, it’s Kindle by a mile. I’m just a month and a half in and so far it’s about 10 to 1 Amazon to B&N. Smashwords is actually in second place in sales. My B&N sales are basically non existent at this point.

    In November, I put out a free story with an excerpt of the novella I just released. It took a while to get in the Smashwords premium catalog. Just saw the first set of numbers from the sites they distribute to and I was shocked by what came back. Apparently readers with a Sony e-reader seem to like me pretty well. Or at least thought the freebie looked pretty good. I have quite a few more downloads there than anywhere else. Amazon not allowing freebies means Kindle isn’t in those numbers, but I just assumed that the Nook would be the leader.

    1. Steve Umstead

      Nook leader – meaning you distribute to Nook via Smashwords? I go directly through PubIt at BN, not Smashwords. Probably doesn’t make a difference though…

  4. George Edwards

    Have you thought about selling for 99 cents? I purchased your book already but I was curious on what your thought process was for selling at 2.99.

    1. Steve Umstead

      Actually I blogged on this a few weeks ago; personally I feel a novel, even one on the shorter side as mine is (66k words), is worth the $2.99, and $.99 is a good number for novelettes or shorts, or perhaps as promo prices. I think a regular price of $.99, basically as low as possible, is starting too low, and perhaps diminishes the ‘perceived’ value of the piece. It’s a mindset thing – for years I bought paperbacks at $7.99 and not hardcovers at $15, now I find myself hesitating at $2.99 for an ebook because others are out there at $.99. Unless you’re John Locke or Amanda Hocking, $.99 I feel is simply too low. I tried the $.99 price point for a few weeks, and got higher sales, but not 6 times as much (breakeven point for royalties), and I just felt a little like I was cheapening my product…

  5. AJ Powers

    Well Loose Ends has done much better on Kindle. I have more than 10 times the sales on Kindle than Nook, and about 4 times the sales from that of Smashwords. Kindle all the way!

  6. Tom

    For me I see the reverse. Approaching 40 sales, it’s 6 to 1 Nook vs Kindle. While the Nook is my eReader of choice, I promote the versions pretty equally. So my best guess is that my readers, probably anime enthusiasts, prefer the Nook. Maybe they like it better because it’s easy to put manga on it. Who knows? As for the iPad, I’ve only sold one book there. I wonder if part of the problem is the inability for publishers to apply tags to uploaded books. You only get the ISBN categories which are usually inadequate, especially for my books.

    1. Olivia Brynn

      If your book is a graphic novel, suppose the color nook is driving your BN sales?

      1. Steve Umstead

        That I’ve seen is definitely a key, color screen for graphic novels/comics. Something Kindle can’t hold a…candle to. Oof. Sorry.

  7. Olivia Brynn

    Funny, I was just discussing this topic. Kindle outsells every single one of my other outlets, and B&N specifically about 150 to 1. No, I’m not exaggerating.

    Even though I personally push my publisher’s cart (I get 10% more royalty with each sale) people still buy from Amazon. Why?

    1) That one click buy is very appealing.
    2) EVERYONE has an account at Amazon, few want to be bothered to set one up at a publisher’s cart. Along these lines, everyone knows how to navigate the Amazon website. It’s comfortable.
    3) Kindle apps for my iPod, my laptop, etc. I don’t own a Kindle, but I have a ton of Kindle books.

    If I could figure out how to entice my readers into buying other distribution sites, I would (Buy Direct From Publisher!!) But it’s like swaying the Walmart shopper to a 7-11. Probably not gonna happen.

    1. Steve Umstead

      Olivia, I think your 1&2 are extremely important. Amazon has mastered the art of making it easy to purchase, and for novice techies that are just getting into ereaders, it can’t get much simpler.

      With #3, I’ve got a Nook and it works just like the Kindle, purchase at bn.com, sync with multiple devices, iPhone, Mac, etc. But I also think Amazon has done an excellent job of promoting the fact that the Kindle does that, while BN has to do in-store demonstrations. Amazon just seems more…with it. And probably financially stable!

  8. Lisa Nowak

    Interesting stats. I haven’t got a book out there yet, so I can’t weigh in on this, but it makes sense to me.

  9. Phil Bowyer

    So, I released my book basically in October of last year on Amazon. I sold about 7 the first month, and 9 in November (at least it went up, right?). Then, something weird happened, about half way thru December I launched on the Nook, and it flew off the digital shelves there. Amazon was still weak, but there was a significant increase (prolly do to holiday sales). I ended up selling twice as many books on the Nook as the Kindle, and Kindle had a 2 week longer cycle.

    Month after month, Nook outsold Kindle. It stayed that way until March, when it was like someone flipped the switch. My sales for the Nook have dropped, but Amazon has really blossomed, and is on par with what everyone else has been experiencing.

    Not sure what happened, Twillight Zone? Bermuda Triangle? I dunno, but I have to agree, Amazon is my top sales channel now.

  10. Jenna Lundeen

    Someone I know is running a Nook:Paper createspace Book:Kindle ratio of 1:10:25
    I haven’t uploaded to Kobo/Borders yet, but they are owned independently of Borders. B&N.com is also technically a separate business from B&N stores, and in the event of bankruptcy, the stores might go, but the online sales will stay.

  11. Vlad Vaslyn

    Steve, thank you for starting such a wonderful discussion! As an indie writer who is going to be taking the plunge this fall – for better or worse – I find this debate invaluable and the information hard to come by. Thank you everyone for giving me some sort of baseline!

  12. Gary Anderson

    My Smashwords no DRM ebooks are selling at Diesel bigtime. And Diesel Ebook Store allows you to buy for any reader. They will eat the other stores’ lunch worldwide if the other ones don’t wake up.

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