EBooks & How JA Konrath Makes Me Green With His Green

So, I’m selling ebooks on Amazon’s Kindle. I’m hardly the only author doing this right now – whether it’s traditionally published or “indie” – but I am experiencing far fewer sales than a lot of other folks, and frankly, I have no idea why. The short of it is my stuff simply isn’t selling as well as other authors and I’d like to figure out why. This isn’t a plea for a sympathetic sale (although if you want to grab any of them, that’s cool, too!) but more an open workshop to help me diagnose the problems I’m having moving ebooks. I’ve spent a lot of time trying to figure it out on my own and with a few close friends giving input as well, but nothing seems to move the books.

Over on author JA Konrath’s Blog he writes frequently about his success selling ebooks on Amazon. The guy’s on-track to make $100,000 this year from ebooks sales ALONE! Now, I don’t know about you, but I could certainly find some uses for that extra hundred grand, hence my sincere desire to see my ebooks sell into those levels that Joe does. I mean, a hundred grand from ebooks alone? Color me green with freakin’ ENVY! That’s amazing, inspiring and depressing all at the same time.

So, I’m opening the floor up here: tell me what I’m doing wrong. Tell me what you think the problem is and maybe we can workshop some stuff to see if things pick up. I’m utterly fascinated by this problem, so any and all advice/input is sincerely appreciated.

Here’s a list of links of what I’ve got for sale right now on Amazon. Please use the comments section to chime in and tell me where I’m screwing this stuff up. Honesty is very much appreciated!

NOVELS – $1.99

Shadow Chaser


This Time of Night

NOVELLAS – $1.99

Fool for Green


Prisoner 392
The Brank of Khosadam
Down the Street Dead
A Different Kind of Cupid
I, The Courier
Night of Reckoning
Hancock’s Tunnel
The Trunk of Aristhius


Social Media for Authors: Facebook Fan Pages

All right, there it is. Fire away and tell me what I’m doing wrong. Is it my breath? Do my feet stink? What?

Thanks in advance everyone!

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  • Robin O'Neill May 28, 2010  

    I sold a book yesterday and let me assure you, I was pretty darned thrilled to do that.


  • Ellen Fisher May 28, 2010  

    The first thing I look at is always covers. Your Parallax cover is awesome. The Shadow Chaser cover is good, too. However, the Vicarious cover is much too dark; I can’t see much detail in the thumbnail. In fact, even when it’s enlarged I can’t read the title. That one, at least, might be overhauled to your benefit. Ninja is similarly dark– I can see the title, but I can’t really make out what the cover image is supposed to be. Redoing it with a strong, clear central image might help.

  • Alastair Mayer May 28, 2010  

    This is total guesswork on my part, but one thing I noticed looking at your books vs Joe Konrath’s is that your covers tend towards darker and monochrome whereas Konrath’s tend to brighter colors. Joe has said that covers make a difference (they’re what attracts a potential reader’s eye first).

    You might experiment with a couple of different covers and see how that affects sales.

  • Scott Nicholson May 28, 2010  

    Genre makes a huge difference, and there’s the inescapable fact that “Nothing succeeds like success.” Selling well moves you up the various charts where you are more likely to be seen and bought, perpetuating the cycle. There are too many factors in success–luck and timing being two of the biggest–to make any comparisons with other authors. Even if you did the same thing Writer X did, you’d get a different result.

    Scott Nicholson

  • Joe Konrath May 28, 2010  

    Your covers are professional, but when shrunk to thumbnails they are dark and hard to read. I’d suggest bigger font, and brighter colors.

  • admin May 28, 2010  

    Thanks so much everyone! I really appreciate the time you took to check things out and comment. At this point, it looks like I need to re-evaluate my covers. I’ll definitely do that.

    Joe – very much appreciate you chiming in (and yes, I’m still jealous as hell! lol)

    Thanks all! Keep the comments coming!

  • WD Gagliani May 28, 2010  

    I could have written your post, LOL. Well, minus the backlist.

    I am going through the same rethinking with my one self-pubbed title, Savage Nights. I agree that your covers are perhaps too dark, although I think they’re excellent. But excellent at book size. At thumbnail size, they are hard to see. I still don’t understand why covers are so important in ebooks, when you can’t even see them in color (on Kindle anyway) or touch them. My cover is bright blue and up-sizes nicely, but the two images (ship and pistol) are probably too invisible at thumb size. So, even though I can’t quite figure it out, I’m starting to believe that the covers play a role. I don’t have time to redo mine, and a very good designer put it together for me based on my images, so maybe the elements aren’t that good. Your elements ARE. But then, your rankings are also better than mine.

    I think Parallax doesn’t need anything, and when I checked it WAS your best-ranked novel, right? May be the proof we need…

    Good luck, man!


  • admin May 28, 2010  

    Thanks Bill! You raise some good points about covers – it was my thinking as well that they would play less of a role for ereaders than in print, but it appears we were both wrong, lol…live and learn, huh? Thanks for chiming in, man, much appreciated!

  • WD Gagliani May 28, 2010  

    Jon, I’m taking a break from cramming the last few K into my soon-it-is-due novel, but I couldn’t resist jumping in because, besides wanting to increase my sales, I find the subject fascinating. I have always loved cover art — I’ve bought books of covers, and all the Hard Case Crime books as much for the covers as the books, and I’ve always noted good cover art, etc., so I thought I knew some stuff… but this is a whole new equation. Who knew a cover would be so important to people who can’t even touch it! But I get it — it’s the big, bold images. I wonder what will happen when almost every ebook carries a big, bold image. LOL, then we’ll all be back at square one — make the covers smaller and harder to see, to stand out from all the bold ones!

    I’ll keep an eye on your experiments, as we all did on Lee Goldberg’s!

    Best of luck,


  • admin May 28, 2010  

    Ha! Great point, Bill! And I share your love of great cover art – nothing like it. Thanks for keeping an eye on this, I think it’s utterly fascinating to see what helps move stuff along!

    Be well,

  • PA Woodburn May 28, 2010  

    Now you have me worried, I am having my cover designed. It was going to be dark on dark because it has that kind of title. I called up my designer and asked them to lighten it. Hope I’m doing the right thing. I did
    buy your facebook book. I’ll be watching this carefully.


  • Tracey A May 28, 2010  

    Hi Jon,
    Obviously covers are very important – I’ve noticed a huge difference in sales in my two kindle titles and one simply has a better cover than the other. But, having said that I also believe that timing, placement, luck, word of mouth – most of which is out of your control and yet I think that all those factors are equally important. Who knows – next year it could be you with the $100K sales.

  • Marlena May 28, 2010  

    I have purchased some of your books. I read your vampire books before the ebook craze. Where are your vampire books in the list? Vamps are pretty popular right now! 🙂 I just looked them up and see that people have your books for sale for outrageous prices. Is there a way for you to get those on amazon as ebooks? This is what led me to buy Vicarious and Parallax, because of a history with your other books.

    Also, wasn’t JA Konrath on bestseller lists before Kindle? I read his series before Kindle. I do not remember how I heard of either series..

  • J.A. Marlow May 28, 2010  

    Okay, you asked for the critique. 🙂 I opened up a few of your links at random and here are my initial thoughts. Take or leave them as you wish. Hopefully a few will help.

    NINJA: The cover is way too dark. It doesn’t attract the eye at all. Yet, if one looks past the dark colors there is a lot of action going on. It needs more contrast. The description also needs a lot of work. Don’t say the style right off the bat, give us the hook to make us read the rest of the blurb. Use more action verbs. What is there right now looks more like a broad description for the series, but not about this book. There is no hook to invite me in to read the sample or even to finish the blurb.

    FOOL FOR GREEN: A Frank Steel Job: This cover has more contrast, but not much color. Humans love color. Perhaps more eye-catching colors would help? The blurb description was better on this one, but in a way a little too short. You might want to tweak and play with it to see if you can sharpen the hook while also giving a little more description of the story itself.

    VICARIOUS: Oh wow. Do something about the cover. Way too dark, not enough contrast, can’t easily read the title or your name. You have a spotlight on a very intense stare. Add some color to it! The description could use tightening with more of a hook for the very first line. On this particular blurb it might benefit from a different formatting. Perhaps with a really catchy hook for a first sentence that is also its own paragraph. Then the second paragraph holding the rest of the story description?

    SHADOW CHASER: A better cover, although it feels like an awkward composite. I’m wondering if a red background flaring out from the cross-hairs that fades into the white might tie it together? Hmm. I’m not sure about that (it’s a Friday and the graphic designer of my brain shut down on Wednesday). Anyway, the blurb description is better. It titillates, but it doesn’t feel complete. It feels like there should be a paragraph under the three you have that gives a bit more description of the book as well as the big push on why the reader should read it.

    PARALLAX: I like this cover the best of all of them, but I think it still needs more color, even if it’s with the title or writer name. The blurb needs to be updated. For one thing it says “For a limited time – just $4.99” when the book is now $1.99. In reading the blurb I feel like you have a good hook, but it needs to be refined a little more. Plus it could do with a little formatting. It felt like it wanted to be at least two paragraphs. Considering this sounds like it has a lot of action in it, the pacing of reading smaller paragraphs might subconsciously infect the reader with the same action (an action of wanting to buy something exciting). As an aside, I liked the last paragraph as catching a readers interest. 🙂

    I took a quick look at the thumbnails of your author page. Some of them didn’t shrink down very well, making it hard to see what the subject shown might be. Thumbnails are important to get someone to click through to read the blurb. Some of the covers I don’t think are accomplishing that important job. The short stories have monochromatic black and red covers with titles that are hard to read. They give no indication of what excitement may lay in the stories themselves.

    Oh yikes, that turned out long. I wanted to end this with a note that I think several of the books sound interesting. If you are able to tweak the presentation I think you would see a sales response.

    And keep writing! 🙂

  • Dave May 28, 2010  

    Hi Jon,

    I think your books sound very good, but you really need to upgrade a couple of the covers to make them: fit in with books in your genre, look good in a thumbnail, and develop a consistent style that is uniquely yours.

    Shadow Chaser: Not a bad cover- I can tell the genre at a glance, and it looks good in a thumbnail. I’d make the title and author name larger and the image a bit smaller. I’d like more from the product description. As a reader, I want and need more information before I make my purchasing decision.

    Parallax: I disagree with the other posters. I think this cover is killing you for more reasons than what it looks like in thumbnail. The title and author are too small and pushed too far to the top and bottom. The two faces suggest “stock photo”, and the overall presentation doesn’t resemble many (if any) covers you’d see on best-selling books in the genre. Also, the font choice and effects on the title font suggest “sci-fi”. You have the psychic bond plot device, but this otherwise sounds like a thriller.

    Vicarious- Plot description is pretty good, and interests me as a reader, but I’d never have gotten past the cover. Too dark, title and author too small and pushed out to the edges, artwork too generic.

  • A.P. Fuchs May 28, 2010  

    I’d just like to quickly chime in and say I agree with Scott Nicholson that genre is a big player, perhaps even 50% of the battle?

    The mystery/thriller genre is huge. A lot of readers I know are big on it. Horror? Not so much. Sucks, but true. Niche horror? I’m finding that to be a good market horrorwise.

    Then there’s the argument of picking a popular genre because it outsells others in an effort to pay the bills and then write in your favorite, close-to-the-heart genre as a more for- fun thing–but that’s selling out if you’re just writing in a genre “just because it sells.” The heart needs to be there somewhere otherwise it’ll show in the final work.

    I think you should compare yourself to other authors–big name or small–in your genre and see how they’re selling. To not so do is like comparing oranges to pineapples. Of course things won’t line up.

  • Ellen O'Connell May 28, 2010  

    Piping up now when everyone else has mentioned the same thing may be gratuitous, but here I am. For some time I’ve seen your posts on Kindle Boards and every time I think that that row of covers that’s your signature line is just too dark and forbidding. Every time I also feel a twinge of envy over how professional the cover of Parallax looks, and since your genre is so different I think I must be wrong about what works for your kind of book. I do think it’s important that the title and author’s name can be read on the cover, even at the postage stamp size that appears in an Amazon search result. When the lettering isn’t legible it just makes a fuzzy spot on the cover. I’m sure you can find a happy medium where you don’t lose the mood you want to evoke but heighten the appeal.

  • Erich May 29, 2010  

    Your covers look great. Good reviews. Maybe if you had a few sample pages? Get a reader hooked with that killer opening paragraph.

  • admin May 29, 2010  

    Thanks Ann! 🙂

  • admin May 29, 2010  

    Good point, Tracey – thanks!

  • admin May 29, 2010  

    I was holding back on them due to having a new publisher for the series, but since they’re dragging their feet now, I’m going to put them up shortly. Thanks!

  • admin May 29, 2010  

    Wow, thanks for the in-depth response! Much appreciated and duly noted!

  • admin May 29, 2010  

    Thanks Dave, ‘preciate the dissenting opinion! 🙂

  • admin May 29, 2010  

    Well, my work is pretty much all over the place so genre doesn’t necessarily concern me in that I’m not trying to a “horror” writer or a “thriller” writer per se. So if genre is indeed key, then I ought to be seeing more sales in one than another. So far this month, for example, NINJA has outsold PARALLAX by a 3-1 margin…but thanks for chiming in!

  • admin May 29, 2010  

    Thanks so much, Ellen – I really appreciate you stopping by. And not to worry – the more people who chime in, the more consistently apparent the problems become! 🙂

  • admin May 29, 2010  

    Sample pages where exactly? In the description itself? I thought Amazon already enabled samples to be downloaded or am I not doing something there? Thanks!

  • PA Woodburn May 29, 2010  

    Jon: After reading your blog I had my first cover for my first novel totally redone today. It’s still a bit dark, but not as dark as it was before.


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