Time for another update on my new and revised ebook business. As I reported in an earlier post, my initial problems with customers not seeing the download link on e-junkie and sometimes losing the confirmation e-mail to spam filters was my fault. The fix was letting e-junkie show their "Thank You" page which includes a download link, rather than my own thank you page, which I'd set up years before for selling books direct with PayPal. Since I made the change last month, the sales process has been nearly flawless, I think I've only had to send one follow-up asking why the customer hadn't downloaded the ebook yet.
I just did a quick scan through my e-junkie account reports, and I can already count ebook customers in 18 foreign countries. The list now includes: Japan, Bermuda, Australia (8), Mexico, Sri Lanka, Netherlands (3), Ireland (3), Cyprus, France, United Kingdom (13), Italy, Honduras, New Zealand, Canada, Chile, Brazil, Austria and Saudi Arabia. It seems to me that in my first month selling ebooks, the split between the US and overseas sales was around 50/50. It's now running around 75/25 in favor of the US. I'm not sure what caused the change, perhaps statistical insignificance, perhaps a change in the wording of my sales links.
The business model of publishing ebooks is remarkably similar to publishing print-on-demand books in one obvious way. While publication takes place when the first copy is sold, or made available to potential customers, the publishing process doesn't involve the creation of stock or warehousing. A single electronic copy is all that the publisher need produce, after which the customer copies are generated by electronic reproduction or printed on demand. Since the books I publish are nonfiction how-to books, rather than literary keepsakes, I'm not married to the idea of killing and grinding up trees for the sake of being a book publisher rather than an ebook publisher.
In the case of my latest book, the ebook is priced at $13.95 and the 191 page paperback (8.25" x 11") at $24.95. An attempt to promote the paperback version immediately led to a crash in ebook sales. I only pushed hard for a week, but I easily lost two ebook sales for each paperback sale generated. That doesn't jive well with my previous ebook experience, where the ebook sales and the paperback sales seemed to be tapping two distinct markets. But there are some fundamental differences with this book as compared with my previous ebook releases. First, the ebook and paperback aren't priced the same. Second, the paperback version on Amazon falls just under the free shipping amount, so customers who are initially attracted to Amazon may get halfway through the buying process and then decide to put it off (forever) because of the shipping cost. When I went back to emphasizing the ebook sales over the paperback sales on my website, the ebook sales bounced right back to where they left off. But the relative shortage of paperback sales may also be influenced by the Slow Tail sales cycle, the idea that a good proportion of customers simply take time to make up their minds. Maybe I'll see a handful of paperback sales this week based on last week's promotion.
Another interesting point about ebook sales vs print-on-demand or offset published distribution sales is the additional visibility into the customer base. My print-on-demand books sales are generally more trackable than regular offset printed sales would be, yet I can only estimate where the books are selling by comparing Amazon and BN.com sales ranks with Ingram sales reports. With the ebooks, I know where each and every copy is going and with a little more work, I could determine exactly which page on my website generated each sale. Unless things change, I can heartily recommend e-junkie for publishers looking for a download solution for their ebooks that ties in easily and painlessly with a third party payment system, like PayPal.