My eBook Experiment, Success and Predictions...
Per my earlier post, I posted two pieces of my short fiction on Amazon.com for the Kindle.
They are "Melon Heads" and "I am the Wendigo", both of which had cover art done by Udo Wooten. One of the reasons self-published works don't do well is because they often have really bad cover art, and thanks to Udo, that wasn't a problem.
Here's what I've learned so far. Both sales and free giveaways were highest in September, the month they were released. I made 16 sales of "Melon Heads" and 6 sales of "Wendigo," gaining me $7.70 in total revenue, along with a combined 300-ish in giveaways. However, come October, "Melon Heads" sales had drastically declined, with one sale (and a refund) and "Wendigo" sales had vanished entirely. I've set them to be given away free today (Oct. 14) and tomorrow (Oct. 15), and so far I've given away five copies of "Wendigo" and eleven of "Melon Heads" (the latter mostly in Britain for some reason). Hopefully word of mouth would generate some sales after the free period ends.
My friends Jeff Baker and James R. Tuck both had offered advice on the matter. Jeff said people he knew who were living off self-published eBook revenues made money on volume. James agreed with his point--his advice on making money by Kindle-publishing short fiction was "churn and burn."
(I have seen at least one cross-purchase--someone who purchased "I am the Wendigo" also purchased "Melon Heads." I imagine the more I write, the greater this effect will be.)
I do have a fair bit of unsold short fiction inventory, although some of it is unsold for a reason. I've got a Lovecraftian Western called "Old Daniels' Mine," for example, which is a mess whose length makes it problematic to revise. I've heard short stories aren't really worth the time you put into them, so I would probably be better-served working on my longer stuff rather than tinkering with this even if I could make a few bucks in the short run on the Kindle.
However, I do have some unsold stories that are in much better shape.
1. "The Beast of the Bosporus"-The Grand Vizier of the Ottoman Empire decides to think outside the box after the Battle of Lepanto, and gets involved with the affairs of the Great Old Ones. I wrote the earliest version in 2004 and have been cutting it since then, removing excessive description--an earlier version was described as "Toynbee with monsters"--and even one entire character. Like "Melon Heads," although it's now a much stronger work, I don't have many places left to send it.
2. "Illegal Alien"-Also a college story, this one tells the tale of a group of undocumented immigrants who stumble into the middle of an alien war in the Arizona desert. It also shows off my propensity for awful puns. I've been revising this one for awhile and have been running out of markets to send it.
3. "Breeding Pair"-The title alludes to the practice of collecting male-female pairs of endangered species to ensure there's a safe, viable breeding population somewhere. As applied to humans, this risks venturing into rather raunchy territory, although since I have no interest in writing trash, things don't get very far. The story also ventures into the idea that Christ visited alien races as well, as expressed in C.S. Lewis's essay "Religion and Rocketry," which is contained in his book The World's Last Night, and Alice Meynell's poem "Christ in the Universe."
I've never even sent this to my critique groups, so this might be a bit premature. However, it is set in the same universe as "Illegal Alien," which I'm much more likely to Kindle-publish, and given the content and subject matter, it risks being too risque for the Christian markets and too Christian for the secular markets (on Critters, someone complained about "alien snake Jesus"), leaving self-publishing my only option.
To provide cover art, I may expand my repertoire of artists to include Alex Claw, whose work can be found here. Alex seems more focused on depicting human beings than Udo is, and I've already put some thought into what he might be able to do for "Illegal Alien" and "Breeding Pair."