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Amazon Sales: Is there gold in them thar hills?

justineSo this weekend a friend threw a party to celebrate the return of her prodigal son. This was good. Even better: a strange conversation that came up, a real eye-popper.

My friend says a man she knows publishes 5000-word pornographic novelettes on Amazon. He tries to upload one a day — about thirty a month. So far he has 265 of these things for sale on Amazon. And…

…hang onto your hats, fellow frugalists…

AND the guy says he’s earning thirty grand A MONTH from sales on this stuff. Price is $2.99 a title, of which he gets 70%. That would work out to gross income on sales of $2.09 per sale per title. If each title sold once a month (about what Slave Labor is doing), he’d make about $530 a month. To generate $30,000, he’d have to make 15,000 sales a month: on average 57 sales per title each month.

That’s outrageously high, but for porn? Maybe not so much. One woman — a stay-at-home mom with a gift for fantasy — at one point was scoring (heh) a hundred thousand sales on a truly goofy concept.

In 2013, Amazon claimed to purge its offerings of the spicy stuff, but that appears not to have been so: a search of Amazon > Books > erotica brings up this amazing selection (avert your eyes if you’re the nicey-nice type!).

Lordie! There’s a hundred pages of hits! As it were.

Well. I don’t know that I could write porn, or that I would want to.

However, if what’s selling is 5,000-word pamphlets (in print, 5,000 words comes to about 12 or 14 pages), why not serialize the fiction that I do have???

FireRider, which is ready to go and has been languishing because my e-book guy is doing essentially nothing for me, would yield 32 installments if it were broken into 5,000-word chunks.

And what should I discover but a vast line-up of FREE Word-to-Kindle converters on the Web. You can use Amazon’s converter, too, which might be more likely to produce something that will work. What if I divided FR into 30 serial installments and mounted one a week or even one a day on Amazon?

I do not need to earn $30,000 a month. To achieve my life’s dream, my heart’s wish — never to read another freshman comp paper as long as I live — could be accomplished with $1200 a month.

At $2 a hit, about what our porn-writing informant says he takes home from Amazon, each of FireRider‘s 32 serial installments would have to sell just 19 times.

That’s a lot, in the world of Amazon. But it’s not impossible.

And now, my friends, the plot thickens:

Considering what I have that I might put online in small pieces, I went in search of the Novel Under the Bed: to wit, a story I wrote in graduate school, when I was trying not to stare at the train wreck I was making of my life by getting a Ph.D. in English literature and history.

And lo, way in the back of a dust-filled garage cabinet, I found the damn thing!

This manuscript, folks, is so old it was generated on a typewriter!

Yes. My first out-of-the-writing-seminar, in-the-wild-effort at writing fiction.

It’s just AWFUL! As a grad student, I could not write to save my life, apparently. However, it opens with a crazy action scene. Its heroine’s co-conspirator is a pimp. One of her mentors is his favorite ho. She falls in love with a gangland leader. And wouldncha know it, she’s a Ph.D. candidate.

Sociology, though. Not English. 😉

Well, I’m thinking it wouldn’t take very much now to pump this thing into a Word file, rewriting on the fly and adding some serious sex scenes, thereby coming up with a bad novel that could be sold on Amazon.

Et voilà! Two bad novels to serialize: FireRider and this other thing, whose title was “Neither Be for Him” (it’ll need something catchier than THAT!). Supposedly it came to 71,500 words, but that’s probably an estimate. Assuming it’s in the ball park, though, we could figure that  serialized in 5000-word increments, it would yield another 14 bookoids. Now we’re up to 46 things to peddle.

And as for porno novelettes, life has handed me quite a bouquet in the form of my career and my students.

When I was teaching at the Great Desert University, one of my little chickadees described her life as a high-end call girl. She was working the resorts in Scottsdale by way of earning her tuition.

At Heavenly Gardens Community College, I met a very interesting young woman who worked as a pole dancer to support her little girl and send herself through school.

At Phoenix Ragazine, the most successful ad space sales agent during my tenure was a brassy broad whose out-of-the-office life can best be described as, uhm, active.

Back at GDU, we had the serial marriers: tenured faculty who would go through one graduate student after another, marrying, divorcing, and marrying again. One guy came back from a research trip supposedly spent in English archives with a new woman in tow. He showed up at the front door of his home with this lady at his side and informed his wife — late one of his graduate students — that she was out and the new kid was in. Literally threw the wife out of the house so he could install the new model.

Oh, and there was the sanctimonious full bull who liked to invite nubiles into his office to kneel and “pray.” No joke.

And the uproar that ensued recently when the president’s office issued an edict to the effect that diddling a student would henceforth be a firing offense…oh, my!

So extreme…in the early 80s, it took running a whorehouse out of your office, staffed by students, to get yourself fired. What is academe coming to?

There’s a lot to write about here. Quite a lot.

10 thoughts on “Amazon Sales: Is there gold in them thar hills?”

  1. Hmmmm….. $30K a month….I’ve heard that “sex sells” but MAN…I’m thinking maybe some exaggeration may be taking place…But what do I know I can’t even sell anything on CL lately….

    • Well, I don’t know how far out in left field it actually is. You know, all he’d need is 57 loyal readers.

      They say the key to making money on genre fiction to write serials. For some people, romance novels or detective novels or sci-novels are like Cracker-Jacks. They can’t eat just one. And fans who like your story will remember your name and buy every new story the minute it comes out.

      And on Amazon, it’s surely possible that you could garner 50 or 60 regulars. Especially if you’re writing about sex.

      • You may be right Funny….A few years back DW was reading paper back “Romance Novels”…and was “consuming them” on a pretty regular basis. And as you pointed out… really developed an affection for certain authors. Wasn’t “porn” but when the characters embraced there were a whole lot of adjectives involved in the fireworks….

  2. Novelettes and serialized novels released via e-book distribution channels are pretty popular for mainstream authors like Margaret Atwood and Diana Gabaldon. Even if they’re not full novels, people seem to find it easier to fit media purchases in the $3-$5 range into their budgets. (Maybe because they’re just thinking “What the hell, it’s about as much as a fancy coffee drink!” or something along those lines.) Also, when people find an author they really like, the little morsels are appreciated since they tide one over until the next full book is released.

    I’m speaking from experience here. I got hooked on a Kindle mystery series (Captain Lacey Regency Mysteries are like kettle corn to me…when I get one I gobble it up and then just want more.) When I saw a couple novelettes available I quickly snatched those up so I could keep up with the character developments.

    Serializing your books sounds like a great idea. Go for it!

  3. Holy cow! So that would suggest I take up writing in addition to reading.
    One of my kids gave me an older kindle one Christmas, I semi-often will download one of Amazon’s free books by an author I don’t know to see how I like their stories.

    So, perhaps, offering one of the series or the first one for a limited time [the one’s I’ve gotten are only free for a day and are listed on various sites daily] free, you might get at least a few more readers of the full series.

    Good luck, whichever route you choose.

  4. I’ve heard similar stories of short pornographic books (or just *this* side of pornographic harlequin style novelettes) generating similar revenue streams if the author gets lucky. But it’s apparently very dependent on churning out new content regularly. Here’s a thread on it –

    If the terrible writing that was Fifty Shades of Grey managed to sell god-only-knows how many copies, anything seems possible if you add enough sex scenes. And good lordie it seems like your colleagues provided you with plenty of fodder!

    • Wow! THAT is a story!

      I suppose if magically 500 grand came my way between April & September, probably what I’d do is use the $1200 or $1500/month I need to supplement Social Security and then stash the rest in investments. Might buy a new car…but maybe not. Why? I have a perfectly fine Minister’s One-Hoss Shay.

      And I might pay off the mortgage on the downtown house. Or refinance it to a lower rate and get rid of the 30/15 balloon. Maybe. Don’t know what the tax consequences of any such maneuver would be, though…would have to think about that one.

      At RWA (Romance Writers of America), members insist that once you have 8 books on Amazon (some say it doesn’t matter if they’re all the same genre), you begin to make “a middle-class income.” What exactly that means is left unsaid: “middle-class,” as we know, is in the eye of the beholder. Five hundred grand would put me on easy street. But that’s because I live like an anchorite. For others, it might just be a year’s pay.

  5. I know a couple of women who are under-earning and a little nervous about it. Yet they download a bunch of e-books. Many are free — but often that’s to get you interested in an author so that you will, as noted, keep downloading.

    They think of these $1.99-to-$2.99 e-books as like having coffee or eating candy bars: harmless, fairly inexpensive fun. Me, I think that if they were to add up what they spend in a year they might lie down and scream.

    • My friend the e-book builder observes that romance novels, in particular, are like Cracker Jacks to some people. Once they’re hooked on an author’s series, they’ll buy EVERYTHING that has that person’s byline on it.

      Amazon now has a “borrowing” scheme where people can pay a subscription rate and “borrow” as many books (or bookoids) as they want. Average pay for authors is around $2.00/customer, pretty ridiculous. But if you can give away enough of them, you can make money over time. Trick is, the reader has to read 10% of your book to trigger payment.

      Well. Ten percent of 5,000 words is only 500 words: about two paragraphs. Obviously, it’s to your advantage to crank out several short things rather than a single long thing.

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