How we created a Kindle bestseller, and sold out the first print-run

Corvus launched The Hanging Shed as an e-book on Christmas Day 2010, some two months before its hardback publication date. In the autumn of 2010. there were strong indications that the Kindle was going to be a top seller at Christmas. And what's the first thing someone does with such a present?

Download a book, or download several books, as the US Kindle data seemed to suggest. Corvus and Amazon's '12 Days of Kindle' promotion – 12 books, 12 days, £12 – was designed with this very much in mind, but it was also designed to showcase some highlights from our 2011 crime and thriller list for new Kindle-owners who would surely constitute a good sample of Britain's most committed readers.

The Hanging Shed wasn't the bestselling title in the promotion – First Thrills, Lee Child's collection of short stories, sold more – but its sales showed the most growth. By the New Year, it was selling over 1,000 copies a day. It has since spent over 100 days among Amazon's top five Kindle titles, and on 4th March, just as it was published in hardback, it hit Amazon's Number One spot and Gordon Ferris, the first British author to make his name in e-ink rather than printer's ink, had become a news story in and of himself.

The technology may be new, but this is an old-fashioned publishing story: it's all about that much alluded to but frustratingly elusive word-of-mouth. E-book or P-book, all that's changed is the speed of recommendation. New Kindle-owners who liked what they read and commended it to their peers within minutes or hours of finishing the book. Perhaps Gordon was lucky that his first reviewer wrote in bold at the top of his post 'As Good if not better than Ian Rankin', but that was all it took to get the social network going… and a further 100 reviewers have since posted similar 5-star sentiments.

Good reviews might just be the lifeblood of electronic sales. In the absence of a book-of-the- week-front-of-store-on-the-table-three-for-two physical presence, they alone guarantee the reader a good return on the investment of their time – and if time is money that's the real, undiscountable cost of a book.

And what of the hardback in the wake of its electronic cousin? Last week, with a host of national broadsheet reviews under its belt, the first printing sold out. And how many crime hardbacks from previously unheralded authors manage that?

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Comments

Books have been the cornerstone of our

Books have been the cornerstone of our society for centuries, especially after the invention of the printing press. Though digital technology has begun to radically change the role of books in our society, in essence, the two formats are very similar. Both allow you to do the most important thing - read a book. The text is the important thing, not the medium. Sometimes, technology need not always be a better alternative, though it does provide evident benefits and improvements. Using t-shirt printing process as an analogy, there really isn’t an answer to whether screen printing or digital printing is better, it depends more on what type of order you need.

Kindle promotions

Interesting post. As a keen reader I appreciated the 12 days of Kindle promotion at Christmas. I didn't download this book, though, I downloaded another Corvus title, the first in the Joe Pickett series by C J Box. I had no interest in the great outdoors, cowboys, etc, but I loved the book, so much so that I have bought the next 10 or so in the series. So, in this sense, your promotion certainly worked so far as I am concerned! 

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