Archive for May, 2011


According to my SmashWords¬†dashboard page, I haven’t made a single sale through their site. However, the free sample page they set up for me seems to be working great – I don’t see any other explanation for the recent spike in my Amazon e-book sales.

I really wish it were possible to see a day-by-day sales on the Kindle Publishing menu, but it looks like my average sales tripled since I put up that free sample on SmashWords. So far this month, I’ve sold 153 copies, as well as two copies for British Kindle users. If my math is correct, that means I’ve finally crossed over the $300 monthly profit threshold!!! If my new book (which I’ve just finished writing and am currently editing) does just as well, I’ll be making $600 a month in passive income – and that’s just from Kindle sales! I have no idea how much B&N, Kobe and Apple sales will be, but it will probably get me a few extra bucks…

Lessons learned: SmashWords is awesome and should be used by everybody. That, and apparently people love free book samples.

Sales and stuff

It turns out I was wrong – it takes only two months to get paid for e-book sales, not six as I previously thought. For example, in a couple of days I’ll receive my royalties for March. It still feels like two months too long, but it could be worse.

For those who are curious about this sort of thing, my book sold 119 copies in April. Its rank in the Kindle store is anywhere between 12,000 and 16,000, depending on the day, and it’s usually ranked 13th in the Kindle section on atheism. The royalties for those 119 copies amount to a total of $225.82 after Amazon’s commissions and fees. That’s not too bad, since it’s enough to pay for my student loans and there’s even enough left for a cheeseburger. (Not bad for five hours’ work!)

I’ve decided to expand to other e-readers and uploaded a copy of Atheism-101 to Barnes&Noble. I should have done that a long time ago (ideally back in January), but better late than never, right?.. After that, I decided to scout other, smaller e-book platforms such as Kobe and Apple, but their self-publishing process was a bit too complex for my taste. I ended up setting up an account on Smashwords instead. It’s quite a brilliant service: once you upload a book, they help you format it and then set it up for sale on every single e-reader platform. (I’d never even heard of some of them before.) In exchange, they take a modest cut of your profits. The upside of Smashwords is the ability to manage your content fast, as opposed to dealing with seven different publishers. The only downside is that the payments are made on a quarterly basis. For example, all the proceeds for the sales made in April, May and June will be deposited at the end of July. Sure, it makes for one lump sum, but I’d much rather have regular monthly deposits. If nothing else, it makes budgeting easier. (And yes, I’m well aware that I may be the only 20-something guy that budgets for things.)

Well, damn. I really should have known better. I’ve been online since 1998, and the fact that a seemingly perfect woman messaged me out of the blue should have raised at least one tiny red flag. Three emails later, I finally decided to google her, and lo and behold – it turned out that “she” is a foreign (Nigerian?) scammer that’s been sending out identical emails for years. Apparently, at some point “she” asks for some money in order to confirm that the rube is serious about their relationship.

I don’t want to say I dodged a bullet because, well, if a stranger (even a pretty, almost perfectly compatible one) asked me for money, I would have put that person on ignore right away. Still, though – the truth hurts. (When doesn’t it, though?) Overall, it was a fun experience: for a couple of days I actually felt quite happy, hopeful and optimistic. While day-dreaming about my improbably perfect penpal, I also did some brainstorming and came up with a pretty neat idea on making a small fortune off Kindle books (and Nook books, and Sony e-reader books, and Apple books, and so on). The plan is to flood the e-book market with an unholy number of books priced so low that my competitors wouldn’t be able to, well, compete. Who knows, it just might work… If I spend all my free time working on this project and actually finish it, it might make me famous (and/or infamous), cementing my status as the ultimate shameless opportunist.

I’m not sure if I would have stumbled on this idea had I not been inspired by my fake Internet muse, so I’m dedicating the project Plunder Q to that creative spammer. Time to get to work…

Omaha! (part two)

Another year, another pilgrimage to Omaha… It went really well: the flight was completely full but devoid of crying babies, the weather was random but pleasantly so, and Buffett and Munger shared their invaluable advice for hours and hours. According to my notes, they answered 52 questions (give or take). Charlie Munger was far more talkative than he was at the past conventions – he said “I have nothing to add” only once! For an 87-year-old man, he seemed to be in great shape. Here is hoping we’ll all age so well…

I spent most of the Q&A period frantically writing down everything Buffett and Munger said – partly because I wanted to review these notes in the future, and partly because I thought I could compile them into an ebook. Fortunately for everyone involved, Ben Claremon from Inoculated Investor¬†saved the day by posting a very detailed transcript of the Q&A session. Click here to download Ben’s transcript.

The convention’s exhibit hall featured the same attractions it usually does: there was BYD’s electric car, huge section with Buffett-related books, etc. The Coca-Cola booth featured a smart fountain machine that can make sodas with different flavors (for example, strawberry-orange diet sprite), but instead of letting people play with it like they did last year, this time around they just lectured about its features. They did, however, have an amazing mascot: a 7-foot-tall polar bear with fur that felt disturbingly real and whose face actually moved. It was almost surreal – just like cartoon characters drawn against “real world” surroundings in “Who Framed Roger Rabbit.”

On Friday, the day before the convention, there was a book signing at the University of Nebraska, Omaha. (The locals insist on pronouncing the acronym “U.N.O.” instead of the more logical “uno.”) The event featured pretty much every book written about Buffett, Munger, Ben Graham or value investing in general, with the glaring exception of perhaps the noteworthy book about Buffett – his controversial biography written by Alice Schroeder. Either that was done on purpose, or Schroeder didn’t want to meet hundreds of Buffett’s fans, since it’s no secret that a lot of them hated her frank portrayal of their idol.

There was also a small discussion panel on value investing that was put together by the UNO’s business school students. This was the first time I ever heard about it, even though it’s an annual event that started in 2009. I should have done more googling before my trip, because I missed a series of lectures on value investing that was held at the UNO on Thursday. Just another thing to keep in mind for the next year’s convention…