by Tom Dulaney
Bestselling author Dean Koontz emailed fans this week, highlighting his “first ever ebook original novella,” Darkness Under the Sun. It’s $1.59 in the Kindle Store, and is currently sitting in the top 50 on the Kindle Store paid bestseller list.
The ebook introduces the evil villain who will appear in the December release of What The Night Knows, now available for pre-order with a price tag of $15.12. The latter price may well be forced downward before the ebook delivers on Dec. 28, but it is bound to hurt Koontz’ sales if it remains unchanged.
Timed for Halloween, the “first-ever” Koontz novella is carrying water for the upcoming full book and is a treat for fans languishing for their next fix from the bestselling writer. Writers call Koontz “a writer’s writer” and readers love him by the millions. So what if the novella’s timing is also a marketing “trick?”
(Ed. Note: The bigger trick, of course, is that $15.12 price. It is worth noting here that the publisher, Random House imprint Bantam, is not an agency model participant, so it is likely that it is Amazon itself that has set the price for this one. Any customer credibility that Amazon has won for itself with its “This price set by the publisher” tags may be squandered in a heartbeat if Kindle readers infer that the company has now decided to price Kindle new releases over 50 percent higher than the $9.99 standard. – S.W.)
Authors and publishers continue to tinker with and fine tune marketing strategies, and Darkness is a fine illustration of one method to pump up book sales. This novella introduces the evil character of Alton Turner Blackwood, “the killer at the dark heart of What The Night Knows.”
The promotional text beneath Darkness points out it is “the perfect read for Halloween” and reveals the “secret, fatal turning point in the career of” Blackwood. So, meet the killer for Halloween, then greet him again during Christmas break.
Other vital signs for Darkness, which presage success for What the Night Knows: The book rose to the top 25 on Amazon’s volatile Movers & Shakers list for a while.
All of those numbers indicate both the author’s strong following and the odds that the novella could lead to a successful December kick-off for What the Night Knows, if Amazon decides to price the ebook to sell.
The novella released exclusively as an ebook on October 25. It gives new readers a fine—and inexpensive—chance to discover Koontz. It gives his dedicated fans a treat to keep them going during the necessary dry spells between books. The author’s hopes, no doubt, are that new readers will enjoy Darkness so much they will visit the author’s extensive backlist of some 54 Kindle Store books while waiting for What the Night Knows to emerge at the end of the year.
Another part of the strategy: If readers like the novella, they’ll pre-order the book. When Dec. 28 rolls around, those pre-orders join first day sales to rocket the book as high as it can go on bestseller lists. The higher on the list, the more visible to all book buying visitors, the more likely it capture more sales and rise higher still.
For Kindle Nation Daily readers who go into the Koontz archives, take a look at the book many faithful Koontz fans consider to be his best ever: Watchers.
On his web site, Koontz explained last year that he works on his novels one page at a time, not leaving a page until it is as perfect as he can make it. He blames a huge dose of “self-doubt” for the process, but adds that he rarely has to revisit the page in the future. When it’s done, it’s done.
Koontz has an army of ardent followers, swollen to large numbers back in the Eighties with the success of Watchers. Published in 1987, it was one of the first bestsellers to pair up a genetically altered and thereby amazingly intelligent and supernaturally gifted dog with its likewise-escaped lab mate from the cages, an enraged and envious creature.