E-book bestsellers breakdown: Desert island romance

This new weekly feature tells the backstory of how one e-book became a bestseller, and highlights bestselling titles that are selling better in digital than in print.

The book: “On the Island” by Tracey Garvis-Graves (self-published, $2.99). “On the Island” is #8 on the New York Times e-book bestseller list this week, and #16 on the USA today list.

Garvis-Graves lives in Des Moines, Iowa with her family and had “a day job until last Friday.” It was a contract position and she doesn’t usually work summers, so that she can be with her kids. This year, she left her contract a little early to focus on her second book before her kids get out of school.

Copies sold: 157,291 since its release in September 2011.

What it’s about: “On the Island” is a contemporary romance about an English teacher and her student. They get stranded on a desert island for three years, and over time romance blossoms.

How it hit the bestseller list: To promote “On the Island,” Garvis-Graves started out by running ads on Pixel of Ink, Kindle Nation Daily and Ereader News Today. “Those sponsorships sell out very quickly because they’re popular,” she says. “[All three sites] have Facebook pages in excess of 150,000 likes.”

The book garnered many reviews on Goodreads and Amazon and  hit the #1 spot on Amazon’s top-rated contemporary romance list in January. Amazon e-mailed Garvis-Graves in early March to ask if it could include “On the Island” in an upcoming promotion. The company didn’t give her many details, she said, other than that the book would be featured in a promotion at a sale price. Garvis-Graves agreed, and the book appeared in a “Big Deals” promotion that Amazon ran from March 18 to 25. “That was the last little piece of the puzzle,” Garvis-Grave says. It led to the book hitting the New York Times bestseller list for the first time last week.

What’s next: Garvis-Graves’ second book, “Covet,” is a work of women’s fiction about the effects of the recession on a couple’s marriage. She plans to release it sometime this fall.

“On the Island” on  Amazon | Apple | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | Sony | Smashwords

New York Times bestseller list, week of 5/6/12

Here are the titles in the top-35 that appear on the e-book bestseller list, but not on the print bestseller list. A * denotes that a title sold enough copies in digital format to make it to the “Combined Print & E-Book Best Sellers” list, and the # that follows the * denotes the position of the title on the combined list. Prices are e-book list price and do not take any retailer discounts into account. An [AP] denotes that agency pricing is currently in effect. I also mentioned whether Amazon offered a book as a Kindle Daily Deal in the past two weeks (thanks to the reader who suggested that).


8. “On the Island,” Tracey Garvis-Graves (self-published)*(#11) $2.99 [AP]
11. “Fifty Shades Trilogy,” E.L. James (Random House/Knopf Doubleday)*(#12) $29.99 [AP]
12. “The Marriage Bargain,” Jennifer Probst (self-published)*(#13) $2.99 [AP]
15. “A Matter of Honor,” Jeffrey Archer (Macmillan/St. Martin’s)*(#19) $2.99 [AP]
17. “A Prayer for Owen Meany,” John Irving (HarperCollins)*(#31) $9.99 [AP]
24. “The Mill River Recluse,” Darcie Chan (self-published) $0.99 [AP]
26. “A Song of Ice and Fire” (box set), George R.R. Martin (Random House) $29.99 [AP]
29.  “Beautiful Disaster,” Jamie McGuire (self-published) $2.99 [AP]
34. “Accidentally Married to…A Vampire?” Mimi Jean Pamfiloff (self-published) $0.99 [AP]


1. “Lifeboat No. 8,” Elizabeth Kaye (Byliner)*(#5) $1.99
19. “After Friday Night Lights,” Buzz Bissinger (Byliner)*(#32) $2.99
21. “A Night to Remember,” Walter Lord (Open Road)*(#1) $14.99. Kindle Daily Deal 4/13/12
26. “Bad Religion,” Ross Douthat (Simon & Schuster/Free Press)*(#29) $12.99 [AP]
27. “Auschwitz,” Miklos Nyiszli (Skyhorse) $2.99
28. “The Rich and the Rest of Us,” Tavis Smiley and Cornel West (Hay House) $7.99 [AP]
35. “Unorthodox,” Deborah Feldman (Simon & Schuster) $10.99 [AP]

USA Today bestseller list, week of 4/26/12

USA Today includes all formats and genres in one list and notes which format of a book sold best. Here are the titles in the top-30 where e-books outsold print, including their position on the list. Prices are e-book list price and do not take any retailer discounts into account. An [AP] denotes that agency pricing is currently in effect.

1. “Fifty Shades of Grey,” E.L. James (Random House/Vintage) $9.99 [AP]
3. “Fifty Shades Darker,” E.L. James (Random House/Vintage) $9.99 [AP]
7. “The Lucky One,” Nicholas Sparks (Hachette/Grand Central) $7.99 [AP]
8. “The Witness,” Nora Roberts (Penguin/Putnam) $TK [AP]
9. “The Innocent,” David Baldacci (Hachette/Grand Central) $TK [AP]
12. “Unnatural Acts,” Stuart Woods (Penguin/Putnam) $TK [AP]
13. “Guilty Wives,” James Patterson (Hachette/Little, Brown) $12.99 [AP]
14. “What Doesn’t Kill You,” Iris Johansen (Macmillan/St. Martin’s) $TK [AP]
16. “On the Island,” Tracey Garvis-Graves (self-published) $2.99 [AP]
18. “A Game of Thrones,” George R.R. Martin (Random House/Bantam) $8.99 [AP]
19. “The Marriage Bargain,” Jennifer Probst (self-published) $2.99 [AP]
26. “Defending Jacob,” William Landay (Random House/Delacorte) $12.99 [AP]
27. “Fifty Shades Trilogy,” E.L. James (Random House/Vintage) $29.99 [AP]
28. “The Girl Who Played with Fire,” Stieg Larsson (Random House/Vintage) $9.99 [AP]

Photo courtesy of Flickr user redagainPatti