From June 1-30, the Kindle edition of my 2004 novel THE WALK sold 444 copies @ $1.89 each, for $302.67 in royalties. As of today, I have sold 37 more copies for a royalty of $24.78 (I also raised the price a dime to $1.99 for the heck of it).
The book was also available on Smashwords, where I sold one copy, and Scribed, where I sold two copies, for combined royalties of about $4. Hoo-hah.
I have since pulled the book from both Smashwords and Scribd so that it's exclusively available on the Kindle. I've done that as part of a promotional effort by Amazon that will roughly coincide with the release Tuesday of the Kindle edition of my new MONK novel, MR. MONK AND THE DIRTY COP (I'll talk more about that in a later post).
I also released a collection of previously published shorts stories that I packaged for the Kindle under the title THREE WAYS TO DIE. I sold 54 copies @ 99 cents, earning a royalty of $18.90. I sold one copy of the collection on Scribd and none on Smashwords. It remains available on all three services.
The only promotion I have done for these books are posts on this blog, my Facebook page, Twitter, and a few Amazon Kindle forums.
I haven't spent a dime on this…but I have spent time.
What have I learned?
Well, there's money to be made from your out-of-print work. Not a lot, but it's found money. THE WALK wasn't earning anything for me anymore and now it is. Pretty soon, it will have earned enough to buy myself a Kindle.
I wouldn't write an original novel for the Kindle. It just doesn't make any financial sense. But if you have an out-of-print novel, and you happen to have the copy-edited manuscript sitting on your hard-drive, it makes more sense to re-publish it for the Kindle than have it brought back in print for free as a POD title through the Authors Guild. You won't get rich doing this…but it also won't cost you anything. In essense, you have absolutely nothing to lose. And if the Kindle edition sells in huge numbers, it might help get your book back-in-print (though I haven't heard about this ever happening for anyone). On the other hand, it could also limit your agent's efforts to sell other print editions of the book…which is why I haven't posted THE MAN WITH THE IRON-ON BADGE on Kindle, even though it is now out-of-print in hardcover.
I think there's no real money in "self-publishing" original novels to the Kindle if you aren't already an established name (which both Joe Konrath and John August are). You won't sell much, if anything, because you don't have a strong platform from which to promote your work. I'm not famous, but at least I have a little more recognition than your typical, unpublished author…and my Kindle sales so far aren't phenomenal or particularly lucrative. You could argue that THREE WAYS TO DIE is essentally a self-published, original novella…and it has tanked. I've sold 55 copies @ 99 cents each in total across all three web platforms this month for a royalty of less than $20. (Joe has an excellent post about the pros and cons of self-publishing here)
The one big advantage the Kindle platform has for self-publishing is that it's free and puts your book on the best bookselling website on the planet. And It cuts the predatory, vanity presses with their outrageous fees out of the picture entirely. Good riddance!
The "publishing" aspect of making your book available for the Kindle is not as easy as it seems at first. My manuscripts looked fine in the "preview" on the publishing page but turned out to be filled with formatting errors when actually seen on the Kindle. It took me a lot of time, and the generous assistance of some Kindle owners, to clean the manuscripts up.
Smashwords and Scribd are also very easy to publish to…perhaps easier than Amazon…but if my experience (and Joe Konrath's) are any indication, your sales will be pitiful to non-existent. They just aren't in the game yet. Then again, they are free…so it costs you nothing to make your books available there as well. Just don't expect to make any money off of it.
So is this the future of publishing?
I don't think so…the money just isn't there yet for authors or publishers. That's not to say it won't be in the future if the price-point for the Kindle, and products like it, drops considerably and millions of people buy them.
Is it the future of self-publishing?
Perhaps. It certainly has the benefit of being free to the author…at least for now. But actually selling copies will be a huge challenge. And in a broader sense, if there's a deluge of horrendous, self-published crap on the Kindle, it could actually turn readers away from risking money, even a few cents, on authors they aren't already familiar with.
Right now the Kindle is a novelty, and users are eager for content…they're grabbing whatever they can, especially if it's under a buck or free… but if they get burned too many times by garbage, they'll be a lot more discerning about what they download, even for nothing.
That said, there are some unknown, self-published authors who are making decent money selling books on the Kindle…and I've interviewed a few of them for an article in an upcoming issue of the Novelists Inc newsletter (www.ninc.com). I believe, and so do many of them, that they are the exceptions rather than the rule. I'll share some of their experiences here at a later date.
I'll also report back on how THE WALK continues to fare as a Kindle edition.