My friend Joe Konrath, who inspired me to put my out-of-print novels on the Kindle, has posted a fascinating and informative account of his Kindle ebook sales and royalties. He compares how the Kindle versions of his Hyperion-published books are doing compared with his "self-published" Kindle titles. Here's an excerpt, but I recommend you read the whole post:
My five Hyperion ebooks (the sixth one came out in July so no royalties yet) each earn an average of $803 per year on Kindle.
My four self-pubbed Kindle novels each earn an average of $3430 per year.
If I had the rights to all six of my Hyperion books, and sold them on Kindle for $1.99, I'd be making $20,580 per year off of them, total, rather than $4818 a year off of them, total.
So, in other words, because Hyperion has my ebook rights, I'm losing $15,762 per year.
Now Hyperion also has my print rights, and my Jack Daniels books are still selling in print. But they aren't selling enough to make up the $15,762. Especially since all of them aren't regularly being stocked on bookstore shelves.
According to my math, I'd be making more money if my books were out of print, and I had my rights back.
[…]Ebook rights began as gravy. I can picture a day when the print rights are the gravy, and authors make their living with ebooks.
Yes, it's still far off. And yes, print publishing is in no danger of going away anytime soon.
But I don't think I'll ever take a print contract for less than $30,000 per book, because I'm confident I could make more money on it over the course of six years than I could with a publisher over six years.
I wouldn't take this as a rallying cry to turn away from NY publishers and rush to the Kindle. Joe is a special case. Before "self-publishing" his Kindle titles, he'd already established himself with a series of hardcovers and paperbacks from major NY publishers. He also did a 500-store, multi-state book-tour and attended countless conventions. Joe selling thousands of ebook editions of his previously unpublished work is a very, very different situation than an unpublished writer hoping to accomplish the same feat.
As for myself, my Kindle sales are still going strong, though not Konrath-strong.
THE WALK has sold 1760 copies in 4 months @ $1.99 each, for a royalty of $1204.
THREE WAYS TO DIE has sold 236 copies in 4 months @ $.99 each, for a royalty of $82
MY GUN HAS BULLETS has sold 254 copies in about 3 months @ $1.99 each, for a royalty of $175
BEYOND THE BEYOND has sold 69 copies in about 3 months @ $1.99 each, for a royalty of $48.30
I've also got out-of-print editions of TELEVISIONS SERIES REVIVALS, UNSOLD TV PILOTS, and my four .357 VIGILANTE novels that have been released on the Kindle at various times over the last four months.
All told, my combined Kindle royalties from June 1 to 11:23 pm Oct 13, are: $1750.
It's not enough to make me follow Joe's example and turn away from anything less than a $30,000 advance from a major publisher, but I'm very pleased. It's hardly a fortune, and clearly the lion's share of the royalties are from just one book, THE WALK, but it's found money. And it's gratifying to me to see THE WALK, which was out-of-print, on track to reaching more readers, and making more money for me, in a Kindle edition than it ever did in hardcover.
UPDATE 10/14/09: Joe posted this important disclaimer in the comments to his post:
I do not think that ebooks are able to replace the exposure, or money, you'd get with a print publisher.
To All New Authors: JA says try the traditional route first. Find an agent. Land a deal with a big NY house. Ebooks aren't there yet.
I'd hate to think some writer gave up on their print aspirations because of something I've said on my blog. I suggest you keep up the agent search. While I have no doubt others will be able to sell as many ebooks as I have, and probably many more, I still haven't made anywhere near the money I've made by being in print. Plus, everyone's situation is unique, and no writer should compare themselves to any other writer.