You Can Be a Kindle Millionaire, Part 7

51cOUrSouEL._SS500_ Can you tell a book by its cover?

The original, St. Martin's Press cover for my 1997 novel BEYOND THE BEYOND was horrible. It was a giant penis bursting out of a TV set against a piss-yellow background. I'm not kidding. You can see it here. I know for a fact that it killed sales. I was sent on a national book tour and everywhere I went, the booksellers said "we can't stick that book in our window, there's a penis on the cover!"

So when I did the Kindle edition, I asked my talented and wildly creative sister Linda Woods, a professional artist and author (Journal Revolution: Rise Up & Create! Art Journals, Personal Manifestos and Other Artistic Insurrections), to design a new cover in the same style as the one she designed for the Kindle edition of my first book, My Gun Has Bullets (which also had a horrible St. Martin's cover when it was first published). BEYOND THE BEYOND is a sequel to MY GUN HAS BULLETS, so I thought some consistency was a good idea. Isn't that what branding is all about?
But while the Kindle sales for MY GUN HAS BULLETS have been brisk, the sales for 
Beyond the Beyond are flat. The culprit? I think it was the cover…again. It mayhave looked too much like the cover for My Gun Has Bullets and might have been confusing people into thinking it was the same book. 

So Linda has tweaked the cover for me. It's the one on the right. It will be interesting to see if a new cover makes a difference… 

Then again, maybe it's the book that sucks!

You Can Become a Kindle Millionaire, Part 6

Here are my Amazon Kindle sales figures and royalties for July as of today at 5:49 pm. All the titles are priced at $1.99, except for THREE WAYS TO DIE, which sells for 99 cents (Click on the image for a larger view):


I sold 444 copies of THE WALK and 54 copies of THREE WAYS TO DIE in June. If sales continue as they are, I'll fall a little short of those numbers this month (and far short of the Kindle sales enjoyed by Joe Konrath and John August, the authors who inspired me to do this). Even so, it's found money for an out-of-print book and a collection of three, previously-published stories.

Encouraged by even those small numbers, and with nothing at all to lose, I added Kindle editions of my out-of-print novels MY GUN HAS BULLETS on 7/14 and BEYOND THE BEYOND on 7/17.  It's too soon for me to draw any conclusions about how they are selling.

You Can Become a Kindle Millionaire, Part 5

Okay, the first month of my Kindle experiment, inspired by the successes of Joe Konrath and John August on the platform, has ended. Here are the results.

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 ( 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.

You Can Become a Kindle Millionaire, Part 4

N151109 Here's  a quick update on my e-publishing experiments. Following in the e-footsteps of Joe Konrath and John August, I made  THE WALK, my out-of-print 2004 novel, and THREE WAYS TO DIE, a collection of previously published short stories, available as Kindle editions. I subsequently made them available as downloadable PDFs on Scribd as well.

So far, I haven't had nearly the volume of sales that Joe and John have experienced. From June 1 to today, I have sold 371 copies of  THE WALK at $1.40 each (the actual price is $1.89, but Amazon has discounted it), earning myself $236.91. My sales of THREE WAYS TO DIE are flat at 54 copies at 99 cents each, earning me a whopping $18.90. I have sold two copies of THE WALK and one of THREE WAYS TO DIE on Scribd, at the same prices as the Kindle editions, earning me a staggering $2.44 in royalties.

At the request of several of my blog readers, I have gone one step further and have made THE WALK and THREE WAYS TO DIE available on Smashwords, where you can download them in the format of your choice. The price in all formats for THE WALK is $1.89, the same price I set for the Kindle edition on Amazon. 

So, here's where you can buy THE WALK and THREE WAYS TO DIE  in the e-versions of your choice… 

THE WALK on the Kindle 

THE WALK as a PDF at Scribd Three_Ways_to_Die Cover

THE WALK in multiple formats, including Kindle, PDF, and Mobipocket, at Smashwords. (If you use this code KN24A at checkout, you will get 25% off, the same as the Amazon discount)


THREE WAYS TO DIE on the Kindle 

THREE WAYS TO DIE as a PDF at Scribd.

THREE WAYS TO DIE in multiple formats at Smashwords. (I am experimenting with this title by using their "set your own price" feature where you, the reader, decide how much to pay).

I shall report back at the end of the month on how the books are doing on the various sites and in all the various formats. 

You Can Become a Kindle Millionaire, Part 3

I am once again following in the footsteps of Joe Konrath and John August  and experimenting with republishing some of my out-of-print and previously-published work. 

THREE WAYS TO DIE, my collection of previously published short stories that I released earlier this month on the Kindle for $.99, is now available as a downloadable PDF (as requested by many of you Kindleless folks) on Scribd for $1.00 (which is the lowest price they will let you charge). 

I've also uploaded a PDF version of THE WALK on Scribd for $1.99, a few cents higher than the Kindle edition (Amazon discounted it from $1.75 to $1.40). Why did I raise the price? Just for the heck of it to see what happens.

Joe Konrath, who has done very well with Kindle editions of his unpublished books, has tried Scribd, but with no success.

Because I'm a cutting edge early adopter who can predict trends (ask Barry Eisler), I offered my ebooks on Scribd 15 days ago, at the same price they are available for on Kindle, less than $2 each.
In 15 days, I've sold zero books. Compare this to over a hundred books a day I sell on Amazon.
Scribd is not the future of epublishing.

John August's short story THE VARIANT sold 2554 Kindle editions through Amazon and 619 PDF downloads through e-junkie from May 1-June 15.

I'll let you know how my PDF downloads perform sales-wise and royalty-wise compared to the Kindle editions.

You Can Become a Kindle Millionaire, Part 2

I am 15 days into my Kindle experiment and here are the results so far…

Today, THE WALK is ranked #901 in the Kindle Store and:

#18 in  Kindle Store > Kindle Books > Fiction > Action & Adventure
#21 in  Kindle Store > Kindle Books > Fiction > Horror
#28 in  Kindle Store > Kindle Books > Humor

THREE WAYS TO DIE – 38 copies sold @ $.99. My royalties: $13.30.

Today, THREE WAYS TO DIE is ranked #15,365 in the Kindle Store and:

#74 in Kindle Store > Kindle Books > Mystery & Thrillers > Mystery > Hard-Boiled

I've promoted the books here on my blog, my Facebook page, to my Facebook Monk Fans, on Twitter, and on the Amazon Kindle forums (as well as several other Kindle forums, like this one). 

Those sales are nothing to get excited about. I haven't come close to reaching the astonishing and impressive Kindle sales that folks like Joe Konrath and John August have achieved. 

On the plus side, I have been getting some very nice, enthusiastic reviews (publicly on Amazon and privately in emails) for THE WALK and I think that's led to some good word-of-mouth. I have seen the daily sales steadily increasing from one or two copies-a-day to 10-15 copies-a-day.

On the down side, Sales of THREE WAYS TO DIE are flat. I haven't sold a copy in two days.

And several readers have reported some irritating formatting problems with THE WALK. Some paragraphs seem to switch to italics at random. I have looked at the manscript, as both a Word document and in html, and I can't figure out why those paragraphs are changing format…so I have no clue how to fix it. But I will keep trying to figure it out.

I'll give you another update at the end of the month.

UPDATE 6-18-2009:  Sales are definitely trending up for THE WALK, though it's still nothing stellar. As of tonight, THE WALK has sold 219 copies @$1.40. My royalties: $136.49. The book is now #410 in the Kindle Store and:

#9 in  Kindle Store > Kindle Books > Fiction > Horror
#9 in  Kindle Store > Kindle Books > Fiction > Action & Adventure
#14 in  Kindle Store > Kindle Books > Humor

It doesn't seem to take many sales to become a top-ten "bestseller" in genre categories on Amazon, does it? Oh, and I have sold two copies of the PDF version of THE WALK at Scribd, bringing me $1.50 in royalties. 

THREE WAYS TO DIE has sold ten more copies, 47 copies to date, @.99 each, earning me $16.45 in royalties.

Financially speaking, I don't see this as the future of self-publishing, at least not yet. It would take a lot of promotion to reach a wide enough audience to create enough sales to make this financially lucrative (unless you're already an established author … like Joe Konrath…or well-known in other circles…like screenwriter John August). There's a reason Stephen King, John Grisham and Michael Connelly haven't forsaken big New York publisher and "the printed page" for the e-publishing world just yet (or for print-on-demand paperbacks either). 

But one clear benefit of self-publishing/epublishing with the Kindle is that you don't have to shell out any money upfront to do it…nor do you have to go through some vanity press scammer. You don't even pay an unfront listing fee (the way you would with, say, auctions on ebay). You pay at the register…or, rather, your reader does. Amazon and Scribd take a cut from the sales. 

You Can Become a Kindle Millionaire

My friend author Joe Konrath has done extraordinarily well selling some of his unpublished books on the Kindle, making $1250 in royalties this month alone. That's very impressive. And since its free and easy to upload your book to Amazon for sale on the Kindle, I'm sure that Joe's success is very exciting and encouraging news to a lot of aspiring writers out there. But I suspect Joe's success is the exception rather than the rule. That said, he is encouraging others to follow his lead. He writes:

The average advance for a first time novel is still $5000. If Kindle keeps growing in popularity, and the Sony Reader opens up to author submissions like it intends to, I think a motivated writer will be able to make $5000 a year on a well-written e-novel. Or more. All without ever being in print.

[…]Robert W. Walker, has written over forty novels. Most of them are out of print, and the rights have reverted back to him. If he digitized and uploaded his books, and priced them at $1.59 (which earns him 70 cents a download), and sold 500 copies of each per month (I sold 500 of Origin and 780 of The List in May), he'd be making $14,000 a month, or $168,000 a year, on books that Big NY Publishing doesn't want anymore.
Even if he made half, or a third, or a fifth of that, that's decent money on books that he's not doing anything else with. Now, all of us aren't Rob, and we don't have 40 novels on our hard drives, especially 40 novels that were good enough to have once been published in print.
But how long do you think it will be before some unknown author has a Kindle bestseller?

Joe is making a lot of assumptions based on the admirable success of his own Kindle titles. It's a big, big, BIG leap to think, just because his book has done well, that Robert W. Walker (or any other mid-list author) will sell 500 copies…or even 50 copies…of his out-of-print books on the Kindle each month. 

But just for hell of it, I decided to follow Joe's advice and put my out-of-print 2004 novel THE WALK and a short-story collection THREE WAYS TO DIE up on Amazon for sale on the Kindle and see what happens. 

So far, after only a few days on Amazon, sales of those Kindle editions have been brisk. For instance, today THREE WAYS TO DIE was ranked as Amazon's #30 bestselling Kindle short story collection and the 40th top-selling hard-boiled Kindle mystery. 

Pretty impressive, huh? 

And it's paying off in the wallet, too, my friends. I've already raked in ten dollars in royalties. So I spent today at the Bentley dealership checking out the car I'm going to buy at year-end with my Kindle royalties.

I do not mean to belittle Joe's success on the Kindle. It is truly impressive and its a reflection of his considerable promotional skills (as well, I'm sure, of the quality of the books themselves). But do I think the vast majority of published, as well as unpublished, writers can easily achieve the same success he has with Kindle editions? No, I don't.

But I would love to be proved wrong. I'll report back at the end of the month on how my Kindle sales on these two titles are doing.

(Incidentally, several of my MONK and DIAGNOSIS MURDER books are also available on the Kindle. Although the MONK books sell very well in hardcover and paperback, the Kindle sales are miniscule…and keep in mind that my MONK books, unlike those that an unknown writer might put up for sale on the Kindle, benefit from the huge advertising, promotion, and brand awareness that goes along with a hit TV series)

UPDATE 6-11-2209: Joe Konrath has updated his Kindle sales figures and they are pretty impressive. Here's a sample:

On April 8th, I began to upload my own books to Kindle. As of today, June 11, at 11:40am, here is how many copies I've sold, and how much they've earned. 

THE LIST, a technothriller/police procedural novel, is my biggest seller to date, with 1612 copies sold. Since April this has earned $1081.75. I originally priced it at $1.49, and then raised it to $1.89 this month to see if the sales would slow down. The sales sped up instead. 

ORIGIN, a technothriller/horror occult adventure novel, is in second place, with 1096 copies sold and $690.18. As with The List and my other Kindle novels, I upped the price to $1.89. 

SUCKERS is a thriller/comedy/horror novella I wrote with Jeff Strand. It also includes some Konrath and Strand short stories. 449 copies, $306.60.

Joe also talks about some of the lessons he's learned along the way. I'll post the stats from my experiment at the end of the month.