Could Konrath Become the First Kindle Millionaire?

Joe+Konrath+pic Everyone knows that Joe Konrath’s books are doing remarkably well on the Kindle. But the actual numbers are astonishing. He’s sold 103,864 ebooks across all platforms since 2004…78,000 of them on the Kindle. Here’s how his numbers break down…and for comparison’s sake, he’s included both his self-published and professionally published books. 

My six Hyperion ebooks, from June 2004 until December 2009: 7865

Afraid from Grand Central, from May 2009 until December 2009: 13,973

Self-pubbed titles on Kobo from May 2010 until July 2010: 132

Self-pubbed titles on Smashwords since July 2009: 372

Self-pubbed titles on iPad from May 2010 until August 2010: 390

Self-pubbed titles on iTunes from Jan 2010 until July 2010: 508

Self-pubbed titles on Barnes & Noble from June 2010 until August 2010: 2212

Self pubbed titles on Amazon from April 2009 until Sept 20, 2010: 78,412

So what does all of this mean to the home viewer? Currently, I’m selling an average of 7000 self-pubbed ebooks a month on Kindle.

The fascinating part of Joe’s post are his comparisons between what he is earning from his Hyperion ebooks and what he is earning on his own. For example:

My best selling Hyperion ebook, Whiskey Sour, has sold 2631 ebooks since 2004. That’s earned me about $2200, or $34 a month since it was released.

$34 a month per ebook is a far cry from the $1700 a month per ebook I’m making on my own.

Why are my self-pubbed ebooks earning more than Whiskey Sour, which remains my bestselling print title with over 80,000 books sold in various formats?

Because Hyperion has priced Whiskey Sour at $4.69 on Amazon, and I price my ebooks at $2.99.

For each $4.69 ebook they sell, I earn $1.17.

For each $2.99 ebook I sell, I earn $2.04.

So I’m basically losing money hand over fist because Hyperion is pricing my ebooks too high, and giving me too low a royalty rate.

Even the print sales (Whiskey Sour just went into a fifth printing) don’t come close to making up the money I’m losing.

If we assume I could sell 833 copies per month of Whiskey Sour, I’d be earning $17,000 per year on it, rather than $5616 per year. (I’m guessing my numbers have gone up recently, and am estimating 400 Whiskey Sour sales per month.)

Let’s multiply that times the six books Hyperion controls.

I’m estimating I currently earn $33,696 annually in ebook royalties on those six.

If I had the rights, I estimate I’d earn $102,000.

Do I want my books to go out of print?

Hell yeah.

[…]I’ll end 2010 having earned over $100k on my self-pubbed ebooks, and that’s nothing compared to what I expect to make in 2011. And I’m doing it without touring, without promoting non-stop, without spending a lot of money, and without relying on anyone.


It’s no wonder that Joe has opted to focus his literary efforts almost entirely on ebooks and to turn his back, for the most part, on NY print publishers. Financially for him, it’s a no brainer.

I have to admit that Joe’s experience — and, to a lesser degree, my own — are changing some of my long-held beliefs about the publishing business. And it’s also made me think twice about whether I should write my next book for a publisher… or for myself, a thought that never would have entered my head a year ago.

14 thoughts on “Could Konrath Become the First Kindle Millionaire?”

  1. yeah, but both you and Konrath are both successfully published authors. Neither of you are trying to build a following and/or develop writing skills and going directly to self publishing.
    Don’t you agree that an unproven writer would be better served in finding a publisher first before exploring online self-publishing? I mean, you already know how to write, most self-published authors are not so fortunate nor do they have a following of people who enjoy their work.

  2. “I have to admit that Joe’s experience — and, to a lesser degree, my own — are changing some of my long-held beliefs about the publishing business. And it’s also made me think twice about whether I should write my next book for a publisher… or for myself, a thought that never would have entered my head a year ago.”
    This is the entire crux for me. I saw his post yesterday, and it was absolutely eye-opening.
    Six months ago I was warning people that to self-publish was the kiss of death — no reviews in Publisher’s Weekly or any major venue, you get lumped in with “those” writers who can’t string two sentences together, and so on. But literally, in the past two weeks, I have had my mind changed completely. Between articles like this one, seeing what other authors are doing, and the inane reasons for rejections that I’m receiving that show me the agents and editors do not “get” what I’m doing… this is the tipping point.
    We are the next wave in publishing. I’m giving up on the NYC dinosaurs once and for all and writing for me and my readers, not someone who tosses out a manuscript because there’s not Michael Bay explosions in the first two pages.

  3. Indeed. My numbers aren’t anywhere near that high, but they’re improving. And I’ll have another novel out in the next month just for Kindle and I’m working on a nonfiction book slowly that I decided to bypass looking for a publisher for. That isn’t to say I won’t for other projects.
    I’m fully intending my next Derek Stillwater novel to be published by Oceanview, my publisher. There are some other projects I’ve got back-burnered that I hope to market to major publishers, including some nonfiction books.
    Two things, though. If they don’t get picked up, well, off to Kindle. And in some cases, there may be some good marketing reasons not to go through traditional markets, simply because if someone’s going to offer me a $1000 advance and an 8% royalty and expect me to spend weeks and dollars marketing, I’m not sold that it wouldn’t be better to go through Kindle. I’ll make that money eventually and I won’t spend my weekends sitting in a bookstore being ignored by readers.
    I haven’t turned my back on publishers, but I’m definitely keeping my options open.
    Years ago I heard an interview with composer and musician DIck Siegel (“Angelo’s” and “What Would Brando Do?”) and they asked him if he was going to go with a big label or put out his own CD himself and he said they’d probably see what the labels had to offer, but if that didn’t work out he had no problem producing an album himself. That seems to me to be where a lot of writers, especially so-called “midlist” writers such as myself. If publishers aren’t interested, well, some readers are.

  4. If nobody has heard of an author, self-publishing on Kindle won’t change that fact. Unlike name authors, the unknown most likely has a flawed manuscript, and yet out into the marketplace it will go warts and all. Buyer beware. Writer beware.

  5. I must jump in with a report on my own Kindle selling experience, which has taken my totally by surprise. I didn’t start out to make money; I started with the idea of putting my work out, and starting a blog, to build an audience that I could take to a real publisher.
    I have two books available, Reaper’s Dozen, a collection of short crime stories; and Justified Sins, a full-length crime novel. Reaper’s took three months to sell 10 copies; Justified Sins sold 13 copies in three weeks. I have done a ton of quest articles on blogs and interviews on other web sites and readers have written to tell me that’s how they decided to “take a chance” on me, including author Paul Bishop, who wrote about me on his web site, with favorable results.
    I’m nowhere near Joe’s numbers, and I would be happy to sell five copies of Justified Sins this month (I’ve stalled at four), but there is no doubt that good writing and favorable publicity attracts an audience. I will put my next book out in November (a spy story called Heroes Wear Black) and I expect another up-tick in sales since the second book has sold more than the first and people have gone to buy the first after reading the second.
    Oh, and I’m still submitting to New York. I’m not *that* big a believer. But I am having a blast!

  6. I don’t know, Mark, that “If nobody has heard of an author, self-publishing on Kindle won’t change that fact.” Maybe it will.
    Joe Konrath is a superstar blogger, and that’s how I heard of him. He’s got a great story to tell about his writing success. But Joe as a writer is a different persona. I went to the library and got his book, “Cherry Bomb,” and the first few chapters are very good and compelling and so I’ll carry on reading it. But it was the book, itself, that affected me because the quality of the writing is very high. Now I’ll tell anybody to read this book and I’ll get more of Joe’s work. So maybe if ANY writer writes a good ebook, the success will come.

  7. You have to have “a name” before you can make any real money on Kindle. Nobody knows. L.L. Bartlett. My first small press book sells between 20-40 copiess a month on Kindle (even with my better known name (Lorna Barrett) attached with the tags). I’m about to be published with a similiar name (Lorraine Bartlett) and I hope that audience will give my older series a shot.
    One of my short stories outsells the novels by 6-1. It’s an unpublished “confession” about child abuse. I’m pretty sure it’s the stock photo (of a little girl crying) and the description (and tags) that sell that one. Sadly, the audience that buys that story does not look for my other work. (Two other “unsold” confession stories sell between 2-8 copies a month on Kindle and even less on Smashwords.)
    The $10 I paid for the stock photo was well worth it. And in four months (at 35 cents a copy), I’ve already made more money than I would have made had the story sold to True Love way back when. (It’s too bad they own all the rights to the six I did sell to them.)

  8. First, my compliments to Mr. Konrath. His achievement is formidable. I have no reason to believe publishers are dinosaurs. In may ways, the digital revolution is helping them: they are finally escaping returns and shipping costs, and avoiding some warehousing. It is worth remembering that movies did not kill off stage plays; TV did not kill films; DVDs and Netflix did not destroy movie theaters, and the digital revolution will not destroy publishers. There will be shifts of market equilibrium, of course. The future will see entertainment customers selecting the modes that suit them, everything from print to computer downloads. It is a great time for publishers.
    What has gone unsaid is whether anyone is reading Mr. Konrath’s books and will buy more, or whether the low price has simply attracted Kindle buyers who never read them. And that gets to a deeper issue: what are each of us writing for? It is easier to make money in other fields. I write for several reasons, and I hope Mr. Konrath writes for more than a Kindle sale. That said, it is good to see authors open up a Kindle market.

  9. You have to have “a name” before you can make any real money on Kindle.
    Tell that to my bank, Lorraine. They would disagree.
    If you’re not making “real money” through Kindle sales, you should increase your online marketing and promotional efforts. Lower the price for a while and try to boost your rank. Get some buzz going about your books.
    It’s worked for me and I’m a nobody.

  10. I am a new author, and I am new in the publishing business. I published two books, but I found many errors in them after the publication, so I want to know if I do a good post publication revision in each one of them then republish, can I still attract people to buy them? What would be the best marketing option for me to use?


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