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.

13 thoughts on “You Can Become a Kindle Millionaire, Part 5”

  1. I am thinking this experiment needs time to work out. In six months you’ll have a pretty clear idea of what to expect. Perhaps the sales will travel a bell-shaped curve ending in oblivion. The day will come when a title dies. I get a steady couple hundred bucks a quarter from my back-in-print novels, year after year, and am not inclined to switch–yet. It’s found money. I’ll be watching for your future posts on this.

  2. There’s no need for you to switch…you can have the Kindle edition AND the back-in-print Author’s Guild edition. It’s not either/or. That’s what I will be doing soon with MY GUN HAS BULLETS. I have earned a few hundred dollars a year off of the POD edition…it will be interesting to see how I do with it in the Kindle format, too.

  3. You bring up some really good points, both about the novelty of Kindle books and the still relatively limited number of titles, and the fact that you have an existing platform from which to promote your work.
    It’ll really be a revolution if unknown writers without any special advantages (e.g., celebrity) start making a living off it. I suspect we won’t see that happen, but who knows. It would be great if people could.

  4. my thought is in the very near future (if this hasn’t already happened) outfits will be popping up to provide a kindle self-publishing service; namely do all the formatting, provide cover art, etc. Once that happens 10s of thousands of self-published books will be dumped on the kindle store. There will be so much junk then that the only books that sell or will be noticed will be the bestsellers. Kindle sales will eventually look a lot like the books that sell at Target and Walmart.

  5. I’m guessing that you really hit the mark when you discuss platform. I would say my sales are quite slow for the Kindle book, largely because my “brand” such as it is, isn’t very large. I’ve been–and continue to be–published by some high-end indie presses, but the sales of a “Mark Terry” book aren’t so huge that you see much carryover to the Kindle. At least not yet, but we’ll see.

  6. I’m thinking that a really good book will have the potential to be downloaded in the hundreds of thousands per month once enough persons own a Kindle, due to word of mouth on the internet and due to such low cost. If this is true, then authors who have real talent, and spend some time using it to create real masterpieces or minor masterpieces, can reap a big-time reward. Anyway, it’s a new goal to aim at.

  7. Most of my back-in-print books were typewritten or done in WordStar, an early computer language. If your sales look good after half a year I might be tempted to have my novels transcribed for Kindle.

  8. I have the same problem with most of my early books. But I was very lucky — one of my blog readers, with access to professional scanning equipment, kindly volunteered to make a digital file out of MY GUN HAS BULLETS for me. I’ll let you know how that book does once I put it up on Amazon in a Kindle edition (it has been out in a Back-in-Print Author’s Guild edition for many years now).

  9. After reading Joe Konrath’s blog posts about Kindle, I decided to make my out-of-print novel, IDENTITY CRISIS, available on it, as well as through Scribd and Smashwords. My promotion consisted of posting the news on several email lists, a couple of e-reader forums, LinkedIn, Facebook, my various blogs and Twitter.
    I have virtually no publishing platform—i.e., I’m not even a small name in publishing, let alone a big one. Nonetheless, in the last month, I’ve sold almost 86 downloads on Kindle (6 on Smashwords and none on Scribd). Altogether more than 90 downloads in a month.
    Clearly, this is no way to make a living, never mind a killing. But that’s still more money than I would have made if I hadn’t chosen to publish the novel as an e-book.
    Plus–perhaps more importantly–I’ve gotten exposure out of it. Kindle readers have posted some rave reviews of the book: (the top 3 reviews are from Kindle readers). Again, three new reviews in a month hardly constitutes a groundswell, but I’ll take what I can get.

  10. Re: the price-point for the Kindle…
    There already is an iPhone/iPod Kindle app. And, if the rumors are true about the reason behind Amazon hiring WinMo programmers, there may soon be a Windows Mobile version.
    In a couple of years, everyone with a cellphone could be a potential customer, and voila!

  11. self-publishing like this is a long-run game,
    not something you can evaluate in a month…
    if what you put out is worthwhile, then it will
    continue to earn money for a very long time…
    (of course, if it’s weak, it will nosedive faster.)
    this is why you’ll earn more in the long-term
    than you do from the big publishing houses,
    because their window of opportunity is short.
    this will become even more the case once the
    power of collaborative filtering kicks in, and
    hype (and even reputation) become secondary.

  12. I decided to self-publish my blog novel about 3 weeks ago — I think more has happened in these 3 weeks, than the 2 years+ I spent contacting agents/editors in the business.
    I’m currently considering making the book available for download, via Scribd and Smashwords — maybe for free, for a limited time, initially. The whole thing is 64,000 words. I’m thinking the potential exposure it could bring might be a good thing!

  13. Well I’m pretty much a complete unknown and I’ve had close to 20,000 downloads of my paranormal romance novella, KEPT, and I’m consistently selling about 400 copies of it a month on Amazon now. (Sold over 3,000 copies so far.) It’s nowhere near where I want to be, but I’m just getting started and I’d say for where I’m at, it’s “progress.”
    I have no intention of ever publishing with a traditional publisher because I don’t want one (exception would be made if I built some giant platform and a publisher then wanted to throw an obscene amount of money at me… then maybe, but still maybe not.)
    For a total unknown I’m not doing too bad for the first thing out in the world and just barely getting my little tugboat moving.
    I’ll be in a better position to judge a lot of this in a year or two when I have a couple more books out in both print and E. But I do think that a lot of people put something out on Kindle in some half-hearted way so they can prove why self-publishing doesn’t work and I think that’s a little silly.
    Self-publishing is HARD work, but it doesn’t mean it isn’t worthwhile work for many authors who do it, and it doesn’t mean you can’t succeed doing it.


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