Sunday, May 31, 2009

More on the Amazon Kindle

It's the last day of May.

My little Kindle experiment has netted me $1250 for this month. As I mentioned in a previous post, this is for books that I've been giving away for free on my website for years.

I've settled on a price point of $1.59 per Kindle download (they were $1.19 for the first three weeks of May) and I'm currently making about fifty bucks a day, with no signs of slowing down.

Huge money? No. But it isn't chump change either.

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.

Isn't that fascinating?

In the previous Kindle thread, Amber Argyle-Smith mentioned that her agent warned against authors uploading to Kindle, as the book would be considered published and therefore unsalable.

On the surface, that makes sense. Ebook publishing is publishing, and once the public is able to purchase it, the first rights are gone.

If you look a little deeper, it makes even more sense why her agent said that. If authors begin uploading books to Kindle and Sony themselves, are agents and publishers still needed?

At this date, May 31 2009, agents and publishers are necessary. Any author who wants to make writing their fulltime job can only support themselves by selling print books, and the agents and publishers are a crucial part of this industry.

But how about in 2012? 2015? 2025?

If you look even deeper at what Amber's agent said, it makes less sense. Publishers aren't stupid. If an author uploads a Kindle book and sells 80,000 copies, I can't imagine publishers not being interested. Why are Kindle books any different than self-published POD books? And publishers have been known, on occasion, to buy those without qualms or nits about first rights.

Right now, the big money is in print publishing. Even with the crummy economy, with bookstores in financial trouble, and with publishers laying off people and downsizing, the big money is still there.

But there is small money to be made by authors with the Kindle. And the small money can add up.

My friend, 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?

Publisher's Weekly lists the Kindle Bestsellers, but it omits the freebies. I suppose that makes sense--the freebies aren't actually being sold.

But the freebies are being downloaded and read. There isn't money changing hands, but branding and name-recognition--two essentials for every successful author--are happening.

The ebook horror novella I wrote with Blake Crouch, SERIAL, is currently the #1 Kindle Bestseller, and has been for the last nine days.

I don't know how many people have downloaded it on Kindle, but I have heard that over 7000 have downloaded it on the Sony Reader, and even more than that have downloaded it on Blake's website and various other places on the net.

I wouldn't be surprised, by the end of the year, if more than 50,000 people have downloaded SERIAL.

Is that potentially interesting to publishers? Will a savvy editor approach us with a two book deal to collaborate on some full-length horror novels?

I don't know. But I do know that even if we aren't approached by editors, I'm very interested in writing a full-length horror book with Blake and trading in on some of that branding and name-recognition we earned with SERIAL.

Let's see, 50,000 downloads, priced at $1.59 and earning 70 cents per download, divided by two, is $17,500 each. Per year, of course, since ebooks are becoming more and more popular.

And of course there is a momentum that builds. Old books sell newer books, backlists support the frontlist, each new title brings in new readers who buy an author's entire oeuvre. Profit is only limited by how many quality books an author can produce.

I know I can write four books per year. If each one makes only $5000 a year (which Origin and The List are on track to do), by year five I'll have 20 books done and be earning 100k annually just on ebooks.

If I manage to last as long as Rob Walker, I may become a millionaire yet.

And Rob, by the way, just uploaded two of his books to Kindle at $1.59 each. If you have a Kindle, check them out...

I'm also curious what will happen if I raise my prices from $1.59 to $1.89. Will sales stay steady? Will I lose some volume but gain some royalties?

June will be interesting...