Thursday, May 13, 2010

Top Ebook Questions

I'm getting creamed with email lately, mostly from writers asking questions about ebooks. I wish I had time to individually answer all of them, but I'm on deadline and can't. So here are the most common questions I'm getting, and my responses.

Q: Should I publish on Kindle?

A: That depends on your goals. Kindle and ebooks are no more a guaranteed success than any other type of publishing. If you want to be widely read, and have the potential for earning a lot of money, find an agent. If your agent can't sell your book, or if you have out of print books, I highly recommend self-pubbing on Kindle and Smashwords.

Q: I've tried to get an agent. They keep rejecting me.

A: Perhaps your writing isn't strong enough yet. Are you sure you want to release a book that may not be ready?

Q: How do I format for Kindle?

A: Contact Rob Siders at He's fast, reasonable, and very good.

Q: Who does your covers?

A: My artist is a friend of mine named Carl Graves. He's at cgdouble2(at) Tell him I sent you. Expect to pay around $300 for a cover, though the price fluctuates depending on your needs.

Q: What do I do to promote my Kindle ebooks?

A: I post at whenever I have a new release. That's pretty much all the promo I do. But I'm lucky to have a popular blog, and lots of folks who talk about me on the net. I also have a print backlist.

Q: Do you need to have a popular blog and a backlist to be successful on Kindle?

A: No. Many others have sold well without the platform I have. But you shouldn't ever compare yourself with other authors, or their sales. Your mileage will vary.

Q: What are the most important things to keep in mind when uploading a book to Kindle?

A: 1. A professional cover and professional formatting. 2. A good product description. 3. A price between 99 cents and $2.99. 4. A good book.

Q: Are ebooks going to take over traditional publishing?

A: Eventually. But print will be around for a while.

Q: I was offered a print deal. But you say I should keep my erights, but my publisher won't let me keep them. What should I do?

A: Right now, I'm selling about 230 ebooks a day. In July (when the royalty rate changes to 70%), I'll be making about $470 a day on Kindle. I won't give up my erights unless a publisher can pay me more than that. But these are my numbers. Your numbers may be different. So you have to set your own goals and follow your own path. But be very wary about signing away erights.

Q: What about iPad, Sony, Kobo, and Nook?

A: Use They'll upload to all of those, including Amazon, and take a small percentage. I have no idea how well I'm doing on these platforms yet, because Smashwords reports quarterly and I haven't gotten my numbers yet. I don't expect them to be anywhere near my Kindle numbers, but it's really early in the game. Who knows what the future holds?

Q: How did you get movie deals on your Kindle books?

A: The folks who bought the rights came to me. Then my agent made the deals. My agent is also currently working on selling foreign rights to my self-pubbed ebooks. Bottom line: get a good agent.

Q: Don't you think the ebook bubble is eventually going to burst?

A: If I maintain my current rate of sales, I'll earn $170,000 a year on ebook sales. That's just on the Kindle, and ebooks currently account for less than 6% of all book sales. What happens when ebooks account for 10%? Or 30%? What about platforms other than Kindle?

Eventually, there will be tens of millions of ereading devices out there, and I'm going to keep publishing new ebooks--many of them per year. I can envision a time in the future where I'm selling 500 or 1000 ebooks per day. If we predict that 40 million people will have ereaders in the year 2015, and I sold 1000 ebooks per day, it would take me over a hundred years to completely saturate that market. I'm not in any danger of maxing out my potential fanbase anytime soon.

Q: You seem to really be down on print publishers lately.

A: I love print publishers. But the traditional publishing industry is flawed, and I don't see any signs it will be fixed anytime soon. It used to be the only game in town. If you wanted to make a living as an author, you had to accept small royalties, no control, and a system dependent on others who may not have your best interests in mind. Not a healthy environment for an artist. While I've been extremely lucky in my career, I've also felt that I was at the mercy of a broken industry.

With ebooks, the majority of the money, and all the control, goes to the writer. That's incredibly liberating. I set my prices. I pick my titles. I choose the cover. I edit according to my taste. I'm not dependent on pre-sales or buy-ins. I'm not at the mercy of coop. I don't worry about returns. I don't have to tour, or advertise, or do all the crazy self-promotion I've done in the past. Distribution is no longer important. Going out of print is no longer a worry. I don't have to wait 12 to 18 months for the book I wrote to get into the hands of readers. I don't have to suffer because of someone else's mistakes. I don't have to try to fit a certain model. Past numbers don't matter. I'm not tied in to any contract. I get paid once a month, not twice a year. And I don't have to answer to anybody.

Ebooks truly are the greatest thing to happen to writers since Gutenberg.


David Wisehart said...

Joe, you rock! Thanks for the answers, and the inspiration.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting your cover designer.

Moses Siregar III said...

Joe, what is this? I was told you were going to be answering questions about bringing a woman to orgasm.

In other news:

I just got a Kindle 2, and I made 'The Newbie's Guide to Publishing' my first live purchase on it. Thanks for all you're doing.

Monie said...

Thank you so much for a great blog with even better information. I look in here almost every day, and find that your advice has helped me alot.
I´m a writer from Sweden, who so far only has published fanfiction, but have a book on the way. And after reading your blog it is clear to me that e-publishing is my cup of tea.
Thank you again!

Levi Montgomery said...

I had two questions I'd been holding until the next time I saw you on Twitter, but since one of them ("What do I do to promote my Kindle ebooks?") got answered here, I'm just going to ask the other:

Do you still have the program where you will advertise other authors' work in the back of yours, and if so, how does one get in on that?

Also, thank you so much for the blog post about Rob Siders, who did my conversion for me! Excellent work for a good rate.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Thanks for the answers.

CJ West said...


You were once the king of promotion, visiting stores, writing letters, yada yada. Are you saying that you have significantly decreased your efforts?


JA Konrath said...

@Levi--I'm not currently doing excerpts with new authors. That will change later int he year, when I have some free time again.

@CJ--I'm actively turning down promo opportunities that are being presented to me. I simply don't see the need anymore to bust my ass traveling and schmoozing.

J.A. Marlow said...

Thanks for the quick over-view of the most popular questions. I imagine you are overloaded with emails! I'm glad you publicly posted your answers because then it let the rest of us have the benefits. :)

Rex Kusler said...

I've seen some 99-cent kindle books rise up out of the depths and sell like crazy with no promotion at all. Joe Humphrey's A DIRTY BUSINESS, first started showing up on the "Customers...Also Bought" list with my book when it was ranked below 5000. It has a nice cover, an intriguing description, and it's well-written. Gradually it rose into the top 1000 and has stayed there. Joe Humphrey seems to enjoy his privacy, and he doesn't even post on message boards.

I think the key for his book is the 99-cent price, the cover, description--and the book itself. There must be a lot of kindle customers who are like prospectors digging through the slush, looking for good cheap books. And then they pass the word around.

Karly Kirkpatrick said...

Another great post...I'll be bookmarking this one! Thanks for sharing!

Barb said...

Thanks, Joe. I'm positively elated by the energy here. Finally, as this week ends, my romance, DISCONNECTED, went live at Amazon. They had a problem initially believing the book to be in public domain and wrote to ask me to prove the author was dead. I wrote back and said I couldn't prove it.

Jack H. H. King said...


I am unconvinced about Sony, iPad, Nook, Google, and author-website ebooks.


Kindle is the greatest thing to happen to writers since Gutenberg.

Just wait until this fall when Amazon brings out the next Kindle with faster chips, a lower price, and full color digital paper.

- Jack

Unknown said...

Thanks for the information. As a new writer, I find your posts so helpful!

J.H. Moncrieff said...

You're an inspiration, Joe. It's awesome to see how your career has progressed.

Thanks for the post.

Zoe Winters said...

I love how giant your enthusiasm is getting. It's like a runaway train! (Do trains actually runaway?)

Anyway, I was talking to a friend the other night about my numbers because I'm on target to sell over 800 copies of Kept this month (if i stay on track will be highest month so far, yay whoohoo etc.) and she's all going: "Aren't you afraid of running out of people to sell too?"

And I laughed and was like "Joe Konrath is selling a crapload more books than I am.

Ebooks ARE still a minority of sales, but what a lot of people don't get is, that minority market is still pretty freaking huge when it comes to actual numbers of people you can potentially sell to.

Especially when you're just starting out. I have no danger of reaching market saturation, and even with your numbers, I don't think you do either.

Isn't the Internet awesome!

David Wisehart said...

In a recent survey of 13,000 consumers in 14 countries, nearly half (49%) plan to buy an e-reader in the next three years.

E-reader survey results

Lee Goldberg said...

There's one assumption that you and I keep making that may not hold true in the future...and that is that Amazon, iStore, etc, will continue to let individual authors make their books available on their websites.

I can see that Amazon, the iStore, etc. getting swamped with self-published work, taxing their resources and eating up lots of their web real estate, and creating restrictions on what they will and will not sell.


Zoe Winters said...


Don't you think a moderate listing fee would solve the problem if it became one? I'd certainly be willing to pay a reasonable fee for access to Amazon.

I could understand if Amazon didn't want to be available to self-publishers but there are a lot of small pubs who aren't self-publishers who would get shut out in such a situation as well.

If there wasn't something reasonable like a fee I can see a lot of indie authors forming co-ops and figuring out whatever the new requirements would be to get listed and getting in through a side door that way.

Rex Kusler said...

I don't think Amazon will be eliminating their DTP progam. It's an easy way to bring in extra revenue and attract new authors (customers).

One of my two books on Amazon, ANGELA, hasn't been doing very well there, mostly because it's free everywhere else via Smashwords. I read that Amazon has been sending out letters to authors complaining about their books being priced lower on other sites.

ANGELA (a ghost story) has only been getting an average of 1 sale per day on Amazon, and not wanting to be further embarrassed by her dismal rank, I unpublished her. She disappeared an hour later.

The next morning she reappeared, and had sold a few copies. As soon as they were done processing it, I checked and saw that the "kindle store" box had been rechecked.

I figure if Amazon wants to sell my book, who am I to stand in their way.

Perry Wilson said...

Thanks, I hadn't heard of before.

Moses Siregar III said...

Joe, I've been thoroughly enjoying 'The Newbie's Guide to Publishing,' (though it's definitely for more than just newbies), and I just wrote a lil' Amazon review right here.

Anonymous said...

I just put my first novel, "St. Cochrane's World", up on Kindle ( Of course the Kindle logo covers part of the title (sigh).

My second novel is out to the major print publishers (via my agent) and my third is in my agent's to-be-read pile.

Thanks for all your insight Joe, it's been invaluable.


Eric Christopherson said...

An important part of Amazon's business strategy is the "long tail" (see so I doubt they'll be barring anyone from selling their indie books. Raising minimum price or, as mentioned, imposing a listing fee, would make more sense, it seems to me. Besides, I know it seems like everyone has a novel in them, but there is actually a limited number of people who actually complete one--of whatever quality.

JA Konrath said...

That's one heck of a review, Moses.Thank you kindly.

Moses Siregar III said...

No problem.

I thought of a little question to add to this list, and I hope everyone will feel free to answer. I'm on Facebook and Twitter, and I have a site/blog, but then I hear about sites like Shelfari, Goodreads, and another one I can't remember the name of (Red-something?). Which of these, if any, is most likely to be worth my time as a writer?

Redstar said...

Interesting survey on e-book price over at:

Moses Siregar III said...

Very interesting, Redstar! I'm on, btw.

One thing for us to keep in mind with that study is that it's asking which prices seem "fair." That's different than, "what prices would you likely buy at?"

For example, someone might think that a new $9.99 ebook is at a "fair price," but they might not actually buy it unless it was $4.99 or lower (or whatever the case may be).

However, this seems to show that with 93% saying that a $11.31 ebook seems "too high," that the agency model of pricing ebooks is at a price which nearly everyone thinks is too high. Of course, that might be exactly what the big publishers are aiming for: not wanting people to buy ebooks for new releases.

Mary Anne Graham said...


Thanks for this post.

You know how Elvis was the King of Rock and Michael was the King of Pop? Well, I think you're King of the Kindle.

I think my covers are great - but then my hubby does those and he's a great graphics guy, so that doesn't speak to anything about the author. Hubby also does my formatting for Kindle and Smashwords - his stuff gets through the Meatgrinder the first time and slid right through the criteria for being distributed through the premium catalog.

That only leaves that one WEE, ITTY BITTY other hurdle that's all mine to scale - the great book part. I like my stories, but I've a feeling that perhaps I have a ways to go before they approach greatness. Some readers think they have a long way to go while others seem to get them.

I wonder - how long does it take before a low Kindle price point will attract sales? One of my (many) flaws is impatience. I keep playing with my price point. However, after reading this, I've reduced it to $2.99 and I swear I'm going to leave it there for a while to see if the Konrath Magic kicks in.

Maybe, I'll have to name 1 of the 2"lucky ducks" that too rarely)visit my yard KONRATH. That can only multiply the luck, right?

Ty said...

It's all about the money. As long as Amazon is making money from it's DTP program, they'll continue it. Smashwords and other sites, too.

If economic and technological shifts should occur, I still don't think Amazon would cut out self-pubbers who are making money. They might cut out the little guys who are only pulling in a few books a month, but not the money makers.

Dialogue said...

Many thanks for this post.

My publisher has gone belly up with the recession and I've been toying with the idea of publishing by ebook.

I fully realise I can't translate your figures to mine, but it's good to hear that you can be successful by this route.

Penny Sansevieri said...

This is really helpful and great information for authors. I appreciate your willingness to take your own experience and share it with others so they can learn.

John Wiswell said...

I have nothing intelligent to add. I simply found this enlightening. Thank you for doing it.

Sarah Collins Honenberger said...

Curious about how you made your book into an ebook? Is it a special program?

Kathleen MacIver said...

Joe, I've got a question that stems from one of your answers here.

What does your relationship with your agent actually look like with these ebook sales? Is he/she getting 15% of all of them? Did you have to convince him/her to let you go this route? How would you advise someone going your route to do it? Find an agent, and then tell them you want to self-publish instead of NY publish?

Also...I know you haven't seen any of my work, but I do book covers also, in a different style from your cover designer. My style's not suited to horror or thriller or suspense novels...more to inspirational, romance, etc. If anyone's interested, you can view samples of my graphic work here: KatieDid Design