The awful truth about publishing a Kindle e-book

March 19th, 2014 by Bob Bly

Marketing consultant BM recently wrote me:

“Bob, I am so proud! I just published my first Kindle e-book!”
It was a business title.

Of course, I congratulated him.

But being the negative nelly I am, I felt compelled to tell him
what in my opinion is the awful truth about writing and
publishing a Kindle e-book. I wrote:

“I think with rare exception there is almost no money to be
made and very little prestige to be gained in producing Kindle
e-books, precisely because everyone can do it and seemingly is.”

Kindle e-books have greatly devalued the status of being an
author.

It reminds me of a line uttered by Buddy, the bad guy in the
movie The Incredibles.

Buddy is jealous of superheroes. Being an inventor, he designs
an outfit that gives him the ability to fly and shoot paralyzing
rays.

He intends to sell the suit design to the highest bidder,
gleefully noting: “When everyone is super, then no one is.”

It’s the same with Kindle: when everyone is an author, then
being an author isn’t special.

BM replied:

“Well, I agree, but having the Kindle e-book makes for good
marketing and it elevates my image in the eyes of some
prospects.”

Again, I am an argumentative cuss, so I countered: “I am not
sure how it helps with marketing. The best way to use the book
would be to offer it online as a free download, not sell it for
ten bucks on Amazon, who will not share the customer’s name with
you.

“And I do not think being a Kindle e-book author does anything
to elevate image. A REAL book does that.”

BM agreed: “I have a real book, so I agree with you entirely,
even though it was self-published. I sold about 500 and gave
away about 300, and that book landed me huge projects.”

I have booked hundreds of thousands of dollars in copywriting
and consulting projects, and speaking gigs, because of my
physical books, all published by major publishing houses.

One of the problems with Kindle e-books is that, while they are
cheap and easy to publish, the end result is simply having an
e-book that people can buy on Amazon.

Amazon doesn’t market or promote these Kindle e-books in any
way.

Therefore, once posted online, the majority sit there, and many
sell a pitifully small number of copies.

One author, DY, told me proudly that after heavy promotion over
the course of a couple of years, he sold 540 copies of his
self-published book. He then admitted he barely broke even on
the venture.

Yes, I know there are Kindle e-book authors that have sold books
by the truckload and made small fortunes. But these are a
miniscule minority.

The vast majority of Kindle e-book authors toil in obscurity and
barely make enough on their book to take the family to a nice
dinner at Outback.

Most Kindle e-books, including my two — a collection of my
science fiction stories and a collection of these e-mail essays,
“Don’t Wear a Cowboy Hat Unless You Are a Cowboy” — are vanity
publications.

The author produces them for his own ego and from a desire to
make his writing available to the wider world.

But in most cases, including mine, the wider world has little or
no interest.

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11 responses about “The awful truth about publishing a Kindle e-book”

  1. Victor Mbazigwe said:

    Maybe because Kindle wants to promote the idea of “Everyone has an inner writer in them, and all it needs is to tap that potential” that is why most people get to embrace that perspective. I too is a little skeptical in publishing my content in kindle since its a dead end for your dream to be a writer.
    That’s why for me, even if kindle wants to promote that idea, I still want to stick on the belief of “everyone can be a writer, but not everyone can be an expert and great writer”.

  2. The awful truth about publishing a Kindle e-book - bly.com blog - bly ... - IBook Store said:

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  3. Bob Bly said:

    Victor: another spin: everyone can write. Not everyone can write well enough to justify putting their words and ideas into a book.

  4. Rob Taylor said:

    Minuscule, not “miniscule”.

  5. Bob Bly said:

    If Kindle wants to promote the idea of everyone releasing their inner writer, perhaps they should not. What about my inner brain surgeon? Can I operate on their brains? And Rob: seriously?

  6. Rob Taylor said:

    Yes.

  7. Adam said:

    Depends on how you look at it. There are a lot of good Kindle books and authors that are successful since they focus on a specific topic.

    The issue is most writers only focus on writing books and NOT marketing.

  8. RJ said:

    Rob- both spellings are accepted. Minuscule was the original form, but the popular variant “miniscule” emerged in the early 19th century. Both spellings are in the dictionary.

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  11. Bob Bly said:

    RJ: Thanks. Rob: Don’t try to be such a smartie.

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