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
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
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.
“Well, I agree, but having the Kindle e-book makes for good
marketing and it elevates my image in the eyes of some
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
“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
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
Yes, I know there are Kindle e-book authors that have sold books
by the truckload and made small fortunes. But these are a
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
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
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