But How Do You Make Money?
My Blog is only one day old and already I’m getting questions from other writers. Here’s what one writer wants to know:
I’m wondering if I’m about ready to talk seriously about self publishing. I’ve started thinking about it more after reading an article about how the really inexpensive books get downloaded more. How do you make a profit if you sell a digital version for $.99, $1.99? Did you offer a hardback version of your book? Are you selling on Kindle or other online sites?
Here’s a rather long answer.
It’s really incredible. The times we write in. It’s surely “the best of” half of that classic equation. Never before have writers had so many opportunities opening before us. It’s exciting and a bit daunting to be standing in the middle of this great and expanding level playing field.
When I started writing over twenty years ago now – wow has it been that long – the writing world was completely different. At least the public, publishing, and promoting part of the writer’s world. There was no Amazon, Kindle, Nook, Facebook, Twitter, blogs, websites, message boards, threads, posts or social media. There was only New York publishing houses. And agents.
Now for years we’ve all been hearing that books are dead, print is dead, reading is fast disappearing. Well a funny thing happened on the way to reading’s demise. It was called Kindle. Followed by Nook. Followed by you name it other devices for e-reading. Technology has changed everything in much the same way the printing press did back in 1500.
Here’s a little (slightly edited) history of that great technological leap forward, courtesy of Wikipedia (and oh by the way, another incredible innovation level-playing-field-wise):
“The mechanical systems involved were first assembled by a German named Johannes Gutenberg around 1440. He developed a complete printing system, which perfected the printing process through all its stages by adapting existing technologies to printing purposes, as well as making groundbreaking inventions of his own. The creation of metal movable type in large quantities, made possible the profitability of the whole printing enterprise.
From a single point of origin, Main, Germany, printing spread within several decades to over two hundred cities in a dozen European countries. By 1500, printing presses had already produced more than twenty million volumes.”
I have to say that prior to Gutenberg’s invention, very few people even knew how to read. That was the province of clerics, and the few highly educated. But all of a sudden books and reading were hot commodities.
Skip forward about 600 years to November, 2007 when the first Kindle launched. And they laughed and laughed and said Jeff Bezos had really screwed up this time. Hah. By mid 2010, e-books formatted for Kindle were outselling hardcovers on Amazon.com and by the end of the year they were also outselling paperbacks. While some predict the demise of print altogether, others say we’ll see a further ebbing of print sales but they’ll always have a place on the shelf. Right next to the Kindle. Only they’ll always cost a lot more. And people who want to read a whole lotta books, will buy e-books because – well because they’re cheaper, more portable, and you can sample the first chapter before you buy. Oh and you don’t have to drive to a mall where there are very few bookstores left. Am I against print? Not at all. I love choices as much as anyone. That’s the point. We now have choices.
What does this mean for writers? That’s simple. More readers. A bigger audience. More opportunity to be read. And more ways to reach your target reader. It’s surely the best of times for writers.
When I sell 50 e-books a day, I’m happy (and I never sell less than that anymore). When a hundred people buy my e-book(s) in one day I’m delighted. When they write rave reviews I’m tickled. When they pan my book(s), I’m still happy. It means my books are being read. And a book comes alive through readers. This level playing field allows me to reach readers in ways I could never have imagined 20 years ago when I wrote my first middle grade novel for children. That book is now live on kindle and Nook and being read. That’s the whole point of writing. Isn’t it?
So how does an author make money on a 99-cent download? Volume.