The awful truth about Kindle e-book publishing

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Kindle has been heralded as the next great opportunity for
Unfortunately, its value and potential have been vastly
To establish my Kindle credentials, thin as they may be: a
number of my books with traditional publishing houses are
available in Kindle e-book versions – and they have earned me
many thousands of dollars in extra royalties.
In addition, I have self-published two original Kindle e-books. 
The first is a 300-page collection of my science fiction
stories, "The Emancipation of Abraham Lincoln XL-3000 and Other
The second is a 273-page collection of these twice-weekly e-mail
essays, "Don't Wear a Cowboy Hat Unless You Are a Cowboy and
Other Grumbling of a Cranky Curmudgeon".
Here's what I have learned from my admittedly limited experience
in self-publishing Kindle e-books – contrasted with my 30+ years
of extensive experience writing more than 80 traditionally
published paperbound books: 
To begin with, Kindle e-books are difficult to promote using PR,
because book reviewers, newspaper feature editors, radio
producers, and other media people don't take self-published
Kindle e-books seriously.
Example: Amazon has a service called CreateSpace that lets
customers order a paperbound version of your book instead of the
Kindle version. 
A friend of mine who is a reporter at the largest daily
newspaper in my part of NJ took a paperback copy of my science
fiction book to the features editor at the paper, hoping to
interest her in writing an article about me. 
"This is self published, so we wouldn't even consider it," she
told him with more than a little contempt. 
Second, in traditional publishing, your book is at least
minimally vetted: It's good enough that someone paid you some
money to publish it.
Self-published books, both Kindle and other, have no such
vetting. So the quality is often way below the standards of
traditionally published books. Exceptions? Of course. 
Third, the mechanisms for promoting your Kindle e-book are more
limited than with traditional paperbound books. 
When I publish a book with McGraw-Hill, for example, it at least
gets into bookstores where people can stumble across it and, if
it looks interesting to them, buy it.
Barnes & Noble will invite me in to give a talk about the
subject of the book, as will my local library, many
associations, and even corporate clients who want training in
the topic. 
I have also done dozens of radio and TV interviews to promote my
traditionally published books. 
The results include an appearance on the now-defunct network
show CBS Hard Copy and a full-page feature article about me in
the National Enquirer -- published when I wrote "The 'I Hate
Kathie Lee Gifford' Book."
I don't know of many Kindle e-books that get this kind of
The only place Kindle e-books are sold is on Amazon, and there
are two problems with that. 
One is that you are competing, on relatively equal footing, for
attention with over a million other books. So how is yours going
to stand out? 
Two, unlike the PDF e-books I sell, which are promoted
aggressively with e-mail marketing and long-copy landing pages
that sell the book hard, the page Amazon puts up to describe
your book is pretty lame -- not hard-selling at all. 
Yes, I know of a few authors who are making zillions with their
Kindle e-books. But trust me: these are the rare exception, not
the rule. 
One of your fellow subscribers to this newsletter told me she
makes $72,000 a year from Amazon with about a dozen or two
Kindle e-books. That's quite impressive. 
I suspect there are thousands, if not tens of thousands, of
self-published Kindle e-books on Amazon that have sold less than
a hundred copies each -- though I don't have the data to prove it. 
If you want to self-publish a Kindle e-book, do not expect to
get rich or famous from it. There is minimal financial reward or
prestige in doing so. 
By the way, given the limited distribution and sales potential,
I would never take the time to write an original book for
self-publication as a Kindle e-book. 
All my Kindle e-books are collections of previously published
articles, essays, and stories I have written. So my labor in
putting them together is less than half a day each -- mainly to
cobble together the articles in the proper order, and then add a
cover page, copyright page, and perhaps a brief introduction. 
My total cost to produce my Kindle e-books -- running an average
of 250 pages or so -- is only $600 each. 
I pay my graphic designer $500 to design the front and back
cover and inside pages, and to submit them to Kindle and
CreateSpace. I pay another $100 to a proofreader. And that's it.
So my investment in time and money is minimal. 
Despite what the self-publishing gurus and advocates tell
you, self-publishing a Kindle e-book is not nearly as
prestigious as having a paperback or hardcover book with a
"real" publisher like John Wiley & Sons or McGraw-Hill. Trust me
on this.

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