Publishing ebooks for Amazon’s Kindle reader is often being referred to as “The New Gold Rush”. But is it really that profitable? Can you really make money selling Kindle books?
Making Money Selling Kindle Books
To talk about this field of earning, we first need to look at the underlying principles.
What you Need to Know First
Amazon introduced the Kindle in 2008. Since then, the reading device has been almost wholly to blame for the demise of regular print reading like newspapers, paperbacks, and even entire franchises like Barnes & Noble.
When Amazon did this, they also created a brand-new market known as Self Publishing, which of course started on Amazon, but has since branched out to other marketplaces like the Apple Store, Nook, and many others.
Despite all the others who have jumped on this idea of Self Publishing, Amazon continues to dominate, and therefore, Kindle Publishing is almost its own entity.
What Kindle publishing did was allow anyone who wanted to write a book, to do just that without any of the traditional gatekeepers. I took about 3 months in 2016 to write my own book. I paid someone to make a cover and format it. Boom. I was now a self-published author.
In the past, you would have to go through a series of pitches — essentially pitching your book idea to literary agents and publishing companies — in order to get a book deal. Without a book deal, you could have never published a book.
Now, instead of pitching your idea, waiting for a response, and dealing with publishing companies, all you have to do is upload a simple document. You can literally be a published author within a few hours. Even with the glory of typos, bad ideas, and poor writing, you can be an author!
How Publishing on Kindle Works
Surprisingly, publishing a book to the Amazon Kindle store is not difficult.
Once you write your book, you simply upload it to Amazon’s servers for review. Amazon uses a specific type of file called a .mobi but if you use MS Word, you can upload a simple Word document.
Besides the actual content of the book, you don’t need much else. There are some things that most kindle publishers say that you cannot do without, like professional editing.
At a bare minimum, you can publish a book with just the content and a cover.
Once the fine folks at Amazon review your book it will go live in the Kindle store, making you a published author. This simplicity is probably the reason that Kindle publishing has attracted so many independent writers. But can you really make money selling Kindle books or is it more of a novelty to be an author?
How Much Can You Make Selling Kindle Books
There are a few authors in the Kindle publishing world that are well-known for their success. Names like Steve Scott or Hugh Howey come to mind immediately. Both of these authors publish Kindle books and are transparent about their earnings.
Steve Scott has gone on many podcasts and showed his earnings, which average out to about $40,000 per month. Hugh Howey, the author of the best-selling, Wool series, has received offers from Hollywood to turn his book into a movie.
In this video below, you can see that Nick Stephenson is making $15,000 per month from self-publishing.
So can you make money with Kindle? Wow. YES. It's definitely possible to make money publishing Kindle books.
The questions we have to answer now are:
- HOW do you make money selling Kindle Books?
- How do YOU get started (or improve current sales)?
- Do you have the GUTS to follow through and make this happen?
What are the Downsides to Selling on Kindle?
Let's shake out the “get rich quick” crowd right now. Despite the many positive things about Kindle publishing, there are a few potentially deal-breaking caveats to consider.
The money is there, no doubt. But what does it take to get that money?
In 2013, Digital Book World published this report, which shows average income for self-published authors being around $5,000 per year. $5k a year is not an income, but it's money, and it's a good enough start for most.
Still, that number ranges from $1 to $5,000, meaning it could fall in the hundreds of dollars per year with their books. Authors making anything over $10,000 per year fall under 10% TOTAL of all writers worldwide. To really make an income, you have to be in the top 10% of self-published writers.
There are many ways to make it to 10%. You could publish more than anyone else, or better than anyone else. If you have enough money, you could just outsource better than anyone else. Just keep in mind that you are going to have to grind to make it to the top. If you love writing, you're already halfway there.
A One-and-Done Attitude won’t Cut it
Popular advice seems to be that you need to publish multiple books in order to see any kind of tangible success. The hosts of the popular, Self-Publishing podcast, recommend a system that requires at least eight books. They have even written their own book on the topic, titled, “Write, Publish, Repeat”.
Depending on how fast you can type, and how many book ideas you have, the idea of writing eight books minimum could be a real shot to the gut. There are many authors with much more than eight books who claim to still be missing out on the success they had hoped for. One such author is Garrett Robinson.
Garrett has more than thirty books for sale in the Kindle store, yet he claims to make less than $300 per month from them. It’s worth mentioning that Garrett has a fairly large following too.
Perhaps he's talking about the residual income part, and he makes more money during a book launch.
When I published my first (and only so far) Kindle book called Money Blog, I was able to earn about $100 per month for about six months. It's since fallen to about $30-$50 per month. Even with 37 natural reviews accumulated so far, and a 5-star rating, I can definitely see the attrition of earnings over time, so I imagine that if you have books in obscure niches, they may earn just a few dollars per month after a few years.
I should mention, that I also have an email list where I promote the book, so that could account for the monthly sales. Without your own website and mailing list, long term sales are going to be a tough nut to crack.
Here's an example from an experienced Amazon seller, and successful Kindle Author. You can see his earnings on Upfuel, but here's the snapshot I'll use to make my point.
What earns about $5k in the first year, peters out to just a few hundred dollars. Plus, even though $5k is a nice chunk of money, it's not an income, let alone a stable one according to Chris Guthrie's experience.
Here are my own results over time:
Kindle Early Earnings (first year of release)
Kindle Earnings Recently (after 1.5 years)
What's the #1 Problem with Selling Kindle Books?
The truth is, it isn't easy to market books (just ask traditional publishers). And when you call something a “Goldrush” on the internet you're going to attract everyone! Because of that, the Kindle store has been bombarded with new books, now hosting more than 3.6 million titles.
Simply writing a book and publishing does nothing to help you sell it. You are nothing more than one small cover in a pool of over three million others.
If you want to make money selling Kindle books then you are going to have to learn to market both the books and yourself as a writer.
The most popular way, of course, is starting a blog. It only seems natural that a person making money from writing would market themselves in the same way, by writing a blog. But remember, time spent blogging, is the time taken away from writing books.
Not to mention the estimated 152 million blogs there are online.
Blogging is blogging. It's not marketing. If you're going to build an audience of readers and sell books you're going to have to do more than that. You are going to need to learn how to leverage traffic from your blog to sell books.
Steve Scott, who's marketing plan generates tens of thousands of dollars each month, uses a combination of blogging, email marketing, and even PPC (pay per click) campaigns to market his books.
There are websites, podcasts, and of course, books dedicated to helping authors learn to market their books, but there is one in particular that I feel can help more than any other. If you want to learn to be a power marketer, this is the place to start.