The first draft of THE HOLE was, for about five months, available as an ebook on Amazon’s Kindle store. I did this as an experiment: would an unrevised draft (a “beta book,” so to speak) both sell if priced low enough and act as a good means for gathering feedback for revision? In short, the answer is “yes” for the first and “no” for the second. What follows is my general experience of the Kindle process, from both a technical standpoint (how easy was it to setup?) and an economic (just how many did I sell, anyway?).
Publishing to the Amazon Kindle
Getting setup as an Amazon publisher is easy. The only step beyond having an Amazon login account was to give them my bank information for payment (them paying me, that is–I didn’t have to pay them anything). Adding books takes slightly more work. Most of this consists of filling out forms (title, author, edition, description, price, etc.) and the bulk of the work is in formatting the manuscript for Kindle viewing. I have to admit, this was probably more difficult for me that it would be for most. The reason is, I do all my writing in an application called Scrivener. It’s very likely the greatest writing tool ever, but it also means that I have an extra step when I’m done of exporting to Word and then taking care of a bunch of formatting issues. Authors working in Word, or any other word processor, to begin with will have an easier time of it.
Uploading the manuscript is a snap and Amazon does a good job making it look pretty enough. If I were publishing something new, I’d spend a bit more time coming up with a nice PDF with better chapter headings and other shiny formatting bits. On the whole, though, getting the novel into Amazon was far smoother than I expected it to be.
I did not price the book at anywhere near retail, as I couldn’t imagine doing so for something that wasn’t yet retail quality. On the other hand, I knew people enjoyed reading it–this based on the enthusiasm the web serialization had garnered–so I figured there was nothing wrong with charging a little. After all, I do write to (eventually) get paid and the story was available for free to those who wanted to browse through my blog to read it. Having it on the Kindle was value added. So I set the price at $3.49. Amazon knocked twenty percent off to $2.79. That put the book firmly in the impulse buy category.
The novel has sold relatively steadily since publication, with a slight bump in October (people like to buy horror stories around Halloween, oddly enough). “Relatively steadily” means roughly a copy a day–which is far better than I expected, actually, and an encouraging number for first outing.
My goal in making the draft edition available on the Kindle was two-fold. Yes, I wanted to earn some money, and I succeeded in doing that. But I was also hoping to turn the product’s Amazon page into a forum for reader feedback. This hasn’t happened. I’ve had four readers post reviews (three if you discount the one from my wife) and no one has started a thread in the book’s discussion area. I’m not too upset by this, as it’s wonderful enough that people are actually buying and reading the book. In the future, though, I’ll simply direct all feedback to my website.
Publishing to the Kindle has been–and continues to be–worthwhile. I will certainly use it again the the future and I expect it to become a more viable income source as the number of folks out there with the device grows. Amazon has a neat product on their hands and it’s one aspiring authors should consider embracing.
Update: As part of signing a publishing deal for THE HOLE with Permuted Press, I agreed to take down the ebook discussed above. The web version is still available, however, and I’m currently working on editing that draft for eventual print release (and ebook) release. If you want to know when that happens, just follow me on Twitter or fan me on Facebook and you’ll automatically be in the loop. Oh, and you’ll get notices about my new fiction, posts on writing and publishing, and more.