The Amazon Kindle was not the first electronic reader on the market. Sony had been marketing one for the better part of a year, but Amazon took the concept mainstream, making it the first e-reader that the average layperson could get his or her mitts upon.

Now there are a few players on the field, but the economics of e-book are similar and the Kindle still represents the bulk of the e-book market. Therefore, it’s a good model to use when comparing the numbers side of e-book publishing versus the dead tree model.

Let’s assume for a second that a big dead-tree publishing house is releasing your hardcover book at the usual price of (let’s say) twenty-four American dollars. Assuming a middling hardcover royalty rate of 12.5%, your share is an even three bucks for every copy sold. Your agent get his or her grubby mitts on 15% of your income, leaving you with a tidy sum of $2.55 for every copy sold.

Now, if you were to publish the same book yourself on the Kindle, you could pulled down the same three bucks (and more, without sharing a red cent with a grubby agent) selling the book for less than five dollars. Now, given that you and I are relative unknowns, I think we’ll both sell a hell of lot more copies at $5.00 than we would at $24.00.

“Yes,” you say, “but the publisher will promote my book, and I’ll sit next to Ellen Degeneres on TV.”

For the average author not named James Patterson, that moment typically happens shortly after pigs are seen soaring over the frozen landscape of hell. Most books aren’t promoted at all, or barely at all. As the author who slaved for hours in solitude, putting words after other words, you are also responsible for the heavy lifting for marketing your book, just as if you published it yourself.

And the sales and income from a book, published traditionally, wouldn’t start until close to a year after you signed a deal to publish your book, and that alone could take years to accomplish. Now you may never have a New York Times bestseller , but that’s true regardless of how your book is published.

So, to sum it all up:

  • You can make as much or more money per copy selling your book on the Kindle as you could from a traditional publishing deal, while selling your book for far less than the paper edition.
  • Even with a traditional publishing you will be the prime mover when it comes to publicity and marketing.
  • While you’re waiting for some traditional “dead tree” publisher to decide that your books is worthy of their efforts, it’s certain that no one is reading your book, and equally certain that you’re no earning any income from your work. Even if you only sell a couple hundred copies, that about $600 (using my example above).
  • It should be noted that self-publishing via the Kindle (and other mediums) does not preclude a traditional publishing deal later, and may help you establish a track record that will help you attract the attention of a publishing house. It certainly can’t hurt.

Of course, if you have any success as a self-publisher, you may not see a deal with a traditional publisher as a step forward. If you find yourself in that position, let me know, so I can spend some envying you.

In future posts, I will discuss the nuts and bolts of preparing your book for publication on the Kindle. I’ll also go into the economics of self-publishing the print edition with CreateSpace, as well as the various steps along the way.

As I make the necessary steps to promote Human X (and other books down the road), I will point out these steps and explain why I do the things I do.

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