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Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Kindlenomics Don’t Add Up

I didn’t study economics in school but maybe someone can explain to me how Kindle is helping authors make money if all one sees is free books and dirt-cheap books? Let’s examine together, shall we?

If you search for “Kindle Best-Sellers” you come to a link showing the top 100 “paid” books (those for sale) and right next to it is a top 100 “free” books list (just click and download books at no charge). If you make it that easy to find what is free and popular, won’t this injure sales for others? Some people will be preoccupied with ‘free’ and thus will make less time available for ‘paid.’

On the other hand, ‘free’ stuff gets you interested in an author you may otherwise not know or haven’t heard of. This may help that particular author introduce backlist titles – for a fee – to the reader. Or the reader may continue trolling for free books.

Next issue: pricing. Only 21% of the top 100 cost more than 9.99 but 61% sold for less, including seven for as little as 99 cents a piece.

Initially it appears the consumer wins. He or she gets free or inexpensive books, but clearly publishers and authors are not winning. Publishers could charge more for hard cover and paperback books, but lose sales to ebooks. Nothing wrong with selling ebooks but the medium shouldn’t force a price discount. Authors simply struggle to get bigger advances or earn royalties due to the fact they make less money per book sale than they used to. And most authors struggle to sell their books due to the enormous competition of paid books that are underpriced and coupled with the proliferation of free books.

The consumer may eventually lose if the major publishers start to go under or merge. Then there will be fewer ‘experts’ putting out well-done books. The vast majority of books floating out there already lack the best writing and editing. But this is long-term speculation. For now, hands-down, it is the best time to be a book consumer. But to be an author, times are favorable in that it is the best chance to get published but it is getting harder to sell those books.

The deflation hitting the book world needs a turn-around faster than EL James can write a sequel to Fifty Shades of Grey.

Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer, the nation’s largest book promoter. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at He feels more important when discussed in the third-person.


  1. I'm blogging friends with a self-published author and she has found offering her books for free to be a successful marketing ploy. Given the huge universe of books,my guess is that it doesn't take many of those free downloads to move your book to the top of the rankings in some category. Once it is there, it stays for a while, and given a low price, people will download it.

    As far as whether those cheapies are keeping folks from buying more expensive books,honestly,I don't know. I buy a lot more books now that I have my Kindle than I ever did before; and before Kindle most of my book purchases were of used books, or sometimes, drugstore paperbacks. My purchases of the $20 hardcover bestsellers were few and far between--and my use of the library was high. So, are those cheapies expanding the pie or taking part of the same pie?

  2. First, as a Kindle reader, I will not buy any Kindle book over 4.99. I figure if I've spent money on a Kindle, and since publishers don’t have to pay for printing costs, I expect the books to be cheaper. Second, as a self-published author, I offer my books at a less expensive price because I'm not well-known. Prospective readers generally don't want to risk more than 2.99 or 3.99 on an unknown author's book. Third, I have had great success with Kindle free promotions. For example, the first free promotion of my novel, Stealing Jenny, (now for a limited time is only .99) brought nearly 20,000 free downloads. But after the download was over, it SOLD thousands of copies. Since then, all of my books have seen a surge in sales.
    Ellen Gable, Author

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