When I started my professional career, one of my first bosses gave me some good advice – to summarize it, whenever you have something hard to say, just come out and say it without beating around the bush.
That being said, this is the last post for this blog.
Although the hard part is over, the remainder of this post is hard to write – mainly because I am giving up and throwing in the towel for this blog. Some of you may not care for the rationale behind the decision; if you don’t, you can stop reading right now and jump to the last paragraph for some final instructions.
Some of you might want to know why I’m stopping this blog, but to boil it all down it comes to simple economics (as do most decisions like this): it’s not profitable to maintain this blog for the amount of time and effort involved. You can boil it down to the following:
- Amazon does not support or promote the paid blog subscriptions on e-Ink Kindles.
- The majority of public opinion regarding eBooks priced at $1.00 or less is generally not favorable.
- Independent authors can’t make a living with quality books perpetually priced at $1.00 or less.
- Not that many people are purchasing eBooks priced at $1.00 or less.
- The four factors above, in light of the fact I work 10 hours or so during each weekday in addition to trying my best to be a husband and father means there’s not enough hours in the day to make it worth the time and effort.
Since I am an accountant by day that analyzes various financial decisions and results each day (I don’t do taxes!), the following adds a little more color to this decision making process (make of it what you will). Before I do that, here’s a little subscription data other blog publishers on the Kindle storefront probably don’t want me to disclose to you, although I am certain they would love to know the information as it helps them determine where they stand on the blog bestseller list:
- 576 monthly paid subscriptions via the e-Ink Kindle push model. That makes it have a ranking of #40 on the blog bestseller list.
- 1,021 email subscribers.
- Approximately 60 – 100 unique blog website visitors per day.
- For each book posted to the blog, on average, lately there are approximately 10 – 20 sales of that particular book per post. Sometimes a lot more, sometimes (gasp!) even none.
Amazon Support of the Blog Business Model
When the e-Ink Kindles first came out (an e-Ink Kindle is any Kindle not named “Fire”), in addition to being able to read books, newspapers, and magazines, Amazon touted the ability to receive blogs via a subscription “push” model that forwarded new blog content to a person’s Kindle. That was pretty cool to a lot of folks (obviously to me, also), and in its prime the Amazon storefront had over 15,000 blogs available via this subscription model; today, there are 13,616 or approximately 9% less than there were about two years ago.
When I started this blog in June of 2011, it acquired just over 1,000 subscribers via the subscription model the first month. Most of these came from a referral of my other blogs, some from word of mouth, and I did no outside advertising of this blog as I couldn’t afford it.
The title of this section is “Amazon Support of the Blog Business Model” but that’s an oxymoron as Amazon doesn’t really support the blog business model: pricing has been all over the map, it’s hard for a potential consumer to find out blogs are available for them to try out for the free two-week trial period, and the commission structure to the blog publisher is out of balance. To top it off, Amazon does not reach out to the blogging community at all.
Links to the blog section used to be front and center on the Kindle pages of the Amazon website as well as from the shopping area directly from your Kindle: now, you have to click several times, deep into the offerings, and hope a potential reader / customer will click numerous times just to see blogs are available for your Kindle. It’s very difficult to get new subscribers to enroll in a blog subscription – if Amazon isn’t going to make it easy to find customers, you’re stuck on a degrading subscriber model as the people who eventually unsubscribe aren’t replaced by new customers.
The pricing structure is really strange: the blog publisher has no control over the price as it is set by Amazon. When Amazon first started the blog section, if you put a “new” blog up for consideration in the Kindle storefront the pricing was immediately set at $1.99 per month. After an unknown period of time – or maybe it was the number of subscribers as Amazon would never reveal the pricing “formula” involved – the blog pricing might revert to 99 cents per month.
99 cents per month doesn’t sound too bad, does it? If only that were the case, as Amazon keeps 69 cents and the blog publisher gets 30 cents for each subscriber. When all of the e-Ink readers were via a cellular connection instead of the predominant Wi-Fi they are today, Amazon explained the split on the pricing structure was the way it is due to having to pay the underlying cellular provider (AT&T and Sprint) for the modems built-in to the Kindle. Most of us rationalized it as a third each between Amazon, AT&T / Sprint, and the blog publisher.
Now that the majority of e-Ink Kindles are Wi-Fi only, you would think the cost structure has gone down (and it probably has) but that has not resulted in a change in the commission structure to the blog publisher. With the lack of promotion, and the other factors I’ll mention in a moment, the number of monthly paying subscribers has steadily decreased and the number of purchases for books posted made each month also decreased. With a total of 576 paying subscribers (and decreasing each month) for this blog, I would receive approximately $173 for a month or about $5.50 per day. It’s harder than you think to find a potentially good Kindle book for $1.00 or less!
Most bloggers aren’t making much, if any, money via the Kindle subscription model. In fairness, they probably shouldn’t expect to have the Kindle subscription model be the #1 revenue source for their blog(s). Right now, as I type up this post, this blog is ranked #40 in terms of sales rank of the 13,616 blogs. I wonder if the blog ranked at #5,000 – or #13,616 – has more than a handful of paid subscribers?
There’s an exponential difference between being in the top 10 and #40 on this list – I have been fortunate enough to have the #1 blog in the Amazon storefront for a little over two years now, and my cousin runs the Joke of the Day blog which is also in the top 10 and I know his subscriber numbers. To say there is a cliff dropoff between #10 and #11 is an understatement as those in the top 10 enjoy the benefit of being on the first page of most potential subscribers’ display. The reality is if you’re not in the top 10 don’t expect to make a living or substantial money via Amazon off of a blog!
In my opinion, Amazon also missed a major opportunity by not making the blog subscription model available for the Kindle Fire as they did the e-Ink Kindle, but that’s another story over a couple of adult beverages. If Amazon would hire me to revamp the blog subscription model experience, I feel fairly confident (I’m from Texas, after all) I could make it profitable for all parties and continue the drive to make the Kindle indispensable to the end-user. I doubt (a) anyone from Amazon will read this, and (b) that kind of job offer would ever materialize!
Looking over what I just typed – wow, that’s a mouthful! Let’s see, I had three more major points to cover…
Public Opinion Regarding Books Priced at $1.00 or Less
Let’s face it, there are a lot of crappy (that’s a technical term, of course) books out there in the Kindle format. You can read posts I’ve made on one of my other blogs about a sloppy book description (click here or type in http://wp.me/p2b82w-3Ux into your web browser to see it) or a bad cover (click here or type in http://wp.me/p2b82w-3UA to see it) which are discussions among themselves, but a potential consumer is looking at any reason to not purchase a book with their hard-earned money.
The beauty of the self-publishing platform is it is very easy to do, and a lot of outstanding authors who were rejected by the mainstream publishing companies have finally found an outlet and have embarked on full-time jobs as independent authors. I’ve found a lot of them (and you have, too) and I want to read more from them.
The other side of the coin is the ease of being self-published: we’ve all read stuff in the Kindle format that looked like it was slapped together and is absolutely horrible. That’s not unique to the Kindle world as you can certainly find the same in “regular” paper books. But many consumers associate price with quality (among many other factors).
As a result, not many people are taking a chance on a 99 cent book. If people aren’t taking a chance on a 99 cent book, authors aren’t selling anything, and leads to my next point…
Independent Authors Can’t Make a Living with Quality Books Perpetually Priced at $1.00 or Less
To nip some of the comments in the bud now – sure, there are quality books priced at $1.00 or less, and they sell a lot month-after-month. I personally know many authors who are doing this as a loss-leader approach: they have a catalog of books priced, for example, at $3.99 and above, and they are using book 1 of a series or one book (if not part of a series) as a “hook” to capture your interest. The theory behind this is if you liked book 1 in a series, for example, there is a good chance you will buy their other books at full price. With the introduction of Select, the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library, etc., authors are now making their books free for a period of time in order to enable that same hook concept.
If an independent author was relying on the $1.00 or less model to make ends meet, it would be very hard to do. Why? It’s all about the commission structure. If a book is priced at $2.98 or less in the Amazon Kindle store, the commission to the author is 30% and Amazon gets the rest. If the pricing is $2.99 or above, the commission structure is 70% to the author and 30% to Amazon. To make $30,000 a year before the government takes their “fair share,” I would need to sell 100,000 books priced at $1.00 each. Each year.
I don’t know about you, but I think that’s one hell of a lot of books to be sold each year. Not too many people can do that year after year.
As someone who has also published books in the Kindle format, it doesn’t take my accounting degree to make my decision on that one: I’m going for a minimum of $2.99 as my pricing model all day long unless I want a loss leader that will be offered at a discount or free on a periodic basis. At $2.99, to make that same $30,000 before taxes in my example above I need to sell “only” 14,333 books a year or 1,194 per month; at $3.99 I need to sell 10,741 books. You can do the math at other price points. That’s still a lot of books to be sold, but clearly not as daunting as moving 100,000 books each year.
From the author’s perspective, they don’t have much incentive to price at anything less than $2.99, and it takes a heck of a lot of trolling around for me to find a highly-rated book that appears to be a quality offering – I do read the review comments and the book descriptions – each weekday.
Number of Sales Per Post
As I mentioned above, for each book posted to the blog, on average, there are approximately 10 – 20 sales of that particular book per post. Sometimes there’s a lot more than 20, and sometimes there’s none. Zero.
Part of the way I get paid for the effort of the blog is via affiliate sales: I put a unique link in the post so that if you click on the book I posted about on a particular day and buy it, I receive a variable commission based upon the sales price. While that doesn’t increase the cost to you, I do get a referral fee as a commission – after the government’s fair share, that nets out to approximately 4.7% for each sale made. Assuming I had a great day (great for today, but not near as good as when this blog started) and 15 sales were made on a particular day for a 99 cent book, I will net 70 cents. Assuming I found a nickel somewhere, I could buy a Diet Coke from the office vending machine!
It’s About the Time Commitment!
As many of you know, I don’t blog full-time but have a fairly demanding full-time job, plus my wife and I have two children and the commitments of being a husband, father, homework checker, and carpool driver. There’s not enough hours in the day to justify continuing this blog with the time required to do a good job of it vs. the financial reward of less than $200 per month. My other blogs can run on that model – I’ve done the analysis – but for this one I’m going to have to call it a day. I’m not going to take this blog down or delete it, but will leave it up as I still believe the prior posts contain some great, and affordable, reading material – I encourage you to click the links on the blog’s website (http://ebooksforabuck.wordpress.com) and see what you may have missed – who knows, you may find a new favorite author!
For those of you who have subscribed to this blog, made contributions and suggestions to make it better, I appreciate it! I’ll still be around blogging, for example, with the Free Kindle Books and Tips blog (www.fkbooksandtips.com) if you still need your Kindle fix.
If you are an email subscriber, there’s nothing you need to do – there won’t be future posts to worry about clogging your inbox. If you’re an e-Ink subscriber, you need to go to the “Manage My Kindle” section of the Amazon website and end this subscription so Amazon won’t continue to charge you 99 cents per month!
Until next time (or the next new blog)-