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How To Become A Best-Selling Novelist on Kindle

As a reader I’m a big Kindle fan. As a writer I’m…also a big fan.

While the big publishing houses seem to be missing the point with Kindle, authors are not.

A whole host of authors – from traditionally published to newbies – are self-publishing their books on Kindle, climbing the best-seller charts and writing about how they’re doing it.

I’m researching the topic for a series of how-to articles. Before I get to the technical side of things I wanted to share some resources on the just-as-important side of sales, marketing and ‘what you can actually get from publishing on Kindle’.

So here’s some further reading for you, if you’re a novelist wondering if Kindle (and ebooks in general) are worth your time and attention.

(Hint: the answer is ‘yes’)


Yes, People Are Buying Kindle Books

JAKonrath on selling 16,000 copies of his ebook (this one sparked controversy in the traditional-publishing world when Publishers Weekly dismissed his success in a snooty — and inaccurate fashion — and Konrath jumped into the debate. Fun!).

How novelist Elisa Lorello’s first novel reached number 6 on the Kindle bestseller list (her second is up there now).

Aaron Ross Powell on selling a draft novel on Kindle (and landing a publishing deal).

What If I’m Not A Well-Known or Published Author?

JAKonrath again on authors whose books are selling better than his, even though he is a mid-list published author and they (as far as he can tell) are not.

Promoting  Your Kindle eBook

How to promote a Kindle ebook, featuring an interview with Boyd Morrison who landed a traditional publishing deal based in part on his Kindle sales numbers.

Pricing Your Kindle eBook

One more from JAKonrath, on the importance of pricing.

What questions do you have about publishing your work as an eBook? What do you need to know before you make the decision? Leave a comment and I’ll do my best to find you some concrete answers.

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3 thoughts on “How To Become A Best-Selling Novelist on Kindle

  1. Stephen Gauer

    Hi. I’m one of those so-called “literary writers”. I did a MFA in creative writing at the University of British Columbia in 2005 and have a first novel (finally) coming out in the fall.

    I hate the snail’s pace of traditional publishing … I’m excited by the possibilities that Kindle offers to self publishers.

    My question: where’s the Kindle market for literary stuff? Is there one? None of my writer friends even owns an ebook .



  2. jwordsmith Post author

    Hi Stephen. Congrats on the MFA and the first novel!

    If you can find someone to tell you where the audience for literary stuff is, you’re miles ahead of anyone else in the industry. Art is notoriously hard to market and a lot of it depends on luck.

    However, i would say that there are a lot of places where readers identify themselves as being your audience. Community sites like LibraryThing, WeRead and GoodReads are full of readers hanging out signs saying “I read this type of book”. Kindle editions have started carrying “if you like this, you might like that” ads in the back of the book. Right when the reader is excited about the book (assuming it ended well), they get to click and download another. Genius! (If your publisher doesn’t have your book signed up for one of these promotions, ask them why not!!).

    I find it fascinating that none of the literary writers are reading on electronic readers (I’m assuming you were talking mainly about literary writers). I used to deal with publishers and booksellers a lot and found they were so invested in the way they did things, that they could only find objections for any new way of doing things. (“But everyone likes paper books”, “It’ll flood the market with cr*p”, “How will anyone ever find good books without their local independent bookstore/librarian?”). All of these things are minor points in the grand shceme of things (and remember, I’ve been in this business since 1998. A lot of the objections about ‘reading on screens’ were true then, but temporary problems solved by new technologies and new paradigms).

    OK, i’m drifting off on rant here and not really answering your questions. I’d be interested in your perspective on why your writer friends don’t have ebook readers but the bigger question is: who is your audience? Is it simply other literary writers (One of the criticisms of literary journals that I think holds water)? If you want a wider audience, then you’re going to have to go digging online in places that writers don’t generally hang out: where the readers are. Good reviews and cross-referencign recommendations are hugely powerful, no matter what format the book is in. The technology that comes along with Kindle and other ereader platforms make it easier to incorporate these kinds of recommendations, but they key is not where they are but what people are saying and how many people get interested.

    Concentrate on getting the word out and readers will read your book in whatever format THEY prefer.

  3. Stephen Gauer

    Thanks for the advice, Julie. I will check out sites like LibraryThing and We Read. You’re right, of course, that the audience for literary fiction is hard to identify. It’s typically female and over forty (at least in Canada) judging from the kinds of novels that win prizes here and sometimes even hit the bestseller lists.

    I don’t why but for some reason ebooks are associated with genre writing. My literary friends are intrigued and impressed by the fact that I figured how to convert my unpublished short story collection into a Kindle PRC file, complete with table of contents and illustrated cover. I copied it via the USB cable and it looks great on the Kindle. I plan to upload it to Amazon in the fall when my novel comes out.

    I think part of the problem is that literary folks, at least the ones over forty (I’m 59), are simply not comfortable with technology. They haven’t even mastered Word. They think technology is de-humanizing, and so ebooks become a threat, not an opportunity.

    One writer friend, whose specialty is YA, said he likes being associated with a big publisher (he’s with Penguin) and would never consider self publishing. I can understand that. And of course self publishing via a platform like Kindle requires the author to be a sales person too. Ugh, says the creative “literary” writer. I can’t do that. I’m an artist.

    We are at a unique moment in publishing history. We have a chance to upset some applecarts. Let’s do it.

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