Back during the 1990s I wrote a number of books (a trilogy called The Crimson Companions) that I never got around to publishing (or editing for that matter). In 2011 I finally published them on Amazon Kindle and they have been selling quite well, despite the fact that they were never properly edited.
I wrote a disclaimer at the front of the books explaining that I wrote them years ago, that they are essentially "unedited drafts" and may contain grammatical and spelling mistakes.
I added the disclaimer, a bit "About the Author" at the end, added some photoshopped cover art that I made myself and put them online.
For many years, between 1996 and 2006-ish one of the books from the trilogy wasn't even finished. I never wrote the ending. I knew how it ended. But I had never got around to writing it until years later when a fan wrote a letter to me asking how the story ended. He had seen the books online years ago on one of my websites, read all three books of the trilogy except for the ending of the third book, apparently loved the books, and then contacted me.
Now to be fair, when it was online on a website the final website for the various chapters was basically a message inviting people to contact me if they had read up to that point. So that one guy had read it and decided to contact me, wanting to know how it ended.
And then it happened again. A second person read all the books and contacted me.
And then a third did the same.
At which point I realized I should really finish the story, and thus did so. Took me three days, but I finished it. Felt really good too to have finished a novel I started writing in 1996 and it wasn't finished until roughly a decade later.
In 2011 a friend of mine introduced me to a website that she had self-published her cookbook on and encouraged me to do the same. So I did so, adding the disclaimers / about the author / cover art like I mentioned above. Then I tried the same thing and tried selling them on Kindle, realizing that Kindle had a larger ebook market.
And they have been selling reasonably well on Kindle. I make a small bit of income every month off of those three books.
The Crimson Companions Trilogy
I also wrote other books too, publishing them also on Kindle. Short stories and anthologies.
Later I also joined Kobo, making that a second source of ebook income.
And continued writing more books, short stories, anthologies and publishing them as ebooks. So far I have also published two books of poetry. Huzzah, more income from my books.
When advertising the books online my primary goal has been to advertise my writing website: fiction.charlesmoffat.com and then mention that the books are available on Kindle and/or Kobo. That way I control the flow of visitors and people can then choose whether they want to purchase via Kindle or Kobo. It doesn't matter which people choose, the prices are the same for both and I make the same amount of money regardless of which source people choose.
I don't spend any money on advertising either. I focus on advertising on websites I own myself, and encourage word-of-mouth. If other people talk about my books and then advertise my books for free, that is a bonus for me. Awesome.
When choosing prices for The Crimson Companions Trilogy I chose the following prices:
$3.99 for "The Paladin Assassin" because I wanted a cheaper introductory price so people could read it and it slightly cheaper than the other two books of the series.
$4.99 for both "Ice War" and "King Culprit". This meant I could make a good chunk of income off of the people who bought the books individually, one at a time. $13.97 total if they bought all 3 books.
$9.99 to buy all three books together as a trilogy, all at once. They would save roughly $4 buying the books that way. That way they save money buying all three, and I still make a decent amount. Win for the reader and win for me.
Many authors on Kindle and Kobo sell their books for a variety of prices, usually between 99 cents per book or $9.99 per book. Every time they make a sale they get 70% of the sale value. If they try to sell for more than $10 then the percentage drops to 30% or so, which encourages authors to stick within the advised pricing range. An author who jacks the price of the book up to $40 only gets $12 as a result. It makes no sense to be charging so much when they could charge $9.99 instead and sell more volume of books.
Another thing the ebook companies often do is drop the percentage if you want to sell the book for really cheap, in an attempt to sell books in sheer volume. Thus if you drop the price to 50 cents for example, they only give you 30% of that so you only make 15 cents per book sale. Now in theory you still might be able to make a good amount on selling the sheer volume of books, but it scarcely seems worthwhile when you could charge $2.99 instead and get 70% = $2.09 for every book sold.
People Judge a Book by its Title
One of the things I have learned about selling ebooks is that people often judge a book by its title. And the cover art. Both are important.
It could have no description at all, just a really interesting title, a good photograph on the cover, nice printing on the cover that makes it really bold and stand out - and people will buy it.
The writing itself could even horrible, sad to say.
Reviews of the book could end up being marginal, average or sub par and it would probably still sell.
One of the things I did back in 2012 is I wrote a book and published it Anonymously. I partially wrote it as a gag, but I also filled it with what I felt was some pretty good writing. I basically wanted to see if lots of people would purchase the ebook.
And they did. For the little effort I put into it, a surprising number of people have purchased that ebook. It made me realize that almost anyone could write ebooks and make some extra cash off of it as long as they had a good title and good cover image.
The topic obviously also matters. Topics similar to "Fifty Shades of Grey" sell really well on Kindle/Kob, for obvious reasons.
eBooks about "15th century English literature" in comparison don't draw a lot of attention. But some people might still buy such books if it is the ONLY book on that topic.
I checked... There are 136 books on Kindle currently about "15th century English literature", and oddly enough most of them are steamy romances. The one series even made me laugh:
The Hot Highlanders Series, by Mary Wine
"To Conquer a Highlander"
Apparently they are selling like "highlander hotcakes". Teehee.
So kudos to Mary Wine. I have not read her books, but she brings a little "heat" to the topic of 15th century English literature. Hahaha!
Conclusions? Practically anyone could write and sell books on Kindle or Kobo. It really isn't that difficult to do. I do recommend learning some writing skills, how to punctuate properly, and good spelling (or at least spellcheck what you are writing while you are writing it). That way whatever you do write should at least be above par.
Reading eBooks on tablets or smart phones might be handy, convenient and cheap, but it is bad for the eyes.
Years ago I spent some of the profits I was making off of Kindle and purchased a Kindle eReader, partially so I could see what my readers were seeing and get a better idea of how to format my books so that readers could enjoy them more.
I later sold my Kindle eReader and bought a Samsung tablet instead, just because it could be used for so many more things than just an eReader.
I regularly read books and PDFs on my Samsung tablet, but how often I read varies from week to week and to me having an eReader isn't a necessity. To someone who is reading more often than I do, daily perhaps, well then it would make sense for them to have an eReader.
I have the Kindle and Kobo apps also on my smart phone, which allows me to also read books while I am on the go. Thus I don't always have to be home reading off my tablet, I can read off my cellphone instead and it is more convenient when I am outside doing things and want to read something while traveling to and fro.
Weight wise eReaders don't really weigh that much anyone. The weight isn't much compared to a normal book. eReaders are also typically lighter than a tablet of similar size. The newer eReaders these days can also be used as tablets to browse the internet, check Facebook and Twitter, etc and are available in full colour.
The battery life is also really good and they charge using the standard smart phone USB cable (not the stupid Apple one which doesn't work anything but Apple). Because of the way eReaders show words they use very little energy in the screen and thus don't burn through the battery quickly.
So it is really up to the reader/customer. Tablet, smart phone, or eReader. It really depends on how often you are reading and whether you want a screen that doesn't bother your eyes when reading. Just because I decided to sell my Kindle eReader doesn't mean it was not a good product. I simply wanted a tablet more.
Note - Don't feel obligated to go buy an eReader if you are publishing eBooks on Kindle or Kobo. Try the apps instead first and if you end up using them a lot, then maybe consider buying an eReader.