3 Reasons Why The E-Book Money Train May Be Over

If you got into the e-book business when sales of the Kindle were taking off, you probably made quite a bit of money. There wasn’t much Kindle content available in the “early” days, so you could easily dominate a category if you simply had a book with a half-decent cover and a couple of positive reviews. But those days are long gone. The mainstream has heralded the rise of self-publishing to such an extent that I wouldn’t be surprised if your mom was planning on writing a book.

Here are three reasons why you’re likely to make less money from e-books than if you started three years ago:

1. Increased competition. Now everyone is writing a book, with 100,000 new books  being released a month. Dozens of self-publishing web sites that make it easy for anyone. Even long-time internet marketing guru Ryan Deiss is pushing ebook businesses. There is a flood of self-published books on Amazon with fancy covers and attractive packaging that are indistinguishable in style from published works.

2. Decreased sales of dedicated e-readers. Tablets have won while black and white e-readers have lost. Of course you can still read books on tablets, but I suspect that a tablet owner will read far fewer books than a e-reader owner. You read less when web, email, and Facebook is only one swipe away.

3. Pending decline of Amazon’s influence. Amazon is getting resentment from all corners (media, customers, publishers, and indie authors) because of its massive power. People are now actively embracing half-baked alternatives. With the insane number of iPads that Apple is moving, I would expect the iTunes store to be in the best position of taking some of Amazon’s money.

Here are two strategies that don’t work as good as they used to:

1. Cheap pricing in the $0.99 – $2.99 range. Too many customers have been burned by crappy self-published works that were priced cheap, so they’re being conditioned to believe that higher price equates to quality.

2. Lots of positive reviews. Very few intelligent customers trust Amazon reviews these days. Even I’ve been tricked a couple times by products that had glowing reviews. I now buy books based on excerpts and word-of-mouth.

The CEO of Smashwords, who helps indies distribute to iTunes, Kobo, and Nook, has a rosy outlook for 2013 that calls for some reading between the lines…

[We will see] a surge of new titles that never stop coming, and never go out of print.  In 2013, self-published ebooks will swamp the titles put out by traditional publishers.  This is good for the future of authors, readers and publishing.  We’re in the early stages of a full scale publishing renaissance.  Readers now have access to an amazing diversity of high quality books.

Some industry participants – some authors included – fear this glut, because they think it’ll either increase competition or decrease discoverability.  Yes and no.  More high-quality titles than ever will be released, because the barriers to publication have been eliminated.  Readers will discover the best books and propel them forward through word of mouth.  More poor-quality books than ever will also be released, and these books will be summarily ignored by readers, reviewed poorly, and will fail to spark word of mouth.  Yes, competition will increase, but so will author opportunity, because more readers than ever will be reading ebooks.

Barriers to publication have already been removed, so I believe competition will make it harder for an average book to be successful. Even if you have a high-quality book, it could get lost in the noise whereas it wouldn’t before.

I remember the good old days where my Kindle sales jumped every month without me having to do anything. Right after Christmas, the money poured in when people loaded up their new Kindles, more than doubling my sales until February.  But this year, it “only” increased by 75%, probably due to a decreasing rate of Kindle e-reader sales and more books in my niche. The gold rush has passed, and my personal strategy will be more about maintenance more than growth. I doubt I’ll sell more Kindle books in 2013 than 2012.

Established authors need to weather the storm until the newbies realize this is a challenging business and give up to move on to the next popular biz trend. I predict that growth won’t jump again until 2015 or so when people get bored of tablets  and become nostalgic for reading again.

E-book success will be easier for those who have a blog platform that is independent of Amazon, where loyal readers buy because of the value you give them instead of a fancy cover, cheap price, or dubious reviews. Those who already have a readership or popular web site will find it most easy to survive. There’s still plenty of money to be made in ebooks, but you’ll have to earn it.

Read Next: 18 Self-Publishing Tips That Have Helped Me Sell Over 25,000 Books

28 thoughts on “3 Reasons Why The E-Book Money Train May Be Over”

  1. I feel like a trend of Anti technology and anti-social network is about to fall upon us. Personally I only buy paper versions of books. With all the licensing issues revolving around digital copies one day you can own a copy and the next you wont. Plus I don’t feel should keep tying my eyes to a screen 24.7.

    1. Those who adapt, survive. (let me proviso the following with the sincerest of respect)
      In every period of history there has been anti-tech people, who’ve refused to welcome the upcoming trends, and despite the large backlash, are there to either die off and be left in the cold, or adapt to what the new standard becomes.
      That’s not to say people should follow every trend (that would be MSM thinking, and incredibly stupid).
      But you have to have one foot in the future and one foot in the past, to successfully trek across modern society, tech and life.
      now if you said there’s going to be a cultural counter revolution (against feminism, entitlements etc) i would have to agree with you, but only in some small parts of the world.
      The only way anti-tech thinking would come about, is if there is a massive collapse. where institutions and structures people have long depended on (the state, ultilities agencies, power, energy etc) all come to a grinding halt. and people are forced to fend for themselves.
      i think for that situation the red pill man would be more than adequately prepared. but to shun future progress completely? that’s the equivalent of being a turn of the century luddite, left out in the cold, refusing to see the terrain is different to the map he has.

  2. Dude,
    Your rate of sales increase is off because you’ve said pretty much all you have to say. (What you wrote was useful but now whattacha got?)
    The average guy isn’t going to spend months loafing around a foreign country trying to get laid so that market is mostly fantasy for most guys – a much smaller market.
    You are correct that the selection process for buyers is getting more difficult – “the wheat from the chaff” problem.

      1. You could wait until you retire and then write your memoirs. I’d buy that for $0.99.
        Look how well “The Memoirs of Casanova” did! I highly recommend that book if just for the adventure although yours has more useful guidence.
        Seriously, writing is a tough career and you’ve been lucky to be the right guy at the right time with the right story.
        Keep living so you’ll have something more to write about. Worked for Hemingway and Casanova.

    1. the ‘fantasy’ market of which you speak is still very much here to stay.
      so long as there are tyler durden type men, fed up in their shitty day to day situations at home, there will be dreams. and roosh’s books offer part practical advice/part calls to action/part mental masturbation to these blokes.
      how many do you think that read all these red pill books actually act on them? it’s the 90:9:1 rule
      1% make the content (roosh, rationalmale etc etc) 9% use the content and actually derive some active benefit from it, 90% lurk. this is the same across most topics and themes.
      and this equation is ignoring the vast number of beta hordes who still think being a nice emasculated friend seeking hand holding nice guy will get them laid, or greater orbiter companionship or some other such bullshit. of which some might red pill later on.
      so i would say roosh’s market was solid, and likely to grow given the counter feminism backlash that is slowly starting to pick up steam
      but that was my response if your comment was a serious one and not the office trolling, armchair jockey, cheesey poof eating, condescension that’s largely typical of omega commentariat on the internet

      1. You missed my point about the differences in markets.
        The basic “Bang” amd “Day Bang” ebooks will have a continued audience as young men either grow into pussy chasing or new readers discover the works. However, this sales rates will be lower than when the books first appeared.
        The travelogues are what I classified as fantasy as they have a much smaller market. Really, how many Western men get to travel to Poland for extended stays? That’s the niche although I do admit I read the Iceland and Sweden versions since I do get to travel there (Sweden at least. I too struck out there.) Does Roose have anything on Scotland?
        You have to agree that these are much smaller markets.

  3. Yeah, the gold rush is over… Unless you are writing erotica. I saw the Ebooks Top 10 list of 2012 and the 50 Shades of Greay author had 4 spots on the top ten: each of her books and the triology. It’s a fad, but its still crazy.
    Ebook prices are also going down, although it is a strategy that doesn’t make the authors more money. They get more exposure but usually the price drop doesn’t give them extra sales to get the same revenue.
    Prices will keep going down just because of the massive competition. A good way to make money is using the books to do promotion of a high end product like a video course.
    The thing is that writers never made that much money, they had a publishing company taking most of their profit and are happy with 10% of the sales. Amazon gives 30% (70% with exclusivity and other special conditions) and that is why everybody and their mother is jumping on this make money scheme.
    I hope you are right with the 2015 prediction!

  4. I can tell you from personal experience that amazon and createspace.com are AS SLOW AS SHIT…
    I finally published my first book:
    Createspace is telling me that it might take another 4 weeks to put it on kindle. How the hell does it take 4 weeks to convert my paperback to the kindle? I’m assuming they are understaffed, or like you mentioned, that everyone and his mother is writing a book.
    I am going to put my book into the KDP program where people can borrow it and I get a small cut, books are going to become like “Neflix”. People pay monthly and borrow as much as they want…not good for writers : (
    The only bright side is that you can probably produce MORE books than you used to with the technology, but writing is hard work. My first book took me 2 years of staying up late after work.
    Power out!

  5. Can you open up a blog and write a whole book,all from a smartphone?
    All I can afford is my internet phone data and not a desk,or laptop,and its service.
    So,is it possible? I,m very creative,and have something to say,similar to you,Roosh. I feel I could make a decent go of it,except that I can’t,for the time being,afford a computer and internet service.

    1. you could definitely do that. there are a hole slew of apps that mean you can write up a doc and convert into an appropriate format for amazon kdp.
      wordpress for blog (free, and incredibly easy to navigate)
      join amazon kdp (its free)
      and perhaps eventually register a domain name (so its not .wordpress.com any more)
      ebook covers can be done via fiverr
      and just google all the kindle author forums for reviews, or if it’s good enough content, set a day for when it will be free (using kdp’s 5 free days in return of 90 for exclusivity) and then talk to heads of your area within forums (so if writing erotica etc, find the leaders in erotica section, flatter them, compliment them, and ask them to review your book when it’s on a free day on the market place).
      that way you get solid information and reviews for your book.
      at the very least it can help you hone your content to your niche

    2. Are you homeless? You can afford a smartphone but not some sort of simple computer and you don’t have a table in your house? You can use your phone data connection on a computer (tethering).

  6. I think self-published e-books are going the way of the blog. When blogging first started out, people could make some decent coin off their writing (Tucker Max comes to mind). But, as the market became over-saturated, the money disappeared.
    I plan on writing a few e-books this year, and have already talked with a dude who’s done similar. According to him the industry has basically become “self-publishing for fun and fun alone.”
    Even so, I’d rather write a book that makes very little money, than write nothing at all.

  7. #2 is spot on. It was my resistance point to getting anything but a reader as I knew I would be tempted with video and facebook.
    I guess it is no surprise what happens to markets with ease of entry. I would think though you, Roosh, would still do fine since I am sure a lot of guys are buying based on your blog. Would be interested to know how much straight traction from randoms on Amazon generates, or doesnt now generate due to competition.
    I think maybe that small pool of men will be growing in the future as the growth (in size) of women in America increases. But perhaps at that point all the paradises will be gone (fuck).

    1. I agree, any device that has internet and wifi stops you concentrating on the book you’re reading and you find yourself looking at facebook and the internet every 20 minutes.

  8. I have an e-reader and I don’t think I will buy a tablet. I have an iq you know

  9. there’s a long tail, i think that we’ve got another year left till it hits full saturation (atleast i hope, given i want to be releasing some books within a few months time)
    similarly it’s still quite good to easy to make money if you create a brand for yourself (multiple books in a series), then connect that with a website that’s smooth to operate, then that in turn with some sort of mobile app (which offers the same service as the website, and finally with an powerful forum, which has a free section and premium section (subscription memberships are where a lot of money is)
    actually i am surprised (and thankful) that you’ve not already monetised some part of the rooshforum, roosh.

    1. I think that’s why he started this site. The ebook market is much more difficult to make money on now.

  10. The Western world experienced a similar economic phenomenon following the development of the printing press. As the cost of book production feel sharply, the first wave of printed books was mostly an avalanche of total crap — random, disjointed, disorganized, half-baked sloppy garbage. Almost none of it was considered to be worth keeping. Basically, they were the literary equivalent of YouTube comments.
    It wasn’t until works like Don Quixote came along (150 years later) that authors and publishers began putting together a new, well-made product.
    Now that the new medium of digital, portable books has reached maturity, a similar process is occurring — the there is no more low-hanging fruit. The early producers have saturated the market. Consumers are learning to be more discerning in their selections. There will always be a market for books, but authors and publishers will need to focus on a more professionally-made product in order to differentiate themselves.

  11. A more accurate headline for this article would’ve been “3 reasons why the Amazon Kindle money train may be over.”
    Amazon isn’t the only place to sell ebooks. Nor is it the most profitable.

  12. Roosh:
    Typo in the sentence : “I remember the good old days where my Kindle says jumped every month without me having to do anything.”
    “says” should be “sales”.

  13. To some extent I blame the developers of ereaders, including Amazon and B&N.
    Eink technology has improved, but if there were color ereaders (note: not backlit tablets), the market might have continued to grow.
    As it is, if you have a Nook or Kindle from a few years ago, there’s little reason to buy another, even though they’re cheap. This may impact book sales since you’re more likely to purchase new titles to go along with a shiny new ereader.

  14. You are also publishing less books than before, I remember when DBIP came out, followed by bang, then day bang, one book was coming after the other…

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