Amazon’s Kindle Singles a Win for Readers, Authors

We’ve been frequent critics of Amazon’s tactics in conquering established book markets, but credit is due to the company for doing what many would have considered impossible: creating a genuine market for novellas and novella-length nonfiction. In the New York Times this morning, Leslie Kaufman profiles Kindle Singles editor David Blum and cites Amazon’s statistic that about 28 percent of the 345 Singles published since January 2011 have sold more than 10,000 copies. Kindle Singles are a curated list of short e-books (5,000 to 30,000 words in length) available through Amazon’s Kindle Store.

Though publishing arrangements vary — some Kindle Singles are published by traditional publishers, others are self-published or put out by an emerging group of new publishers, such as Byliner — authors may earn as much as 70% of the proceeds from sales. Since bestselling Kindle Singles sell for an average price of $1.50 or so, a self-published author selling 10,000 or more Singles would likely earn revenues of $10,000 or more.

The current bestseller list of Kindle Singles includes many familiar names writing in genres that do particularly well in e-book form — including crime fiction and thrillers. What’s especially welcome to authors and freelance journalists is the healthy number of nonfiction titles on the list. These include works of history (#4, Mayflower: The Voyage from Hell, by Kevin Jackson; #16, Always Right, by Niall Ferguson), memoirs (#15, Dresden: A Survivor’s Story, by Victor Gregg), essays, and long-form journalism (#3, Trial By Fury: Internet Savagery and the Amanda Knox Case, by Douglas Preston; #13, Guns, by Stephen King, who’s donating proceeds to the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence). Writing on science also makes a credible showing on the Kindle Singles bestseller list (#43, Higgs Discovery, The Power of Empty Space, by Harvard physics professor Lisa Randall), as do works Amazon categorizes as reporting (#29, Here’s the Deal, by David Leonhardt).

It’s early days for Kindle Singles, too early to judge the eventual breadth and depth of this market. According to Amazon’s own numbers, just 100 Singles have sold more than 10,000 copies so far. But the trend, by all accounts, looks promising: Amazon is curating a new, significant short e-book market for authors and readers.

Comments: more
  • Jeff Kent

    I loved this, very interesting. I wonder, why couldn’t they do this with short stories too, at 50 cents a story? Not a huge investment if you don’t like it, and there are so few markets for short stories these days (compared to the 1980’s back).

  • David Gaughran

    I can see why the Authors Guild likes Kindle Singles: it’s hand-picked and curated and only affects a small number of writers (328 titles published in 2 years, with many repeat authors).

    I think it’s a great program myself even if I do wish they didn’t lean so heavily in the non-fiction direction. But it’s only a tiny part of the wider market Amazon has created for short-stories and novellas through it’s digital self-publishing platform KDP.

    It’s bizarre watching the Authors Guild contort itself into these positions to avoid acknowledging self-publishing.

  • Ellen Roddick

    Very interesting. I’d like to know where literary agents fit into this emerging picture? I hope they will flourish.

  • Fran Baker

    I’ve been happy repubbing/pubbing on Amazon. They distribute pretty much worldwide and they pay monthly. This could be the beginning of the Golden Age for authors.

  • Don Wallace

    I’ve heard (via that speaking tube known as the Internet) that Amazon is slow and not transparent in reporting royalties–can anyone with experience enlighten us?