April 18th, 2012
ljdigital

Narratives in A Digital Age

People Might Pay For Horror and Paranormal Romance — But Will They Pay For Non-Fiction?

On Monday, we heard from freelance writer Marc Herman, who talked positively about new forms of publishing that Amazon has created, particularly Kindle Singles. In less than a year, Herman said he’s sold more copies of his 12,000-word story, “The Shores of Tripoli,” which is available exclusively on Amazon as a Kindle Single, than he did of his first book “Searching for El Dorado.” 

Herman is not the only writer who is enthusiastic about Kindle Singles, the format started by Amazon which publishes fiction and nonfiction stories that are 5,000 to 20,000 words.

Writer Mishka Shubaly told a PaidContent reporter:

"I’m going to name my first child Amazon. I’m incredibly grateful to them. There’s no other way to put it but that working with Amazon totally changed my life for the better."

Last month, a report by PaidContent found that in the 14 months since the program started, Amazon has sold more than 2 million Kindle Singles, with 70% going to authors, 30% to Amazon. 

How did nonfiction writers fare? A rundown, according to PaidContent:

  • Mishka Shubaly wrote Shipwrecked,” which sold 21,024 copies at $1.99.  He also wrote “The Long Run,” which sold 60,567 copies at $1.99, and “Are You Lonesome Tonight?” sold 11,406 copies at $1.99. *Estimated total royalties: $129,544.82.
  • Oliver Broudyformer managing editor of the Paris Review, wrote “The Saint,” which sold 41,826 copies at $1.99, and “The Codex,” which sold 5,000 copies at $1.99. *Estimated royalties: $65,241.16
  •  Will Bunch, a journalist for the Philadelphia Daily News, wrote “October 1, 2011,” which sold 3,000 copies at $0.99, and “Give It To Steve!” which sold 3,350 copies at $1.99. *Estimated royalties: $8,845.55
  • David Dobbs, contributing editor to Scientific American Mind and writer for the New York TimesAtlantic Monthly, SlateScientific American wrote, “My Mother’s Lover,” which sold 40,000 copies through Amazon at $1.99 (published through Kindle Singles by The Atavist). *Estimated royalties: $55,720

The Seattle Times series on Amazon last week included an interview with journalist Paul Alexander, who published one of the earliest Kindle Singles, a 9,500-word true crime story, “Murdered.” 

According to the Seattle Times the story:

"…continues to generate royalties for Alexander, who figures he has taken in about $50,000 from the mini e-book — more than if he had written it for a major magazine." 

Many of the stories we’ve been talking about so far (except for “My Mother’s Lover”) were selected by Amazon’s Kindle Singles and edited by David Blum. But Kindle Singles has given rise to new publishing ventures too, which we will begin to talk about next week.

                                                   — LJ Digital

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A blog created by the Literary Journalism Department @ the University of California, Irvine, dedicated to discussions about non-fiction narratives in this ever-evolving era of E-books, E-readers, Blogs, Instapaper, The Atavist, Byliner, Amazon's Kindle Singles and all other new media outlets open to promoting great journalism. LJ Digital is managed by Asst. Prof. Erika Hayasaki and Cleo Tobbi, intern and UCI literary journalism student.

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