As the years went on, I noticed that when Amazon created a new platform for consumers, they made it easy for content producers to connect with new potential customers. In the early days, they wanted people to buy a Kindle and consume eBooks. Which in around 2013, were a new thing still. So, you could do this thing where you put the eBook free for five days and then we would just give out hundreds and hundreds of ebooks. It was great. So we figured out if we sequelized each book, then sales of the previous installment jumped. We were catching the tail end of a Zombie boom, so when we placed The Thin Line of Life II: The Fight Continues free for five days, paid downloads of the first book jumped. At the time, we even shot a short zombie video on my friends iPhone for The Thin Line of Life. Check it out below:
Eventually, the eBook market matured. Sales were declining, and the free advertising was no longer working. Amazon still paid by the download, but they wanted people to subscribe to Kindle for $8 a month. Authors like myself and the people I worked with also got paid $0.045 per page read of our work. It wasn’t a tremendous amount, but we had no money for advertising. So when we switched our books to the subscription model, traffic and revenue shot back up because Amazon wanted to push that particular avenue of content consumption. The same books that were generating for us in 2013 were doing it again in 2017. We were making the absolute most with our limited tools.
By 2018, I was speaking to self published authors at conventions. They all had eBooks and paperbacks, but they didn’t seem to have audio book editions. It was strange, since audible was making it so easy to create audio books at the time. So, I figured out that audio books were going to be the next big algorithm push by Amazon, and began to convert our books into audio book format. Amazon made it so I could get my books recorded for free under the profit share model, so we spent the next several years recording our catalog with incredible narrators. One of the main two I worked with was Jason Sprenger. He was kind enough to stop by the Blanket Fortress of Solitude and tell his story. Click on the link to listen: Pandemic Perspectives #12: Voice Over Artist
Audible was handing us free download codes to give out, paying the author for each download. We got to have a third bite at the apple, monetizing the books we originally published in 2013 yet again. For a while, that was how we generated revenue. Ecosystems built up around the free download codes, where authors could pay $10 and list their books, providing the codes that Audible gave us. It was the distribution platform of my wildest dreams. In the early days of the 2020 shutdown, people were devouring the download codes for our audio books. They got a quality product for free, and we got paid to give it away. But like all things, the pattern repeated, and Audible gained to maturity. They have a big enough market share that they don’t need to pay me to give my book away anymore, which is fine. Sales declined, and honestly, my focus was more on my podcast. I was going to be happy with whatever sales we got.
Then, in 2022, tax season came around. Lets say a book generated $100. That would be split equally between myself and my narrator. Amazon would send me a tax form 1099 for $50, and the same to my narrator. In 2022, they sent me a 1099 saying I was paid $100, and sent my narrator nothing. So for a minute, we all thought Amazon was trying to get us to commit tax fraud. No one knew what was going on. Then I learned I wasn’t just me, but every small time content creator on Audible. It wasn’t fraud, however. They figured out that they could get away with sending the authors the 1099 and save some paper by not sending one to the narrators. At one point, I was told to consult a tax professional to see what my obligations to the narrator are. There was mass confusion over this. They changed the rules at the last second, without telling us until the moment before the 1099’s were sent out. I’m honestly not sure I even got an email, although the people that did state the change notification was buried at the bottom. They offloaded the burden of figuring out the taxes onto us.
I would have stayed exclusively on Amazon for a long time. Because honestly, they made it easy. They made it simple. You didn't have to put a lot of work into it, and occasionally you made a little bit of money. I’m grateful I was given a platform to develop my books, but wont publish new content on there anymore. We still have all our paperback books up there, but most of our audio books and eBooks have been moved to www.dividedbyzerobooks.com. On our blog Literature for Warriors, we host our classic eBooks free to the public. If you subscribe to the Listening Post, for $9.99 you’ll get permanent access to the 15 hours of exclusive audio book content.
There’s a ten year old version of me deep in the past, who’s making comic books with his friends and wondering if he’ll make an impact as an artist. If he’ll get the chance to have fun making art with his friends. I got to live my dreams for the last ten years, and help other people live theirs by being their publisher. I’m so thankful for the opportunity. Here’s to the next ten.
Divided By Zero Books