Without a doubt, the most incredible part about having my books on the Kindle is that people are reading them. They’re reading what I wrote! It’s a wonderful and awesome thing to have real readers, and I can’t overstate how exciting and gratifying that part of this experiment has been.

But the second most incredible part about having books on the Kindle is that I have these little engines out there making money for me while I do other stuff. Maybe not a lot of money, but some.

Which is great. I’ll be working, or reading, or sleeping, and when I check my sales I’ll see that I made a few bucks. It’s great to wake up to. “Wow! I made $7 while I was sleeping!”

Awesome feeling.

But do you know what an even more awesome feeling is? “WOW! I MADE $100 WHILE I WAS SLEEPING!”

Which was how I woke up this morning.

Seriously.

A lot of my posts about these books have been about the logistics of publishing or about the writing itself. So I’d like at least one post to be about the finances of it.

I’ll start by saying this: the dream is real. There is real money to be made in self-publishing.

A select few self-published authors have made a few hundred thousand, or even a few million, at it–and good for them. But you don’t have to do that to still have success.

From April 2010 to April 2011, I made less than $100 off of Kindle sales. All of that came from just one book, The Saints Go Dying.

In May, I put The Little Book of Gold up, and things started to pick up a bit. Now I had two books working for me. I made about $100 in Kindle sales between May and October last year. What previously had taken a year, took 5 months with two books (of course, The Little Book of Gold has a much higher price point than The Saints Go Dying, so that helped a lot).

Then in November, I added The Marinara Murders, and that’s when things really started to take off. I made as much in November as I did in all the months of Kindle sales before that. What I’d done in 18 months, I did in 1.

In early December, Amazon created a new category of self-published books, where authors who were willing to go exclusive with Amazon got some special perks, including the ability to make the book free for a few days every quarter. Since I had had exactly zero sales on Barnes & Noble, I figured why not?

Thanks to a lot of reasons, but in a very large part thanks to that free promotion, I made more in December than I did in November.

I made more in January than I did in December …

I made more in February than I did in January…

And I’ve already made more in March than I did in February (and we’re not even at the Ides yet!). See a pattern?

You can probably estimate some of the figures from what I told you, so I’ll just share it: I made $500 last month, and just cracked $600 this month.

That’s real money for us. Not “buy a palazzo in Venice and be a full-time writer” kind of money. But real money.

Now. About that $100 I made in my sleep last night. Over the weekend I used a couple of those free days from Amazon and had a crazy successfully run at it. I had … ahem … 11,000 free downloads of The Marinara Murders. Really. That’s 2.6 copies downloaded every minute, for three days straight.

My boost in sales this week is entirely attributable to that impressive increase in people reading my book, so I don’t expect that this will continue at that same rate over time. And I will still be happy if I wake up tomorrow having made only $7 in my sleep.

But what seems to be happening is that–ever so slowly–my “base” of sales is growing. These are my weekly sales from the first week of December through last week (I intentionally did not include the awesome sales I’ve had this week because it distorts the graph and it’s too hard to read the slope).

Sales2

What stands out to me is the baseline slope. No matter the spikes, the slope of that line keeps rising week over week. I am not a statistician, but after almost four months of that, it doesn’t seem like a fluke.

And it’s easy to project forward. If I keep writing and uploading books–let’s say one a year or so–plus a stray short story here and there … why wouldn’t this keep going up? That’s the question I keep asking myself. What’s going to stop this?

The most likely answer to that question is … nothing. There’s no reason this can’t keep up. My ebooks will never come off the shelf. More and more people are buying ereaders. More and more countries will get Amazon’s ebook store. Why should this stop?

On the other hand, the second most likely answer to the question “what’s going to stop this?” is … Amazon. Since all of these sales came from Amazon, I am entirely beholden to their whims of policy or pricing changes. They could change their terms very easily, and I couldn’t do a thing about it. But worrying about that is like worrying about when The Big One will hit Tacoma. It’s not very productive. And it’s not like there won’t be other opportunities out there if that were to happen (and, I truthfully don’t see any reason to think that changes in terms would hurt authors, if anything, they would probably help them, as Amazon’s interests and my interests are–at least temporarily–aligned.)

So, that’s where things stand. Kindle publishing went from a hobby for me to real income in 23 months. It probably would have gone quicker if I’d uploaded books faster, but ah well.

I’ll repeat what I said above. Self-publishing ebooks is for real. I just checked–I made $16.56 since I started writing this blog post.

Again, that’s because I’m reaping the benefits of that weekend promotion. But still. It’s incredibly exciting. And with any luck, this is just the beginning.