Author Keir Thomas has posted an account of how he came to write and self-publish an Ubuntu Linux reference book, after being spurned by a number of other publishers including O’Reilly who felt the profit margin was too low on inexpensive books at the moment.
So Thomas decided to write and publish the book himself through Amazon’s print-on-demand subsidiary CreateSpace. And to drum up interest in the printed book, which he priced at $12.99, he gave the e-book away as a free PDF.
Thomas estimates that the book had to be downloaded about 446 times for every sale of the print book, which is quite a low ratio—but on the other hand, he’s made a decent amount of money out of the printed book either way.
Since going on sale at the start of 2009, the book has made me $9,000. Bearing in mind the book took three months to produce, that’s a salary of $3,000 per month, although costs such as hosting have to be deducted, and I also spent quite a few days marketing the book once published.
I’ve had worse salaries in my life, and I’m very grateful, but I know total royalties would probably have been higher had I gone through the traditional route of working with a mainstream publisher.
In the end, Thomas is realistic about the chances of self-publishing: he’s proud that the book is a free educational resource for the Ubuntu community, and that it covered his costs, but he does not feel it’s the way to make a fortune.
His current experiment involves 99 cent Kindle e-books, of which he has two out right now (also about Ubuntu). Someday, he notes, he might explain how well that one goes too.