Kindle, how do I blog thee? Let me count the ways….
In the past few months I’ve had numerous writer-blogger-publisher friends and colleagues ask me how to publish their blogs and other content as Kindle Blogs.
- Or how to take the short stories or social commentary that they have been writing for other media and make it come alive on the Kindle.
- Or, in the case of some very talented people who write everything from business marketing material to political content to community organizing campaign literature, how they could re-purpose the publications that they or their organizations are already doing as Kindle blogs so that they could begin to reach a wider audience.
- Or how to take those steamy stories they’ve been writing for years and connect them with the thousands of Kindle readers who appear — from Kindle sales rankings — to have an appetite for erotica and like the fact that the Kindle does not require a brown paper bag.
- Or how to turn Kindle owners on to the wonderful services or products that their businesses provide to the public.
Those of us who tapdance on the keyboards come in so many different shapes, sizes, and settings.
At first, back in June when I had just begun to make Kindle Nation Daily available as a Kindle edition blog, I might have answered, "Don’t bother." Although I had plenty of independent confirmation of wide and growing readership, I was skeptical that significant numbers of people were going to pay for the goat when I was already giving away the goat’s milk for free.
With monthly summaries that show up a couple of weeks after the end of each month, Amazon is slower to report Kindle blog subscription and revenue data to its publishers than any other of its formats, which generally report in something close to real time when they are working. But based on the data that I could gather, it seemed that very few Kindle blogs were thriving. When my own numbers began to come in — with 7 subscriptions in May and even with 150 for June and 201 for July — well, it was nice to have some paying readers, but at 30 cents a pop as my monthly royalty for each 99-cent-a-month subscription it certainly did not seem like a business model. I now have over 7,500 people reading my posts each week in their several free formats, and I certainly don’t expect the number of paid readers ever to catch up with the number of free readers.
But as the "installed base" of Kindle owners has continued to grow dramatically each month, and promises to keep growing, I’ve changed my mind about the usefulness of the Kindle blogging format, and I would no longer say "Don’t bother" to anyone with useful information or creative work to share. Granted, the number of Kindle owners who subscribe to Kindle blogs remains very small: my educated guess is that there are somewhere south of 10,000 regular Kindle blog subscribers among roughly 2 million Kindle owners at present. My own subscriber numbers keep growing — from 201 in July to 346 in August, 494 in September and 778 in October — but while the percentages of increase are astonishing, the actual numbers and revenue figures are tiny. It’s great to be the #1 blog in the Kindle Store this morning, but the fact that somewhere in the ballpark of 99.96% of Kindle owners do not read my blog certainly constitutes a cold splash of reality.
Or should I see it as opportunity?
To extrapolate based on my recent month-over-month subscription growth rates yields laughable results (the last four months’ figures are 56.64%, 67.02%, 36.82%, 58.12%, or so says my handle little Google Docs spreadsheet), yet even the act of plugging in seemingly "conservative" growth rates in the 5 to 10 percent range yields projections that are wild enough both to concentrate my attention and to suggest to me that, with an 11-year-old son who I am probably not going to talk out of going to college, I should continue to make Kindle Nation Daily a priority even if it weren’t so much fun.
What are the real parameters for potential growth in subscribers for the Kindle edition of my blog or anyone else’s in the future?
I certainly believe that Kindle ownership will continue to grow dramatically in the next few years. People far smarter than me are suggesting that there will be as many as 25 million or more ebook readers by the end of 2013, and that a large percentage of these will be Kindles of some sort. So, even if I had 25,000 subscribers by then, something over 99.97% of all Kindle owners would not be subscribers.
Will the percentage of Kindle owners who read blogs on their Kindles increase significantly in the future? As with anything else, it probably depends on convenience, the importance and value of the content being delivered, and the relative terms of price and convenience under which such content is available elsewhere. Although blogging as a zeitgeist phenomenon may be beginning to seem, well, "so 2005," it has the potential to gain real force as other content formats and sources fall away and creative content providers find new ways to use the incredible simple blogsite architectures to deliver fiction, poetry, other narrative, and other forms of business, cultural, and political comment.
Those of us who read blog content on the Kindle find it a very convenient, portable feature, and it is great to have new posts pushed regularly to my Kindle so that I don’t have to remember to go looking for them. I subscribe to about 10 blogs on a range of subjects including technology, news, sports, and creative content, and whenever a blog is refreshed and moves to the top of my home screen, it takes me only a few seconds of peeking at its Table of Contents and an initial sentence or two to decide if there is something new that I want to read or flag for future reading.
Just as important, both for myself and for other bloggers, we are finding ways to include the Kindle editions of our blogs in a symbiotic loop wherein each kind of subscriber, reader, or visitor is more likely to visit other associated venues. Not only does my Kindlized blog help make interested readers aware of my Kindle books, but it also drives visitors to my free blog, the free weekly email newsletter that I publish with the help of Constant Contact’s growing suite of complementary services, and even to my telephone or my email inbox if they want to engage me in helping them in their efforts. Most of these other centers of activity, in turn, also build my base of Kinle edition subscribers: proof again that what goes around comes around. And what works for me is working for many other authors, publishers, businesses and organizations as well.
Kindle blogs may be the ultimate long-tail phenomenon, so they only make sense from a business point of view if they require little or no investment either by Amazon or by the bloggers in question. That’s the situation here. I spend plenty of hours each month posting to my blog, but the total amount of time I spend maintaining its Kindle edition architecture amounts to less than 5 minutes.
Initially, though, it took me about three times that much time to get up and running.
Yep, 15 minutes.
If you have blog content that you want to make available on the Kindle, all you need is a U.S. bank account and an existing blog. Here’s how, in 21 easy steps:
- Get the RSS feed address for the existing blog that you wish to publish on the Kindle and paste it into a text file so that it will be ready to paste in the appropriate place later in this process. Have your blog’s main page open in another window or tab as you proceed. You can bring up the RSS feed address by clicking on the little syndication icon at the far right of the URL field for your blog’s main address near the top of your browser when you are looking at the blog’s main page in that other window or tab. For this blog, whose address is http://thekindlenationblog.blogspot.com, the RSS feed address is http://thekindlenationblog.blogspot.com/feeds/posts/default?alt=rss.
- Go to the Kindle Publishing for Blogs Beta page, which is compatible with both Windows and Mac operating systems, and click on the Create a New Account link.
- Create your account using an email addresss that is not associated with an existing Amazon account. (You can always set up a new email account, free, with Gmail and have the new account’s incoming mail sent to an existing email address, including one that is associated with an existing Amazon account.)
- Choose and answer your security questions and affirm that you have read and accept the program’s Terms and Conditions.
- Click on the "Add new blog" link in the upper right corner of the "Dashboard" display that appears on your screen.
- Enter your contact and bank account information on the next screen. This will allow Amazon to pay you royalties for your blog subscriptions. Monthly royalties are 30% of the monthly subscription price for actual subscriptions. You don’t get paid for the 14-day free trial that precedes any subscription. Once your bank account’s routing number and account number as well as your social security or tax identification number are successfully entered, you will be able to have royalties deposited electronically in your bank account, usually in the second half of the month following the subscription revenues on which you are being paid.
- On the "Add Blog" page which appears next on your display, paste in your blog’s RSS feed address from Step 1.
- Type or copy and paste the blog’s title, tagline, and blog description directly from your blog’s main page. This metadata will appear in the Kindle Store so it should be worded in an attractive way and conform to the material already on your blog. You may find it beneficial to include a descriptive subtitle such as my blog’s "The inside scoop on all things Kindle." Why? Because everything you do to package and market any content on Amazon should reflect your awareness of the importance of search engine optimization (SEO) within Amazon’s, and the web’s, architecture. I have also found it beneficial to include some search keywords in a blog’s tagline.
- Enter your name or pen name of the name of your publishing company, business, or organization as the blog’s publisher.
- Take a screenshot of your blog using COMMAND+SHIFT+4 on a Mac or the PrintScreen key on a PC, and then use Preview or Paint to save the image as a GIF, JPEG, TIFF, or BMP file. You may find it beneficial here to select a particular post with attractive above-the-fold graphics and overall presentation and bring that post onto your screen for the screenshot.
- Click on "Upload image" to browse, select, and upload your screenshot to the "Add Blog" page.
- Follow a similar process to upload a masthead graphic. This should be a simple icon image; it will appear, in a tiny image, at the head of each post in the Kindle’s rendering of your blog.
- Enter the actual website address for your blog where indicated; this is not the RSS feed address that you have already entered above.
- Select your blog’s language and choose three categories from the list of 10 offered. You may easily change these categories in the future.
- Enter search keywords to help Kindle owners to find your blog in the Kindle store or the overall Amazon website. This process, again, is all about SEO, and it may prove helpful to check out similar or other blogs in the Kindle Store and scroll down to the section headed "Tags Customers Associate with This Product."
- For the "Blog Post Frequency" pulldown menu, be conservative. If you post 4 or 5 times a week, choose "2 to 5 times a week" rather than "Daily," and if you post 10 times a week, choose "Daily" rather than "Multiple times a day." Readers get annoyed if you do not delivered what you promise, and that annoyance can be reflected not only in your subscription sales but in lethal negative reviews. It may also be true that the "Multiple times a day" option, even if true, might actually drive away some potential subscribers if they are concerned that they may be inundated with posts.
- Click on the "Generate Blog Preview" button to make sure that everything looks right. Your preview will take a few minutes to format and load, then you can click "View Preview" and a Kindle-sized display of your blog will appear.
- If so, check the box showing that you accept the "Terms and Conditions" (after you’ve read them, of course), click on the "Save" button.
- The orange "Publish Blog to Kindle" button will then become live on your screen. Click it, and you’re done. All you have to do from here on out is keep posting to your blog, and each post will be delivered directly to subscribers’ Kindles within an hour or so of your posts.
- Amazon will set the price of your blog between 99 cents and $1.99. It’s probably better for you if the price is 99 cents, since that’s the price for many of the most popular blogs in the Kindle Store, but it is out of your control.
- Subscribe to your own blog, if you have a Kindle, so that you can keep a close eye on how it looks on the Kindle and trouble-shoot any problems. If you don’t have a Kindle yet, and you don’t want to spring for the $259 to buy a new one, you can buy a refurbished Kindle 1 for just $149.99 by clicking here. But you do not need to own a Kindle to publish your blog in the Kindle Store.
I know, I said you could do all this in 15 minutes, and it probably took you a little longer because we writers are careful people. Or should be. And I didn’t mean to include the time it took you to read this post in the 15 minutes.
In any case, I wish you good luck, and I hope that you will stay in touch with me at KindleNation@gmail.com to let me know how this goes for you.
(If you’d rather have me set this up for you for a one-time fee of $49, just click on the Buy Now button [at the bottom of the original post, here] and send an email to KindleNation@gmail.com with Kindle Blog Publishing Package in the subject line and your blog’s URL and an email address and phone number so that I contact you in the the main body. I’m not looking for the extra work, but it may be easier for me than for you and I don’t want to see you blocked from participation if I can help.)