« Digital, Resources

The New Midlist: Self-published E-book Authors Who Earn a Living

Everyone knows the superstars of self-publishing, but many others are earning a living, selling foreign rights, and being courted by traditional publishers.

By Robin Sullivan

The author's husband, Michael J. Sullivan, self-published on Amazon and went on to sign a six-figure contract with Hachette.

There have been many articles about self-published superstars like Amanda Hocking, Joe Konrath, and John Locke. While these success stories are noteworthy, we should look at them for what they are — outliers in the self-publishing world just as Stephen King and Stephenie Meyer are outliers in the big-six publishing industry. Most authors can never hope to reach sales in the hundreds of thousands for a single month, but there are more than a few who sell anywhere from 800 to 20,000. While selling books at this level would seem extraordinary by traditional publishing standards, the mere fact that so many self published authors have achieved this goal (with more being added each month), indicates that it is not an unusual occurrence.

Not only are these new mid-listers selling a lot of books, but they are also receiving significantly more money from each sale (the industry standard is a 25% royalty of net sales for e-books under contract by a big-six publisher). If a self-published author sells their book for $2.99 – $9.99, then Amazon will pay 70% ($2.09 – $6.99). Compare this to the $1.22 per book income (which needs to be shared with an agent) for a $6.99 e-book sold through a publisher. High volume combined with good revenue is providing self-published e-book authors five and six figure yearly incomes allowing them to quit their “day jobs” and make a living by doing what they love most–writing.

The Tipping Point

I regularly give lectures on the different options for publishing and up until recently my main point about self-publishing was the unprecedented control it provided. Recently I’ve had to change my presentations to also acknowledge that if you wish to maximize income then self-publishing, if done well, could provide the best revenue potential. A year ago I was definitely not making that statement — but a watershed moment occurred in October/November 2010. It was at this time that sales of e-books from previously unknown authors skyrocketed.

To illustrate the dramatic rise in sales for these e-book mid-listers, let’s look at some real data that I’m intimately familiar with: Michael J. Sullivan. He is my husband and has five of six books of the Riyria Revelations published through my small press, Ridan Publishing. The release dates of them were: The Crown Conspiracy (Oct 2008), Avempartha (April 2009), Nyphron Rising (October 2009), The Emerald Storm (April 2010), and Wintertide (October 2010). In nine months, from January to September 2010, his income averaged just over $1,500 a month or around $10,700 in total (Amazon US Kindle sales only). Certainly not a wage we could live off of. After the tipping point occurred he earned more than $102,000 in just five months. For details on his monthly income see the following chart:

Michael J Sullivan Amazon Sales

If it hadn’t had been for Writer’s Café (a section of the Kindle Boards forums), I would have thought Michael’s sales increase had been just an isolated occurrence. But from postings there I found many authors who were experience the same rise. The following chart and graph shows the number of authors who sold books in various quantities (Data provided on Kindle Board):

Amazon author sales data

Amazon author sales over 800

Because authors on Kindle Boards were sharing sales figures and book prices, I was able to calculate March income for the following:

  • Michael J. Sullivan — $16,648
  • Ellen Fisher — $3,915
  • Siebel Hodge — $15,425
  • N. Gemini Sasson — $4,222
  • David McAfee — $6,085
  • David Dalglish — $12,132
  • Victorine Lieskie — $7,281
  • M. H. Sergent — $4,211
  • Nathan Lowell — $9,296

Of these authors, only Victorine Lieskie ever had a book that made the Amazon Top 100 Bestseller List. Most of the authors selling at a rate of 800+ books a month tend to have rankings from 300-6,000. (A ranking of 1001 indicates that 1,000 kindle books are selling better than yours).

You Can Sell Foreign Rights

Many detractors of self-publishing point out that by doing so you close the door to foreign sales and any chance of ever seeing your books on a bookstore shelf. Again, this was true in the past, but times have changed and now being successfully self-published actually opens the door to foreign sales and provides a better chance of being signed by a major publisher since you already have an established audience which is so important in publishing today.

Let’s return to Michael as he is an example that I have real data for. The Riyria Revelations produced $154,000 in foreign translation rights sales in just the last six months. Deals are already finalized for: The Czech Republic, Russia, Germany, France, Poland, and Spain. Active negotiations are ongoing for Holland and Italy. Once more, the Writer’s Café forum demonstrates that this has not been occurring just for Michael. The following are authors who have announced either signing a foreign deal, or being approached by an agent or publisher for foreign rights translations: David Dalglish, Shelley Stout, M.G. Scarsbrook, Tina Folsom, Melanie Nilles, Dawn McCullough White, Victorine Lieskie, Imogen Rose, Lucy Kevin, Margaret Lake, Terri Reid, and Beth Orsoff.

Commanding Larger Advances

As for seeing your books in the bookstores…it is true that most brick and mortar stores will not carry self-published printed books, however, major publishers are very interested in authors with an existing fan base. What’s more, they have to offer larger advances than those paid to debut authors in order to woo them. A self-published author already has a pretty good idea what they could make from the works if they continue to stay independent. For a debut fantasy author, several surveys indicate an advance of $5,000 – $10,000 is standard. So a three-book deal would warrant $15,000 – $30,000 advances. In comparison, Michael was offered a six-figure contract from Orbit (the fantasy imprint of Hachette Book Group). Other self-published authors who have recently been signed include: H.P. Mallory (six-figure advance from Random House), D.B. Henson (who was approached by agent Noah Lukeman -– that’s right she did not query him…he queried her) whose Deed to Death sold at auction, Stephanie McAfee’s Diary of a Mad Fat Girl, Jerry McGill’s Dear Marcus, R.J. Jagger, and a book by Quentin Schultze & Bethany Kim.

The publishing industry is certainly changing at the speed of light. There used to be only one choice if you wanted to make any decent money writing novels: spend months (or years) querying for an agent, waiting months (or years) while that agent shopped the project around, and then if accepted, waiting up to two years for the book to actually hit the store shelves. If your book wound up on the midlist (which by definition most did) then low volume and a small cut of the books total sales price made it financially impossible for authors to write full time as their sole source of income.

There was a time when self-publishing produced little to no revenue, and doing so was often the last resort for a project that had been rejected by everyone it had been put in front of. Now, in the post digital revolution, the model has been turned upside down. Authors are going to e-books first based on earning potential and a quick time to market. If they do well, then they leverage their sales for larger advances and favorable contract terms. Of course self publishing is not for everyone, but at least for those that decide to go this route, they won’t have to be that one in a million outlier—if they can achieve the e-book midlist status, they stand a good chance of telling their boss, “I quit, I’m going to stay home and write for a living.”

DISCUSS: Self-Published Books and Foreign Rights Deals

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  1. Steven
    Posted June 27, 2011 at 5:38 am | Permalink

    Great article. I really enjoyed reading about real people who are managing to make their own way through the publishing world, entirely on their own steam.

  2. Olwyn
    Posted June 27, 2011 at 6:16 am | Permalink

    Wow, probably one of the most interesting pieces I’ve read in a while.

  3. Posted June 27, 2011 at 7:37 am | Permalink

    Great post and like you said, more are achieving this every month. This month, it was my turn. I was fortunate enough to have the first book in my series hit as high as #15 in Amazon’s top 100 this month, and it hung in top 100 for 21 days before falling out. Even though I have only two books, and one is 99 cents, the other $2.99, I’m looking at a $16,000+ payday for the month. As you can imagine, I’m hard at work on the third book! lol.

  4. AmyShields
    Posted June 27, 2011 at 7:50 am | Permalink

    Why no Amanda Hocking in this list? Hers is a wildly compelling story re: ebook self publishing success. Her absence here is strange.

  5. Posted June 27, 2011 at 8:43 am | Permalink

    Wow…finally someone who’s spent time in the trenches tells it like it is…thank you.

  6. Posted June 27, 2011 at 8:49 am | Permalink

    Amy, I believe Amanda Hocking is listed at the top, along with the superstars like Locke and Konrath. She can’t really be considered mid-list, but is definitely a success story.

  7. Posted June 27, 2011 at 9:09 am | Permalink

    Good article, Robin, but since I’m mentioned, I have to point out that February and March were exceptional months for me. B&N changed some things around, and after that my sales slumped off over there. Had I continued to sell at the rate I was in those months, I could indeed say I’m “making a living,” but as it is the most I can say is that I’ve been paying my mortgage all year. This month, I probably won’t even quite make that (and a lot of other authors have reported a “summer slump” in sales, too).

    That being said, I am doing much better with indie publishing than I ever did with traditional or small press publishing. And I hope to do better this summer, as I get a few new titles out. But I do want to point out that peaks and valleys happen to most writers, and that one can’t conclude I’m “making a living” based on my March numbers… alas for me:-).

  8. Posted June 27, 2011 at 9:28 am | Permalink

    @M.P. – I’ve been watching the ranking of No Good Deed – congrats on all your success and proving my point. It’s not just a few.

    @Ellen – Sorry that the changes have made a dip in sales…but you’ve sold a ton of books and I’m sure they’ll spread by word-of-mouth. For an author, paying the mortgage all year is quite an accomplishment and as you said you’re doing much better than if you had taken a different route.

  9. Posted June 27, 2011 at 9:37 am | Permalink

    In re-reading some of the posts from the thread where I got my data I found this from Joe Konrath….

    “When I began posting numbers two years ago, no one else did. Sales figures and writing income were secretive, speculative things, and no one knew what anyone else was making, and kept their own numbers hidden.

    Now there are entire threads where writers share their numbers. That’s pretty amazing.

    The best way to combat fear and superstition is with facts. In the legacy model, everyone was so worried about upsetting the status quo, that no one knew anything.

    But knowledge is power. All of you who post your figures, your growth, and shining light upon the darkness. You’re inspiring others with hard-won facts, and your generosity in sharing them is helping accelerate the indie movement.

    Good on you.”

    I want to echo what Joe said…knowledge is power and I’m so grateful for the openness of people posting their sales so that others can see the facts of what is possible.

  10. Posted June 27, 2011 at 10:01 am | Permalink

    You’re right, Robin. I felt funny sharing my numbers on my blog and here in this thread, but it was Konrath’s initial sharing of his numbers that spurred me to self-publish in the first place. So while it may seem like ‘bragging’, my goal in posting it, and it seems everyone’s goal who have posted their numbers, has been to give those considering self-publishing the knowledge they need to make a decision. Just as long as they realize it rarely happens overnight (took me exactly a year) and there is a lot of work involved. Most people reporting success are also the ones I see who are working the hardest. There are also many busting their butt who haven’t yet broken out, but if their books are good, it’s just a matter of time.

  11. Posted June 27, 2011 at 10:11 am | Permalink

    Count me as another midlister earning a very nice income from my monthly ebook sales. Since February of this year, I’ve sold 20,000 ebooks – mostly due to my hardboiled supernatural Lawson series. June stands to be my best month thus far, and even with a noticeable slump on the Amazon side – it was countered by Barnes & Noble picking my psychic suspense thriller Parallax as a great choice for summer reading and sold 1,000 extra copies of that title alone. Making a consistent monthly income is a wonderful change to my career, and I fully expect my sales to skyrocket once the TV series starts filming this Fall.

    Great article, by the way!
    -Jon F. Merz

  12. Don Linn
    Posted June 27, 2011 at 10:33 am | Permalink

    Great news about Michael’s sales but a couple of thoughts:

    First, does everything have to be framed as “Publishing Type A” vs “Publishing Type B”? I think most of us know by now that self publishing works well for some and traditional publishing works well for others.

    Second, just as in traditional publishing, there are (sales-wise) successful authors and unsuccessful authors. Michael is a successful one; there are thousands of unsuccessful serf-published one.

    Without disparaging this (and other) success story, let’s not be too quick to draw general conclusions.

  13. Posted June 27, 2011 at 10:41 am | Permalink

    @Don, personally, I’m happy straddling both realms. I still do traditional deals (if they make sense) and yet maintain my indie stuff as well. I have had almost two dozen books come out through traditional NYC houses and am in no hurry to abandon them provided the deals are a good move. I think a savvy writer can straddle both realms to great success.

  14. Posted June 27, 2011 at 11:13 am | Permalink

    Don, I’m not sure why you think the article was “A” vs “B”. As seen Michael has used “A” to get to “B”.

    As to there being unsuccessful self-published authors as you noted there are also unsuccessful traditionally published authors, but the entire point of the article is a growing number of self-published authors ARE making it work and you don’t have to be Hocking, Konrath, or Locke to do so. Self publishing “used” to be a waste of time and money…now its alllowing authors previously locked out (mainly due, in my opinion, to limited bandwidth)to find an audience. The reason I wrote the article is that times are changing – and authors need to watch what is going on in the industry.

  15. Posted June 27, 2011 at 11:32 am | Permalink

    Thanks, Robin, this is a story that needs to be told–the new model of the working class writer. Most people just hear about lottery winners, because we all understand the lottery. That’s not reality, that’s a lottery. But hard work and creative entrepreneurship can pay off and reinforce the joy of creation, and everybody wins (well, except some people who can’t adapt).

    However, I am not sure NY can keep gobbling up the indie success stories. As you said, limited bandwidth, and the hot kindle star of the moment turns over ever faster–which is a great thing, but they can’t all get six-figure deals, because publishers will not have the slots, and neither will the vanishing bookstores. Like Jon said, you just have to take the best deal you can make right now and be prepared to adapt as everything changes. Good article.


  16. Posted June 27, 2011 at 11:35 am | Permalink

    Thank you for this article- it’s so encouraging. My debut novel,an indie YA Paranormal Romance, debuted at the end of April. June will be its second full month on the market and I am on track to sell over a thousand copies by the end of the month. That’s astounding to me, something that I never would have imagined. Indie publishing is working for me and I’m so happy that it is an option.

    In my opinion, you are definitely correct. Everyone knows that the industry is changing…and who knows what it will bring… but I’m with you. The new midlist will be Indies who sell enough to make a living.

    And for the record, I also agree that there should be no A vs B or Us vs Them. There is room enough for everyone in the industry. One way works for some and the other way works for others. We’re all writers, just looking for an audience. Have a great Monday!

  17. Posted June 27, 2011 at 12:07 pm | Permalink

    Thank you Robin, this was an encouraging article many of us need to read.

    I only have novellas and short stories on Amazon and Smashwords right now, but I am actively searching for an agent or publisher for the horror novel I just finished.

    I am realistic, I am not a YA paranormal romance writer or a fantasy writer so I do not expect my work to sell like such online. So, I am using the new eBook movement to help build a platform that might make it more likely an agent or publisher will take me seriously.

    Happy for all those who made the midlist. Very encouraging.
    AL Fetherlin

  18. Posted June 27, 2011 at 1:34 pm | Permalink

    As someone who is just entering the publishing world, the idea that there are a fair number of self-published authors who are making a fair living is very encouraging. I am also grateful to see that more authors are sharing real numbers on their sales – it makes it easier to know where my own books are falling in the spectrum. It also makes it easier to fend off well meaning, but discouraging friends and family who keep telling me that “no self-published author will ever have any success or earn a living that way.” Sure I wouldn’t object to having sales like the superstars mentioned above, but for right now I am aiming for consistently paying a few of the monthly bills and taking the edge off our budget. Good to know that there are more than a small handful of people who are doing just that. I’m watching people like Jon Merz above who are using all of the available outlets for their books, and hoping to learn the same dance.

  19. Posted June 27, 2011 at 1:44 pm | Permalink

    Count me in. I’m earning a nice living from ebook sales of my Detective Jackson series and standalone thrillers. I used to have a publisher, during which time I didn’t make any money. I’ve also sold audio book rights and Turkish language rights, and I’m working on more foreign language deals. Thanks for this post.

  20. Posted June 27, 2011 at 1:48 pm | Permalink

    It’s often overlooked that sales figures are a continuum. Yes, we hear about the superstars in this new world of indie publishing, but there’s also a growing awareness of those who – although they may not be selling in the millions or even tens of thousands – are building a readership and earning a respectable income. I’m on track as an indie author to earn as much or more as I would as a teacher. So, um yeah, I’m staying home to write.

  21. Posted June 27, 2011 at 2:08 pm | Permalink

    When I published my first book in 2006 I was fully ready to back it up with an ebook, but the technology had not caught up with the demand yet. True, selling a PDF was a good alternative, but at the time that was all there was. Now, with the development of programs which convert a simple Word document into various other formats of ebook, the increase in selling choices has opened up our prospects for profiting from our work. Though I don’t sell as many ebooks as anyone listed, sales are improving day by day. The only think I lament is that sales of ebooks don’t necessarily translate into sales of hard copies. The day I can link the two will make me a happy camper, indeed.

    Others speak of quitting their jobs. For me there was no such choice, but I turned my idle time into a productive and potentially lucrative business. You can’t beat the freedom to write and publish, and have some control over your margins. But along with that comes the freedom to write better and more entertaining books. That is what we all strive for.

  22. Posted June 27, 2011 at 3:22 pm | Permalink

    What a great, pragmatic, information-filled post. I’m starting to believe…

  23. Posted June 27, 2011 at 3:33 pm | Permalink

    @Rebekah James – the “well meaning people” that are telling you this are just “caught in the past”. Times have changed which was a big part of why I wanted to get this story out.

  24. Posted June 27, 2011 at 3:45 pm | Permalink

    This is super encouraging. For such a long time working as an artist, writer or musician has been all or nothing as far as creating an income. It’s nice to consider that it might be possible to do what we love and live a middle-class life.

  25. Posted June 27, 2011 at 3:49 pm | Permalink

    The times have changed and they’ve changed very quickly. A year ago, this was a very different market place – as Robin’s charts demonstrate. My own sales paralleled Michael’s in pattern if not in volume. Every new ipad, smartphone, and kindle or nook sale is a potential new reader and that’s an amazingly large number to an industry where a successful title might sell 10,000 units in its multi-year lifetime.

    These numbers are also a bit dated now with four more months of market shifting. The Bigs are beginning to pay a little more attention, and Amazon is playing heavily in the 99 cent space with email promotion and special events (like the recent Sunshine Deals for summer reading). It’s been interesting to note that – for the most part – Amazon has been pretty even-handed about who gets on the list, including books from The Bigs as well as indies.

  26. Posted June 27, 2011 at 4:08 pm | Permalink

    Robin, thank you so much for posting this! It is so encouraging to see these kinds of results and success stories. It’s information like this that will further alleviate the stigma of being “self-published.”

    I’ve only been writing for a short time, but I’ve had more than my fair share of rejection letters from agents and publishers alike during my attempts to go the traditional route. That doesn’t diminish my respect for them, though. I knew from the start that the literary world is extremely competitive. But that’s what makes the alternative of self-publishing so wonderful. It gives the rest of us an outlet, an outlet that has the potential to be very lucrative.

    At first, I was hesitant to self-publish and it was out of sheer frustration that I jumped in, head first, and just did it. I knew nothing about it, I was completely unprepared in every possible way, I had no marketing strategy, and I knew no one in the industry. But I did it. And I couldn’t be happier.

    In the interest of being as transparent as all of the posts above, despite my slow start, I have sold 15,000 books in the last three months and now have five books up on Amazon. Though it’s not a figure as high as many others, I am more than pleased by my numbers. I feel very blessed. I have absolutely no regrets about my decision and I’m more grateful than I can express for the opportunity–no, the privilege of self-publishing my work. I’ve found the most incredible world of readers out there that are challenging the status quo, and I’m thankful for each and every one of them:)


  27. Posted June 27, 2011 at 4:18 pm | Permalink

    EXCELLENT article! As a previously traditionally published author who was considered mid-list, I am much happier as a self-published mid-list author who is currently averaging $15,000.00 for the past two months when my books found the tipping point. I am super pleased they did and want to thank you for this article.


  28. Posted June 27, 2011 at 6:00 pm | Permalink


    Thank you for a superb article. I have three military non fiction published, or in the pipeline with traditional publishers, and the advances are pitiful. Today I published a first novel on Kindle and made a first sale – which is good for moral.

    Your words have given me a real lift.


    Rob S

  29. TF
    Posted June 27, 2011 at 6:31 pm | Permalink

    This is great. I’ve been a proponent of digital self-publishing for a while, and it’s nice to have these numbers to back me up. That said, I’d like to know what types of promotion successful self-publishers undertake. Can you point me to any sites or offer tips? I’m guessing proper promotion makes a huge difference in who’s successful and who isn’t.


  30. Posted June 27, 2011 at 8:07 pm | Permalink

    Great article, Robin. I guess I’m included because I’ve passed the 800 books a month mark, although my sales are divided among five books. My biggest seller, White Seed, is the only one of those five which has not been previously ‘traditionally’ published, and it averages about five hundred sales a month. I want to second all the formerly traditionally-published folks who feel that Indie is a better deal. I want to emphasize that the greater control over the book’s presentation, launch, and arc is the biggest thrill for me now. I’ve often felt that I could do a better job than the folks who were assigned my books and now I know that I was right. I know what you mean by ‘tipping point,’ but I would like to read more from others as to what that means to them, and what they believe ‘caused’ that. Best to you and Michael!

  31. Posted June 27, 2011 at 9:47 pm | Permalink

    Thank you so much for an insightful and encouraging article. Thank you also to all those indie authors who are willing to be open about their numbers and their approach to the e-bk business. I am wavering between waiting for that publ to finish reading my manuscript and give me an answer AND just going ahead and doing it…putting my YA bk our there into the e-world. This article has certainly given me plenty to think about and nudge me into the – Just do it – decision!

  32. Posted June 27, 2011 at 10:06 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for the great post, Robin. While I haven’t yet quit my day job, I have cut back my hours so I have more time to write. I never could’ve done that on the advances I received from traditional publishing!

    And Amazon and B&N pay monthly. I don’t know of any traditional publisher that does that.

  33. Posted June 27, 2011 at 11:53 pm | Permalink

    TF – The Writer’s Cafe at Kindle Boards is a place where a lot of writes share all kinds of infomration including what they are doing from a marketing perspective. I also have a website called Write2Publish which talks about all ‘business side’ of writing and marketing is a big part of that. You can find it at http://www.write2publish.blogspot.com. On that blog is a resource page with a bunch of other links to tools and other blogs to watch.

  34. Posted June 28, 2011 at 4:13 am | Permalink

    This is very interesting, as I have just self published on both Kindle and as print on demand. However, I have made virtually nil sales so far (accepting it is early days). I have made an effort to get good endorsements for the book (including from Harvard and Oxford Universities); have sent out about 50 free copies to local and national press; and have a local book launch event planned. I timed the publication to coincide with the Cheltenham Science Festival so I could give copies to high profile people such as Tanya Byron and Kathy Sykes as well as the Times science writers and the Cheltenham marketing director, all in person, and all of whom were very enthusiastic about it. I have, last week, had an article published on Action for Happiness web site which has a following of 14000. My local daily newspaper is sending a photographer out to meet me tomorrow so hopefully it will get some coverage there.
    I would really welcome any feedback from any readers here (you can see the book on Amazon – called “Keeping Your Spirits Up” by me, Sarah Dale) as to what I might be doing wrong. Or am I just being too impatient? I need to sell about 200 copies to cover my costs and so far have sold 9. All bar one to friends and family.
    I am very much on a learning curve with this so all the links above are very useful thanks and I will follow them up.
    Help! Sarah

  35. Posted June 28, 2011 at 4:35 am | Permalink

    Don’t fret – you’re not doing anything wrong — and yes you are being too impatient. Non-fiction does not sell as well as fiction for ebooks and you have a very “niche” book. But the cover is attractive the Amazon page looks good. I think you are a bit high on the price side but considering non-fiction not too bad (I just try to keep first books below $5 so $4.95 is a good price imho)

    As Joe Konrath is fond of saying, “ebooks are forever.” so you have plenty of time to get the sales – don’t fret about “breaking even”. One of my authors, Nathan Lowell thought his self-published books would sell maybe 500 copies. He sold 3,600 copies of his third book in the first week of release.

  36. Posted June 28, 2011 at 4:46 am | Permalink

    Thanks – will bring out further reserves of patience. I thought as much but it’s good to hear that from an experienced person in the field.

    I have a plan for the next book too – and as you say it is important to keep going. The other absolutely important thing is that it’s easy to get swept away with some kind of mega-urgency about all this whereas it’s not like selling tickets for an event when you really do have an end-date. The book has already got me invited (and therefore expenses paid) at the next European Coaching Conference in December so I will calm down now and go and have a cup of tea!!

    Thank you,


  37. Posted June 28, 2011 at 6:08 am | Permalink

    I started out blogging my poetry and gained a large regular readership. I then made the decision to publish and, together with my husband, used my poetry books as a testing bed to learn the ins and outs of running a small press. Endaxi Press was born. My first poetry paperback got to #31 inthe UK poetry bestseller list on Amazon in its first month and my poetry ebooks regularly get into Amazon’s bestseller list for poetry and/or poetry anthologies both in the UK and US.

    We now publish a handful of authors, both e-pub and paper. We have to be extremely innovative to do the best for our authors in terms of marketing etc We don’t take submissions but ‘find’ our writers who we then adopt into our family.

    I had no idea how hard publishing was going to be. We’re banging our heads against a brick wall with Lightning Source at the moment. They are like the little girl with the curl in the middle of her forehead – when they are good they are very very good, but when they are bad they are HORRID!!!

    Hope you don’t mind me putting a link here to a YouTube video I made yesterday in response to Adam Mansbach’s Go the F*** to Sleep. It summarises what everyone who has ever tried to sell books goes through at some point in the process. :) It looks like it might have the potential to go viral – so if you like it please share it :)

    The poetry is mine, the humor is mine and two drawings in it are mine, the books are Endaxi’s. People have said ROFLMAO, LOL, Brilliant and other good things about it. Don’t drink and watch simultaneously if you value your keyboard.


  38. Posted June 28, 2011 at 7:00 am | Permalink

    @paul clayton:

    “I know what you mean by ‘tipping point,’ but I would like to read more from others as to what that means to them, and what they believe ‘caused’ that. ”

    As a beneficiary of that shift, I think that some kind of convergence occurred.

    First, Amazon started pushing the ebook reader for the Christmas season. At that point there was some buzz about how well they were selling and Amazon was pushing them as Christmas presents. I think people started buying the devices to see if they’d make good presents. Of course, they needed books to test them with …

    Second, If I remember correctly that was about the time the number of books available on the kindle platform went over 750,000 (it’s currently around one million). That was about 10% of the books available through Amazon at the time but there was enough interesting (and varied) stuff that I think the viability of the kindle bookstore became significant to potential buyers. I think that’s important because one of the factors in dropping $150 on a reader is “What can I read on it?” The lock in with Amazon is pretty drastic for a lot of people so having an extensive catalog is a key element.

    Third, the K2 came out in March, 2010. That was a significant design change and by late September/early October, the word of mouth from the early adopters was filtering into the public consciousness. This kind of information needs some time to develop and six months is just about right.

    Last, is this youtube ad. Note that the date uploaded is Sept, 2010, and it’s had over 2million views. If you look at all the other kindle ads, it’s got at least 10 times the views of the older ads. Add that to the extensive stop motion ads that were hitting the TV at that time (even I remember those and I watch about an hour of TV a month), and you’ve got what has to be a killer message penetration.

    In short, I think the market was ready and those of us with books on the charts were positioned to take advantage of the inflection point when kindle adoption went over 16% penetration — not in the general population but in the serious book buying public, those people who read a book a week or more.

    Just my opinion, but those all seem to be factors to me. What it means is that I’m a full time author now. I’m not self-pubbed (Robin’s press is my publisher) but the publishing model that Ridan uses means I would have to long and hard at any mainstream offer right now. In a panel at a recent convention I said, “I can’t afford to be a successful mainstream midlist author.” I know some of them and there’s no incentive for me to take that kind of cut in pay.

    Don Linn up there at the beginning of the thread points out the A vs B polarization, so I want to be clear. I’m not saying that one is better than the other for everybody. For me, in order to accept a mainstream offer at this point — particularly with some of the contract terms that are floating about — they better come with seven digits and the first one has to be bigger than a one or I just can’t consider them. That’s not likely to happen and that’s fine with me.

  39. Posted June 28, 2011 at 7:18 am | Permalink

    Very interesting post. Glad to see so many innovative authors getting out there and doing it. I thought you might just be interested in this “counter-intuitive anomaly” (Shatzkin) from the UK who set out to self-publish traditionally (ie in print). Formed company, Raven’s Quill. Ltd. First book is an author-illustrated (80+) children’s nonsense quest story ‘Curd the Lion’(for short) publ. as hb 176pp. at £14.99 in UK Oct 08, and has now sold around 7,000. ISBN 9780955548611 (ebook 9780955548642)
    Second book, ‘The Flight of Birds’– an adult gothic ghost tale of 400pp Pb with flaps at £9.99, Nov 10,– has sold 1,300 copies so far. ISBN 9780955548628 (ebook 9780955548666)
    Numbers may seem small compared to ebook sales, but as author/publ. takes min. 42.5% of retail sales (at retail £105,000 Curd and £13,000 FoB) making £55,000 minus printing £20,000 and other costs (warehousing tiny – distrib. Gardners wholesalers hold books in quantity saving on that) plus travel costs, that doesn’t seem too bad for starters. I also illustrate for other publishers (Penguin, Hachette, Osprey military and others in UK)
    Sold translation rights to South Korea and Israel so far. Have agents Big Apple
    for Far East, Ilustrata (Spanish & Portugese)and Amo (Korea).
    Have not yet sorted ebook pricing/marketing – open to suggestions from those more experienced in this field.
    Blog is http://alangilliland.blogspot.com and twitter thing, onundtreefoot.

  40. Posted June 28, 2011 at 9:48 am | Permalink

    A great post, as always, from Robin. She’s a real facts and figures gal! And thanks so much for the mention.

    I think it just highlights that anything is possible if you take a chance. It may mean you have to go a different route than you originally planned, but if you’re determined enough and believe in yourself, you can overcome any obstacles. I had an amazing 200 rejections from agents and publishers. Agh! When the first wave of Kindle Direct Publishing was going on, Amazon didn’t allow non US authors to publish direct, so I waited and wrote another book. All of that changed last year – I haven’t looked back since.

    All my novels are consistently in the Amazon top 100 genre categories for humour, contemporary romance, comedy, and romantic suspense. And the highest sales ranking on Amazon are as follows:
    Amazon US Amazon UK
    Fourteen Days Later 553 136
    My Perfect Wedding 715 145
    The Fashion Police 1546 1197

    So from 200 rejections to Amazon top 200 is not bad! :)

    Sales have slumped in the last month or so, partly I think because it’s summer and people are buying less books, partly it’s a natural tail off to the huge sales trailing off from Xmas.

    I’m amazed at the success I’ve had so far as an Indie – it’s pretty mind-blowing, and I’m sure I’ve had more than I would’ve had being trad-pubbed. But, of course, you can’t just write a book, publish it, and hope to sell a ton of them. Being an Indie means having to work more at marketing, promoting, and building a buzz about your books, which does take up time you could be writing, but also allows you to interact with fab readers and other authors.

    I’m sooooo happy that my fellow Indies are doing so well, and I wish everyone lots of success in their writing endeavours.

  41. Posted June 28, 2011 at 11:40 am | Permalink

    Excellent article. After years of pursuing “traditional publication” and being told again and again “I can’t sell this,” my self-published romantic comedy, THE FROG PRINCE, has steadily sold 800-1,000 copies per month for $5.99 on Amazon since November. My book royalties exceeded the income from my “day job” months ago. Unlike hardcopy books in bookstores, indie e-books have no “shelf life.” And the customers just keep coming… Very excited to see what happens when I release my follow-up SLEEPING BEAUTY in July. Thanks for the inspirational post!

  42. Sylvia Paisley-Gee
    Posted June 28, 2011 at 1:01 pm | Permalink

    Very insightful and encouraging. Thanks

  43. Posted June 28, 2011 at 1:03 pm | Permalink

    This is an encouraging post for writers who have taken the leap into the wild west of self-publishing. My own decision to take my work down the ‘indie’ route was based in large part on the favorable math made possible by the Amazon royalty structure.

    Even at a low price point of $2.99, at 70% royalty I won’t have to sell many copies to cover costs, As Konrath points out, ebooks have a long tail as the market expands with every new ereader sold. I would dare to guess that authors enjoying 800-1000 copies per month will see those numbers double in another twelve months. The announcement that the Harry Potter series is coming this fall to ebooks will sell a lot of readers, and that will benefit all of us looking for an audience.

  44. Posted June 28, 2011 at 1:18 pm | Permalink

    I’m currently making more from self-publishing than when I was a traditionally published NY Times bestselling author.
    What I’m wondering is where are these foreign publishers? I got the #2 science fiction title on US and UK Kindle. I’ve got ten books on bestseller lists for ebooks, but I can’t seem to get any response from foreign publishers. Seems like a bit of a no brainer.

  45. Posted June 28, 2011 at 2:54 pm | Permalink

    Excellent article and inspirational stuff for all us writers who are currently struggling in the lower regions of eBook sales.

  46. Posted June 28, 2011 at 3:48 pm | Permalink

    Very encouraging article, thank you!

    I have one short story collection up on Amazon, and keep struggling to stay motivated as I work on getting a novel and more collections into publishable shape. Data like this helps me to keep focusing on the long term rather than getting discouraged by the short term.

  47. Posted June 28, 2011 at 3:52 pm | Permalink

    Bob, I’ve sent an email to you and Michael’s Foreign rights agent – maybe we can get something going for you ;-)

    Science fiction is doing very well from the “indie authors” (self-published or from the small pressess). Everytime I look at that list it is dominated by that audience. For instance right now:

    – #1 Containment by Christian Cantrell (self-published)
    – #2 Atlantis by Bob Mayer (self-published by his own indie press)
    – #3 Odyssey One by Evan Currie (self published)
    – #5 The Frozen Sky by Jeff Carlson(self-pubished has titles traditionally published)
    – #6 Soldier of the Legion (originally self-published now published by small press Ridan)
    – #7 In her Name by Michael R. Hicks (self-published by his own indie press)
    – #8 Season of the Harvest by Michael R. Hicks (self-published by his own indie press)
    – #10 Temporary Duty by Ric Locke (self-published)
    – #11 The Bear That Fell From The Stars by Keith C. Blackmore (self-published)
    – #13 The Chronological Man: The Monster in the Mist by Andrew Mayne (self-published)
    – #14 Full Share (originally self-published as audio book now published by small press Ridan)
    – #15 Last of the Chosen by Lawrence P. White (self-published)
    – #16 Knights of the Chosen by Lawrence P. White (self-published)
    – #17 March of the Legion by Marshall S. Thomas (originally self-published now published by small press Ridan)
    – #18 Siege of Titan by Michael G. Thomas (self-published)

    Thats 15/20 (75%) which just goes to show how prevelent the self-published author movement is these days. Note that while many of these are low priced ($0.99 or $2.99) 5 of the 15 (33%) are priced above $4.95 and above which makes some serious money for the authors selling at this ranking.

  48. Posted June 28, 2011 at 4:43 pm | Permalink

    Very inspirational article. What would you and hubby consider to be the best way to increase kindle sales?

  49. Posted June 28, 2011 at 5:16 pm | Permalink

    Great article. Just confirms more and more what I’ve been reading, seeing and even going to workshops to learn (thanks to Elle recently). If you edit thoroughly and get an amazing product out there, this can work. It is my new goal, and the fact that Michael J. Sullivan is succeeding in Fantasy? Even better!

    Suggestion for your next article/interviews: I noticed the repetition of “by his/her own indie press” on the list. What about these Indie Presses? Advantages of starting your own, of using one? How to open one? Better results if you do/don’t use one? Thanks!

  50. Posted June 28, 2011 at 5:38 pm | Permalink

    Very interesting. I’m getting ready to query agents. I may have to think again after reading your article…

  51. Posted June 28, 2011 at 9:40 pm | Permalink

    Did your husband go to any extraordinary lengths to market his books? Congratulations go out to him.

    I self-pubbed my YA novel, When I Am Singing to You, after my agent was not able to seal a deal with trad publishers. I wonder, though, what kind of sales I can expect to have if its natural readership probably don’t even have ereaders! It’s a book about social issues (teen homelessness, pregnancy, etc) besides, which doesn’t put it in the camp of fast-selling YA fiction in either the paper world or the eworld.

    Any hope for writers like me?!

  52. Posted June 28, 2011 at 10:53 pm | Permalink

    @Sandy – we focus on getting reviews from bloggers, giveaways on GoodReads, social networking, etc. By far the best thing you can do is write a REALLY good book as that will lend itself to word-of-mouth referrals. Most that are doing VERY well write series as each new book raises the sales of the preveious ones.

  53. Posted June 28, 2011 at 10:55 pm | Permalink

    @Rebecca – other than marrying me? Seriously, I handle all the “business side” of his writing so he can concentrate on putting words on paper. I’m the one that does the marketing – I talk a lot about what I do on my Write2Publish blog – just click on my name to get there.

  54. Posted June 28, 2011 at 10:57 pm | Permalink

    @Rebecca – there is no doubt that certain genres do better with ebooks than others. Juvenile is tough on ebooks (IMO) but YA should be fine.

  55. Posted June 29, 2011 at 12:44 am | Permalink

    In my experience, acquiring an agent has been the most confusing and frustrating part of writing, and that is what led me to self publishing my novels and short stories as ebooks. To attract an agent, you must write a query that suits his or her definition of a good query, and they all seem to have different ideas. With ebooks, at least I am in the game. I have the feeling that I can at least partly create my own luck. With my own blogs, websites, and social network efforts, I am at least selling some books. If I were still waiting for an agent, I would not be selling any. For now, and thanks to the examples of Hocking, Konrath, and Locke, I’m content to keeping trying this new way. Hopefully, I’ll get to the point that I won’t even need an agent!

  56. Posted June 29, 2011 at 1:30 am | Permalink

    I wanted to ask some of the folks who weighed in here, I’m very interested in having one of my books, the first in my series, translated into Spanish. It would be perfect, as it is set during the Spanish Conquest of the Southeast. Does anybody have any recommendations? Please PM me via my web site.

  57. Posted June 29, 2011 at 3:50 am | Permalink

    Great to hear of your husband’s success. My husband is the business half of ‘Anna Jacobs’ and has epublished all the books to which I have the rights back or never assigned the digital rights. It’s amazed us how well they’re doing, both the historical romances (not sexy ones, either) and the modern romantic novels.

    Unfortunately, out of over 50 novels published, the publishers still have the digital rights to the majority.

    A big advantage is that we get the money from Amazon each month, which is excellent, while the ebooks which my publishers have put on line bring in payment more than six months in arrears – which is something people often forget to mention among the advantages of epublishing oneself.

    I wish Amazon’s CreateSpace published paperbacks in the UK and elsewhere, not just the USA, so that we could follow up with paperbacks as well. I think Amazon is missing a big market there.

  58. Posted June 29, 2011 at 6:04 am | Permalink

    Pew has released a report on ereader ownership that documents an inflection point in the adoption curve that corresponds to this increase in sales. While the overall adoption is only 12% (indicating that the dedicated devices have not yet penetrated to the “early majority”), I think that it clearly shows that adoption by a subset of all adults – namely, heavy readers – has clearly gone into the fat part of the adoption curve.

    What I find more interesting is that cell phones have penetrated into 83% of the market, leaving only the trailing end of the curve of laggards and luddites. What that means is that a hugely significant number of people in the US have the capability to read ebooks. I know *I* read more books on my phone than on my kindle. It’s always with me and it’s very handy even tho the screen is small. I don’t think I’m alone in that.

  59. Posted June 29, 2011 at 11:14 am | Permalink

    Robin, this is great! :) I always see you on Kindle Boards. When I click on your website, it always led me to “Michael J Sullivan’s” page and I always thought, “Where did Robin go!?” “I’m confused!”

    But now it all makes since. Super congrats to the incredible sales your husband is experiencing! Thanks for writing this article. :) Do you have any articles written about your publishing company, or a website to direct me to? Thanks!

  60. Posted June 29, 2011 at 11:16 am | Permalink

    Oh, just saw your write2publish mention @Rebecca.

    @Nathan, I read all my kindle books on my Iphone!

  61. Posted June 29, 2011 at 11:27 am | Permalink

    Bravo for your husband and I immediately tweeted the good news for mid list authors: I really believe this is a sea change in the publishing industry – far more important than those jolly stories about John Locke and Amanda Hocking, that are anyway, one in a million.

    Here we are talking about 100,000 in a million! Very encouraging! I’ve just published on Kindle, Nook and Ipad Book One of a paranormal YA trilogy Fear of the Past – your experience gives me hope! I had published this book in Italy in 2008 with a small press in Sicily, then translated it into English but the search for an agent proved daunting, as others noted here in the comments. I gave up and decided to self-pub.

    Trouble is: it requires more promotion than I’m able to give it. I need a 72 hour day!

  62. Posted June 29, 2011 at 3:47 pm | Permalink

    Thank you, Robin, for gathering this information and organizing it into an easily accessible format. I appreciate the tangible evidence that I made the right choice.

    After cutting the heart out of a novel to meet the word count demands of an interested agent, I chose to publish “Enchantment” (June 2011) myself. I was motivated by the desire to maintain creative control, thinking I would pursue traditional publication after proving my point.

    No freakin’ way.

    Instead of querying a list of elusive literary agents, I hired a free-lance editor and a marketing expert.

    The early response to Enchantment is every bit as validating as a signed contract with a publishing house. And … it proves my point that 106,000 words is not too many for a YA novel if every one of them serves the story.

    Congratulations to you and Michael for your success.


  63. Posted June 30, 2011 at 9:29 am | Permalink

    @Anna – Good point about the timeliness of payments. As for selling print books overseas. My createspace prouced books are picked up by The Book Depository that has free shipping to several hundred countries so people abroad buy the print books through that.

  64. Posted June 30, 2011 at 9:35 am | Permalink

    @Lacy – funny you should ask as an interview was just posted today about Ridan Publsihing and what we do, why we do it etc. I also recently did a post on my blog called “What I believe” that explains my thought processess in pretty good deatil. Here are some links

    Interview: http://www.andrewjackwriting.com/2011/06/an-epic-interview-with-robin-sullivan-of-ridan-publishing/

    I believe post: http://write2publish.blogspot.com/2011/06/what-i-belive-in.html

  65. Posted June 30, 2011 at 11:20 am | Permalink

    Good post, Robin.

    I’m not quite making a living yet, but close. Currently earning $1,000 plus per month with one novel out and a short collection of short stories. I’m waiting for my next short story collection to go “live,” and I expect that to boost my sales. I plan to bring out another novel this winter, and by this time next year I think I’ll be making enough to live on. My lifestyle is pretty simple.

  66. Posted June 30, 2011 at 12:53 pm | Permalink

    Great article. As a self published author there are a lot of venues to branch into. Not making a living at it, yet. Hopeful as my stories develops a readership it turns into a livable income.

  67. Posted June 30, 2011 at 1:19 pm | Permalink

    Thanks Robin for an interesting article, with some very informative comments. I’ve just ‘self’ published my first book using Lightning Source – Gate of Tears – but with all the press about million sellers at 99 cents, I’m wondering whether Kindle is the way to go. What I’d find hard to do is to price down to that level.

    It would be interesting to see a sales/demand curve overall for Kindle. I was bought up on the notion of ‘pay peanuts get monkeys’ and wouldn’t want to be seen as a monkey…

    Is 99 cents the new price for pulp fiction?

  68. Posted June 30, 2011 at 3:46 pm | Permalink

    James, Dave Slusher over at the Evil Genius Chronicles plotted the supply and demand curves for JA Konraths numbers. It might be a bit dated now, but the data gives you a feel for what’s happening at various price points.

    What’s interesting to note is that the variation in revenue is pretty small across the top of the curve (from 2.99 to 5.50) but drops off pretty drastically when you move outside of that range.

  69. Posted June 30, 2011 at 6:27 pm | Permalink

    I always enjoy reading your articles and seeing your number-crunching, Robin!

    Looks like my June is going to be about Micheal’s Sept as far as earnings go. Kind of fun to speculate that a big tipping point might not be that far off, but I need to get cracking and write more books for my main series. Looks like he put his fifth one out before he “tipped.”

    It’s cool to see so many indies doing well, and I hope the climate continues to remain favorable (i.e. 70% royalty rate at an indie-friendly Amazon) for years to come.

  70. Posted July 2, 2011 at 6:19 pm | Permalink

    Congrats to your husband. I’m so ungeeky that after I put my 12 books up in the Kindle Store in January, I didn’t even know there was a report section in dtp until the end of February. I had to play with the pricing a bit until I saw substantial increases (priced at $6.99 ea in January reaped an anemic 171 sales but at $2.99 for 10 of them and $.99 for 2 of them starting in March it grew to close to 7,000 sold in May and almost as much in June. I have found a number of forums but hadn’t heard of the Writer’s Cafe. I think most of the Kindle forums do not allow BSP.

  71. Posted July 6, 2011 at 12:33 am | Permalink

    Thank you!
    I just did a few posts related to this–mentioning the common attack that Hocking and Konrath are “outliers” and asking if Rowling and King aren’t in fact “outliers” of a publishing induasty in which few actually make a living.

    This is a very good response to that, as well as a much-need message to writers in general.

  72. Posted July 6, 2011 at 11:13 am | Permalink

    An incredibly encouraging post for self-pubbers. I’ve been flip-flopping back and forth as to whether I should attempt second round of agent queries for my super-niche and unique novel.

    When I did so two years ago, I got requests for full manuscripts at a rapid pace, and great feedback on the concept/writing. In the end, the most common reason cited for rejection was rejected was poor market conditions/the economy making it tough to sell debut authors, particularly those with niche books. I’ve got about a decade’s worth of PR experience and a couple agents, much to my shock, suggested I publish the book myself.

    I began to love the idea, but sometimes that fear of going it on my own creeps up on me. This post has given me a new surge of enthusiasm.

    Can’t thank you enough!

    Wordsmith & Wesson

  73. Posted July 7, 2011 at 1:01 pm | Permalink

    I need to find out how to get Foreign Rights Deals. My first book was Pirated, which has resulted in very good sales for the sequel, and I now have a waiting list for the current manuscript I’m writing.

    However, without getting pirated, how does one set up Foreign Right Deals if you are a “Indie Writer”? I truly do enjoy being an independent writer, however there are just things I don’t know how to do by myself.

    Hey Robin – this would be a GREAT book for you to write! I’ll buy the first one. :)
    – KT

  74. Posted July 9, 2011 at 7:03 pm | Permalink

    I’m just getting the kinks worked out of getting my books online. I’m thrilled to report I’m already making as much as five dollars a week. I expect that number to grow.

    I don’t play well within rules. I don’t do subtle. I can’t tolerate bureaucracies. I was never interested in playing the long game with agents and publishers; so I started several non-fiction books and set them aside. When I started my fictional human-rights-hacktivism series these new publishing options were still in development. I wrote on anyway; my hacksterish characters seemed to have a story to tell. I enjoyed the discovery.

    As I said, I’m thrilled with my days of small beginnings. The time spent writing was a pleasure but is now a “sunk cost.” I have no plans to remove my books from Amazon, B&N, Smashwords, etc. — so they may keep earning week after week. Perhaps someday readers at their points on the longtail will discover them.

    I expect to receive the equivalent of a small advance spread over the next five years, and to keep earning after that. I might be wrong. For now my books represent a small annuity that brings pleasure.

  75. Posted July 14, 2011 at 7:08 am | Permalink

    Thanks for such a detailed, honest account. Great info here!!

  76. Posted July 14, 2011 at 9:30 am | Permalink

    Just wanted to drop in and thank everyone for their comments. I’m glad this article resonated with so many.

  77. Chandra
    Posted July 20, 2011 at 3:34 am | Permalink

    Hi Robin,

    GREAT article- really appreciate you sharing your insights. I believe in one or two places (comments section?) you mentioned that certain “genres” and types of stories are certainly more “hot” or marketable- especially in the e-publishing/self publishing market. If it’s not to imposing- could you give your opinion on perhaps what you see as the top 5 or so? Could you give a little more of your thoughts and insight as to why you believe particular genres are what appeal and sell? For example- is it mysteries, or romance, or romantic mysteries or even more subtle genres with sub genre branches attached? Thanks so much- would REALLY appreciate your thoughts and insights on this. Also- when your husband sets out to write a story- does he then consider what “sells” and craft the story to “tilt” towards one of the more popular genres? Or, does he just go with the story as it flows out of him – and then present it to the marketplace? Chandra- Orange County, CA

  78. Posted July 25, 2011 at 10:58 am | Permalink

    Great article! It’s entirely possible to make a living with indie books. Tomorrow marks my 4 month anniversary as an indie author. I have 4 romantic comedies and 1 nonfiction (which is doing very little business) published. Those 4 books have sold more than 90,000 copies in 4 months just on US Kindle.

    My only regret about becoming an indie author? I wish I’d done it sooner!

    Best wishes,
    Joan Reeves

  79. Nancy
    Posted July 25, 2011 at 11:09 am | Permalink

    You might consider outsourcing for your promotions. I do this in a variety of ways, using many different social media outlets. It’s really not that expensive, I only charge $12 an hour and I work like a demon ;)
    You can also hire via outsourcing sites like odesk, freelancer, etc. Just keep in mind that someone who LOVES books, and loves to read, would be the best choice for the job.

  80. R. Barri Flowers
    Posted July 26, 2011 at 12:48 pm | Permalink

    Robin, you noted that “The Riyria Revelations produced $154,000 in foreign translation rights sales in just the last six months. Deals are already finalized for: The Czech Republic, Russia, Germany, France, Poland, and Spain. Active negotiations are ongoing for Holland and Italy.”

    Are these foreign rights for doing a print version of the books?

    Does Michael use an agent to negotiate these deals?

  81. Posted August 4, 2011 at 4:08 pm | Permalink

    Thanks so much for the encouraging info. Congrats to you and Michael. I will follow your blogs with interest as I approach indie epublishing for my own novel.

    Elle Moss

  82. Posted September 14, 2011 at 1:37 pm | Permalink

    This is a great article. Authors have so many opportunities through e-publishing and going beyond what traditional publishers do for promotion.

  83. Posted September 17, 2011 at 6:56 am | Permalink

    I’ve read many of the comments on this thread. Many are very encouraging. But what are some of the central ingredients to finding success with a single novel–beyond the quality of the book itself? I’ve had my book available for 2 months, and sales have been very slow, so far, despite a 5 star review (On the Amazon UK site)and an ad campaign–including facebook ads. Any feedback would be most welcome.

  84. Posted September 20, 2011 at 9:28 am | Permalink

    @Chandra – sorry it took me so long to reply – I’ve not been following recent comments on the thread – my bad.

    Genres that work well with epub

    #1 – Erotica – I think a good reason why is there are no covers to show others “what you are reading” allows more people to indulge in guilty peasures

    #2 – Romance – really led the way with ebooks. The romance reading population is epic in respects to the voracity of their reading habits so to have immediate downloading of “the next book” has been huge for them.

    #3 – Thrillers – the top of the lists are almost always thrillers

    #4 – Fantasy/science fiction – works well because it is easy to find the target market for these people as they share/compare reading quite a bit.

    The only area I think is more of a challeng is “literary fiction” Not sure yet how to crack this nut.

    As for sub-genres….The more specfic you can be the easier it is to market – Always aim at being a big fish in a small pond rather than a small fish in a big pond.

  85. Posted September 20, 2011 at 9:31 am | Permalink

    @Chandra – as for my husband’s writings….He doesn’t write “for the money” he writes for the love of freedom to be able to do what he wants to do so when he picks what he will write the “market” does not influence him at all.

    That’s him…it is a personal choice. There’s nothing wrong with looking at the market and saying – this has legs I’ll write for it. After all making money from writing is an end goal. As long as you love the work you are producing (that will show int he work and the sales) then how you choose your genre is legitmate either way. At least that is my 2 cents.

  86. Posted September 20, 2011 at 9:36 am | Permalink

    @R. Barri Flowers – The foreign publishing deals are standard contracts – so print is the primary aspect but they also have ebook capabilities which is more important as Amazon continues to open additional sites. Yes we do have a foreign rights agent – I personally would not recommend doing foreign sales without someone who knows this market VERY well. Not even a “standard” agent would be good for this – I recommend a agent who is doing this full time – check out agents who go to frankfort, london, etc or those that are used by other agencies for foreign sales.

  87. Posted September 20, 2011 at 9:39 am | Permalink

    @Stephen – It is really almost impossible to make a writing career with a single book’s sale. I think you are putting the cart before the horse by advertising a book (with $’s not sweat equity) when it has only 1 review. My suggestions are this.

    1 – Focus 90% of your efforts on writing the “next book.
    2 – For the 10% you will use on marketing this book – use it to get review copies in the hands of reviewers. Wait until you get 20+ reviews before you start really pushing the “sales” aspects of the book

    You need to establish credibility first…then promote. To do one without the other is a waste of time, money and effort.

  88. Chandra
    Posted September 21, 2011 at 12:59 am | Permalink

    Hello Robin,

    No problem on the time to reply- know you must be super BUSY and that’s a good thing! Your reply was perfect- exactly what I was looking for and very insightful. Also, thank you for differentiating regarding your husband’s choice to write “what makes him artistically happy”. As you stated, perhaps we can all write to some degree to “pay the bills” and if some degree of success is obtained- then branch off and do those “we’ve always dreamed of projects, that may or may not sell well”. This seems to be a common theme when you hear stories of Hollywood producers/writers/directors; When they were young and hungry- they took any and all work to pay the bills and get established. After they achieved some degree of success and a reputation- then they would go to the table with their own project and pitch it and make it and sell it as they saw fit. Again, thank you for a very detailed and helpful reply. The genre breakdown info is priceless and takes an “insider” pro such as yourself willing to reveal it to the rest of us- MUCH appreciated. Take care.

  89. Posted October 3, 2011 at 11:39 pm | Permalink

    I’m one of those authors who had a literary agent shopping my manuscript around, but couldn’t seal the deal. I eventually decided to create an indie publishing company (with two friends) and it’s been a fantastic experience ever since. We started the company in Dec 2009.

    You definitely need a marketing plan because so many people can write a book and call themselves “author.” You won’t sell anything if your book can’t stand out.

  90. Vincent
    Posted October 15, 2011 at 4:40 pm | Permalink

    Just started researching the e-publishing area. this site is the only one, so far, that i`ve found that gives straight advice.
    The increase in the business of e-publishing has made many companies come out of the woodwork, offering help, advice etc. All for a fee of course.

    So, I thought it only fair to say thanks for pointing me on to the correct direction.

    All the best

  91. Posted October 21, 2011 at 6:25 pm | Permalink

    Hi Robin,
    I went on the Writer’s Cafe site (my book is listed in ‘search’ as I am on Amazon), but how do I best use the site to my advantage for selling more books? Blog info about my book? Chat?

    Thanks, Cindy

  92. Errin
    Posted November 8, 2011 at 3:45 pm | Permalink

    Hi Robin. Thanks for the great article. I am a HUGE fan of your husband’s books, and was sorely disappointed that I couldn’t get Percepliquis on my Kindle right away. But I will patiently wait for the January release. I’m currently writing a fantasy book about a parallel universe for NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) and am excited to get it finished, edited, and ready for e-publication!

  93. Posted November 22, 2011 at 3:55 am | Permalink

    We appreciate it very much that your articles are very useful for everyone.

  94. Kate Segall
    Posted November 27, 2011 at 1:42 pm | Permalink

    I published my first book a little over a year ago. Kindle never listed it under new publications nor did they use my blurb to say what it was about so sales were almost nil for 6 months. After numerous e-mails they finally put it in the categories I listed and got it in the “published in the last 18 months” slot. I am only averaging 2 sales a month. I can see from one of your writers that the price was good. My editing was not so hot. I am unaccustomed to Word and it would change the format of what I typed. Also a good deal was phonetic dialect–maybe that turned folks off. But I have always done well in writing in school–I’m quite old now–and figured I could cash in on the Evanovitch popularity. It’s her category but nothing like a rip off. I feel snowed because of the volume I’m up against. To me it is a miracle anyone bought it at all. Any thoughts on that?
    It’s called Brooklyn Ring Toss just so you know I actually have a book out there.
    The other feature Kindle has gifted me with is to put free selections under the slot for my $2.99 book as “those who liked this also bought”. The latest is to put books that are five stars (courtesy of bookworm) under my book which no one bothered to rate at all. I feel I’m being Japped by the Kindle people. Has this happened to any of you?

  95. Posted November 29, 2011 at 8:18 pm | Permalink

    Wow, thanks for posting those charts. That is amazing. You have to wonder as all of the authors stuck in those legacy contracts see these kinds of numbers and are immediately checking their contracts about how to get out.

    Jim Kukral

  96. Jean Marie Vasseur
    Posted December 13, 2011 at 1:05 am | Permalink

    To anyone with knowledge of the following, I am very green. I would like to know in what order to accomplish getting published and a suggestion of a legitimate publisher, retaining an agent and what I would expect to pay and the finer points of marketing and the name of a legitimate party and what I would expect to pay. I thank you for any information you might provide. Jean

  97. Posted December 21, 2011 at 7:58 pm | Permalink

    I’m finally getting around to re-blogging this heartening post! Thanks so much for writing it.

  98. Posted January 28, 2012 at 11:53 am | Permalink

    Thanks for posting helpful and useful info relating to e-book publishing. As a relative newbie I like to surf the web for any related sites and reviews about the process and I will definitely be bookmarking this for reference and updates! I’m also trying to discover more ways to promote my new Amazon Kindle e-book Garters, Gunslingers, & Grace, and I will for sure check out the methods you recommend above!

  99. Posted January 31, 2012 at 12:48 pm | Permalink

    Hey there just wanted to give you a quick heads up. The text in your article seem to be running off the screen in Ie. I’m not sure if this is a format issue or something to do with internet browser compatibility but I thought I’d post to let you know. The layout look great though! Hope you get the issue resolved soon. Cheers

  100. Posted January 31, 2012 at 4:32 pm | Permalink

    I believe that just like movies and actors, there are writers who can be termed sleepers. They don’t necessarily make a big splash right out of the starting gate, but they achieve longevity through positive word of mouth and perseverence. John Konrath actually said in his blog that mid-listers are the real story. Most writers, the true lovers of the craft, just want to earn a living doing what they love. Thanks to the low overhead cost of publishing ebooks and social media, it’s an achievable dream if we accept that it’s going to take time.

  101. M. Chapman
    Posted February 22, 2012 at 3:51 pm | Permalink

    Thank you for this advice. I myself am an aspiring young author who has started writing a Sci-Fi/Fantasy Novel and have so many great storylines and worlds I have developed, (All I need to do is physically write these books). I at first am definately going to self-publish the series I am currently working on (I have three unrelated series that I hope to produce). My original plan was to write these first set of books, get some experience, then get to work on my other series (which I have to say, is overall better, due to the countless months and years I spent dreaming up my perfect future, and the proper, emotionally-turning storyline), and send the manuscript to big names like Scholastic, which I have no doubt THAT series will stand a good chance of becoming popular. Being that I’m also a gifted artist I won’t even need to hire somebody to do the cover art, I can definately handle it. I predict my debut novel will be finished in two-three years, which is fine because I’ll be 18-19 by then and any legal issues that would exist now for me should be resolved. I plan to use Lulu.com to publish this first book, if of course I can’t have multiple sites publish it (I am getting the impression Lulu does not claim copyright of said author’s books it publishes, it just takes a cut. Though I doubt this is the case). Given this information, do you have any useful tips for a newbie like me?

  102. M. Chapman
    Posted February 22, 2012 at 4:13 pm | Permalink

    @ James W. Lewis The Cover Art. I know it sounds stupid, but one of the most important parts of the novel is the cover art. The first thing that anybody usually sees is the cover, then the back description before buying a book, then maybe reviews. Get the first two right, and sometimes you can get away with selling a horrific novel. Still, as for the cover art, it should be eye-catching and very detailed if necessary, yet it should still find a way to be relevant in the book (i.e. a sacred item or something in which the book is based off of, or the protagonist and antagonist glaring at each other with said item in between). I’m personally going to go all-out with the cover, even if the story is not centered around only one said item. The description… all I have to say is don’t be afraid sugar-coat it a little, but don’t reveal too much (like Tunnels, where the authors basically gave away the first four chapters on the back! The authors was lucky the rest of the book was so good). This personally angers the reader, and if the first four chapters tend to be the most interesting part… well then the critics will tear you apart. Still, If you have an amazing cover, A description that effectively hooks you, and a moderately good story, you should at the very least achieve the Midlist. How do I know? Some of the most downloaded books are just ok.

  103. Philip
    Posted March 22, 2012 at 3:24 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for this incredibly informative piece. Do you have the latest stats on self publishers? Like for 2011? I’m interested to see the growth pattern.

  104. John
    Posted June 28, 2012 at 6:27 am | Permalink


    The “200,000+ self-published ebooks sold” club:

    Barbara Freethy – over 2 million ebooks sold (April 2012)
    Amanda Hocking – 1,500,000 ebooks sold (December 2011)
    John Locke- more than 1,100,000 eBooks sold in five months
    Gemma Halliday – over 1 million self-published ebooks sold (March 2012)
    Michael Prescott – more than 800,000 self-published ebooks sold (Dec 2011)
    J.A. Konrath – more than 800,000 ebooks sold (April 2012)
    Bella Andre – more than 700,000 books sold (May 2012)
    Darcie Chan – 641,000 ebooks sold (May 2012)
    Chris Culver – over 550,000 (Dec 2011)
    Heather Killough-Walden – over 500,000 books sold (Dec 2011)
    Selena Kitt – “With half a million ebooks sold in 2011 alone”
    Stephen Leather – close to 500,000 books sold (Nov 2011)
    CJ Lyons – almost 500,000 ebooks sold (Dec 2011)
    J.R. Rain – more than 400,000 books sold (Sept 2011)
    Bob Mayer – 347 sold in Jan to over 400,000 total sold by year’s end (Dec 2011)
    Rick Murcer – over 400,000 ebooks in one year (May 2012)
    Tracey Garvis-Graves – 280,480 sold in the two months of April and May 2012
    Tina Folsom – over 300,000 books sold (October 2011)
    J Carson Black – more than 300,000 books sold (November 2011)
    Terri Reid – 300,000 sold (May 2012)
    Marie Force – 300,000+ sold (June 2012)
    Liliana Hart – “my total sales for one year have now exceed 300,000 books (June 2012)
    T.R. Ragan – 293,202 books sold (May 2012)
    B.V. Larson – over 250,000 books sold (Dec 2011)
    Kerry Wilkinson – more than 250,000 books sold (Feb 2012)
    M. R. Mathias – “I’m up to nearly 250k (in just two years) (June 2012)
    H.P. Mallory – more than 200,000 ebooks sold (July 2011)
    Scott Nicholson – Just guessing, I’d put my worldwide sales total between 200k-250k
    David Dalglish – more than 200,000 (May 2012)
    Antoinette Stockenberg – total sales stand at 216,686 (June 2012) – private email
    Cheryl Bolen – 200,000 sold (June 2012)
    Jennifer Ashley/Ashley Gardner – 200,000 sold mark in early June 2012 – private email
    Nick Spalding – “I’m lucky enough to be in the 200,000 + total sales club now (June 2012)”

  105. Jay
    Posted October 18, 2012 at 11:36 am | Permalink

    You mentioned about selling foreign rights & getting translations etc…how do we go about this? Would we need an agent if we ever get to such a stage, or are there online guides available to help with negotiating a good deal for us when we sell such rights?

  106. masonxhamilton
    Posted October 19, 2012 at 4:48 pm | Permalink

    I’m in the process of developing what other industries would call the economic feasibility and risk/reward analysis study (something not readily available – if at all for self-publishing). I have done these professionally numerous times in other industries. I’m not close to completion of my research and frankly I’m already discouraged simply by the success/failure ratios comparing it to other business ventures. One of the most risky “typical” businesses are restaurants with over 50% failing in their first year. Pursuing a career as a successful self-published book author makes – the avg. restauranteur success odds look like a “slam dunk.”

    I am far enough along to tell you that looking at a particular authors sales (as above) is relatively meaningless without knowing how many books they have written prior to that, in order to know the readership base from which their current book sales are spring-boarding. For that matter the above sales records don’t even include how long the books have been for sale. While new Ebook readership is growing (mostly at the expense of traditional publishing), the self-publishing promotion industry isn’t going to tell new-bee self publishers that the number of regular readers is on the decline because of competition with other forms of pastimes. Consequently with literally millions of new titles each year, authors are dividing what over the long term is projected to be a shrinking market pie of regular readers – the ones that are the core of all publishing business.

    I can also tell you if you take the time to sort through Bowker’s near unnavigable publishing industry reports, you’ll see that the above “success story” authors represent a fraction of a fraction of one percent of the 2011 self-published authors – of which there were 1,185,445 self-published titles in 2011. Apparently, nearly everyone wants to write a book now, and good old American capitalism isn’t going to let them down. In the last few years a very aggressive self-publishing “support” industry has sprung up to feed off of would be and especially new-bee self-publishing authors. And of course near none will tell those authors that in only the rarest circumstances will a first book self-publishing author make enough money to come close to paying of typical professional service costs (proofing, editing – grammar, copy, flow, logic, and of course cover graphics).

    The marketing and advertising business has an expression for circumstances like this – “Farming the farmers.”- or writers in this case. It’s true writers have never had more opportunity to publish their passion than they have today, but it’s also equally true that most (99.9%) will end up disappointed rather than finding gainful employment – much less fame and fortune as an author.

  107. Posted December 6, 2012 at 4:13 pm | Permalink

    Just to answer the comment above from masonxhamilton: I agree that it’s not easy, but it can certainly be done. I write in a genre (romance) that does well in ebooks. I published the first three books in a series for the Kindle only, all together, three months ago. Was in solid “midlist” territory from Week 1, and yes, I’ve quit the day job. BUT I will say: (1) I have 20 years in the publishing industry; (2) I was a professional writer and editor (though not fiction); (3) I was a marketing professional; and (4) I write very fast. There’s no doubt that all those things helped me. You DO need to have a good product. (Not necessarily the very BEST product–have you looked at what is traditionally published? Believe me, it ain’t all great.) But if you do, and if you either know how to edit/market your work, or you get professional help to do those things, it can certainly be done. So far, so good, anyway!

    And thanks for a very informative article. Yes, it’s a minority of authors making a living at this. But it IS possible.

  108. Posted January 19, 2013 at 3:40 am | Permalink

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  113. Posted March 20, 2013 at 4:54 pm | Permalink

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