Friday, May 28, 2010

Platform, Shmatform

We all know the "assume = ass + u & me" definition.

It's very (very, very) easy to assume that I'm selling a crapload of ebooks because I'm a midlist author with some books in print and a fanbase.

It's easy to take that assumption further, and predict that an unknown wouldn't do as well.

Quite a few people are assuming this. They're claiming it as truth, repeating it, agreeing with it, and accepting it.

But it just ain't true.

The only ones who seem to disagree with this assumption are me, and the authors who know better.

These authors are selling just as well--or better--than I am, on kindle.

As far as I know, none of them have previous print deals, or name recognition. Yet they're kicking butt. Here are their current overall ranking out of 500,000+ ebooks available on Kindle:

Primal Wound by Ruth Francisco, ranked #688

Thin Blood by Vicki Tyley, ranked #14

Deed to Death by D.B. Henson, ranked #42

Toe Popper
by Jonny Tangerine, ranked #1464

Kill & Cure by Steven Davison, ranked #72

The Shot to Die For by M.H. Sargent, ranked #231

The Elect by James Gilbert, ranked #756

Punctured by Rex Kusler, ranked #988

Final Price by J. Gregory Smith, ranked #3083

A Dirty Business by Joe Humphry, ranked #433

Moon Dance by J.R. Rain, ranked #52

Around Every Corner by Casey Moreton, ranked #3663

Defending Evil
by Charles Shea, ranked #1469

The Bum Magnet
by K.L. Brady ranked #836

Getting Rich by Steve Bensinger, ranked #838

Declaring Spinsterhood by Jamie Lynn Braziel, ranked #1580

Faking It by Elisa Lorello, ranked #365

Easily Amused by Karen McQuestion, ranked #290

Waiting For Spring by R.J. Keller, ranked #788

Escaping Celia by T.C. Beacham, ranked #909

Okay, there's twenty. It took me about three minutes to find these folks, simply by surfing Amazon.

Guess what? There are HUNDREDS more. I'd wager that at least one out of every ten books in the Amazon Top 10,000 is a self-pubbed author. But I'm not going to spend my afternoon cutting and pasting links to prove to the world something I already know.

See for yourself. Click on one of the above books, then click on the "Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought" and see how many new authors you find.

Lots, right?

So if these authors don't have platforms, how are they selling so well?

Good cover, good product description, low price.

It doesn't take a well-read blog, a print backlist, and an established fanbase to sell a lot of ebooks.

Please tweet this. Link to this. And in the comments section, add links to more new authors in the Kindle Top 10,000. If you're one of those authors doing well, please post your book here. If you know a Kindle author selling well, point them to this blog so they can chime in.

And if you're one of those types who loves to gather data, I've got an offer for you. Email me a list of forty new authors in the top 10,000 on Kindle, and I'll send you a free signed paperback of my horror novel Afraid.

That'll take about 20 minutes of work, cutting and pasting. Double-check to make sure these are new authors with no backlist or major print deals. Then send me the list (or post it in the comments) and I'll snail mail you a book. Author name, title, and ranking. HTML links would be great too, but if you don't know how to do that, it's okay.

Let's kill this assumption that I'm the only one who can make money on Kindle.


How many sales does it take per day to be in the top 10,000? My guess is around 10 per day.

"But that's not good!" you might be saying.

Really? Ten a day = 3650 per year. At Amazon's new royalty rate, that's $7300 per year on a single title. The average advance for a debut novelist in print is still $5000.

I'm selling 220 ebooks per day, and I'll make over $100,000 this year. But that's for 15 titles (soon to be 17).

Ten a day can add up rather dramatically...


Jude Hardin said...

But what kind of sales do you need to be ranked, say, 688? A while back Mark Terry got on one of Amazon's bestseller lists by selling twelve copies.

I'm sure anyone consistently selling several copies a week would crack the top 10,000. Better than nothing, but not really comparable to your numbers, Joe.

Thomas Brookside said...

I bounce around in the top 10000 for De Bello Lemures.

What is staggering to me is that I know that the top 1000 authors outsell me 4 or 5 to 1.

But that at the new royalty rate, my sales would be enough to make around $4000 a year at $2.99 for this one title. So the top 1000 people are going to absolutely clean up. Even before you consider non-Kindle sales, which are probably going to start rising on a pretty steep curve soon.

Alan said...

Jude has a point. But I'll jump in. My dark fantasy thrillers have been top 10,000 before. Suck a bit now, but they'll be there again:

RealmShift -

MageSign -

Then again, I do work hard at building a profile and I have a small press print deal. I know others on your list and some of them work very hard online too to promote their work.

But you're right that you don't need to be a "mainstream success" to sell well on Kindle.

Thomas Brookside said...

Jude, to stay in the top 10000 without dropping out takes about 5 sales a day.

I've never made it to the top 1000. Based on how hard it is to rise above the 1800 mark or so, anyone in the top 1000 has to be selling 20+ copies a day. And I may be lowballing that.

JA Konrath said...

Better than nothing, but not really comparable to your numbers, Joe.

Jude, I've got 15 titles on Kindle. It is comparable. If you sell ten copies a day, that's almost 4000 per year. At the new royalty rate, that's $8000--which is much better than the average advance for a first novel.

Unknown said...

Yet another road sign for me. :-) I *just* blogged about all the information I keep finding that points towards epublishing. They are road signs to me.

Ken McConnell said...

My SF novel, Starstrikers, is selling an average of 8 per day. I bounce from 6,000 to 1,200 depending on how many best seller lists I get on. Usually it's three. I've sold 700 books in three months.

I have a blog, and I Twitter a bit, but within the genre, I'm a nobody.

Ellen Fisher said...

I have four indie romances that are typically in the top 3000 (and a couple are usually in the top 1500). They occasionally break into the top 1000, but don't usually stay there very long. I usually have at least one book on the Kindle contemporary romance list at any given time, and frequently more. To answer Jude's question, I've sold about 3600 copies overall since March. Nowhere near Joe or Zoe Winters or Karen McQuestion, of course, but not too bad.

I don't entirely fit the criteria because I have had a release with Bantam (in 1998) and quite a few ebook releases through small presses from 2003-2006. However, I was never a big name in e-publishing, and took several years off after my husband passed away, so whatever name recognition I had has probably petered away at this point. So I don't think "platform" gets a lot of credit in my case, either.

David Wisehart said...

I'm currently selling 2-5 copies per day, and generally staying in the top 10,000. I broke the top 3,000 on at least one occasion.

David Wisehart
Author of Devil's Lair

Moira Rogers - Bree said...

For those curious about the relationship between rank and numbers, I offer the following NovelRank links. By switching the drop down menus you can see the overall ranks on both books from April 2nd until today, and look at averages & standard deviation as well.
April Total: 149
May to Date: 114
April Total: 163
May to Date: 86

For an incomplete May, but a lower average ranking:
May to Date: 264

I've had epublished titles average between 500-1k for a month and sell 600-800 copies, so staying under 1k seems to be a whole different ball game.

(I am not an NY author, but I am not a new author either.)

Claire Farrell said...

The highest I've gotten has been in the 3,000 range. Mine tend to hang around the 10,000 mark by selling very few copies. Some weeks they vanish. They are both short story collections with pretty rubbish covers and they have only received reviews in the last fortnight or so plus I do very little by way of promotion. None of my family or friends know these stories even exist. I never expected much from them so they have already surpassed all of my expectations.

My peaks were because of a review by Red Adept and then because fellow author Donna Fasano took it upon herself to big up my horror collection. I have no fans, I've never written under this name before and I'm useless at marketing but the books sell, albeit slowly and mostly thanks to word of mouth by complete strangers. And I'm like the poor cousin of the indie community - so, so many writers are doing incredibly well right now. They are building a name for themselves right now and creating their own platforms. Their talent and bravery to self publish came first.

Self publishing ebooks takes everything we know to be true and twists it in a completely different way. I've always said that platform isn't essential for ebooks, there are so many variables. I had never heard of Joe before I found his blog, I had never heard of most indie writers before buying their books. Lots of different things come in to play in the kindle store, we just have to try and keep up. :)

Mark Feggeler said...

I haven't published a thing but am presently working on a first novel. I'm practical enough to understand my chances of striking gold on a first attempt are ridiculously slim and old enough to know I don't want to waste valuable time dicking around with rejections. I have every intention of self-publishing my first work as an e-book just so I can say I did it. If I sell even a handful of copies, I'll be satisfied that I published and sold. There are those of us out here who aren't planning to make a living off writing. The dream outweighs the potential financial reward.

Thomas Brookside said...


One way I would agree that your established history helps you is your backlist.

When you came to the DTP platform, you already had a trunk full of content.

Because ebooks turn publishing into a long-tail business, content is king.

Having one book in the top 10000 in the Kindle store pays the light bill. Having fifteen books in the top 10000 in the Kindle store makes you J A Konrath, rock star.

I think a lot of observers see your total sales figures, and shrug and say, "That Konrath has a really good platform - no one else will do that well!" But it's not really the platform as much as the fact that you have enough content that you only need each title to be moderately successful to be hugely successful overall.

Ty said...

A few of names I recognize, but many I don't. Thanks for the list! Now I know where to look to see who is doing what right.

Liz Fichera said...

Thank you for taking another mantra we believe to be true and turning it on its head. And at least suggesting that we look at it differently. I wonder, though, whether e-book sales are higher in certain genres or whether it's across all genres?

Linda Acaster said...

Sales could also come down to the genre. I'm new to ebooks, taking the plunge after reading every post and comment on this blog (thanks everyone). My first is just out on the Kindle - Hostage of the Heart - so guess the genre? It's not even a modern romance, but a rights-reverted mediaeval romantic suspense, so hardly the stuff big numbers are going to be made from. I have announced it once on the Kindleboards and have sold 3, and its placed 104,300.

I've got another historical RS to follow, plus the modern thriller of the picture, so I am intending to do the same promotion for them all and see what transpires, if anything. Should be interesting.

Jon F. Merz said...

Hell, I've *got* a backlist/platform and I'm still trying to figure out how to sell as well on Amazon as you do, Joe, sales aren't as great as I'd like them to be, so that assumption that having a backlist or a platform helps is hooey.

-Jon F. Merz

Anna Murray said...

Unbroken Hearts is ranked #794 right now. It ranges between 700 and 1500, spending more time below 1000 these days.

It takes 20-30 sales a day to stay safely below the 1000 rank.

I still have to pinch myself. This is my first novel, and I never expected to sell more than the average 250 copies or so. I'm heading to 10,000 copies, and beyond (yes, it's "infinity and beyond" --ebooks means never having to go out of print).

I was never published before Kindle store. Heck, my own kids hadn't read the book.

I live in the vast Minnesota resevoir of people waiting to become famous (Mr. Keillor is the anomaly).

Imp said...

But... But... BUT!!! Those with the most to lose by this paradigm shift will continue to perpetuate inaccuracies until they have no alternative but to come to grips with it.

"First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win."

By that assessment, they're somewhere between laughing & fighting. On the Kubler-Ross scale, they're between denial & anger.

You've already won, Joe. They'll figure that out soon enough.

Jon F. Merz said...

Opening up the floor to input from anyone who feels like helping me diagnose my problems...

EBooks & How JA Konrath Makes Me Green with His Green

L.J. Sellers said...

Thanks for posting this. It's very encouraging. I'm selling 5-10 copies a day of THE SEX CLUB on Kindle, and it's nice to know that I could soon start making some lists. I've never checked the ranking. Thanks, Moira, for posting the links.

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
L. Diane Wolfe said...

I've six books with a small publisher - and my sales and rankings are nowhere near those. And yes, I've been promoting online and speaking professionally for years. (And of all the books, my one non-fiction does best.)

Anonymous said...

This is fascinating, and if true then the war between the status quo versus the new author-doers is decidedly on.

One thing I noticed with all the titles in this post and in the comments: they all seem to be thrillers or some other genre of commercial fiction. There's not literary novels or literary short story collections here. Is it that this model is more conducive to genres like thrillers, romance, steampunk, and the like or is it that no "literary" types have tried it yet?

Ellen Fisher said...

Diane, I think price has a lot to do with it. I have three books with a small press on Amazon, and they aren't doing nearly as well even though their prices aren't that high ($2.50 as opposed to 99 cents). I don't know what your small press books are selling for, but the one thing indie authors do have going for them is the ability to price very, very low.

David L. McAfee said...

My novel, 33 A.D. is sitting at #4,929 right now. It's about a vampire in Biblical Jerusalem who tries to assassinate Jesus of Nazareth.

But your estimate is a bit off, Joe. It actually only takes about 5 sales per day to stay under 10,000. I've only had two 10 sale days since I put the book up in March, and on both occasions the book dropped down into the 2,000 range.

Since March, I've only fallen out of the top 10,000 four or five times.

Here are my numbers so far:

March: 11 Copies Sold
April: 97 Copies Sold
May (to date): 130 Copies Sold

Anonymous said...

I hate to hit literary fiction when it's down, but when you buy a genre story you're buying the story, and you buy literary fiction you're buying the brand and lifestyle.

That militates against intrusion into that genre by self-publishers.

People who buy literary fiction are less likely to be satisfied with their purchase if it lacks the NY seal of approval, because without that seal they can't derive any benefit from ostentiously reading the book in front of their friends.

Steve Anderson said...

My novel The Losing Role gets in the top 10k after coming out a couple months ago. I definitely don't have a platform, though I do have a couple other novels out a few months longer - each of which sell somewhat less.

As far as genre goes, I think we're increasingly seeing all kinds of indie books break through. The Losing Role crosses thriller, war, crime, mystery/espionage, and historical genres. My other books cross lines too. That was a big negative, it seemed, way back when I was pitching to traditional agents/editors.

I think Anonymous makes a good point: Sadly, what used to be the driver of change becomes the bunker against change.

Moira, thanks also for that novel rank link.

Best of luck to all. These are truly exciting times for publishing. All one has to do is realize it. This thing is only getting started.

Moses Siregar III said...

Good post, Joe. I wonder how much the $0.99 people will suffer when many more are pricing at $2.99. Any ideas, anyone, on $0.99 vs $1.99 vs. $2.99?

And I posted about this on Joe's previous post, but maybe someone here could weigh in on the arguments for CreateSpace vs Lightning Source. The last time I had that discussion with a couple of indie authors, they were of the opinion that LightningSource is clearly the better option, mainly because you can get 80% of the list price via Amazon through them (IIRC). But I've only talked to a few other writers about this, rather than try to figure it all for myself.

Anonymous said...

Anon12:45, you have a good observation.

But I also think that the great books of the past -- the stuff in the "canon" -- is all stuff where story comes first. It's all well told, but the story is always there.

And I think that's one of the big gripes I have against the status quo NY literary/MFA/academic world of today (and of the past 20 years, really): they don't have good stories.

I don't want to buy into said academic-MFA-literary lifestyle, but I want good satisfying literary work. You know, like the kind that they don't seem to publish anymore. That you won't find in journals like Ploughshares, Virginia Quarterly Review, Subtropics, magazines like Esquire, The Atlantic or The Saturday Evening Post,
or promoted on sites like HTMLGiant. I am wondering if authors of such work (are there any?) could benefit from this new form of self-publishing.

Also, Joe, I would like to see a revised version of the numbers based on the input of others here. This is a great post. I hope it gets more people thinking.

Anna Murray said...

I think the indie books are more likely to bend genres or cross genres. My western romances are faster paced and have more action (in this sense they are more "western") than those produced by traditional publishers.

A.P. Fuchs said...

Moses Siregar III,

Depends if you want to self-publish or subsidy publish.

Lightning Source is for self-publishers.

Createspace is for subsidy publishers.

The two cannot be interchanged.

I know some disagree with me about Createspace, but they are not a printer. They offer publishing services and packages for a fee. Their per unit cost is ridiculous as is their royalty structure. In short, they provide service for a cost (sometimes on going with their "fixed fee" system). That's subsidy publishing.

Going with Lightning Source keeps you far more in control, gives you the same distribution as Createspace, and makes you much more money. And you do a short run for, say, convention copies--you save money there, too, and increase your profits even more.

Didn't Joe say author copies are 50% of list? So a $15 book costs me $7.50? I can get the same from LSI for $3-4, depending on the book's length.

Is there some upfront work to self-publishing? Sure, but to take a week and get your company going is worth it in the long haul thanks to making, yeah, 80% of list price. You can't do that anywhere else.

JA Konrath said...

It seems that ten sales a day would rank you lower than 5000 instead of the 10,000 I'd guessed. But rankings are also based on criteria other than daily sales.

My point still stands. Other authors can sell as well as I'm selling, and with enough titles, those 10 a day add up.

Moses Siregar III said...

Thanks very much, A.P.

Anonymous said...

Once again, I disagree with AP FUCHS. CreateSpace is not subsidy publishing. They only started offering author's services las August, and that's because they merged with BookSurge and took them over.

All the author's services are still handled by the Booksurge folks.

CreateSpace is a great bargain and very easy to use.

Here are some of my actual wholesale costs and the printing specs on a book with CreateSpace:

Book 1: 6X9 Trim, 168 pages, $2.86 per copy

Book 2: 8X10 Trim, 140 pages, $2.53 per copy

Book 3: 6X9 Trim, 260 pages, $3.97 per copy

And, UNLIKE LightningSource, all interior changes are free. FREE. LightningSource charges a fee+the cost of a proof, every time you make changes to your interior file. I've researched both and LSI is simply not a great choice for authors who need to release something very quickly (like me). I'm also able to to discontinue a title and list it as OUT OF PRINT within 48 hours, which might not seem like a big deal, but when used copies of your old edition are cannibalizing sales of your new edition, it's a HUGE plus.

LSI doesn't pay royalties as quickly, and they don't do any hand-holding. So CreateSpace is a better option for authors who aren't very tech-savvy.

I'm not knocking LSI, I think they are an equally fine option, but CreateSpace is not subsidy publishing. That's a misstatement.

Christina Katz said...

Hi Joe,

I don't have my first e-book, Author Mama, on Kindle yet (soon, I promise!) but I do tweet most of your posts to my 8,000+ followers on Twitter. And I will continue because I think you are fighting the good fight.

I think your point about platform (I mean by the statement, and I quote, "platform shmatform") brings up a good point. People make a lot of assumptions about platform now that it has become such a big buzzword (I can take a tiny bit of credit for that).

But we should always carefully analyze the facts. And not rely on conjecture.

Because you can't deposit conjecture at the bank. So, stick to the facts, folks, and we will all benefit.

Dave said...

My sales and rankings are very steady- almost always in the 3,000-4,000 range, with the occasional bump a bit higher, or dip to the 5,000's, and very few spikes or drops in daily sales. A ranking in the 3,000's represents about 8 sales per day. The 4,000's represents about 6 sales per day.

A.P. Fuchs said...

C. Pinheiro, friendly debate, but . . .

LightningSource charges a fee+the cost of a proof, every time you make changes to your interior file.

As a correction, you don't have to order a proof every time you make a change. You can just make a change and if you want to verify it prints fine, you just order a regular copy. (At the same time, changes shouldn't be made anyway; one of the reasons self-publishing has a bad rap is because of books released with issues in them, thanks to Lulu and Createspace; the book should be perfect before sending it in; LSI's revision fee makes folks think twice before submitting their files; having the freedom to update whenever makes it easy to submit unready files with the safety net of revising them whenever one wants to.)

LSI doesn't hand-hold, true. Printers don't hand-hold. Service providers do.

Upfront fees and services (this is the keyword) = subsidy publishing.

Unfortunately, the line between self-publishing and subsidy publishing has been so blurred because subsidy companies keep calling themselves self-publishing outfits when they are not. A self-publisher is a person who publishes oneself under their own label. A subsidy publisher is one who uses an outside label to "print" or even publish them.

Createspace doesn't charge up front fees unless you get a package, true. But even if you don't, they instead hide their fees in their regular per unit costs and also what they make off each sale of your book through their various channels. The fees are still there so it's subsidy publishing. I've seen their charts. I know how it works. I've talked to Createspace authors and when comparing similar products, LSI-produced ones generate much more profit for the creator.

Using the Createspace calculator at

A 6x9 200-page book at Createspace, selling at $14.99, makes you:

$6.49 (direct from their eStore, standard)

$8.74 (direct from their eStore, pro plan)

$3.49 (from Amazon, standard)

$5.74 (from Amazon, pro plan)

$2.74 (expanded distribution, pro plan)

From LSI, the same book:

$8.49 (Amazon AND expanded distribution (though they don't call it; it's just one big distribution package for $12 to list in Ingram, Baker and Taylor, Bertram's, etc., not $39)

$11.09 (direct from your website or in person, conventions, etc)

LSI pays out monthly, the month's check being from 90 days prior. (i.e. January's earnings check comes in April). Get your "cycle" going and you're paid every month.

I'll leave it there. Been self-publishing for six years. I know what I'm talking about.

Vincent Zandri said...

Like some of the people here, my latest Moonlight Falls, was until recently selling in the top 20 and 10000 range:

It's an expensive E-Book at 9 bucks, and the pub won't cut the price. So I assume that's one of the reasons, its losing a bit of momentum. However, when Stone House releases my new thriller, The Remains, in about three weeks time (, MF will once more gain ground, while I believe Remains will be an E-Book bestseller. After all, the publisher will be offering it at a far less expensive price. It will also fuel the trade paperback which will be out in November...

Anonymous said...

hi there Joe

what is your sense about non-fiction selling in good numbers as ebooks, assuming well written?

I've wondered too if the boom in ebooks is mainly really only regarding ebooks that are 'fact-manuals' meaning, how tos, like computer and financial and parenting stuff... and novels of various stripe.


Anonymous said...

Great post!

And great way to bust the myth!

Quite nice of you to give these authors a shout out, Joe.

Hopefully, this starts a trend where the good stuff can rise.

And everyone can then point at a bunch of titles by a bunch of authors in all genres.

Anonymous said...

Yes, it's a friendly debate.

I respect your opinion, but I still think that CreateSpace is a better choice, and I don't think that calling them a subsidy publisher is fair.

If LSI starts offering author's services such as editing, then I wouldn't automatically brand them as a vanity or subsidy publisher. In fact, I'm waiting for LSI to do this-- I think it's just a matter of time. Money is money.

CreateSpace and Amazon are just playing the game-- they want to make money, and I understand that.

I've been self-publishing for 4 years, and my royalties this year with CS are going to be 150K-200K plus (I won't know the exact number until year-end-- these are my projections).

I know that with LSI, you can set your own discount percentage, but I think this causes problems.

I attribute part of my success to my ability to manipulate Amazon and CreateSpace. I think that Amazon has a vested interest in promoting books that generate more revenue for them, and I think they do it.

I can't say for sure WHY that is, but I think it's purely profit-driven. Why wouldn't Amazon want to promote a textbook where they make $80 on every sale? That's a big difference from a similarly-priced competitor's book, which might only make Amazon $15 bucks.

By the way, AP, Aaron Shepard (who is one of my idols) agrees with you. He's an LSI man all the way.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for mentioning Waiting For Spring, Joe, and not only because it gave me a tremendous sales spike (although boy did it! A fellow writer/friend of mine just called you the Oprah of ebooks).

I know that there are very mixed feelings in the publishing/literary world about self-publishing, but - as this post proves - there's a lot of good stuff out there and it doesn't take as much digging to find it as people think.

To that end, I want to give a shout-out to Backword Books (, a group of self-published authors (there are currently ten of us) who have come together to try to take the stigma out of self-publishing by offering quality work (as defined by reader word-of-mouth, sales and critical reviews).

Zoe Winters said...

Yep, this hour I'm 230 for Kept, 226 for Claimed, and 615 for Mated.

I haven't yet done an Amazon Book Blitz. Don't know if I will or not. This is the second day Mated has been out. It debuted at about 5k on the list and kept moving down.

Kept has been consistently under 500 for a few weeks now.

Jude, This month I'm on target to sell 1,000 kindle copies of Kept for the month. But I started out the month still in the upper 3-digits and sometimes a little over 1k in the Kindle store. I'm not sure what my sales will look like if I manage my current rankings for a full month.

Anonymous said...


You need to have books one and two available if you want to sell books three, four and five of a five-part series.

Can you talk your publisher into uploading the other two books?


Victorine said...

I sold 17 copies of my romantic suspense, Not What She Seems yesterday, and ranked #963. Usually I stick around the #2,000 ranking by selling 5 or so a day. I'm very thrilled as I just put my book up near the end of April. I didn't expect it to sell this well so soon, and with no money spent on advertising. Thanks Joe for being my inspiration! Here's my link:

Zoe Winters said...

@R.J. Keller

Way to go, Kel! You are rocking it. I just checked you and you're 157 in the kindle store for Waiting For Spring!

David Derrico said...

Since you specifically asked, please allow me to mention my novels, Right Ascension and Declination, sci-fi novels currently selling on Amazon for 99 cents each.

Right Ascension made it to #479 in the Kindle store, and #1 in "Technothrillers."

Declination made it to #852.

So, you're right, it can be done.

- David

Jude Hardin said...

Other authors can sell as well as I'm selling, and with enough titles, those 10 a day add up.

So you have to sell around ten a day to crack the top 5000. But what about the 495,000+ authors who are not selling ten a day? Is it possible that all those titles, nearly half-a-million of them, have poor descriptions and shitty covers and high prices?

And, by your own estimate, nine out of ten titles in the top 10,000 are traditionally published. That says something, too.

It's all in how you manipulate the numbers as to what point you want to make.

Scott Nicholson said...

I've analyzed my own numbers quite a bit in a "Major Publisher vs. Indie Author" thread in the Amazon forums, and though I was published in NY, I believe at this point it did me more harm than good. I lost whatever platform I'd built because my books would go out of print rapidly and it was a career built on sand and I lost my own content.

However, with my books generally ranked between 2,000-10,000, with some variations, I am really happy with the chunks of monthly income. I am happy selling five a day of a title, and what's odd is that it seems that promotion has a limited effect. I look for cumulative effect rather than one-day sales.

However, I do think genre plays a part, in addition to timing, luck, talent, cover, description, and that unidentifiable type of thing that causes one reader to tell another about the work. And, as Joe has noted often, nothing succeeds like success, so once you sell and move up, you get more visibility on the charts, more sales, etc.

I only cross fingers that Scott Turow can cow the million other authors to keep on believing "Go NY!" and "$15 DRM ebooks 4ever!"


Zoe Winters said...

Jude, Yes, most of the bestsellers are still trad pubbed books, which makes me really excited to be on lists as an indie alongside those names.

But most midlist authors are suffering in the Kindle store because their publisher has set their price too high for their name recognition level.

Most people don't know who I am. So seeing 99 cents and a good description and excerpt helps a lot.

Some of my Kindle books are outselling the kindle books of some of my favorite authors in my genre. But... I'm selling for 99 cents. I'm sure that would not remain the case if my book was selling as high as theirs is.

Yet at the same time, there are a lot of 99 cent books on Kindle that are ranked over 50,000 in the Kindle store.

I think your book has to be in the right categories, you have to use good search terms, experiment with your description page. And MOST people have to do some social networking and start building a platform.

If I didn't have fans waiting on Mated, I wouldn't be in the 3 digits on the second day of sales. People aren't going to just mysteriously stumble upon me that fast.

So, there are a lot of factors at work. I think authors need to experiment until they hit on what is working for them.

Either you aren't getting found, or... when you are, people aren't interested. If the percentage of people who view your page and then buy is high, then it's a matter of getting the word out.

Zoe Winters said...


That was part of why I decided not mess with NY. I don't see how an author gains traction if most of their backlist is out of print. That's a treadmill I don't want on. And I'm writing a series. So I kind of need to not get dropped mid-series. I'd lose my momentum. I'd rather start out as a total "Um... who is Zoe Winters? And why should I care?" rather than depend on the capricious nature of the publishing gods.

Let someone else throw their virgins in volcanoes. I'd rather do my own thing.

K.L. Brady said...

I was surprised to see my name come up on your blog (we love google alert), but I've been following your blog and story for some time now.

My novel, The Bum Magnet, one of the ones you noted above has been doing pretty well. It averages about 17-18 sales a day, about 550 per month. I did not have any major book deals and zero platform whatsoever when I officially released my book last fall. I promoted like a crazy person though and by God's Grace it found an audience.

I've very recently accepted a deal with a big six publisher. I didn't seek out a publisher, didn't query once I self pubbed, and had given up on the traditional route for this book. But I was "discovered" and feel like it's a good opportunity I can use to learn the ropes, work with a great editor, and get wider distribution. We'll see how it goes.

I look forward to a time when I have 15 books under my belt and can pass go and collect $100K. :) Do your thing!

K.L. Brady said...


I use both Lightning Source and Creatspace. Lightning Source for book store sales, B&N, Booksamillion etc. and Createspace for Amazon sales.

Createspace is not a subsidy publisher. The didn't offer author services until the merged with Booksurge. They were pretty bare bones before the merger.

To order author copies of my book, CS is roughly $1 cheaper per book.

Your numbers in terms of royalties depend on what you set your wholesale discount. With an equal discount, CS provides a higher royalty because the printing costs are lower.

LS allows more flexibility, especially when dealing with major retailers. I'm a proponent of LS because it gives the kind of control you need (discount, returnability) to get your books into stores.

CS gives higher royalties for Amazon sales. They're good too. I do not use or support CS's expanded distribution. Although CS uses LS to implement their expanded dist. program, the wholesale discount terms are not good enough to get you into bookstores if that's your goal. Best to sign up with LS directly for that.

That's my two cents on the friendly debate for what it's worth.

Anonymous said...

Please check out "Death of a Cure," by Steven H Jackson. A murder mystery that is ranked just under 5,000 on the Amazon Kindle.

Moses Siregar III said...

CS gives higher royalties for Amazon sales.

Maybe this is a recent change (I think maybe it is), but I was told that LS gives higher royalties for Amazon sales, at 80% of list price.

JA Konrath said...

Just want to say that I didn't purposely exclude any authors who normal post in the comments threads. I just spent ten minutes cutting and pasting on Amazon, not thinking that this blog post would influence anyone's sales.

That said, all authors who posted in this thread, email me at with your book, title, rank, and Amazon URLs, and I'll do a follow-up blog and link to all of you in it. Can't hurt, right? :)

Zoe Winters said...

@Moses With LSI you can set your discount. You can set as low as a 20% short discount. You won't get stocked in brick and mortar stores this way, but that probably isn't happening anyway.

@K.L. What is the quality like for the CS printed books? I'm really picky about that. When Booksurge sent me a sample their covers were WAY too shiny and you could see yellow binding glue. The binding glue should have matched the pages. Since Booksurge and CS are both owned by Amazon I didn't even mess with CS at all. I'm going with LSI for my print releases for many reasons, part of which is that I think they have the best quality, but I'm not sure if CS's quality is better than Booksurge or if it's improved.

I do know though that CS isn't always capable of handling all of their POD printing and sometimes farm some of it out to LSI. I don't know if they farm any out elsewhere. I don't like the idea of "variable quality" At least I know with LSI they print EVERY book themselves.

And yes I know that's Mr. Monk level anal.

JA Konrath said...

But what about the 495,000+ authors who are not selling ten a day?

Jude, it's a big difference between "You can make money" and "you will make money."

Luck still comes into play. Always has. I have ZERO idea why some of my ebooks sell better than others. On the Nook, Origin is outselling The List. Why? Dunno.

I've NEVER said "self pub and get rich!"

But I do think it is possible to do so without having a known name. And this blog post is my proof.

Zoe Winters said...

@Joe email sent.

I want to crack the top 100 dammit! So I can screen shot it, and tape it to my wall like a big dork.

Jude Hardin said...

I've NEVER said "self pub and get rich!"

But you seem to be implying that newbie authors are better off self-publishing than going the traditional route. I'm just offering an alternative viewpoint.

According to your stats, about ten
out of every 1000 ebook titles will make $8000 a year. Of those ten, approximately one is a self-published title. So, if you're self-published, your odds of making $8000 a year on one book is 1000/1.

Compare that with traditional publishing, where 20% of authors earn out their advance and start collecting royalties.

But, of course, self-publishing is a lot easier. All you have to do is push a few buttons and you're a published author. I can see the appeal.

Rex Kusler said...

It takes 2 sales a day to get up to 10,000 rank. Several copies a week will only get it up to about 40,000.

Anonymous said...

"self-publishing is a lot easier. All you have to do is push a few buttons and you're a published author. I can see the appeal."

Spoken like someone who's never paid for editing services, formatted an ebook, or designed a book cover, let alone done any cold-call marketing.

Don't be condescending, dude. There are a lot of us who take this seriously and work our asses off.

Jude Hardin said...

There are a lot of us who take this seriously and work our asses off.

Then why not work your asses off improving your craft enough to get a book deal? I don't get it. Seriously.

Anonymous said...


I do know though that CS isn't always capable of handling all of their POD printing and sometimes farm some of it out to LSI.

CS can't handle all the volume for the expanded distribution, so they farm that out to LSI. It's a relatively new agreement-- just since late 2009. I started seeing those sales last month.

It's different for every author, but about 10% of my sales are through expanded distribution, so that means that LSI is printing 10% of my books.

CreateSpace does have some quality issues. I've seen some shitty binding and sloppy glue, etc, but it seems to have gotten better. I think they just grew too fast and couldn't accomodate the demand.

Good to see you here, Karla, outside the CS message boards. We all come here to have some saucy debate at Joe's house. I mentioned this on the CS boards, but congrats on your success, and your impressive sales. The Bum Magnet is probably going to get a movie deal (I'm calling for bets now) so I hope you have a bottle of champagne ready. Hollywood eats stories like yours right up.

Anonymous said...

I know you don't get it. I've seen you go back and forth here on the subject before. There's nothing more I, or probably anyone else, can say to help you get it. It's working for me, though, and it's working for a lot of other writers. I'm glad your way is working for you.

Zoe Winters said...


I can't speak for Kel, but I do not WANT a book deal. I politely declined an offer for representation. I like running my own business and my own show. I'm glad that you have found validation and happiness in the traditional path, but not everybody wants on that hamster wheel.

You like to poop all over the indie thing because ultimately someone in NY's opinion of your writing matters more to you than readers. Which is fine. I'm not gonna crap on your goals. What I find bothersome is that you can't afford others their own dreams. You can't even conceive of someone who doesn't want the same things you want out of life.

Everybody who self-publishes is a failed writer to you. Unless they happen to have already gotten a trad publisher to "prove" they don't suck, like Joe. But why should only Joe get to capitalize on being at the right place at the right time?

No one needs to give me "permission to publish." You'd think we had to get a permission from a king or something. Every other industry allows people to create and market their own products without stigma and allow the quality of the product to speak for itself.

No one poops on mom and pop restaurants cause they aren't McDonald's. In fact they probably praise them for not being McDonald's.

It is respectable to be an indie artist if you are a musician, filmmaker, comic book designer or video game creator. Yet, somehow books are magically different.

No, writers are masochists and are so hungry for the approval of someone "higher than them" that they completely lose the plot.

I understand there are a lot of great benefits for traditional publishing, but I'm willing to give those up because those things aren't what matter to me. What matters to me is creative control and direct-line access to my readers.

Others mileage may vary and that is fine. But it would be very nice if we could have respect on both sides of the fence. I've read many indies who obviously respect their craft.

Jude Hardin said...

Well, as everyone around here already knows, I'm against self-publishing for the most part. Respect has to be earned, and since the vast majority of self-published titles simply aren't of publishable quality (10,000:1, Joe's numbers), then naturally a stigma is attached.

But I think self-publishing might be useful in certain circumstances. Novellas, for example. Too long for the short story market, too short to be bound and sold in brick and mortar stores.

I'm actually planning to write a novella and self-pub it as an advertisement for my print title. If, that is, it's okay with my publisher. We'll see how it goes.

Zoe Winters said...


I agree with you that respect must be earned. I just believe you should allow some people to earn it AS indies. I didn't self-publish and expect the world to fall at my feet and marvel at my supposed brilliance.

I've known from the beginning I was swimming upstream. And that's fine by me. What I want is for people not to be snide and assume no indies can write or care about craft or that they all want shortcuts.

Shortcuts to what? Your dreams?

And I think putting a novella on the Kindle is smart. But you know then you'll be an indie too. Or at least a hybrid like Joe. If you do that you'll be looking for help and feedback from other indies and it might help if you aren't looking down on them while you're asking about how to format.

Kait Nolan said...

I'm a newb myself with a debut paranormal romance release that's been out about 2 months. Forsaken By Shadow ( ) has been hanging out between 4,000 and 10,000 as sales have picked up this week. Five a day seems to be keeping me in the 4-5k range. I haven't done a book blitz and am only just now completing a month long blog tour to promote it. But I have to say, for a total unknown, I'm really pleased with how things are shaping up.

Anonymous said...

"Well, as everyone around here already knows, I'm against self-publishing for the most part. Respect has to be earned, and since the vast majority of self-published titles simply aren't of publishable quality (10,000:1, Joe's numbers), then naturally a stigma is attached"

Respect has to be earned? What a crappy little turd to throw at everyone. What have you earned, exactly? You got one small tiny press to maybe take a chance on one book. We'll see if they're even around in a year, or you too for that matter. I guarantee you that a year from now no small press will be putting out a hardback original for a newbie.

What lots of "self-published" people are "earning" is a reader who takes a chance on them, then another, then another. From what I know, you can't point to ten readers who you've earned.

You've said many times before, and repeat every chance you get, that self-publshed books are almost all crap. We get it, that you think you're superior.

Guess what, you're not. Instead of looking down you nose at everyone you should take a good look around at the image you're creating for yourself.

Dave said...

I want to affirm what others have said- using CreateSpace and LSI in combination makes good financial sense. I will add that you need to pay for CreateSpace's "Pro Plan." Their standard pricing structure is not a good deal, nor is their expanded distribution package- both are along the lines of Lulu pricing. The $39 for the Pro Plan pays for itself quickly. Author copies through the CS Pro Plan are also cheaper than buying from LSI.
I have no complaints about the quality of CreateSpace books, and I've been using them since they opened their doors.

Aside from superior distribution services, and the options to set discounts and make your books returnable, LSI's customer service is vastly superior- you have account reps specifically assigned to you. (They have names, phone numbers, emails, and everything!) Dealing with CreateSpace's customer service can be maddening. Slow to reply, and lots of automatic "No, we can't do that. If you have any other questions, please submit another request." They've added a function by which you can request a phone call from a rep. Haven't tried that yet.

Jude Hardin said...

I agree with you that respect must be earned. I just believe you should allow some people to earn it AS indies.

I have no problem with that. If something's good, it's good, no matter who publishes it.

Anonymous said...


You have some great reviews for your book. Well done.

Can I suggest - without sounding like a know-it-all prick - that you redo the cover?

I think it is holding you back on the presentation side of things. It screams self-published.

The photo is nice but it is too busy for a cover image. I think the font selection for your title and name could also be better.

I just searched flickr for 'snow maine' and found some great imagery that you may be able to pick up if the photographers agree. You could also try istockphoto or getty images.

These images:

... would be a good start because they allow room for title etc plus have some great detail.

I would also suggest going to Amazon's bestsellers and checking the covers of books in similar genres to yours. The great thing about your book is that it lends itself to simple, classy cover design. Single photo, elegant font, nice tag line.

Please feel free to ignore my advice! :)

Anonymous said...


Sorry, stuffed the links up, maybe you can cut and paste:

Jude Hardin said...

You've said many times before, and repeat every chance you get, that self-publshed books are almost all crap. We get it, that you think you're superior.

I don't think I'm superior to anyone. I just worked on my craft long enough to accomplish what I set out to accomplish. Anyone with a smidgeon of talent can do the same thing.

And I've been saying self-published books are almost all crap WAY before I ever signed a book contract. And there's only one reason I've been saying it: because it's true.

And that's as much as I'm going to say to someone who's too wimpy to sign in.

D K Gaston said...

This is very encouraging since I have recently jumped on the Kindle bandwagon at the start of May. My sells have been slow moving, but I was actually expecting that. I took your advice Joe and kept the price low, under $3. But a couple of days ago, I decided to lower the cost of my mystery-thriller to $1.99 and I almost immediately seen movement.

Zoe Winters said...


"And that's as much as I'm going to say to someone who's too wimpy to sign in."

Bwahahahahahahaha. And I agree with you that most self-pubbed books are crap. The unfortunate fact is that anyone who isn't crap has to climb a mountain to prove it.

Anonymous said...


Who posts the comments on this blog? Who are the buyers of thousands of Konrath's books? What group are his biggest and best promoters?

Other authors.

Turns out they are big readers. And lots of them are indie writers.

Yep. You REALLY don't want to alienate these people . . . other authors can be your best supporters and promoters. They are also huge readers (I have been known to read 400+ books in a year).

Just sayin' you might want to go easy on dissing their work. Just because they didn't get "the call" or they decided to test market the work on Kindle store first doesn't make them a lower life form. Many have spent years learning the craft -- reading, writing, rewriting, and pouring their souls into their books.

Your attitude is losing you hundreds of potential sales, IMO.

JA Konrath said...

I still believe that most self pubbed books are lousy, based on my experience.

But if a self-pubbed ebook is selling well, I can give that book the benefit of the doubt, because it has indeed proven itself.

Getting complete strangers to buy you ain't easy. Getting them to give you good reviews is even harder.

Anyone who has finished a novel has earned my respect. I know how hard it is. After that, if the book meets some minimum narrative requirements, it all comes down to subjective taste.

Anonymous said...


'most self-pubbed books are crap'

Most published books are crap!

Anonymous said...

@Anon 8:30/8:33

To be honest, I've considered tweaking the cover a couple of times, although I'd use the same photo. The image has become synonymous with the story among existing readers and I don't want to mess with that. Lately I've been too busy writing book #2 to do anything about it. Once it's finished, I'll probably revisit it. I'm hiring out for the cover of the second book.

Anonymous said...

Ha... Most books are crap.

D.B. Henson said...

It can be done by anyone who writes a good story. I'm living proof. Deed To Death is my first novel. I've never been published before. I have not done any marketing. I post on the Kindleboards forum, but that's it. My facebook page isn't even set up yet. And still as of this moment, I have 882 sales for the month of May. How did this happen? The truth is - I don't know. But one thing I do know. If this can happen to me, it can happen to you.

Jude Hardin said...

I haven't dissed anyone's work personally. Anyone who knows me knows I don't do that. You'll never see a negative review from me, whether it be for a self-published work or a traditionally published one (and there are plenty of those that are dis-worthy as well). I simply don't bash other authors in public.

But I'm not afraid to sign in and voice my opinions on the general state of self-publishing, and on other mater I feel might add to a particular discussion. If that makes me unpopular with a certain segment of readers, then so be it. I'd rather be unpopular than a hypocrite.

Zoe Winters said...


I don't disagree with you. Most trad pubbed books are crap, but let's face it, the crap barrel for self-pubbed books goes WAY deeper than James Patterson and Stephenie Meyer. At least Patterson and Meyer are literate and English is clearly their first language.

I'm not dissing indies, I am an indie, and proud of it. But... at the same time, I think any indie author does themselves and their credibility a disservice if they pretend like it's the same ball of wax. It isn't. Unfortunately a lot of people publish their rough drafts, or think their grandmother liking it is a ringing endorsement that means it's ready to be in front of a wider market.

I'm not saying they *can't* self-publish something before it's ready, I'm just saying every person who does makes it harder for indies who don't suck to get past the stigma to find their readership.

I've read a lot of good indie books, books that were meaningful to me, made me laugh, made me think, made me cry. I know how to find a good indie book to read when I want one, but that doesn't mean I haven't occasionally stumbled on some frighteningly bad fiction that was FAR worse than anything traditionally published.

Well except for the Gor novels by John Norman. I'm really not sure how those got published. Though the thought has tripped through my mind that if THAT was "vetted," of what value is the vetting system?

Jude Hardin said...

Anyone who has finished a novel has earned my respect.

Finishing a novel is a huge accomplishment, no doubt. It requires a certain amount of dedication and persistence that most people just don't have.

But Joe, you and I both know that finishing is really only the beginning. Pocket-47 has been through more drafts and rewrites than I want to count. Four years' worth. And I still have copy edits and galley proofs to go through. You know exactly what I'm talking about. It's the hardest thing I've ever done, and I wouldn't trade it for the world.

Moses Siregar III said...

Jude, as book publishing changes, there are authors going straight to self-publishing today by choice. It's not like years ago when traditional publishing was pretty much the only game in town (at least for fiction).

And they're not necessarily doing so because their books aren't good enough for traditional publishing--it's often because they think it's a smarter business decision.

Using a wide brush to imply that 99.99% of those books are "crap" is hyperbole.

Maria said...

Executive Lunch floats between 3k and 6k. When it first came out, it hit under 1k frequently.

Sequel is out in June.


Maria E. Schneider

Jude Hardin said...

And they're not necessarily doing so because their books aren't good enough for traditional publishing--it's often because they think it's a smarter business decision.

I've shown above that it's not a smarter business decision. What else ya got?

K.L. Brady said...

@Zoe - LS quality is higher without a doubt. I've had that glue issue on occasion but they replace any copies you're not happy with without question and usually overnight them to you if you need them for a signing if that should happen. With that said, I've ordered all of my author copies through CS and have not had complaints from buyers.

@Moses, sounds to me like you were misinformed. From a purely business perspective, I can tell you that Amazon would NEVER let LS offer better terms than their own company. With that said, no way does any author get 80 percent from Amazon anywhere. Through LSI, Amazon requires a 55% wholesale discount and through Createspace they require only a 40% wholesale discount. That's to encourage authors to keep it in the Amazon family.

@Zoe again...from your mouth to God's ears. I'd love to see it as a movie! Thanks for the well wishes.

JA Konrath said...

I'm done with the "what makes a good book" argument. We've had it for years on this blog.

Ultimately, sales will out, and personal taste is subjective.

Re: Amazon rankings--Deed to Death is at #42 overall, with 900 sales this month.

The List has sold 2200 books this month, and is ranked #180.

Origin has sold over 1000 copies, and it's at #280.

So... wassup?

Obviously there is more going on here than what is currently selling the fastest. I dunno what formula Amazon is using, but ranking may not be as good an indicator of sales as we're assuming.

In other news, all Target stores will be selling Kindle on June 6.

D.B. Henson said...

Jude, my book was not turned down by NY. I never tried to get a traditional publishing contract. When I was doing my final rewrites, I read a post on Joe's blog about how well he was doing on Kindle. I decided to go the same route. I figured if I could sell well on Kindle, that would help me secure a top agent. Then it would be easier to get a traditional publishing contract for my next novel. Now I'm not so sure I even want a contract with a NY publisher. It's not about being "famous" to me. It's about doing what I love and getting paid for it. I don't need to be rich to be happy.

M. M. Justus said...

And this is why I haven't self-pubbed. I don't trust my own judgment as to whether my books are ready for the light of day.

I also don't trust the people who love me to be ruthlessly honest, nor do I trust a paid editor to be so (after all, I'm paying this person to critique the book -- they're going to want to tell me what they think I want to hear).

How do I get past that to get a good, honest evaluation of my book before I put it out there for the world to see -- and possibly laugh at?

Zoe Winters said...


Where did you show that trad pub is a better business decision? It's a better business decision for the few who are lucky enough to get true publisher support from start to finish. But I personally want my entire backlist in print, in all the formats I need it in, priced competitively to sell. THAT is the better business decision IMO, and that's what I can do as an indie.

Zoe Winters said...

K.L. My understanding is that with LSI you can offer a short discount as low as 20%, and that's to Amazon as well. This is what everyone I've spoken with who has worked with LSI has said. It's what Morris Rosenthal has said and Aaron Shepard has said. But my first print release isn't coming out until late this summer, so I will find out first hand. I can't say with 100% certainty that that is the case until then, but that's what I've heard from people who should know.

It is, however, possible that I in some way misunderstood what I was being told.

As for not allowing themselves to be undersold, you'd think that, but they need LSI too much for their overflow work. They can't afford to get precious with them.

D.B. Henson said...

Joe, I think the rankings are based on how many you sell in an hour, or a single day. I sold 320 books yesterday. I think that's what pushed my ranking up. Not my overall sales for the month.

Zoe Winters said...

@Joe, how long has it been at or around 42? I know that my sales rankings are pretty steady with sales themselves. But if I dip lower than normal for a day or two it's doesn't mean I'm selling a ton overall for the month.

Jude Hardin said...

Ultimately, sales will out, and personal taste is subjective.

That means The DaVinci Code was the best book ever written.


Anonymous said...

"I've shown above that it's not a smarter business decision."

No, you haven't. How can you say that self-publishing wasn't a smart business decision for the group of books that Joe links to in his post? They are all selling loads of books and making money and building a fan base. Some were rejected by NY publishers, some decided to go straight to ebooks, knowing that their potential revenues would be much greater over the years they hold the rights to their own work (higher royalty rate, control over publication).

Moses Siregar III said...

According to your stats, about ten
out of every 1000 ebook titles will make $8000 a year. Of those ten, approximately one is a self-published title. So, if you're self-published, your odds of making $8000 a year on one book is 1000/1.

Compare that with traditional publishing, where 20% of authors earn out their advance and start collecting royalties.

Lots of problems with this argument.

The traditionally published titles in that list aren't necessarily making $8K a year for the author, because the traditionally published authors in this list won't have a good royalty rate like the indies will.

On the 1/1000 odds, that assumes that all of those books are of equal quality. Whether it's the slush pile at a major publisher, or the slush pile of the Kindle store, it might be that only 10% of the works are of good quality. So let's take that 1/1000 down to 1/100, assuming the author is one of those with a pretty decent book.

Next factor is price. So many of the books not doing well are priced too high. Let's say half, although I think that's being generous to your argument. Now we're at 1/50.

Then consider those who may have good books, but poor covers, poor editing, poor marketing, poor book descriptions, etc. Probably at least half don't do that kind of work. 1/25 now.

Then let's say half of those authors don't do much of anything in the way of promotion. If you're one of those willing to work a little harder at it, then we're at 1/12.5.

Let's just round it off to 1/10. Even a 10% chance to make $8K and 3,500+ sales a year, right away, is pretty good. If your book maintains that for five years, you've made $40K off that novel.

And if you don't hit that level, maybe you make $4K a year from the novel. I'm sure plenty could live with that.

As for your argument, since you want to play dirty with statistics (hehe), let's say only 1% of people who submit traditionally get their books published (of course that's being too generous). Then, you're saying that only 20% of those earn out their advance, which might be around $5K. That means you've got a 1/5000 chance of making more than your advance over the life of your novel. And it takes longer to get your book in print, and your agent gets 15%.

If I make that same 10% reduction that I made for the indies (i.e. assuming a pretty decent book), then it's 1/500 for an author submitting to traditional houses just to earn out their advance.

Ask Joe if he can make more money with a traditional publisher ;-)

K.L. Brady said...

I think indie publishing is and should be a viable option for authors who haven't found (or don't want to find) a home in a traditional publisher. At the end of the day, readers will decide how good your work is. If it's good, it will sell. If not, it will die on the vine. No harm, no foul to anyone but the author.
There seems to be some misconception that readers will buy more crap merely by virtue of the fact that more crap is available. I give them more credit than that. I think readers have the same ability to discern good books from rubbish that they had before self pubbing became so prevalent. Good indies will rise to the top and bad ones will sink over time. Not much different than what happens in the traditional world.

Anonymous said...

That means The DaVinci Code was the best book ever written.

No, but it sure was popular. The 'talent always outs itself' assumption works fine here. People liked it, lots of people. Talented storytelling for the masses.

Moses Siregar III said...

Correction: the last few numbers should've been 1/500 and then 1/50. These are horribly ballpark figures, but there you go. It's not like trying to get published traditionally is an open cash register for aspiring writers, either.

JA Konrath said...

Amazon has reached and agreement with Putnam, and Putnam ebooks are going to return to Kindle.

Right now, Putnam's Kindle versions of Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead are $27.99 each.

Epic. Fail.

K.L. Brady said...

Zoe - you can offer a short discount to retailers other than Amazon - but not to Amazon. Amazon will not list your book via LS without the 55 percent discount to them. It's standard, as I understand it, and not set by the author rather it's a condition to get listed with Amazon.

Zoe Winters said...


The frustrating thing about arguing money for self-pub vs trad pub is the argument is always from a hypothetical trad contract. This doesn't take into consideration everybody who does not and may never get a contract.

While $2k may not be a lot of money, I've made a little over that amount on my first novella so far. That's REAL money.

However arguing what I woulda/coulda made from trad publishing is a little silly since that's hypothetical money. Plus I'm fairly certain I wouldn't have been given that much from a NY publisher for an advance for a novella in an anthology anyway.

And since most books don't earn out their advance, most authors only see the advance.

I think assuming someone who has a trad contract offer on the table, short term at least they will make more traditionally publishing. But the vast majority of trad pubbed authors don't have most of their backlist in print anymore. Plus there is that whole ebook thing.

Probably the "best" business decision is doing some trad and some indie. But I didn't want to have to write twice as much fiction just so I could do that.

Zoe Winters said...

hmmm K.L. I didn't know that. I guess I'm going to cross that bridge when I come to it. I may be doing a CS version for Amazon, if I can deal with their quality. I may take the cut in profit though. I don't know.

@Joe $27.99 for an ebook? I love Rand, but not THAT much. Holy crap.

Zoe Winters said...

KL are you sure you aren't thinking of Amazon Marketplace, because those are the terms to get into that. But LSI doesnt' get you into Amazon Marketplace?

I'll have to ask my LSI rep about it.

Jude Hardin said...

It's not like trying to get published traditionally is an open cash register for aspiring writers, either.

Of course not. Most writers don't earn enough to feed their cats. If you're in it for the money...sorry, but, epic fail.

Moses Siregar III said...

As I look at it today, traditional publishing has much higher upside, but it's also much more of a longshot.

Whereas the kind of stories we're seeing here make it look like a decent indie ebook has a better chance of making more consistent income. Probably not spectacular income, but if a writer continues to write good books and sell 5-10 copies a day (for some, 20-30 copies a day), then that's some real income over time.

As I look at it for myself, do I want to play the roulette wheel, or do I want to play blackjack? I'm not as likely to get rich playing blackjack, but I'm more likely to be able to keep playing the game. And I love the game.

My goal is to:

1. Write stories I love.
2. Entertain a good number with those stories.
3. Get paid enough to be able to do #1 and #2 for a living.

The indie route seems to have a higher chance of succeeding at my goal.

Plus, if a self-released book does well on Amazon, you've got a better chance of playing roulette with a traditional publisher later on. Or maybe Amazon Encore will give you a call some day.

What I'd definitely like to do, though, is get in the game. I'm not a big fan of sitting on the sidelines.

Moses Siregar III said...

On the royalty question of CS vs LS, here's a page I found that supports what Zoe said about the 20% short discount applying to Amazon.

Mark Feggeler said...

It's a shame that some of the comments here seem to have digressed into a bitter discussion about the value and validity of self publishing.

Seems to me that whatever works for a writer -- whatever makes him or her feel validated as a writer -- should be met with a live-and-let-live attitude, whether that means traditional publishing, self publishing, or sitting in a room full of friends and sharing your work without ever publishing.

Freakin' que sera sera, already...

Moses Siregar III said...

Digging around some more on the Lightning Source 80% list rate via Amazon...

Alan Shepard wrote the book on the subject.

He wrote on his blog: March 29,2010:

"My books at 20% are listed at [various places], as well as on all Amazon sites."

I did some more research that confirmed the same from Shepard's book, and it looks like I was right about LS offering higher royalties to Amazon than CS.

sounds to me like you were misinformed. From a purely business perspective, I can tell you that Amazon would NEVER let LS offer better terms than their own company.

Remember, this is the company that was actually paying publishers for many or most of their ebooks sold at $9.99. Amazon wants to dominate book sales, period. So they even allow Lightning Source authors to make 80% of the list price, whereas they'll only allow CreateSpace authors 60% of list.

Moses Siregar III said...

For anyone interested in the CreateSpace vs Lightning Source comparison, I found an excellent run-down here.

This paragraph is on the fees for Lightning Source:

Fees: $75 for the set-up fee. The printing charges are comparable to CreateSpace. However, whereas CreateSpace automatically takes a 40% cut, you can set the cut for distribution to be anywhere from 20% up. Since Amazon will list books that have a 20% distribution cut, this means that you can potentially make a greater profit at Lightning Source than at CreateSpace (even leaving aside the fact that Ingram distributes more places than CreateSpace does). However, unlike at Lulu Basic and CreateSpace, Lightning Source charges a hefty fee ($40 each for the cover and interior) for revisions.

Anyway, that's a good link, and at the end of it, he links to some other good resources on POD.

Nicole said...

Hi Joe

I'm excited and intrigued by your comments. I'm actually working on developing 'a platform' at the moment while I try to get my first novel published. The e-book notion is now that little voice in the back of my head *grin* but I'd still really love to see it on book shelves.

that said, after a few more months..

Chris Bauer said...

SCARS ON THE FACE OF GOD: THE DEVIL'S BIBLE, my debut, from Drollerie Press is now selling at $2.48 as a Kindle novel. 2010 EPIC Award finalist for excellence in eBook horror. It made it into the top 10,000 once last year. I effectively have no platform yet, still I am stoked by Joe Konrath's experience.

Monie said...

Thank you for a GREAT blog, and for all the tips and advice.
They help alot!

Coolkayaker1 said...

I am not a published author, Kindle or otherwise. I'm a reader. Comment: I think that, although publishing will be nearly 100% digital within 5-10 years (my guess, and a debate for a different day), watching talented writers download their books onto an Amazon server and sell them at 99 cents a pop is a shame. A good author might make a few thousand bucks a year; Joe, who has a significant canon of work and is a prolific writer and one with talent, I'm sure we'd all agree, makes $100k/year+ (his number, I'd never ask)? What a shame! The days of the Kings and Pattersons and Rowlings is over.

Although one could argue that any on of these talented Kindle e-writers, such as those that have posted above, wouldn't be making a penny if they waited for a traditional book deal, I would argue that--as publishing will eventually be all/mostly digital--more and more riff raff will be jumping into the "download my random thoughts onto a server" crowd, more and more websites will host ebooks, some authors will say, "hey, price mine at 1 cent each: I wanna get my sales numbers up", and readers such as myself will increasingly find it difficult to separate the wheat from the chaff. EBooks are becoming devalued...perhaps freebies someday...and then who will ever find the "good stories". Who will ever pay $28 for Ann Rynd ebooks when there are dozens of millions of ebooks on the web at 99 cents each. Will the cream rise to the top? They certainly won't have print ads in USA Today to help sales along.

This post is simply to say, and there's no way to change things as this is the natural evolution of publishing, that readers such as my self will have an increasingly difficult time separating out the J.D. Salingers of the world from the John Q Publics, who e-publish books about the day their Doberman Pincher was neutered.

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Ruth Francisco, author said...

Thanks a million, Joe, for mentioning my book "Primal Wound".

Just by mentioning it in your blog, my rank got down to 213 yesterday. And yes, I am sold on writing for Kindle. I love the feedback, the ease of distribution, no book tours, the ability to make changes, and of course the monthly deposits that help pay the bills. You inspire me, you inspire hundreds of other writers. For this you should be proud.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the mention, Joe.

These are my 3 Kindle books:

In the nearly 2.5 months that I’ve had these books on Amazon, I’ve sold thousands of copies. In fact, my Kindle sales are paying for my entire trip to Thrillerfest in July. Not bad, if you ask me, because spending most of a week in NYC ain’t cheap.

But I’m fascinated by how the sales of my titles vary. Around Every Corner is a lot like Harlan Coben’s standalones, and is my bestseller, nearly 2 to 1. Blindsided is next, followed a distant third by Crash. Why is this?

I ask, because Crash is probably the best thing I’ve ever written, just based on overall quality, at least in my opinion. Blindsided is more of a Jack Reacher or Joe Pike novel, and features a possible series character named Thomas Mercury. It’s pure action and I think it really sizzles and would make a really fun beach read.

Around Every Corner is the shortest of the three, and is told in first person. It was without a doubt the most fun I’ve ever had writing.

So, I’m here to ask you guys a favor, go over there and just take a look at my books, at the titles, the covers, the product descriptions, the sample chapters, and decide for yourself why you would pick one over the other, because I genuinely have no idea.

David H. Burton said...

Interesting debate in here.

For myself, I have an agent - a damn good one. We went out to 40 editors last year. They loved the writing, but all thought the book "too risky".

So my agent and I thought it best to go out as an ebook independently. In the first six weeks, 1500 ebooks flew off the shelf. I've been selling quite well since, both at Smashwords (where I'm in the Top 15 bestsellers of all time) and Amazon (most of the time spending it in the top 10000).

I had a small press approach us, and although reputable, we didn't feel it was the right fit for us. And now we seem to have the ear of the Big 6 because of the sales numbers, the ratings, and that I was chosen for a group discussion over at Goodreads.

Joe's right. You don't need a platform or an established fan base. What sells is "good cover, good product description, low price."

Jude Hardin said...


Among the three, I liked the cover for Crash best. But I think you might be better off starting with paragraph 2 of the description.

Around Every Corner indeed sounds very similar to a Harlan Coben novel I read a long time ago. Can't remember the title. The product description is good, but I think the cover looks amateurish.

Blindsided was my least favorite of the three. The title doesn't pop enough on the cover, and the description has some plausibility issues IMO.

So, based on your numbers, it seems product description might be the major selling point, regardless of the cover art. Very interesting, and definitely the quickest and cheapest thing to fix.

Anonymous said...

Joe-I'm curious. It's a bit off-topic, but I'm someone who's gotten many emails (with forwarded rejections) from my agent saying, "It's such a hard genre to sell. Editors just aren't reading, never mind buying, xxx." It's a genre that was once booming. Now. It's death valley. We can all list genres that agents and editors won't touch.

I've never bought it. (Where did all those fans go? Those readers who liked that genre? They all disappeared or warped into only-vampire lore lovers?) I keep saying editors won't even give it a chance! You won't even try reading it to see if it might be the exception.

I haven't clicked each link-but I'm curious how genres that agents and publishers have deemed dead or hard sells do indeed sell on the Kindle. Or if they're right?

For example-chick lit and horror are dead, they say. Really? Are they on the Kindle bookstore?

Ellen Fisher said...

Anonymous, I think you make a good point-- that e-publishing has always been a good way for niche books to find an audience. I write slightly unusual romance (beta heroes, sci-fi romance, colonial romance) that is difficult to sell to New York. People on Amazon seem to enjoy the slight offbeatness of my books. Even so, I suspect that were I publishing more popular genres such as paranormal romance or erotic romance, I'd have more sales. But I enjoy writing what I write.

So the beauty of indie publishing is that you can go ahead and publish things that won't sell to New York. There is an audience out there for the unusual. It may be a smaller audience, but if you're publishing yourself, that doesn't matter quite as much.

Rex Kusler said...

Nobody mentions what a great hobby this makes. Back when I paid my dues 25-30 years ago, I was hoping to write novels as a job, and my career suffered a little for it. I was always trying to flesh out scenes or sub plots in my head, when I should have been doing my job. When I finally gave up writing, my career took off, and I started making twice as much money at it.

I never forgot anything I learned, and now I can continue to improve and just write novels on the side for fun--and to stretch my brain.

It can take four to ten years to become a good novelist, but it can take that long to become an expert golfer or bass angler. You know how much a good bass boat costs?

Rose said...

I just went searching for books by someone who posted here because she said one was a medieval romantic suspense. Medieval subgenre seems to have dropped out of sight except for a few historical mystery series that I also buy. I downloaded a sample. (Hint to authors, please at least post an URL to your Kindle book.)

I tend to prefer historical novels published by authors in Great Britain because the history tends to be better and the sex more restrained. I'm not an erotic fan.

I think that if those authors who cannot find a US publisher would put their books up on a US site and do a bit of promotion they might be pleasantly surprised. I know for sure that I am not the only one with these tastes.

audrey braun said...

Just published my paperback and kindle edition of A SMALL FORTUNE on amazon about a month ago. I have gone as high as 9000 in sales rank with kindle. This book is getting more and more attention in the press, both online and in print. There are already 22 customer reviews, 20 of which are 5 star, the other two are 4. I have an entire book tour set up on the west coast from Seattle to LA at some pretty big name independent book stores. I would love nothing more than to draw more attention to the kindle page on amazon.
Thanks for posting this, and for being a voice for so many of us.
Audrey Braun

Anonymous said...

Just an update: Waiting For Spring is currently ranked #52 in the Kindle store. I've sold well over 500 ebooks in the past 24 hours. Thanks for the boost, Joe!

Ellen Fisher said...

Wow, RJ, that definitely says something about how many people read this blog! I'm glad you've made so many sales from this mention; yours is one of the best indie books I've read so far.

audrey braun said...

Ellen, I agree. That's incredible RJ. I'm going to check yours out myself, yours as well Ellen. This post has led me to you both.


Jude Hardin said...

Congrats, RJ!

LK Griffie said...

I would like to add a name to your list which seems to be missing: Linda Welch. Based on the rankings of your list, she deserves a spot with both of her books which are currently released on Kindle.

Linda Welch currently has two books on Kindle whose sales would indicate she belongs on this list of the top 20 based on the rankings above.

Along Came a Demon (
Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #1,255
#4 in Books > Literature & Fiction > Genre Fiction > Horror > Ghosts
#3 in Kindle Store > Kindle Books > Fiction > Horror > Ghosts
#33 in Kindle Store > Kindle Books > Humor

And the second in the Whispering series:
The Demon Hunters (
Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #2,715
#11 in Books > Literature & Fiction > Genre Fiction > Horror > Ghosts
#6 in Kindle Store > Kindle Books > Fiction > Horror > Ghosts

Zoe Winters said...

Congrats, Kel!

That's awesome!

WDGagliani said...

Okay, since you all are discussing sales rank, can I ask a related question -- might have to do with sales rank, I guess.

It's about the "customers also bought" list you can scroll through on your product page: why is it my low-ranking book gets the high-ranking books listed (that customers "also bought"), but if I click on those books's lists, their readers do not get to see my book on that product page's list?

It's been suggested to me it's tied to the actual sales of my book, being lower than the other. But it seems to me Amazon would want to boost the sales of the lower-ranked books for their own benefit! So buyers of the high-ranked books should see that other customers also bought mine -- I have had Konrath, Patterson, Coben, Crouch, Martini, Joe Hill,Max Allan Collins, Lee Child, Kilborn (!), Kellerman, Lehane, Pinter, and even Steve King all listed on m product page, but never once when I've checked has my book appeared on theirs.

Can I get Amazon to change their views on this subject? An suggestions?


Lynda Hilburn said...

I don't totally qualify as an indie publisher because my two novels came out first in print from a small, independent press. Because they were with a small press, I worked as hard as I could to get attention for them, but never generated the buzz I would have liked. Putting up kindle versions of my two books plus a novella has been an amazing experience. I do think I get a bounce because of the ongoing popularity of "vampire romance" (although some readers have taken me to task because my books aren't the RIGHT kind of vampire romance. My books have a dark chick lit vibe.) I put my three books up mid-March, and so far I sold:
March, 450 copies
April, 1,444 copies
May, so far, 3,087 copies
Right now, my ranks are:

The Vampire Shrink, 184
Dark Harvest, 403
Undead in the City, 434

Here's my kindle page:

Not only am I loving all the money that's coming in (I got a small advance for both print novels, sold through, and have been making very, very modest royalties 2x a year, but nothing like my kindle sales. The German sale was excellent.), but I received a surprise email based on my "bestseller in vampires" designation that might turn into something good for the future. My sales on Smashwords are very small. But I'm over the moon about Kindle. I'll really have to think hard in the future about ever giving up e-rights.

Great topic, as usual, Joe.

Moses Siregar IIIh said...

Lynda, I see you have two at $1.99 and one at $3.99. How do the sales compare for you at these two price points, and how significant is the difference? Thanks very much!

dr. cp est├ęs said...

dear Casey Moreton: you requested feedback... & Joe-K is so generous with us all, i'd like to follow suit, if I may? My .02 as one who teaches others about strong vs weak writing and how to package. Pls feel free to accept or ignore.

Your 3 bks:
Crash, Cover: perfect.
Copy: needs a little work, some connections between characters missing'

Around Every Corner, Cover: strong, yet many letters of your name overpowered by similar tone values in background pic.
Copy: good, gets to point, leaves reader wondering

Blindsided, Cover: Good concept. Again, some ltrs of your name blend with background. Author's name ought be clear & strong, not appear like an oversight in graphics planning.
Copy: good, and suggest plural for word 'chance'. In a few words, tell us how an inmate gets hands on $500M. Plausibility.

Most of all Casey: I see that several of your Amazon kindle reviewers are noting errors and typos in one bk. Do 3 things immediately.

1. Answer each comment by writing a comment, thanking each for drawing your attn to such, that you are in process of fixing it FOR readers.

2. Secondly, FIX it. Dont put it off. Typos (and we all simply cannot see them by ourselves) make people's eyes 'trip over' them as they're reading, then have to back up and re-read. Road rule: help the reader whenever you can to smooth technical aspects of the read.

3. Then, in your copy for book on kindle page, at bottom, put a nota bene or just 'pls note' saying something like this in your own warm words: 'First release of book had some typos that got through. These have now been corrected. Thanks to my readers for pointing them out.

Hope this helps and am impressed, as with Joe K and other intrepid writer-souls here, that you have more than one ebook for readers. Smart. Beyond smart. As we say where I come from, 'totally bitchin'. (Hope I didn't offend anyone.)

Joe, thanks for a great blog.

Lynda Hilburn said...

Lynda, I see you have two at $1.99 and one at $3.99. How do the sales compare for you at these two price points, and how significant is the difference? Thanks very much!

Moses: Just less than 3/4 of my sales are for the $1.99 books, and my $3.99 picks up the other quarter-plus. It will be interesting to see what happens when the $1.99 books go up to $2.99.

Moses Siregar III said...

Moses: Just less than 3/4 of my sales are for the $1.99 books, and my $3.99 picks up the other quarter-plus. It will be interesting to see what happens when the $1.99 books go up to $2.99.

That's interesting. There's a synergy between having some lower and some higher that has to be considered here (e.g. maybe people get turned onto your $3.99 by your $1.99 books), but it sounds like your $1.99 books are each averaging around 37% of your sales, and your $3.99 book is getting around 26%. So, the $3.99 is making you considerably more (at twice the royalty), but then what would it be like if you didn't have the $1.99s? We don't know.

Thanks very much for sharing that.

Lynda Hilburn said...

Moses: I thought I'd put Dark Harvest (second book in the series) at a higher price, thinking maybe if they liked the first, they'd go ahead and get the second. Seems to be working. It is the case that my $3.99 is bringing in royalty amounts equal to The Vampire Shrink, (first in the series), which is my best seller.

Zoe Winters said...


Ooooh I like the "dark chick lit" vibe. I'm going to have to add you to my Kindle. Going to download your samples now!

And you are really kicking it on there, you're on my "Customers who bought this also bought this" product page.

Long live vampires, huh? ;)

@WDGagliani My guess is that Amazon lists the books selling the most in correlation with yours first because they are trying to help readers and they assume that there is a higher correlation between your book and whatever is listed first on that page, then between you and Stephen King etc.

The fact is a LOT of people buy Stephen King. That doesn't really narrow it down. And if every book that was bought along with a Stephen King book was listed on the customers who bought page, it would be no better than just browsing the entire Amazon store.

Lynda Hilburn said...


Ooooh I like the "dark chick lit" vibe. I'm going to have to add you to my Kindle. Going to download your samples now!

And you are really kicking it on there, you're on my "Customers who bought this also bought this" product page.

Long live vampires, huh? ;)

Thanks, Zoe! I see your books all over the place, too. I can't wait to buy a Kindle so I can get all these great books (I'm not much for reading on my computer). I saw Joe's note that they're coming to all Targets soon. I've been waiting.

Linda Acaster said...

@ Deirdre - apologies for making you hunt for my mediaeval romantic suspense, Hostage of the Heart. If I could learn to put a convenient Kindle URL on a blog I would, honest.

Joe mentioned earlier that the Amazon rankings seemed to be all over the shop, which is what I've encountered with mine today, and I haven't sold any.

However, I've just discovered the BIG boost to all overseas Kindle readers is that prices have tumbled. A $1.99 ebook for sale in the USA is $4.39 to us in the UK (Amazon's international wireless delivery fee + VAT [our tax - tho why we should be paying a UK tax of 17.5% on a USA product sold in the USA is beyond me]). The price to us now is $2.34. Hurrah!

Anyone heard why?

Anonymous said...

Anon I agree with you. I don't think those people all of a sudden fell off the face earth.

WDGagliani said...

Thanks, Zoe. That's a good point regarding King -- probably every other person who buys on Amazon has bought at least one King title... I'm frustrated that people who like Coben and Patterson and the rest who MIGHT also like my book won't see my listing until AFTER they've bought it, LOL. It's be great if more who actually shop for those thriller authors would get to see the lower-ranked books too (selfishly, of course, I feel that way!). There is probably some formula Amazon uses to generate these lists, but it seems to "benefit" most the authors who are already recognizable, know what I mean?

In any case, I'm grasping at straws to some extent, hoping to learn to use the system to do some of the promo work for me. I've tried the discussion forums, endless chains of the same people repeating their blurbs and links, not sure anyone gets their buying advice there anyway.

Joe's house is a good place to learn stuff! LOL


WDGagliani said...

As an aside, Amazon will discontinue its Amazon Shorts program as of June 1.

Here is a link to the press release and an instructional video to help Shorts authors to transfer their work to the Kindle:

Which is what I'll be doing with my own one Amazon Short, "The Great Belzoni and the Gait of Anubis."

Apologies if this was already mentioned, but it was news to me until Publishers Lunch came into my in-box today.


Erik Williams said...

Another great discussion.

My horror novelette GONE, THE DAY did okay when first released last year. I priced it as low as I could and played with the cover and description here and there. Ultimately, what worked best for me was posting on a couple of Kindle forums and just saying "Hi".

I've considered having the cover professionally done but it seems a bit of a stretch for such a short work (only 13k words).

Anyway, appreciate all the insight and honesty around here. Lots to chew on.

likari said...

Lynda McAlister -

to make a tiny url of your Amazon links (or any links), go here:

As to the VAT tax on your UK purchases, remember this: if you get cancer in the UK, you can go to the doctor and get treatment. If I get cancer here in the USA, I will probably die.

I'd rather pay the VAT tax, myself.

Likari said...

I meant Acaster!

yikes, brain tricks...

Infogypsy said...

Contrary to your blog, the first one on the list (Ruth Francisco) is multipublished with MacMillan - didn't go further but since you're addressing assumptions - there's one -

Moses Siregar III said...

I have a suggestion for a future blog post, Joe: How to write a good book description for Amazon.

Also, does anyone know the word count limit on those? Just curious.

Donna Ball said...

Okay, I was just getting ready to whine SEZ YOU, but then I looked up the ranking of the first two books (dog mysteries) I uploaded to Kindle 6 weeks ago and realized they are, in fact in the top 5000-- and rated #5 and #11 in their genre. No publicity to speak of except the Kindle boards. On the other hand, the 5 romances-- all of which were award winning, paperback bestsellers in print-- are moving like cold tar in winter. Same treatment, same platform, even more popular genre. Cover, price, product description-- check. Clearly, this is not an exact science (I still subscribe to chaos theory).
Oh, and my total earnings for having 7 books on Kindle with one ranked #5 in its category? $80.00Yay.

On the other hand, those numbers won't keep me from uploading another 10 books this summer. Hey, if I were bright, I wouldn't have tried to make my living as a writer for the past 25 years :)

Ellen Fisher said...

Eeeee, Donna, you used to write as half of Leigh Bristol, didn't you? *squees fangirlishly* There's no reason your romances shouldn't be doing great. Indie romances can do very well on Amazon. More promotion, maybe? Sexier covers? I don't know exactly what the answer may be, but your romances ought to be selling like hotcakes. If they're not, poke at 'em till they sell!

Anonymous said...

I was at #740 something paid in Kindle last week, and fluctuating in the #900-#1700 ranking area in the days before and since (1577 at this exact moment). I’m feeling good, but not yet feeling successful. When I get up to your numbers JK, I’ll accept the “successful” label. The book has been on sale since very end of December 09 at a 1.99 price point the entire time, has sold approximately 800 books on Amazon (about 10 via smashwords), but a "whopping" 361 of the Kindle sales are May's.

Thanks for keeping us inspired with your success!

L.A. Dale said...

and dont forget the authors who are doing it on sites like Smashwords as well. I have only just released by novel Heart of Glass there and with my small fanbase of followers from social networks it's doing ok.
the eBook listings have led to other sales too.

Jason said...

I couldn't agree more. There are quite a few excellent pirate sites out there, and they've saved me hundreds of dollars since I bought my kindle last year. I went from buying 40+ books a year to buying 2 or 3 books a year at the most.

I've downloaded close to 200 pirated ebooks since last June including the entire Stephen King library, and it was all free! I also found several out of print titles that would've cost me a fortune to track down through used bookstores.

It's the same with audio books. You can find almost everything you'd want online. It's crazy. I used to spend so much money on audio books because I travel a lot for work and it's nice to have a good book to listen to, but now I've got a backlog of bokos to listen to, and I didn't have to pay for a single one of them.

Thank God for the internet and for open minded authors like Joe for spearheading the free content movement. You rock, man! I'm going to download everybook of yours I can find in the future, hopefully the audio version.

Jim Chambers said...

Thanks for recoignizing self-published authors! My book "Recollections has sold about 800+ Kindle editions since it was published ten months ago. It has been as high as 900 in the sales rankings but it usually is around 5,000-7,000.


Anonymous said...

I'm a thriller-writer published by one of the Big 6. My debut came out in hardcover last year, for 25 bucks, with a print run of 10,000. It got great reviews from PW, Booklist, Library Journal and Kirkus, and a star from one of them, as well as raves in several big papers and blurbs from world-famous thriller writers. It sold less than a thousand copies.

It may be my book is simply lousy, or not right for the market, but I don't think , but I think so. I think there's a flaw with my 'platform'. That sort of price for an unknown writer, with a book that you won't see among the hundreds of others on the shelves, is just not going to be found easily. On Amazon, readers are searching, not browsing, and the books don't get taken out of the store and returned. And they are priced enticingly, so people will take a spin.

I don't have any other novels up my sleeve but the ones I'm contracted to write for my Big 6 publisher. I got lucky first time out the gate. So I can't do what Joe has done, or anything like it. I searched my hard drive, though, and found an 8,000-word short story I wrote about 10 years ago. I was proud of it, and think it's pacy and has some nice twists and turns to it, but it was a completely uncommercial idea - so much so that I never even tried to get it published. It has become even less publishable since I wrote it. But I've published it nevertheless, under a pseudonym, for 99 cents.

It's an experiment, in part to test the hypothesis of this post. This story clearly has no platform whatsoever: I'd forgotten it even existed until this post got me thinking. :) So if I even sell one copy, cool. I don't think I'm going to sell lots of copies of it, because it's a weird story that is hard to categorize, and in a store where there are tons of full-length novels for free, a short story for 99 cents from someone you've never heard of is probably not that interesting. But I'll let you know what happens. If you're interested in giving it a spin, the story is here:

I also want to do this to get some insight into Amazon's rankings system, if possible - and prepare for the day where I might put up material under my own name. Because I think Joe Konrath has changed the game. I think I might be able to make more money from doing it myself than through my Big 6 publisher. That may be tough to explain to my mother, though. :)

Amanda Hocking said...

All three of my books are in the top #1000, and I have no publishing deal to back it up.

Between the three titles, I'm averaging over 20 sales a day. Two of the titles are priced at $2.99, and the third is $.99.

I have a new book coming out in August and another one in September, and I'm hoping to put out a third one right before Christmas.

Anonymous said...

Christ, Joe-- the comments on Techdirt are 150+ and counting. That's a vertiable shitload of publicity.

The comments are good, too. One of the comments on Techdirt... Did you know that books USED to have ads in them, bound directly in the books, in the 70's?

News to me. I was in pampers back then so I wouldn't have known that, but it kind of blows an hole in the argument that "advertising doesn't belong in books."

manilles said...

My urban SF, STARFIRE ANGELS, regularly cracks the top 10,000 but that's only on 2-3 sales a day. And if they're timed right, it even makes it into the top 6,000. It made it within the top 5,000 a few times.

A friend of mine has the #1 bestseller on (five days and going strong now) and that same book is in the top 1000 on Amazon.

Kendall Swan said...

I have three anthologies available for 2.99 and many single 99 cent short stories available for a total of 18 titles (under a mix of pen names).

NAKED Cheerleader (NAKED Anthology #2) hovers between 4k-5k. Right this second it's 5306. (

NAKED Parent Teacher Conference is now at 4124-- a 99 cent short story. (

But my highest ranked item (1001 in the Kindle store) is my Sexy Stories Blog. (

The anthologies and short stories have had a slow and steady growth for the past nine months, but the blog has exploded. Only a 30% royalty on that and Amazon sets the price (at 99 cents/month).

Small Tidbit:
I offered to speak to my local romance chapter about self publishing and was scoffed at by the older, less openminded authors on the board. I guess they still associate self pubbing with vanity pubbing.

Happy Tuesday everyone!

Kendall Swan

Anonymous said...

Is your point that these Amazon bestsellers are doing well because they are pirated?

I couldn't find any requests or releases for the first 6 I looked for on Astatalk.

Nona Wesley said...

Hovering around 14K right now, but I enjoyed a good rank with my "Get Lucky" story, priced at 99 cents through It's still moving rather briskly, given that it is a St. Patty's Day tale.

Alexis Harrington said...

I have a book for sale on Kindle that bumped me into the 5k sales range. It took a while, but fortunate word of mouth and a favorable mention on made my sales zoom. Promo helps any author, for sure. Readers just need to know about us.

sewa mobil said...

Nice article. Thanks for the information

Laura Stamps said...

I just got on Kindle 26 days ago with a novel in serial format. I don't think it matters if you have had a small press publisher in the past or not. I have always had several, and NONE of them knew how to sell books. So I am thrilled to be on Kindle with my own company (Kittyfeather Press), selling these little serial issues of my vampire erotica novel ("A Vampire's Kiss"). In the next 30 days I will be publishing 9 new books of mine in ebook that I rescued from a yucky publisher when he went into breach (yeah!).

Anyway, I have sold 162 copies in 26 days, which puts the first one (if not all of them) in the 3,000 -9,000 range most days. I am looking forward to growing that number as I become more familiar with how this all works in Kindle.

But I agree with you. Low price (like $1.99) RULES. Add to that a fab cover, and the book will sell!

Nancy C. Johnson said...

Hi Joe,

It's because of you I decided to take the plunge and finally publish on Kindle. My book, Her Last Letter, has been out in paperback for three years, selling moderately well considering I'm not the best marketer. I am self-pubbed, with my own publishing company, formed strictly to publish my own books. I didn't expect to sell much on Kindle, but I am amazed at how well it's going! I went live on April 27 this year. I am now (June 9) ranked at 573. My lowest ranking was 482, yesterday. I am selling around 27-32 books per day. My book is priced at $1.99 as you suggested. I probably would have priced it higher and that would have been a mistake. I really can't thank you enough for writing this blog. It is inspirational!

nuniek nur sahaya said...

yeah i agree with A few of names I recognize, but many I don't. Thanks for the list! Now I know where to look to see who is doing what right.

Mark said...

Well, Joe I put more stake in the sales from your full bar series a priori. The question you should ask yourself is this: why did the first nine novels fail?

JA Konrath said...

My first nine novels didn't fail. Five of them taught me how to write. The other four have sold 40,000 copies on Kindle.

Mark said...

Of course they taught you to write but they weren't ready for primetime as with most first efforts. You couldn't sell them to a publisher but you sold something eventually. Every rejected writer learning wants to get there fast. They can with the instant slush pile.

Unknown said...


A friend directed me here and I was pleased to see The Elect on your list. It is my first novel and I e-published on Amazon in January 2010. After a slow January, things picked up quickly this spring. In June, I sold over 1,200 copies, and I am on track in July to sell over 1,300.

My current rank (July 21, 2010) is in the 300's in the Kindle Store, and I've fluctuated between 200 and 500 for the past three months. My current average sales are about 35-40 books a day, and seem to be holding steady.

I attribute the strong sales to two things: (1) a good read, and (2) its $.99. For a buck -- less than what most folks pay for a cup of coffee -- you get to read an enjoyable book. Even if its not your taste, a buck for a book is well worth it.

The reviews have been good thus far, and I believe that also helps, but it seems to me that the e-book world is very price driven, and your suggestions to authors about pricing are dead on.

Thanks again for recognizing The Elect on your list!

ahmad said...

My book "How Did I Get Here?" peaked at #732 yesterday and the sequel has been doing great as well peaking at #1300 ("How Do I Get Out of Here?") Excellent post and I too plan on writing a trilogy slated to come out in October and kicking out numerous short story titles. Currently averaging 550 sales a month between the two.

Unknown said...

My self-pubbed ebook Charlotte Collins: A Continuation of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice is consitently in the top 10,000 on Amazon. I recently (today) dropped the price from $4.95 to $2.99 after reading your blog, and I'm hoping to see a rise in sales. The paperback is usually in the top 100,000 and top 25 in women's fiction.