Why yes! It takes hard work and it doesn’t happen instantly, but you sure can make significant money by self-publishing. And often far more than you can make after getting a deal with a traditional publisher.
Here’s the list, with numbers, updated from the last time that I identified authors selling over 50,000 self-published titles. This comes from a blog titled “Self-Publishing Success Stories,” and all credit goes to that blogger… who mysteriously has no name… and who did the original work of compiling it via a thread over at the Kindleboards.
The asterisk indicates that the writer has also been published traditionally. There are no doubt even more names that should be on this list. If you know of one, please drop me a line and I’ll add it.
All hail these successful self-published authors!
1. Rachel Abbott
2. Susan Alison – “over 50k at the end of last month” (Feb 2012)
3. Dani Amore
4.*Bella Andre – more than 400,000 books sold (Feb 2012)
5. Melody Anne – over 150,000 (Feb 2012)
6. Daniel Arenson – The “Song of Dragons” series sold its 50,000th copy on March 2, 2012
7. Jake Barton- 83,712 books sold (March 2012)
8. Robert Bidinotto – 58,260 (Feb 2012)
9. *J Carson Black – more than 300,000 books sold (November 2011)
10.*Cheryl Bolen – 145,000 sold (March 2012)
11. Kathleen Brooks – 50,015 paid books with most coming from the last 2 months (March 2012)
12. Catherine Bybee – nearly 200,000 of the novel “Wife By Wednesday”
13. Sarra Cannon – 62,400 books as of March 17, 2012
14. Karen Cantwell – 86K as of March 2012
15. Ruth Cardello
16. Darcie Chan – more than 400,000 ebooks sold (Nov 2011)
17. Ann Charles
18. Mel Comley
19. Shelly Crane
20. Martin Crosbie – 66,716 books sold (March 2012)
21. *Blake Crouch – total unknown (“5,000 sales a month”)
22. Chris Culver – over 550,000 (Dec 2011)
23. David Dalglish – more than 175,000 (Feb 2012)
24. Susan Denning – “To date, I’ve sold over almost 60,000 Kindle copies”
25. Saffina Desforges – Sugar & Spice sold over 100,000 ebooks (Sept 2011)
26. Mainak Dhar – 85,600 (Jan 2012)
27. Sandra Edwards- about 90K (since July 2010) as of March 2012
28. *Ellen Fisher – over 100,000 as of Feb 2012
29. Penelope Fletcher – over 50,000 as of Feb 2012
30. Tina Folsom – over 300,000 books sold (October 2011)
31. *Marie Force – more than 200,000 sold in the last year (March 2012)
32. Melissa Foster – more than 150,000 in the last 9 months (Feb 2012)
33. *Barbara Freethy – 1.3 million self-published ebooks sold (Dec 2011)
34. Eliza Gayle – roughly 65,000 books in 2011
35. Jenny Gardiner – over 80,000 ebooks (Dec 2011)
36. Debora Geary – total unknown (1 of the top 10 Kindle Select authors for Jan 2012)
37. Abbi Glines
38. *Lee Goldberg
39. Joel Goldman
40. Allan Guthrie – over 63,000 as of March 2012
41. *Gemma Halliday – over 1 million self-published ebooks sold (March 2012)
42. Liliana Hart – over 80,000 as of Feb 2012
43. Michael Hicks – close to 100,000 as of March 2012
44. Amanda Hocking – 1,500,000 ebooks sold (December 2011)
45. Sibel Hodge – “in the last 6 months alone I’ve sold over 40,000 ebooks”
46. Debra Holland – over 50,000 books sold (March 2012)
47. Sheila Horgan – well over 80,000 as of Feb 2012
48. Hugh Howey- more than 100,000 sold (March 2012)
49. Delle Jacobs – total unknown
50. Nancy C. Johnson
51. Ty Johnston – over 60,000
52. Andrew E. Kaufman – 53,984 sold in 31 days (during the month of March 2012)
53. Selena Kitt – “With half a million ebooks sold in 2011 alone”
54. *J.A. Konrath – more than 500,000 ebooks sold (November 2011)
55. Eve Langlais – over 56,000
56. B.V. Larson – over 250,000 books sold (Dec 2011)
57. *Stephen Leather – “selling close to half a million eBooks over the past 12 months” (Nov 2011)
58. Jason Letts – almost 50,000 as of Feb 2012
59. Victorine Lieske – more than 100,000 books sold (May 2011)
60. John Locke- more than 1,100,000 eBooks sold in five months
61. Terri Giuliano Long – more than 80,000 ebooks sold (Jan 2012)
62. *Carol Davis Luce – 100,000 sold (January 2012)
63. *CJ Lyons – almost 500,000 ebooks sold (Dec 2011)
64. H.P. Mallory – more than 200,000 ebooks sold (July 2011)
65. C.S. Marks
66. M. R. Mathias – over 50,000 sold (June 2011)
67. *KC May
68. *Bob Mayer – 347 sold in Jan, 2011 to over 400,000 total sold by year’s end (Dec 2011)
69. David McAfee – 54-56K range as of March 2012
70. Stephanie McAfee – “the e-book sold 145,325 copies from January to August 2011”
71. Carolyn McCray – over 50K and on track to sell over 13,000 ebooks for the month of March 2012
72. Karen McQuestion – more than 70,000 sold (***September 2010***)
73. Courtney Milan
74. Addison Moore
75. David Morrell
76. Rick Murcer – in only four and a half months, 135,000 ebooks sold (as of August 2011)
77. Scott Nicholson
78. Anne Marie Novark – more than 70,000 books sold (Feb 2012)
79. Shayne Parkinson – over 50,000 as of Feb 2012
80. Aaron Patterson – total unknown
81. Aaron Pogue
82. Brian S. Pratt
83. *Michael Prescott – more than 800,000 self-published ebooks sold (Dec 2011)
84. Rose Pressey – over 54,000 since April 2011
85. T.R. Ragan – 239,592 books sold (March 2012)
86. J.R. Rain – more than 400,000 books sold (Sept 2011)
87. Terri Reid – more than 60,000 ebooks sold (August 2011)
88. Lexi Revellian – over 54,000 (March 2012)
89. Shadonna Richards – 51,790 ebooks as of March 2012
90. Imogen Rose
91. *Kristine Kathryn Rusch
92. Nick Russell – over 104,000 of Big Lake (March 2012)
93. Jonas Saul – over 50,000 ebooks sold
94. L.J. Sellers – total unknown
95. Amber Scott – total unknown
96. *Michele Scott (AK Alexander) – more than 100,000 books sold in two months
97. Tori Scott – 84,772 as of midnight 3/15/2012
98. Kathleen Shoop – over 50,000 books sold since May 2011 (as of Jan 2012)
99. Christopher Smith
100. *Dean Wesley Smith
101. Katie Stephens
102. Andy Straka – over 50,000 in the past 10 months
103. Michael J Sullivan – more than 90,000 sold before books retired and republished
104. Denise Grover Swank- “almost 60,000 books with my four books since last July (March 2012)”
105. Vicki Tyley – 100,000 (January 2012)
106. Louise Voss & Mark Edwards – 50,000 ebooks sold in the month of June (2011)
107. Heather Killough-Walden – over 500,000 books sold (Dec 2011)
108. Michael Wallace – 80,000 (Feb 2012)
109. Kerry Wilkinson – more than 250,000 books sold (Feb 2012)
110. Nicole Williams – near the 100,000 mark for her trilogy (Dec 2011)
111. Zoe Winters – more than 50,000 ebooks sold independently
112. Rachel Yu – more than 60,000 ebooks sold (Feb 2012)
That’s pretty amazing. We can figure that many of those books earned about $2 per sale (at a conservative price of $2.99 per book), so this 50K number means the authors above are looking at $100,000, at least. There would also be expenses involved in editing, cover art, formatting, etc., depending upon how much of that was paid for versus done by the author or by volunteers. Still, the profits are impressive by any measure.
Some of these authors have gone on to accept traditional deals with established publishers so that they can concentrate on the writing part. Famously, Amanda Hocking has a multi-million dollar deal for some of her books, but has also retained the right to continue self-publishing those books she prefers to.
All right, writers, are you suitably inspired?
Now, back to your keyboards!
You know, fellow readers and writers, since my big Christmas break-out with RUNNING, I have been concentrating on money earned. And in the excitement of the sudden flurry of cash (which happened right around Christmas, but only landed in my bank account at the end of February) I got happy but anxious about HOW TO KEEP IT COMING IN at that lovely rate.
And the truth is — I can’t. I can’t control what folks like and buy and read and respond to. I can only control what I write. Trying to psych out the coolest marketing phrase or the optimal tweet will only make you crazy… or at least, it will make me crazy.
So I have vowed to concentrate more on the writing. Last week I dictated a story that I have been thinking about for a couple of years. Just a little short one, but powerful. THE TERMINAL. (That is, if I don’t change the title…)
The story came out nearly all of a piece, because it had “percolated” in my head for some time. It needs only a few small tweaks to finalize and put to bed. Or to press.
I think I’ll make this one free. I plan to post it on Wattpad, which I hear great things about. Possibly also Figment, and Redroom, and Smashwords… though the last time I tried that I had trouble jumping through their formatting hoops. In any case, I hope it will be an important story that gets out to readers and will — possibly — lead some of them to me.
And even if it never does, I will be happy to put that story out into the world, because that’s what we storytellers do. We share our words. Having a reader is what makes a story complete.
So, having said that… Drumroll, please! When I added up the sales of all of my books, I discovered these excellent numbers:
2,400 ebooks sold for real money
860 ebooks borrowed, which brings in money too
And a fabulous grand total of 40,000 ADDITIONAL ebooks downloaded!! [For free, I should add. But still!]
As to money, I am up in the baby five figures, which isn’t bad for a fledgeling business less than a year old.
I only started on the 4th of July, 2011… I became an Indie Writer on Independence Day, get it? (Someday I’ll tell you the story of that looooong weekend and how my husband and I managed to get through our first big formatting and uploading task without our marriage falling apart.)
And I am pretty jazzed about how much I have actually sold. Particularly when you consider the alternative… I could have been submitting query letters to agents for another 20 years instead!
Happy writing to you, friends.
Over on the Kindle boards, there is a thread where folks are putting together a list of self-published authors who have gotten past the 50,000 mark in total ebook sales.
Successful author Lexi Revellian (see her name on the list below!) went further in updating the list on her own blog. I’ve posted it here to demonstrate that it is possible to make serious money as a self-publisher.
Many of the authors on this list have sold well over 50,000 books. Quite a few of them have done it within a year. Though it’s not possible to calculate how much money an author with that many sales has made without knowing the price of each ebook, every writer who has sold this number of books has made between a low of $17,500 (if every book is priced at only 99¢, for a 35% royalty rate) to a high of $350,000 (at the highest rate that KDP allows – $9.99, with a 70% royalty rate). It’s likely most of these authors sell their ebooks for something in between those two extremes. The “going rate” for successful self-published authors seems to be around $2.99 to $4.99 per ebook.
Some of these writers, but only a small percentage, were traditionally published first, or have continued to keep one foot in the traditional “camp.” Most of them simply wrote books intending to publish all by themselves, and then got them out there and let the world know. And the world responded by reading them!
THESE SELF-PUBLISHED AUTHORS HAVE EACH SOLD MORE THAN 50,000 EBOOKS AS OF MARCH, 2012
J Carson Black
Carol Davis Luce
Mark Edwards & Louis Voss
Nancy C. Johnson
Terri Giuliano Long
Anne Marie Novark
Michael J Sullivan
I’d love it if you could let me know of anyone else who should be on this list. I’ll try to keep it up to date. And if I get really ambitious, I’ll link to each of the author’s pages so that you can go buy more of their wonderful books… but I probably should spend that time writing my next one.
Thanks to Lexi Revellian for putting this list on her blog and updating it. And here’s to the day when my name will be on the list…!
Dear Fellow Self-Publishers:
Did you know that your enrollment in KDP Select, that fantastic tool which allows you to pinpoint five “free” days for your book in exchange for a promise of 90 days of Kindle exclusivity, will automatically renew unless you unclick the magic box to keep it from doing so?
The fine print in the KDP Select rules indicates that they will remind you 15 days before your 90-day period is up, so that you can decide whether or not to “re-up.” But you don’t have to wait till then… you can simply unclick the box right now for any titles that you have enrolled. That way you can be sure that you won’t forget, and will be free and able to sell on any platforms you wish as soon as the 90-day period is over.
Of course, I’m a big proponent of KDP Select, which has worked wonderfully for me in getting downloads and reviews for both my own thriller RUNNING and eFitzgerald author Frisky Dimplebuns’ DREAMBOAT — the first of The Frisky Chronicles. But if you are not inclined to continue with the KDP Select program, don’t forget to switch it off before you are locked into another three months of exclusivity.
And I’d love to hear about your own experiences with KDP Select. Did it work for you?
Though I read over and over that we self publishers should be PATIENT… I am not by nature a very patient person! So when I had a fantastic result in late December with my best-selling political thriller RUNNING after using a single free day on Amazon’s KDP Select program (8,000 free downloads followed by 1,500+ sales in the next 10 days) I was elated. It lasted for quite a while, but by the end of January sales had settled down to about 5-10 copies a day. So I decided to do it again.
The exciting news is that I saw a torrent of downloads – 9,000 over the two days. The day after, I sold only 5 copies. Big letdown! Yesterday I sold 7, with 2 borrows. Oh well, that’s a little better. But this morning I wake up and RUNNING had sold 30 by 11:00 a.m. A significant improvement. I’ll take those numbers, I figured, particularly if they continue throughout the day. And a Tuesday morning doesn’t typically mean a huge rush to buy ebooks.
As several people have pointed out, the endgame in all this is visibility. Building your brand, and your fan base. Getting yourself higher up on the charts. Getting more reviews. All of this works toward a long-term career as a writer. A writer who writes books worth buying.
I should mention that my price point is higher than most self-publishers. My career plan includes being able to live on my income as a writer, so it’s important to me to price my novels up there with Patricia Cornwell, James Patterson, and others who are published traditionally.
So what do I need to do now? GET MORE GOOD NOVELS WRITTEN. I met with my critique partner today to fine-tune the synopsis (before starting to write) of my next thriller, which starts with the abduction of the Secretary of State in some war-torn former Soviet satellite. Action, suspense, romance, sex, bombs, helicopters, international diplomacy, and a strong woman protagonist. I can’t wait!
Oh, and P.S. I sold 66 copies of RUNNING today. A fabulous result.
Do you have yours yet?
Works in Progress
"Sand Song” (a novella set in Hugh Howey’s SANDbox) 8,627 / 10000 words. 87% done!
"The Terminal” (a dark futuristic short) 2383 / 2000 words. 100% done!
“ROCKS 1” (the first episode in a dystopian series) 5675 / 10000 words. 57% done!
“Salt & Pepper Mystery #1” (Book one of a cozy mystery series) 22379 / 40000 words. 56% done!
Karma lives in the Silo, deep underground. She lives with a man whom she barely knows and with a name she doesn’t remember choosing. When visions come to her about another husband, another way of life, and another world, Karma struggles to discover what came before.
Five years have passed since the airlock slammed shut on the 4,000 souls condemned to live in the Silo. Karma can remember now that there was a time before--before she was locked into this cylindrical tomb under the earth. But all she can see of the outside are dead hills and the dark clouds swirling through what remains of a toxic world.
Karma lives in a Silo deep beneath the earth. She isn't sure of much else… only that the wallscreen shows an outside view that is barren and swirling with toxic clouds. Most of the other residents seem content. Except for the ones who jump to their deaths from the hundred-level spiral staircase. And the ones who are pushed.
The kids are fighting in the Silo—gangs engage in battles between the Up Top and the Down Deep, with the Mids caught in between. There are too many young people without work. They ink themselves with primitive face tats and guard their territory against incursions from below or above.
Karma has endured twenty-five years underneath the earth. Her path in life—a path she never bargained for—has included marriage to a man she never chose, whose powerful position forces her to hide her memories of the time before.
After a hellish three months locked in the private inner sanctum of IT, Karma and her family emerge, bloodied and forever changed. Rick is a man who is no longer in control. Mars has become the power in the Silo.
Daniel is sixteen now, and he can count up to one hundred. He can go all by himself up and down the two levels of the Silo between his home and his job. Daniel knows he's not as smart as some people. But his mother told him he was smart enough to help her, so it must be true. He always believes his mother. His mother is a doctor.
THE NEXT PRESIDENT IS GOING TO BE A WOMAN... Catherine Young, Vice President and newly-anointed Democratic nominee, is surging in the polls. The race is on against GOP candidate Jerusha Hutchins, folksy charmer and blonde beauty, who is the darling of the far-right Liberty Party.
Join Harold and Rosemary as they bring together their family and friends for a night of celebration before a long-planned trip... and see just how this journey ends. Mix a little Dorothy Parker and a little Shirley Jackson, add a twist of David Sedaris and a pinch of O.Henry, and out comes a satirical romp. "Till Death Do Us Part" is a 3,000 word short story. This is a sophisticated take on the way people fool themselves. More New Yorker magazine than Asimov.
A pinch of Dorothy Parker and a twist of O.Henry go into the mix to make this Fitzgerald short a bracing sip of satire. There is a free sample of RUNNING, her best-selling Kindle political thriller, at the end of this story.
Another quirky short story from Patrice Fitzgerald about love and the ways people connect. When Felicia gets a special birthday request from her husband Herman, she can't believe what he's asking her to do. Will she say yes? This 3,000 word short story explores the nature of a happy marriage, compromise, and passion. A four-chapter sample of Fitzgerald's best-selling political thriller, RUNNING, is also included.
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