1. scifiwriter
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    scifiwriter Member

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    Best selling self-publishing authors

    Discussion in 'Self-Publishing' started by scifiwriter, Sep 5, 2013.

    We can easily name all the best selling trade publishing authors (Stephen King, John Grisham, James Patterson, Danielle Steel, JK Rowling, Stephanie Meyer etc...)

    But who are the best selling self-publishing authors?

    And how many self-publishing authors do you think are able to make a living from writing? (with self-publishing as their primary income)? 100? 200? 500?
     
  2. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    I think it is probably more than what you have listed there. I saw a list of around 150 authors who have sold more than 50,000 books self-publishing. Amazon says it has over a thousand self published authors who average 1000 books per month in sales, which could be enough to support oneself depending on the price of the books and the author's lifestyle. I read an article a while back listing authors neither you or I have ever heard of who are able to bring in $2000 a month or so, every month, on self-publishing. Not making a living, but not bad.

    In comparison to the total number of people self-publishing it is small. Most self-published authors don't make much. But the number of people who are able to do it successfully is apparently higher than most people think.
     
  3. Edward M. Grant
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    In the Stephen King/JK Rowling league? None.

    If you want to be the next King or Rowling, you have to go the trade publishing route, because they're still the only ones who can get you there.

    But there are a fair number at the next rung down the ladder, making more money from a few books than most people make in their lifetime, and increasingly getting print-only deals with trade publishers who can get their books into book stores. Below that, I've met at least a couple of dozen people on forums who claim to have made enough to quit their day job to work full-time as writers, so, unless they're lying, I'd imagine there must be hundreds to thousands who've been able to do so.
     
  4. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    SPs who were originally trade published have a clear advantage, and probably make up most of the authors who attain success (or maintain it) to the point of being self-supporting. But other than that, well, frankly there aren't a lot of authors, trade or self-published, who can actually support themselves with their writing. (Edward, I've also heard a number of authors say they've quit their day job - but then find out that their spouse/partner hasn't. ;) )
     
  5. scifiwriter
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    scifiwriter Member

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    It's okay to post a link right? I found this self reported sales list of 340 authors after some researching on best selling self publishers.
     
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  6. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    Yeah, I've seen that as well scifiwriter. Some of those authors tried for years to break in traditionally and are now exceeding their wildest dreams in terms of success by self-publishing. I think there are more people than we think in the ranks of the never-traditionally-published who are doing well enough via self-publishing. But the issue, ultimately, can't be limited to just looking at how many people are able to self-publish as their only source of income. I think you have to look at that number, even if it is a few thousand, and compare it to the total number of authors self-publishing to get a good picture of the landscape.

    Self-publishing is certainly viable these days, there is no doubt about it. It has advantages over traditional publishing, and also disadvantages as compared to traditional publishing. Writers should carefully consider the advantages and disadvantages of each before making their decision.
     
  7. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    i suspect most, if not all of those authors who make a living off their self-pubbed books are not novelists...

    self-help and how-to books can do very well, if the author is an authority in the field, since they have built-in readerships... the same is not true for fiction, which is why self-pubbed novels generally don't bring in more than pocket change...
     
  8. Mckk
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    This made me think - what about EL James? Was her book widely known before or after her publishers bought her book? I seem to remember that she'd originally self-pubbed right?
     
  9. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    She published herself initially and her work was apparently quite popular. I doubt she'd have received the traditional publishing contract otherwise.

    Interestingly, I was watching a lecture by fantasy writer Brandon Sanderson, and he pointed out that there are people within in the industry who think that's going to be the trend going into the future, where new authors tend to start by self-publishing and those who make a name for themselves and build an audience will be picked up by traditional publishers. We'll see. I know the stigma from traditional editors and agents against works that are already self-published has lessened. I've spoken to quite a few who said they would still entertain a work that was self-published. But if you self-publish and don't do at all well, that could be a strike against you.
     
  10. scifiwriter
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    scifiwriter Member

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    Are you sure?

    Looking at this list of best selling self-published authors, most of these authors who make a living from self-published books are in fact novelists, not self-help and how-to-books authors.
     
  11. Edward M. Grant
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    To be fair, traditionally most self-published authors who made a living at it wrote non-fiction: for example, local history books that could be sold in local stores or souvenir shops. I also have some specialized military history books that I suspect were self-published as the publisher's address looks like someone's house and I've never heard of the publisher name anywhere else.
     
  12. Trish
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    Trish I've been deleted.. again Contributor

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    But that would be traditionally - not currently. Most of those on the list are, in actuality, novelists. Romance, YA, Western, Erotica, etc. Not how-to. Not local history. The landscape is changing.


    @Steerpike True enough. Also Colleen Hoover self-pubbed and has now been picked up. Her sales are astronomical. Abbi Glines, I believe was offered but refused? Not sure of that though. Could have been one of the other bazillion romance/NA authors, lol.
     
  13. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    As with any self-reported information, a grain of salt should be applied. A) What makes these 'best-sellers'? Amazon has 'best-sellers' and it doesn't mean squat - sell one book and your ranking goes into the upper atmosphere. B) How many have already established themselves via trade publishers (I saw a couple right off the bat). C) It's self-reported sales figures (I wouldn't trust anyone not to fudge on that, regardless of how they publish).
     
  14. scifiwriter
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    A) Surely you must be exaggerating. If selling 1 book causes ranking to goes into the upper atmosphere, then Amazon must not be selling a lot of ebooks. Here's an example of how many books needed to be sold in order for the ranking to goes into the upper atmosphere.

    She got as high as #89 on Amazon Kindle Best Sellers. This is a screen shot when it was at #111.

    [​IMG]


    B) Yes, some have established themselves via trade publishers and are now finding success with self-publishing. But many authors on that list are publishing for the first time. Like the author above for example. With 10,000 ebooks sold and 70% ebook royalties, she is making decent money for her first published book.

    C) As for the reliability of self-reported figures, I believe that most are reporting actual sales figures and only a tiny few have fudged it. But it's just my opinion and you are entitled to yours.
     
    Last edited: Sep 6, 2013
  15. Trish
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    Trish I've been deleted.. again Contributor

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    (see bolded) Ummm.. no. It absolutely does not. I sold 34 in one day and still didn't make it into the top 100.
     
  16. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    Sales rankings do indeed fluctuate based on miniscule sales - especially if the people ranked close to you either do not sell or sell more. I've seen this discussed more than once on more than one writing forum. I mean, seriously - they need an algorithm? You sell X number of books, you're ranked at 15; someone sells X-1 is at 16, someone sells X+1 is at 14. So yeah - add in that it's only on their site and best-selling at Amazon doesn't mean much. So when I ask what 'best-selling' means, it's a legitimate question - best-selling according to Amazon or best-selling according to the NYT? Big difference.
     
  17. Trish
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    Trish I've been deleted.. again Contributor

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    They fluctuate, yes, but that's not the same as reaching the 'upper atmosphere' with one book.

    You can easily figure that out by comparing NYT to Amazon's best sellers list. It's not rocket science.....
     
  18. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    @Trish - One thing Brandon Sanderson talked about in a lecture is that some authors who are finding success self-publishing and then being picked up by traditional publishers are holding back their electronic rights, so that they can continue to self-publish electronically, while letting the traditional publisher handle the print publication. That's the ideal arrangement, it seems to me.

    You're always going to find people who run down self-publishing at every opportunity. This is more reflective of some kind of bias against self-publishing than reality, and leads to statements like "sell one book and your ranking goes into the upper atmosphere," which is complete nonsense. That kind of approach doesn't help anyone.

    Likewise, anyone who pushes self-publishing at every turn, trying to create the impression that it is the sure way to riches, or even a self-sustaining income, can't be taken seriously. The extremes on the issue are both wrong and should both be avoided.

    Self-publishing is a valid option, and there are reasons to favor it over traditional publishing (including higher royalty rate, complete control over the project, time lines, and the ability to be published at all - and yes, there are people who can't seem to break into traditional publishing whose books will sell once they actually get them out there. *This is not true of most people who haven't been able to get traditionally published*).

    On the other side of things, with self-publishing you lose the distribution and marketing a traditional publisher can bring, you lose their editorial services, cover art, and so on. There is also a certain validation that comes with traditional publishing that you give up going the self-published route (though if you're extremely successful, that is probably validation enough).

    The issue takes careful consideration. Don't listen to people who have a knee-jerk reaction in one direction or another, or who are always coming down on one side to the exclusion of the other. Like so many issues, there are pros and cons to each, and you should understand these things before deciding which approach makes the most sense for you.
     
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  19. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    scifiwriter...



    i also would be skeptical of self-reported success... plus, nothing on that site or in that list refers to profits gained... and my remarks were in answer to the question of how many make a living from self-pubbed books...
     
  20. shadowwalker
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    Steerpike - just to clarify - I am not one to run down self-publishing at every turn. If you look at my various posts throughout this site, you will see that more often than not, I defend self-publishers. However, the fluctuations with Amazon rankings are well known and often commented on - if one chooses to bury their head in the sand, so be it.
     
  21. Trish
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    Trish I've been deleted.. again Contributor

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    They fluctuate, yes, no one is denying this. They are also updated every hour, so if I sell 5 books in one hour, I'm going to jump (not into the 'upper atmosphere' that just makes me laugh. Sell one book and you're in the top 100! *coughyeahrightcough*) higher than I was, but if nothing sells for the next 8 hours, I'll be steadily dropping doooooooooown.
     
  22. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    @shadowwalker it wasn't my intent to suggest that you always come down against self-publishing, though I can see how you read it that way. I don't know your position well enough, or hardly at all, to make that kind of claim. It was just a connection of two different thoughts in my post. I do agree that Amazon rankings fluctuate, but the one book sale comment was significant hyperbole and I don't see that as being helpful.
     
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  23. Uberwatch
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    Uberwatch Active Member

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    No idea. I kind of see the self-publishing part of writing for someone who just writes a crapload of material but could use it for some extra cash. If someone wants to make a career out of writing, then he/she will be looking for an agent and a publisher.

    In all honesty, there's so many e-books on sites like amazon, I don't think there's anyone making more than $50,000 a year on them unless the author happens to be well known.
     
  24. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    i'd be surprised if anyone [other than bestselling authors] makes anything near $50k on an e-book!
     
  25. scifiwriter
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    scifiwriter Member

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    It depends on your definition of "best selling" authors.


    Amazon pays 70% royalties, minus the delivery fee.



    At $3.99 sale price, it would need:

    ($3.99 - $0.05 delivery fee) x 70% = $2.76

    $50,000 / $2.76 = 18,115 ebooks.

    -----------------------------

    At $3.99 sales price, it would need

    ($2.99 - $0.05) x 70% = $2.06

    $50,000 / $2.06 = 24,295 ebooks


    These best selling authors sold a lot of ebooks because they have multiple novels out for sales.
    http://www.kboards.com/authors/

    If an author writes 3 books a year, after 3 years, that author would have 9 books for sales.
     
    Last edited: Sep 24, 2013
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