$55,500 for indie author in 31 days – The 2nd tipping point

An indie author sold over 100,000 copies of her books in the last 31 days – By my calculation she earned at least $55,500.

It’s the signal everyone’s been waiting for. Now there can be little doubt that we are in the midst of a second gigantic tipping point. A tipping point that impacts indie authors, published authors, publishers, and publishing. Eventually, it’ll impact us readers too.

It’s the first time indie authors are earning so much that going with a Publisher becomes a financially unsound decision.

The second major tipping point

Let’s start by looking back.

Looking Back at the First Major Tipping Point

The first major tipping point was the end of 2009 – the great holiday sales for Kindle and Nook meant that eReaders and eBooks got enough traction to kick off a glorious 2010. 

In 2010 we had eBooks grow to 10% market share and eReaders sell millions and millions of units. In 2009 we were still under the impression that ebooks constituted just 2 to 3% of the market. Reaching 10% market share for ebooks in 2010 definitely suggests that the last few months of 2009 were a tipping point for ebooks.

Given that every eReader company is claiming much better eReader sales in 2010 than in 2009, you have to wonder – What tipping points are we going through right now?

Well, courtesy TeleRead, we find out about one of these tipping points – The rise of indie authors. We have 25 indie authors who are sharing their ebook sales figures – figures that clearly show we are at a tipping point for indie authors and for self-publishing.

The superstar indie authors

Please note that these are sales for just the last 31 days. They do include the Shopping Season bump, and the new Kindle owner bump – there might not be another stretch this good until Christmas 2011.

Please also note that most of these authors sell 1 or more of their books at a price of $1, and the rest at $3. We will assume that 70% to 85% of their sales were at $1, and the remaining were at $3. There are exceptions – authors who sell all their books at $1, and authors who sell all their books at $3.

Here are the indie authors who have triggered a new Tipping Point –

  1. Amanda Hocking – Over 100,000 books sold in the last 31 days. Assuming 85% of these sales are for the $1 books in her series, and that the remaining 15% are for the $3 books in her series, we get $55,500 in earnings. Note: This is the minimum – Her earnings might be a lot more than $55,500.
  2. Stephen Leather – This author spams the kindle forum so much that it pains me to even mention him. However, he claims to have sold over 30,000 copies.
  3. H. P. Mallory – 20,000 sales. Again, the first book is just $1 and is probably the one accounting for 70% of sales. That suggests $16,200 in earnings.
  4. Five authors who sold over 10,000 copies – Michael R. Sullivan, L. J. Sellers, Victorine Lieske, J.A. Konrath, Scott Nicholson. Here, we have J. A. Konrath, who’s selling his books at $3, and probably earned between $20,000 and $35,000. Scott Nicholson is selling all his books at $1, which suggests between $3,000 and $5,000 in earnings.
  5. Six authors who sold over 5,000 copies – David Dalglish, Terri Reid, Tina Folsom, Ellen Fisher, Imogen Rose, Bella Andre. These authors probably earned in the $1,500 to $15,000 range. The large range is because a $1 book earns just 30 cents per copy sold, whereas a $3 book earns $2 per copy sold. Additionally, over 5,000 copies could mean anything between 5,001 and 9,999 – We’re assuming 7,500 as the upper limit.
  6. A further 3 authors sold over 4,000 copies.
  7. 8 authors sold over 2,500 copies.

Those are stunning numbers. We are truly in the midst of the second major tipping point.

4 Figures that will set the Publishing World on Fire

Consider these 4 figures –

  1. $55,500 or more in earnings for Amanda Hocking in the last 31 days. This is the figure that’s going to get mid-list authors and published authors to go indie.
  2. 100,000 books sold in the last 31 days. Amanda Hocking has single-handedly proven the sustainability of self-publishing. If a hundred thousand Kindle owners were willing to take a chance on one indie author, it probably means that hundreds of thousands of Kindle owners will be willing to take a chance on indie authors.
  3. 5 or more authors who earned over $15,000 each in the last 31 days. This is the figure that’s going to show indie authors it’s possible to make a good living selling books yourself. One Author earning a ton is great – However, when you see 5 authors doing it, then it’s obvious that you have a shot too.
  4. There were 25 indie authors who sold over 2,500 copies of their books in the last 31 days. For a lot of people selling thousands of copies of their books is motivation enough.

The walls have been broken down – main-stream acceptance and financial success are now both attainable goals for indie authors.

There isn’t just one indie author who earned over $15,000 last month – There were at least 5.

There isn’t just one indie author who sold over 2,500 books last month – There were at least 25.

It’s remarkable – And these are just the indie authors who shared their figures, and who we know about. There are probably quite a few others.

Example: Nancy C. Johnson, D. B. Henson, Richard Phillips, and Cort Malone are all indie authors who were in the Top 100 in December 2010. That’s 4 more authors who might have earned $10,000 or more in December.

Who in their right mind would choose Publishers?

Amanda Hocking, for the month of December 2010, had her books at sales ranks 23, 54, and 75. That was enough to earn her $55,500 or more.

Perhaps you only get sales rank #33 and have just 1 book. You could still earn $10,000 or $15,000 in a month.

Perhaps you get a higher sales rank, say #11, for a busy month, and have more books. Then you could earn $100,000 or more in a month.

All of this is happening at a time when there are just 10 million eReaders, and eBooks have just 10% market penetration. When ebooks hit 50% market share in 2012, then there might be multiple authors taking home $500,000 each in the month of December alone. There might be indie authors who make over a million in earnings in 2010.

There are 100 slots in the Top 100. Publishers are too greedy to compete on price. They are too lazy to improvise. The stage is set for indie authors to take over.

What would you rather do – Spend 3 years trying to get a book deal, or self-publish your books and make $250,000 in the month of December 2011?

17 thoughts on “$55,500 for indie author in 31 days – The 2nd tipping point”

  1. I’d like to know their secret to just making their book FINDABLE in the fray. At least if you go with a publisher you know there’ll be an advertising budget. I’d really like to see the numbers of what those writers spent on advertising and what KIND of advertising. I still haven’t figured out what kind of advertising pays off at the beginning to get readers to find you.

    I’m really impressed either way. That’s an impressive sales record for any writer.

    1. You don’t need advertising. At least not much. At J. A. Konrath’s blog there’s lots of discussion on what they do.

      $1 is critical. As is participating in every social site and every forum. Having your own blog.

      1. I was reading the first book in a series that had been free for a day. When I added it to my Goodreads list as currently being read the author himself commented that an updated version had been released on Amazon and I might want to redownload it.

        We chatted back and forth a time or two and that was it.

        His personal interaction with me, a reader, meant a huge amount to me. I immediately paid for and bought the second book and I made sure that I left reviews on both Amazon and Goodreads. The personal touch made me feel like the author genuinely cared about the readers and I felt the least I could do was to give him reviews. Though it was an admittedly easy decision since I was leaving a positive review (FYI – the 61 Nails series is fantastic so far).

  2. Thank you for the mention. Bobbye, I haven’t spent much on advertising– one ad on Kindle Nation Daily, one ad on an indie blog, and one ad on [mention of site removed – Sorry, we don’t mention certain sites] has been about the extent of my advertising. I do post on the Amazon boards quite a bit (although not, I hope, in a spammy or annoying way), and I have a blog and a basic website. Getting noticed is a matter of being patient more than anything, it seems. But it’s also a matter of luck to some degree– at least it has been in my case:-).

  3. This was a great read! I’m one of the indies mentioned above and I’d also like to say that the most I’ve spent on advertising was $35.00 for a Kindle Book of the Day Banner that has yet to go live (they told me Sept). Really, the strength of the indie author is in allowing the public to decide if our books are worthy, rather than some agent or publisher sitting in New York. I think there are many more tipping points to come and, incidentally, I earned quite a bit more than $16,000 in Dec! LOL

      1. Congrats, HP and all the other indies on that list.

        Just looked at your site. Not my reading preference but if it were, you would have had me hooked. Great intro to you and your work and fantastic covers. Such professionalism drawn with personality sets a high bar and I suspect that many on that list deserve to be there. Must take a closer look.

  4. I agree it was a tipping point, but it will keep tipping in different ways. Thanks for the mention but my books are not all $1, they range from $1 to $7, but clearly cheaper sells better, all else being equal. Suffice to say it’s more than I ever made as a NY writer.

    I hit #30 overall in November and that’s a lot of copies per day even then. Now I suspect the top 20-50 are selling 500 to 1,000 copies per day. Of course, it’s getting harder if you look at all the non-novels on the lists (lots of diet books at the moment).

    And, yes, many authors are second-guessing their career paths. The key is the ability to react quickly and go outside the flow. Every one of these authors has created their own brands and identities, through various means.

    Scott Nicholson

  5. Hi Switch and Paul,
    Thanks so much for your very kind words. I really appreciate them. And thanks for checking out my site, Paul!

  6. Great article. Correction: my name is Tina Folsom (with an m at the end).

    And a little update: since B&N updated their figures for December, I’ve sold over 10,000 copies during that month. The majority of my books sold were of my Scanguards Vampires series (3 books, $4.99 each) – and account for approx. 75% of all my sales.

    Apart from blogging and some giveaways I don’t do much in terms of advertising. It’s pretty much all word of mouth.

    I think we’re only just scratching the surface. In my group of friends only about 15% have an e-reader of some sort, the rest are still reading from paper. There’s lots of growth still coming.

    Thanks for keeping us indies on the radar.

      1. My ratio on Kindle vs. Nook was about a 1:3 in December (ie. for every sale on Kindle I made 3 on Nook). I write paranormal romance, and when browsing the nook my books show up really early, often in the top 10 for the genre, so I guess that helps me a lot.

        1. Wow, that’s a crazy ratio. Had no idea Nook was doing so well. Thanks for the information.

          You say your books show up in the top 10 for the genre. Any reason you think that doesn’t happen in the Kindle Store?

  7. I wish I knew why I’m featured so high on Nook. Sure, my sales rankings for my vampire series are in the 190 – 240 range, which is very good, but it doesn’t explain why when browsing I show up so early.

    On Amazon, my rankings are not as good, because on some searches I just don’t appear. Despite the fact that I have lots of positive reviews, some of my books don’t show up when searching by “average customer reviews” in my genre, even though they should be there. I’ve emailed Amazon about it, but they say there’s nothing wrong with their system.

    Hey, I’m not complaining, B&N more than makes up for what I can’t get from Amazon.

  8. The achievements some these indie authors have had are amazing-and motivates me to keep writing as well! I used to hear from a variety of people and sources, “No, don’t self publish!” and go on to imply it’ll wreck the chances of one day becoming a “published” author. For my next book, I might not even bother sending out inquiries.

    One day I did a random search on myself and found myself #164 on B&N best selling children’s books a few weeks ago. It’s very amusing (in the best possible sense of the word) and flattering to be in the same list as Neil Gaiman and Lewis Carroll. I don’t do much advertising either-besides from an occasional giveaway and my facebook page.

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