Top 42 Indie Authors of 2011

Updates:

1) Yes, we will be updating this list with the suggested authors (most of them). Thank you very much for the suggestions. Not sure how some of those authors were missed.

2) We’ll also be starting a monthly Top 25 Indie Authors List. Expect the first one around mid April. Feel free to email us at booksummit@ymail.com or leave a comment if you want to nominate someone. Criteria will be performance (based on sales rankings from March 21st through April 14th). Showing up in the Top 100 Free List will be given some consideration but the lion’s share will be actual sales and showing up in the Top 100 Paid List.

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Please Note: This is not a Precise List. It’s a combination of sales, intuition, number of Top 100 hits, awareness, press coverage, and other inputs. There might very well be promising indie authors that got missed out. If you think you should be considered for this list, leave a comment.

Indie = Straight to the People. So only authors who self-publish and reach readers directly are considered.

Top 42 Indie Authors of 2011 – Context

Independent authors have benefited greatly from the democratization of Publishing that Kindle and Nook and eBooks have brought about. They have also contributed to this democratization and are strengthening ebooks. John Locke and J. A. Konrath are two indie authors (two of many) who have refused to sell their ebook rights to traditional publishers and have saved us Kindle owners from the pain of paying $7 to $12 for an ebook.

Unfortunately, many of the established ‘Bestseller Lists’ downplay the role and importance of indie authors. Here’s an approximate, inaccurate, and disputed list of the 42 Top Independent Authors of 2011.

Top 42 Indie Authors of 2011

1. John Locke

John Locke is a New York Times best-selling author who has broken down boundaries in the indie publishing world that had hitherto been unthought of. He is the eighth author to sell over one million eBooks on the Kindle and the first self-published author ever to do this.

John Locke signed a very interesting book deal recently where he keeps the ebook rights. Hopefully it’s the beginning of a trend – so that authors don’t let Publishers price-gouge the very same Kindle and Nook owners who made the author a hit to begin with.

2011 Novel
Call Me!. Price: $0.99. Genre: Thriller, Action & Adventure. Rated 4 stars on 52 reviews.

2012 Novel
Wish List (a Donovan Creed Novel). Price: $2.99. Genre: Action & Adventure. Rated 4 stars on 186 reviews.

Best Selling Novel
Maybe (a Donovan Creed Novel). Price: $0.99. Genre: Action & Adventure, Thriller. Rated 4.5 stars on 30 reviews. Currently on the indie and paid Kindle best sellers lists.

For more see John Locke’s Amazon Page and blog.

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2. J.A. Konrath

J. A. Konrath is a giant in the self-publishing world. Firstly, he has hit the Top 100 in the Kindle Store numerous times. Secondly, via his blog (J. A. Konrath Publishing Blog) he’s shared his wisdom and insights with indie authors and probably played a part in the rise of numerous indie authors. You could even argue that he’s played the biggest part in the rise of indie authors – by refusing book deals from Publishers, by hitting great sales ranks, by revealing his earnings (over $500K in 2011), and by sharing what worked for him.

2011 Novel
Flee: A Thriller with Ann Voss Peterson. Price: $2.99. Genre: Hard-Boiled Mystery, Police Procedurals. Rated 4 stars on 74 reviews.

2012 Novel
Burners – A Jack Daniels/Alex Chapa Mystery with Henry Perez. Price: $2.99. Genre: Mystery, Homicide, Story Cross Over. Rated 4.5 stars on 3 reviews

Best Selling Novel
The List with Jack Kilbron. Price: $3.99. Genre: Suspense. Rated 4 stars on 217 reviews. Currently on the indie Kindle best sellers list.

For more see J.A. Konrath’s Amazon Page and blog.

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3. Scott Nicholson

Scott Nicholson is fast becoming an indie superstar author. He has had multiple books hit the Top 100. He has also won several horror awards and been nominated for a few more. He also has a wide range of books available which helps reach a lot of readers. He has worked with other authors on this list, especially JR Rain.

2011 Novel
Creative Spirit. Price: $2.99. Genre: Horror. Rated 4.5 stars on 19 reviews.

2012 Novel

Zippered Flesh: Tales of Body Enhancements Gone Bad! with other authors. Price: $2.99. Genre: Horror, Bizarre, Suspense, Science Fiction. Rated 5 stars on 1 review. 284 pages.

Best Selling Novel
The Red Church . Price: $2.99. Genre: Occult Horror, Fantasy. Rated 4 stars on 114 reviews. Made it to #3 on the Kindle best sellers list.

For more see Scott Nicholson’s Amazon Page and blog.

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4. CJ Lyons

CJ Lyons sold over 447,000 books on the Kindle last year. Her novel, Blind Faith ($7.99) was second on the New York Times best sellers list and Borrowed Time ($4.99) was on the USA Today Best Seller list.

For more see CJ Lyons’s Amazon Page and website.

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5. Gemma Halliday

Gemma Halliday is a romance-mystery writer who has garnered a huge amount of popularity with her High Heels Mystery Series. She’s had several of her books hit the Top 100 and has been nominated for the RITA three times in the past. Halliday’s achievements in the industry as an indie writer could not have been obtained without her perseverance and unique style.

2011 Novel
Sweetheart in High Heels (High Heels Mysteries). Price: $1.49. Genre: Mystery. Rated 3.5 stars on 15 reviews.

2012 Novel
Play Nice (Anna Smith and Nick Dade Mysteries). To be released March 13. Price: $15.34.Genre: Mystery, Women Sleuths. Unrated.

Best Selling Novel
High Heels Mysteries Boxed Set (Books 1-5). Price: $9.99. Genre: Mystery, Romantic Suspense. Rated 4 stars on 72 reviews. Currently on the indie and paid Kindle best sellers lists.

For more see Gemma Halliday’s Amazon Page and website.

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6. Darcie Chan

Darcie Chan is a new indie author, having just released her first novel in 2011. She has experienced unprecedented success, with her novel appearing on the Top 100 list and selling more than 400,000 copies in 2011. Like many authors on this list, Chan was rejected by the Big Six before finding her eventual success through the patronage of Kindle owners.

2011 & Best Selling Novel
The Mill River Recluse. Price: $0.99. Genre: Literary Fiction. Rated 4 stars on 759 reviews. Currently on the indie and paid Kindle best sellers lists.

For more see Darcie Chan’s Amazon Page and website.

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7. JR Rain

As a former P.I., JR Rain understands the thriller and mystery genre better than most authors. While much of his work focuses on the vampire sub-genre, JR Rain has also written a plethora of short stories, screenplays, and novels with varying themes and style. Rain has collaborated with other authors on this list, including Scott Nicholson.

2011 Novel
The Vampire Club. Price: $3.99. Genre: Fantasy. Rated 4 stars on 16 reviews.

2012 & Best Selling Novel
Samantha Moon: All Four Novels. Price: $2.99. Genre: Mystery, Vampire, Urban Fantasy. Rated 4.5 stars on 44 reviews.

For more see JR Rain’s Amazon Page and website.

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8. J. Carson Black

Last year, J. Carson Black sold over 300,000 books on the Kindle. Her novels Darkness on the Edge of Town (Laura Cardinal Series, Book 1) ($3.47) and Dark Side of the Moon (Laura Cardinal Series, Book 2) ($3.47) are part of a well-reviewed and well-loved series.

For more see J. Carson Black’s Amazon Page and website.

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9. Michael Prescott

Michael Prescott, who used to write under the name Brian Harper, re-published two novels in 2011. One of the two novels, Shiver, was recently made into an independent film by Robert D. Weinback. Prescott writes mystery & thriller novels that perfectly reflect his fondness for the dark and bizarre.

2011 Novel
Blind Pursuit. Price: $2.99. Genre: Suspense. Rated 4.5 stars on 50 reviews.

Best Selling Novel
Mortal Faults. Price: $0.99. Genre: Suspense, Thriller. Rated 3.5 stars on 9 reviews. Currently on the indie Kindle best sellers list.

For more see Michael Prescott’s Amazon Page and blog.

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10. Michael Wallace

Michael Wallace’s novels The Devil’s Deep ($2.99) and The Righteous (Righteous Series #1) ($2.99) are both extemely well-reviewed thrillers.

For more see Michael Wallace’s Amazon Page and blog.

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11. Barbara Freethy

With a RITA nomination under her belt, Barbara Freethy is a self-publishing guru with a penchant for the romantic. She writes a number of series, including the Wish and Deception series. For the most part, however, Barbara writes stand-alone novels that touch the hearts of readers.

2011 Novel
Ryan’s Return. Price: $2.99. Genre: Romance. Rated 4.5 stars on 106 reviews.

2012 Novel
A Secret Wish (Wish Series #1). Price: $2.99. Genre: Contemporary Romance, Women’s Fiction. Rated 5 stars on 7 reviews.

Best Selling Novel
Golden Lies. Price: $3.99. Genre: Romantic Suspense, Contemporary. Rated 4.5 stars on 18 reviews. Currently on the indie and paid Kindle best sellers lists.

For more Barbara Freethy’s Amazon Page and blog.

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12. Ruth Cardello

Farm girl and animal lover Ruth Cardello produced two romance novels in 2011. Revenge, family issues, inheritances, and legacies fill the pages of her work, lending the books a soap opera-esque quality. With rave reviews on and off of Amazon, Ruth easily makes the Top 10.

2011 Novel
Maid for the Billionaire. Price: Free. Genre: Romance. Rated 4.5 stars on 195 reviews.

Best Selling Novel
For Love or Legacy (Book 2). Price: $2.99. Genre: Contemporary Romance. Rated 5 stars on 47 reviews. Made it to #19 on the indie Kindle best sellers list.

For more see Ruth Cardello’s Amazon Page and blog.

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13. Kathleen Long

Writing and romance have been the sugarplums that dance in Kathleen Long’s head for her entire life, and her career reflects that. She is a veteran in the indie publishing industry with fourteen published novels, past RITA nominations and countless additional honors. Kathleen provides outstanding realism in a fantastic world of romance.

2011 & Best Selling Novel
Chasing Rainbows. Price: $2.99. Genre: Contemporary Fiction. Rated 4.5 stars on 65 reviews. Currently #2 on the indie Kindle best sellers list.

For more see Kathleen Long’s Amazon Page and website.

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14. LJ Sellers

LJ Sellers has won multiple awards as a journalist and her probing style has translated excellently to the mystery and thriller genres. She wrote the acclaimed Detective Jackson series, as well as a number of other novels. Sellers also offers free content on her website.

2011 Novel
The Gauntlet Assassin. Price: $2.99. Genre: Thriller. Rated 4.5 stars on 25 reviews.

For more see LJ Sellers’s Amazon Page and blog.

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15. Theresa Ragan

Theresa Ragan has sold 239,592 books as of March 15 and 160,000 free book downloads. According to her website, Abducted (Lizzy Gardner Series #1) ($2.99) and A Knight in Central Park ($0.99) are her best selling novels.

For more see Theresa Ragan’s Amazon Page and website.

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16. Chris Culver

Chris Culver’s novel The Abbey (Ash Rashid) ($2.99) was on the USA Today’s Best Sellers list.

For more see Chris Culver’s Amazon Page and blog.

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17. Bella Andre

Bella Andre wrote the popular Sullivans romance series, which starts with The Look of Love: The Sullivans, Book 1 (Contemporary Romance) ($4.99).

For more see Bella Andre’s Amazon Page and website.

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18. Imogen Rose

Imogen Rose’s best selling YA series starts with PORTAL: Portal Chronicles Book One ($0.99).

For more see Imogen Rose’s Amazon Page and website.

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19. Mainak Dhar

Mainak Dhar is a  unique author with a few independent successes. The avid writer who has an addiction to quality makes it his goal to write at least one novel each year. Some of his work has been featured as best sellers on Amazon, certainly earning Mainak a spot on this list.

2011 Novel
Zombiestan. Price: $0.99. Genre: Horror. Rated 4.5 stars on 53 reviews.

2012 Novel
Alice in Deadland. Price: $0.99. Genre: Horror, Adventure, Science Fiction. Rated 4 stars on 244 reviews.

For more see Mainak Dhar’s Amazon Page and blog.

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20. Catherine Bybee

Catherine Bybee’s work spans across the romantic sub-genres. Her ability to weave through each genre so seamlessly has lent to fantastic success as a best seller on multiple major lists, including the New York Times. Bybee’s mantra, “If it doesn’t have a happily ever after, I’m not interested,” encompasses the essence of her work: beautiful.

2011 Novel
Wife by Wednesday. Price: $0.99. Genre: Romance. Rated 4 stars on 134 reviews.

2012 Novel
Highland Shifter. Price: $2.99. Genre: Historical Fantasy, Time Travel. Rated 5 stars on 9 reviews.

For more see Catherine Bybee’s Amazon Page and blog.

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21. H.P. Mallory

H.P. Mallory’s urban fantasy and paranormal romance novels appeal to women of all ages. Her work is often delivered in series with impeccable character development. She has recently signed a deal with Random House’s imprint, Bantam, making this perhaps the last year that she will appear on indie author lists.

2011 Novel
Great Hexpectations, A Paranormal Romance/ Urban Fantasy. Price: $3.99. Genre: Fantasy. Rated 5 stars on 67 reviews.

2012 Novel
Witchful Thinking: A Jolie Wilkins Novel. Price: $7.99. Genre: Romantic Fantasy, Time Travel, Witch. Rated 4 stars on 61 reviews.

For more see H.P. Mallory’s Amazon Page and blog.

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22. Blake Crouch

Blake Crouch is a master of independent thrillers. He has worked with the king of indie writing, J.A. Konrath, on various serial killer oriented novels. He was first published in 2004 and since then his work has appeared on a number of selective best book lists and on Amazon best-sellers lists.

2011 Novel
Run. Price: $2.99. Genre: Thriller. Rated 4.5 stars on 191 reviews.

2012 Novel
Stirred (Jacqueline “Jack” Daniels/Luther Kite Thriller) with J.A. Konrath. Price: $2.99. Genre: Thriller, Mystery, Series, Hard-Boiled. Rated 4 stars on 108 reviews.

For more see Blake Crouch’s Amazon Page and website.

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23. Nick Russell

Nick Russell self-published his first novel in 2011. This novel received high acclaim and was featured as a best seller for a period on Amazon. His popularity is continuously growing.

2011 Novel
Big Lake. Price: $ 0.99. Genre: Mystery. Rated 4.5 stars on 70 reviews.

For more see Nick Russell’s Amazon Page.

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24. Joel Goldman

Joel Goldman started his work when he was a lawyer. He has a great understanding of the genre he writes in because of his past experience. This suspense writer has been working in the industry since 2002. He has been published many times in 2011 and in the past.

2011 Novel
Motion To Kill (Lou Mason Thrillers). Price: $2.99. Genre: Thriller. Rated 4.5 stars on 31 reviews.

2012 Novel
Final Judgment (Lou Mason). Price: $4.79. Genre: Murder, Mystery, Thriller, Suspense. Unrated.

For more see Joel Goldman’s Amazon Page and blog.

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25. Sam Torode

Sam Torode, a sometimes-author, sometimes-book-designer became hugely popular with his 2010 novel The Dirty Parts of the Bible. His work consists mainly of self-published comics. His work and background are literary, giving him a unique perspective within this genre.

2011 Novel
Mr. Awkward. Price: $0.99. Genre: Cartoon.

For more see Sam Torode’s Amazon Page.

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26. Patricia Hester

Patricia Hester is a mental health nurse who has written a few novels that take a very deep look at the human condition. Whether writing mysteries or stories about everyday experiences, Hester understands how each character will react and follows through accordingly, and beautifully.

2011 Novel
Crimson Clover (The Clover Mystery Series). Price: $2.99. Genre: Mystery. Rated 4.5 stars on 3 reviews.

For more see Patricia Hester’s Amazon Page.

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27. Lacey Weatherford

Lacey Weatherfod is a popular young adult author who has a series of witch-related novels available. Her work is oriented around the paranormal romance genre, allowing her to appeal to a massive audience. Authors like Lacey offer young readers an inexpensive, yet high quality alternative to the major paranormal romance authors.

2011 Novel
The Trouble With Spells: Of Witches and Warlocks. Price: $0.99. Genre: Young Adult. Rated 4 stars on 93 reviews.

2012 Novel
Chasing Nikki. Price: $2.99. Genre: Young Adult, Social Issues, Death & Dying. Rated 5 stars on 5 reviews.

For more see Lacey Weatherford’s Amazon Page and blog.

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28. Joan Hall Hovey

Joan Hall Hovey critically acclaimed crime writer. She published three novels in 2011. Hovey has been featured in many journals and magazines for her intense glimpses into the human psyche and her ability to weave grand tapestries that slowly unravel as the stories develop.

2011 Novel
Chill Waters. Price: $2.99. Genre: Crime. Rated 4.5 stars on 10 reviews.

For more see Joan Hall Hovey’s Amazon Page and website.

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29. Debora Geary

Debora Geary works with Fireweed Publishing to release her many books. Like many indie paranormal romance writers, her work often presents itself in the form of a series. Debora has a very personal relationship with her readers, keeping in touch via email and Facebook. That personal touch has given her a loyal fanbase, which is ever growing.

2011 Novel
A Modern Witch. Price: $3.99. Genre: Fantasy. Rated 4.5 stars on 296 reviews.

2012 Novel
Witches Under Way (WitchLight Trilogy: Book 2). Price: $3.99. Genre: Fantasy, Contemporary, Witches, Series. Rated 5 stars on 65 reviews.

For more see Debora Geary’s Amazon Page and website.

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30. Debra Webb

Debra Webb explores both the romance and thriller genres with staggering intensity. Debra has honed her writing skills throughout her entire life, earning her immense talent. She published several novels in 2011 and intends to continue this pattern in the upcoming year.

2011 Novel
Classified (Harlequin Intrigue Series) Price: $3.99. Genre: Romance, Suspense, CIA. Rated 4.5 stars on 2 reviews.

2012 Novel
OBSESSION (Faces of Evil). Price: $2.99. Genre: Suspense. Rated 5 stars on 23 reviews.

For more see Debra Webb’s Amazon Page and website.

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31. Regina Sirois

Regina Sirois has one book published, On Little Wings. She identifies herself as more of a reader than a writer and truly understands the experience of reading a book. Because of this, her characters are easy to emphasize with and the story flows smoothly. Sirois is definitely an author to watch.

2011 Novel
On Little Wings. Price: $2.99. Genre: Literary Fiction. Rated 5 stars on 19 reviews.

For more see Regina Sirois’s Amazon Page and website.

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32. Amber Scott

Like many indie authors who work to keep up with their readers, Amber Scott published multiple novels in 2011. She mostly writes within the romance genre, her novels rich with varying themes. Amber writes as passionately as her work reads, earning her a definite place on this list.

2011 Novel
Irish Moon (Moon Magick Series). Price: $2.99. Genre: Fantasy. Rated 4 stars on 42 reviews.

2012 Novel
The Sweetest Fling (A Stupid Cupid Book). Price: $2.99. Genre: Romance, Dating, Love Potion, Fantasy. Rated 5 stars on 2 reviews.

For more see Amber Scott’s Amazon Page and website.

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33. Aaron Pogue

Aaron Pogue is an extremely well-rounded author who writes scripts, short stories, video game storylines, and novels. Pogue is experimental, having written in the fantasy, thriller, and science fiction genres. As well as being a successful author in many media, he is also the CEO and president of Consortium, Inc. and head publisher of their imprint, Consortium Books.

2011 Novel
Taming Fire (The Dragonprince Trilogy, #1). Price: $2.99. Genre: Fantasy. Rated 4.5 stars on 103 reviews.

For more see Aaron Pogue’s Amazon Page.

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34. Steve Anderson

Steve Anderson is obsessed with the English language: when he’s not writing novels, he works as a language instructor, waiter, and freelance copywriter. His writing displays a unique cleverness that comes from a deep understanding of English, with a noir crime style.

2011 Single
Sitting Ducks. Price: $1.99. Genre: Historical. Rated 4.5 stars on 7 reviews.

For more see Steve Anderson’s Amazon Page and website.

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35. Deborah Truscott

Deborah Truscott published her first novel in 2011, a romance with time travelling twists. The novel has been very well-received by readers and critics alike.

2011 Novel
Out of Time. Price: $2.99. Genre: Romance. Rated 4.5 stars on 22 reviews.

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36. Terri Giuliano Long

Terri Giuliano Long published her first novel at the end of 2010, and it was well-loved in 2011. When she isn’t writing her deeply insightful glimpses into the human experience, Terri lectures at Boston College. This literary-type author offers a fascinating and thought-provoking perspective.

2010 Novel
In Leah’s Wake. Price: $0.99. Genre: Literary Fiction. Rated 3.5 star on 142 reviews.

For more see Terri Giuliano Long’s Amazon Page and blog.

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37. Aiden James

Aiden James has written a number of novels this past year. He harbours a grand fascination with the Gothic and supernatural and researches supposedly haunted areas of the Deep South. Much of Aiden’s work consists of vampire fiction and series and it is incredibly real because he truly understands what it is to believe.

2011 Novel
Vampiric Liaisons. Price: $2.99. Genre: Horror. Rated 5 stars on 2 reviews.

2012 Novel
Vampires, Ghosts, and God (Five Novel Box Set). Price: $6.99. Genre: 5 Novels, Fantasy. Rated 5 stars on 1 review.

For more see Aiden James’s Amazon Page and website.

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38. Keith Houghton

Keith Houghton has been a best-seller on Kindle’s indie list. He released a few novels in 2011 and focuses on the crime and thriller genres. He has received much praise for his ability to seamlessly slip in dramatic twists to his work.

2011 Novel
Killing Hope (Gabe Quinn Thriller #1). Price: $2.99. Genre: Thriller. Rated 4.5 stars on 23 reviews.

For more see Keith Houghton’s Amazon Page and website.

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39. Victor Methos

Victor Methos started as a short story and poetry writer. Now, as a novelist, he brings a philosophical perspective to classic storylines. Throughout his career, Victor has been featured in a number of journals, magazines, and ezines for his outstanding and interesting work.

2011 Novel
The White Angel Murder. Price: $2.99. Genre: Suspense. Rated 4 stars on 28 reviews.

2012 Novel
The Extinct. Price: $2.99. Genre: Predators, Jungle, Horror. Rated 3.5 stars on 28 reviews.

For more see Victor Methos’s Amazon Page.

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40. Terri Reid

Terri Reid is the author of a series that had a respectable amount of success in 2011. Her passion for writing lies in the paranormal mystery sub-genre, having the necessary skills and stomach to write about the supremely weird.

2011 Novel
Loose Ends – A Mary O’Reilly Paranormal Mystery. Price: $0.99. Genre: Mystery. Rated 4.5 stars on 114 reviews.

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41. AK Alexander

AK Alexander is the thriller pen name of Michele Scott, an author. Michele works in multiple genres, with a definite and clear voice in each. She lets her dark side out with AK Alexander and offers supremely dark and suspenseful thrillers.

2011 Novel
Covert Reich. Price: $0.99. Genre: Mystery. Rated 4.5 stars on 3 reviews.

For more see AK Alexander’s Amazon Page.

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42. Dani Amore

Dani Amore, a crime and mystery author, released multiple novels this past year. From series to stand alone titles, she understands how to thrill readers, men and women alike. Her police-oriented books can be compared to the work of Janet Evanovich.

2011 Novel
Dead Wood. Price: $2.99. Genre: Thriller. Rated 4.5 stars on 40 reviews.

2012 Novel
The Killing League. Price: $2.99. Genre: Mystery, Police Procedurals, Thriller. Rated 4 stars on 24 reviews.

For more see Dani Amore’s Amazon Page and website.

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Please add in your suggestions and nominations. If there’s interest we’ll do this list more often than once a year.

Helping out an Indie Author

Kindle Nation writes about indie author April Hamilton and the unfortunate situation she is in (which she writes about herself in Hell and Hopefully Back).

The post also mentions the two books April has in the Kindle Store and readers have been showing their support and buying them. The two books are -

  1. Adelaide Einstein – rated 4.5 stars on 46 reviews. 
  2. Snowball – rated 4.5 stars on 12 reviews.

If you like one or both please do consider buying them. It’ll be a big help to the author as she goes through a really tough time for her.

Kindle Independent Author’s Novel gets optioned for film

Karen McQuestion’s self-published novel, A Scattered Life, got optioned for film by a production company in Hollywood.

Karen, in a blog post, puts in the standard disclaimer i.e.

Less than 1% of options result in movies, …

 but you know what? I don’t care. Right now, I am, to borrow my friend Linda’s expression, “wallowing in happiness.”

It’s HUGE achievement. It  has been picked up by the ‘Hiding in Bed’ Production Company and being produced by Eric Lake. There’s a chance we might see a movie based on it. That would be really cool. 

Hiding in Bed are partnered with Vanguard Films and Vanguard Animation.

a scattered life optioned for film

What Wonderful News - Indie author gets optioned for film

Karen has another kindle book I’d recommend – Easily Amused for $1.79 (24 reviews, 5 stars).

What exactly does this mean for Independent Authors?

Perhaps a little something. Perhaps a lot.

We now have -

  1. Kindle Store Independent Authors getting book deals i.e. Boyd Morrison and John Rector.
  2. Kindle Store Independent Authors getting their book optioned for film i.e. Karen McQuestion.
  3. Authors making meaningful amounts of money from their self-published books i.e. J. A. Konrath.

You also have the tangentially related Amazon Encore program which is picking up promising self-published authors.

Basically,

  1. Independent Publishing is becoming more and more viable.
  2. That gives readers a chance to pick what they like.
  3. It gives Publishers and Producers a chance to pick authors that are market tested.

This has dual benefits -

  • Publishing no longer has gatekeepers. 
  • It ought to make Publishers more focused on helping authors and readers.

What does this mean for Publishing?

It’s a scary world for Publishers if Movie Producers get to the best independent authors before Publishers do.

It’s not like they didn’t know about Karen McQuestion – one of her books is rated 5 stars on 24 reviews. There’s a top 100 indie authors list and she has multiple books on it. Have pointed readers to her books multiple times.

It’s not even my job to find writing talent and still can’t help running into indie authors in the Kindle Store who deserve to be published and aren’t. How the heck are Publishers not finding these authors?

What are Publishers doing?

Here are a few more indie authors that have multiple books in the Top 100 indie titles in the Kindle Store (or books with spectacular reviews) -

  1. Anne L. Watson – Skeeter: A Cat Tale and Pacific Avenue. 
  2. Dennis Batchelder – Soul Intent and Soul Identity. Big movie potential for this one.
  3. James Somers – Perdition’s Gate and Hallowed be Thy Name and Order of Shaddai.
  4. John Pearson – Learn Me Good. 4.8 stars across 54 reviews.
  5. Stacey Cochran – The Colorado Sequence and Claws.
  6. Dave Dykema – Stalker and Wrong Turn.
  7. Kristen J. Tsetsi – Homefront and Carol’s Aquarium.
  8. K. A. Thompson – Charybdis and It’s Not About the Cookies.
  9. Zoe E. Whitten – Trail of Madness and 3 other books.

There are a lot of other deserving indie authors.

Consider the work already done -

  1. These authors have written, polished, done the supposedly ‘expensive’ formatting, and gotten their books into the Kindle Store.
  2. Kindle owners have bought, read and reviewed the books.

All Publishers have to do is figure out that past success plus the ‘invaluable expertise and marketing muscle of Publishers’ ought to be a good indicator of future success.

Indie Authors are already doing all the dirty work – What more do publishers expect? 

Consider two cases -

  1. John Pearson and his book’s 5 star rating after 57 reviews. Hardly any books ever get rated that well.
  2. Zoe Whitten who has 4 books in the Top 100 Kindle Store Independent Books.

It’s inexcusable to not pick up such obvious candidates for publishing – good reviews, decent sales on pure word of mouth. What more could authors do to prove they are marketable?

Independent Authors – get 42.5% from Kindle Store

This makes zero sense to me. Apparently you can get more than the 35% cut that Independent Authors get from the Kindle Store.

By going through SmashWords.

SmashWords say on their blog that they will pay Authors and Publishers 42.5% of the Kindle Store list price -

Smashwords will pay authors and publishers 42.5 percent of the digital list price (set by the author) for book sales through Amazon. 

The rate is higher than what many ebook authors can receive on their own if they publish direct with Amazon.

Really? A Publisher will pay Indie Authors a bigger cut than Amazon will?

Great for SmashWords, Makes no Sense for Amazon

Isn’t it a bit strange that Amazon would rather send independent authors to SmashWords than have them come straight to Amazon.

  1. SmashWords has also struck deals with Sony and Barnes & Noble and ShortCovers.
  2. Which means that not only do Independent Authors make more in the Kindle Store they get three additional channels.

Well, if a Publisher is prospering it might as well be Smashwords -

  1. They give up to 85% of revenue to authors (for sales at Smashwords).
  2. Authors can choose to give some part of that 85% to affiliates who promote their titles.

So when a blogger reviews your indie title you can throw in an incentive.

SmashWords’ Criteria to get into their Premium Catalog

Do read the full details under Criteria for Inclusion. This is a summary -

  1. ePub format. 
  2. Smashwords Style Guide formatting.
  3. Title, Description, Book Cover, Copyright Page, Published By, etc.  – all in reasonable shape.
  4. Accept the Terms of Service and not violate it.

Mark Coker is definitely doing a great job with SmashWords. The question is – How Great?

Could SmashWords become a Publishing Behemoth?

Consider what they have in place -

  1. Tie-ups with Amazon, Sony, Barnes & Noble, and Shortcovers. 
  2. That includes fictionwise.com and ereader.com as they are owned by Barnes & Noble.
  3. A 42.5% cut for Authors when Amazon offers just 35%. 
  4. A very compelling deal i.e. only give up 15% of your book’s revenue to Smashwords.
  5. An affiliate program so you can incentivize bloggers and site owners to promote your titles.
  6. They only have format requirements and let readers decide on quality.

They aren’t shy about expanding either -

  1. They bought New Zealand publishing start-up Book Habit on November 19th. That added 340 authors to SmashWords’ roster. 
  2. They signed up with Stanza/Lexcycle in January 2009.
  3. They have all the major eReader makers signed up.

Best of all – no competition that I know of. SmashWords might become huge just by showing up.

Why aren’t there more companies in this space?

An individual indie author may or may not succeed.

However, as a whole – Independent Authors are going to make platforms like Amazon and Publishers like Smashwords a lot of money.

  1. There are 100 different companies making eReaders.
  2. Yet, there are just a handful of companies getting into Publishing.
  3. Surely, people who buy eReaders are going to want books to read.

SmashWords have a great model -

make money off of every sale, get every indie author on-board. Then, as long as ebooks are selling, you’re doing well.

The 100,000 copies success makes you money and the 57 copies failure makes you money.

As a bonus everything is bits and you could even use Amazon’s very own Cloud Computing Services to do it all for super cheap.

Independent Author Likelihood of Success Algorithm

This is actually meant more as a self-check list for authors than a ‘picking which indie author’ to sign list for publishers. It’s also not meant at all for ‘celebrity authors’.

These are the 6 key areas we will look at -

  1. Quality of Writing (as determined by Readers). This is the most vital criteria and in some (not all) cases makes everything else irrelevant.
  2. Amount of Effort put in by the Author and Persistence. 
  3. Optimization, 80-20 principle and Outlier Success Patterns.
  4. How well the Author understands how things work. 
  5. Signs of Improvement (in Author’s work and approach).  
  6. Obvious Gaps. 

Amount of Effort put in by the Author, and Author’s Persistence

Putting this first as people have to actually know about your book and read it before they can like it.

How many of these items has the author covered -

  1. Spent a year or more writing the book (actually writing, not thinking about writing). 
  2. The effort to start and maintain a blog.
  3. Crafted a personal story and a story for the book.
  4. Used (and continues to use) 2 or more of book social networks, forums, Facebook, and twitter.
  5. Used (and retails via) 2 or more of Kindle Store, Feedbooks, Scribd, SmashWords, etc.
  6. Non-zero book signing tours and some amount of face to face promotions.  
  7. At least a few relationships or connections with authors, readers, and so forth. 
  8. Put up hard money i.e. an amount of money that is not pocket change. This could be for anything i.e. design, web presence, marketing, editing. However, your own time doesn’t count.  
  9. Committed to writing as their #1 priority. Not #2 and not #1 after x months – #1 Now.  

If, as an author, you don’t have the majority of these covered, there probably aren’t enough people reading your books.

Note that this is separate from efficiency of effort i.e. how smart your strategy is. In some ways a lot of effort with poor strategy is much easier to correct than great strategy with poor effort.

Quality of Writing based on readers’ actions

This is basically how much readers like the authors’ work. Not critics, not editors, not publishers, not literary agents – only what readers think of the author’s work.

If you feel that making agents and publishers happy is more important than what readers think, then this post is not for you. Your years of being familiar with the existing publishing system makes it difficult for you to fully exploit the opportunities the new publishing model creates.

Perhaps its best you go back to the ‘trying to get an agent, trying to get a Publisher’ mindset.

Here are the ways to tell what readers think -

  1. What they tell you. The best way to figure this out is to ask them.
  2. Sales. No way around it – books that are good, almost always sell.  
  3. Reviews. 
  4. Discussions and comments at forums and at the author’s site. 
  5. Amount of traffic author gets and amount of discussion at his blog and site.

One of the biggest advantages of the emerging New Publishing model is that you can continually get feedback from readers and create something that matches their needs and tastes exactly.

Additionally, the more involved you get readers in you and your books the more they’ll help you succeed – by word of mouth, by buying your books, and lots of other ways.  

Optimization and Outlier Success Patterns

This is all about the 80-20 principle.

When you track an author’s efforts versus his sales and results there will always be patterns – things that work better, things that produce more results.

  1. A certain price point will provide the best profits. 
  2. Certain demographics will buy the most books.
  3. A few channels will create the most sales.
  4. A certain type of promotion or offer will triple sales.  

The really, really big advantage we now have is -

  1. The ability to try out lots of different strategies and prices.
  2. Being able to try them out at little to no cost.
  3. Statistics to track the impact of changes. 

Authors have the option to, and must, optimize and figure out what things work best for them.

How well the Author understands how things work

We’re in a very different world today -

  1. You can now have a very strong, very direct author-reader connection.
  2. An author can create their own channel and sell without any middle-men whatsoever.
  3. Even more importantly authors can sell ebooks that are very, very cheap to produce and distribute.
  4. An author’s brand (story, image, likeability) is much, much more crucial now.

The big question though is – Does the Author get It? Is he acting on It?

Here are the things the author ought to be doing -

  1. Blogging on own website.
  2. Selling direct to customers from his own website.
  3. Selling via channels like the Kindle Store and Smashwords.
  4. Building up a story and a brand.
  5. Building up strong relationships with customers (ideally on your own site).
  6. Selling ebooks. There is absolutely no excuse to be an independent author who does not sell ebooks.

Signs of Improvement (in Author’s Work and Approach)

What are the improvements in the author’s new book?

  1. Is the writing better (according to readers)? 
  2. Is the book better executed, better promoted, has a stronger appeal? 
  3. Is the new book selling more?
  4. Is it creating more readers with loyalties and/or affinity to the author? 

The amount of improvement is not as important as the fact that there is an improvement.

What are the improvements in the author’s approach? In particular, which of these strategy shifts and improvements have taken place in the last 6-12 months -

  1. Is the author connecting better with readers? 
  2. Did the author move from typepad/wordpress to his own website?
  3. Did he just start using Facebook, Twitter, and online forums to find readers? 
  4. Has he started selling books directly?
  5. Has he introduced new promotions that worked and gained him exposure and readers?

Again, the continuous improvement in approach is more important than how big the improvement is.

Obvious Gaps (except to the Author)

This is the most interesting factor i.e. the gaps and flaws in your strategy.

Are you missing one of more of the above -

  1. Getting your books in front of enough people. 
  2. Enough polish and iterations in your writing.  
  3. Good support from editors, designers, etc.
  4. A strong relationship with your readers. 
  5. Direct channel that you control.  

Are there any other fundamental elements of your strategy that are missing. Could it be that those are the final missing ingredients?

A gap that the author is aware of is a very bad sign. However, obvious gaps that the author has missed can lead to a lot more success.

Closing Thoughts

This is just the first iteration so there are a lot more improvements that can be made to this algorithm.

It is a good back of the envelope calculation for figuring out where an author stands -

  1. 3 points for quality of writing. 
  2. 2 points for amount of effort and persistence, and 2 points for optimization.
  3. 1 point each for the other factors.

You get an out of 10 score for any author’s likelihood of success.

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