Thursday, 23 February 2012

A list of successful self publishers with over 50,000 sales

This week, to my great delight, my total sales passed the 50,000 mark. Last night my ebook sales stood at 51,914, plus some paperbacks (the numbers are harder to keep track of, even though they are a lot smaller). There is a thread on Kindleboards,  Authors who have sold more than 50,000 self-published ebooks to date, and I've reproduced the list below. Many have sold a LOT more - Chris Culver, for instance, sold 550,000 copies of The Abbey on his own. An asterisk indicates an author who was formerly traditionally published.

In circles hostile to indie authors, one often reads the assertion that although self-publishing has worked for people like Amanda Hocking and John Locke, the vast majority of us are lucky to sell 100 books. This necessarily incomplete list gives them the lie. And there are many more writers who, even though they haven't made this list yet, are earning respectable money from their writing and reaching readers.


Susan Alison 
Dani Amore
*Bella Andre
Melody Anne
Daniel Arenson 
Jake Barton
Robert Bidinotto

*J Carson Black
*Cheryl Bolen
Kathleen Brooks

Ryk Brown
Christopher Bunn
Catherine Bybee
Sarra Cannon
Karen Cantwell

Ruth Cardello
Camilla Chafer
Darcie Chan
Mel Comley
Shelly Crane 

*Blake Crouch
Chris Culver
David Dalglish
Emma Daniels

Dannika Dark
*Carol Davis Luce
Susan Denning
Saffina Desforges
Mainak Dhar 
Mark Edwards & Louis Voss
Dee Ernst
*Donna Fasano

*Ellen Fischer 
Penelope Fletcher
Tina Folsom
Marie Force

Melissa Foster
Anne Frasier
*Barbara Freethy
Jenny Gardiner

Tracey Garvis Graves
Debora Geary
*Lee Goldberg
Elena Greene
Denise Grover Swank
*Gemma Halliday
*Ruth Harris
Liliana Hart
Michael R. Hicks
Amanda Hocking
Debra Holland

Hugh Howey 
Nancy C. Johnson
Ty Johnston
Heather Killough-Walden
Selena Kitt
* J.A. Konrath
*Laura Landon 
*Eve Langlais
* Stephen Leather

Victorine Lieske
John Locke
Terri Giuliano Long
*CJ Lyons
H.P. Mallory
Michael G. Manning
M. R. Mathias
*KC May
*Bob Mayer
David McAfee

Stephanie McAfee
Karen McQuestion
Courtney Milan
Rick Murcer
*Scott Nicholson
Joe Nobody
Anne Marie Novark
Beth Orsoff
*Jessica Park
Shayne Parkinson

Paul Pilkington
Pandora Poikilos
Rose Pressey
*Michael Prescott
T.R. Ragan
J.R. Rain 
Terri Reid
Adam Rendon
Lexi Revellian
Shadonna Richards

Imogen Rose
Nick Russell
N. Gemini Sasson
*Michele Scott
Tori Scott
L.J. Sellers
Mark Sennen
Kathleen Shoop
Christopher Smith
Nick Spalding

Michael J Sullivan
*Laura Taylor
Vicki Tyley
Kathleen Valentine
Michael Wallace
Kerry Wilkinson
Nicole Williams
Zoe Winters
Laurin Wittig
Sarah Woodbury
Samantha Young
Rachel Yu

Friday, 17 February 2012

Kerning and other sources of irritation

xkcd: A webcomic of romance, sarcasm, math and language
I'm sure all my blog readers know what kerning is - okay, one of you at the back there doesn't. Sit up straight and pay attention.

 Kerning is the adjustment of space between characters in a line of text, using their shape and relationship to each other to 
make them more visually appealing.

I use it when doing the lettering for my book covers; Adobe Photoshop allows you to fine tune spacing to a high degree. 
Once you become aware of the possibility of bad kerning, you will be irritated by it whenever you come across an example.

Another thing that once noticed, bugs you forever is incorrect apostrophes - unnecessary apostrophes are even worse than missing ones, as they demonstrate an inept striving for accuracy.

Getting more esoteric, indents should not be used at the start of chapters and after scene breaks. A traditional refinement subliminally indicating a break to the reader, this is the convention in printed books but many formatters of ebooks don't seem to know about it. I can't help noticing it as I read. I wish I didn't.

(What was that you just said? Pedantic, moi? Plih.)

Sunday, 12 February 2012

Song lyrics in novels - just don't go there

John Lennon's IN MY LIFE lyrics, redacted
I can't remember where I first picked up the idea that it was very, very expensive to use snippets of song lyrics in the novel you are writing.

I'd heard The Beatles never get quoted at all as the charges for so doing are astronomical.

So when I came to the scene in Remix where Caz is in her best friend James's car and she uneasily suspects he is romantically interested in her, then Some Enchanted Evening plays on the radio, I knew not to quote a few lines from the song though I would have liked to.

Not everyone does, though. This is Blake Morrison talking about his eleventh novel South of the River in the Guardian:

'I'd restricted myself to just a line or two from a handful of songs and vaguely hoped that was OK or that no one would notice. My editor, reasonably enough, was more cautious, and at the last minute someone from the publishing house helpfully secured the permissions on my behalf.

'I still have the invoices. For one line of "Jumpin' Jack Flash": £500. For one line of Oasis's "Wonderwall": £535. For one line of "When I'm Sixty-four": £735. For two lines of "I Shot the Sheriff" (words and music by Bob Marley, though in my head it was the Eric Clapton version): £1,000. Plus several more, of which only George Michael's "Fastlove" came in under £200. Plus VAT. Total cost: £4,401.75. A typical advance for a literary novel by a first-time author would barely meet the cost.'

Strewth. For those of you who didn't know this, now you do.

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Making indies less indie...

Yesterday I read a curious piece in The Bookseller online about author and former literary agent Orna Ross's plans to set up a 'non-profit body representing the interests of self-published authors' called The Alliance of Independent Authors. Members will pay a fee to join.

And how will writers benefit from tAoIA?

Orna Ross says: "We will be speaking up on behalf of independent authors, and making links with booksellers, wholesalers, agents and legacy publishers, so people have an idea of what our creative needs are. It requires a change of attitude both in writers and in other players. In the past, the author was a resource to be mined, but indie authorship is about meeting the publisher as a partner."

Right. I've always yearned for booksellers, wholesalers, agents and legacy publishers to be aware of my creative needs. Whatever they are. I wonder what they'll do once they've worked them out?

And "indie authorship is about meeting the publisher as a partner" - well, stone me, I'd always thought indie authorship was all about going it alone without a publisher. Shows how little I know.

At the moment, it's Them and Us. The publishing industry is unhappy about the hordes of self-publishers cluttering up territory that hitherto they have managed to keep fenced and gated. They are cross with Amazon for letting it happen. They look back nostalgically to the time when they had a monopoly of distribution and bricks and mortar bookshops were the only outlets; when self-publishing meant a garage full of books and nowhere to sell them; when an author they rejected stayed rejected. And we don't like them much either - why would we? Most of us have had experience of being ignored or treated with contempt by agents and publishers.

If Orna does somehow organize that meeting between unlikely partners, I'd love to be there and take notes. 

Friday, 3 February 2012

Amazon KDP angst

At the end of January, Kindle Direct Publishing sales reports broke. I'd sold 201 copies of Replica on the 31st January after my promotion; when I woke on the 1st I'd sold another 20. For the rest of the day, nothing. For the next day or two, sales limped in intermittently, like survivors of a lost battle.

Nobody who hasn't self-published via KDP on Amazon will appreciate the disruptive effects of any glitch in Amazon sales reporting. We all look at our stats far too often, hoping for that small jolt of pleasure we get when another sale ticks up. When things go wrong, the herd gets restive - see this mammoth thread on Kindleboards. Traditionally published authors know nothing of this; their frustrations come from being completely in the dark as to what their book's rank means in terms of numbers sold. They are reduced to asking indies about it, who are generally much more helpful than their publishers.

Should we worry that, if sales are not reported to us, they are lost in the system and will not be paid for? Almost certainly not. Terence O'Brien wrote this about Amazon's two independent systems, sales and reports:

We can look at the characteristics of the two systems. One is the ordering/billing/delivery (OBD) system. The other is the KDP reporting.

The OBD is vital to the life of the company. The time and effort devoted to that kind of system, the backups and redundancies included, and the attention from management reflect that importance.

KDP reporting isn't necessary for anything. Nothing depends on it. It's just a nice gesture from Amazon to some of its suppliers.

So the OBD system is far more robust and flexible. It can, and probably does, recognize impending problems every day, and route around them. There is no reason to devote the same level of resources to KDP reporting, not in building it or fixing it.

There's a similar difference between Amazon Customer Support, which is legendary and excellent, and KDP Support...which is not. Responses are slow, and staff often misunderstand your point, deny there is a problem, or repeatedly fail to fix an acknowledged problem. 
It's really quite bad.