It’s been a few weeks since Brent Underwood’s article What Does it Take to Be an Amazon Bestselling Author? $3 and 5 Minutes went viral through the writing community.
First I want to say that Mr. Underwood makes some fantastic points. There are most certainly people out there who game the system or charge authors ridiculous amounts to game the system for them. However, I’m here to point out that while it may be easy to get on Amazon’s bestseller list in obscure categories like Mr. Underwood proved – getting into larger, mainstream categories is a LOT harder. And when any title, indie or other, makes it into some of these bigger, not-easily-gamed categories – it actually IS a pretty big deal.
Sure, the Amazon or Barnes & Noble bestseller lists may not be the NYT Bestseller List or even USA Today, but getting into Amazon’s Top 100 Paid Romance titles for a couple of weeks at a time is no small feat. Nor is it easy to take the top spot on both Barnes & Noble and Amazon in the over-saturated erotica/erotic romance category. I did both, and it wasn’t easy.
I don’t take it lightly when someone dismisses my achievement of selling over 50.000 copies of a single indie title as if “anyone can do it”. No – no they can’t.
Even today, with ebooks, your average small press title is lucky to sell 250 copies. Your average mid-list title is lucky to sell 4,000 – 8,000 copies. It generally only takes a book selling 10,000 copies to get on one of the big bestseller lists. The drawback here is they are usually only counting physical copies sold. Back when Training Amy was an Amazon Bestseller (before erotica got hidden behind the filter) – there weren’t any real, well-known, respected and accurate bestseller lists for ebooks that people didn’t pay to get on, or that weren’t biased toward big publishing. If there were, my erotic romance novel Training Amy would have made that list at least once back in 2011. I know this because I made $117,000.00 in writing income that year thanks to that book. That was the book that launched my fiction writing career and it is one of the reasons I still make a living as a writer today.
But because I self-published, and because some people really don’t like the idea of writers without a publisher succeeding, certain people have to render my success (and the legitimate success of others) illegitimate with articles like the one above.
I’m not trying to brag or be cranky, but I earned my B&N BESTSELLER and AMAZON BESTSELLER rankings back in 2011.
Let me put my money where my mouth is from just my B&N sales ALONE from the first few months of 2011:
This is only 8 months worth of “paychecks” from B&N Nook from Dec 2010 to August 2011. My Amazon payments were just as neat and tidy, but a lot bigger. I actually hit the reader jackpot on B&N before my titles took off on Amazon.
Have I had bestsellers since? I’ve hit some high spots on Amazon and B&N with my Paranormal Romances. I’ve kept a couple of my Daemonolatry titles in the #1 spots in Demonology and Satanism. I also have a few books that tend to stay in the top 20-50 in Demonology and Satanism with some regularity. I am there because my books sell rather well, even for niche titles.
So tell me again how I gamed the system and I’m not a legitimate bestseller? To this day I still make more than a lot of my big-five mid-list writer friends who are lucky to sell 300 books a month of a single title. I usually surpass that 250 “small press” title benchmark the first month of new releases.
If you still think I’m illegitimate and that my Amazon Bestseller status was a joke, I guess that’s you’re right. Even if you convince 95% of the writing world that I’m a fraud – it doesn’t change the fact that readers enjoy my books and keep buying them, or the fact that I know just how legitimate my sales numbers actually are when I deposit my royalties into the bank. I know I’m not alone. There are legitimate bestselling Amazon and B&N authors out here, and getting to the top of these lists (in broader, bigger categories saturated with thousands and thousands of books) is anything but easy.