Indie Publishing, Publishing, writing

Becoming An Amazon Bestseller: The Stats

Pic via Pexels

Before I get started, I wanted to let you know that this isn’t one of those, why you’ll never be a bestseller type articles, it’s an article about mathematical odds.  The odds about Amazon’s KU program and the amount of competition you’ll face on just Amazon alone.  There’s this prevailing notion that it’s simple to become a bestseller on Amazon, after all they make it so easy to publish that it seems success is inevitable, right?  Yet what a lot of indie authors don’t understand is that we need to know the industry before we publish.  For example, how saturated is the market?  Should we bother creating an audio book?  What are the odds for authors published through Amazon to actually make it to the bestseller’s list?

Using Amazon’s own numbers, I’ve put together some facts that will either confirm your suspicions or utterly shock you.

How Many Books?

It’s estimated that Amazon holds 65% of all new online print and digital sales in the U.S. and that percentage is expected to go up as Barnes & Noble (their second biggest competitor) changes their business model which will now focus less on books.

(These numbers are from as of January 12, 2017):

They sell over 33 million books on their website which includes:

  • 19 million Paperback
  • 6 million Hardcover
  • 8 million Digital
  • 305,000 Audio
  • 500,000 Large Print

That means if you have 1 book, your odds are 1 in 33,000,000 and the more books you publish, the better your odds get. Now I know these sound like astronomical odds but when you consider that most major publishers and indie authors don’t market their books at all, your odds improve ever so slightly.

On a side note, your odds of winning the lottery are around 1 in 13,000,000.   Just thought I’d throw that in.

Is Going Exclusive The Ticket To Exposure on Amazon?

In 2011, Amazon created a program called Amazon Select that would help self-published authors get better visibility on their website.  For 5 days you could set your book’s price at free, but as you can imagine there was a catch, authors had to agree to a 90 exclusive period.  That meant no selling your book at any other retailers.  This seemed like a no-brainer and many authors signed away but it’s now 6 years later and Amazon’s website contains over 912,000 free ebooks as I type this (January 12th 2017).  Some of these books are permafree while most are enrolled in Select.

Kindle Unlimited

I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t mention the most controversial program in self-publishing history and that’s the Kindle Unlimited program.  It’s Amazon’s subscription service where readers can read, or listen to an unlimited amount of books and magazines for a monthly fee of $9.99.  As of today, Amazon boasts of 1 million titles in that program.



So How Do We Stand Out From The Others?

If you’re feeling demoralized after reading all these stats don’t, selling books was never easy just ask any publisher.  Yet as we speak the barriers that once prevented indie authors from getting into libraries and major chain stores are slowly disappearing.  So it is truly the best of times and the worst of times for the publishing industry.  Now begs the question what do we do about it?  Here are a few suggestions for improving your odds:

  • Create a reasonable business plan and make yourself accountable.
  • Build a platform
  • Publish during popular shopping holidays; Thanksgiving, Christmas, Halloween, etc.
  • Make your book available at retailers and libraries.
  • Network with influencers and other indie authors
  • Have a marketing budget because effective marketing costs money.

It goes without saying that the earlier you start the better, this way you can pivot and maneuver in case of a catastrophe.  Just this past year alone, several sites like All Romance Ebooks, Ellora’s Cave, and Pixel of Ink closed their doors for good, citing Amazon or the market at large as the reason for their closing.  Needless to say, this forced some authors to scramble and find alternatives.

The Moral of This Story

The moral of course is that success comes in many forms not just bestseller lists and awards.  For some of us, just being able to make a living doing what we love is more than enough validation.  And though the competition is tough, it is possible to break through with a lot of hard work, smart marketing strategies and of course, perseverance.  However we still need to be realistic about what we’re willing and able to do because honesty is the foundation of any great career.


Book Promotion, Marketing, Writing Business

Noise Trade: Letting Others Decide Your Book’s Worth


Noisetrade began as an indie music site where up and coming musicians could give away their work for exposure. However there was a twist, unlike most freebie sites, customers could tip artists. It was sort of a pay what you can thing.  Recently, Noisetrade got into the book business, and indie authors like Hugh Howey, are all onboard.  You see, all the cool authors are doing it but should you?

The Good, the Bad, the What?

According to the site, authors upload their ebooks and readers get to download it for free and if they (the readers) feel moved, they’ll tip you.  Noisetrade only takes a 20% cut and that’s how they make their money.  However, most people won’t tip at all and when they do, you might be able to pay your Netflix subscription with it.  At least that’s what I’ve been told.

Another point brought up by several authors is the permission issue. You see, when people download your book, they must give an email address. You are then sent that person’s email address via NosieTrade.  However you, the author, may still need to get their permission to email them or you could be spamming because it was NT that originally collected the data and not you.  It’s all contained in this line on the website, “Author/Publisher shall comply with all laws and regulations applicable to user data collection, data disclosure, and data use practices. Unless agreed to otherwise, NoiseTrade and Author/Publisher shall jointly own all user data collected from the Services”  In other words, you may need to send readers an opt in form just to make sure they’re cool with hearing from you.

Why Even Bother?

Noisetrade is being used by authors to build up their email lists or to amass a following for a book series. It’s no secret, free books are the most marketable because there’s no risk on behalf of the reader. Though I’m not a believer in giving things away for nothing, I do believe in a fair trade. If Noisetrade can get you a few reviews or new subscribers then why not? With a well rounded marketing strategy, NT can be an asset to any indie author’s book just like NetGalley or

You can be Featured on Noisetrade for a Price

To be featured on their site you will need $250 which is a lot of money considering the site is new to the book business.  But if you want to take a chance you can email Joel Rakes: at and he’ll hook you up.

Honestly, you don’t need Noisetrade or any other site to giveaway your book. Many authors especially nonfiction authors, are giving away their books and using the pay what you can tactic on their very own websites.  However, if you want to spread the word about your book, you might want to expand your reach to where the readers are.  But since this is a new site there aren’t many authors who can vouch for NT’s effectiveness in moving books.  I encountered one author on the Kboards who claims she’s only had 50 downloads in a month and that was with promotion!

The Takeaway

It’s hard to say if Noisetrade will become the next KDP for indie authors, because it’s just too early but it is an avenue to consider if you got a free book to offer.  Honestly, I wouldn’t bother with paying for promotion because it probably won’t give you more exposure.  At least not $250 worth.

Okay, there you go, another promotional hack to add to your arsenal.  Next week, I’ll be discussing book clubs, how to find them and how to approach them.


Ethical Bribes For Indie Authors

Image via Pixabay

Recently, I saw a contest where a blogger gave readers $60 to leave a comment.  This blogger was calling it a contest however, I didn’t agree.  What I saw was bribery.  But no matter what I thought, it was effective.  As I thought more about it, most contests are bribes anyway: do X, get Y.  With authors our X’s are generally, book reviews, or social media followers.  So how do we get what we want without looking like shady?

Contests That Don’t Work

Free eBooks are passé since Amazon started their KDP program, these days everyone and their mother is giving away free eBooks.  For example, Guy Kawasaki author of APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur said he gave away 200 eBooks in exchange for a review and only 40 of these people actually responded.  That’s about a 20% rate and he’s an online celeb!

Also, stickers, postcards, bookmarks and anything small and cheap rarely gets a huge response.  I once saw a Facebook admin begging people to enter a contest for a bookmark.  It was pretty sad!  I don’t understand, why authors have a contest where the postage stamp is more expensive than the prize?

How to do it Right!

Naïve authors have upped the ante by giving away freebies like gift cards, hardback books, and even Kindles, only to get screwed by not demanding something in return before the payday.  I’ve seen many authors complaining about how shady people are and how hard it is to get anyone to support their book.  One author gave away a free hardback of his new book to whoever would review the book on Amazon.  Guess what?  The winner took the book and never delivered on their end of the bargain.  His mistake: not getting the winner to do something BEFORE he ponied up the prize.  This way we all win.

Creating Prizes

To stand out from the crowd, and not be the typical author giving away ebooks or gift cards, try creating other products like t-shirts, posters and even cell phone cases with your book’s cover or quotes.  There are sites like Cafepress and Zazzle who help you do just that.  However, you have to be careful when using pictures of your cover unless, you’re certain that you own 100% of the rights to the image/art and not just a temporary license.  This will ultimately save you a trip to court.

Contest Ideas

Just so you don’t end up like that Facebook admin who was begging for entries to her book mark contest, here are a few contest ideas that will benefit you and your contestants.

Need a review?  Here’s a spin on freebies: give away a free ebook then tell contestants that when they review it, they’ll get a signed hardback or gift card.

Need likes on you Facebook page or retweets?  Ask people to share or retweet a carefully crafted post you’ve created featuring your book’s details and give away a t-shirt or swag pack.

Want more blog traffic or comments on your posts?  Ask a moderately difficult question and whoever answers it correctly, gets a gift card or a poster.

Awesome Contests That Delivered

Not long ago, there was a fantasy author who used a treasure hunt to promote his book.  The prize: a golden wand worth thousands.  Keep in mind this was sponsored by his publisher, one of the NY big six.  However, he was the one who set up a website with a message board where he moderated as one of the characters from his books.  Interesting eh?

Another author held a Twitter contest where readers had to retweet a post and with each RT, she would donate x amount of dollars to a local charity.  P.S. she ended up owing this charity a few grand.

Promote the Crap Out of it

Don’t forget to shout this from the roof tops if you want maximum results.  You can use social media, blogs, and podcasts to help raise awareness.  Some authors have even used online ads to promote their contests.  Again, this is your contest, and your rules.

A Final Word:

I wouldn’t be doing my job unless I told you to not pin all your hopes on contests.  There are people who scour the internet looking for contests as though it were their profession.  They’re often called, “sweepers” people who enter sweepstakes or (contests) with no regard for the prize at all.  So don’t expect to make fans out of these people.  Your objective is to get people to do something for you such as, review your book, or like your Facebook page.

Now it’s your turn, have you had any contests to promote your book?  Let us know what worked and what didn’t?