Sunday, February 27, 2011

Best Selling Author on Amazon UK Is Self-Published

Stephen Leather
All of us, if we admit it, are probably a little bit stunned at the pace at which e-books and e-book readers are impacting the world of publishing.  While there are obvious pros and cons associated with this brave new world, other, less obvious, changes are occurring as well.  Take, for instance, this story in the U.K.'s Guardian about how one self-publishing author is doing quite well selling e-books via the Kindle.
...a British thriller writer who sells his novels as ebooks for as little as 70p is proving the naysayers wrong.

Not only does Stephen Leather, Britain's leading "independent" writer, estimate he has occupied the number one spot on's Kindle ebook bestseller lists for "90% of the last three months", he is also selling "somewhere in the region" of 2,000 ebooks a day – and making big profits in the process.
Capitalising on the popularity of e-readers such as the Kindle, a new generation of writers is bypassing agents and publishers and using the flexible pricing model of ebooks to offer their work directly to the public at rock-bottom prices. Some, like Leather, are achieving huge sales, which, not surprisingly, is striking fear into publishers.
In Leather's case, he was already a published author when he decided to turn three rejected manuscripts into Kindle e-books. Selling the books at the minimum amount Amazon allows (99 cents) as he does, Mr. Leather's revenue stream is quite impressive, sometimes in the neighborhood of $16,000 per month.

It's no wonder that publishers might be a little concerned by this new business model.  After all, who is more perfect for this kind of thing than mega-seller James Patterson and a handful of others that sell in Patterson-like numbers.  Patterson, on second thought, might be a poor example.  He is, after all, a man that already farms out much of the writing upon which he slaps his brand, so doing his own marketing would not seem to be something he would find appealing.  Other big name writers, however, might enjoy the challenge.

But, three cheers for the little guy that might just be able to build a market for himself this way.  Is Amazon destined to become the largest publisher in the world?  It would not surprise me in the least.

For a better feel for how Leather has made this work so well for himself, take a look at his personal blog, called, appropriately enough: Stephen Leather's Blog.

And, please do click through (from the link in my first paragraph) to the entire Guardian article...lots more there.


  1. Certainly interesting to see how things are changing in publishing. I wonder who the readers are - there's a lot of them!

  2. Nik,

    Does this kind of thing make sense to you? Is it something you would ever consider?

    I think the readers are folks like me...always in search for a reading bargain because we read so many books a year that we can barely afford to keep up with our habit. I know that I always check Amazon for free e-books and I'm often surprised to see what's on offer at no cost or for only a buck or two. I do think it's a good way for a writer to get some immediate attention - and, in what I suspect are rare cases like Leather's, to make some real money.

  3. This is very interesting, after having read comments from several self-published authors on other blogs that complained about the low prices (anything $1.99 and lower) that readers expect. Their comments were something along the lines of "I can't possibly make enough off my writing to live off of AND pay to have cover art made, my work professionally edited, etc."

  4. Hey Sam, Yes it makes sense to me, though I do think that cases like these are the exception rather than the norm.

    Is it something I'd consider? Probably not, no. I like having the insurance that comes with having a publisher. I like that they know what they're doing better than I do; there's (as I'm sure you know) so much more to writing than simply writing, and I'd rather have people who know what they're doing (type-setters, copy eds, illustrators, publicity people etc etc) doing what they've trained to do. I can write quite well, but that's about as far as it goes!

    Of course that isn't criticising anyone who does do it on their own (fair play to them, and good on them too) but I think you have to be particularly lucky to sell in the numbers you've mentioned here. I also think there's a danger that your work could get lost in a soup of not so great stuff.

    What I'd like to see more of is publishers offering eBook versions of their titles at a reduced rate; there's nu reason why they shouldn't and, as we can see, people are downloading them in huge numbers, which is a very good thing.


  5. Library Girl, I think, as Nik says, this kind of huge e-book success (at these prices)will prove to be pretty rare. But selling even a fraction of the books this author is selling is better than not selling at all, I would think. It certainly does give writers one more option, temporary though it might be.

  6. Nik, I hear you. This kind of thing is certainly not for everyone - I think it depends entirely on the temperament of the writer and how much he/she feels comfortable taking on.

    Funny that you should mention e-book pricing. I am noticing here lately that prices are creeping ever upward. Some publishers are charging very close to what they charge for a hardcover edition, in fact. And with all the discounting that happens on bestsellers, some e-books are priced even higher than what I have to pay for a hardcopy of them while they are on the NYT bestseller list. That's just poor marketing, I think.

    I hate the idea of paying that kind of money for an e-book when I am restricted as to how I use the book...can't loan it to friends, can't use it on multiple e-Readers, etc. Something has to change if they want to see the market for e-books reach its potential any time soon.