Sunday, September 13, 2015

The Basement - An All-Time Kindle Bestseller

Amazon recently announced that a book of mine - The Basement - was one of the Top 10 independently published eBooks of all time.  You can read about it by clicking HERE (the Guardian)  and HERE if like me you're not a fan of the Guardian.

Amazon also announced that I am the sixth top-selling UK independent author over the past five years!

That's pretty impressive as most of my books are still traditionally published, by Hodder and Stoughton!

These days The Basement is published by Amazon Encore. But I first published it myself, back in 2010, when self-publishing was in its infancy.

I was one of the first - if not the first - writers to realise that cutting prices was a great way of boosting eBook sales and I sold The Basement for the minimum Amazon price of 99 cents, equivalent to just 75p in the UK. I sold hundreds of thousands of copies and it stayed in the Kindle UK Top 5 for months. It was one of three self-published books I put on line in 2010 - the others were Once Bitten and Dreamer's Cat. They were equally successful and at one point I had the top 3 places on the UK Kindle bestseller list. I'm pretty sure I'm the only British writer to have achieved that honour! This is what The Basement looked like back then.

Amazon Encore went to to publish Once Bitten - a vampire story set in Los Angeles - and it has been a regular bestseller for them over the years.

It's worth taking a look at the all-time independently published eBook bestseller list. It makes for interesting reading.  Here's the list -

The top two books are both by Rachel Abbott,  a relative newcomer to self-publishing, which goes to show that it is still possible to start from nowhere and sell an awful lot of books! She gives hope to all independent writers and shows that it's not necessary to have a regular publishing deal. She also has a book at Number 7.

I have to say that if Amazon Encore hadn't taken over The Basement it would probably have been much higher in this chart. It was only self-published for two years and after Amazon Encore published it the book went onto top the US Kindle chart. The Basement is one of very books that have been Number 1 in the Kindle list in the UK and the US.

There are some other interesting authors in the Top 10. Nick Spalding is at Number 5, He went on to sign a publishing deal with Hodder and Stoughton but he has since gone back to self-publishing.

A book by former journalist Kerry Wilkinson is Number 6 on the list. He started some time after me but did really well, later switching to a traditional publisher, Pan MacMillan. His books have continued to sell well. You can read about Kerry's success HERE

At Number 9, just below The Basement, is Mark Edwards, who had amazing success as a self-published writer. Mark signed a six-figure deal with Harper Collins but in his own words it all went "horribly wrong" and he is now back self-publishing. You can read about that HERE

I saw both Mark and Kerry - on separate occasions -  at the Crime Writers Festival in Harrogate. They were there as spectators rather than speakers and they were both clearly nervous and feeling out of place, and it occurred to me at the time that they had no reason to be over-awed by the writers on display. Between them they sold more in one week than a lot of writers there had sold in their entire career.

All three writers did amazingly well as self-published writers. I think that's because they wrote fast-paced stories, but more importantly they were writing for readers rather than editors. All three were also terrific at dealing with their readers, on social media and in person.

Why did it go wrong for Mark and Nick, but worked out so well for Kerry? That is one of life's mysteries. No pun intended. I would say that they are all terrific writers, and they are all great at interacting with their readers. I'm not sure it's fair to blame the publishers, there is something else at work, I think. I'm moving towards the view that some types of writing are better suited to eBooks. Maybe it's the technology, the fact that all you do is click to turn a page so people read faster. Maybe faster-paced books with fewer descriptions and lots of dialogue sell well as eBooks but not so well as paperbacks. And maybe it is price sensitive. Maybe people will pay 99p for a frothy rollicking eBook romance but won't pay £6.99 for a paperback. Maybe it's the fault of booksellers who are unwilling to promote a former self-published writer.

I'm still giving it a lot of thought, and have yet to reach any firm conclusions, I'm afraid. I'm lucky in that I'm in both worlds. I'm still one of the most successful UK self-published writers, but I am also regularly in the Sunday Times Top 10 hardback fiction list. I know I spend more time writing my Hodder hardbacks, but that's because they are generally longer - my Hodder novels tend to be 120,000 plus words while my self-published books are generally below 100,000. I would say that the quality is the same, but I have to leave that to my readers to decide!

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