Another Anti-Self-Publishing Hit Piece

BullOnly 40 authors “make money” on Amazon! The horror! All the rest don’t make any money says author Claude Forthomme on her blog. This startling claim came to my attention because it’s been making the rounds on Facebook, and my bull-sh*t detectors went off immediately.

It’s all about math. The actual announcement from Amazon was that close to 40 independent authors had sold more than a million copies of their e-books. Let’s assume an average sale price of $3.99, of which the author gets 70 percent, so we’re talking about $2.80/e-book. That means that if an author sold the minimum of one million in five years, they were netting $560,000/year. Awesome! But surely they’re not the only authors making money. What about the ones making $10,000/year or $50,000/year?

Where Forthomme went off the rails was to claim that, “all the others, and they number in the hundreds of thousands, don’t.” (make money) I read the New York Times article Forthomme referenced, and nowhere does it say that only 40 authors are making money. Here’s the actual quote from the article:

Over the last five years, close to 40 independent authors have sold more than a million copies of their e-books on Amazon, the company said.

Once again: neither Amazon nor the New York Times article said that these were the only authors making money. In fact, I don’t know where Forthomme gets her “make money” quotation because those two words don’t appear together anywhere in the article. Try a search and you’ll see, so it’s a fake quote.

I skipped over to to read their February report and sure enough, self-published authors are cleaning up. In fact, the Times article quotes another Amazon statement:

Last year, a third of the 100 best-selling Kindle books were self-published titles on average each week.

I suspect Forthomme’s assumption that no one else is making money is because her novel, Crimson Clouds, even though it received glowing reviews, is not selling. It’s Amazon best seller rank puts it way over a million. Remember, number one on the best-seller rank is the best selling novel. That means there are more than a million novels selling better that Forthomme’s.

I share her pain. My novels have sunk in the ranks too, but that’s my own fault for not advertising, blogging, and coming out with new work. I intend to fix that problem, but I don’t blame the system for my poor sales rank, and I don’t assume that all but forty authors are in the same boat.

It’s a big publishing world out there, and a lot of authors are making a living, or at least paying down their mortgages faster, thanks to self-publishing. Forthomme has my sympathy, but before writing sensational anti-indie-publishing blogs, it’s critical to get the facts right.


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Mike is the author of the 1000 Souls series that includes: Sacrifice the Living, Generation Apocalypse, and Heretics Fall. Warning: they contain violence, adventure, fast-paced action and hopeless love.