Best-Selling AND Unknown by M.L. Banner

I am currently somewhere off the coast of Cuba with intermittent internet access, so I’d like to thank Michael for taking over my blog today. Michael’s story is the real story of self-publishing. Yes, the vast majority of self-published works never sell in great numbers — just as the vast majority of queried works never sell a single copy (they never get the chance).

But there is a middle range of self-publishing success that gets almost no press. Michael’s story is one I could have written several years ago to describe what happened to me. I find these stories inspiring. And I understand that success is not a given, that it isn’t easy, that it requires a healthy dose of luck or the benevolent forces of the Great Algorithmic Unknown, but for me it helps to know that you don’t have to be the one in a million to make the hard work worthwhile. And it helps to know that writers with no prior following are still seeing results if they tell great stories.

Now I turn it over to Mr. Banner.

Best-Selling AND Unknown
by M.L. Banner

Nine months ago, I self-published my first book on Amazon. I won’t lie to you; this exercise was purely a flight of fancy for me. I really wasn’t planning a career in writing; only later did I find out I love to write. Then, something remarkable happened, an epochal event that changed everything for me: my book sold really well. Okay, maybe not Hugh-Howey-well, but still pretty darn good: over 2000 the first 30 days and over 6000 in 60 days. Just so there is no confusion, I had no following (maybe 15 people I know personally bought my book), and I had never written anything longer than an article (I’ve written many of these) before this. I certainly never expected to have a #1 bestseller in my two genres. However, I can’t take the credit for this any more than I can attribute it to luck. I know I had to write a good enough book, with a professional cover, a captivating blurb and all that. Yet, there was something else at work here.

I was a newbie author when I hit the “Save and Publish” button, but I’ve also been an entrepreneur for many years, having run businesses in lots of different markets. I have to tell you, I was absolutely blown away at the effortless and cost-free nature of self-publishing a novel and releasing it within hours to the book-buying-public. There is simply no other business with almost no barrier to entry and the ability to sell your product immediately. No doubt, it is this simplification and lack of barriers that has drawn thousands of new authors like me into self-publishing. Also true with more authors comes more bad books, but it means many more great books too.  And because the book market is not static, as indie cheerleaders like Hugh have pointed out, I believe the number of readers is expanding; add to the equation, low pricing and ease of purchase, brought on by clever self-publishing platforms, and that means the market is buying more and more books. My over-loaded Kindle and iPad can attest to this.

Okay, I know the big question is, “How did you do it?” A better question would be, “What was it that made your book sell so well?” In full disclosure, when I started, I didn’t know any of the other publishing platforms, and I didn’t spend much time researching them either. I chose KDP Select not because of any specific love for the company, it just sounded the easiest, and I knew Amazon held the largest share of the eBook market: It was a business decision.

When I published Stone Age ( in April, I had few expectations that I would peddle more than a dozen copies. A couple of days later, a few of my friends nibbled, then a few stalwart strangers bought, and then Amazon’s algorithms kicked in. My little tome made it onto Hot New Releases for both my chosen genres, giving it astounding instant visibility: As if a clerk plucked my novel from some vague pile and placed it in the front window of his book store—only this was the largest book store on the planet. And that was it. Three weeks later, Stone Age became a #1 best seller in both its categories, and has remained in the top hundred ever since.

Understand this, I am a bit of a tech guy and very process oriented—I still run several internet-based companies—so I wanted to find out why this happened and not leave anything to chance with the next one. On Halloween, I released my second book, a sequel to the first. Taking the knowledge gained from self-publishing Stone Age, I was much more purposeful in this launch, and the results were equally fruitful: it became an Amazon top ten Best Seller on the first day, #2 on the second day, and it remained in the top twenty through the New Year. Did lightning strike twice? No! Everything I did from writing to my audience, the professional cover, the editing and proof reading, the blurbs from fellow authors, advanced copy readers giving early reviews, cross-promoting my first book, and emailing my growing reader list, all contributed to my second book’s achievements and my first book’s resurgence. However, it was the Amazon structure that ensured my good fortune. Speaking of which, my November earnings from both books hit five figures.

This made something else plain to me: It turns out that self-publishing is far more lucrative than convincing a publisher to take your work for a minuscule royalty, just so you can say, “I’m published!” Don’t get me wrong, there are times when selling to a publisher may become a strategically wise move, but that doesn’t have to be the end game. I’ve met several authors who are “published” with large presses but haven’t sold very many books. I’m not bragging, just pointing out that making money as a self-published author, even quit-your-job-kind-of-money, is still very much possible by folks like me with practically no following.

To this end, Amazon’s brilliance shines. They’ve created the distribution network and the algorithms that give unknown authors’ books visibility in front of scores of readers who are looking for books in similar sub-genres. Understanding this and a few other things I’ll share, I know that if you write a good enough book, one that hits some of the hot buttons your readers expect, it will sell well.  In my case, Amazon’s network made my two books visible enough that almost thirty thousand people have found them. Without this structure, one word comes to mind: obscurity!

I’ve had an mind-numbing crash course in writing and publishing this past year. Yet, there are several things I’ve learned (both good and bad) that I wish my present-self could go back in time and warn my past-self about. Hopefully, you will benefit from my top mistakes and recommendations, and avoid the need for time travel.

My Top Five Mistakes that you’ll want to avoid:

1.  Don’t be cheap on editing – I went with the cheapest editor I could find. I just didn’t think anyone would buy my first book and so I didn’t want to invest that much in it. Big mistake! I am quite sure I would have sold thousands more copies of my first book had I not initially published with so many errors. Now I employ an editor and proofreader, and I get help from many wonderful volunteer beta readers.

2.  Don’t rush your book to the marketplace – Hold off clicking that “publish” button, no matter how tired you are of rereading it. Again, editors and betas can help you with this.

3.  Don’t think of other authors in your genre as competitors – Quite the opposite. Reach out to other authors, especially those who have had success in your genre. Read their books and post reviews on your platforms and then tell them about it. That’s how relationships start.

4.  Don’t be cheap on your own platform – Buy a domain and set up a website (you can do so with GoDaddy for less than $100 per year). Then, make sure your site’s focus is on building your subscriber list: These will be your future advanced copy reviewers and fan base that will push your next book onto the Hot New Releases list.

5.  Keep writing – Your most important activity is to write. Don’t stop. Make it a habit and write every day. Then when it’s ready (see #2), release your next book. Each book you publish (if it gains visibility) lifts the sales of your other books, especially those in the same series.

My top five recommendations to improve your chances of success:

1.  Take as much time to write your best book possible – I cannot stress enough how important this is. Again, get it right the first time. I lost many potential readers, perhaps permanently because I wasn’t careful with my first book.

2.  Publish to Kindle Select – I know this is a powder-keg issue right now because you’re reluctant to give into Amazon’s exclusively requirement (even though it’s only for 90 days), but this will absolutely help you in their algorithms and therefore their Best Seller Rankings. Remember, a higher ranking leads to more visibility, which leads to more sales. Married to exclusivity is anxiety over KU, but my KU borrows continue to boost my books’ rankings over those that are not in Select. Certainly if you have a big readership base you’ll need to examine this point more closely. But if you do not have many followers, this action is practically a necessity these days.

3.  Choose the right sub-genre – For your next book, choose the two sub-genres (fitting to your readership and the book’s storyline), with the lowest number of books in it. Check the bottom 100 of the Hot New Releases (in that sub-genre) and see what it would take to make it there. Use to help you translate Best Seller Rank (BSR#) into the approximate number of daily sales you’ll need.

4.  First goal: Make the Hot New Releases in at least one sub-genre – To do this, you’ll need to sell a progressive amount for the first five to eight days after launch. In most sub-genres, this is not a big number, but something like one sale the first day and maybe eight sales by the eighth day ought to be more than enough: That’s 42 books total. Do that and you should make it on the Hot New Releases list for your sub-genre(s). Boom, instant visibility! I’ve known other authors who set their book price at $0.99 for the first ten days or so, just to give it the added boost to make the HNR. Once you’re there, you’ll have up to 30 days of best-selling fun ahead of you.

5.  Use Countdown + promotions to build audience & visibility – With Kindle Select, you can run a Countdown (after your first 30 days) to get your book in front of another group of readers who haven’t tried you out yet. Then run a few promotions during those days. A $100 to $200 budget should be sufficient.

I truly feel blessed to write this.  After some initial luck, lots of hard work, marvelous people who have helped (including betas, editors, artists, other authors, etc.), and a little skill–hopefully improving daily–I have found an endeavor that has brought joy to me and to tens of thousands of people I can now call my readers.

This is an amazing age we live in where anyone can invest some time and a little money and be entrusted with almost complete power by platforms like Amazon to release a book to their immense customer base. More amazing still is that today, a complete unknown can complete head-to-head with big publishers and well-known authors and sell a lot of books.


For more from or about Michael, visit him at,








40 responses to “Best-Selling AND Unknown by M.L. Banner”

  1. Congratulations on your meteoric success – and great book. The cover doesn’t hurt at all – and the thought of essentially a giant EMP is extremely scary. Companies and governments should be out there, hardening the infrastructure (if that’s even possible) JUST on the basis of your book description.

    I’m looking forward to reading it.

    And, since I’m getting very close to publishing, I’m extremely grateful that you confirmed my choice: at least in the beginning, go Select.

    Some of the things you talked about – velocity – may be harder for me, but I can see your point: it may be better to wait UNTIL you can have your ducks lined up and ready to buy – and the numbers you talked about for the first few days are quite achievable.

    Thanks for all the information. With your business experience, you sound like an extrovert with a lot of energy – and those things can’t be bought by someone who is the extreme opposite. I’m wondering – did you make use of paid helpers, or was this mostly you doing the things you’re supposed to do?


  2. Alicia – I’m glad my words were helpful. I may be a bit of a social extrovert with friends new and old, but admittedly, I love the solace of being alone writing and working; not exactly an extroverted activity. Regardless, I don’t believe writing success shows preference to either personality type.

    I did not use paid helpers to act as beta readers. Admittedly, I’m blessed to have the most wonderful wife on the planet—I know most husbands say that. However, mine is also skilled at proof reading, and she loves my writing. When I first wrote Stone Age, I had no idea if it sucked or not. She read it first, and gave me the courage to move forward with it. I also asked other friends, who I thought were adept enough with their English skills to act as beta readers. Later, I’ve had a few readers of my two books volunteer. If you cannot think of others you know to beta read, try some of the author communities on Google+ and Facebook that offer a tit-for-tot; you read mine, if I read yours.

    Best wishes with your first book!

    1. Beta readers I have (can always use more).

      I meant paid help with marketing efforts, but I’m going to assume that you did that yourself (reviews, getting the Bookbub promotions, etc.).

      I don’t have a proofreading spouse – but a fellow writer has offered to do it.

      I can’t do the reciprocal deals – no energy. So I was just curious what you paid for – and considered worth the money.



      1. Alicia – I didn’t pay anyone, such as a publicist, to do my marketing. I know this may sound like a really daunting job; it’s not, but it’s an important one. Keep in mind, I did what I did–wrote my two books, learned about writing/publishing, and marketed my books–all part time! You can do this yourself. Understand that this is a skill you have to develop (as opposed to a talent you are born with). Start by reading books about marketing. I loved Write, Publish, Repeat, by Sean Platt, How to Market a Book, by Joanna Penn, and Let’s Get Digital by David Gaughran. The trick is to always be reading and learning, and don’t be afraid to try and make mistakes. Again, find other authors who are successful in your genre. They are on the front lines doing exactly what you want to do.

  3. Congrats on your great success. You give hope to this struggling indie author with more titles but far less stellar success. Thanks for sharing all your tips, too.

    1. Eduardo – You are an excellent writer and I very much enjoyed Decisive Moment. I have no doubt that your reader base will continue to grow and you will enjoy the fruits of your passionate labor. I also enjoy your thoughtful comments on G+ and on the G+ community, Writer’s Discussion Group by John Ward. That’s a hint to fellow authors.

      1. Thanks! So glad to hear you enjoyed Decisive Moment. Keep up the good work, man.

  4. You left out a reason for your well-deserved success: You writing! Your opening for Stone Age was vivid and emotional and pulled me right in — I can’t wait to read the rest of your book.

    I’m a bit of a data hound and an experimenter, so my question: As you add new titles, are you planning to test other retail platforms?

    Thank you for sharing your experiences so far….

    1. Michael – Thanks for your kind comments. I’m so critical of my own writing and constantly wonder if it’s bad. But, I’m always trying to learn and I have gained so much by corresponding with other authors, and reading other authors’ books and their blogs, like Hugh’s.

      I too am a data hound. I have spread sheets where I’ve manually tracked the rankings of my books and others daily for much of last year. To your question: I absolutely will release my books on other platforms–I harbor aspirations of one day making it on NYT and USA best seller lists–but I honestly don’t know when. I’m not at all opposed to any of the other platforms, some of which I know from others, are very good. I look at the current exclusive nature of my relationship with Amazon as purely strategic. Right now it works as I build my readership. I also hold up AG Riddle as another example ( albeit a very rare one), who has kept his work exclusive to Amazon and sold over a million copies there.

  5. This was extremely helpful! Thank you!

  6. I too congratulate you, Michael! You’ve had enormous success.

    I do wish, though, that ‘bestseller on the first book’ wasn’t the only story being told in self-publishing. Mine is very different and I know I’m not the only one.

    I have 16 novels out, all women’s fiction and all 4+ star rated (except the one with an unconventional ending that not everyone liked), published between December 2008 and November 2014. I WAS making around $40,000 a year but two years ago that began to decline, and no matter what I do I cannot regain traction. Even my first novel, a free download, isn’t doing as well as it used it.

    I have been having my covers redone, but the new professional look hasn’t changed my sales. I am in constant contact with my readers (they say I’m the most responsive author they know), and I do love that, but I badly want more readers and though I know my current ones recommend me I’m still selling fewer books each month. My books have reached the ‘movers and shakers’ list, but with nothing like your results.

    I can’t go KDP Select because my most loyal readers are on other platforms, and I truly don’t know what else I can do to turn things around. I love writing, and I love my readers, but watching those checks get smaller and smaller is agonizing.

    I AM truly happy for you that you’ve done so well. I just wish I could make it happen for me too. This is my full-time job, and if the trend keeps up I’ll be back on my husband’s income tax as a dependent next year! I feel like I’m on an icy hill in stiletto heels, just skittering downward with no way to stop.

    Hugh, if you read this, I would LOVE to see a post by an author who’s been in my spot and managed to turn things around. If such a creature exists!


    1. Heather – I respect your accomplishment a whole lot more than what I’ve done: writing 16 books is tremendous! And it sounds like you have a very loyal following, which I believe, is one of the main goals we have as writers.

      Please understand that I come at this from a different perspective as well as having a naïve sensibility–I have not been in your position. I’m hopeful that you will get some great suggestions from authors in Hugh’s vast audience. That said, it’s obvious that you have the skill of writing and putting out an excellent product mastered—it’s not my genre, but I just read a sample from one of your books. Put into other words, you have conquered your readership mountain–you’re at the pinnacle of Mt. Heather. But, you must explore some other sierras if you’re going to expand your readership base.

      Let me suggest that you open up to some different marketing methods than what you’ve tried in the past, including…
      • Amazon Select – Why not try it with a new series. Yes, some of your readership will not want to read on Kindle. But if you are programmatic about it, you WILL pick up other new readers through the added visibility, and it should boost some of your other books in the rankings.
      • BookBub – Have you tried any of the promotional newsletters? If not, you really should as this is a giant group of people who are looking for writers who are new to them. I know many authors who have had wonderful success with this. Check out Brian Meeks, a mystery writer (, who is building his audience with promotional advertising. There are other promo newsletters out there, and you’ll have to investigate which makes sense for the romance market, but BookBub is the whale.
      • Other author partnerships – Have you considered working with other romance authors on projects together? You could try: cross-marketing each other’s work; co-authoring on a new book or series; book blurbs for each other’s books; boxed sets (I listened to a podcast of a romance author who used this to become a NYT best-seller); and any activity where you’re sharing each other’s audiences.
      • Giveaways to build readership – Not only on Goodreads, but on your own. I know one author who gained tens of thousands of subscribers to his mailing list by giving away books in his genre.
      • Find other authors who are successful in your genre – Seek them out and learn what they have done to become successful. This is where I’ve learned the most this past year. Unlike any other field I’ve been involved with, I’ve found most authors are pretty generous with their time in helping fellow authors. You’ll make some wonderful new friends too.

      I wish you great success and joy with your writing!

    2. I know EXACTLY how you feel, Heather, since your situation is the same as mine. I’ve gone from earning thousands per month to mere hundreds. I’ve decided to simply concentrate on writing for the love of it, because it doesn’t look like I’ll be earning what was for me big bucks from writing anymore. But I’d love to get back to where I was…


  7. Michael,
    Congratulations. The harder you worked, the ‘luckier’ you got! ;-) This post sold you another book just now!

    So excited to see another realistic Apocalyptic book. I wish that was a sub-genre! It would only have a few of us in it. If you haven’t read Mindy McGinnis – Not a Drop to Drink and A Handful of Dust, I highly recommend it as another.

    How do I tell how many books are in a sub-genre?

    Thanks for the advice, I did a presentation to my local writer’s group and other than the KDP select, my advice jelled exactly with yours. [I am releasing an e-book parallelequel novella to my first novel that will be KDP Select at least for 90 days, because I see the value.]

    Write on,

    1. Robert – Thanks!

      Post-Apocalyptic IS a sub-genre on Amazon (but not on the other platforms). I’m familiar with Mindy McGinnis–Not a Drop to Drink is on my TBR.

      Finding out the # of books in an Amazon’s sub-genre depends on how you approach it. If you go to (be sure to log out) and select “books” from the department drop-down and hit enter, you’ll see the categories on the side with the total number of books in each. Just dial down and you’ll find there’s 6,976 Post-Apocalyptic books in their database and say only 971 in Galactic Empire–sounds like a good one to try.


  8. Congrats ML. Sometimes success happens to the right people at the right time. I’ve self published two books on Amazon with small sales but my goal is to focus on celebrating and appreciate the small things. So many times we want the big things first without truly appreciating our small accomplishments. Thanks for the tips and I wish you much continued success.

  9. Your story makes me really curious about Amazon’s treatment of KDP versus those of us who publish more broadly. My story sounds a lot like yours–great cover, good story–and my book did push into Amazon’s top 5 of Hot New Releases…but it didn’t see any spike in sales because of that. I wonder if the fact I am not in KDP means Amazon tries not to give me any true visibility?

  10. Thanks for the nice shout-out for editing, Michael. It’s much appreciated! It’s so easy for writers to think they can skate past that part. I can’t wait to see the third book! You have such a great story here. It’s a pleasure to be a part of it.

  11. Ted – You make two points here I’d like to address.

    Sales spike – My sales spike (for my first book) occurred the first day it appeared on HNR, but not so much after that. Instead, it was more of a constant through the first thirty or so days. Then it started to drop slightly, a little every few days. That’s when I used a combination of a Countdown and promotional newsletters. This “spiked” it back up and once again, it held and then slowly started to fade. When I released my second book, it was different because I now had some followers, I set it up for pre-order (about 10 days before Halloween release), and KU was in full force. The second book didn’t have as big of an initial day spike, but sales increased at a fairly steady pace, then crested about ten days into it and then followed the same downward trend as the first book.

    Amazon purposely hurting visibility – Since I’m not an Amazon insider (I don’t have some special red phone I can pick up and call when I want help), I can only speak to what I’ve tracked and when I’ve compared notes with other authors: I just don’t see this. I do see that KU has made a major difference in adding to my books’ BSR, and THIS has helped them to maintain visibility, and therefore sales. Of course, this is because each “borrow” is counted the same as a “sale” for the BSR. Whether you would call this a penalty to those not in Select or a reward for authors committing to the Select program, it is what it is. It is also one of the reasons why I recommended the Select program to authors with a smaller following. Mind you, I don’t agree with all that Amazon has done with KU, but I see no reason not to take advantage of the program the way it is currently designed.

    There is one other benefit that Amazon offers to its Select authors, which is pretty huge, but is only available to those who sell at a certain level–I don’t have any idea what that level is though. They offer free email advertising for those who agree to participate in their Big Deal, Monthly Deal, and/or Daily Deal promotions. There’s a bit of a mystery with this in that they ask the author to commit to no promotions or price changes for a period (I was asked to commit to an entire quarter) and they have the right to adjust the price to whatever amount they believe will generate the most profit. In return, they email their readership about your book if it is featured on one of their “Deal” promos. You’re giving away a lot of control, but the payoff could be huge–on the order of thousands of additional sales, which of course would spike your BSR way up. I’m crossing my fingers on that one.

    1. Thanks for the detailed reply. I may try KU with my second book just to see how it goes. I do wish I could reach that level to get on one of Amazon’s Daily Deals.

  12. Amazon’s Daily Deals is good but Kindle First may be better: four of the five top ebooks in the Kindle Store are on Kindle First. Two of them are published by Amazon imprints, though, Amazon Crossing and Thomas & Mercer, so I guess that helps too. ;)

  13. This article was an amazing testament to success for independents. Thank you. My first book was successful for a first timer, but I didn’t break into the algorithm you did. Unfortunately, I did everything backwards and the learning experience has been a bit brutal.

    Even with high review ratings on Amazon, breaking the “needle in the haystack” sensation has at best been an uphill battle. I believe having several books on hand changes the whole dynamic, especially if you have a series.

    I work full time and it is difficult to maintain output with a family and commute added on, but I fight my way through it. So happy to hear that this turned out well for you. I am going to try the Kindle Scout program with my next release, hopefully this February. I could use the marketing muscle Amazon has.

    Thank you so much for the post!


  14. This is hugely helpful advice–thanks, Michael! Those five recommendations are exactly what I needed for where I am now.

    As an aspiring self-publisher, the opportunity to learn from those who are a little (or a LOT) further along in the process is just invaluable. I figure that slow and steady wins the race, at least if “wins” means getting high quality work out and discoverable. Not only does this advice give me a shot of confidence in that approach, it also makes my entire process a little less slow and a lot more steady.

  15. Michael, thanks for an excellent article—and all the detailed responses. My co-author and I published our first book in May 2013, and while it did vastly better than we expected (1,000 sales in the first month and 2,000 in the first 90 days), all basically without us lifting a finger, we could have done better. I heartily endorse your recommendations, and KDP and KU have made things a lot better since then. (We have had very good luck with them.)

    I will note one thing for other new authors, which I feel was our biggest mistake. We simply didn’t believe anyone would buy our book and weren’t prepared when they did. We are writing a series, and we didn’t put much thought to when we’d have the second book out. We didn’t think it mattered much because who was gonna buy anyway? And we thought we could probably get it out fairly quickly. We were dead wrong on both counts: there was a lot of demand for the second book and it took a year for us to finish it. (Life does happen.)

    I’m sure that delay sure cost us quite a bit. The second book still did pretty well, considering, but if we’d handled things better, I think our sales would have been much higher. And we are still playing “catch-up” to a degree.

    So if I had one thing to add to this, it would be: If you are writing a series, finish the first *two* books before you hit the button in No.1. No, you don’t have to have the second one perfect with a nice cover and final edits done and all that, but a good solid draft that has been read by some people you trust, so you are confidant it won’t need major revision, just polish. Set the polishing in motion and keep working on No.3. Then release No.2 when the time is ripe. (About 4-6 months out seems like a good time, from what I’ve seen.) At that point, you ought to have No.3 well in hand, and so on.

    Feeling you have to rush a manuscript to completion to hit a good marketing interval is not a place you want to be. Readers know when a book is rushed, and that is major killer. Build your series so you can release the books on a good, reliable schedule. That relieves undue stress and allows you to market better because you can say with confidence when a next book will coming out. The reader in us all appreciates that.

    So don’t rush, even if it costs you another 4, 5, or 6 months. The market isn’t going away and that will be time well spent.

    Believe in your book and your success and plan for it. Don’t get caught by surprise, like we did.

  16. Great story and inspiring for newbies to the self publishing realm. Your story is one like so many others who take the plunge. Thanks for sharing, it truly does inspire others to follow and with a little luck and a lot of work hopefully make it.

  17. I just love Hugh Howey’s blog because after the whole 2015 gloomy predictions and the “gold rush is over” fuss, we get to read yet another success story from an independent author!

    Congratulations, M.L., on turning writing into a sustainable source of income, I believe it is the dream of many out there. What really strikes me in this story is how you approached everything from a “business” perspective while keeping the creative side of it.
    I believe that success in today’s Amazon book marketplace requires as much writing skills as entrepreneur skills. And if you have a startup/tech background, that definitely gives you an advantage.
    Here’s another example you might like of a semi-indie (published by a royalty-sharing publisher) entrepreneur and author who has had a similar success:
    I believe authors have a lot to learn from entrepreneurs (and vice-versa), as the discoverability challenge is very similar, as are digital marketing techniques. And in both cases, the quality of the product is always, always the most important factor (something too easily overlooked).

  18. […] Best-Selling AND Unknown by M.L. Banner | Hugh Howey […]

  19. Due to this post I discovered your books and am half way though book 1. I like it so far.

  20. Thank you for your words. As much as i like the idea of someone like Hugh going from bookstore employee to millionaire, I prefer stories of people trying self publishing and finding they can make a living at it. That seems to be a reasonable and attainable goal. Write creatively, double check and triple check, make a nice cover and go. It is nice to know hard work pays off.
    Now time for me to get back to it, lol. I am so far behind schedule……

  21. Being close to publication, this is exactly what I was looking for: a dose of common sense in a sea of controversy regarding Kindle Select & Unlimited. A beginning author’s greatest challenge is breaking the barrier of obscurity, and getting bent out of shape about royalties before we hit “publish” is putting the cart before the horse.

    Thanks, ML, for turning chaos into clarity!

    1. Well said. We read so many comments by unpublished writers who focus on royalties and fear of their work being stolen, it stops them from doing the only thing they need to do, and that is publish. I think it is this attitude (unproven authors who think thier one book will make them rich) who are also to blame for Hugh’s last post about the people who are unhappy with Amazon, they say they are not making enough money…
      Step one, publish a book
      Then publish MORE…
      Only then do you worry about anything else.

  22. Congratulations on your success! You’ve got a new follower in me.

  23. Wow! That’s fantastic, ML! Congratulations!

    Hugh, did you help with the U.S.-Cuba negotiations? :)

  24. I enjoyed reading this blog Michael and got a lot out of it. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and experiences. As an unknown with a truly unique story to share with the world, it gives me hope that I will be able to share it with more of the world. Ken.

  25. The kdp calculator link doesn’t appear to be working.

  26. Thanks for a great article, Michael. I loved the common-sense approach. In particular I liked the emphasis on sub-genres. I’ll go and revisit mine for my Indie books.

    Having just had one of my books republished by Amazon’s Lake Union Publishing imprint I now see how sophisticated the use of genres can be. You’ve shown that indie writers can make use of this as well. Oh and, good luck with your third book and future ones.

  27. Thanks for that, Hugh. This prompted me to actually interview Michael to dig deeper into some of the things he mentioned here, and it’s been a great experience!
    Here’s the link to the (video) interview, with transcript below:

  28. I read both your books, Michael. They were great! Elizabeth

  29. Thanks for the advice! I’ve followed a lot of these tips, but for some reason I can’t get anyone to buy my novel. I tried a free promotion for kindle select, but it hasn’t seemed to help. I think it might be because I’m a new author, so I’m sure that hasn’t helped. Your and Hugh Howey’s success stories help give me the motivation to not give up, which I think is key. I also made sure to pay an editor, and have a good book cover. I also make sure to write pretty much everyday. Sometimes, I think I end up writing too much in one day and I have to force myself to do something else. Maybe you could check out my novel Supernatural Family: The Path Less Taken to see if I’m doing the right things? Any other advice would be great. My pen name is Greg Tom.

  30. […] profits. That’s capitalism. So that’s what the graph may be reflecting. There’s a guest post on Hugh Howey’s site by a new author who charges $.99 and is doing very well at that price (ranking 1000 or […]

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