The 99 Cents Best Seller by TIME Magazine

Flipping through the TIME magazine that arrived in my mailbox yesterday, I came across a rather poignant article. It’s entitled, “The 99 Cents Best Seller,” and its subtitle is, “It’s easier than ever for authors to publish themselves–but tougher by the day to find fame. Inside the race to become the next E.L. James.” I will provide some reactionary thoughts, and hopefully you will seek the article out and give it a read yourself.



After tearing through the article, hoping to soak up some new information, I received more of a tone than actual information. The tone of the article was cautionary while remaining slightly optimistic for self-publishing authors. It seems the overall suggestion the article makes is that success is very improbable for the average indie author. It provides examples of several indie authors, some successful, others fledgling. The heavyweights listed are E.L. James, John Locke, Amanda Hocking, J.A. Konrath, and Raine Miller. The newbie, named Sheryl Hoyte, when interviewed, had sold about 20 copies of her book. She matches me and many others exactly–those struggling to find readers.

The article delves into some of the abuses within the Amazon system, such as authors “deciding they don’t need to write.” How do they do that and continue to make money on Amazon Kindle store? They repackage works in the public domain. Wow–I’d never thought of that being legal, but I guess it must be. Also, the article is encouraging in the fact that it talks about the way in which many indie authors striving to make it work full-time jobs, and have to write during their cramped leisure hours. The article mentions Kindleboards, the mysterious Amazon algorithm that seems to make some books jump exponentially in sales when they hit a certain combination of reviews and sales, and a description of J.A. Konrath that includes the adjectives swaggering, rotund, and profane.

The final page of the article has the heading: “For all the apirational rhetoric, the chances of succeeding at self-publishing are as daunting as those of being discovered in the slush pile.” That quote is pretty frustrating, as it may be true, but I think those of us who do cling and write that “aspirational non-sense” tend to believe we are in control of our own authorial destines. I would still like to believe that, and I think I will. But if you want TIME’s perspective on our plight, you will find yourself traveling a wide range of emotions, most of which attempt to reel you into realistic expectations for success.

Here are the titles of the various sections of the article, to give you a better idea of if you want to seek it out and read it:

The 70% Solution: This part of the article deals with Amazon’s revenue model compared to Big Pub.

Mysteries of Amazon: This talks about the mysterious Amazon algorithm and how reviews seem to affect it.

The Cost of Going Solo: This part talks about the examples of a few authors–what they have paid and what they recouped, while striving for indie success.

Overall, I first felt fear reading this article. More and more attention coming the way of Amazon Direct Publishing means more and more authors in the same pool, vying for the attention of a limited amount of readers. But that fear quickly passed. After all, more and more ereaders are selling, especially this holiday shopping season, and so with the amount of authors going up, so has the reader base. And I still believe that hard-work and good product can allow for moderate success. After all, how many of us want to make it rich quick, as TIME claims we all do–and how many of us simply want extra income and a community of fans who read and interact with our work?

2 Thoughts on “The 99 Cents Best Seller by TIME Magazine

  1. Hello Mr. Turkot.

    I came across your article through a friend. That’s an interesting observation: tone rather than information. It’s about what I expect of Time, as well as their assumption that we all want to make it big. If that were the case, we would all be writing vampire stories.

    Me, I’ve self-published four — literary thrillers roughly of the John le Carré type — and don’t regret turning my back on mainstream publishers. I don’t sell many — a couple dozen. My latest novel, City on the Ledge, is set in Ecuador, and sells a couple dozen copies every six months — in Ecuadoran bookstores! A friend there does the business side for me. Beyond that, I’ve had to content myself with a couple of book awards and a few good reviews and the satisfaction of reading a passage or two now and then.

    Well, good luck to you. I hope you eventually gather a group of faithful fans.

    Philip Kraske

  2. josephturkot on February 15, 2014 at 10:15 pm said:

    Thanks for swinging by and posting Philip! You should come by the writer’s cafe at Kindle Boards if you don’t already. Also, Hugh Howey posted a report recently about the upswing and revolution of self-publishing, and the misinformation that’s out there about how truly successful indies really are. It’s all recently released, over @ http://www.authorearnings.com. Check it out when you have time.

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