Author Topic: Are any new indie authors breaking out anymore?  (Read 4455 times)  

Offline Bite the Dusty

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Are any new indie authors breaking out anymore?
« on: September 23, 2020, 12:40:06 pm »
Are any new authors getting publishing deals anymore indie authors breaking out anymore?

I might be naive and overly optimistic, but I like a challenge and like to think anything is possible, despite all the threads lately about how it's near impossible to make it now if you haven't already. I've been reading kboards daily throughout my degree program and now I've graduated and am focused on just working and writing in my free time, but this forum has lost steam. Do you think that's because of the sale, or because those previously mentioned threads have a point?

Wouldn't hurt to hear a recent success story or two, even if it's just someone you know of.
« Last Edit: September 23, 2020, 12:43:30 pm by Bite the Dusty »

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    Offline Corvid

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    Re: Are any new indie authors breaking out anymore?
    « Reply #1 on: September 23, 2020, 01:09:38 pm »
    Are any new authors getting publishing deals anymore indie authors breaking out anymore?

    I might be naive and overly optimistic, but I like a challenge and like to think anything is possible, despite all the threads lately about how it's near impossible to make it now if you haven't already. I've been reading kboards daily throughout my degree program and now I've graduated and am focused on just working and writing in my free time, but this forum has lost steam. Do you think that's because of the sale, or because those previously mentioned threads have a point?

    Wouldn't hurt to hear a recent success story or two, even if it's just someone you know of.

    There are many, many examples of indies doing well - even though they still comprise a very small minority of indies overall. So, yes, it is still possible to succeed financially as an indie, and while your odds of doing so are probably a fair bit better than they would be going the trad route - it's still lives in 'don't-quit-your-day-job' territory.

    kboards, like other groups can provide a skewed outlook. The percentage of successful indies here vastly outweighs the percentage overall. It's good to be optimistic since there are many examples that show it can be done, but just be aware that while it CAN be done - the odds and the math say it is still pretty unlikely for the vast majority.

    Is it better/easier/more possible now than it was in 2006? Sure. But, "better" is not the same as "probable".


    Offline DmGuay

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    Re: Are any new indie authors breaking out anymore?
    « Reply #2 on: September 23, 2020, 01:14:52 pm »
    Take a peek at the 20booksto50k Facebook Group. Many indie authors at all income levels helping each other out and sharing details. It might give you a more complete view of levels of success--and what it takes to get there--than this forum alone.
    « Last Edit: September 24, 2020, 08:12:51 am by DmGuay »
     
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    Offline CassieL

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    Re: Are any new indie authors breaking out anymore?
    « Reply #3 on: September 23, 2020, 02:03:39 pm »
    Kboards definitely isn't what it once was. I think varying groups of authors who came here and found success then moved on to private groups instead of publicly posting. Obviously the purchase of this place then really caused a mass exodus, but it was happening before then, too.

    I do think authors are still breaking out. I know authors who've started new pen names in new genres and done very well this year and last. (Not my stories to share, though.)

    8 Pen Names. Genres: Non-fiction, Speculative Fiction, Romance.

    Offline Shane Lochlann Black

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    Re: Are any new indie authors breaking out anymore?
    « Reply #4 on: September 23, 2020, 02:43:31 pm »
    We're not allowed to say what's on our mind for any given topic.  It isn't surprising people moved to private groups. It's like having a relative who randomly shrieks and bursts into tears because you say the wrong word.  Or even better, a married couple who continues this morning's spat over a Monopoly game. "That's THREE hotels you #%*(&@%&*(!"

    I'd like to have a lively discussion over coffee. I don't want to get into a table-overturned melee about keywords. 
    « Last Edit: September 23, 2020, 02:46:08 pm by Shane Lochlann Black »

    Offline Decon

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    Re: Are any new indie authors breaking out anymore?
    « Reply #5 on: September 24, 2020, 12:38:32 am »
    Check out a good number of top 100 bestseller charts and I think you'll find indies are doing just fine.

    There was a time when there was no, or little info on the net regards self-publishing, so sites like this were a mine of info.This site happened to be the go to site where everyone gravitated as an early entrant to accommodate discussion between new authors to Self-publishing  Go back 10 years or so and it was like the blind leading the blind. During that time almost every book that had ever done the slush pile rounds and were rejected, got published. It was like a frenzy, just like when everyone seemed to open video film  stores on every street corner, and where are they now?

    Break out indies became gurus and talked about on here, their every word treated as gospel and everyone trying to emulate them. Like all industries, there was a shake out as people failed to sell and fell by the wayside, with fewer taking their place. The ones left, many have gone on to earn a good living, with many still observing here, but not needing to devote the time to post. Don't forget, participating in sites like this can soak up valuable time that could be otherwise used for writing. When they do post, many of those remove their books from their signature so as not to pick up contentious vibes that could harm their brand success.

    With the wealth of info now available, there is less need to join sites like this one and so break out sucesses are less likely to be talked about. That's not to say there aren't any.

    I would point out that the beakout indies except for Amanda Hocking who participated on here, the main ones had previously had books trad-published, so they were hardly novices and the two main ones targeted self-published authors to enhance their brand.

    With regards to publishing contracts, I don't think anything will have changed and one percent of new authors will be getting contracts if their books pass the gatekeepers scrutiny.
    « Last Edit: September 24, 2020, 01:34:13 am by Decon »


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    Offline Triceratops

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    Re: Are any new indie authors breaking out anymore?
    « Reply #6 on: September 24, 2020, 07:44:58 am »
    "Breaking out" how? In terms of conspicuous success with a debut book?

    That's kind of a mythic trope imo. It's true that Hugh Howey and Amanda Hocking did accomplish it. So did Andy Weir with The Martian, though afaik he never participated on kboards.

    Most of the really successful indie authors who had been on kboards exited kboards before the sale. You can research why.

    At any rate, point being, if currently there are new indie authors making it big, they probably wouldn't advertise it, particularly on kboards; and regardless, most of the authors with six-figure careers (and there are a lot of them) did not make big bucks when they started.

    So breaking out in that sense isn't all that important.

    It comes down to how one defines a success story. Making $1,000,000 with only one book; making $60,000 net a year after a few years of work and regular publishing; or making $400,000 net a year after a few years of work and regular publishing. All of these are possible. But some are more likely than others, depending on your talent and your work ethic.

    Offline markpauloleksiw

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    Re: Are any new indie authors breaking out anymore?
    « Reply #7 on: September 24, 2020, 08:08:26 am »
    There are a few caveats.

    Best sellers lists give some indication of indie success stories...however, some pay ridiculous sums in marketing to get on those lists and there are authors not on those lists who make more than those on those lists on a net basis. There are indies who do quite well with lower budgets and make a decent living.

    The one common demoninator is that hard work is a prerequisite to doing well. Writing a book is just part of the whole journey. The ones who fail are the ones who publish and expect the world to find them.

    I suspect there are some authors who make a good living but are low key about it.

    Mark

    Offline Douglas Milewski

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    Re: Are any new indie authors breaking out anymore?
    « Reply #8 on: September 24, 2020, 08:47:57 am »
    The low key ones are multi-market, multi-modality. SMALL x 10 = LOTS.

    Disclaimer: I sell horribly. Set your filters accordingly.

    Offline Corvid

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    Re: Are any new indie authors breaking out anymore?
    « Reply #9 on: September 24, 2020, 11:58:16 am »
    there are authors not on those lists who make more than those on those lists on a net basis

    This is something I hadn't considered, but obviously it makes sense. Really, your whole post has me thinking about the market for indies in a different way. Kboards can be good for getting fresh perspectives. Appreciate your insights.


    Offline jmb3

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    Re: Are any new indie authors breaking out anymore?
    « Reply #10 on: September 24, 2020, 02:21:08 pm »
    I broke out with my debut novel four years ago (May 2016) as a brand spanking new writer-so not really recent but certainly after the indie boom. I released my book 'Cake' into KU with a homemade 'cover creator' cover, no editing, no following, no social media, no author friends, no marketing, and no flippin' clue what I was doing. Within days, it took off. Ended up going all the way to #8 on the overall Amazon bestseller list (with the help of a 99c Bookbub deal three months after release) and was a KU All-star for seven months in a row (top 10 for three of those). It was crazy. The audiobook - released four months after the ebook - did even better. I can't explain what happened and it has NEVER happened again but it definitely jump-started my career as a writer.
    « Last Edit: September 24, 2020, 02:25:27 pm by jmb3 »


    Online kwest

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    Re: Are any new indie authors breaking out anymore?
    « Reply #11 on: September 24, 2020, 02:38:01 pm »
    If anything this forum is less toxic than before but that could be due to less people using it. Used to be I'd post something I learned back in 2013 or 14 and people would click on the books in my sig and upvote all the bad reviews.

    I appreciate anyone who sticks out their neck here to try and help others, especially when there's no real need for them to do so.



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    « Last Edit: October 04, 2020, 01:18:37 pm by Becca Mills »

    Online Crystal_

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    Re: Are any new indie authors breaking out anymore?
    « Reply #12 on: September 24, 2020, 03:48:44 pm »
    Most of my author friends grew up with me, so to speak, so I don't know a ton of new authors, but I do see new pen names "breaking out" all the time.

    I don't think breaking out is really a thing, except in very rare circumstances where a book just takes off. But even then, authors don't build a career from a breakout hit unless they do keep doing what worked. If they don't know what worked, they don't know how to repeat it. And even if they do, they rarely hold onto that same level of success.

    It's always a climb for everyone. The most successful authors are working very hard to stay that successful (or they're falling in some way--readership, overall sales, sales of new books). The market changes all the time. Everyone has to keep adapting all the time.

    Offline Patty Jansen

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    Re: Are any new indie authors breaking out anymore?
    « Reply #13 on: September 24, 2020, 04:20:16 pm »
    Breaking out is a pipe dream sold by trad.

    As Crystal says, everyone is on a somewhat windy path that goes up and down (many people forget about the "down" bit) and as to "what works" in terms of getting good sales, the sad answer is that if this was such a hard immutable fact, everyone would be doing it. No one knows. If there was a science to "what works" trad would have worked it out in the 100+ years they've been selling books.

    The books in the top 100 may be there as a result of a LOT (I mean a metric crap-tonne) of advertising.

    You can "break out" and be in the top 100 but what does that give you if to obtain it, you need to spend a huge % in advertising?

    You can be a top 100 writer, earn $500k/year, but spend $30k/month on ads (plus time and stress)

    Or you can be obscure, earn $70k, spend next to nothing on ads and have a life.

    I know what I'd rather be.

    Of course we all want to earn $500k *and* spend nothing on ads, but that is rare, a fluke, and most likely, temporary (if it happened to me, *I* would definitely plan for it to come to a crashing end). It's great when that happens, but a few truths apply to this: 1. it's never the book you expected, 2. you won't be ready for it, and 3. you're unlikely to be able to repeat it.

    Of course people will come on this thread saying that they know how it's done and that so-and-so did it, but the exception just proves the rule, and also, if you plan on it happening to you, this is like a murphy's law, and it certainly won't (see points 1 and 2 above).

    Offline blackauthor101

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    Re: Are any new indie authors breaking out anymore?
    « Reply #14 on: September 24, 2020, 08:14:26 pm »
    I'm doing quite well myself. Just posted this in another topic.




    It's possible to do very well as an indie author if you blog, have a YouTube channel, and other sources of revenue tied to your writing. I've spent the last decade publishing everything from 1 page projects to 450 page projects. Just be consistent and put your name on everything you write. It all adds up and leads back to you.
    Their is no thing wrong with this Sentence; but they're are also some thing write two! Why wouldn't "you" disagree?

    Online Crystal_

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    Re: Are any new indie authors breaking out anymore?
    « Reply #15 on: September 24, 2020, 08:35:49 pm »
    Well 500k - 30k x 12 is 140k, so still quite a bit more than 70k (and probably more like 200k with some All Star bonuses or whatnot), but I've been in both situations and it's more stressful spending 30k/month, even if you are making more.

    I spend what most would consider a lot on ads and while I make a lot, it is still pretty stressful. I was more chill when I made and spent less, but other things were different too.

    I do think it's good to decide how much you are comfortable spending/if you're comfortable with an aggressive strategy. There's really nothing wrong with an aggressive ad strategy or an aggressively low ad strategy. But, as with all things on indie publishing, you want to do it with intention.

    Offline Patty Jansen

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    Re: Are any new indie authors breaking out anymore?
    « Reply #16 on: September 24, 2020, 09:08:38 pm »
    I could have made the example more extreme, and certainly some people would fall in that category. You have to consider, though, that a fair number of people in the top 100 are propped up with a buttload of ads that cost time, money and mental energy to maintain. TBH I wouldn't say those people have "broken out". This is actually why breaking out is a furphy. And it's not actually terribly important either.

    Are new authors coming onto the scene able to make a living? Absolutely.

    Are they still going to be around five years later? That depends on how well they can harness their readership. It depends much less on their initial sales or, for that matter, their level of "breaking out".

    Offline unkownwriter

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    Re: Are any new indie authors breaking out anymore?
    « Reply #17 on: September 25, 2020, 02:55:03 am »
    Quote
    Breaking out is a pipe dream sold by trad.

    This. It's akin to buying a $1 lottery ticket and winning a bazillion dollars. Sure, it can happen, but how likely is it? Not very.

    Self publishing is pretty mainstream these days. Back when Hocking and Howey made news, it was something the regular world hadn't seen before. They and the others like them had succeeded in a world that didn't know anything but the big publishing houses. And then came the others who were making good money, and the shiny wore off. Ho hum. Even those who really make the big money don't get outside notice like that any more.

    It's always been true that some authors make a lot of money, some make nothing, and the rest fall somewhere in the middle. Author Earnings reports seem to put the majority of those at the lower end of the middle. Even that is amazing, considering most of those authors would never have been published at all if not for self publishing as we've seen emerge.

    Offline Bite the Dusty

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    Re: Are any new indie authors breaking out anymore?
    « Reply #18 on: September 25, 2020, 11:04:27 am »
    Thanks for the replies.

    I forget the heights some indies reach sometimes. When I think "break out," I think back to when I was in college and reading kboards and saw all the discussion of income and progress and do I or do I not quit my job. Maybe I'm missing it but I don't see those posts anymore. But maybe I just need to get the ball rolling again when I start publishing. I see someone else did since I posted this thread.

    I wrote a series while I was in school with the intention to publish and trunked it after reevaluation. I'm in the first phase of writing something new. I assume it will be a long road but I'd love to be torn one day whether or not I should quit my job or stay for the benefits.

    Corvid: A dose of realistic expectations is always useful. Thanks!

    DmGuay: Is that something I'd have to sign up for Facebook to see?

    CassieL: That's what I figured. That's what I wonder. I look at Amazon's lists once or twice a week and notice new names doing really well seemingly from nowhere, I've wondered if they are new or just new names but maybe it doesn't matter.

    Shane Lochlann Black: I'd take that coffee. I'm really curious what your opinion is now you say you can't say it here.

    Decon: That's interesting context, thanks for adding it.

    Triceratops: I'd rather depend on my work ethic and consistency than luck, but I wouldn't say no to a book being that successful, that's just comparable to winning the lottery to me.

    Markpauloleksiw: You read my mind. Someone was talking about pop lists a few years back and how there's people making more money and not really charting because they're wide. There's so many ways to go about it under the radar. Thanks for confirming what I suspect and am working toward.

    Douglas Milewski: I can't imagine juggling that much but maybe if you work up to it it's manageable.

    jmb3: I remember that, that's a good example too because it was your first. I assume that's unusual, but that's probably because the first books I wrote turned out objectively terrible. Examples like yours bolster my resolve, even if it doesn't happen on the first book or at all it's still possible.

    kwest: Same here, I appreciate it. I don't understand why anyone engages in that... behavior? It's strange.

    Crystal_: That's a good point. I really should have worded my OP differently.

    Patty Jansen: I view you as a break out, Patty. Last time I checked you're making a living and not chained to Amazon. That's the mountain I'm looking to climb, I just don't know how I could avoid KU in the beginning considering the genres I want to write, the wealth of choices out there, and the fact I'm unknown. 70k a year and time to have a life sounds blissful.

    blackauthor101: I don't blog or have a youtube channel. Glad to hear about your success, though!

    Crystal_ again: I live in an expensive city on the west coast, and I'm almost living paycheck to paycheck. The only way I know to approach advertising in my position is low-key in the beginning (there's room for me to tighten my budget) and then reinvest whatever I earn as I build. How was it for you in the beginning with marketing? That's the part of the equation I feel insecure about.

    Patty again: I think my definition of breaking out not matching up with everyone else's wasn't the best way to get this thread rolling, but your responses are always helpful. They're like a chiropractor adjustment for perspective.

    unknownwriter: That's a good way to look at it. Striking breaking out from my vocabulary after this!

    Offline DmGuay

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    Re: Are any new indie authors breaking out anymore?
    « Reply #19 on: September 25, 2020, 11:27:36 am »
    Yes. 20booksto50k is on facebook. It's worth joining just to be in that group. It's helped me immensely.
    Kboards is nice, don't get me wrong, but whoever mentioned that authors have moved to private groups to discuss business and their numbers and strategies is on to something. Kboards is good to check in on, but it's a starting point. The deep dive information is often in the private facebook groups.
     
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    Offline Patty Jansen

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    Re: Are any new indie authors breaking out anymore?
    « Reply #20 on: September 25, 2020, 03:41:54 pm »
    If you're tired of the Amazon/KU refrain (and for me it's a reason I keep out of certain groups), I suggest that you join Wide For The Win on Facebook which is open for all levels but KU talk is verboten. All your wide questions answered.

    Offline blubarry

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    Re: Are any new indie authors breaking out anymore?
    « Reply #21 on: September 26, 2020, 07:01:58 am »
    It's always a climb for everyone. The most successful authors are working very hard to stay that successful (or they're falling in some way--readership, overall sales, sales of new books). The market changes all the time. Everyone has to keep adapting all the time.

    I think this is the key in today's market. A lot of new writers finish their first book and think they're done. Those who have sustained success realize it's just a step, and you have to keep taking more of them. Keep writing, releasing, and learning. Hope for a little good luck. That's how you climb.

    Offline Bite the Dusty

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    Re: Are any new indie authors breaking out anymore?
    « Reply #22 on: September 28, 2020, 09:39:57 am »
    Thank you Patty and DmGuay for the resources. Guess I'm going to have to sign up for Facebook.

    Offline Lady Runa

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    Re: Are any new indie authors breaking out anymore?
    « Reply #23 on: September 28, 2020, 09:50:01 am »
    It depends on the genre, I suppose. In the genre of LitRPG I see it all the time. First-time writers coming out of nowhere with winner books which amass dozens of glowing organic reviews within hours of the book's release. Especially foreign authors, like Russian, Ukrainian, etc., despite the fact that translated fiction is supposed to do badly by definition. I'll tell you more: while some of those translations are professional quality, others can be well and truly abysmal, and still LitRPG readers can't get enough of those books. They struggle with unintelligible translations but keep reading. So I suppose it all boils down to the story and whether the author can live up to their readers' expectations.
    « Last Edit: September 28, 2020, 09:52:20 am by Lady Runa »

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    Online Crystal_

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    Re: Are any new indie authors breaking out anymore?
    « Reply #24 on: September 28, 2020, 01:31:32 pm »
    I started with a few thousand dollars for editing, covers, cheap mailing list ads (like BookBub, though ofc it was awhile before I had a BookBub).

    I didn't start PPC ads until I'd been making okay money for about six months. I was seeing my sales decline and I didn't know what to do, so I tried Facebook ads. I only used money I'd already made from publishing. Other than those first few thousand dollars, all the money I've spent has come from my earnings.

    It was terrifying to start FB ads with a potential $100/day budget. The most I'd spent before that was a few hundred dollars on a book launch or sale. But they showed a profit pretty quickly. (This was back in 2016 when ads were cheaper).

    I would not recommend anyone start with an aggressive strategy unless they have proven they know the market. If you don't a) write a commercial book and b) package it in an on market, accurate way, your ad money will not go far. (And you still have to learn how to do ads well, on top of that).

    Most people are better served by spending a few books learning their genre and packaging, testing ads on the backlist, then slowly building their ad strategy. (If they'd like to use heavy ads. While many people are spending enough on ads their profits are slim, it's not true that everyone selling well with lots of ads is spending all their money. Plenty of high spending authors are clearing six, mid-six, high-six, or even seven figures of profit).

    If you are a risk taker who's sure you know the market, then maybe try an aggressive ad strategy. Put a few thousand into your launch. But I would not recommend that to most people.

    And I would always give everyone the same publishing and advertising advice, regardless of their past success: never spend money you can't afford to lose.

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