I drifted into The Kill Zone today and read John Gilstrap’s post on the future of big publisher advances to authors. The consensus was that the days of six and seven-figure advances are numbered. John went on to say that advances will probably shrink right down the line, to the point where only the biggest of the big authors will be able to make a living writing fiction.

Dana King added a comment likening the situation to that of professional musicians, where only those at the top can really make a living.

Having been a professional musician for thirty years (now retired to become a writer), I see the analogy to full-time writing. During those decades, though, I never held another job, not even once, and yet I remained the “midlist author” version of the music world: a journeyman musician.

Through those years, I made a good living, never large but never in squalor, either. I played in concert venues in front of tens of thousands of people and in smoky bars for no one at all. I played in recording sessions in state-of-the-art Nashville facilities and in makeshift home studios. I played on TV and I played while the TV was on. But I always worked. I might add, a lot of my fellow players could make the same claim. I was by no means a glaring exception.

John Gilstrap also said this, later in his post: Self publishing will become the solution for some, I suppose, but I continue to believe that the only writers who have even a remote chance for success via self publishing are those who have already established their names via traditional means. There’s just too much noise out there for newbies to have a real shot. Here I must respectfully disagree.

It only seems that way because yes, there is a lot of noise, but traditionally-successful writers do not have a lock on the self-publishing business. Not by any stretch. On January 7, 2011, Robin Sullivan did a guest spot on Joe Konrath’s blog, where she unleashed these astounding figures:

These are DECEMBER sales figures for some indie authors. In other words, they account for only 31 days of sales. Are you ready to be blown away?

Blake Crouch – 2500+
Nathan Lowell – 2500+
Beth Orsoff – 2500+
Sandra Edwards – 2500+
Vianka Van Bokkem – 2500+
Maria Hooley – 2500+
C.S. Marks – 2500+
Lee Goldberg – 2500+
Lexi Revellian – 4000+
Zoe Winters – 4000+
Aaron Patterson – 4000+
Bella Andre – 5000+
Imogen Rose – 5000+
Ellen Fisher – 5000+
Tina Folsom – 5000+
Terri Reid – 5000+
David Dalglish – 5000+
Scott Nicholson – 10,000+
J.A. Konrath 10,000+
Victorine Lieske – 10,000+
L.J. Sellers – 10,000+
Michael R. Sullivan – 10,000+
H.P. Mallory – 20,000+
Selena Kitt – 20,000+
Stephen Leather – 40,000+
Amanda Hocking – 100,000+

For a more detailed breakdown, visit Derek J. Canyon’s blog This was compiled by him, and Robin Sullivan.


Now, of those names on that list, only six had ever had a traditional publishing deal as of the date of that posting. Six. I don’t know about you, but up until a few months ago, I had never heard of most of those names. I still don’t know some of them. And yet, look at the figures.

Traditionally-published authors, I think, look at the world of self-publishing through a very different prism than the purely indie author who has never had a legacy deal. The trad guys, who, like myself, used to sneer at self-publishing as a place where people go when they’re not “good enough” to get published and where they pay to put out their own crap, are slowly beginning to see self-publishing as a beckoning candle in the darkness of the uncertain future. They look into it and they see that they are going to have to do all the work previously done by their publisher and they become intimidated by the very scope of it all. Soon they figure they have no shot, and hope, like the rest of the New York world, that self-publishing will self-immolate or otherwise go away.

The pure indies, though, see it quite differently. They see their chance to have a novel out there, being read by people other than family and friends. Sure, it’s going to take a lot of work to promote it, but they don’t care. They’re tired of querying agents who are so arrogant, they never even bother to respond with a rejection notice. They’re tired of publishers unctuously telling them they only accept “agented manuscripts”. And they’re really tired of having every door slammed in their faces when they know they have novels better than a lot of the “agented manuscripts” that grind their way through the New York mill. Rather than figuring they have no shot, they see their opportunity like an approaching brass ring, and they’re willing to do what it takes to get their books in front of readers.

Last year, I wrote that there was a brave new world coming. Well, it’s here.


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  1. MEG

    Interesting insight and well written. I enjoyed your perspective

  2. Mike Dennis

    Thanks for the good words.

  3. Joyce Ann

    So, how many have you sold? (Your’s I’ve read.) The Internet is an incredibly powerful medium.

  4. Joyce Ann

    That should be “Yours.”

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