How to Make a Living as a Professional Self-Published Author


Indeed. I (mostly) keep my politics to my FB page, where I can limit what is seen by non-friends. (I’m too boring for other kinds of misbehavior.)

It is true, though – potential employers will do a google search, and they will disallow people who they think will be more trouble than help. At one level that bugs me, but at the other, I can think of some people I’ve worked with over the years that I wish were “outed” as assholes/troublemakers before they were hired. I don’t need drama!


Hi there, do you mind if I drop you a message?


Far more so when you take into account that the majority of readers don’t leave reviews. I managed to get only about ten reviews out of a couple of thousand free downloads, so 800 reviews means lots of sales.


Not to sound random but I’m just going to get my first draft done, then as I edit I’ll be using advice that my readers leave in the comment section in the chapters that they’ve read. Then I’ll be talking to someone on here to see whether trad or self is a good idea…


Maybe you just don’t know where to look? You mentioned Joe’s blog (which is pretty much defunct now and he rarely posts) but back in the day when he was posting, I showed up frequently there:

Where else could you look…Oh, I know ,Goodreads. Which is a site with 80 million members, 2.3 billion books shelved, and 80 million reviews. On this site I’ve received 7 GoodReads Choice Award Nominations (2010, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2016, 2017, 2018) and I’m #46 in the all-time most-followed list and that’s a site with 249,159 authors.

Hmmm…where else to look. Maybe the New York Times Best-seller list? - Age of War came in at #9 for audio fiction.

Or maybe the Amazon’s Top 100 Fantasy Author’s List I’m currently ranked at #34 but I’ve been on the list for 1,500+ days (that’s more than 4 years)

I’ve been publishing for 10 years, and I’ve done so through self, big-five, small presses, audio, foreign lauage translations, Kickstarters, you name it. So, yeah, after selling 1.4 million books I think I know a thing or two about the business.

And as for AWExley…she may not be a “household name” (and neither am I) but most authors would be more than happy to have the track records that either of has accomplished.


And almost every post you make, I (or someone else) comes behind and points out how what you said isn’t based on any real-world experience. You still haven’t published anything. That’s really step #1 in being able to tell others about publishing :wink:


So the three people you’ve “called out” on this thread (@AWExley, @MichaelJSullivan and @AlecHutson are indie-published. I self-published my first book (Avempartha in 2009), I self-published my latest book less than two months ago (The Disappearance of Winter’s Daughter hit the retail chain in early October 2018). In total, I self-published 8 books.

But, I’ve ALSO done traditional publishing:

  • I have three contracts (for 9 books) with the big-five (two with Hachette Book Group’s Orbit imprint - 5 books and one with Penguin Random House’s Del Rey imrpint - 4 books).

  • I have published with two small-presses (Aspirations Media Inc put out The Crown Conspiracy in 2008 and Tachyon Pubilshing put out Hollow World in 2015.

This means I can talk about both self and traditional publishing with a fair amount of real-world experience.

Alec has done amazingly well in a relatively short period of time. He’s sold many more books than I did when I was at a similar place in my career (two books out). And not only that, but when I read his posts they are (a) on point and (b) shows a knowledge of the industry that is extremely insightful.

Others have already explained stats to prove AWExley’s extensive sales.

But, here’s the thing…the most amazing thing about the self-publishing movement is there are literally thousands of authors who have made six-figure incomes and, yes, they aren’t household names. How do I know this? Because I understand data. I can look at # of goodreads reviews and Amazon rankings and that gives me a good idea of how many copies they’ve sold. Combined with knowing what they make per copy makes the math pretty easy to compute.

Bottom line, there are several people on this forum whom I KNOW, have a good understanding of the publishing industry. These include: AWExley, XimeraGrey and AlecHutson. And there is one person who is consistently proven his lack of knowledge @SchuylerThorpe. You’ve been banned before, I’d be cautious or you will find yourself banned again.


He was speaking specifically of me, when he was complaining about someone who knows about indie publishing without being indie published. I’m only trad pubbed, and I’ve never made that a secret.


Ah, gotcha…although I must say for someone who has only traditionally published you seem well educated in both sides.


Thank you! I want to self pub in the future, and so I research and pay attention to the industry. Actually, even if I were planning to stick solely with trad pub, I would still do that. It’s folly to ignore half of your industry. (Also I have a fair number of close friends who are self pubbed.)


Agreed. I probably will never traditionally publish again, but it’s not like I’m going to ignore what’s going on from that side of the fence. I do think you should try self…I think you’d earn well at it.


Hey Michael, off topic question. My husband’s birthday and Christmas are coming up, and I thought I’d get him a couple of your books. Where do you recommend he start?


Hey Michael, I was just wondering about your 2 latest books for 2019 and 2020. How did you plan them out at this advanced?


Hey there, nice to hear. There are several starting spots.

Riyria Revelations - Theft of Swords - a simple, fun, witty, fast-paced fantasy with two rogues who have a deep-seeded friendship that comes off naturally as it’s eveident they have "worked together for a long time. I should note this is a COMPLETED series of six books that is told in three 2-book omnibus editions.

Riyria Chronicles - The Crown Tower - same two mains as Revelations, but this time they don’t already know each other so it shows how these two very different people (one idealistic, the other cynical) are forced to work together and how these two very different people approach situations from opposite perspectives. This is a series where I don’t know how many books it will be. The first two - complete the "origin story’ and books #3 and #4 are more or less standalone…and all subsequent books (if there are any will also be self-contained). The issue is I don’t want my characters and world to overstay their welcome, so I release a book, wait to see if people want more, and if they do, I write another one. There is a possibility of 10 books (that’s how many I have outlined that take me from when the pair first meet until they hit up against the Revelation books), but whether all 10 will come out will depend on reader feedback. I’d rather have them leave too soon then stay too long.

Age of Myth - More “epic fantasy” with a larger cast of characters. This work isn’t set in traditional Medieval setting (Riyria is, btw), it contrasts a very primitive society (stone-tipped spears and leather) with a more advanced one (magic-wielders, horsemanship, and bronze swords and armor). This series is also fully written but only the first three books are currently released. Book #4 is coming July 2019, and the last two books in 2020.

I should note, if he likes printed books, you might want to purchase from my website as I sell signed copies (which are obviously nicer than non-signed copies). Also, we’re going to be doing a sale starting on Monday and my books will be 25% - 50% when bought from me, so you might want to wait for that.

Thanks for thinking of me.


Not sure what you mean by “plan them out” - are you talking about from a story perspective, or from a publishing perspective? From a writing perspective…I wrote the entire series before I published the first book. So the story has been done for years. (I’ve done with with other series I’ve written as well).

From a “publishing” perspective, I’m trying to keep to around 9 months. That gives me plenty of time for editing, beta reader feedback, and gamma/proof reader feedback. Most of the “heavy lifting” for the tasks will be done by others and the time between the books is to make it so I can hit everyone’s schedule.


Oh ok because when I saw your post on your publishing history starting back from 2008 and up to 2020, it just confused me.


I have 14 books released and another 4 written – but need all the “post writing” work. Three of the 4 have been through alpha readers, and one of the 4 has gone through line edits, but there is still much to do on those – most of which have very little to do with me other than making minor tweaks, and approving/overriding copy edits.


The BDSM is not legitimate BDSM in that book. She could’ve Wiki’d the basic of BDSM, but no… she just made things up and now people think BDSM = 50 Shades :unamused:

The people in the BDSM community… actually, the WHOLE kink community, absolutely hates 50 Shades because what is shows is false and abusive.


Or get a job in a university teaching Creative Writing. :grinning:


Haha…although I do think most professors are required to write/publish at least one work. Whether anyone reads it or not…well, that’s a different story.