You cannot read online articles about self publishing without coming across a blog or two claiming to hold the secret to help you become a successful indie writer on Kindle.
I am not writing to dispute the efficiency of their tools nor to cast doubt on their shrewd tricks, far from it. I just would like to approach this subject, like any other, from a data-oriented perspective.
After all, if so many blog writers claim to be serial bestsellers, then we should easily find their books in the top 20 of at least 2 or 3 Amazon categories, right?
Reaching the best seller status on Amazon relies on one single factor: sales! The clue is indeed in the name.
When you think about it, it is more of a marketing feat rather than a writing accomplishment. Be that as it may, who does not dream of having the famous #1 sticker adorning their book’s cover in any given category.
Amazon assigns each book an absolute rank based on its sales number. The books then compete in categories to elect specialized best seller lists: One in the romance category, another one in the contemporary category, etc.
Obviously, the more categories you get referenced in, the more exposure you get and therefore the more sales you make. A higher number of sales raises your absolute rank, which in turn raises your rank in every subsequent category. A chain reaction of sorts that you should well keep in mind that’s why I wrote a small piece on how to list your book in multiple categories.
Who are the most successful writers on Kindle in 2018?
For this study, I gathered a little over 100 000 books, eBooks, hardcovers and audiobooks in all of Amazon’s categories. This number is not that arbitrary. It represents the top 20 best sellers in all of Amazon’s 10 000 categories (some categories have less than 20 books. Some currently have 0 books actually).
I extracted the main author and publisher of these books and crunched the numbers. Right off the bat I can tell you with absolute certainty that only 5% of the bestselling authors manage to have more than 3 books in Amazon’s top 20.
Which author holds the record of bestseller books on the 10th of September 2018?
Before I divulge the results, remember that books’ ranks get update almost hourly. The sames goes therefore for bestseller lists. Some of them only change 20% of their list every 4-5 hours. Others reach as high as 80% rotation every couple of hours.
Perform a quick search on Kindle Ranker to measure the category’s volatility as it can greatly impact your book’s visibility!
Back to our most successful writers. To my surprise, the winner – by far I might add – is the Lonely planet with over 400 bestsellers, followed by an author named DK who seem to have around 188 books listed in bestseller lists on Amazon.
When you look closely at the data however, it appears that these “writers” are actually publishing entities. They simply register their names next to the actual writer.
Maybe there is indeed a dedicated writer that oversees all of Lonely Planet’s book projects. All 1500 of them…but then again, that does not really make him or her the writer of said book anymore than the freelance editor that proofread your book.
The Lonely Planet is not the only publishing house doing these sorts of shenanigans. Many others follow their trail.
After cleaning up the data of the many publishers masquerading as authors, we get the following list of the most successful writers on Kindle as of September 2018:
The clear leader is a mysterious indie author named “Dartan Creations”. There may be many writers hiding behind this alias since they published more than 1000 books on Amazon alone. They seem to exclusively write non-fiction material, from nutrition advice to preschool workbooks. Impressive to say the least.
Moving on, we find of course Stephen King (#4) and J.K Rowling (#11) in the lot. But surprise surprise, we have four indie writers who made it to the top 20 bestselling authors:
- Dartan Creations – 170 bestsellers in multiple non-fiction themes.
- Jade Summer – 42 bestsellers in coloring books
- Book List Guru – 36 bestsellers mainly as anthologies and compilation of short stories
- Martha Stephenson – 34 bestsellers in cooking and baking categories
Pretty neat! Who said Indie writers did not make it to the top?!
Let’s solely focus on indie writers this time. Will we find those famous indie bloggers and writers offering $1000 courses to be a bestselling author? Instead of naming and shaming, I will just print the raw data below and let you perform your own research.
Next time you come across a blog post promising the 10th wonder of the world, you can make up your own opinion based on this data.
I only list indie writers with more than 5 bestsellers. Again, keep in mind that this data is but a snapshot frozen in time of the current bestseller lists. Things may and will chance in the future:
|Indie writer||# of Amazon bestsellers|
|Book List Guru||36|
|Journals For All||15|
|Simple Print Press||14|
|Henry David Thoreau||11|
|Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe||11|
|Rogue Plus Publishing||11|
|S. L. Watson||11|
|Wild Pages Press||11|
|MY Diaries & Journals||10|
|Tatiana Bogema (Stolova)||10|
|Honey Badger Coloring||9|
|Lettering Design Co.||9|
|Lilt Kids Coloring Books||9|
|Matthew R. Kratter||9|
|Traveling The World||9|
|Elans Pocket Planner||8|
|Finest City Guides||8|
|I. T. Lucas||8|
|MedicalPearls Publishing LLC||8|
|Mlenge Fanuel Mgendi||8|
|Charles H. Spurgeon||7|
|Coloring Book Cafe||7|
|Karen Anne Golden||7|
|Mr. Larry E. Newman||7|
|Valerie Estelle Frankel||7|
|ZenMaster Coloring Books||7|
|A. L. Dawn French||6|
|DAVID JUSTIN SMITH||6|
|Federico GarcÃa Lorca||6|
|Jackie D. Fluffy||6|
|Jason Ryan MD||6|
|K. M. Shea||6|
|Marti Jo's Coloring||6|
|My Hockey Journal||6|
|Nick van der Leek||6|
|River Breeze Press||6|
|T S Paul||6|
|Younghusband World Travel Journals||6|
|A. Togay Koralturk||5|
|Benjamin Lewin MW||5|
|Code Well Academy||5|
|Creative art planners||5|
|Dottie's Crazy Dot-to-Dots||5|
|Elans Pocket Calendar||5|
|Inspired To Grace Adult Coloring Books||5|
|J. Gresham Machen||5|
|Jason Patrick Bates||5|
|John Book Publishing||5|
|Kay de Silva||5|
|LIKE Test Prep||5|
|Nadine Hays Pisani||5|
|Polyglot Planet Publishing||5|
|R. A. Steffan||5|
|S. T. Joshi||5|
|U. C-Abel Books||5|
What about the most successful indie writers?
Instead of focusing on specific writers let’s look at the general trend of the publishing ecosystem on Amazon.
Around 12% of the top 20 books on Amazon are self published. 12% is not much by any standard. It perfectly illustrates the hardest challenge for any indie writer: Marketing and book promotion! Very few succeed indeed.
Turning our attention to the traditional publishing world for a second, here are the top 10 publishing houses on Amazon based on the number of bestselling authors they signed:
Funny how none of the Big 5 Trade Book Publishers made it to the top 10. We find Penguin and HarperCollins in positions #11 and #19 respectively, but the others are further down the ladder.
Interestingly enough, however, the big 5 are clearly amongst the leaders of the audiobook movement with some solid bestselling authors:
- HarperAudio – 329 writers
- Simon & Schuster Audio – 321 writers
- Hachette Audio – 267 writers
- Penguin Audio – 216 writers
- Macmillan Audio – 191 writers
In case you did not already start your audiobook, this should be serving as another reminder to focus your energy on it! Read my piece about why audio books are easier to market and might earn you much more cash than printed books!
What started as a funny interrogation ended up providing some interesting insights on the Kindle ecosystem. Indie writers do make it to the most successful writers list.
Some try gaming the system by massively publishing books, others follow the more conventional road of only writing about their area of expertise.
Much progress needs to be done in order to catch up with traditional publishing but we are getting there!
Alex from KR