As I write this, a novel I co-wrote with Louise Voss, Catch Your Death, is sitting at No.2 on the Amazon Kindle bestseller list. Our other thriller, Killing Cupid, is No.7. As far as I know, we are the first 100% indie novelists to ever have two novels in the Amazon UK top ten, and have equalled the highest position achieved by the other successful indie crime-writing duo, Saffina Desforges, with their thriller Sugar and Spice. Only David Belbin stands between us and the No.1 slot.
Worldwide, there have been a number of high-profile indie writers who have struck gold since Amazon introduced their self-publishing platform: Amanda Hocking, John Locke, and HP Mallory to name a few. And Stephen Leather has sold eye-watering numbers of downloads - but he is an established writer with a large fanbase. So how did we do it?
A few years ago, Louise and I wrote Killing Cupid - a stalker novel with a twist. A lucky break led to us getting the novel optioned by the BBC, but it never got made. We then wrote our second novel, Catch Your Death, a Dan Brown-style conspiracy thriller. We were proud of them - but Catch Your Death was completed the same week as as my first daughter was born. Real life got in the way and we never made much of an effort to find an agent or publisher.
Then, last autumn, I was bought a Kindle for my birthday and, having read about a few authors who had found a large audience through self-publishing, I persuaded Louise that we should give it a go. What did we have to lose? We spent a few months re-writing the novels, updating them to include new-fangled technology like Facebook and smartphones, and put Killing Cupid live this February.
On day one we sold a single copy. To my girlfriend's mum. Fortunately, she liked it.
We then embarked on a mission to sell as many copies as possible. We blogged, we networked, we did interviews, wrote articles, joined forums and annoyed the hell out of our friends on Facebook and Twitter. In March we sold 113 copies. We were overjoyed. Sales ticked along throughout April at about 10-20 a day, until the final few days of the month when we picked up momentum and increased sales to 50 a day. We became addicted to checking our sales figures. We leapt up to No. 171 in the charts. Ecstasy!
Slowly, slowly, like a tortoise making its own sweet way to the finishing line, Killing Cupid plodded up the charts. It finally broke into the Top 100 in mid-May. We set our targets high: 1,000 copies a month. That would do us. We picked up some great reviews from readers. 'I never knew there were such good books on Kindle,' said one, making our year.
Three weeks ago, we put our second novel, Catch Your Death (for fans of Dan Brown and Stieg Larsson), live. This, we always believed, was the more commercial of the two, with a fast-paced plot revolving around a killer virus and a Harvard virologist. It shot into the chart at no 5,000.
Then something incredible happened. A week ago, Killing Cupid entered the top 50 and starting climbing into the 20s. Dreams were coming true. Plod, plod, up the chart. And then this Saturday Catch Your Death went whoosh. Rather like a hare, in fact. It shot up from No. 120 to No. 9 in less than 48 hours. The tortoise crawled along behind it.
This afternoon, we overtook Karin Slaughter to land at No.2. I almost passed out with excitement. Yesterday alone, we sold over 1,500 books.
I came up with the idea of adding the subtitle (for fans of Dan Brown and Stieg Larsson) because I wanted something that would catch the eye of thriller readers when they were browsing Amazon, and the novel has a similar theme of solving a mystery through delving into the past and a fast pace. I have no idea if it's affected sales. I think that most sales have come from readers of Killing Cupid, which has been selling steadily for months. Those readers all bought Catch Your Death in a burst sending it up the charts, and we have a very strong blurb, an eyecatching cover and a clever title.
So what happens next? I have no idea. Friends and family keep asking me when it's going to be out in print. Well, I guess we would need to start looking for a publisher for that to happen. Right now, we are enjoying being (almost) on top of the world (well, the UK). The Kindle is now officially my favourite gadget ever and for many indie authors like us, it's been a godsend. As they say on The X Factor, we've been on an amazing journey, and all without a single sighting of Simon Cowell's chest.
Mark Edwards blogs at www.indieiq.com and he and Louise can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
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