Stephen Leather is perhaps the most successful independent author in the UK. His thrillers and sexpat titles sold 44,334 copies in December on Amazon.co.uk. His refunds add up to more than most authors sell in a month.

We know this because Stephen is one of the authors generous enough to be making public the sales figures of their self-published Kindle and other ebooks to encourage aspiring ebook authors (I Sold 44,334 Kindle Books In December).

For those of us vulgar enough to need to know what Stephen’s Amazon (UK) sales figures translate to in royalties, I took Stephen’s Kindle sales figures and plugged in their sales prices multiplied by Amazon’s royalty percentages. The results are in this inspirational little table:

Title December sales Sales price Royalty Revenue
Bangkok Bob 302 £2.98 £2.09 £629.97
Dreamer’s Cat 3,899 £0.86 £0.29 £1,130.71
Once Bitten 22,607 £0.74 £0.26 £5,877.82
Private Dancer 205 £3.83 £2.68 £549.61
The Basement 17,321 £0.74 £0.26 £4,503.46
Total £12,691.57

Via Steven Lewis’ Kindle Writers blog


  1. This is EXACTLY what’s I’ve been predicting for ages.

    The books that cost Five bucks or so only sold a few hundred while the books that cost One Dollar sold 20,000 copies and made ten times the profit.

    The ONLY thing holding up the high price of ebooks is publisher’s fixation on preserving the cost structure of their paper books. Border’s is on the verge of bankrupt. Once B&N goes bankrupt in a couple of years we may finally see ebooks set free.

    Within five years the standard price for an ebook will be one buck or less. Even sooner if more people start scouting around for cheap ebooks they enjoy rather than slavishly buying the manufactured best-sellers by big name, big publisher authors.

  2. Hi Binko, I agree of course with the general economic principle that you’ll sell more if the item is cheap. And the results of slashing prices look great if you have Stephen’s sales but not all authors will have those sales. Even in Stephen’s case, just because the numbers look great doesn’t mean that 35 cents per book is actually a fair price.

    The downward pressure on ebook prices and the rumbles about unfettered lending make me wonder: what do readers think is a fair price to reward the work and risk that go into writing a book or is reasonableness completely irrelevant?

  3. Steven, I don’t really understand the concept of a “fair” price. I’d rather look at in terms of an efficient price. The most efficient price is the price that brings the ability to read the book to the greatest number while also rewarding the author to the greatest degree possible.

    Once all the artificial barriers that currently exist are removed the marketplace will establish the most efficient price for a work. I’m talking about barriers like the geographic restrictions, distribution bottlenecks and artificial pricing controls that are currently maintained by conventional publishers.

    Since the cost of distribution for an ebook is close to nil it’s more efficient for a million people to pay a dollar for an ebook than for 100,000 people to pay nine dollars. The author makes more money and, at the same time, ten times as many people get the utility of reading the book.

    Remove the publishers from the picture and this most efficient price will be determined by free competition among authors in an open marketplace.

  4. Binko – lots of really good points.

    You are absolutely right in saying that fairness has nothing to do with it. Any authors that get hung up on this are very mistaken. There is no fair value for anything in life, be it an artists painting, a book, a car, a photo. I have seen the most exquisite paintings done by semi professionals that sell for less than $500 and which I believe are worth ten times that. What it’s worth to me is different from what it’s worth to someone else and that is different to what the artist feels it is worth. In the end it’s worth what people will pay for it.
    In my view writers need to look solely at what they earn from a piece of writing in toto and not fixate on the price of individual copies.

    As it happens I am not convinced this one or two dollar eBook sweet spot stands up to wider scrutiny. This topic arose in Dave Slusher’s recent article here a couple of days ago and it would appear to me there is a different sweet spot for different authors and at different stages of their public reputation. A regular best-selling author will have a much higher sweet spot during the first 4 months of his new book than after, say, 2 years. Same goes for a minority interest author or an indie author. I believe this is how things will pan out over the course of the maturation of the eBook market. The successful sellers will move quickly to that sweet spot and not waste time hung up on quick profit of ‘fair’ value.

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