How Indie Authors Sell a Million Books Overnight

How to sell a million books overnight? Easy-peasy, just do this:

  • Write a book fast. The faster the better.
  • Don’t worry about beta readers or professional editors. (time consuming)
  • Slap on a cover, even if you have no graphic design experience.
  • Formatting? Why bother when the message is what matters?
  • Publish it on Amazon, either exclusively with KDP Select or with every other retailer too.
  • Get on Facebook/Twitter and scream about your book at all times. Sell, sell and sell some more!
  • Broadcast at Goodreads and Amazon Kindle Forums, disregard their TOS. It’s not spam, it’s an investment in your future.
  • Keep pitching until the masses have found your book and every reader has fallen in love with it.
  • Kick back and count your Benjamins. Nice work, Indie Author Super-Star!

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Okay, you’ve probably guessed the above advice is a joke and a recipe for disaster, yet this is what some indie authors do even if to a lesser degree. (*raises hand* I’ve done a few of these as well.) Unfortunately, “one bad apple” comes to mind when behavior like this influences snarky forum comments to the tune of why someone would never read an indie book.

Reality check–the above instruction won’t work unless you’re Edward Morra, the character played by Bradley Cooper in Limitless, and the 100% human potential pill is still available.

Let’s move to plan B, shall we: How Indie Authors Sell a Million Books Overnight. Scratch that. How Indie Authors Sell a Million Books. Scratch that too. How Indie Authors Sell Books. Ah, better. Settling down to realistic goals.

  • Write a great book, even if it drives you insane by the end of it. Maybe it only takes a month or two, but maybe it takes years. I’ve done it both ways and have yet to recover my sanity but am happy with the books.
  • Get as many beta readers as possible to give serious critique along the way and also once it’s done. Pats on the back won’t help. Strangers are better than friends and family because they’ll be brutally honest when that’s necessary. You may need to read and critique for others to accomplish this, which will also help you identify bad habits. If you can afford professional editors, do that too.
  • Make your own cover, only if you’ve spent the time to master the art. Otherwise hire out. It can be surprisingly affordably.
  • Learn formatting. Read Amazon’s Building Your Book for Kindle and the Smashwords Style Guide.
  • Publish it on Amazon, either exclusively with KDP Select or with every other retailer too. (Hmm, this part hasn’t changed.)
  • Get on Facebook, Twitter and Google Plus or any other social media site you enjoy. Participate and make friends with people without resorting to constant self-promotion. Network, network and network some more.
  • Do the same thing at Goodreads and other forums only if you have time.
  • Blog to a schedule you can manage. Writers need websites and need to write more. Blogging provides the platform and helps people learn about you, connect with your social media links and hopefully buy your book.
  • Do this until the world finds your book and some people fall in love with it (not everyone will and that’s okay).

I’ve heard many successful authors share what’s been most effective to them for selling books. While this is not a one-size-fits-all answer, in general this is what authors advise:

  • Blog.
  • Use social media to network, not to make hard sells.
  • Be professional everywhere.
  • Learn some basic SEO. Search engines help strangers find your book by subject matter.
  • Write more books.
  • Be persistent even if it takes years.
  • Get lucky or create your own luck by doing the steps above.

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There is no magic wand, no secret to success. How could there be? The truth is boring, far more mundane than the Limitless 100% human potential example, yet that’s what successful authors report has worked. Boring, mundane, successful authors who have sold a million books.

Share your thoughts and comments below. What works for you?

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23 Responses to “How Indie Authors Sell a Million Books Overnight”

  1. Jerry Kuzma Says:


    Hi Jason, thanks for this article.

    As a publisher, the one thing that stands out to me is your point about self-promotion. I get so many tweets from authors who simply quote a line of intriguing text from their book with a link to purchase.

    Few authors tweet about their EXPERTISE or EXPERIENCE of brainstorming, outlining, writing, editing or getting the word out locally.

    I am going to write and give away a report within the next 2 weeks on how authors can fix the 5 biggest mistakes they make in their marketing. This is sorely needed, as some of the biggest mistakes are very easy to fix. (One of these tips is being used for some of our product launches this month as a triaI…to boost uptake of authors’ book samples and subsequent sales).

    I have connected with you on G+….thanks again for your encouragement and instruction.

    All the best,
    Jerry Kuzma


  2. Kathleen Hebert Says:

    I always enjoy your words of wisdom, Jason. Than-you! – Kathy

  3. K. A. Jordan Says:

    The ‘goldrush’ mentality lives on. Good points!

  4. MarquitaHerald (@MarquitaHerald) Says:

    Great advice as always Jason – though you had me for a moment in the first part. I wanted to add a comment about SEO because I think a lot of part-time bloggers tend to either ignore or dabble in this area ( I used to be one of them) and I thought it might be interesting to share a statistic. Two months ago I decided to get really serious about SEO and set myself a goal to get the Alexa rank of my WP blog below 50,000. I added the All in One SEO Plugin to my WP blog and got to work making sure every page and article was primed. The difference has been dramatic – my site went from ranking 77,000/US and 270,000/Intl to 37,823/US and 197,233/Intl as of this morning. I’m still posting 2 articles a week, and if anything I’m commenting on fewer blogs because I’m working on a new book, so the only difference has been the work on SEO.

  5. Joan Ramirez Says:


    I’m looking for an illustrator for my picture book on Autism. I believe this book has a great potential but publisher won’t review unless I send illustrations. Can someone out there help me?
    Joan R

  6. thelighteside Says:

    Great Article Jason. As an aspiring Author, I have been quickly overloaded with a lot information. One thing I have learned is that “soft sales” are probably an Indie author’s best bet. Great relationships will help with “word of mouth” advertising in the long run.

  7. stevenartify Says:

    A great blog and very informative. Thank you for writing it. Also makes me motivated to write my book a little bit quicker. I seemed to have stopped. Now I’m going to continue it again tonight.

  8. stevenartify Says:

    Reblogged this on Stevenartify's Blog and commented:
    Written by Jason Matthews

  9. dm yates Says:

    Perfect! I’m so glad you wrote this. I hope the ones who follow the first set of rules read this. It sure needs to be said, time and again. And tell me, why do so many Indie authors pitch to other authors instead of readers? Tis a puzzlement.

  10. Blogs for Self-Publishers, August 11 – 17, 2013 — The Book Designer Says:

    […] Matthews on How to Make, Market and Sell Ebooks How Indie Authors Sell a Million Books Overnight “I’ve heard many successful authors share what’s been most effective to them for selling […]

  11. Indie Authors: Selling Books | Musings and Marvels Says:

    […] How to Make, Market and Sell Ebooks’ “How Indie Authors Sell a Million Books Overnight“ […]

  12. cecelia earl Says:

    Thanks for the reminders! I’ve been working diligently on the write more and more…but forgot about the blog more and more. Working on my website was on my weekly to-do list, but BLOG more to connect with readers will be better than just Facebook and tweet more. Needed this tonight as I write more… 🙂 Connection with readers is the goal! And sometimes that connection gets lost with self-promotion. Readers, not sales.

  13. Matti C Says:

    Any advice for transgender poets specifically? Having a hard time as a member of that community, breaking into that market. I know all about SEO and keywords and blogging from my website and the nightmare THAT has been to run, but I have two collections of poetry up already on kindle and I want to make it worth it to put up the other three I have. It’s been a HECK of a lot of work! Thank you for the great advice, Jason.

    Warmest regards,
    Matti Charlton

    • Jason Matthews Says:

      lol I don’t have any specific advice there. Sounds like you’re working hard which is awesome! Keep doing what you’re doing for love first, hopefully money will come too. Good luck to you, Matti.

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