Woah, now.

Let’s unpack that number.

  • John Green (The Fault in Our Stars, Paper Towns) made $26 million in 2015.
  • Veronica Roth (The Divergent Trilogy) made $25 million in 2015.
  • James Patterson (who has produced 1 out of every 17 hardbacks published yearly in the USA) made $89 million in 2015 and $96 million in 2016.
  • John Green and Veronica Roth each have 5+ titles under their belts, with more releasing in the coming years. Jeff Kinney has 11 titles in the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series. Danielle Steel, Stephen King, John Grisham, and Janet Evanovich all have quite the impressive backlist.

Why do they consistently make millions year after year? (James Patterson will most likely break 100 million yearly by the end of 2017.)

What sets these authors apart from the other 30+ million titles on Amazon?

Is prolific writing the key to success?


Do they have the right agent or the right publisher?

Certainly not. We’d see a more obvious discrepancy between the revenue of publishing houses if that were the case.

It’s not luck.

It’s not the right contract.

It’s not the right side of the tracks or their connections.

So what is it?

They have a system in place for selling books.

And most authors do not.

The assumption of many is that publishing is much like a lotto ticket. You may win big, but at best you’ll just get enough to buy another ticket—to write another book. Most published books don’t even sell 250 copies in their first year, let alone during the lifetime of the author.

We may romanticize red carpets and author signings, big breaks and bigger bucks, but the truth that separates profitable authors from merely published authors is hard work and a system for book sales.

These authors became consistent in their writing of books and in their marketing of the books they wrote. They found a system, both that worked for them, and one that they also worked for. These authors, now idolized by writers near and far, don’t have all the answers, don’t have all the happiness, but they do have the right actions.


Is this success repeatable?


What actions can an author take to have a profitable brand?


Year after year, are you producing quality content?

Do you have an editorial plan for your book releases for the next few years?


Your 50,000 word book is awesome. But so are your 500 word blog post, your 140 character tweets, and your Instagram feed.

Are you a forwarding/sharing fiend? Or do you exercise self-control? No one wants to follow a schizophrenic brand. Have a reason and a mission for why your author brand does anything online.


The brand is what it’s all about. Think Coke or Pepsi, Dorito’s or Lay’s. They have one mission: get the product in front of as many eyes (relate) as possible and get it into as main points of sale (transact) as possible.

Outside of brick & mortar booksellers and Amazon, authors need to distribute their books through various forms of media. This is through interviews (radio, TV, podcast, blog), social media (two presently-active accounts is better than twelve poorly-managed ones), and through collaboration with influencers (how can you serve?).

We may praise traditional publishers for their distribution networks, but it’s the authors who are the real distributors of their wares. It’s the author who talks, walks, and breathes their book to the public. It’s the author who does the interviews, writes the emails, and signs the books. It’s the author who keeps and nurtures the following. And the author who does these things consistently is the one who makes the most money.


Be consistently approachable online and through your newsletter.

Write personable emails and automate the delivery, so that when someone signs up for your newsletter or buys a book from your website, you’re able to communicate with them on your terms.

A cultivated email list means you never have to worry about how a book store is displaying your book or if a shipment was sent out a week late because of a clerical error or how busy UPS has been with remainders/returns this year.


“If you want to go fast, go alone,” exhorts the African proverb. “If you want to go far, go together.”

Don’t reinvent the wheel every year. A team that knows their jobs will keep you on track. Build on your experiences and your team’s skills year to year so that your efforts compound with every launch, every email sent, every interview, and every book sold. There’s no reason to start at ground zero every year.


Your system will keep you on track when life gets in the way. It’s easy to be at the whim of urgencies, but it’s essential to have a plan to stay on track for your books, your brand, and your goals.


Without a reason why, without a legacy as the driving force, it doesn’t matter how great your plan or team or book is. Without your why, you’ll eventually self-sabotage; you’ll find a reason to quit—a reason to wipe away your success.

The author who has a team goes farther than the author who goes alone, but the author  who goes farthest is the author who has a system and a team and knows why they keep going.

Successful author brands influence more people and consistent authors have the most sway over our lives. Theses authors become brands we trust. We like to partner with the proven winner and celebrate their wins with them, and in doing so we help turn their books into a launching pad for leaving a legacy that matters.

“Originally appeared in The OffBeat Business Magazine March 2017 Issue.


What happens after you write your next book? How should you be marketing your current book? I’ll be announcing the beta test program for the Legacy-Driven Author membership soon. And you can join the wait list for it here.

Written by Marshall
Marshall Mitchell is a publisher, consultant, speaker, and writer. He is passionate about helping authors develop their books and brands around intentional legacies. Marshall lives in Springfield, MO with his wife and young daughter.