Exclusive: Indie Author Michael Wallace Signs 5 Book Deal With Amazon

Indie writer Michael Wallace has been signed to a 5 book deal by Amazon’s imprint Thomas & Mercer, hot on the heels of the deal they struck with J Carson Black last week.

Michael is the author of several thrillers, including the bestselling Righteous series, The Red Rooster, and The Devil’s Deep.  His newest self-published title The Devil’s Peak, was released today.

He now joins J Carson Black, JA Konrath, Blake Crouch, Barry Eisler, and Ed McBain in what is a top-drawer line-up for Amazon’s new mystery and thriller imprint.

Here’s the official announcement from Publisher’s Lunch:

Michael Wallace’s THE RIGHTEOUS, independently published Amazon Kindle Top 20 bestseller, the first book of a thriller series about a renegade Mormon polygamist cult and its various denizens, to Megan Jacobsen at Thomas & Mercer, for publication in early 2012, in a five-book deal, by Katherine Boyle at Veritas (World English).

The regulars at Kindle Boards will know Michael’s story quite well, he has always been very helpful and willing to share his experiences, his sales numbers, and his pricing strategies.

He is another self-publisher who tried for years and years to break into trade publishing, without success. At the start of this year, with a heavy heart, he decided to self-publish.

As you will read below, he was under no illusions about how successful he would be. Here’s what Michael had to say earlier today.


In January of 2011, I gave up. After twenty years of fighting for a traditional publishing contract and suffering near miss after near miss, I abandoned the fight and started putting my books online for sale as self-published e-books. In spite of dogged persistence and the efforts of multiple literary agents to sell my novels, I had never overcome the final hurdle. Self-publishing was an act of desperation.

I expected that maybe I would sell a few books to family and friends, or perhaps find a modest niche where I could sell a few hundred books. I just hoped the books wouldn’t sink like a stone.

They didn’t. I got a lucky blog mention, some great cover and marketing advice from new friends on the Kindle Boards, and then my book showed up on the Amazon “also bought” lists of a few rising stars. I drafted off these books for awhile until Amazon picked up on the success of the books and began recommending them to an even wider circle.

My sales accelerated from a handful, to a bunch, to hundreds and then thousands. I sold over 20,000 books in April and nearly that many again in May. The Righteous climbed as high as the Top 20 on the overall Kindle Store.

A funny thing happened. Agents and editors started querying me. Most of the interest was in The Righteous, a series of thrillers set in a polygamist enclave. It was the same series that had been shopped already and had nearly been picked up for good money before everything fell apart.

What had seemed risky a couple of years ago, now seemed like a sure bet, with tens of thousands of sales to prove it. I had an agent already, and I decided to concentrate on the interest from Amazon’s Thomas & Mercer imprint.

I’ve been asked why I would sign. I was making good money, and even with the ups and downs in my sales, the thought of selling away my rights must have given me pause. It did. At one point, I almost walked away and decided to stick with the 100% indie plan.

But as this deal came together over the last few months, I had the chance to examine my goals. Why exactly did I want a traditional publishing deal? Was it nothing more than to fulfill a lifetime goal of holding a paper book in my hand? Was it the lottery aspect, that there would always be the chance that the series would take off and sell Dan Brown-esque numbers?

I’m a storyteller. I imagine an ancestor sitting around the fire, relaying the excitement of the hunt or telling how the chief had won the battle with a well-placed arrow at the enemy’s champion. In return, he would earn applause, an extra haunch of meat, maybe the shy smile of the chief’s daughter. With every passing season, he would hone his craft, until he knew how to play his audience for maximum effect. And he would love every minute of it.

I am like that ancestor. What I want is simple. I want to tell stories. I want to find an appreciative audience for my stories. Finally—and is this so unreasonable?—I want to earn a living from my stories.

Ideally, I would have an indie career, writing and publishing what I like, and a traditional publishing contract that would give the chance for breakout success. On the side, I would like to do other projects: novellas, podiobooks, maybe a collaboration with a friend.

Given these goals and the changing market, Amazon’s Thomas & Mercer imprint is the best option for me. I’m already grateful to Amazon for the chance to publish directly.

I’ve seen what their well-targeted marketing can bring to the table. With sufficient push, they can make sure these books are very successful, indeed. And that gives me the best chance to keep writing, keep finding readers, and keep getting paid for what I do.

And that is all I ever wanted.


I’m sure you will join me in congratulating Michael on a stunning deal with what is quickly becoming the best outfit in town. I must also mention his agent – Katherine Boyle of the San Francisco-based Veritas Literary Agency – for doggedly pursuing the right deal.

Thomas & Mercer have a clear strategy of signing the very top thriller writers, picking not just those self-publishers who are selling the most, but also the ones who have the most potential to also break out in print.

As with J Carson Black’s deal last week, Amazon aren’t shooting in the dark here. They have access to the kind of data that publishers would kill for.

They not only know Michael’s sales figures, but would have access to information on customer buying patterns, the likelihood of his book being purchased when it is shown to a certain type of customer, and all sorts of other metrics.

They must be pretty sure that they can not only aggressively expand his digital sales, but also that they can expand his reach dramatically into the majority that still read print.

I’m pretty sure too.

David Gaughran

Born in Ireland, he now lives in a little fishing village in Portugal, although this hasn’t increased the time spent outside. He writes novels under another name, has helped thousands of authors build a readership with his books, blogs, workshops, and courses, and has created marketing campaigns for some of the biggest self-publishers on the planet. Friend to all dogs.

59 Replies to “Exclusive: Indie Author Michael Wallace Signs 5 Book Deal With Amazon”

  1. I love a good success story! I especially love how lucky Michael is (lucky that he’s talented, hard working, dogged, persistent and never ever gave up) Now I think I’ll go try one of his books.

  2. Awesome news! Congrats to him for his MUCH deserved success!!

    It seems like writing traditional thrillers/mystery/suspense novels or YA vampire-type stories is the way to go if you want to break out. At least that seems to be the trend from these recent “breakout Indie success” stories.

    I would be curious to see if anyone writing outside these realms is having *this* much success. I mean, with 100,000+ self-published novels in the last 5 years alone, it seems like the couple dozen huge success stories are always the same “types” of books that were already doing well for New York publishers.

    I would love to see some writers who are writing “different” things have this kind of success, you know?

    1. Amazon are just following the readers.

      Romance/thriller readers seemed to be the first to start switching to e-books. Those writers were the first to find success. The first two Amazon genre imprints were Montlake (Romance) and Thomas & Mercer (Thrillers). That makes sense to me.

      The next genre imprint Amazon are setting up is SF/F. Again that makes sense. There are guys in that genre (Bob Mayer – although he writes thrillers too, Nathan Lowell, David Dalglish, Michael J. Sullivan, and lots more). In fact, Michael J. Sullivan recently sign a 6 book 6 figure deal with Orbit. Nathan Lowell is selling tens of thousands of copies, as is Marshall Thomas. David Dalglish has had huge success in fantasy.

      There are lot of successful self-publishers in all genres. Some genres have had more success because those readers switched over first. Lagging at the back seems to be literary/historical readers, as well as non-fiction. But they will switch eventually, and then you will see a breakout literary/historical self-publishing star.

  3. Congrats to Michael on this. I’m happy how these deals seem to be coming together… it’s like a peaceful occurence. Michael was able to get out there, sells books, and find the right deal for himself – all the while he’s selling books, gaining fans, and making money!

    Way to go Amazon! Way to go Michael! And, as always David, thanks for posting this story. I always enjoy reading where the authors came from and when they started, etc.


    1. Your welcome Jim. I love writing these stories!

      The great thing about the virtual slush pile is that you can make money while you are in it. In fact, it’s such a good “Plan B” that for many writers, it’s now their Plan A.

  4. Congratulations, Michael! You are a fantastic writer and I think this is the right step forward to share those great books with the world. All good things to you, my friend.

  5. Congrats Michael!
    He is one of those people on Kindleboard that I have always learned from. Just one more “overnight” success. What do these recent stories have in common? They never gave up. Instead, they continued to write and, finally, took their fate into their own hands.
    I am so proud of them all. What an exciting few weeks – writing duo of Mark Edwards & Louise Voss, J. Carson Black, Stephen Leather, and now Michael Wallace.
    Thank you for bringing this news to us, David.
    Who signs the deal tomorrow? 🙂
    Woo hoo! And happy writing!

  6. This is fantastic news for all of us. As I said on the KB thread, Michael is an inspiration and an “icebreaker” for the rest of us. He deserves not just our congratulations, but our thanks.

  7. What’s the opposite of schadenfreude? That’s what I’m feeling for Michael Wallace. Happy-sharing-joy? Vicarious-fellow-author-delight? Thriller-writer-colleague-admiration?

    In any case… congratulations. Hard work and perseverance paid off!

    A foreshadowing of more indie author deals to come.

  8. That’s great news! Always glad to see an indie do well.

    Not sure if you heard the rumor about Apple buying B & N, David. If they do, then Apple will clearly become a key to greater indie success stories … I wonder how long down the line before they would form their own imprint to further compete with Amazon?

    1. Hey PJ,

      I heard the rumour, but as far as I know it’s completely unsubstantiated (thus far at least). One thing is for sure. Someone will buy B&N. They have a good share of the e-market and a popular device, but don’t have the deep pockets to compete with Google, Apple, and Amazon.

      I would be quite surprised if it was Apple though, and doubly surprised if Apple ever launched a publishing imprint.


      1. It’d be mad to buy B&N now. You’d be saddled with unloading all the stores. Someone might buy the Nook business if they were crazy enough to sell it, but I don’t think that will happen.

        Maybe when they’ve driven the ebook business a bit bigger and closed more stores someone will see enough upside to buy them, but not right now!

        1. The Liberty Media bid doesn’t seem to be going anywhere at the moment, but once someone gets that ball rolling, it usually ends up with a deal with someone down the line.

          I think it’s safe to say that if anyone did buy B&N, lots more store closures would be the first move. Either that, or even less floorspace for books.

  9. Thank you, everyone. These are exciting times and I’m so grateful to be writing in a time where this sort of thing is possible. I’m not sure I’d have broken through any other way.

  10. Congratulations, Michael! I am so thrilled for you! Plus I love inspirational stories like this. How wonderful that you never gave up, and went on to achieve so much success! Very recently, the sales of my self-published books on Amazon Kindle picked up considerably and Amazon suddenly started attaching my books to the “also bought” list of a few rising stars…although I don’t know that that will lead to anything more for me, it’s sooooo exciting to hear that that led to huge success for you! You are a tremendous inspiration!

  11. So, if I’m reading this (and other blogs) correctly … nobody really wants to be an Indie. Going Indie is just a vehicle for getting a publisher? No?

    1. Hey,

      No, that’s not quite right. Some indies may wish to pursue trade deals for some of their projects. Some may seek it for all, ultimately. Others don’t want trade deals for any of their stuff. There is a wide range of opinions on it.

      Having said that, I think most indies would consider a trade deal, if the terms were suitable. The last qualifier is crucial. Indies have access to sales data, they have built a platform, they have some idea how well there books can sell in the future once they get X amount of titles up. They know the dollar value on each check they get each month from Amazon. As such, they have a much better idea of what their book is worth.

      When they deal with publishers and agents, it’s from a position of strength. They already have an operational “Plan B” that’s making them money.

      If someone offers them a way to reach even more readers, at equitable terms, most will consider it. Makes sense.

      Or, in short, going with a publisher is just a vehicle for the ultimate goal: more readers. But it’s not the only way. Not anymore.

    2. I have yet to see an independent author sign with a trade publisher that hasn’t continued to independently publish as well. Independent authors are signing limited book deals, often to re-release the series under the traditional publisher. Amanda Hocking, JA Konrath, and others have continued to self-publish works as well, while the traditional publisher is editing, redoing covers, etc.

      Most of these authors simply want to make a living, and they are focused on building their brand. It’s not an either/or. Authors are continuing to self-publish, even after signing with trade publishers for their limited book deals.

      P.S. Already mentioned this on Kindleboards, but congratulations once again to Michael!

    3. I am sure others can say this better than I can, but for me I am happy when someone finds the right path for them. I don’t see ‘indie’ as an exclusive path. I am saddened when authors don’t consider self-publishing out of fear or information that is just plain outdated and wrong. But in life I don’t think you sign up for camps, you sign up to make the most of every moment and opportunity.
      And it is best to be supportive of those who make well thought out and considered decisions, that’s just being a kind human.

  12. Dear ccc,

    I’m staying Indie! I worked for someone else my whole adult life in high tech sales and I LOVE LOVE LOVE writing my books my way. I swore off querying agents four months ago and blog reviewers last week. I’m “all in” to forging my writing career my way. Perhaps, we’ll be the only two left. : )

    To Michael Wallace: Congrats! It’s a wonderful story and best of luck to you.

    1. Hey Katherine,

      You guys won’t be alone, promise. I pulled my novel from 3 agents when my books started to do well. I want to see what I can do on my own first.

      I wouldn’t say No to a check with lots of zeroes and commas in it but I would never sign a contract that didn’t allow me to continue self-publishing other projects.

      1. Oh goody~there’ll be three of us. I probably wouldn’t say no to a check with a lot of zeroes and commas either, but the contract would have to be awfully straight forward and I would continue to self-publish, too. Thanks for another great post!

      2. Katherine/David, make that four 🙂 I love the indie world. My priorities have shifted greatly in the past few months. If I were ever to be offered a deal, it wouldn’t appeal to me at all unless I kept my self-publishing rights.

        Michael, I’m so excited for you and wish you the greatest success!

      3. Make that 5…unless, as others have said, Amazon offers me a deal I can’t refuse with their romance imprint but allows me to continue self-publishing as well.

        Kristie Leigh Maguire
        Indie Author before Indie was cool!

    2. Dear Katherine,
      I just bought Seeing Julia. Judging from the book cover, I don’t believe it’s the type of genre I normally read, but I’ll let you know what I think anyway, for what it’s worth. At this point in time, I’m only buying “real” Indies, regardless of what the genre is.

      1. Dear ccc: Well, I’m touched that you would buy my book. My core readers seem to love it, but I would appreciate what you think of it even if it is outside of your genre of what you normally read. : )

        So, if you have a book out, send me the link so I can pay it forward as well. I owe David a review for his Let’s Get Digital book, but this is my first day back from vacation and things have been less than perfect. I spent the morning troubleshooting the espresso maker and then my laptop. Happy to say both are now working. And, it’s trying to be a nice day in Seattle, but alas, it’s not the Pacific Ocean.

  13. Michael,
    I’m so happy for your deal. After 20 years it will be nice to have some support and financial security. Very good.

  14. Congratulations to Michael – whose reasons for accepting a deal are very similar to mine and Louise’s. It’s all about wanting to find as big an audience as possible, especially when you write commercial fiction. And Amazon really are hoovering up writers!

  15. David,

    Don’t forget that Amazon can also monitor what happens IN BOOK. Where a reader stops, starts, pauses. How quickly they read certain books. The kinds of keywords that connect with readers of certain genres. They have more data on reading, readers and narrative flow than any publisher in the past EVER. They probably have more than ALL the publishers in the past ever!
    That’s incredibly valuable I’d wager!

  16. That’s kind of scary that they’d have that much information, but it sure gives them a killer advantage in the market. I’m excited to see what they can do and I can hardly believe that I’m the company of those other writers they’ve signed. I feel incredibly fortunate.

    1. The big advantage is their power in direct marketing. They send millions of emails, all targeted to customers based on their buying and reading preferences. The more a customer has bought (and read), the more targeted those emails are. So, not only do they know who the heavy readers are, they know exactly what they buy and what they like.

      They then target authors who they feel can really kick on with this powerful marketing behind them. They must know from looking at your figures, and who is buying your books, that with the right kind of targeted push, they can take your sales up another level again. It’s going to be exciting to watch. For you too, I would imagine 🙂

  17. Michael, my sincere congrats to you on signing with Amazon! I LOVE your Righteous series. It has been a pleasure to know you and call you friend. May your star continue to rise! I am so happy for you.

  18. David, I just read Kindle’s online contract, and I have to say, it’s really oppressive to the author. They can change the royalty and the conditions any time. They say you have to sue them withing 6 months of receiving a statement – what if they don’t tell you the right accounting and you found out a year later that they were skimming? You had an agent negotiate with them – were you able to get these items changed?

  19. I found the article inspiring and a likely boost to all aspiring writers. The message is… “If you believe you have talent, hang in there and don’t give up.” Congrats to both you and Michael for a job well done. I just finished reading Wallace’s “Devil’s Deep” and look forward to reading “Devil’s Peak”

  20. Congratulations Michael. When I read success stories such as yours, I smile from ear to ear, showing lots of teeth. We all love happy endings…or happy beginnings…you know what I mean. Again congratulations, and David, as always, thank you for an outstanding article.

  21. Thank goodness for ebooks. This is one of the best new writers I have tried in a while. Can’t wait for more!

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