Tmonique Stephens

The Top Author Earners of 2013


According for FORBES, these are the top earning authors of 2013


E.L. James: $95 million

Originally a “Twilight” tribute titled “Master of the Universe,” “Fifty Shades of Grey” vaulted its author from fan-fiction websites straight to the top of every best-seller list. The e-book format was a key factor, giving readers an easy way to purchase the sex-filled sequels — and a discrete way to read them in public.


James Patterson: $91 million

Only a phenomenon the size of “Fifty Shades of Grey” could knock Patterson from his longtime perch atop the top-earning authors list, and chances are he’ll be back at No. 1 next year. One out of every 17 hardcovers sold in the U.S. is his, and with his “Maximum Ride” and “Witch & Wizard” series he’s increasingly as much a force in the young adult market as adult thrillers, his mainstay.


Suzanne Collins: $55 million

The blockbuster release of the first “Hunger Games” film, starring Jennifer Lawrence, helped launch Collins from the ranks of up-and-comers to the Olympian heights of J.K. Rowling and Stephenie Meyer. A former children’s television writer, she’s also the author of the five-book series “The Underland Chronicles.”


Bill O’Reilly: $28 million

He’ll always be known primarily as a television talking head, but with the publication of “Killing Lincoln,” book writing became more than just a sideline for the Fox News host. After the publication of follow-up “Killing Kennedy,” he held the No. 1 and No. 2 slots on the New York Times hardcover non-fiction best-sellers list, and his next volume, “Killing Jesus,” could be the biggest of the series


Danielle Steel: $26 million

In 40 years as a published author, Steel has published 128 titles, averaging more than three a year. Most have been romances, but she’s also written children’s books, nonfiction and even a volume of poetry. She’s sold more than 600 million copies.


Jeff Kinney: $24 million

Written for children and younger adolescents, Kinney’s “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” series has spawned seven installments (with No. 8 due in November 2013) and three theatrical films. “The Third Wheel” sold more than 1.4 million copies last year.


Janet Evanovich: $24 million

“I motivate myself to write by spending my money before I make it,” Evanovich has written. “My favorite exercise is shopping.” Thanks to the success of her Stephanie Plum detective novels, she must be getting an awful lot of exercise these days


Nora Roberts: $23 million

She made her name writing the kind of bodice-rippers you see at the supermarket checkout or the airport bookstore, but lately Roberts has become the queen of the e-book: She sold more than 3.2 million digital copies in 2012, more than any other author not named E.L. James.


Dan Brown: $22 million

“Inferno,” Brown’s third novel about the adventures of occult mystery-solver Robert Langdon, was the best-selling book of 2013’s first half, moving 369,000 copies. Still, it didn’t come close to the sales of its predecessors, “The Da Vinci Code” and “The Lost Symbol.


Stephen King: $20 million

Less prolific than some of the other authors on this list, King has his up and down years, but he’s enjoying yet another moment of cultural ubiquity, with CBS’s “Under the Dome” one of the biggest new hits on network television and a long-awaited follow-up to “The Shining” coming to bookstores. King also has two sons who are successful novelists.


Dean Koontz: $20 million

Koontz remains the master of the creep-out. He’s sold more than 450 million copies to date


John Grisham: $18 million

“The Racketeer,” Grisham’s 18th novel and one of his many popular legal thrillers, was the second-best-selling hardcover novel of 2012. His next, “Sycamore Row,” is set to be published in October 2013.


David Baldacci: $15 million

Like his fellow Southerner John Grisham, Baldacci was a lawyer before he turned his hand to writing novels full time. He’s now published 26 of them, all of them best sellers.

Rick Riordan: $14 million

Riordan sold more than 5.6 million copies of his mythology-inspired young adult adventures in 2012. Two of the three best-selling children’s titles were his.


J.K. Rowling: $13 million

After navigating the tricky transition from children’s books to adult fiction, Rowling has rediscovered her mojo, with “The Cuckoo’s Calling” (published secretly under the pen name Robert Galbraith) topping the hardcover best-sellers list while “The Casual Vacancy” is No. 1 among paperbacks.


George R.R. Martin: $12 million

The HBO adaptation of “Game of Thrones” made Martin the best-selling paperback writer of 2012 (after E.L. James, of course). If he wants to climb on this list, he might have to pick up his pace a bit: It took him six years to complete his last installment in the fantasy series.

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Weekend Writing Warrior August 4, 2013


Here is a sample of Everlasting, the second book in my Descendants of Ra series.


          “Who’s the Vanquished?”

“Conquered warriors haunting my soul. They are my penance, my tormentors. The only peace I find is when I’m within one hundred feet of the one who balances my soul. You are that person.”

She was about to say she didn’t want to be that person when his gaze turned sultry, swept across her face, down the column of her throat and rested on her breasts. An internal switch flipped and she flushed. Her fingers stroked down the blade as images of him—of them—entwined and doing things she dreamed about flickered in her head. The positions, the thrusts, the licks, and touches, orgasms after orgasms, she, crying out his name.

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My Sexy Saturday Post









Here are 7 sexy paragraphs from Everlasting, book 2 in my Egyptian God series. Coming soon.


For countries, for kings, and for emperors, he killed. To honor the Nicolis name, he killed. And to protect the one person he loved—his brother—he killed. Too many to count fell beneath his blade, but each victory came with a price.

Roman must return. Without his brother’s easy temperament to balance the darkness in Reign’s soul, the Vanquished ruled, and he would become a madman, no better than the beast he chased. Soon he would lose rational thought and descend into madness. He hadn’t traveled all this way to become the thing he would destroy. No. His fingers cracked the hard surface of the black ground, searching for earth to hold onto and center him. Sometimes touching the ground from which all things sought sustenance helped suppress the riot in his brain. But there was no dirt beneath the surface of this strange ground. An ashy, gray substance covered his fingers instead of fertile earth.

A distant whimper reached Reign and gave him the strength to turn his head a fraction. A woman stumbled from the house. She wobbled on unsteady legs. A wild, curly mass of hair obscured her view. She rested on one of the wooden columns. One wrong step and she’d trip on the scattered debris and tumble down the stairs. He had to get to her before she fell.

Fighting the invisible demons weighing him down, Reign forced himself to his knees. Then he crawled. With each step, the cries of the Vanquished lessened, replaced by calming silence. If he were pious, he would offer a prayer that she stay put until her reached her.

She pushed away from the column. Her knees buckled. Seconds before her skull would’ve smashed onto the ground, Reign materialized. He dove beneath her and absorbed the brunt of the fall.

Damn the gods. The feel of her solid form blasted through his petrified center. He hadn’t realized how much he missed this. Human contact. The simple act of touching and being touched. Warmth and the softness of a woman. So long denied, now he feasted.

He buried his face in her mass of curly hair and inhaled jasmine and honey. A moan ripe with longing ripped from his throat and he fitted her lush curves more intimately to him. She shivered and her breath curled in the air. Gently, he rolled and let her slide from his arms to her back. The pale glow of artificial light bathed her face and he forgot to breathe. Something so lovely couldn’t be real. Wasn’t real. Touching her shouldn’t be allowed.

Love of Mythology Giveaway Hop.



Welcome to the Love of Mythology Giveaway HopFTLOMBanner_zps33192fbd

ETERNITY is part of the giveaway!!


Why did I choose to write about the Egyptian Gods?

About five years ago, I decided I wanted to write a series. I’ve always loved paranormal romances, vampires, werewolves, the fey, shape shifters, novels about other worlds inhabited with different species. Naturally, I gravitated to what I enjoyed reading, but I was tired of the usual books populating the genre. Fangs, claws and fur, oh my. I considered writing about the Greek Gods, but I had recently started reading a popular series about the Greeks and I felt I had no new ideas to offer.

Then I thought of the Egyptian Gods. Ancient Egypt is one of the most well documented cultures. Although the Egyptian Gods have a wealth of history and folklore, there aren’t many fiction books about them. Their story remains untold.

With hundreds of deities to choose from, I settled on the four: Nu, mother of the pantheon. SET and Nephythys, estranged spouses and their unwanted son,  Anubis. I added two humans, twin brothers Roman and Reign. As their stories unfold, so does the treachery, avarice and lust of the Egyptians gods. I’m having a blast writing discovering these fascinating characters.

Eternity is a story of reincarnation and redemption. Roman Nicolis, a mercenary falls in love with the Elyssian, the wrong woman. He seduces her, taking her virginity and cursing them both. For two thousand years, Roman wanders the earth searching for the only woman he can love. Time and again, Roman finds her, only to lose her horribly. Now, in present day New York City, they meet again. And this is his last chance to get things right.


Eternity-Final242 (3) (480x640) (225x300)EXCERPT

Curled on his body in the middle of Central Park, Roman let Stella sleep. Holding her wasn’t a hardship as his mind wandered to the future, their future. Foolhardy, definitely, but what else could he do when he held the object of his obsession in his arms?

Remember your promise and let her go.

He stroked a wayward lock of hair behind her ear and slid his fingers down her silky cheek. She nuzzled him, turned her face into his palm and kissed him. Every noble intention evaporated like a bead of sizzling water in a hot skillet. Cock rock hard, he had to kiss her, feel her breath on his skin, in his body. In the deserted park, he needed her now.

The fine hairs on the back of his neck bristled. He froze. Battle instincts surged to the forefront, screaming for action, instead, he listened to the night surrounding him and waited. Though not a hub of wildlife, the creatures of Central Park were silent. They also waited. Somewhere, nearby, a predator stalked.

He nudged Stella. She stretched, making him aware of every curve and hollow she possessed, and purred, a sexy rumble deep in her throat. Before she could say a word, he cupped her head and pulled her into a quick kiss.

“Shhh, we’re in danger,” he whispered against her lips.

Her head popped up and she eased off him. In the gloom, her frightened eyes met his. “What?” She mouthed.

“We have to get out of here.”

Crouched low, he took her hand, together they crawled along next to the hedge. He looked over. His keen eyesight picked up nothing and no one. So why did the same excitement he used to get before a battle race through his veins? Stella squeezed his hand. Her wide eyes sent him a question he couldn’t answer.

He drew his gun from the small of his back and the silencer from his jacket pocket.

“Roman?” Her voice wavered.

He spared her a glance. “Whatever happens, do exactly as I say. Understand?”

Her head bobbed on her neck.

“Walk beside me, not in front or behind. Got it?”

Not far from the nearest road, they stuck to the trees and away from the open expanse of the Great Lawn.

Leaves crunched behind them. He’d never run from anything in his life. Even before the curse and his immortality, he stood his ground and killed everything in his path. Now, whatever stalked him, stalked her. His senses told him only one lurked in the darkness, but with Stella to protect, he couldn’t risk it.

The Delacorte amphitheater loomed ahead. He guided her into the shadows. Stationed behind a statue, he aimed and watched the route they had just taken. Stella clutched his jacket, her shivering body pressed close.

“Tell me.”

“There’s someone out there.”

“It could be anyone, ’kids maybe?”

“Maybe.” He agreed purely to reassure her. But as he spoke, one hundred yards away, something peeled away from the shadows of a large tree and charged.

“Stay.” He ordered. Through his jacket, her nails dug into his back. He pulled away, but she wouldn’t let go. He shrugged out of his jacket and advanced. She called to him, begging him to return, but the blood rushing in his ears drown out her voice. He rushed forward and focused on the attacking foe.

Wait. He skidded to a halt. He had a shot, but . . . something was wrong. The height was too short. Whoever ran toward him must be a child—or running on all fours. He squinted at the slice of darkness closing the distance between them. The tree coverage ended and speckled moonlight dotted the Great Lawn, uncovering the thing barreling forward. For a split second his mind tried to unravel the impossible nightmare quickly shrinking the distance, before he fired three shots between its widely spaced eyes. It roared and charged faster.

“Run, Stella!” He fired running back to the theater. She hadn’t listened. Instead of running away, she met him. He grabbed her hand and ran, but she couldn’t keep up and the thing behind them closed the distance.

“Is it him, The Strangler?” she shouted breathless.

They ran past The Preserve, rounded a column and then stopped. Shrouded in gloom, the outline of the pond appeared in front of the Belvedere Castle. He didn’t want her to see what chased them, but before he could stop her, she turned. Her scream pierced the night. Yards away, a bellow replied. He jerked her around and shoved. She stumbled and fell into the water.

“Go!” This time, she didn’t fight. For a second, he watched her swim. Then turned in time for claws to dig into his side.


Sneak Peek Sunday Cinco De Mayo! Villains Need Love Too.

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I’m continuing with the scene from last week.  Everlasting, is the second novel in my Egyptian God series.



SET, The God of All Evil, needs love and affection, just like a regular guy.

SET drew his expanded self together and calmed, reined in his darkness. Once composed, a tendril wrapped around her waist and dragged her limp body to the edge. He transformed from his preferred state to a more solid form, his dark swirling essences, momentarily trapped beneath a barrier of thin, translucent skin. He could be any-thing, male, female, or animal, but he made himself into a form he knew she would desire; a tall, muscular male. He looked down and studied his member jutting proudly forward. Cylindrical, the appendage had none of the features that completed the male anatomy. No sacs containing DNA, no veiny sinews, and no bulbous head with a slit opening.

Not his favorite form, he tolerated it for Nephythys. His gaseous state was much more functional. The boundaries of flesh disturbed him. Limited him. Made him vulnerable to all the vagaries humans suffered. Never would he bind himself into human form. She would have to accept this substitute.

SET spread her legs apart and studied her opening. Dry, no moisture wept for him. In his gaseous form, her arousal didn’t matter. He could penetrate every part of her body, simultaneously filling, repeatedly until all his frustrations were excised.  He touched the jutting part of him to her opening and felt her shriveled membranes brace. This will hurt, he thought with a cruel grin. His essences pulsed beneath the translucent skin, taking pleasure at the thought of her pain. But physical pain healed while a wounded heart festered.

Somewhere on the island, her spirit waited for his departure and the ritual cleansing to be completed. Once the Nulls removed all evidence of his presence, only then would she rejoin her body. Nothing of his visit would remain. Angry, he thrust inside and buried as deep as the appendage allowed. Something pricked his eyes, and a bead of moisture rolled down the slope of his face. He touched the strangeness, smoothed it between his fingers.

Tears. He jerked away from his wife and reverted to his gaseous state. This is why he never took the disgusting form. Quivering in annoyance—or maybe fright—he fled the destroyed room and ended up in the alcove.

Thank Ra she wasn’t here to witness the display. It would give her pleasure to see him so weak. Her laughter would ring in the council chamber. The God of Evil would not suffer humiliation. Agitated, he swirled about the room, brushing every surface, filling every microscopic crevice. He brushed something. The remnants of man.

I hope you enjoyed it.

Weekend Writing Warriors April 28, 2013



Meet SET, The Egyptian God Of All Evil. One of the villains in Everlasting.

Though he is evil, he loves and seeks to be loved in return. Unfortunately, he wife’s love is reserved for another. 

SET wanted nothing more than to feel life in the body of his wife. A smoky tendril stretched out from his gaseous form and skimmed the empty shell she’d left him, but what a beautiful shell. Her dusty pink nipples topped globes of taunt flesh.  A flat abdomen led to trim hips and a smooth mons. If only her legs would willingly open, cradle him, welcome him into her dark recess and their sensual embrace.  Angry, he vibrated, and a jagged strike of red lightning flared in the center of his mass.

Per their agreement, for three millennia he abstained from enjoying carnal delights with his wife. At council meetings, her sparkling presence reminded him of what he didn’t have—never had.

Who is SET’s wife? Nephythys, The Goddess of The Dead. 

Everlasting, coming in June.

What NOT to Do When Beginning Your Novel: Advice from Literary Agents

This is reposted. Click link for original article.

What NOT to Do When Beginning Your Novel: Advice from Literary Agents.



What NOT to Do When Beginning Your Novel: Advice from Literary Agents

photo by kirstyhall

GIVEAWAY: I am very excited to again give away a free book to a random commenter. The winner can choose either CREATE YOUR WRITER PLATFORMor the 2013 GUIDE TO LITERARY AGENTS. Commenters must live in the US/Canada; comment within one week to win. Good luck!

In a previous Writer Unboxed column, I discussed the value ofstarting your story strong and how an “inside-out” approach to narrative action can help your case. But just as important as knowing what to do when beginning your novel is knowing what not to do.

No one reads more prospective novel beginnings than literary agents. They’re the ones on the front lines — sifting through inboxes and slush piles. And they’re the ones who can tell us which Chapter 1 approaches are overused and cliche, as well as which techniques just plain don’t work. Below find a smattering of feedback from experienced literary agents on what they hate to see the first pages of a writer’s submission. Avoid these problems and tighten your submission!


“I don’t like it when the main character dies at the end of Chapter 1. Why did I just spend all this time with this character? I feel cheated.”
– Cricket Freeman, The August Agency

“I dislike opening scenes that you think are real, then the protagonist wakes up. It makes me feel cheated.”
– Laurie McLean, Foreword Literary


“A sci-fi novel that spends the first two pages describing the strange landscape.”
– Chip MacGregor, MacGregor Literary


“I’m not a fan of prologues, preferring to find myself in the midst of a moving plot on page 1 rather than being kept outside of it, or eased into it.”
– Michelle Andelman, Regal Literary

“Most agents hate prologues. Just make the first chapter relevant and well written.”
– Andrea Brown, Andrea Brown Literary Agency

“Prologues are usually a lazy way to give back-story chunks to the reader and can be handled with more finesse throughout the story. Damn the prologue, full speed ahead!”
– Laurie McLean, Foreword Literary


“Perhaps my biggest pet peeve with an opening chapter is when an author features too much exposition – when they go beyond what is necessary for simply ‘setting the scene.’ I want to feel as if I’m in the hands of a master storyteller, and starting a story with long, flowery, overly-descriptive sentences (kind of like this one) makes the writer seem amateurish and the story contrived. Of course, an equally jarring beginning can be nearly as off-putting, and I hesitate to read on if I’m feeling disoriented by the fifth page. I enjoy when writers can find a good balance between exposition and mystery. Too much accounting always ruins the mystery of a novel, and the unknown is what propels us to read further.”
– Peter Miller, PMA Literary and Film Management

“The [adjective] [adjective] sun rose in the [adjective] [adjective] sky, shedding its [adjective] light across the [adjective] [adjective] [adjective] land.”
– Chip MacGregor, MacGregor Literary

“I dislike endless ‘laundry list’ character descriptions. For example: ‘She had eyes the color of a summer sky and long blonde hair that fell in ringlets past her shoulders. Her petite nose was the perfect size for her heart-shaped face. Her azure dress—with the empire waist and long, tight sleeves—sported tiny pearl buttons down the bodice. Ivory lace peeked out of the hem in front, blah, blah.’ Who cares! Work it into the story.”
– Laurie McLean, Foreword Literary


“Characters that are moving around doing little things, but essentially nothing. Washing dishes & thinking, staring out the window & thinking, tying shoes, thinking.”
– Dan Lazar, Writers House

“I don’t really like ‘first day of school’ beginnings, ‘from the beginning of time,’ or ‘once upon a time.’ Specifically, I dislike a Chapter 1 in which nothing happens.”
– Jessica Regel, Jean V. Naggar Literary Agency


“Someone squinting into the sunlight with a hangover in a crime novel. Good grief — been done a million times.”
– Chip MacGregor, MacGregor Literary


“Cliché openings in fantasy can include an opening scene set in a battle (and my peeve is that I don’t know any of the characters yet so why should I care about this battle) or with a pastoral scene where the protagonist is gathering herbs (I didn’t realize how common this is).”
– Kristin Nelson, Nelson Literary


“I know this may sound obvious, but too much ‘telling’ vs. ‘showing’ in the first chapter is a definite warning sign for me. The first chapter should present a compelling scene, not a road map for the rest of the book. The goal is to make the reader curious about your characters, fill their heads with questions that must be answered, not fill them in on exactly where, when, who and how.”
– Emily Sylvan Kim, Prospect Agency

“I hate reading purple prose – describing something so beautifully that has nothing to do with the actual story.”
– Cherry Weiner, Cherry Weiner Literary

“A cheesy hook drives me nuts. They say ‘Open with a hook!’ to grab the reader. That’s true, but there’s a fine line between an intriguing hook and one that’s just silly. An example of a silly hook would be opening with a line of overtly sexual dialogue.”
– Daniel Lazar, Writers House

“I don’t like an opening line that’s ‘My name is…,’ introducing the narrator to the reader so blatantly. There are far better ways in Chapter 1 to establish an instant connection between narrator and reader.”
– Michelle Andelman, Regal Literary

“Sometimes a reasonably good writer will create an interesting character and describe him in a compelling way, but then he’ll turn out to be some unimportant bit player.”
– Ellen Pepus, Signature Literary Agency


“In romance, I can’t stand this scenario: A woman is awakened to find a strange man in her bedroom—and then automatically finds him attractive. I’m sorry, but if I awoke to a strange man in my bedroom, I’d be reaching for a weapon—not admiring the view.”
– Kristin Nelson, Nelson Literary Agency


“A rape scene in a Christian novel in the first chapter.”
– Chip MacGregor, MacGregor Literary


“I don’t like descriptions of the characters where writers make them too perfect. Heroines (and heroes) who are described physically as being virtually unflawed come across as unrelatable and boring. No ‘flowing, wind-swept golden locks’; no ‘eyes as blue as the sky’; no ‘willowy, perfect figures.’ ”
– Laura Bradford, Bradford Literary Agency

“Many writers express the character’s backstory before they get to the plot. Good writers will go back and cut that stuff out and get right to the plot. The character’s backstory stays with them—it’s in their DNA.”
– Adam Chromy, Movable Type Management

“I’m turned off when a writer feels the need to fill in all the backstory before starting the story; a story that opens on the protagonist’s mental reflection of their situation is a red flag.”
– Stephany Evans, FinePrint Literary Management

“One of the biggest problems is the ‘information dump’ in the first few pages, where the author is trying to tell us everything we supposedly need to know to understand the story. Getting to know characters in a story is like getting to know people in real life. You find out their personality and details of their life over time.”
– Rachelle Gardner, Books & Such Literary

GIVEAWAY: I am very excited to again give away a free book to a random commenter. The winner can choose either CREATE YOUR WRITER PLATFORM or the 2013 GUIDE TO LITERARY AGENTS. Commenters must live in the US/Canada; comment within one week to win. Good luck!

 Have you read any story beginnings that didn’t sit well with you? We’d love to hear about it in comments!

Other posts by Chuck Sambuchino:


Weekend Writing Warrior





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Greetings, welcome to Weekend Writing Warriors.

Here are eight sentences from my upcoming novel, Everlasting, the sequel to my debut novel Eternity.


         His firm lips kissed the delicate spot above her collarbone. Did he know that would drive her crazy? She grabbed his broad shoulders. Her nipples tightened. Desire coiled low in her groin. His long, midnight hair brushed the back of  her hand. She threaded her fingers through the silky strands and arched, bringing her nipples into contact with his hard pecs. Need shot through her. 

Is it a dream? Or is he really there? You’ll have to read Everlasting to find out.


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Cursed for 2000 years, Roman Nicolis has tracked his lovers’ soul through each reincarnation only to lose her horribly every time. Reclaiming their love is his only salvation. He’s been her friend, her father, her neighbor, but never again her lover . . . until now.


A late night walk home throws her into the path of a killer. The last thing she remembers are the deep blue eyes of the man trying to kill her—and the first things she sees after a seven day coma are the same blue eyes in the handsome face of the man hired to protect her. Is he truly the owner of a security firm or the man who wants to finish her off? Is it fears she feels when Roman touches her or the memory of something sweeter?

Past secrets haunt them. An angry demon stalks them. 

Roman will do anything to recover what they once had. Though Stella’s ruined childhood has made her close her heart and body to any man, he must get past the walls around her to gain her love and trust, for it will take their union to defeat an unexpected enemy sent from the Egyptian Gods. A man Romans respects, and Stella trusts.


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Self-Publishers: The New Generation of Cool Kids

I found this on The Passive Voice and thought I would share it with my fellow indie authors. You can click the link or read it it.

Self-Publishers: The New Generation of Cool Kids.

For years, self-publishing was widely considered an embarrassing fallback option. Occasionally a John Grisham would emerge, sell 5,000 copies of a compelling novel, land a publishing deal, and ultimately achieve fame and fortune. But those authors were far and away the exception. Few authors willingly followed in their footsteps.

Nowadays, self-publishing is not only respectable: it’s downright hot. Today’s indie phenoms are rocking the industry, their books elbowing their way up the USA Today and NY Times bestseller charts, with stars like Bella Andre and Raine Millerscoring breathtaking seven-figure publishing deals. With their Ragged Dick success stories and can-do attitude, these inspirational indies are rapidly becoming the cool kids.

Until recently, this sea change in perception was nearly unthinkable. To wit, many bestselling indie authors were as (pleasantly) astonished as anyone else by their astounding success. After the release of Book 2 in her Blackstone Affair series, Raine Miller was content to stay indie. When her agent presented a seven-figure offer to sell the series to Atria—“well,” says Miller, “you take a deal like that (after you pick yourself up off the floor.)” The mind-blowing success of her Blackstone Affair series took Miller by surprise. “I really don’t know why it took off as it did,” she says.

One big contributor to their rising star power is the fortitude of indie authors. Indies listen to their own voice. Tammara Webber spent a year querying agents before self-publishing her debut novel,Between the Lines. “I had two options,” she says, “abandon the story I’d written, write something else, and try the same route—or self publish.” Between the Lines found a “niche audience,” and went on to become the first in a series of successful Mature YA romance novels. Webber recently signed a two-book deal for her stand-alone novel Easy, her fourth self-published book.

“By self-publishing you beat the odds to get published,” says Steven Axelrod, a prominent literary agent, the first to negotiate a seven-figure deal for an indie author. In Axelrod’s experience, the traditional gatekeepers—agents and editors—frequently miss the mark. “About half the books the gatekeepers think are commercial don’t perform as expected,” he says. If not for self-publishing,Between the Lines and the other books in the series might never have found an audience, Webber says. “I wanted to find a few readers who would like the stories I wanted to tell. Self publishing gave me that option.”

Unlike some traditionally published authors who, grateful to be accepted, may feel internal pressure to accept disappointing offers, confident indies refuse to settle for deals that don’t meet their objectives, choosing instead to forge their own success. Colleen Hoover wrote her debut novel,Slammed, for fun. Self-publishing gave her family and friends a way to download her book conveniently. After three months, sales picked up and within five months Slammed hit the NY Timesbestsellers list.

Early on, Hoover turned down a “very decent” offer to publish her novel. Recently she signed on with Simon & Schuster for the print rights only to Hopeless. “I didn’t want to sign away digital rights,” she says; that was one of her reasons for rejecting the earlier offer. With a hit indie series, she was able to command an advance that she was “really happy with.” This one, she says, is the deal she’d been hoping for. “That I came into this industry backward, by self-publishing first, helped me a lot.”

Landing a traditional deal used to be the primary motive for self-publishing. This is no longer the case. Cora Carmack, author of the NY Times and USA Today bestseller Losing It, considers control a major benefit of self-publishing. “You have complete control of the creative process and you can bring books to market at a much quicker rate.” A prolific, hardworking author can feasibly take a book from draft through editing and design to quality publication in three to six months—far faster than the year or more required by traditional publishers. Speed-to-market can have an enormous impact on sales, particularly for books with seasonal or topical appeal.

Self-published authors also control pricing. Miller realized early on that the majority of books breaking into the top 10 on Amazon were self-published, a phenomenon she attributes largely to pricing. Miller published her first two titles, before The Blackstone Affair, with a small press. “The books got decent reviews,” she says, “but they would never chart on lists because they were priced too high.” Self-publishing The Blackstone Affair, Miller feels, was the smartest career move she has ever made.

In this sluggish economy, many readers are reluctant to shell out $10 or more for a book by an unproven author. By the time Tracey Garvis Graves inked her impressive two-book deal with Penguin, she’d sold over 375,000 copies of her debut novel, On the Island. “As a self-published author I was able to offer a lower price point, which made it easer for readers to take a chance on an unknown author,” Garvis Graves says. For hesitant buyers, a price of $2.99 or lower reduces the stakes. When readers discover a book they love, they share it with friends and, increasingly, across their social networks. Early readers connected with On the Island and told others, Garvis Graves says. “Word-of-mouth marketing did wonderful things for On the Island.”

Among the abundant advantages indie authors enjoy, the opportunity, on your own, to find and cultivate an audience may be the biggest. If Hoover had tried to publish Hopeless traditionally, the book would have been rejected, she says. “I wrote about a college-aged character who writes poetry,” neither of which sold well at the time. “I was able to find my own audience through word of mouth and social media,” Hoover points out. “In retrospect I think it was the absolute best choice for my first book.”

“At the end of the day, editors and agents respect an author who has a sizeable and stable market,” Axelrod says. “For the moment, more traditionally published authors meet the criteria—but it’s all changing!” Indeed, much has changed since Garvis Graves self-published On the Island in September of 2011. “I have watched many of my self-publishing peers sign traditional publishing deals,” Garvis Graves says. “I’ve said it before but it bears repeating: there’s never been a better time to be a writer.”

With its newly minted cachet, self-publishing is no longer a last resort. Noting the myriad advantages, encouraged by the success they’ve witnessed, many first-time authors now bypass the querying stage, opting to go straight to self-publishing.

Self-publishing is the chance to make your own future,” says Carmack. The endless possibility inherent in this entrepreneurial enterprise makes self-publishing a robust choice. It is, after all, far more exciting—and impressive—to create your own success than to put your career in the hands of a corporation and hope for the best.