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An English Teacher's Journey to 40,000 Book Sales, 11 Million Kindle Reads and 15,000 Audiobook sales.

Updated: Jun 27

Sean Robins Sci-Fi Author

I first discovered Sean's work while researching Sci-Fi book cover designs. His debut novel, The Crimson Deathbringer, immediately caught my eye on Amazon. A fortunate twist of fate led to our conversation in the 20BooksTo50k Facebook group. Sean kindly agreed to share his story and how he achieved such remarkable success as a self-published author.

Here's what Sean had to say about his book sales:

Writing a novel is hard.

Don’t “Duh!” me. Think about it for a second. The amount of time that goes into research, planning and outlining the novel, preparing the character sheets, writing, re-writing, re-re-writing, editing and proofreading is ginormous, and if you have a day job (I am an English teacher), finding enough time to do all that on top of all your other responsibilities is almost impossible. During the nine months it took me to write The Crimson Deathbringer, I stopped all my hobbies (I didn’t even watch movies) and most of my social activities. I even stopped going to the gym, and I ended up with a belly by the time the book was finished. Now I understand why George R. R. Martin looks the way he does.

What prompted me to take on this Herculean task then, you ask?

I‘ve got purely obsessional OCD. What this means is a thought enters my mind—usually something negative—and doesn’t leave. I end up having to think about it 5000 times a day, and once this starts, my life is ruined for a week, two weeks, a month, or six months. I’d tried a lot of different ways to get rid of this problem: therapy, medication, meditation . . . Nothing ever worked, until I read an article that said the people who had this problem had an overly active imagination, and it would help if they channeled it into something productive, like writing.

I’d always wanted to be a writer. This is literally a childhood dream, one of those you give up when you grow up, so instead, I ended up being a university/college-level English teacher. I had the story of The Crimson Deathbringer in my mind for years (even started writing it and stopped a few times). When I read that article, I was going through a tough time in my marriage (fighting with your wife is no fun, even for sane people), and my mind had gone into its life-destroying overdrive, so I told myself, “Well, you’ve tried everything else, let’s give this a shot.”

And then a miracle happened.

My mind put the same energy it used to put into producing BS and making my life miserable into coming up with stories. Ideas would come to me fast and furious, and I had to stop whatever I was doing several times a day to write them down. I’ve been OCD-free since then (I know, I sound like a recovering alcoholic). When TCD (cool, eh?) was finished, it took my out-of-control brain half a day to plan my second novel (Book Two in the series, called The Golden Viper).

Despite the obvious mental health benefits, my writing career wasn’t off to a great start. I contacted over 200 agents/small publishers, and I got either no answers at all or one of those polite generic no-thank-you letters (I wish I had the time to contact all those people again and say, "You guys work on commission, right? Big mistake. Huge!!"). Then finally my book was accepted by a self-publishing company that introduces itself as a "publisher". At the time, I didn't know the difference, and I was thrilled that a "publisher" had sent me an offer!

I'd always heard independent authors didn't make any money, and joining this company strengthened that belief. Except for a few authors who had joined years ago, no one was selling any books. In fact, many people still owed the 50 dollars set-up fee the company used to charge. In the two years that I stayed with them, I made a grand total of 400 dollars (!!).

That would've been the end of my career as a writer (I have a pretty well-paying job, so as much as I love writing, it made more sense to work more hours or even get a part-time position), but then fate decided to intervene.

In a random chat with someone on a Star Trak Facebook group, they mentioned I should check the famous 20BooksTo50k Facebook group, where successful self-published authors share their experiences. I did that and was awed by how good some authors were doing. Visiting the 20BooksTo50k group led to a chance encounter with a seasoned author, who showed me how to run BookBub ads and introduced me to a few super effective Sci-Fi mailing lists, both of which have been the cornerstone of my modest success.

I left the self-publishing company I was with (I had to spent most of the 400$ royalties on lawyer consultation fees when they refused to give me back my Audiobook rights), and now, three years and a very successful nine-book series later, I’m making more money in royalties than from my full-time job as a university/college English teacher.

If you want to have one takeaway from this story, let it be this: don’t give up; don’t surrender. If I went from making 400$ in two years to where I am now, then so can you. All you need to do is write a (or even better, a few) good books, and the rest will fall into place.

Visit Sean's website here to find out more about the author and his work.


Sean's story resonates deeply with me because it aligns with the very reason I founded Indie Bubble. After learning that an author I work with was being exploited by a scam publisher or vanity press, I made it my mission to ensure that authors receive honest, open, and practical advice that genuinely helps them—and to provide this advice for free. That's why Indie Bubble channels all its creative energy into delivering the best design work for authors, while offering the rest of our support at no cost.

If you enjoyed this blog, feel free to explore my other posts.

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Alex Perkins

Founder / Creative Director

Indie Bubble Studio


You can visit Sean's website and find out more about his work here.

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