by Janet Emberg
Amanda Hocking was a desperate writer, she had been turned down multiple times by multiple agents. She had rewritten and revised, only to suffer another round of rejections. This is the traditional process that authors face, and it is a painful and very common story. But then something changed. Ms. Hocking decided to take her future into her own hands. She self published on Amazon Kindle and sold more than 20,000 ebooks in a matter of months.
There are many Kindle success stories: Boyd Morrison published on Kindle and landed a six figure book deal, Joe Konrath left traditional publishing behind and now makes more than $120,000 dollars a year mostly via Kindle, and Karen McQuestion sold 40,000 books on Kindle and then landed a Hollywood deal for the movie rights to her book.
But Ms. Hocking’s success is different from all others in a very important way. After being contacted by a publisher in Hungary that wanted to buy her foreign rights, she landed one of the top agents on the planet, Steven Axelrod. But here’s where things get interesting: Mr. Axelrod began selling her foreign rights, her movie rights, and other ancillary rights. However, he purposely didn’t sell her most important rights.
He didn’t sell her domestic book rights, he let all her very successful books stay in the Kindle bookstore and keep their momentum. Traditionally, when domestic rights are sold, all Kindle editions are pulled down while the publishing company edits and rewrites the book. This process can take up to a year to run its course before the official publishing date. That’s a year that can kill all the momentum that the author built up for herself online and at Amazon.
Mr. Axelrod realized that Kindle was the engine of Ms. Hocking’s success. Instead of taking her books offline, he built a supporting structure around her Kindle editions. “There is a real sea change among top agents and it signals a new respect for self publishing, ebooks, and Internet culture,” stated Paul J Coleman, Editor at bookPumper.com
Next we have super-agent Andrew Wylie signing exclusive Kindle deals for some of the most famous authors on the planet, against the wishes of their major publishing companies. His recent deal with Amazon is a two year exclusive for some of the most important books in literary history, including Nabokov’s Lolita. Mr. Wylie is another agent who is leaving the traditional rules of publishing behind.
Meanwhile, the publishing companies fall back on the argument that they are the gatekeepers of quality. They warn of a tidal wave of worthless books flooding the market, making it difficult for readers to find worthy titles to purchase. This argument may have made sense fifty years ago, but in today’s world of mergers, holds much less weight. The gatekeepers are really mostly worried about salability, and Kindle mavericks have proven again and again that people are willing to pay for their books.
We see similar behavior from trade magazine Publisher’s Weekly. In a strange move that both acknowledges self published books, and at the same time keeps them in the back room, Publisher’s Weekly launched a pay service called PW Select. This is a system where Publisher’s Weekly takes $149 dollars from self published authors, and promises nothing. They may or may not review the book after receiving payment. And even if they do review it, that review will not appear in the main magazine, but in a supplement.
“At bookPumper we promote Indies for free. Some of the most amazing and exciting authors are coming up in this self publishing wave. These writers have proven they are worthy of sales and attention. They are in no way second class citizens.” Mr. Coleman added.
Things are changing quickly and there is no going back. Research firm Gartner is predicting 20 million ebook readers and tablet sales this year alone. Much of this is being fueled by the incredible success of Apple’s iPad. And by the intense rivalry between the iPad and Amazon’s Kindle. Independent writers are positioned perfectly to benefit from this massive cultural and technological change. And mavericks are not waiting for permission from anyone, but instead taking charge of their careers and shaping the future.
Janet Emberg is a trends specialist at ic7 media, San Diego.