It was announced yesterday. The headlines varied, but they were all a variation of the same theme – One more “Indie” writer signed a publishing contract. John Locke’s deal with Simon and Schuster made headlines and the writing and publishing community was all abuzz with excitement. Locke, who detailed his recent success in his aptly named ebook, How I Sold 1 Million eBooks in 5 Months!, not only signed a lucrative deal with S&S, he managed to do the seemingly impossible – he held on to his ebook rights.
Simon & Schuster’s Vice President of client publisher services, Stephen Black, said in a statement: “Not only does John Locke write terrific novels, he clearly knows his audience and has a deep understanding of how to reach them. We are very excited that we can now help to expand John’s readership to include those millions of readers who still savor the joys of sitting down for a few hours of entertainment with a traditional paperback book. It is a win-win for all concerned.”
Did you catch that? A “win-win” for all concerned. And, indeed, it is. Which is certainly a change in attitude from the beginning of this year when I first made my foray into self (or Indie) publishing. At the time, lines were drawn and sides were clearly marked. Name-calling flourished. Indies were a bunch of no-talent hacks who didn’t know how to take a rejection (many rejections) and move on with their life. On the other hand, the entire publishing industry was full of ignorant, short-sighted, crooked, money-grabbing lowlifes who reveled in crushing a writer’s sprit. And worse yet, they didn’t know how to do their jobs. The publishing industry was going down the tubes while readers hurried to buy Kindles and fill those Kindles with eBooks. And, increasingly, the readers were buying the eBooks from those no-talent hack Indie writers. At an alarming rate!
As I dipped my toe into the angry pool, the water was chilly, to say the least.
Unaware or unconcerned about the Indie/Traditional distinction, the readers kept happily buying books. Amazon’s bestselling list for Kindle began filling with Indie writers. Writing forums, publishing forums, and various blogs were full of rants from both sides. Hatefulness and vitriol flourished. And just as a particularly vocal group of Indies started passing out pitchforks and torches to storm the Manhattan publishing houses, a funny thing happened. Those “ignorant” publishers started offering publishing contracts to the “no-talent” Indies. Amanda Hocking signed a four-book two million dollar deal with St. Martin’s Press. Amazon became an even bigger player in the publishing industry and signed Joe Konrath and Barry Eisler to their hot mystery/thriller imprint, Thomas & Mercer.
The ranters and haters ranted and hated – claiming that Hocking, Konrath, and Eilser were sell-outs, traitors, and puppy beaters. The water began to boil.
Not long after, the UK writing duo of Mark Edwards and Louise Voss signed a six figure four-book deal with Harper Collins. A bit of a rumble was made, but oddly, not much. The story was beginning to become a familiar one. Edwards and Voss could not get their books published. After many rejections and much discouragement, they decided to self-publish their books, Killing Cupid and Catch Your Death. Within months those books held the number one and number two bestselling spots for Kindle in the UK and were selling thousands of copies per day.
Close on their heels, J. Carson Black (who is approaching 250,000 in sales) signed three-book contract with Thomas Mercer that included her bestselling mystery thriller The Shop. Weeks later, Scott Nicholson signed a two-book deal with Thomas & Mercer for his book Liquid Fear and its sequel Chronic Fear. And then Michael Wallace signed a five-book deal including his The Righteous series. Wallace, perhaps, summed it up best of all on David Gaughran’s popular blog: 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.
And, right before my eyes, the sun started shining and that chilly water started to warm. Instead of ranting (oh, I guess a few still muttered in the corners), Indies started offering congratulations to their fellow writers and some were even brave enough to utter, I hope I’m next. Virtual champagne corks were flying and the pitchforks and torches were abandoned for party hats and confetti.
Now Locke signs with Simon and Schuster. Just another Indie signing a publishing contract? Not quite. Simon and Schuster will distribute Locke’s print books, but Locke will retain the rights to his ebooks. This is an enormous coup for Locke and a ground-breaking move for Simon & Schuster.
The ability for an author to create and distribute a book directly into the hands of a reader through distributions outlets such as Amazon is nothing short of revolutionary. And like every revolution, there are liable to be a few casualties. There are those who will resist, those who will deny it, and those who will try to harm the rebels. But there are others, wise enough to see a revolution as “evolution,” that are forging ahead and pushing the boundaries, and this is a win/win for all concerned.
Writers no longer need to get permission to publish their books. For little or no money, they can write and distribute both ebooks and paperbacks and compete directly with “traditionally” published writers. The talented and hard-working will rise to the surface, sell a lot of books, and have even more clout if and when an agent or publisher comes to call. No more rejection slips.
Publishers can now sign writers who have a proven sales record instead of hoping that the next submission is worthy of a publishing contract. There is no longer any need for an underpaid English major to cull through the slush pile. Amazon is the new slush pile. And the slush falls to the bottom of the bestseller lists while the cream of the crop rises to the top, ready to be scooped up by a savvy publisher.
Agents have access to those same bestseller lists. While many writers might think they don’t need an agent, when it comes time to start talking about foreign rights or about a possible movie deal, they might want to think again. It is one thing to self-publish your book as an ebook, it is quite another to negotiate a contract for film rights.
Editors have more opportunity than ever before. Those who wish to freelance will have more work than they can possibly keep up with. The plethora of Indie books means a plethora of books that need editing. It is a rare writer who can edit their own books. And, quite frankly, a writer’s time is better spent writing.
Supporting players such as website designers, ebook formatters, and cover designers are also needed to support this sudden influx of writers into the publishing world.
Readers might be the ones who will benefit most of all. New writers, new genres, and new ways to experience books are all ahead. I have said it repeatedly – there has never been a better time to be a writer. But, it is also true that there has never been a better time to be a reader. Books have never been easier to access and the relatively low cost of most eBooks has made having a huge library an attainable fantasy – even though those books might all be stored on your Kindle instead of in a custom mahogany library.
Now, the once chilly water I dipped my toe into is considerably warmer. And, look! Another new writer is on the diving board. Come on in, friend, the water is fine.
Cheryl Shireman is the bestselling author of several novels, including Broken Resolutions, the Life is But a Dream series, and the Cooper Moon series. She is also the author of ten books for toddlers including the eight Let’s Learn About series focusing on different animals and I Love You When: For Girls and I Love You When: For Boys.