Yesterday I had coffee with Boyd Morrison, a student of mine back in the Early Triassic and currently a Simon & Schuster author-to-be. Boyd's thriller The Ark comes out next year in hardcover in the United States, and also in twelve other countries. And his story is a fascinating peek into the way publishing is evolving.
Boyd acquired an agent for his book a few years ago, at Thrillerfest. This is an annual event in which authors and aspiring authors of thrillers get together to network, drink in the bar, and pitch books. Boyd pitched The Ark. An agent asked for sample chapters and outline, moved on to request the full ms., and liked it. She agreed to represent him. The Ark was sent to all the usual suspects and rejected, albeit with "glowing rejections."
When it seemed all possible traditional avenues had been exhausted, Boyd made The Ark available on Amazon.com for The Kindle. He priced it at $.99, a price calculated to remove it from the "desperate" category and yet attractive to the ever-growing number of Kindle owners who wished to fill up their new device. He hired someone to design a cover. The book went on Kindle-sale in March of this year.
What happened next is the New Publishing. On-line thriller-reader groups began to talk about the book: "This is good, get this, you'll like this, etc." Word of mouth pushed sales above 7,000. Boyd's agent also took notice, and resubmitted the book to Simon & Schuster, where editorial musical chairs had brought in someone new. She also began to send it to foreign markets. All editors, in every language, respect sales numbers. Boyd got offers, and for "very decent advances." Now the publisher is poised to push the book, and Boyd, as a hot new property. Watch for The Ark in March, 2010.
Although I have read about other authors -- not most, but a few -- who have parlayed self-publishing into a traditional book deal, Boyd is the first I've talked to in person. He's very pleased, as he should be. And the times, they are a-changin'.