It’s gold-rush crazy, and it has exploded in the past 12 months, the past six months. It’s happening right now. You hear wild stories about novelists — who are supposed to be enduring lives of artistic gratification but monetary penury — blowing past your tax bracket.
Amanda Hocking, a 26-year-old assisted-living worker and fantasy novelist in Minnesota, has made more than $1 million from self-publishing e-books about vampires and trolls and the like. In March, she signed a $2 million, four-book deal with St. Martin’s.
Going the other way was Barry Eisler, a former CIA covert agent and thriller author, who turned down a $500,000, two-book deal from St. Martin’s imprint of Minotaur to self-publish e-books.
Joe Konrath, a 41-year-old thriller and horror writer out of Chicago, started self-publishing his books online at cut-rate prices in the spring of 2009. That April, he made $700. In April 2010, he made about $4,000. A screen shot of his Kindle account for a period ending in late April of this year showed him netting $78,231.16 in six weeks.
“What’s happening now, with authors able to go directly to their readers without the approval and support of a large publishing house, is a huge game-changer, which will weaken corporate publishing dramatically over time,” says Scott Waxman in an e-mail. Waxman, a literary agent in New York, created Diversion Books, an online e-publishing house, to help self-published writers navigate the cyber market. “In the short run, the change is going to happen quickly but not at all painlessly.”
“The world is changing in interesting ways,” says Jeff Belle, Amazon’s vice president of books. The company has set up three imprints to promote and e-publish writers. “We’re very flexible in the way we work with authors.”
The explosive growth, so far, has primarily been in commercial fiction — particularly such genres as romance, thrillers and horror — but Seth Godin, a New York-based marketing guru, is doing well with “Poke the Box,” his latest business book.
He eschewed traditional publishers to set up his own publishing venture, the Domino Project, and partnered with an Amazon imprint, Powered By Amazon, to sell the book in digital and print editions.
“Self-publishing used to be for folks who were going to spend their own money to bring a book that no one else believed in to the world,” he says.
“Now it’s an appropriate economic response to a changing landscape, particularly considering publishers who are stuck in 1995.”
A word of caution
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