A Self-Publishing Rocky Story
How my thriller novel hit the Top 25 on the Kindle Bestseller List.
May 1, 2012 - 10:14 am
Nowhere is the “creative destruction” of the free marketplace more evident than in today’s tumultuous world of publishing.
Just as Legacy Media face mounting competition from alternative-media upstarts (like PJ Media), so do Legacy Publishers face a growing insurrection from self-publishing authors. Motivated by new profit opportunities, and employing entrepreneurial creativity and technological innovation, insurgent Davids in both media and publishing are challenging the reigns of stagnant corporate Goliaths.
I know all of this first-hand, because in recent months, I’ve become a poster boy for the revolutionary changes sweeping the world of publishing.
Here’s my story:
I’ve been a professional nonfiction writer and editor for decades. I’ve also been a life-long fan of thrillers, and I always dreamed of writing them. In fact, since 2004 I’d been mulling a vigilante crime-thriller series, featuring a mysterious crusading journalist named Dylan Hunter.
But horror stories from fellow writers made me skeptical about my prospects of working successfully with traditional publishers. Bitter personal experience underscored that conclusion. In early 2007, I was approached by a New York agent and an editor for a publisher, looking to recruit me for a nonfiction book project. I invested over a year researching and crafting the book proposal to their specifications. They finally expressed great enthusiasm for it. But when they submitted it in the spring of 2008, the publisher’s editorial committee passed on it. My agent quickly lost interest in representing me, too.
A harsh disillusionment, though hardly atypical. So I suppressed my dream of publishing novels and resigned myself to sticking with writing and editing nonfiction.
That fall, though, I lost my magazine-editor job. Though I soon received a generous private grant to write a nonfiction book, that money ran out late in 2009, long before the project was complete. Then my wife saw her own income slashed in half due to the recession.
By early 2010 we were in trouble. I was 60, unemployed, and in the worst job market since the Depression. Our income was meager, our bills daunting, our savings dwindling. We faced inevitable financial ruin and the loss of our home.
But I found one faint glimmer of hope. I’d been reading about the sudden, spectacular successes that authors like Amanda Hocking, John Locke, and Joe Konrath were having by self-publishing ebooks. After much research, I realized that “indie” publishing offered what no traditional publisher could match: immediate, guaranteed publication; total author control over content and marketing; and unsurpassed royalties.
“Write a novel” was still atop my Bucket List. I knew I’d always regret it if I died without having at least tried. And frankly, I was flat out of options. At my age, I either succeeded at self-publishing, or I became a Walmart greeter. So, despite long odds, and with my dear wife’s blessing, I decided to give it a try.
I felt like the aging Rocky Balboa, taking his one, last, desperate shot at the title.
I pulled out my old notes for the Dylan Hunter story and set a goal of finishing the book by June 5, 2011, my 62nd birthday. At 11 p.m. on June 4th, the last pages of HUNTER: A Thriller rolled out of my printer.