My first novel, Dream Dancers was conventionally published in 1993 in a deal closed by the agent I had at that time. In 2003 when Immortality was finally completed I assumed I would be able to get it published since I was already a published author. I soon found myself waist deep in rejection notices from both agents and publishers. All the rejection notices basically said, “We are sure this is a wonderful book, but we don’t have the time to read a long manuscript by an obscure author.” In other words, I wasn’t able to even get into the Three Bear’s house, let alone try the porridge or sleep in their beds.
I knew Immortality was a timely, entertaining, and marketable novel. Some extremely successful literary professionals including more than one famous writer had read it and told me they loved it. So here I was a published author unable to open a single door into the major publishing houses. Three years later I had reached the point where I either had to give up or publish it myself. Back in 2006 self-publishing carried the stigma of failure, but I had no choice. I knew in my gut Immortality was a fantastic story. So I started a small publishing company, hired an offset-printer, and proceeded to manufacture and sell Immortality.
In 2007 Immortality took off becoming a #1 bestseller on Amazon. Using my bestseller success as bait, I was able to sign with an agent who had represented a smattering of NYTime’s bestsellers. My agent proceeded to shop Immortality to all the big publishing houses. This time the responses from publishers were very different from when Immortality was unpublished and I was un-agented. Across the board the feedback was the same from every publisher, “We love the book but who are you?” What the publishers were really saying was I had no massive following. I did not have a million readers chanting in unison, “We want to buy more books by you…” In other words, the porridge was too cold.
Fast forward to 2010, Immortality was still selling almost as well as it was in 2008, constantly a bestseller in its genres and often hitting #1. In fact 2010 and half of 2011 was one of my best grossing periods ever. By now my agent had done all he could and given up six months prior in 2009. He loved Immortality, and was very frustrated and baffled by his inability to close a deal. It was then that I was contacted out of nowhere by a veteran NYC agent who was a senior member in a super-agent firm. This agent told me she had read Immortality and loved it! This agent was convinced she could sell the book. I was wildly excited and told the agent to go for it. This time the responses really threw me. The feedback I got was essentially, “We love the book but why should we buy it when you have already sold the heck out of it?” In other words, the porridge was too hot.
At this point I felt like I just could not win. Years ago I didn’t have a big enough following, and now that I had a following, it seemed the publishers wanted something more. They wanted an unpublished book. I was frustrated because 95% of the copies of Immortality had been sold exclusively on Amazon, which meant that I had tapped less than 50% of the potential market. So while it was a #1 bestseller, a lion’s share of the meat was still on this bone, yet no publisher was interested in the feast. With fractional market penetration I had made a pile of money, but there was many times more to be made if a big publisher would get behind the book. Yet it now felt like with regard to attracting a publisher, success was my worst enemy.
Today, many years later… I am a fulltime writer who has earned enough to retire, not that I ever would. I have received glowing critical reviews, including Publisher’s Weekly who has awarded STARRED reviews to both Immortality and Ghost of the Gods. In 2014 both Immortality and Ghost of the Gods were on the bestseller’s lists at the same time. Immortality hit #1 again achieving its best ranking ever for all books sold on Amazon, and Ghost of the Gods was crowned by Amazon as the #1 hottest new techno-thriller in March 2014.
I was named by Publisher’s Weekly as one of the writers who rocked self-publishing. I have been interviewed a “million times” by magazines, newspapers, radio, and blogs (or at least it feels like a million times). My fourth novel titled Dream Signs is complete and a fifth novel is in the works. Audible.com purchased the rights to all my published books. Hollywood has even been sniffing around about making Immortality into a movie.
So in other words, I have every confidence that now the porridge is just right for one of the big publishers to buy my next book, Dream Signs!
I wrote this post as my small contribution to #PoweredByIndie, Amazon’s October celebration of indie authors. So to indie authors everywhere, don’t give up and keep writing what you’d love to read.
P.S. For a little more about this story see:
- The World has completely changed (Publisher’s Weekly)
- Writers who rocked self-publishing (Publisher’s Weekly)