I finished the first draft in July on Maafushi Island in the Maldives. Then I sent the manuscript out to a tiny group of beta readers for an initial round of feedback. They sent me back some extremely useful input and I went to work on a second draft incorporating some of their ideas to help make the story the best it can possibly be.
While I was hard at work on my second draft, I received an unsolicited publishing offer from a new independent publishing company (let’s call them Company X) backed by a major venture capital fund. They’re still in stealth mode so I won’t be able to reveal their identity until their launch in January (stay tuned!). After some back-and-forth I signed a contract with them for Uncommon Stock late last month. In a future post I will discuss all the major terms of the contract in detail for all of you aspiring authors out there.
Those of you who know me well or who know the publishing industry might ask: why not self publish? This is a fantastic question. In fact, I was planning on self publishing all the way up to signing the contract a few weeks ago. The publishing industry is currently undergoing a fundamental transition not dissimilar to the revolution that transformed the movie and music industry a decade ago. Fortunately/unfortunately, the six established companies that dominate the book publishing industry seemed to have learned very little from watching their colleagues in music and film.
The upshot is that anyone with a modicum of project management skill and a network of good freelancers can produce a book of comparable quality to Random House for about $20k (substantially less if you’re willing to sacrifice some production values; substantially more if you want a big name PR firm to help you with the launch).
The contracts the traditional publishers offer to first-time fiction authors like myself are, to put it mildly, complete horse shit. They give you a minuscule royalty percentage, draconian terms, no marketing support and a $5k advance (if you’re lucky and have a great agent). It’s a different ballgame if you’re J.K. Rowling and can demand whatever terms you want because you have such a huge audience but for a first-timer like me, no go.
It was an obvious choice: self publish. So I lined up a bunch of freelancers, laid out a production schedule and was about to press the “GO” button when a publishing offer magically appeared in my inbox (look for a detailed post on this once Company X launches). Holy crap. What to do?
The more I talked to the people at Company X, the more excited I got about the prospect of working with them. They’re extremely tech savvy and understand the fundamental trends that are reshaping the business of storytelling. Their founders have written books for the big traditional publishers and understand the frustrations that writers face everyday. Their offer included collaborative, author-friendly terms (again look for a detailed post on this soon). I’m able to retain creative control, get royalties that make sense and work with a new indie publisher that will help me share the best stories I can write with the best readers out there (i.e. you guys!). I’m thrilled to partner with them and hope to help subvert the Big Six along the way.
Plus, there’s just a certain appeal to a thriller about startups being published by a secret new startup disrupting the dinosaur industry of traditional publishing. That’s friggin’ cool. Now, back to work on editorial…
P.S. Uncommon Stock will be released in Q1 2014. Get those Kindles ready.