My thriller novel, The Ark, got what I call “rave rejections.” Editors loved the premise, plot, and characters, but they just couldn’t see how it would fit into a crowded thriller market. We went to every major imprint that published thrillers, and all 25 publishers turned The Ark down. Any publishing hopes for it were effectively gone.
In early 2009, I was just completing my web site (www.boydmorrison.com), and I decided, why not try to build up a readership by giving my three unpublished books away? I mean, they weren’t doing any good just sitting on my hard drive. At about that time, the Kindle 2 was about to come out, and Amazon was starting to let unpublished authors put their manuscripts up for sale on the Kindle store.
I figured if people could find my books for free on my web site, I had to set a low price on Amazon. I set the price on my books between $0.99 and $1.99. My only expense was the small fee I paid to a graphic designer to create professional-looking covers for my books.
I was armed with glowing blurbs from generous authors like James Rollins, Douglas Preston, Jon Land, and Chris Kuzneski, all of whom I had gotten to know through Thrillerfest. Amazon let me choose up to five categories under which I could list my books, so I maxed those out (technothriller, suspense, men’s adventure, action & adventure, and thriller).
In the second week of March 2009, I put my books on the Kindle store and on my web site. I had no plans for marketing or advertising. My plan was just to see what happened.
Within several days, readers on web discussion forums noticed the low price on my books (there were very few self-published authors on the Kindle at the time, and the Nook and iPad didn't yet exist). Through the magic of Google, I was notified about these posts, and I went ahead and introduced myself to members of Kindleboards.com, Mobileread.com, and the Amazon discussion boards.
I radically underestimated the power of the Amazon bestseller lists and word of mouth. In three months, I sold 7,500 copies of all three books together. The Ark was the number 1 technothriller for over a month, outselling books by Tom Clancy and Brad Thor, and my books occupied the top three slots in multiple genre lists. By June, my books were selling at the rate of 4,000 copies per month.
Because of the velocity of my sales, my agent, Irene Goodman, was immediately able to take that data to publishers. Touchstone, an imprint of Simon and Schuster, was just making a transition into the thriller market and was impressed by the reception for my books. Sulay Hernandez, now my editor, loved The Ark and offered me a publishing contract. That phone call from Irene will always be one of the most amazing moments of my life.
As far as we can tell, I was the first author to get a Big Six publishing contract for a self-published Kindle book. Touchstone acquired The Ark and its sequel in a two-book deal. On the strength of that deal, my foreign rights agent, Danny Baror, was able to secure deals in eighteen foreign markets.
Since then, Pocket Books acquired the rights for my first two books, The Adamas Blueprint and The Palmyra Impact, so essentially I have a four-book deal with Simon and Schuster. The Palmyra Impact will be released as a mass market paperback and ebook under the title Rogue Wave in December 2010, and The Adamas Blueprint will be released under a new title in December 2011.
Today, I’m lucky enough—and persistent enough—to hold a book in my hands and call myself an author.