Indie writer Michael Wallace has been signed to a 5 book deal by Amazon’s imprint Thomas & Mercer, hot on the heels of the deal they struck with J Carson Black last week.
He now joins J Carson Black, JA Konrath, Blake Crouch, Barry Eisler, and Ed McBain in what is a top-drawer line-up for Amazon’s new mystery and thriller imprint.
Here’s the official announcement from Publisher’s Lunch:
Michael Wallace’s THE RIGHTEOUS, independently published Amazon Kindle Top 20 bestseller, the first book of a thriller series about a renegade Mormon polygamist cult and its various denizens, to Megan Jacobsen at Thomas & Mercer, for publication in early 2012, in a five-book deal, by Katherine Boyle at Veritas (World English).
The regulars at Kindle Boards will know Michael’s story quite well, he has always been very helpful and willing to share his experiences, his sales numbers, and his pricing strategies.
As you will read below, he was under no illusions about how successful he would be. Here’s what Michael had to say earlier today.
In January of 2011, I gave up. After twenty years of fighting for a traditional publishing contract and suffering near miss after near miss, I abandoned the fight and started putting my books online for sale as self-published e-books. In spite of dogged persistence and the efforts of multiple literary agents to sell my novels, I had never overcome the final hurdle. Self-publishing was an act of desperation.
I expected that maybe I would sell a few books to family and friends, or perhaps find a modest niche where I could sell a few hundred books. I just hoped the books wouldn’t sink like a stone.
They didn’t. I got a lucky blog mention, some great cover and marketing advice from new friends on the Kindle Boards, and then my book showed up on the Amazon “also bought” lists of a few rising stars. I drafted off these books for awhile until Amazon picked up on the success of the books and began recommending them to an even wider circle.
My sales accelerated from a handful, to a bunch, to hundreds and then thousands. I sold over 20,000 books in April and nearly that many again in May. The Righteous climbed as high as the Top 20 on the overall Kindle Store.
A funny thing happened. Agents and editors started querying me. Most of the interest was in The Righteous, a series of thrillers set in a polygamist enclave. It was the same series that had been shopped already and had nearly been picked up for good money before everything fell apart.
What had seemed risky a couple of years ago, now seemed like a sure bet, with tens of thousands of sales to prove it. I had an agent already, and I decided to concentrate on the interest from Amazon’s Thomas & Mercer imprint.
I’ve been asked why I would sign. I was making good money, and even with the ups and downs in my sales, the thought of selling away my rights must have given me pause. It did. At one point, I almost walked away and decided to stick with the 100% indie plan.
But as this deal came together over the last few months, I had the chance to examine my goals. Why exactly did I want a traditional publishing deal? Was it nothing more than to fulfill a lifetime goal of holding a paper book in my hand? Was it the lottery aspect, that there would always be the chance that the series would take off and sell Dan Brown-esque numbers?
I’m a storyteller. I imagine an ancestor sitting around the fire, relaying the excitement of the hunt or telling how the chief had won the battle with a well-placed arrow at the enemy’s champion. In return, he would earn applause, an extra haunch of meat, maybe the shy smile of the chief’s daughter. With every passing season, he would hone his craft, until he knew how to play his audience for maximum effect. And he would love every minute of it.
I am like that ancestor. What I want is simple. I want to tell stories. I want to find an appreciative audience for my stories. Finally—and is this so unreasonable?—I want to earn a living from my stories.
Ideally, I would have an indie career, writing and publishing what I like, and a traditional publishing contract that would give the chance for breakout success. On the side, I would like to do other projects: novellas, podiobooks, maybe a collaboration with a friend.
Given these goals and the changing market, Amazon’s Thomas & Mercer imprint is the best option for me. I’m already grateful to Amazon for the chance to publish directly.
I’ve seen what their well-targeted marketing can bring to the table. With sufficient push, they can make sure these books are very successful, indeed. And that gives me the best chance to keep writing, keep finding readers, and keep getting paid for what I do.
And that is all I ever wanted.
I’m sure you will join me in congratulating Michael on a stunning deal with what is quickly becoming the best outfit in town. I must also mention his agent – Katherine Boyle of the San Francisco-based Veritas Literary Agency – for doggedly pursuing the right deal.
Thomas & Mercer have a clear strategy of signing the very top thriller writers, picking not just those self-publishers who are selling the most, but also the ones who have the most potential to also break out in print.
As with J Carson Black’s deal last week, Amazon aren’t shooting in the dark here. They have access to the kind of data that publishers would kill for.
They not only know Michael’s sales figures, but would have access to information on customer buying patterns, the likelihood of his book being purchased when it is shown to a certain type of customer, and all sorts of other metrics.
They must be pretty sure that they can not only aggressively expand his digital sales, but also that they can expand his reach dramatically into the majority that still read print.
I’m pretty sure too.