A Self-Publishing Success Story

Andrew Sullivan —  Jan 18 2012 @ 10:35am

A reader shares:

I wanted to follow up on what Andrew said about the book publishing industry. I also kind of hate traditional publishing, for my own selfish (but still valid!) reasons. I wrote a book a few years ago that was basically a comical gay travel memoir of Tokyo. After finishing a first draft of the manuscript, I jumped through all the typical hoops: got an agent, wrote a fat book proposal, revised till my nose bled, this, that, the other. Ultimately, after several years of trying, my agent was unable to sell it because, even when editors were interested – and we did have a few big pubs on the line  -the marketing departments would always veto its acquisition because they didn't know how to market the thing (which I found completely laughable). Basically I needed to already be famous, then marketing could work its magic.

My agent – who did yeoman's work on the manuscript and really functioned more as an editor – finally gave up and I moved on to my next project, but I couldn't shake the feeling that there definitely was an audience for the book, so I self-published. 

A few months later I managed to get a great review in Publishers Weekly's inaugural PW Selects quarterly review of self-published titles. The review caught the eye of an editor at Amazon Publishing, who got the book and loved it, then contacted me about reissuing it in a new edition under the AmazonEncore imprint in order to bring it to a wider audience. (The self-published version was NOT a big seller.) I hesitated for a few seconds before shrieking "YES, YES, A MILLION TIMES YES! HURRY, WHERE DO I SIGN?" Nine months later the book was published again as a trade paperback and an e-book, with the full force of Amazon's on-site (and some off-site) promotional support.

It seems to me this is kind of a phenomenon that is happening more and more often: author self-publishes then gets published for real, by whatever publisher. The twist in my case is that Amazon is now in the publishing game and is throwing bookstores and other publishers for a loop. They've got lots of customer data and can very effectively find readers for whatever books are out there, as we all know. This of course includes books that they themselves publish.

Additionally, now I find myself in the unusual position of starting to resent bookstores. Barnes and Noble is not stocking the book (though it can be ordered). And, because of their frothing hatred for Amazon, a lot of indie bookstores are refusing to stock the book as well; my own local bookstore in Greenpoint, Brooklyn – a place that loves to tout itself as a community bookstore focused on local authors – told me outright that they would not allow me to schedule a reading and would not stock the book because of the Amazon connection. I certainly understand the unease about Amazon on the part of small bookstores and such, but it just seems to me this is an idiotic, childish, and short-sighted way of going about things.

For my part, I'm very happy so far with my treatment from Amazon. My author team was in very regular contact in the run-up to publication (I would go months and months and months without hearing from my agent) and has done some great targeted marketing. After hearing so many nightmare stories about publishers' treatment of their authors, I've been pretty satisfied with how things are going so far. Fingers crossed this satisfaction continues.

Buy his book here. E-book here. Details on the Dish's two self-publishing projects here and here.