Who Needs a Publisher?

By Jasiewicz, Isia | Newsweek, August 9, 2010 | Go to article overview

Who Needs a Publisher?


Jasiewicz, Isia, Newsweek


Byline: Isia Jasiewicz

Boyd Morrison was finishing a Ph.D. in industrial engineering when he wrote his first novel. Five agents rejected it. Nine years later he tried again, and this time he did get an agent--after nearly three years and three novels. But that turned out to be some kind of cosmic tease, because 25 publishers turned down The Ark. With nothing left to lose, Morrison uploaded The Ark and his two other unpublished novels to Amazon's Kindle store in March 2009. Within three months, he was selling books at a rate of 4,000 a month--a number that attracted the attention of the same publishers who had rejected him. This May, when The Ark was released in hardcover from Simon & Schuster, it became the first self-published Kindle book to be picked up by a Big Six publisher. Morrison says that the phone call from his agent telling him he'd finally see his book in print was "one of the most amazing moments of my life."

Until recently, reviewers and booksellers looked down on self-published authors the way Anna Wintour scorns Dress Barn. Now new writers and established authors alike are increasingly taking publishing into their own hands, and the publishing establishment is paying attention. According to a recent Bowker report, the market for "nontraditional books" in the United States grew by more than 750,000 new titles in 2009--a 181 percent increase over 2008. Five of the top 100 bestsellers in the Kindle store--which now produces more sales than Amazon's hardcover list--are currently self-published.

Bob Young, CEO of print-on-demand service Lulu.com, says that the publishing and distributing of books online will not be the old book industry on a new platform. It will be a new industry, dependent not on bestsellers but on niche publications. …

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