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Bestselling Authors and the Move to Self-Publishing

Posted: 10/27/10 05:01 PM ET

Irish author AJ Davidson is the best selling author of "Kidnapped" an account of twelve infamous Irish abductions. Ten years after the success of his debut novel, Davidson has made the switch to independent publishing. With the launch of services like Fast Pencil Premiere and the high profile moves of established authors to Indie publishing, AJ answers questions about the model's appeal for major authors.

Q: What was the deciding factor for moving to independent publishing?

A: Initially I wasn't entirely sure if Indie publishing was right for me. The deciding factor was how traditional publishers seem to be narrowing the range of their lists with each passing year. I recently compared 1970s best sellers with the 2010 best sellers and was staggered to realize how many of the chart-topping writers of yesteryear are still there four decades later. Kudos to the authors for consistency, but the dearth of new names is a sad indictment for the publishing world. The smaller presses are more adventurous, but more often than not the marketing will be left to the author, and if that's the case, then Indie publishing is the way to go.

Q: Now that you manage the marketing independently as well as the publishing, do you find it difficult to switch back and forth between writing and marketing?

A: I have found the change in my writing to be a dramatic one. In the past I was the only one I had to please with a piece of prose. Now I'm much more aware of the readers' attitudes. As I write I find that I ask myself constantly how the readers would react. This transformation is due largely to the immediacy of Indie publishing. With a traditionally published book there can be years between writing and publication. Your agent might suggest minor changes. It may then take time for the manuscript to be accepted. The publishers will nominate a slot, often a year or more in the future. Libel lawyers may have to cast an eye over it. Copy and proof editors will refine the work. Artwork will be done. By the time the book hit the shops, the writer will have moved on, often immersed in another project. I often felt a sense of detachment from a book by the time it was published.

Q: The list of well-known authors that are moving toward Independent publishing structures continues to grow. Do you think this is opening up possibilities for less established authors or monopolizing what was formerly their only option?

A: I'm optimistic about the future of Indie publishing and would buy shares

in Smashwords faster than in Barnes & Noble. The fate of the traditional bookstore will be down to specialization. I doubt if they can continue being all things to all people. We already see some very successful stores concentrating in one or two genres. This genre specialization will develop, and no doubt the giants of the retail industry have a trick or two yet. I expect some form of stratification will enter Indie book publishing.

Perhaps a division between the one book author and the multiple author. Certainly we have seen a rise in the popularity of book series in the last decade and readers do enjoy embarking on journeys with writers they admire. It is anyone's guess where will this leave the authors of a single text. Bad news for the Harper Lees and Margaret Mitchells.

Q: You give your work away for free. Can you explain your strategy on
this?

A: Giving away the occasional free book is an established marketing tool. The first Walter Mosley book I read was a magazine freebie, and I became a huge fan. It's a great way of increasing consumer awareness. I have had readers read my free e-books, then go buy the paperback. I still have the Mosley book, but I also bought another edition of it.

Q: How relevant is your success with traditional publishing to your reputation as an independent author?

A: Being a traditionally published author who switched to Indie does lend a degree of credibility. But reputations do not sell books. Positive word of mouth is the magic key to high number book sales and the only thing that will generate that is a damned good story. Admittedly the snowball rolling down a hill effect will be faster for a moderately well known author. It would be nice to be still amongst the best sellers in forty years time.

Work by AJ Davidson can be found on Smashwords http://
www.smashwords.com/profile/view/ajdavidson and for free on Wattpad http://
www.wattpad.com/user/ajdavidson