Secret Lives of 2 Genre-Jumpers – NYT Best-Selling Author Ruth Harris Embraces Self-Publishing.
When we think about indie publishing and the New Renaissance we think mostly about new writers, frustrated by the old system of begging & groveling to the gatekeepers, who take matters into their own hands.
And once they’ve enjoyed the freedoms indie publishing brings they suddenly aren’t in such a rush to chase the old dream of the agent-publisher route. If you’re one of the few that still is living in the fantasy world that agent-publisher is the only, or indeed the best, route to success I suggest you check out my post over at WG2E (appearing some time today).
Here at MWi I’ve been saying for a long time that for new writers wanting to get a foot in the door the window of opportunity will not be open forever. Traditionally-published authors who have already established a loyal fan base will be watching the rise of the indie, doing the math, and realizing the future is digital.
Of course they can still stick with their traditional publishers and be digitally published too. But that means they’ll still have to play agents’ and publishers’ games, follow the agent-publisher snail’s pace timetable (typically at least eighteen months from completion of book to the book actually being available) and then giving the agent their fee and watching the publisher pocket the bulk of the sales money.
But if you’re a million-selling traditionally published author there’s no argument. Trad-pub is still the best, surely? Million-selling authors don’t need to go indie. That would be backward step.
I’ve argued many times here on MWi that actually they do, they will, and more importantly they are.
You see, traditional publishers live in a time-warp world where, even as they embrace digital technology, they are quite unable to embrace the digital mentality that makes indies the success they are. They cannot think outside the box.
Trad-publishers think all they have to do is convert a paper script to digital format, stick it on Amazon, and everything continues as usual. The same old rules apply about marketing, about pricing, about genres and about what will sell. You write sci-fi and your next book is lit-fic? Say goodbye to your contract. You write crime thrillers and your next book is fantasy? Forget it. Write what we want you to write or say goodbye to your contract. And then we’ll price it to suit us, market it in the only way we know how, and blame you for being a crap writer if it flops.
Thankfully those days are nearly over.
As I said over at David Gaughran’s a few days ago,
The digital revolution is more than just about how we reach our readers, important though that is. It’s also about what new things we offer them to read.
One of the key points of that post over at David’s was to discuss collaboration. Writers teaming up to co-author books, just as we have done.
Enter NYT Best-Selling author Ruth Harris. For the second time in a month I’ve managed to tempt Ruth away from the comfort of Anne R. Allen’s blog to share her unique perspectives with MWi readers.
Ruth isn’t just a million-selling author. Ruth has worked within the Big Six industry and knows first-hand their dirty secrets. Ruth knows how they work, she knows all the benefits they can bring, and she has the status to knock on the right doors.
She’s also married to a best-selling non-fiction author, Michael Harris. So when they decided to collaborate on a book together it goes without saying this dream partnership would take full advantage of their best-seller status and get their next book out in glossy hardback with a Big Six publisher. After all, indie publishing is just for us losers who couldn’t get past the gatekeepers, right?
I’m known for my bestselling women’s fiction. My DH, Michael, is known for his bestselling non-fiction. So, of course, we decided to do the next logical thing and write a thriller—a form both of us love whether in book or movie form.
We wanted the challenge of trying something new and thought since we are both pros, we would know pretty soon if our thriller, HOOKED, was working or not. Michael is an excellent editor with special strengths in organizing and outlining. I shine when it comes to manuscript editing, revising and rewriting. Depending on who felt more strongly about which scene, we both wrote first draft.
One of my first publishing jobs was at Bantam where I started out as a copywriter. At that time, Bantam published a full menu of paperbacks. They ranged from classics, to mainstream bestsellers, to romance-mystery-thriller-sci-fi-western genres, some original, others reprints of hard cover editions. Thus it was that in the course of a week, I wrote blurbs for a new nurse romance, Jean-Paul Sartre’s existentialist philosophy, a collection of Shakespeare’s sonnets, a top bestseller and a series mystery. Without knowing it, I was learning to write in a wide variety of styles in order to appeal to different audiences. Looking back, I realize that this experience helped give me the confidence to try something way out of my usual genre.
For Michael, who wrote about his experiences as a human guinea pig during the seventeen US H-bomb tests in the 1950’s, a fictional thriller was far more appealing than the real thriller he endured at the Pacific Proving Ground. His memoir about his eleven years working in television for the Ed Sullivan show where his duties included meeting the Beatles at the airport on their first trip to the US and writing as many press releases as I did blurbs. A thriller about the rich and famous was a way to use his showbiz background as a setting for fiction.
The prospect of creating larger-than-life characters (although, God knows, there were plenty of those in the US military and TV showbiz not to mention NYC publishing) and coming up with shocking plot twists and turns had irresistible appeal for both of us.
Last of all, the need to offer the reader a satisfying quantity of sex and violence appealed to us both. I ask you: What writer could resist?
We’ve always worked closely together, whether on my books or Michael’s, so the actual process was smooth. Michael is good at adding a bit more explanation when I skim over an important point too quickly. I’m good at coming up with far-out plot twists we both think can’t work but eventually do.
The result is HOOKED, an international geopolitical-medical thriller about a brilliant and charismatic celebrity doctor whose miracle treatments make every fantasy come true—at a price.
Sexy, exciting, diabolical—that’s what we were aiming for. Readers will now get the chance to see if we succeeded.
So, all sounds good, but now we’ve got to wait a year until the book is actually published, right? And then take out a mortgage to be able to buy the hardback, or pay a fortune for the over-priced ebook because the Big Six publisher needs to pay their shareholders.
Well no, actually. I predicted way back in April here on MWi that it was just a matter of time before mega-sellers started self-publishing at indie prices.
Is it any good? Ruth sent me an ARC.
Now that alone is worth becoming an indie author for. Living in a mud hut in West Africa and being sent ARCs by million-selling authors like Ruth Harris? You couldn’t make it up!
Here’s what I said about it:
Just when you thought it was safe to go back into the operating theatre… NYT best-selling author Ruth Harris and Michael Harris take on the medical-political thriller. Sleepless nights ahead for Daniel Silva and Tess Gerritsen as their crowns are threatened.
I just hope Ruth and Michael don’t decide to do crime thrillers next!
I concluded on David Gaughran’s blog,
Far from a tsunami of crap, the future holds a tsunami of excellence as writers experiment and innovate, unfettered by the shackles of the old corporate publishing box.
Hooked, by Ruth Harris & Michael Harris, is a fine example of the tsunami of excellence threatening to drown us all.
What a way to go!