"Mommy, what's an ebook?"
I was in the kitchen on the evening of March 9, helping my kids with a craft project, when my husband Mark came in brandishing The St. Paul Pioneer Press. “Did you hear the big news?”
“What big news?” I almost dropped a glue bottle. “Oh, no! Wills and Kate didn’t call off the wedding, did they?”
I’m ever so slightly obsessed with the royal wedding.
“No, no, forget them.” Mark had to wait for the squeals of Daddy! to calm down and trade welcome-home hugs before he could explain. “It’s about this writer from Austin. The one who self-publishes her own e-books?”
“Oh, that.” I started gathering up construction paper and tubes of glitter. “People have been doing that for years. Nobody makes any money at it. Girls, help me clear the table so we can get dinner started.”
“Mommy, what’s an e-book?”
I smiled at my four-year-old. “An e-book is just a silly waste of time, sweetie. Hand me that paintbox, please?”
Mark took the paints, glitter, glue, and everything else from my hands. “It’s not a waste of time anymore. You have got to read this.” He foisted the newspaper on me.
I shook my head. “E-books are only for people who can’t find a real publisher.”
“That was then.” He tapped his finger on a headline halfway down the page. “This is now.”
“No way,” I said. “Really?” I skimmed the article. Amanda Hocking? Never heard of her. Years of struggle, piles of rejections, yada yada, the usual story — until she decided to self-publish her books in digital format for the Kindle and Nook and other e-readers. Now she was selling hundreds of thousands of books a month. “No way!”
I was moving now, still reading as I headed downstairs to my home office. “No way!” I couldn’t stop saying it. She was getting 70% royalties! Her earnings to date were just shy of $2 million! “You are kidding me!” She was inspired to try e-publishing because of some writer named Joe Konrath — who was so busy selling 1500 e-books a day that he declined to give the Pioneer Press an interview.
People were doing this? People were actually doing this?
I reached my office, tossed the paper, and jumped online for a quick Google.
Amanda Hocking was just the tip of the iceberg. Konrath was making six figures. A dozen other mystery authors had “gone indie.” And romance writers! Suddenly I was tripping over familiar names. Marsha Canham. Julie Ortolon. Alexis Harrington. Miriam Minger.
People were doing this! People I knew were doing this!
Cue the crash of cymbals. The bolt of lightning. The sky suddenly opening up and angels bursting into song.
I could do this!
I literally sat there with my mouth open, stunned by the possibilities. The clues that had slipped past me for months all clicked into place. The indie designers on Ravelry…the women in the cafe with their e-readers…the People magazine report that romance is the fastest-growing e-book genre.
I could do this!
I didn’t need to wait for the market to shift, for publishers to take a chance on me again. I didn’t need a publisher at all.
I could take a chance on me.
Feeling a bit dizzy, I turned and pulled open the top drawer of my file cabinet. I had the rights back to my out-of-print books, didn’t I? I thought I remembered getting those rights back. I found my thick Contracts file and started tearing through it. Where were those letters?
For years, I had tried to get the rights back to my out-of-print books. I’m not sure why I was so persistent, when I didn’t have much hope of ever getting published again. By 2001, I had almost given up. But when we moved to Minnesota, I needed to send my ex-literary agent an address update — and while I was at it, I had asked him to please try, one more time, to get Avon to relinquish my backlist.
Four years later, Avon finally relented.
I let out a whoop of relief and joy as I found the letters. I was the proud owner of a slim stack of paperwork dated 2005, granting me all rights to my out-of-print Avon books.
They were mine! All of them. I could e-publish my backlist. Even better, I could write new books. All the spin-offs and sequels I never had the chance to write. And short stories. Novellas. Whatever I wanted!
I jumped up and did a happy dance right there in the middle of my office. I wasn’t just happy, I was delirious. It wasn’t Wednesday, it was Someday.
I get to be an author again.