The $79 Kindle and the Most Interesting Publisher in the World

OK, I can finally say it: I have three brand new novels coming out this fall!

Within a couple of weeks, THE GATSBY GAME will debut as an e-book. It’s a stand-alone mystery set in the Mad Men era that proposes a fictional solution to one of Hollywood's most scandalous mysteries. (It's #7 on the top 10 list, if you follow that link.) 

The e-book will be published by a cutting-edge new e-publisher: Mark Williams International Digital Publishing.

Two comic mysteries will follow with MWiDP: GHOSTWRITERS IN THE SKY and SHERWOOD, LTD. They are the first two in a series featuring a perennially penniless socialite and her gay best friend.

Yeah but…sez you—what about Popcorn Press? Haven’t you already signed with them? Aren’t they re-launching your two UK books, FOOD OF LOVE and THE BEST REVENGE? Haven’t they been very, very good to you?

Yup. But because both of these presses belong to a whole new “united we stand” type of small publisher, Popcorn will partner with MWiDP and publish paper versions of the three ebooks. Paper copies will be available at the Popcorn Press site (and about one month after the debut of the ebooks. And yes! Paper copies of FOOD OF LOVE are available for pre-order at the Popcorn Press site right now for only $9.99. 

So who/what is Mark Williams International?

Because MWiDP only officially launched this week, I haven’t been able to talk about it before, but if you follow this blog, you’ve seen Mark Williams’ comments to many of our posts. He’s the “quiet half” of the UK’s phenomenally successful writing duo known as Saffina Desforges. He’s also mentored a number of other UK writers to bestselling superstardom.

After zooming up to the top of the UK’s Kindle lists—and staying there for months—Mark and Saffi have been courted by some of the biggest agencies in New York and Hollywood. But they turned them all down. They realized there’s a lot more money (as well as freedom) in the indie publishing world.

But Mark, who has been a teacher and editor for many years, knew a lot of writers (like me) who don’t have the time or entrepreneurial skills to self-publish. He also ran into many successful US indies who didn’t have a clue how to break into the European markets.

So he came up with the idea for a company which is a mix of small e-publisher, self-publishing facilitator, and marketer. They will provide professional vetting, editing, cover design, coding and uploading--and also use the networking and collective marketing developed by indie Kindle authors. MWiDP will also take on successful indie authors who want to expand their markets on other continents.

It sounded so good, I jumped in, even though it meant turning down three offers from the traditional publishing world: three offers I would have killed for a few months ago.

Here’s what happened to me at the beginning of September—just as I was madly preparing my three presentations for the Central Coast Writers Conference. In the space of less than 48 hours, I had a request for a read from one of my dream agents, an offer of representation from a top agency, and an offer of a read of my full manuscript from an editor at a prestigious mid-sized publisher. I also had requested full manuscripts awaiting reads at two other agencies.

But each offer had strings.
I mentioned my dilemma in an email to Mark--and he let me in on his as-yet-to-be announced publishing company plans.

Twenty-four hours later, I’d joined Mark and Saffi’s new venture. Here’s my page at their new website

What am I—nuts? Isn't this just drinking the Kool-Aid that Janet Reid warned us about?

Maybe. And I absolutely do not recommend this for everybody. Especially for newbies. I think most first-time authors should try the traditional route first. Even if it's only to build up some soul-calluses. Publishing a just-finished first novel usually ends in disappointment and often discourages good writers from staying in the game.

But for me, it’s already looking like a smart move. One of the major factors that swayed me was that Mark could get my ebooks out quickly. He'd already read two of the three manuscripts and knew they were almost ready to go.

He also told me this will be the “Christmas of the Kindle.” He predicted Kindles would get very cheap for the holidays—under $99—and said they'll be THE gift. He expects this holiday season to be the hottest e-book buying moment in history.

And guess what happened on Wednesday this week? Amazon announced its lowest price Kindle will now sell for…$79. And the new Kindle Fire--an ereader/tablet that competes with the iPad, will cost only $199 (a loss to Amazon they expect will pay off in other sales.)

So I think Mark has a pretty clear crystal ball.

He pointed out that in the three or more years it would take to grind even one of my books through the traditional publishing machine, the whole publishing world will have changed. There may not be any more big brick and mortar bookstores. That window in Barnes and Noble where I’ve fantasized seeing my work will probably display only Nooks and Snookibooks. E-books will reign.

So I realized that for me--after fifteen years of bloodying my knuckles on New York doors--it made sense to get all my books out right now. (This isn't all the books I've written, BTW--I've got some practice ones in the files that will never see Kindle-light.)

Mark certainly doesn’t recommend that everybody take out their rejected manuscripts and throw them on Amazon (or submit them to MWiDP.) But I had three finished, multi-critiqued, edited new mysteries. (And yes, Mark did ask for more edits and I’m in the process of killing some darlings, but his suggestions improved the books instead of gutting them.) 

Do I recommend this for everybody? Again I repeat: no. Going the indie or semi-indie route is likely to lead to disappointment if you don't have a body of work and you’ve only been at this game a little while. Writing narrative is a craft that takes years to perfect. You don't open a restaurant after your first cooking lesson.

The reason this move is best for me is: not only will MWiDP make my ebooks available immediately, but my chances of acceptance by the Big Six are abysmal. I only recently figured out why I've been getting so many "I absolutely loved this, but..." rejections.

1) I’ve been previously published, without stupendous sales numbers.
2) My work doesn’t fit into a neat genre category.
3)  I write funny. Humor is subjective and can’t please all of the people all of the time.
4) Funny books by women are often lumped together as chick lit—the most hated genre in New York.

If you’re just starting your writing journey, please don't let me keep you from pursuing your personal publishing dreams. By the time you have two or three books ready to go, the industry will have settled a bit from the e-revolution and you’ll have many more options than we have now. The Big Six may not be as big and Amazon and maybe Apple might be the most desirable publishers. There will also be lots of collectives and small e-publishers like MWiDP to choose from.

If you’re in the process of looking for an agent, please keep at it. Agents will have very different job descriptions in a few years, but having a savvy agent in your corner will always help your career. I’d love to have one myself.

But right now, with all these books ready to go, it makes sense for me to join Mark's new venture and be ready for “the Christmas of the Kindle.”

So who is this Mark Williams dude?

He’s not a guy to toot his own horn. He doesn’t even post a picture of himself on his blog. What I’ve been able glean from his emails and posts is:

So here I go on another publishing adventure….whee!

So how do you feel about all this, scriveners? Are you ready to take the self-pub or indie-collective plunge? Holding out for the traditional publishing dream? Willing to go indie, but want an agent to guide you? Or are you a successful US indie who’d like help getting into the European and Asian markets?
I'm starting little blog tour in my own slow way this week. I reveal a few personal secrets in a guest post at Karen Jones Gowan's blog, Coming Down the Mountain due to post next Friday, Oct. 7th, and I spilled more beans at Prue Batten’s ‘Mesmered” blog: (with a great comment from Mark Williams hisownself.) Plus I've got some very nice cyber ink from Danielle Smith over at Chick Lit Reviews. Anybody who'd like an interview or blog visit, do let me know (and anybody willing to do a review, I'll be forever in your debt.)

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