Thursday, May 26, 2011

A Better Mousetrap

New York Times bestselling author Barry Eisler shocked the publishing world when he turned down a $500,000 two-book advance from St. Martin's to self-publish. Many mid-list and indie authors were thrilled and encouraged by Eisler's decision, believing that it validated their decisions to self-publish.

Now comes news that Eisler has inked a deal with Amazon's new mystery/thriller imprint, Thomas & Mercer, that will pay him a comparable advance plus pay him a 70% royalty on ebook sales.

What gives? Did Eisler turn his back on all those writers pinning their hopes on the Indie Revolution?

Not at all. He did what any of us would do - he found a better deal. Eisler didn't turn St. Martin's down because of some passionate belief in Indie publishing. He made a rational business decision that he had a better alternative. The Thomas & Mercer deal was even better so he took it.

That's the same thing Amazon has done with its decision to become a full-scale print publisher. Amazon believes it can do a better job than the traditional publishers of capturing the synergy of print and ebooks. By offering Eisler the same royalty on ebook sales that he would make by self-publishing, Amazon has confirmed it's commitment to the agency-model, creating a best of both worlds opportunity for mystery/thriller writers, who will now beg their agents to pitch their books to Thomas & Mercer.

One dark cloud on the horizon - at least one independent bookseller is threatening to boycott authors who sign up with Thomas & Mercer, including Joe Konrath, the patron saint of every self-published writer. Such threats are short-sighted and wrong-headed. This train has pulled out of the station and isn't turning back.

Both Eisler and Amazon looked at the marketplace, saw an opportunity and seized it. Good for them! Time will tell whether they've built a better mousetrap, but so far, so good.

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