In the mid-1990s, after I moved to New York City, and before I started working in public relations, I worked at a literary agency. I had always been a voracious reader. And, even though I read a lot of books as a kid, it seems like as I moved into my 20s and started reading more mysteries, suspense, and thrillers, I read even more.
In addition to being interested in reading, I was always interested in book publishing too. As a teenager and in college, I spent countless hours in bookstores browsing – and buying when I had the money. And, I eventually ended up working for several bookstore chains – Waldenbooks, Books A Million, and Barnes & Noble.
The literary agent that I worked for was extremely diligent at pursuing rights reversions. And, I was the one tracking when books went out print, and writing the letters to book publishers requesting that they revert the rights to the author. FYI – for those who don’t know all the ins-and-outs of book publishing, when an author sells a book to a publisher, they’re usually selling the publisher the right to print and sell the book – they’re not selling the book outright. And, when the publisher decided not to order any more reprints, we would swoop in and immediately request rights reversions.
Interestingly enough, towards the end of my stint at the literary agency, many book publishers were starting to realize the impact that eBooks could one day have, so they began dragging their feet on reverting rights. Before that, most publishers would respond quickly to reversion requests.
So, what’s my point re: rights reversion? If an author still has an active and interested fan base, and they’re sitting on 5-10-15 or more novels that have been written, edited, and previously published, then those authors are sitting on a potential, passive revenue stream.
JA Konrath, a successful novelist who has published a series of suspense novels, recently blogged about his experience uploading and selling several old, “trunk” novels via Amazon’s Kindle. He’s selling the novels for $1.59 each. In May, Konrath made $1,250 on his Kindle sales. Now, no one is going to get rich on $1,250 per month, but that’s not Konrath’s only income. He’s writing and selling traditionally published too. An extra $1,250 per month could definitely come in handy for many writers.
However, any published fiction – or non-fiction – writer can attest that they often have ideas that they can’t sell – despite their existing success. In the past, writers would often have to either give up on those ideas – or try to sell them under a pen name. Now, if a writer is passionate about a book that their current editor and publisher doesn’t respond to – they have an option. They could publish that novel via Amazon Kindle – and other eBook platforms. Don’t forget – Google is planning to launch their own eBook platform for selling eBooks, and Sony has promised to also make writer-submitted novels and stories available for Sony Readers in the future.
If you’re an author with a fan base, or even an “expert” or “guru” with manuscripts or novels you’ve already written, you may want to consider selling them via Amazon Kindle.
One note, as Lee Goldberg, already pointed out. This isn’t going to work for everyone. If self-published authors who’ve never sold a novel to a traditional publisher flood Amazon’s Kindle store with half-baked, poorly edited, 10th generation ripoffs of James Patterson or JK Rowling, then Amazon will be forced to police the novels submitted directly from authors.