How to Get Published is a continuing feature at The Book Bin where we ask authors to tell us their publishing stories. Was it a rocky road or did it come easy for them? Did they start with an agent and get a NY publisher interested in their book or did they self-publish? What words of wisdom do they have for all of us who would like to be published one day?
Today’s guest is Vincent Zandri, author of the thriller novel, Godchild, published by StoneGate Ink.
From Zero to Hero: A Personal Publishing History
By Vincent Zandri
A year ago my career was in trouble.
A year ago, my career no longer existed. For a career to be in trouble, it’s got to at least exist in some shape or form. And for a period of about 5 years, I couldn’t sell a novel if I threatened to set off a nuke in the middle of Times Square.
That’s not to say I didn’t have agents championing my cause. At one point Suzanne Gluck of the William Morris Agency was in my employ. Arguably one of the best, if not the best in the business, the brass knuckle toting Ms. Gluck was extremely enthusiastic about my new offering, Moonlight Falls. But even she couldn’t sell me.
Why no sale?
Precisely because a few years before that, I had become a major literary success. Yes, that’s not a typo. You’re reading it right. I had become a rock star. My dreams answered, I’d scored a two book, hard and soft deal, with Delacorte Press for a quarter of a million dollars. My first novel, As Catch Can (now called The Innocent and re-published by StoneGate Ink), was so well received, The New York Post called it “Brilliant.” Movie studios like DreamWorks and producers like George Clooney were asking for reads. I was partying like a 32 year old rock star in New York City every weekend and making more money than my dad, a successful construction contractor. The future looked so brilliantly golden that to look directly into it would leave you blinded.
Then it all went south. Fast.
Anxious over a corporate downsizing, my editors at Dell started fearing for their jobs. My novels were at best ignored by the marketing department while employees looked for new jobs that would keep them paying their rents on their lower east side apartments, and their glasses filled with pink martinis.
As Catch Can slipped below the radar even before the mass market edition was published. Then it was announced that Bantam/Dell was swallowing up imprint, and everyone in my publishing house got fired. I literally ran into my acquiring editor walking out of the Bertlesman Building in Times Square with her desk lamp in hand and tears streaming down her face. “Good luck,” she said to me, but what she really meant to say was, “Rest in peace, Vincent!”
My contracts with Dell, while technically honored by Bantam/Dell, were treated with an almost inhuman disdain. Bantam/Dell had originally passed on my work, and now here they were being forced to publish me. They basically tossed the remaining contracted book, Godchild, up against the wall and hoped it would stick. In any case, they showed me the door.
My books were quickly remaindered, yet my rights were not relinquished back to the author. How is it that a publisher can refuse to print, distribute, and sell you books yet not grant the rights back to you? Goes against basic logic doesn’t it? It’s also ethically immoral and a criminal act regardless of the law. You can’t make up advance money unless your books are being sold. In the words of my then editor, “You didn’t hear this from me, but they are preventing you from selling books!”
Fast forward to one year ago.
A traditionally based, small press finally picked up Moonlight Falls and published it in both paper and E-Book. I was finally back in the game, however humbly. Ironically, the novel was so well received it became my first book to hit the Amazon Bestseller list for Hard-Boiled fiction. What’s that prove? It proved that despite my initial hardships, there remained a market for my work. An audience who desired my novels.
What followed was interest by another larger “Independent” press that my agent swore was making lots of noise, especially with bestselling authors whose books were out of print. Curiously, StoneHouse Ink agreed to publish my newest novel, The Remains, in E-Book first and then paper.
I was skeptical. Shouldn’t a novel come out in paper first, followed by Kindle and E-Book later? At the time, I had pretty much no idea what an E-Book was. Only that it was a way to read a novel electronically. That was back in April of last year. Two months later when The Remains was be published in Kindle and E-Book, it shot straight to the No. 1 spot on Amazon Hard-Boiled Mystery. It also chimed in on the top ten for Romantic-Suspense. Go figure. Suddenly, this not-so-old dog had renewed faith in the system. The independent publishing system that is. The old publishing model that had nearly destroyed me (and it did in fact destroy my marriage!), was not only being overrun by this newer model which not only gave the author more control over his product, it gave him far more money per unit sold. An astonishing 50%.
Bye-bye mass paperback, bye-bye disinterested book stores, bye-bye big corporate publishing conglomerates! Hello Kindle/E-Book. Hello new publisher, and publishing partner!
What followed were several new contracts with StoneHouse Ink and a new imprint set up for noir cats like me called StoneGate Ink. With the rights to my old books finally back in hand, As Catch Can, Book 1 in the Jack Marconi series, was re-published under its original title, The Innocent, and it is currently enjoying its fourth straight week in the Amazon Top Ten Bestselling Kindle E-Books list. Now Part II of the Jack Marconi series Godchild, has been published. It’s already in the Top 50 Bestselling Amazon Bestselling Kindle E-Books. We hope to see it hit No. 1!
Do I sound like I’m gloating?
Maybe. But I have reason to be excited. I’m selling upwards of 3,000 E-Books per day. Presently I outsell Stieg Larsson, Stephen King, Harlan Coben, and lots of other major authors. In fact, in the past 60 days alone, I’ve sold more than 100,000 E-Books, a milestone that also has me posting bestselling numbers in the UK and Germany.
What’s next? My new agent tells me we have slew of foreign rights offers pouring in and by the looks of it, a new deal could be looming on the horizon with guess who: one of the Big 6 Legacy publishers. I guess you can say I’m about to come full circle.
Not since the invention of the printing press all those centuries ago, has a more exciting period of publishing been at hand. I thank God I’m young enough to enjoy it. Not only has my career been resurrected by the “indies,” I’m back making a great living as a fiction author. Can a former zero turned hero ask for anything more?
Vincent Zandri is an essayist and freelance photojournalist, and the author of the recent bestsellers, The Remains, Moonlight Falls and The Innocent . His novel As Catch Can (Delacorte) was touted in two pre-publication articles by Publishers Weekly and was called “Brilliant” upon its publication by The New York Post. The Boston Herald attributed it as “The most arresting first crime novel to break into print this season.” Other novels include Godchild (Bantam/Dell) and Permanence (NPI). Translated into several languages including Japanese and the Dutch, Zandri’s novels have also been sought out by numerous major movie producers, including Heyday Productions and DreamWorks. Presently he is the author of the blogs, Dangerous Dispatches and Embedded in Africa for Russia Today TV (RT).
He also writes for other global publications, including Culture 11, Globalia and Globalspec. Zandri’s nonfiction has appeared in New York Newsday, Hudson Valley Magazine, Game and Fish Magazine and others, while his essays and short fiction have been featured in many journals including Fugue, Maryland Review and Orange Coast Magazine. He holds an M.F.A. in Writing from Vermont College and is a 2010 International Thriller Writer’s Awards panel judge. Zandri currently divides his time between New York and Europe. He is the drummer for the Albany-based punk band to Blisterz.
You can visit his website at www.vincentzandri.com or his blog at www.vincentzandri.blogspot.com. Connect with Vincent on Twitter at www.twitter.com/VincentZandri, on Facebook at www.facebooks.com/vincent.zandri?ref=profile and Myspace at www.myspace.com/vincentzandri.