David Lender Blogs for GonzoInk
I worked on Wall Street for over 25 years. And while I always wanted to write, it took me a long time finally make the transition from finance to full-time writer.
I started writing seriously about 15 years ago. My investment banking career was in full swing, so I started getting up at 5:00 a.m and then writing for about an hour before heading to the office, outlining on the bus or train, in the car service, on airplanes, anyplace. Rewriting and editing drafts wherever and whenever I could. It took me about a year to finish my first thriller. I showed it to a friend’s brother, a successful commercial thriller writer. He said to consider it a Master of Fine Arts and move on. I did. I wrote the second novel over the next year the same way as the first.
Then I educated myself about the agency and traditional publishing businesses, targeted my queries and sent both novels around. In the course of that, a well-connected friend sent Trojan Horse to a prominent literary agent. Her reaction was, “Not bad for somebody who doesn’t know what he’s doing.” She introduced me to some thriller editors. I started working with a seasoned publishing exec who’d edited Robert Ludlum’s first nine thrillers. Eighteen months later, after one of the most intense meat grinders I’ve ever experienced, a finished Trojan Horse emerged.
Around that time I got caught up in my career again, so I didn’t send Trojan Horse out to more than a dozen agents; nobody bit. And so it wasn’t until about three years ago that I got serious again. I signed up for Thrillerfest in New York and got ready for the Agentfest day of face-to-face pitching to agents.
Pitching face-to-face is fascinating. As an investment banker, I’ve pitched countless deals. But sitting in an overheated room in front of a cocktail table with 10 people in line behind you, pitching work you’ve put your guts into—in three minutes—can raise anyone’s pulse. And meeting agents and thinking about half of them, “I probably wouldn’t hire this person in my other professional life,” is also eye-opening.
My fiancée gave me a Kindle for my birthday in November. Then one of my brothers said he converted Trojan Horse to a .mobi file so he could read it on his Kindle. That started me thinking. I decided I had nothing to lose by going Indie for one book. It might help me find an agent and publisher, and so I launched Trojan Horse as a Kindle ebook in mid-January. At $9.99, because, in part, I got my MBA in Finance, Policy and Marketing from Kellogg, arguably the US’s best marketing school. And nobody in their right mind would forgo the 70% royalty by pricing below $2.99. Besides, most of the top thrillers I’d positioned myself against were selling for $12.99 and up. I looked at some of my colleagues in my writing group on Facebook and wondered what they were thinking, pricing at $0.99.
Then I started educating myself. I looked closer at Indie writers that were doing well. Amanda Hocking. John Locke. Stephen Leather. Mel Comely. Saffina Desforges. Donna Fasano. I started reading blogs. J.A. Konrath. Kindle Reviews. Kindle Nation Daily. The light bulb went off. Indie publishing isn’t just a way to find a mainstream publisher, it’s an end in itself. The playing field is leveled, even tilted toward us. Finish a book and get it into readers’ hand right away, instead waiting a year or two long for it to find its way to your readers. Promote yourself instead of having your publisher tell you to promote yourself (because he isn’t going to do it for you). Set your own pricing, and get a realistic percentage of your price as your royalty. At $0.99 on Amazon, that’s 35%, on B&N, it’s 40%. Where else in the world to you see 35-40% pre-tax margins?
And what about pricing at $0.99? As an unknown, what’s wrong with making it as easy as possible for your potential reader to try your book? Or to give her value for her money buy selling real quality at a bargain price? And building a franchise for yourself by promising that value equation as a reward to your readers in the future?
And now Trojan Horse is priced at $0.99, and has made it to the Kindle Top 100 Bestseller List. I just launched The Gravy Train, a 50,000-word novella, at $0.99. Bull Street, my next novel, another thriller, will be released later this year, at $0.99. I’ve started The Autism Link (working title), another thriller for release later this year at $0.99. I don’t know for certain where this all takes me, but I can’t see how it’s to a mainstream publisher. I get the joke.