Please welcome our honored guest, author Michelle Black! Michelle is the author of six novels of the Victorian West, including the award-winning Never Come Down and the Eden Murdock series. Her latest novel, Séance in Sepia, will be released October 2.
Michelle was born in Kansas and studied anthropology in college, then went on to law school where she graduated with honors. In 1993, she moved to Colorado and began to focus on her fiction writing. For three years, she owned a bookstore in Frisco, Colorado, a small town nestled high in the Colorado Rockies. She now divides her time between a Queen Anne Victorian home in Boulder, Colorado, and a horse farm outside Kansas City.
I am so pleased to be a guest on The LadyKillers today and proud to be in such great company (with a special Shout-out to my “Victorian sister” Ann Parker and my “name twin” Michael Black!). This week’s topic, “The Future Shape of the Novel,” suits me well as I owned an ebook reader before most folks knew what an “ebook” was.
My first sale to a commercial publisher occurred in 1997. A pioneer in the ebook industry, called Hard Shell Word Factory, agreed to publish my first mystery novel, NEVER COME DOWN. I was elated, of course. Getting one’s first novel sold is a thrill, regardless of the medium, and I immediately became a convert to the world of digital reading.
At about this same time, the first handheld ebook reader came on the market, the Rocket eBook, and I bought one right away. The size, shape, and reading experience were remarkably similar to that of the modern Kindle, though the battery weight was much greater.
The ebook trend was slow to catch on. Few readers wanted to shell out $500 for The Rocket in 1998. Reading an entire novel on a computer screen was tiring on the eyes, even for a devoted digital reader like me. Traditional publishers entered this new arena with great reluctance and their first attempts were awkward, at best. When I made my first sale to a big New York house in 2000 for AN UNCOMMON ENEMY, they offered it in digital format simultaneously with the hard cover, but priced the print copy and the ebook the same--$27.95. Yikes. Not even I, the author, wanted to spend that much on pixels.
A decade passed and technology finally caught up with the concept of e-reading. Kindles, Nooks, and iPads began to crop up on everyone’s Christmas list and electronic publishing was at last hitting the mainstream. In 2010, I decided to take my digital adventure to the next level. The rights to AN UNCOMMON ENEMY had reverted back to me and I decided to teach myself how to format and publish it myself.
After some trial and error, I successfully created a Kindle edition and what happened next gave me the biggest surprise of my writing career. Thanks to a favorable review on a popular Kindle blog, AN UNCOMMON ENEMY suddenly became a bestseller. There I was, madly checking my Amazon rankings every hour, thrilling at my overnight success (if by “overnight” you mean ten years, of course!)
In the fourteen years since my love affair with digital publishing began, I have to say that even though print sales have resulted in more financial gain for my writing career, I’ve had the most pure fun with my ebooks.
That said, I have to report that my newest novel, SÉANCE IN SEPIA, a historical mystery novel set partly in 1875 which features real-life feminist firebrand, Victoria Woodhull, as its protagonist, will be available only in hardcover for the first year of its publication. To the many friends who’ve asked me, “Can I buy it for my Kindle?” I sadly have to tell them, “Wait until 2012.”