Indie bestseller AG Riddle
recently made headlines for
inking a seven-figure deal
with HarperCollins’s Harper
Voyager imprint. Rachel
Deahl spoke to him.
RD: Recently, 20th Century
Fox optioned your fourth
novel, Departure. Then,
Voyager imprint acquired the
book in a major deal. It’s
somewhat unusual to sell a book to a film studio, before a
publisher. Why and how did you go this route?
AGR: When I finished Departure, I decided to self-publish it in North America and traditionally publish
overseas, just as I had with the Atlantis novels. Gray Tan
represents me in Asia, and Danny Baror handles the rest of
the world. Danny thought the novel would make a great
film, and my film agent, Brian Lipson, was also very excited
about it. They decided to wait a few months to see how
sales shaped up. Departure sold 150,000 copies in its first
10 weeks, and at that point, Brian sent it to Fox to read.
Fox made a pre-empt within a week and gave us two hours
to decide. A few days later, we received the offer from
HarperCollins (who had learned about the then-unannounced deal from their counterparts at Fox–their
RD: Did you consider traditional publishing, or try that
route, before self-publishing?
AGR: I went straight to self-publishing (never submitted
to traditional publishers). Self-publishing was a natural fit
for me and my background.
In the start-up world, you come up with a product idea,
do some research, and then sit in a room, mostly alone,
wearing a t-shirt and headphones (sometimes pants), typing
away, day after day, building your product. When it’s as
good as you can make it, you put it out there and you learn
from it. You listen to those early adopters, figure out where
the problems are, what you can do better, and what you’re
doing well. That’s what I wanted to do, and that’s why I
self-published: to learn from readers and to figure out if I
had enough talent to keep spending my time writing.
RD: You’ve said that two things you believe helped The
Atlantis Gene take off were the fact that it landed on
certain email blasts Amazon sends out to customers, and
the pricing of the title. What do you think the determining
factors were in helping you find a much bigger audience?
AGR: I get asked that a lot. I can’t say I know the inner
workings of the Amazon emails, but I think there’s a
certain critical mass you have to reach before you really
start to get a lot of exposure. I think The Atlantis Gene
simply reached a tipping point, but I believe word-of-mouth has been the biggest driver of sales.
I priced the book at $.99 when it first came out–at least
for the first month or so.
RD: At what point in the process did you realize you’d
become a major bestseller? And at what point, and why, did
you decide to seek out a literary agent?
AGR: A few months after release, The Atlantis Gene was
selling 800-1200 copies per day and charting really well.
I’ve never queried a literary agent, but I began receiving
emails at that point.
RD: Now that you’ve officially gone from an indie author
to, for a lack of a decent term, a “traditional” one, do you
think you will continue to self-publish?
AGR: It’s hard to say. I think it will largely depend on
how well Departure does in bookstores.
RD: Any advice for aspiring authors?
AGR: Don’t let anyone else define success for you.
This is an edited version of an article that will appear in Publishers Weekly.