Future of publishing materializes online

Blair Hanley Frank

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Credit: Sloane

Credit: Sloane

In 2005, author J.C. Hutchins was at an impasse.

“I started looking for an agent in 2005, and that went nowhere,” he said in an interview with me regarding “7th Son,” his trilogy of novels. His original 1300-page manuscript was turned down by every agent he met.

With the advent of the Web, authors like Hutchins have many options when it comes to getting their content out to potential readers. For Hutchins, his rejections changed his perspective on getting “7th Son” out to the masses.

“I had given up on getting [“7th Son”] in print, but I had also been listening to podcasts in 2005, and was exposed to the works of folks like Scott Sigler, who were recording their novels as free, serialized audiobooks, and releasing them in podcast format.”

That’s precisely what Hutchins did. In 2006, he released “7th Son: Descent” as a serialized podcast novel, to great success. By the time he finished the trilogy with the second and third installments (titled “7th Son: Deceit” and “7th Son: Destruction”), the number of subscribers to his podcast on iTunes had reached the tens of thousands.

In 2007, before the end of his podcast trilogy, “Descent” was picked up by St. Martin’s Press, after they hired Hutchins to work with Jordan Weisman on the novel/trans-media experience “Personal Effects: Dark Art.”

Hutchins saw Personal Effects not only as a great creative endeavor, but also as a way into the publishing industry. “I also saw it as an opportunity to sneak in the basement window of mainstream publishing and see if they would be interested in ‘7th Son.'”

St. Martin’s wasn’t the only interested party, though. In late April, Hutchins announced that Warner Bros. optioned the film rights to the “7th Son” trilogy. While this doesn’t mean that a movie is definitely imminent, it means that Warner Bros. has reserved the possibility to do so sometime over the next three years: which is monumental, considering the beginnings of the “7th Son” franchise.

Stories like Hutchins’s are more prevalent than you might think. New York Times Bestselling authors Sigler and Mur Lafferty also got their start by podcasting. So what does this mean for the publishing industry at large? For one, it means that the traditional means of getting your creative endeavors out into the world can be easily circumvented. If the world at large likes what you’re offering, there’s great possibilities for more deals down the line.

To that end, I asked Hutchins what tools he found most helpful in the life of the “7th Son” franchise.

“Creating a Web site, and I know this may sound like an obvious thing . . . using a free service like WordPress or Blogger, that costs either nothing or next-to-nothing, and will establish you on the web. And that is your fortress, that is your castle,” he said.

He’s also a big fan of a social network I’ve written about in detail: “Twitter is an exceptional tool to make friends, and not only communicate with them, but promote your work.”

The biggest boon to him in book promotion, however, is not digital in nature.

“The most value I have found in working in the podcast and social media space is very similar to the most success you would find in person, which is to make friends.”

Sometimes, even with all of the shiny digital methods of promotion and the cutting-edge ways to get your content out, it’s better to turn to the more analog methods of promotion. Friends are indispensable when it comes to promotion, and helping you get your cool ideas out there. So court them however you can, whether in meatspace or in cyberspace, because they will serve you well.

Check out the Pioneer Web site for a free 100-page PDF featuring the first few chapters of “7th Son: Descent,” as well as my review of the novel, and a chance to win a copy of the book! You can find out more about Hutchins, and his books at his Web site, jchutchins.net.

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