Self-publishing has traditionally been a surefire route to obscurity and dismal sales. Now a British thriller writer who sells his novels as ebooks for as little as 71p ($1.50) is proving the naysayers wrong.
Not only does Stephen Leather, Britain's leading "independent" writer, estimate he has occupied the number one spot on Amazon.co.uk's Kindle ebook bestseller lists for "90 per cent of the last three months", he is also selling "somewhere in the region" of 2000 ebooks a day - and making big profits in the process. Leather is one of many authors increasingly turning to ebooks as an alternative way to the top.
Capitalising on the popularity of ereaders such as the Kindle, a new generation of writers are bypassing agents and publishers and using the flexible pricing model of ebooks to offer their work directly to the public at rock-bottom prices. Some, like Leather, are achieving huge sales, which is striking fear into publishers.
Leather enjoys a successful parallel career writing "big international thrillers" for Hodder & Stoughton. But last August, when Amazon.co.uk opened its Kindle store, he saw an opportunity: "I was lucky, in that I had three novellas Hodder had turned down because they were in a different genre from my other books and too short to work as conventional paperbacks.
"But I realised they might work for the Kindle."
Leather realised the Kindle was going to be a very popular Christmas present.
"It occurred to me that on Christmas morning, when people got their Kindle, the first thing they would do would be to buy the books they'd always wanted - The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, the new Grisham. But they're relatively expensive. After that, people would start looking for cheaper books," said Leather.
"I knew the wave was going to break on Christmas Day. I got myself in position to take advantage, I got on and I've been riding it ever since."