As a talented yet aspiring writer, Suzanne Tyrpak wanted to put her experience as a divorcée entering the Durango dating scene into words. But finding a publisher willing to put nine short stories into print was more than challenging: it was impossible.
As a writer to just keep writing and not get published, its incomplete if you have a painting at least you can stick it up so people will see it, Tyrpak said.
The alternately hilarious and heartbreaking result of her efforts is Dating My Vibrator and Other True Fiction, a collection of short stories that begins with a first date at Purgatory when Tyrpak was told by her companion, Youre gonna freeze your hooters off. Its well-conceived and well-written, but you wont find it on any bookshelf or in any book; Dating My Vibrator is one of hundreds of thousands of titles available only through cyberspace on Amazon.coms revolutionary Kindle e-reader.
Tyrpaks foray into online publishing is local evidence of an explosion in the e-book industry. Thousands of writers thwarted by the large publishing houses are finding a growing audience through Kindle and similar services, although Amazon.coms version is clearly the industry standard. Kindle boasts 670,000 titles, including 109 of 112 New York Times best-sellers.
Tyrpaks been writing for about 12 years and has penned a few historical fiction novels but couldnt get a publisher to bite. But another local author in her writers group, novelist Blake Crouch, shared his Kindle success stories with Tyrpak, which inspired her to follow suit.
For his part, Crouch is enjoying the best of both worlds. Hes got four novels in print through St. Martins Press and will be switching to a yet-unannounced new publisher for his next novel, which is due out sometime in 2011 or 2012. But its his short fiction and novellas that have found widespread and loyal audiences on Kindle. The shorter works up to about 12,000 words each versus the 70,000 of a typical novel seem a perfect fit for the ever-shortening attention spans of readers.
Kindle is perfect for that weird length. Everything Ive written is on there, and it boggles my mind that more writers arent doing it, Crouch said.
Some of Crouchs most successful Kindle efforts were done in collaboration with Jon Konrath, a Chicago-based writer and blogger who champions the merits of Kindle on a daily basis and is one of its most vocal proponents. Their best-selling joint venture was Serial, a 36,000-word novella that hit No. 1 on the Kindle short fiction charts and stayed in the Top 100 for almost a year.
On his blog, Konrath compares Kindles future growth to devices such as the iPod, cell phones and DVDs, which were initially met with skepticism but exploded in a few short years to multi-billion dollar sellers. He cites sales statistics for e-books that are changing weekly and even daily, with publishing houses such as Random House reporting a 300 percent increase in e-books last year and Amazon.coms predictions that Kindle versions soon will outsell their printed counterparts.
Crouch said for novels, he still prefers traditional publishing methods and the national exposure and distribution offered by the big houses. But once a writer has established a name for himself or herself in the real world, virtual sales soon are to follow. Kindles Top 50 list this week nearly mirrored similar hardcover best-seller lists with titles by Stieg Larsson, James Patterson, Carl Hiaasen and Kathryn Stockett comfortably entrenched near the top.
Ken Wright, another multi-published local author who also owns his own publishing company, Ravens Eye Press, hasnt gotten on board the Kindle bandwagon yet. Its not because of any resistance to technology but rather for demographic reasons. He and his stable of writers pen primarily outdoor and environmental nonfiction, which has yet to catch on with the Kindle crowd. The Kindle Top 50 list includes only four nonfiction titles, and two of those are biographies of Tony Blair and Andre Agassi.
That is not my audience. Yet this new generation raised reading on devices and further improvements in functionality of those devices will spread the demand for digital books further, Wright said.
None of the writers interviewed, including Konrath, who is earning as much as $12,000 monthly through Kindle sales, believe that Kindle will be the death of the printed word; book-lovers love books, after all, not just the words therein. But theres no question that times are changing.
Printed books will always be around. But they wont be the preferred way people read books, Konrath said.
Ive sold 80,000 e-books in a little over a year, and the boom has only just begun.
And for Tyrpak, who is just beginning to reap the fruits of her labor, thats great news.
Its a heyday for independent writers. Everyones getting on, and people are making more money. People are hungry for writing, and when they see whats out there on Kindle, its going to revolutionize publishing for readers and writers, she said.