I first met Stacey Cochran in the Bouchercon bar in 2006, where we were both rather impressed with a speech given by Dennis Lehane. Stacey’s been championing the independent route for authors for most of his career. He was doing self-publishing, to paraphrase country singer Barbara Mandrell, when self-pub wasn’t cool. When Amazon opened up its Kindle format in 2009, he made the natural transition to ebooks and hasn’t looked back. He took a few minutes to give his take on the ebook revolution.
JIM: Your most recent efforts have been Claws and Claws 2. Tell us a little bit about those books.
STACEY COCHRAN: First, thanks for asking me to do this interview. It’s thoughtful of you, Jim, and I appreciate the time it took to put all this together. Claws and Claws 2 are two self-published novels that feature Dr. Angie Rippard as a protagonist. In the first novel, Rippard is a wildlife biologist at the University of Arizona who gets drawn into a police investigation when two teenagers are found dead at a golf course resort that borders protected National Forest Land. She suspects the teens (students of hers) were killed by a mountain lion, but her position draws her into conflict with the resort’s owner. It’s kind of a Jaws set in the desert.
JIM: You started on the independent route long before ebooks became the viable format they are today. Was this something you saw coming, or was it a fortunate development in publishing?
STACEY COCHRAN: My success has been a happy accident. I have been sending work to traditional publishers since I was in the 11th grade in high school… close to twenty years now. By the time I was 30, I had garnered somewhere in the neighborhood of a thousand rejection letters.
I came to realize that if I kept sending work out and waiting for the golden bite of traditional publishing, I would likely be 40 (and then 50) and have nothing but a hard-drive full of 20-30 novels and thousands of rejection letters.
So, I started self-publishing my novels in 2004. I still tried (and am still trying to this day) to find a traditional publisher, but I had a good-sized catalogue of novels by 2007 to get out to the public.
POD publishing was clunky and expensive, but I learned some valuable lessons there and then later by podcasting my novels. I was one of the first novelists in the world to podcast an entire novel, and I had solid download numbers in the tens of thousands of listeners range.
Amazon’s Kindle self-publishing platform was opened in 2009 to anyone who knew how to format and upload a book, and I was in that first wave. I had already planned to release Claws in May 2009 as a POD paperback and had a full marketing blitz in place to support it.
Not really certain what the “Kindle” was or how publishing was about to change, I released the novel in the Kindle Store for 99 cents. I expected I’d sell a few dozen copies. I sold a good bit more than that.
By November, I was the bestselling solely self-published thriller author in the world.
JIM: Claws got some notice when it appeared on Kindle. JA Konrath even pointed it out in one of his many posts about using ebooks. Considering how early it was in Kindle’s development, did you see this as a risk?
STACEY COCHRAN: I had nothing to lose, Jim. A funny thing happens when you’re at rock bottom and no one is willing to throw you a bone. You learn how to make it on your own, and sometimes you get lucky. I didn’t see it as a risk at all by that point. I’d been trying to get published for over 15 years. It turned out to be a career breakthrough. I was just lucky.
JIM: You’re also working with CreateSpace. How has that worked for you in comparison to earlier services you used to produce books?
STACEY COCHRAN: CreateSpace works well for self-publishing a trade paperback version of your book. If you use their “ProPlan” you can get the base cost of your book down pretty low. They make the book available via Amazon, libraries, online retailers, etc.
I see publishing the paperback version of a novel as an important step in the overall process.
JIM: You’ve also moved into the realm of e-publishing. Tell us more about that.
STACEY COCHRAN: Right, so building on my own success, I launched Stacey Cochran Books as an eBook publisher. It’s funny you should ask, because I’ve just spent the day today totaling up the sales of my authors’ books and completing invoices for the past twelve months. I love sending out royalty checks to authors.
JIM: What sort of works are you looking for as a publisher?
STACEY COCHRAN: Women’s fiction, chick lit, memoir, paranormal romance, romance, thrillers, crime fiction, and SF.
JIM: What’s next for you?
STACEY COCHRAN: I am putting together a proposal to chair Bouchercon in my hometown (Raleigh). I’ve got to make our case in St. Louis in September, and I’ll be competing against New Orleans, so I’ve got my work cut out for me. The Big Easy will be the sentimental favorite.
I’m launching a new paranormal romance The Loneliest in the next couple months.
And I’m currently in the process of putting two new authors under contract with Stacey Cochran Books.
I’ve got the TV show moving forward this fall; we’ve interviewed Michael Connelly, Lee Child, Robert Crais, Carl Hiaasen, Jeffery Deaver, David Baldacci, JA Jance, etc. We’re in our fifth season.
I’ll be launching the third season of my podcast Book Chatter with RJ Keller and Zoe Winters.
I’ve got a new documentary film to release in 2012, and I’m working with a couple of film directors and producers in developing my own novels for feature length adaptation.
I’ve got a month-long vacation planned for Key West this Christmas.
My wife just gave birth to a new baby girl in April: Harper Jane.
I’ve got a textbook I’m working on for St. Martin’s Press.
And I’ll continue my teaching duties at NC State University this fall.
Whew! That’s too much, isn’t it?