John Sundman '74 Discusses Self-Publishing

Jane Friedman of Writer’s Digest has interviewed John Sundman '74 about the challenges of self-publishing for her blog There Are No Rules. Sundman is the author of Acts of the Apostles, Cheap Complex Devices, and The Pains and is developing his fourth novel, Creation Science.

After difficulty in finding a publisher for Acts of the Apostles, Sundman published the thriller himself online and in print. He released the book in 1999, when self-publishing was rarer and more stigmatized than it is today—even winning a Writer’s Digest National Self-Published Book Award could not persuade some prospective readers of the work’s quality.  Nonetheless, the book developed a following and Sundman received orders from countries as distant as Singapore, Australia, and Sweden. He promoted the book with tours and by email, and released it under the Creative Commons license.  He followed a similar strategy for his next two books, releasing them in multiple formats, including PDF, print, and Kindle.  However, according to Sundman: "One thing worth pointing out is that lately, for all my books, electronic formats are outselling paper versions by a factor of twenty or thirty." The Kindle version of Acts was recently the #1 seller in the "technothriller" category in Amazon.co.uk (United Kingdom).

In September, 15 years after writing Acts of the Apostles and 11 after self-publishing it, Sundman sold to the rights to Underland Press, a new house specializing in dark fantasy. They will release a slightly revised edition of Acts in 2011. Until then, the "original" edition will continue to be available.

Sundman worked in Silicon Valley, and his knowledge of software helps build his stories, but he also found inspiration at Hamilton. The detective Ivan Marki in Acts of the Apostles is named for his former professor of English and American literature, who "more than anybody, instilled in me the understanding that literature, done right, is not merely entertainment; it is morally important, serious stuff: you can't have civilization without it." Sundman strives for this ideal, always willing to take risks to write books that are challenging.

By Briana Wagner '13

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