Secret Lives of 2 Genre-Jumpers – NYT Best-Selling Author Ruth Harris Embraces Self-Publishing.

New Renaissance

When we think about indie publishing and the New Renaissance we think mostly about new writers, frustrated by the old system of begging & groveling to the gatekeepers, who take matters into their own hands.

And once they’ve enjoyed the freedoms indie publishing brings they suddenly aren’t in such a rush to chase the old dream of the agent-publisher route. If you’re one of the few that still is living in the fantasy world that agent-publisher is the only, or indeed the best, route to success I suggest you check out my post over at WG2E (appearing some time today).

Here at MWi I’ve been saying for a long time that for new writers wanting to get a foot in the door the window of opportunity will not be open forever. Traditionally-published authors who have already established a loyal fan base will be watching the rise of the indie, doing the math, and realizing the future is digital.

Of course they can still stick with their traditional publishers and be digitally published too. But that means they’ll still have to play agents’ and publishers’ games, follow the agent-publisher snail’s pace timetable (typically at least eighteen months from completion of book to the book actually being available) and then giving the agent their fee and watching the publisher pocket the bulk of the sales money.

But if you’re a million-selling traditionally published author there’s no argument. Trad-pub is still the best, surely? Million-selling authors don’t need to go indie. That would be backward step.

I’ve argued many times here on MWi that actually they do, they will, and more importantly they are.

You see, traditional publishers live in a time-warp world where, even as they embrace digital technology, they are quite unable to embrace the digital mentality that makes indies the success they are. They cannot think outside the box.

Trad-publishers think all they have to do is convert a paper script to digital format, stick it on Amazon, and everything continues as usual. The same old rules apply about marketing, about pricing, about genres and about what will sell. You write sci-fi and your next book is lit-fic? Say goodbye to your contract. You write crime thrillers and your next book is fantasy? Forget it. Write what we want you to write or say goodbye to your contract. And then we’ll price it to suit us, market it in the only way we know how, and blame you for being a crap writer if it flops.

Thankfully those days are nearly over.

As I said over at David Gaughran’s  a few days ago,

The digital revolution is more than just about how we reach our readers, important though that is. It’s also about what new things we offer them to read.

One of the key points of that post over at David’s was to discuss collaboration. Writers teaming up to co-author books, just as we have done.

Enter NYT Best-Selling author Ruth Harris. For the second time in a month I’ve managed to tempt Ruth away from the comfort of Anne R. Allen’s blog to share her unique perspectives with MWi readers.

Ruth isn’t just a million-selling author. Ruth has worked within the Big Six industry and knows first-hand their dirty secrets. Ruth knows how they work, she knows all the benefits they can bring, and she has the status to knock on the right doors.

She’s also married to a best-selling non-fiction author, Michael Harris. So when they decided to collaborate on a book together it goes without saying this dream partnership would take full advantage of their best-seller status and get their next book out in glossy hardback with a Big Six publisher. After all, indie publishing is just for us losers who couldn’t get past the gatekeepers, right?

Here’s Ruth:

I’m known for my bestselling women’s fiction. My DH, Michael, is known for his bestselling non-fiction. So, of course, we decided to do the next logical thing and write a thriller—a form both of us love whether in book or movie form.


We wanted the challenge of trying something new and thought since we are both pros, we would know pretty soon if our thriller, HOOKED, was working or not. Michael is an excellent editor with special strengths in organizing and outlining. I shine when it comes to manuscript editing, revising and rewriting. Depending on who felt more strongly about which scene, we both wrote first draft.


One of my first publishing jobs was at Bantam where I started out as a copywriter. At that time, Bantam published a full menu of paperbacks. They ranged from classics, to mainstream bestsellers, to romance-mystery-thriller-sci-fi-western genres, some original, others reprints of hard cover editions. Thus it was that in the course of a week, I wrote blurbs for a new nurse romance, Jean-Paul Sartre’s existentialist philosophy, a collection of Shakespeare’s sonnets, a top bestseller and a series mystery. Without knowing it, I was learning to write in a wide variety of styles in order to appeal to different audiences. Looking back, I realize that this experience helped give me the confidence to try something way out of my usual genre.


For Michael, who wrote about his experiences as a human guinea pig during the seventeen US H-bomb tests in the 1950’s, a fictional thriller was far more appealing than the real thriller he endured at the Pacific Proving Ground. His memoir about his eleven years working in television for the Ed Sullivan show where his duties included meeting the Beatles at the airport on their first trip to the US and writing as many press releases as I did blurbs. A thriller about the rich and famous was a way to use his showbiz background as a setting for fiction.


The prospect of creating larger-than-life characters (although, God knows, there were plenty of those in the US military and TV showbiz not to mention NYC publishing) and coming up with shocking plot twists and turns had irresistible appeal for both of us.


Last of all, the need to offer the reader a satisfying quantity of sex and violence appealed to us both.  I ask you: What writer could resist?


We’ve always worked closely together, whether on my books or Michael’s, so the actual process was smooth. Michael is good at adding a bit more explanation when I skim over an important point too quickly. I’m good at coming up with far-out plot twists we both think can’t work but eventually do.


The result is HOOKED, an international geopolitical-medical thriller about a brilliant and charismatic celebrity doctor whose miracle treatments make every fantasy come true—at a price.


Sexy, exciting, diabolical—that’s what we were aiming for. Readers will now get the chance to see if we succeeded.

So, all sounds good, but now we’ve got to wait a year until the book is actually published, right? And then take out a mortgage to be able to buy the hardback, or pay a fortune for the over-priced ebook because the Big Six publisher needs to pay their shareholders.

Well no, actually. I predicted way back in April here on MWi that it was just a matter of time before mega-sellers started self-publishing at indie prices.

That time has come. When Ruth Harris goes indie, she goes indie! Pop along to amazon.com and you can download Hooked right now for just $1.41 or on amazon.co.uk for a mere 86p.

Is it any good? Ruth sent me an ARC.

Now that alone is worth becoming an indie author for. Living in a mud hut in West Africa and being sent ARCs by million-selling authors like Ruth Harris? You couldn’t make it up!

Here’s what I said about it:

Just when you thought it was safe to go back into the operating theatre… NYT best-selling author Ruth Harris and Michael Harris take on the medical-political thriller. Sleepless nights ahead for Daniel Silva and Tess Gerritsen as their crowns are threatened.

I just hope Ruth and Michael don’t decide to do crime thrillers next!

I concluded on David Gaughran’s blog,

Far from a tsunami of crap, the future holds a tsunami of excellence as writers experiment and innovate, unfettered by the shackles of the old corporate publishing box.

Hooked, by Ruth Harris & Michael Harris, is a fine example of the tsunami of excellence threatening to drown us all.

What a way to go!

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  1. Excellent article. The title is great! Genre Jumping…:)
    I love medical thrillers.
    Looking forward to the read.

    I think once you own a Kindle your life-expectancy increases by at least 10 years. You’re obligated to finish all the books you ordered.

    • LOL! I hope you’re right on that last point! I’m gonna keep stocking up, just in case.

      Lugging heavy books about in this heat used to be a nightmare. I just LOVE my Kindle. Especially yesterday when I spent several hours stuck mid-river on a broken down ferry. Most appropriate I was reading Wendy And The Lost Boys at the time!

      • Mark, You were really reading my Wendy and the Lost Boys, Fractured Fairy Tales? Thank you. That’s lovely. I hope the pirates didn’t see you.

        • Read it and loved it, Barbara! Clever stuff with the Lost Boys! Loved the Egyptian refs. In fact, clever stuff all round. How d’ya know all that stuff about helicopters?!

          Can’t wait to read your Snow White!

          • Only just now getting back to you. I was locked out of my computer by Google Chrome. Awful 24 hours. Regarding the helicopter stuff. I have two friends who are from South Africa but now live in south Florida. They are both expert chopper pilots having owned a few over the years. The husband… Jan… helped me with the technicalities of chopper-flying. He said he hoped Wendy was a quick study. She was. 🙂

    • Thanks, Barbara. We (M & I) enjoyed our Genre Jumping & hope our readers enjoy it, too!

  2. I’m totally cussing you out right now, Mark. I just HAD to click on that Amazon link and purchase Hooked. Darn you. Darn you to Hades.

    I love your posts. They are always informative and inspiring. And they always tempt me to spent way too much money on books (Like I need help with that).

    • Thanks Shea! I love being cussed. I get it all the time from the locals, but nice to be cussed in English now and again!

    • Oh, Shéa, don’t cuss out Mark–at least not TOO much. He’s a writer’s & reader’s best friend. Aren’t you, Mark?

    • I just got hooked too. I tell myself, only .99. But those .99 add up. However, I’m VERY excited to read this book!

  3. Great post, Mark, and congrats to Ruth on the new book – it sounds fab!

    “The digital revolution is more than just about how we reach our readers, important though that is. It’s also about what new things we offer them to read.” That is so true! Now authors aren’t curtailed by what trad-publishers THINK will sell. As an author you can write what’s true to yourself now without anyone interfering in the content so there are more variety of books available. And readers are now the gatekeepers of great books. It’s win-win for everyone!

    • Thanks, Wonder Woman!

      When it comes to variety Sibel certainly gives us that. I’ve recently finished her latest book “Trafficked: The Diary Of A Sex Slave.” Cannot for one second imagine any trad publisher letting a chicklit author write that!

      • So well said, Sibel!
        Mark, you’re so right. Sibel would have to change her name & go underground at the very least for such a Genre-Jump.

        • Omigod, I know! But that’s the beauty of being indie – we can write what we’re passionate about!

          And thanks, Mark! Hope it really spoke to you 🙂

    • Miriam
    • September 4th, 2011

    I need a Kindle.

    My computer broke last week. It’s still in the repair shop. It’s going to cost me a lot of money.

    Damn it. I need a Kindle.

    I have no money.

    😦

    • The perils of teen life, Captain Mim!

      When St. Mallory’s sells its first million you’ll be able to buy a whole shipload of Kindles!

    • Miriam–Awwww, sorry to hear that but one of the big plusses of e-pub is that books remain available for a long, long time–not like TradPub where they’re here today, gone tomorrow. Not to mention that the prices are right now that authors control their own pricing.

      • Ruth, that’s probably one of the best feelings. To think our books will be floating out there in space long after we are gone. I love it.

        • We are infinite! How cool is that! 🙂

          • Sibel, It’s a very Star Trecky feeling… Knowing our words are floating in space. Many years ago…I contributed to Dr Timothy Leary’s ashes being put in a cylinder, along with Gene Roddenberry (creator of Star Trek) and shot into space on a Vandenberg missile. It didn’t stay up there forever but it a very unusual feeling thinking they were floating over my head. Sounds like I made that one up… but I didn’t. It’s real. 🙂

  4. And of course Amazon makes genre-jumping and even genre-blending that much easier, since you can list your work in a couple of different categories and any reader who like your books can simply click on your name to see your full body of work.

    • You’ve just nailed some of the other ways e-pubbing is so great for writers and for readers. Thanks!

  5. Superfab post, Ruth and Mark!!!

    I’m wavin’ atchya both…

    I just did the ‘ole one-click-buy trigger finger thing and now have HOOKED on my Kindle!!! WooHoooo!!!

    I’ve sooo enjoyed getting to know you, Ruth, on both The WG2E and the Kindle Boards and how wonderful to see you here at MWi too.

    Your move from TradiPub to Indie Epubbed is super-inspiring and super-savvy too. And wow, since I come from The Big Six Returns Center background…can u imagine the stories we could tell each other…and probably fill-in a ton of missing pieces in both our former worlds.

    Cheers to embracing our new Indie Epub Journeys together!!!

    Speaking of which, we’re gonna have to get you and Michael over to The WG2E for a Guest Blog too!!!

    • Hi DD–

      Thanks for the one click! 😉

      Yeah. The Returns Center. bleh Also been there, done that. Very depressing, both for editors who are now so limited (didn’t used to be that way years ago back when editors ran publishing) & for authors who are stuck with the same limitations, too.

      Just give us a whistle and Michael & I will come running!

      • I’m whistling…I hope u can hear it…LOL!…I’m not very good with the whole art of whistling thing.

        Anyhoo…

        Email me at dd(dot)scott(at)live(dot)com and I’ll hook ya up with a WG2E Guest Blog date!!!

        Cheers and thanks bunches!!!

  6. You’ve just nailed some of the other ways e-pubbing is so great for writers and for readers. Thanks!

    • Sorry! This got into the wrong place & I can’t figure out how to move/delete. Anyway, apologies! It’s directed to George just above.

    • Pj Schott
    • September 4th, 2011

    Verrrrry interesting.

  7. You’ve hooked me on Hooked! It sounds great, and I really enjoyed your article and the amazing potential for both readers and writers!

  8. Great post, Ruth, and so important for new writers to know. Even the pros are going indie. It just makes more sense. And being boxed into one genre with a rigid formula for an entire career? It doesn’t have to happen any more!

    Congrats on the new book. I know I’m going to love it!

  9. Did I get to read it before you? Brilliant! 🙂

  10. When established mainstream writers move into the indie highway AND blend/jump genres, I begin to feel that all’s right with my world. Thank you, Ruth for underlining this.
    Whilst only a relatively new indie, I switched genres after my latest fantasy was finished and ready for launch. There has been an element of concern that I am doing this but I’m not losing sleep over it. It’s more to do with the technical requirements of the genre than anything. But I do believe that the brand I’m building will carry me forward anyway… hopefully. If the book’s good enough the readers’ll read it. And my experience to date with my own niche group of readers is that they read on their Kindles right across the range of genres.

    PS: I also love the idea of collaboration… try 49 other co-writers!
    PPS: Am a a one-clicker as well.

    • Prue, all is right with your world. Indies are taking over the asylum!

    • Prue, Stopping in for a minute to say I am LOVING A Thousand Glass Flowers. It is fantastic. It’s not my usual read but it has captured my imagination. Thank you for creating it. 🙂

      • Barbara, thank you so much. What a coup to entice readers from one genre into another… and have them enjoy the journey. Chuffed!

  11. Thanks, Prue, we appreciate your one-click! I agree that readers read across a range of genres. I know I do & I can’t be THAT much of an outlier, can I? 😉

  12. The interview HOOKED me! I can’t wait to read the ebook HOOKED I just purchased. Thank you for a lovely insight into your writing world, Mrs. Harris.
    Great sales!

  13. Meb–Thanks so much for your interest in our writing process and in HOOKED. M & I appreciate it! Where would we be without lovely people like you?

  14. This is the sort of encouraging blog writers need to hear. Thanks, Ruth and Mark!

    • Gerry, thanks. Just keep going, one step at a time. As Woody Allen once said: 95% of life is just showing up. I probably have the percentage wrong but you get the idea. 😉

  15. Great post. I love it. I love the freedom we have when we go our own path. And the funny thing is… going alone, i.e. indie, isn’t really alone. The authors, the forums, the boards, they are filled with a support system that can’t be beat.

    We technically compete with each other for book sales, but yet we SHARE all our information. How we sell, what we sell, what works, etc. Everyone lends a helping hand and an ear.

    I like genre jumping. Nothing wrong with it in my opinion. I write under a couple names for different genres. Not sure if the horror side of Jim Bronyaur will meet the literary fiction side of Adler James, but I’m not shy about writing under pen names.

    Again, great post.

    -jb

  16. Jim–Thanks for the kind words. And a reminder that Henry James had no problem letting his “horror” and “literary” sides meet! Turn Of The Screw, anyone?

    • Haha, very true Ruth. Who knows what the future will hold. But I just love this idea that I have the freedom to make that decision. I can write and publish as much as I want right now. No barriers! hahaha…

      When I was in my agent search a couple years ago, it was in the mix of the failing economy. I kept getting the same response – “We like it, but we can’t take anything more on…”

      OR… “the economy is so bad right now, etc. etc. etc.”

      So, I bowed out and then did it on my own now. haha. And it’s fun, and I enjoy it because I sadly had a few years off from writing to attend college (as a just-in-case measure) and went for business, accounting, and finance. So it’s great now that I can tackle my two dreams: Write and run my own business.

      -jb

  17. Jim, everyone–except john grisham & nora roberts—went through the same gavotte with agents. Don’t you love silver linings?

    • Jim Bronyaur
    • September 6th, 2011

    Indeed Ruth! Silve linings indeed.

    It was rough time then, so I don’t blame agents. Nobody knew what the hell was going to happy in this country – or the world for that matter. But it all worked itself out, as life usually does. 🙂

    -jb

  18. I love this blog. So glad I discovered you, Mark! Love all the comments. I, too, got hooked on Hooked, and just downloaded it to my Kindle. Like everyone else, I love my Kindle (and Nook too). And I’m VERY excited about the Indie revolution. It opens so many doors for writers that haven’t existed before. I see silver linings everywhere!

  19. Thank you, Ann. Much appreciated by both of us.

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