Stephen Stark is a master composer.
Instead of musical notes or instruments, Stark uses words and their natural rhythm to write award winning works that read as smoothly as listening to a classical concerto.
You may recognize Stark’s name from his previous, traditionally published works The Outskirts and Second Son – a New York Times Book Review “Notable Book of the Year.” With such success already, it’s natural to think Stark would stick to what has worked, but part of being a great and lasting author – especially in today’s rapidly changing industry – is paying attention to new trends, exploring all your options, and being a little adventurous. That’s why Stark is publishing his new work The Final Appearance of America’s Favorite Girl Next Door exclusively as an eBook, to be released by Shelf Media Group through Lulu.com December 6th.
“eBooks are not the future of publishing,” says Stark. “They are the present and they are an unsettling present for many. I want to do an eBook because being able to go from a PDF to having a fully published eBook in minutes is just incredible.”
Stark and Shelf Media are experimenting with a new paradigm in indie publishing. The tools that Lulu offers to the self-published are, Stark says, “creating new opportunities for small presses like Shelf,” which also publishes the indie-book ezine, Shelf Unbound. According to Stark, the convenience and speed-to-market enabled by the tools Lulu provides for self-publishing make it possible for a small, savvy publisher like Shelf to “plant its flag in an industry niche that the small publisher has the flexibility and agility to exploit in a way that ‘legacy’ publishers can’t.”
Stark calls this new paradigm “direct publishing.” ”Indeed,” Stark says, “in theory, anyone could become a publisher – not that they should.” Including Stark, who is using Lulu’s tools and resources to back his own imprint, GeekVoodoo Books, and republish Second Son electronically.
“Things are happening right now [in publishing] that are pointing in a clear direction that is very different,” says Stark. “The idea that there is a company like Lulu that tears down the barriers to entry – no matter what you’re trying to publish – fundamentally changes the industry dynamic.”
Suffice it to say, Stark has been watching the industry very closely and is confident in the new direction he is taking with his works. He notes that the potential inherent in eBooks hasn’t been particularly well understood or appreciated by bigger publishers – a phenomenon that he and Shelf are looking forward to capitalizing on by filling the gap with the eBook version of Final Appearance.
“Suddenly all these people are publishing their content on their own because they don’t feel they’ll get the same money or value elsewhere and they are right,” says Stark. “We’ve reached a point where authors can make a much higher royalty by self-publishing and are free to experiment in ways a big publisher can’t. Lulu enables this and self-publishing or direct-publishing is in some ways analogous to direct democracy in that it bypasses an entrenched bureaucracy that is easily as beholden to its ‘shareholders’ as it is to its constituents – readers.”
Stark wanted to be a photographer growing up, but began writing when he realized he was better “creating pictures” with words than a camera. As a teenager, he spent a lot of time trying to imitate his favorite authors, Kurt Vonnegut Jr. and J.D. Salinger. He admits that his imitations were “pretty awful.” And he never came close to his dream of publishing a novel before he turned 20. He sold his first novel at 29, and notes that he didn’t really learn how to write until he learned to seek out and absorb constructive criticism.
“I went through seven or eight years of rejection letters,” says Stark. “But I found the comments from editors helpful. You learn not to trust the opinions that just tell you what you want to hear. A statement like: ‘Oh, I love your book,’ isn’t useful. You have to be open to good criticism to become a better writer.”
If you’ve ever read one of Stark’s books, you’ll instantly be drawn to how organic and real his characters feel. Stark likens his method for character development to having a bunch of imaginary friends or people he has just met. Even more important is knowing what the ending will be for both his characters and the overall narrative ahead of time.
“I’m always getting ideas or running through ‘what if‘ scenarios,” Stark says. “You have to play your story through in your mind and really think about the most natural outcome. I often know the destination of my story or where a character will need to go organically, but I don’t always understand why or what the in-between looks like. Sometimes the characters will take on a life of their own and make for an even better story.”
Stark’s new book, The Final Appearance of America’s Favorite Girl Next Door, will be available as an eBook on Lulu.com, the iBookstore, Nook Bookstore, Amazon Kindle December 6th. Stark’s latest is a smart, sexy, and thrilling tale of America’s “it girl” Ellen Gregory and her escape from the bright lights of Hollywood and a harrowing encounter with a stalker. Final Appearance is a fast-moving page-turner that you shouldn’t miss.
Stark is already working on his next work, The Bob Delusion, and has ambitions for the future that, while lofty, are certainly grounded on solid industry trends.
“I want Final Appearance to be the first book that’s only available electronically to be reviewed in the New York Times,” Stark says.
Based on his works so far, he shouldn’t have too much trouble. Check out The Final Appearance of America’s Favorite Girl Next Door tomorrow, December 6th, on your favorite e-reader of choice.