The Long Journey for The Martian

The martian dave stukas truly lost in the cosmosThe Martian by Andy Weir is a great story.

I haven’t read it, however.

I’m sure the plot is thrilling, but what fascinates me is the other story here: how the book became a book. Then a movie.

It goes pretty much like this:

The author, Andy Weir, wrote the science fiction novel about an astronaut stranded on Mars, waiting for a rescue that will take four years. It’s all about survival.

He originally posted the book, chapter by chapter on his no-frills website. His loyal followers were clamoring for somewhere on the Internet where they could download the whole thing in Kindle for free.

It turned out, there was such a place: Amazon e-books for self-published authors. It’s called Kindle Direct Publishing. But it wasn’t free. Amazon, required authors to charge a minimum of 99 cents, with Amazon getting 64 pennies per book, and him receiving 35.

He posted the book on Amazon for 99¢ and a miracle happened. Sales started slowly, but they soon climbed. Then took off. Within seven months, over 35,000 copies had been downloaded, even though the book was still available for free on his website (which required a little technical know-how to download it).

Throughout all this, he tried to get a literary agent, but no one would touch his novel. He approached publishers, too. No one was interested. He tried for three years.

A publisher, seeing the success of the book online, approached him and asked if he had an agent. When he said no, they suggested one. A short time later, he signed with agent David Fugate. Within four days, he was approached by a movie studio who wanted to option it. The movie premiered in October 2015, with Matt Damon starring and Ridley Scott as director. The rest is history.

Andy Weir writes full time, now.

He wasn’t the first author to take this self-published path to success. Author Hugh Howey did the same with his science fiction Wool series. Fifty Shades of Grey author E. L. James started on her own. Beatrix Potter self-published, too, with her Peter Rabbit books way back in 1901.

The moral of the story here isn’t that literary agents and publishers often can’t see a gold mine when it’s staring them right in the face. Or that the traditional path to getting a book in front of readers has being overturned.

It’s that these authors had an unshakeable belief in the tale they wanted to tell.

For me, that’s the real story.

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