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David Mamet joins DIY trend as self-published ebooks top charts

Playwright’s decision to do it himself comes as Rachel Van Dyken’s homemade ebook heads UK and US charts

Stage, screen and self-publishing star ... David Mamet Photograph: Peter Brooker / Rex Features

Stage, screen and self-publishing star … David Mamet Photograph: Peter Brooker / Rex Features

The Pulitzer prize-winning playwright David Mamet is the latest famous name to turn to self-publishing, as the booming sector walked off this week with the top spot on America’s ebook bestseller charts for the second time this year.

Mamet’s most recent book The Secret Knowledge: On the Dismantling of American Culture was released through Sentinel, a Penguin imprint, two years ago, but the award-winning playwright and film-maker has nonetheless decided to self-publish his next book, Three Stories. A collection of a novella and two short stories about war, Mamet told the New York Times that he was releasing it alone “because I am a curmudgeon, and because publishing is like Hollywood – nobody ever does the marketing they promise.”

Mamet has faith, he said, that the book will do well even without a traditional publisher – he is using a new service offered by his agency ICM Partners, which has just signed up with Perseus Books’ self-publishing Argo Navis programme. “I am going to promote the hell out of it,” he told the New York Times, “even though I’ll probably make my own mistakes.”

The Glengarry Glen Ross playwright is not the first major name to turn toself-publishing: Jackie Collins said last year that she would release a revised edition of The Bitch under her own steam in the US, while James Frey self-published the ebook of The Final Testament of the Holy Bible in America.

Rachel Van Dyken, whose self-published ebook The Bet took the top spot on Digital Book World’s comprehensive US ebook chart this week, ahead of Gillian Flynn, James Patterson and Harlan Coben, said she believed authors were taking the DIY route “mainly because of the freedom it offers you as an author. You have complete control over the entire process. You also aren’t put under any contractual obligations where you can only write for certain publishing houses.”

“It makes it kind of nice. I know personally I like to write in lots of different genres, it’s cool that every time I decide to do it, I don’t have to ask someone if it’s OK,” she said.

The Bet has sold around 84,000 copies in ebook on Amazon US and UK alone over the last 10 days, Van Dyken said. The novel sits within the “new adult” genre – for older teenagers leaving high school – and tells the story of Kacey, who enters into a “farce of an engagement” with “Seattle millionaire Jake Titus”.

“By the time The Bet was released, I’d already had around 16 titles published through an indie publisher out of Alabama – Astraea Press. They only publish sweet romance, meaning they don’t allow cursing or open-door sex. Because of their rules I decided to start self-publishing some of my contemporary novels including The Seaside Series, The Bet, and Elite. Most of them are New Adult and I knew it would be impossible to edit out the content to make it ‘sweet’ press-worthy,” said Van Dyken.

“The Bet was originally given to an agent that works for Astraea Press. She shopped it around to a few publishers and eventually said that the writing wasn’t tight enough and because my sales weren’t high enough in that genre – nobody really wanted to take a chance. At the time (six months ago) I’d only done two contemporary romances and while both of them had good sales, they weren’t as good as my historical novels. After that, I decided to just do it by myself.”

She is now Amazon’s sixth most popular author overall, sitting just below David Baldacci and above George RR Martin in the online retailer’s charts.

Like many successful self-published authors, Van Dyken is not at all averse to the idea of a more traditional book deal – but she won’t be turning her back on her solo pursuits either. “I would love to see my books in stores … in fact I may just pass out if or when that happens. I love the freedom self-publishing gives me. I’m in charge of the whole process and I can put out books without being told I need to space them out more. I’m hoping I can find a good fit within the industry that gives me the best of both worlds,” she said.

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