NYT Bestselling Author Jumps Ship

No, he isn’t self-publishing all of his previous novels like others have done before him. But he has done something some might call crazy. First off, I’m talking about author Steve Hamilton. He’s got a couple bestsellers and Edgar Awards to his name. Is he selling the same number of books as James Patterson or Michael Connelly? No. Is he someone who makes his publishers money? Yes.

Recently Hamilton decided that enough was enough. He left his longtime publisher (St. Martin’s Press) because he felt they weren’t doing enough to support his work. There was no real marketing plan in place to support his newest books, which will be the start of a new series. And after years of bearing nearly all of the responsibility to promote his books, he left the publisher. But the story gets tricky.

His newest book was set to be the first of a multi-book deal worth nearly seven figures, and Hamilton couldn’t afford to buy out the contract himself. So what do you think happened? No, he didn’t launch a Kickstarter campaign to raise the money. And no, he didn’t breach his contract and sign another book deal. His agent bought out the contract for $250,000.

You can say whatever you want, but tell me his agent isn’t the real deal. I don’t care how much money he has. There is no doubt in my mind that he supports Steve Hamilton and his work. No doubt at all. Just days after making the announcement that he was leaving St Martin’s, Hamilton found himself signed to a new publisher (Putnam) eager to take him on and support him to their maximum extent. He signed a new four-book deal worth substantially more than his previous deal. It’ll be two Alex McKnight books and two books from his new series.

His new book will be released next year.

Which all leads me to one question: Are major publishers doing enough to support their established authors? I don’t have an answer to this, but this current situation does make me scratch my head.

25 thoughts on “NYT Bestselling Author Jumps Ship

  1. I hear mixed things with that. If you’re an average seller, probably not. And even if you make them money, they only seem to be interested in the Stephen Kings, the James Pattersons, and the Danielle Steels of the world. I wouldn’t mind signing with a major publisher, but from what I understand of the market, I don’t see why I shouldn’t get a larger return if I’m doing most of the marketing. Which doesn’t seem to happen with major publishers.

    I really don’t know the truth—mostly because I haven’t really looked in depth into it—but it does make me scratch my head and wonder how long their current business model will work with the growth and acceptance of independent publishing.


    • Hm. Well we know why they support those authors who are guaranteed bestsellers. Easy business decision. But I honestly don’t think major publishers are worried about self publishing. Not really. And I don’t think they should be. For every E.L. James or Hugh Howey there are probably hundreds or even thousands of authors who have the typical reaction yo their self published book. A few dozen or hundred copies sold and nothing.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Oh I agree. Easy business decision to support the big authors. But it is those middle tier authors that they have to worry about switching to self publishing. I feel sure that they are the ones (as a whole) that make up the bulk of a publisher’s profits. And if they start to leave, which is what I predict will happen, then the publisher will have worry about indie publishers. Those are the people I watch leave traditional publishing.

        Will they worry about me and my book individually? Probably not unless one of them thinks they can turn a profit on signing me (long odds, I know), but losing their income base is a different story. The system doesn’t work in the same way it used to. They’re gonna need to change business tactics sooner rather than later.


      • What I’m saying is that this kind of thing isn’t happening every other day. You don’t see authors buying out six or seven figure publishing deals on a regular basis. And we both know exactly why they aren’t. Security. With that being said, Barry Eisler got the rights back to all of his books and signed with Thomas and Mercer (Amazon’s mystery publisher) and put them on Amazon under new titles and claimed to be making around half a million a month after the switch. But he also is not the norm because technically he didn’t even self publish.

        Liked by 1 person

    • Yep. And if a major publisher is unwilling to support an author who’s been with them for more than a decade and who’s written critically acclaimed stories and won major awards, then who are the supporting?

      Liked by 1 person

  2. This is quite the conundrum. I have a friend who’s been published, but since it’s her first book and not a bestseller, she has to do pretty much all the marketing for herself. Which is costly and time consuming. And Hamilton IS a bestseller. With the increase in self-publishing and smaller publishing houses, the big guys can’t afford to only market their top-selling people. The competition is heating up. They need to support all their authors in order to compete with smaller companies and self-publishers.
    And another thing… that agent is legit! If that isn’t the mark of a high quality agent who loves their author, I don’t know what is. Hamilton is lucky to have him/her.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Mhm. Everyone knows the super authors get more than their share of backing from their publishers, but authors like him are the ones who should be getting more than their share. Because he’s right there on the cusp of becoming a major bestseller in the million(s) of books a year. It helps that he is recognized as one of the best crime writers today, and has been for some time. And yes, his agent is as good as it gets.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I don’t understand why St. Martin’s wouldn’t promote a proven bestselling author. That seems like self-sabotage and makes me worried about the potential to be traditionally published. You’re absolutely right – who ARE they supporting?

    However, I think we both agree that traditional publication is still immeasurably better for most authors’ careers in terms of promotion than self-publishing. (Self-publishing is a fantastic platform for non-fiction/how-to books and erotica/romance because those genres sell themselves. But all the self-publishing gurus I’ve read are still wary about using it for novels). A lot of self-publishers dismiss big publishers because of situations like the above, where a bestselling author is pushed to sidebar by the corporate machine. I think such a situation is still preferable to never having your book reach beyond your circle of family and friends….but it still isn’t ideal. Hamilton was smart to leave that environment and move on to greener pastures. But I think it’s like any industry, where some companies treat their clients/employees better than others.


    • I don’t understand it either. I bet if someone asked any of the top crime writers today to name their top five mystery writers from right now that he’d make every list. His books are that good. And it doesn’t hurt that he’s actually a pretty nice guy. I met him. Anyway, I obviously agree with you. I bet 99% of self published authors make nothing. Maybe a few hundred bucks. At least if a publisher gets behind you you have some form of guaranteed money and/or marketing. Maybe a national tour. Website. Reviews from major publications. All nearly impossible when self publishing.


  4. Really interesting story – and a star agent, as you say.
    Read a newspaper article the other day, saying that the majority of authors (in the UK at least) work for much less than the national average wage and that traditionally published authors earn around three times the amount of self pub writers. Even taking into account those exceptional self pub successes.
    The article claimed the publishing industry had to tackle this cut in earnings, or there’d be few writers willing to stick with the industry.
    Can’t see authors’ percentages going up, though. Not unless you’re James Paterson, of course.


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