Once Upon A Time — The Miracle of E-Books

 

 

 

 

 

 

A few months ago I wrote that I was putting my second book, Once Upon A Time, A True Story of Memory, Murder and the Law, up on Amazon as an e-book. It tells the story of the trial of George Franklin, charged and convicted of murder solely on the basis of his daughter’s repressed/recovered memory of him killing her best friend twenty years earlier. Published in 1993 by HarperCollins, declared a Notable Book of the Year by the New York Times, it got great reviews and did all right, but, for whatever reason, never took off.

And that seemed to be that.  Enter successful true crime and mystery writer Gregg Olsen, who suggested we publish the book as an e-book on his new site, crimerant.com. What’s to lose? I thought, and up it went, with a new epilogue describing Franklin’s eventual release. Gregg was sure it would do well; I was highly skeptical. In July, it crept into the top hundred of digital true crime books. I watched in amazement in August as it crept into the top fifty, and then to the top twenty. Priced at $2.99, sales were ten, then fifteen, then twenty copies a day. In September, it broke into the top ten, selling thirtycopies a day.

It seemed like “found money,” which was wonderful, of course, but I was as pleased by the fact that this work was once again out in the reading world, and was finding some acceptance. I have to admit that I became slightly obsessed in tracking the sales during the course of a day. I would imagine a reader somewhere poised over the buy button, close my eyes and urge him/her to click it.

Sales skyrocketed in October, hitting forty a day. I was stunned as it crept past In Cold Blood. Capote created this whole genre, or course, although I think he would disown it today, and I had always been in absolute awe of him and the book. I’ve been accused of mimicking the book with the title of my first work, In Broad Daylight, but the title wasn’t my idea. It was my editor’s sole contribution to the work. I watched a little guiltily as the student passed the master (not that I’m claiming the book is anywhere near the quality of In Cold Blood).

I’ve no idea how long the sales will continue. But, I’ll say this now: Thank God for the Internet, for e-books, for Gregg Olsen. The tiny elite world of New York publishing world has finally lost its hold on what gets published and read in this country. Hallelujah. And thanks, most of all, to all of your new readers.

2 thoughts on “Once Upon A Time — The Miracle of E-Books

  1. I just bought it in e-book format & have a paper copy. I know some of the book’s characters – some of the Franklins & I’ve met 2 of the investigators. I’m looking forward to re-reading it.

    I first heard of your work with your first book – my father used to talk about McElroy’s reign of terror & it’s abrupt end. Fans of Dennehy, we watched the movie. May Trena rest in peace – she didn’t have an easy early life.

    I live in the San Francisco area – best of luck with the Saroyan prize!

    • Thanks for the note. Denehey was truly incredible in the movie, and a nice guy to hang around with. We went drinking a couple of times in Austin. You’ll find new information at the end of the e-book copy of Once Upon A Time about the final resolution of the case. I agree with you about Trena, but some of the townspeople never forgave her for riding with McElroy towards the end.

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