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Creator of 'Rambo' on why his newest thriller is an Amazon exclusive digital book

September 16, 2010 | 10:30 am

David Morrell David Morrell, whose 1972 novel "First Blood" became the basis for the "Rambo" movie series starring Sylvester Stallone, is tired of being the good soldier and is itching for adventure.

After nearly four decades of publishing his books with traditional print publishers, Morrell has decided to ditch the New York publishers and make his next novel, "The Naked Edge," an all-digital affair.

It's not that his paper books don't sell -- there are more than 18 million copies of his titles in print. But the 67-year-old writer thinks he can get farther digitally.

His conversion began in January, when approached his agent Jane Dystal about selling his out-of-print books through the company's Kindle digital bookstore. The two brainstormed and came up with nine novels, including "First Blood" and "Brotherhood of the Rose," which became a movie starring Robert Mitchum. To promote the collection, Morrell wrote "The Naked Edge" as a Kindle exclusive.

Why? Two reasons:

1) Morrell gets to maintain the rights to his book. His agreement with Amazon follows a licensing model, which gives the online retailer the right to sell the book exclusively for a set number of years, after which Morrell is free to publish his book elsewhere. Morrell gets an undisclosed percentage of the sales and maintains all copyrights to his books, rather than have to share them with a traditional print publisher.

2) Instant global gratification. "Amazon has a global presence," Morrell said, noting that the company sells Kindle books in more than 100 countries. "That is enough to make my mind spin. There aren't any warehouses, trucks or stores. And yet any of these books can be purchased at the click of a button in less than a minute."

Morrell is only the latest best-selling author to carve his own digital path. Seth Godin last month announced in a blog post entitled "Moving On" that he would no longer publish traditional books. Instead, the Internet marketing guru will self-publish his future writings and sell them directly to his readers.

Morrell isn't willing to completely cut the cord with the dead-tree world, saying there will always be readers who consider signed copies of a first-edition book to be a "sacred thing." But he's also not sentimental about paper books as he plays out the part of digital rogue, at least for now.

"I've been doing this for 38 years," Morrell said. "I'm at a certain point where I am interested in exploring new models and having a professional adventure."

-- Alex Pham

Photo:  David Morrell. Credit: Jennifer Esperanza.