Author Stefan Kanfer: “The eBook Revolution Is Barely Underway”

Author Stefan Kanfer, known for  his bestselling biographies of show business icons — such as Ball of Fire (about Lucille Ball), Tough Without a Gun (about Humphrey Bogart) and Somebody (about Marlon Brando) — has a new novel available called The Eskimo Hunts in New York. The title is the first in a new series of thrillers, starring the character Jordan Gulok, an Inuit and a former Navy SEAL. AppNewser caught up with Kafner to discuss why he decided to go the eBook route?

AN: Why have you decided to publish your new book, The Eskimo Hunts in New York, as an eBook?

SK: My biographies of show business icons—Groucho Marx, Lucille Ball, Marlon Brando, Humphrey Bogart had all landed on the bestseller list. Having gone four-for-four, I suspected that the string had run out. I did have one more bio in mind, but the publisher remained silent on that subject for months. Finally, Knopf stirred, by which time I had moved on to another genre—the thriller. I reminded the publisher that I had written two such books in years past, and that one had become a Book-of-the Month selection. Again, Knopf was somnolent. Quite a few of my books had been written before the eBook phenomenon now wracking the publishing industry, and the copyrights belonged to me. I found an eBook publisher, or, to be more accurate, he found me. Not only did Harvey Stanbrough of Stonethread publish the prior volumes, he has just issued the aforementioned thriller, The Eskimo Hunts in New York on excellent financial terms. 

AN: Will you do a print book?

SK: I suppose if Eskimo sells well enough a traditional version could be published—indeed, a paperback “bound galley” version was made for reviewers and bloggers. But given the sales of Kindles, Nooks, and iPads, etcetera, I’m content to be an electronic author whose works are available with a few clicks.

AN: A number of your backlist titles are available as eBooks. How long have they been available in eBook format and what have you done to promote these versions?

SK: The previous books have only been available on Amazon, Smashwords, etcetera for a few months. Today, traditional publishers can only offer writers two things they can’t arrange for themselves—distribution and publicity. Given the diminution of brick-and-mortar stores, electronic distribution is much the best way of getting books to non-traditional readers (there will always be those who prefer paper and cloth binding; for certain classics I agree with them). As for publicity, I used to rely on the staff at Random House. Now I rely on Carol Fitzgerald of and her team who handle online marketing outreach and social media.

AN: Why haven’t you made all of your backlist available in eBook form? Is it a question of rights?

SK: It is indeed a question of rights.

AN: How do you see the eBook market evolving over the next year?

SK: The eBook revolution is barely underway. This year should see a quantum leap in the sales of eReaders, and, consequently, in eBooks. Save in physics textbooks, time cannot be reversed. Which is why the major traditional publishers are all quaking in their boots, despite their protests to the contrary. The epoch of large advances is over, save for the biggest brand names, and after Barnes & Noble folds—this will take much longer but is inevitable—the landscape of book publishing, for better or worse, will be unrecognizable.