I just received the first 10 chapters of J.C. Hutchins newly published thriller, The 7th Son: Descent, in a free, down-loadable “special edition” pdf. It was sent to me courtesy of CC Chapman’s podcast Managing the Gray. I say newly published, because the novel has been around for awhile.
Hutchins originally released it as a serialized podcast, also for free. From those humble beginnings the story’s fan base spread through online word-of-mouth until it eventually caught the attention of a “real” publisher, St. Martin’s Press. It is “now in bookstores everywhere,” as they say.
Hutchins’ web site, J.C. Hutchins Thriller Novelist, is highly interactive, providing links and downloads, updating fans on the novel’s progress — e.g. Amazon ratings, recent reviews and the like — and even has a section called “evangelize,” where fans will soon find tools for spreading further world of mouth.
It’s a wonderful case study in how online social connections can build a groundswell of support for an aspiring novelist’s work that eventually leads to publication by a recognized institution of the trade with access to an even wider audience. Interesting that despite everyone talking about the democratization of content and the wisdom of the crowd, the ultimate “legitimization” of a work of fiction, or for that matter non-fiction, still seems to be if it is picked up by an “old media” publisher and gets reviewed by the likes of The New York Times and Publishers Weekly. Why is that? Deep down inside, do we still rely on the official arbiters of literature to tell us if something is good or not?
Despite the fact that Hutchins can now earn money on his work in book form, he continues to offer it for free as a podcast or pdf. I admire his generosity and idealism, and I hope, for the sake of his bank account, that there will be enough readers who are willing to spend $14,99 to read the novel in what for many is still the most enjoyable format of all, words on a printed page between two covers of a book.