In 2011, after the Kindle was first released in the U.K., Adam Croft decided to use the new platform to sell his novels—a single idea he had for a plot twist soon grew into the Knight and Culverhouse mystery series, and he eventually sold more than a million books as an independent publisher. Croft earned his place on bestseller lists in Canada, Australia, and the U.S. with Her Last Tomorrow, a stand-alone thriller about a man who must choose between his wife and kidnapped daughter. That success helped him land a lucrative deal with Amazon imprint Thomas & Mercer, but as of now he’s taken back the rights to all his fan-favorite mysteries and decided to see where digital self-publishing can take him next.
As a writer, what do you enjoy about the thriller genre?
As a writer, very little. But as a reader, I love it. It’s always great to be kept on the edge of your seat, wondering what’s going to happen next and being twisted and turned in all sorts of different directions. Although the books are so active, it’s a very passive reading experience. Writing them is much the opposite, so it’s a completely different sort of encounter.
What do you think made Her Last Tomorrow resonate so much with readers?
The Connor family is a completely normal, everyday family….And then this huge event comes out of nowhere and turns their lives upside down. Readers aren’t being asked to relate to a spy or a detective—they’re reading from the point of view of a normal, everyday person, and this is something that could happen to anyone.
When did you first decide to pursue self-publishing?
I never had any other intention. For me, it was a quick and effective way to see how readers reacted to my work. Sales were very good, and it showed me that this could actually be an extremely viable industry of its own. It’s now a larger industry than the traditional publishing one, so I’m glad I got in early!
What have some of your most successful strategies been for finding readers?
Advertising on Facebook has been successful for me, as have many other forms of online marketing, but you can’t beat word of mouth. I get emails every day from readers who’ve been told about my books by their friends and have then become hooked. Most of them then go on to tell their own friends, and that sort of recommendation just can’t be beaten.
In your experience, how was Thomas & Mercer different from other publishers?
The books they publish are only available to buy from Amazon, which is one major difference, but I don’t think it’s a good one. It’s one of the primary reasons I got my rights back. I don’t think it’s healthy for any company to have such dominance and to demand exclusivity, no matter how successful and revolutionary they’ve been for authors.
Where do you see digital publishing going in the future?
I think it’s stable now. No major changes are required, and I don’t think there’ll be anything revolutionary for a while. The traditional model will remain, as many people just aren’t interested in running a publishing company at the same time as writing. Readers couldn’t care less—they want good books with great covers, and both models give them that.
What can we look forward to next?
My next psychological thriller should be out in October. One of the beauties of independent publishing is that I can release a book as soon as it’s ready. On the flip side, it does mean I don’t know the release date of my own books until a few weeks in advance, so I can’t be any more specific than that, unfortunately!
Rhett Morgan is a writer and translator based in Paris.