The Write Stuff
Barry Eisler at Kepler’s Books in Menlo Park, which hosted a launch event for his latest spy thriller
Like the assassins in his spy novels, Barry Eisler stays ahead of the curve. Five years ago, The New York Times best-selling author—a former CIA operative and tech lawyer—took a cue from Silicon Valley, where he lives, and took a risk. With his print sales plummeting and digital book sales soaring, he turned down a $500,000 two-book deal from St. Martin’s Press to sign with Thomas & Mercer, an Amazon imprint, instead. The hybrid deal allows him to largely self-publish, and provides marketing help.
According to Eisler, e-books have disrupted traditional publishing houses’ largest source of leverage over authors: the ability to distribute printed books worldwide, one reason publishers retain 85 percent of the profits on sales. That’s great if you write a blockbuster that sells millions of copies, and not so great if you don’t, notes Eisler, who now reaps a 70 percent profit on each unit sold. “I’ve never been happier publishing,” he says, “and my books have never done better.” Eisler’s 11th novel, The God’s Eye View, is centered around government snooping and Edward Snowden-style leaks, with international locations and sex thrown in for good measure. “I wouldn’t say I picked the whistleblowing theme so much as it picked me,” he explains. “The growth of intrusive, secret, unaccountable government power is one of the defining features of post-9/11 America, and if you write thrillers for a living, you’d have to be a contortionist to avoid it.”
Eisler's Hots: Whistleblowers, RMJ Tactical’s Berserker axe, Waze app
Eisler's Nots: Propaganda, establishments, people who push back their seats on airplanes
Originally published in the March issue of Silicon Valley