'Seattle Author Event' to showcase independent writers

SEATTLE - Hundreds of excited fans will line up to see celebrities in Seattle this weekend. They aren't movie stars or musicians, they're writers, and some are best selling authors with passionate followings.

They all started without the help of a publishing company, taking part in a revolution in the book world that lets writers print their own books, and make money while they're at it.

Author S.C. Stephens is part of the Seattle author event, which is a short trek from her home in the Puget Sound region.

For Stephens, a day at the office starts with a cup of coffee in the kitchen. Next stop, her computer, just a couple rooms away.

Gone are the days of being a bookkeeper, commuting between businesses, and answering to multiple bosses.

"I usually worked over 40 hours in the week just to make ends meet," Stephens described. "It's just completely changed all of that. I quit all of my jobs and I just stay home with my kids."

She quit all of her jobs except her dream job. Stephens spends her days weaving romantic tales that have fans gushing over the "epic love story" that's "utterly delicious, addictive and angst-filled."

Those reader reviews on Amazon are for "Reckless," the final book in a trilogy that began as a self published phenomenon.

Stephens launched the series with "Thoughtless" - a novel she first published, free to read, chapter by chapter online.

"They loved it. Almost instantly there were reviews and comments. They were falling in love with the characters. It was very strange," she laughed.

When Stephens decided to stop giving "Thoughtless" away for free, she used a self publishing website called Smashwords. On the site, authors publish and price their own e-books, getting them directly to major retailers.

Mark Coker founded Smashwords.

"It's been incredible fun to see writers who were previously rejected by the large publishers now selling hundreds of thousands of books," Coker said. "It's great to see writers dreams realized."

Coker knew what authors faced, after penning a book with his wife that no publisher would take a chance on.

"Smashwords allows me to take a risk on every single author. It allows me to give every single author in the world, every writer in the world, a chance. A chance to publish, a chance to be read, distribution to the world's largest retailers and the opportunity for the readers to judge whether that writer is worth reading," Coker said.

He founded the company in 2008 and helped authors self publish 140 books. By 2012, Smashwords was a $20 million dollar company that published more than 200,000 books.

Authors are making money, too. Coker says an author earns about $2.00 by selling a self-published book for $2.99.

Through a traditional publishing house, he says the book would have to sell for $10.00 for the author to make that same $2.00 profit.

The driving force in the self published world is romance. Author Colleen Hoover was living in a Texas trailer park when she self published her romance novel "Slammed" through Amazon.

"I did try to query agents and I got a lot of rejection letters," Hoover told ABC's Nightline earlier this year. "The book had already come out and I was getting rejection letters after it hit the New York Times."

And Hoover's not the only one to achieve that ultimate dream. Stephens also hit number one on the New York Times bestsellers list with "Reckless."

"Number one on New York Times. That just sounds strange to even say that. It's been beyond anything I ever expected," Stephens said. "I would have been happy just making the list. But it debuted at number one, so I can't ask for anything more than that."

Maybe one more thing: a movie. In Stephens' fan mail, readers suggest actors who fit the bill for the characters from her books.

There's no deal in the works, but an overworked bookkeeper turned best selling author knows, a girl can dream.

Stephens' latest book, "Conversion," was released this week.

Stephens, Hoover and other successful independent authors will be at the Westin Seattle Hotel on Saturday, September 7, 2013 from noon to 4 p.m. Attendees are asked to register prior to arrival.

There are a number of resources for aspiring authors interested in self publishing. One of the biggest self publishing sites is Kindle Direct Publishing from Amazon. Authors can publish their e-books for free and make them available to any of the millions of people with a Kindle e-reader. Amazon also owns Create Space, a self publishing service for bound paperback books.