LOS ANGELES, May 20, 2016 /PRNewswire/ -- The following press release is being released by Don Winslow.
Steve Hamilton had a book he believed in, and a publisher who didn't.
So he did the unthinkable. He walked away.
He took everything he had – a contract worth almost a million dollars, the security of his family, his entire writing career – and he bet it all.
It was July 2015 when Hamilton, the two-time Edgar Award-winning, New York Times bestselling crime author of the Alex McKnight series and The Lock Artist, took a stand that would send shockwaves throughout the publishing industry. Just sixty days from the new book's original release date, he decided to buy out the contract and walk away from St. Martins, the publisher he had been with for seventeen years.
"It was the most terrifying thing I've ever done," Hamilton said. "I remember that day so well. I took my wife Julia out to lunch and I told her I wanted to do this. She was just as scared as I was, because it felt like our lives were on the line, after I had just left my full-time day job, and having one kid in college and another on her way. All those years of hard work to get here, but we both held our breath and decided this was one of those moments in life where you have to do what's right for yourself and for your work."
"I didn't sleep that night," Hamilton said after they informed St. Martin's Press of their decision. "Neither did Julia. The publisher told me flat-out I was making the biggest mistake of my life. That I was ending my writing career. We just stared at the ceiling until the sun came up, wondering if they were right."
The Second Life of Nick Mason was to be Hamilton's big breakout book, the debut of a new series which follows a man who makes a devil's deal with a powerful criminal mastermind to get out of a 25-to-life prison sentence. The caveat: Whenever Mason's phone rings, whatever task he's asked to perform, he must do it without question, leading to what Esquire calls "a gripping tale of escalating violence and psychological warfare that is at times both chillingly haunting and relentlessly hopeful."
The book had already received advance praise from some of the biggest names in the business, including Michael Connelly, Lee Child, and Harlan Coben. It was originally slated for an October 2015 but the author and his agent, Shane Salerno, both saw a disaster in the making as the date grew closer.
"I did twelve books with them," Hamilton said, "and I worked my ass off, doing almost everything myself. I trusted them when they said things would be different this time. They made so many promises, but when Shane and I finally saw their real plans, we were honestly just shocked. Two months before the release date, and there was no national marketing plan, no coordinated media, no interviews set up. Nothing at all – and it became clear to us that we were heading toward a catastrophe."
"It is an open secret in the publishing industry," Publishers Weekly wrote in the front-page article covering Hamilton's move, "that claims made on galleys and other material for the trade – about everything from first printings to marketing budgets and efforts – can be gross exaggerations."
"I've seen authors struggling with this issue for years," Hamilton said. "You simply cannot expect a book to succeed without a legitimate, coordinated marketing effort."
Most authors would have had no other options at this point, but then most authors don't have an agent like Salerno – who made the unprecedented decision to buy out the contract himself, paying almost a quarter million dollars to terminate the original four-book deal, freeing Hamilton and his new novel.
"I don't know anyone else in the world who would have done that," Hamilton said. "He literally put his own money on the table to buy my freedom."
Hamilton and Salerno had agreed with the publisher to make the exit happen "quietly and respectfully," in deference to their long relationship. But everything turned when St. Martin's Press made a terse, pre-emptive announcement that it was cancelling publication of the book, with no further explanation.
"After everything we'd been through," Hamilton said, "for them to do that… It really hurt me. After all of the books we had done together, twelve book tours and all those miles in rental cars, me always being the good soldier, defending St. Martin's to other authors who kept telling me I should leave… I couldn't believe they would try to wreck my career on the way out the door. Try to make me damaged goods so I wouldn't be able to find another publisher. It was another sleepless night, wondering how we'd be able to come back from this."
But Hamilton would get up to good news. Because the galleys were available to the entire publishing industry, other editors were able to read it – and within twenty-four hours, Salerno was being pursued by ten major publishers wanting the rights to The Second Life of Nick Mason. Hamilton ultimately signed a major four-book deal with Putnam, an imprint of Penguin Random House.
"I can't even describe how good this felt," Hamilton said, "like a huge weight lifted from our shoulders. The day of the new deal, my wife drove four hours just to tell my kids what had happened, in person. We were overjoyed."
The story resonated within the writing community as Hamilton received an outpouring of support from thousands of authors from around the world. "I guess it touched a nerve," he said. "I heard from so many other writers who had their own stories of neglect and broken promises. It was the most overwhelming and humbling experience of my life."
Hamilton's new deal with Putnam would go on to be named one of Top Publishing Stories of 2015 by Publishers Weekly and was, in fact, the third-most clicked-on story of the year. It would also become an Associated Press Big Story, appearing in the New York Times, Entertainment Weekly, Deadline Hollywood, and in newspapers all over the world.
This week, on Tuesday, May 17th, after a long and tortuous road to publication detailed in The New York Times, Entertainment Weekly, Associated Press, and The Wall Street Journal, Steve Hamilton's crime thriller The Second Life of Nick Mason finally came out. Expectations were high, with industry insiders closely watching its release.
The rave reviews poured in.
Esteemed literary critic Janet Maslin called the book "superb," on the cover of The New York Times Arts Section and aptly said "The Second Life of Nick Mason kicks off this new phase of Mr. Hamilton's career at full gallop. It's a tight, gripping book about a man hell-bent on reinventing himself against long odds. By a writer who knows whereof he speaks." The Wall Street Journal and Associated Press also praised the book in their reviews calling it "intelligent," and "The terrific first installment in a projected series." It scored the rare feat of starred reviews from all three major trade publications, Publishers Weekly, Kirkus, and Booklist, which said in its review, "Industry squabbles aside, this book is too good to not find its audience."
And that audience was found, as The Second Life of Nick Mason has quickly become a must-read book of the summer. The novel is currently sold out at major outlets across the country, and Putnam is rushing books to stores to meet demand. Hamilton is crisscrossing the country on a 28-stop tour in 16 major cities across the country, where all of his events have been sold out.
This is one of those rare books that lives up to all of the buzz surrounding it.
Harlan Coben said the book was "a game changer," and called Nick Mason "one of the best main characters I've read in years."
The book has also become a major subject of conversation across social media. Even Stephen King weighed in, tweeting to his 1.55 million followers:
"Trust Stephen King. This book is the real deal."
And while his lead character Nick Mason may still be trapped in terrible circumstances, Steve Hamilton's story continues to have a happy ending.
A major film adaptation is also in the works at Lionsgate Films. Richard Wenk (The Equalizer, Jack Reacher: Never Go Back starring Tom Cruise, and the upcoming remake of The Magnificent Seven starring Denzel Washington) is writing the screenplay. Nina Jacobson (Hunger Games) and Shane Salerno (Avatar) are producing.
"This book's release feels like an important moment," Hamilton said. "Not just for me but for many writers I've spoken with. I hope its success will help encourage authors everywhere to stand up for themselves."
St. Martin's Press told Hamilton he was killing his career, but in the end, The Second Life of Nick Mason gave Steve Hamilton a second life of his own.
Don Winslow is the acclaimed, award-winning, #1 internationally best-selling author of The Cartel, The Power of the Dog and Savages.
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SOURCE Don Winslow