Crime always pays for Lee Child
The Jack Reacher creator — who's offered fans two hugely successful e-book exclusives, the stories ''Second Son'' and ''Deep Down'' — weighs in on the fractious print-versus-digital publishing debate
Some self-published authors claim e-books are making traditional publishing obsolete. What do you think?
I know what people are saying, but there’s a huge emotional quotient there. They’ve either been dropped by a publisher or couldn’t get a deal. I’m not attacking them in any way because I think it’s a fantastic development. It used to be that if you wanted to play baseball, there was only the major leagues, and it was that or nothing. Now people who want to write and get published can.
Your Jack Reacher novels are enormous hits in print. What made you decide to explore their digital possibilities?
We don’t know very much about the digital marketplace. In one way, it shouldn’t be a big deal at all because it’s just another format. Who cares, really? In another way, it seems to be a very big deal. I felt I knew nothing about it — therefore, let’s experiment. So the last two years, I’ve done an e-short story in the summer, which led to the publication of a book in the fall.
Both stories have sold extremely well. You’ve used them to introduce new characters, even new plotlines. Have there been any downsides?
People buy impulsively and carelessly, and a lot of them thought they were getting a new novel, and then they were disappointed it was only a short story — even though it says that pretty clearly.
What about fans who don’t have access to digital downloads?
I’m aware of that. So I want them to be printed in paper after a year or so. Second Son ran in the end of the paperback of The Affair, and I imagine Deep Down is going to be in the paperback of A Wanted Man.
Do you think of your stand-alones as short versions of your novels?
That’s one of those weird questions you ask yourself. When you make an audiobook, there are always two versions: One is abridged, and one is unabridged. You see the script for the abridged version, and it’s often so good that you think, ”Wow, why did I make it longer in the first place?” Then you read the whole story and see that the same story and idea can inhabit both lengths. Second Son and Deep Down could have both been novels, but boil them down and there’s a satisfaction in telling a dense and pithy story.
On a different note, how does it feel to see Reacher hit the big screen?
It’s very exciting that it’s finally happening.