Growing up in a small town on the east of England, author Mark Chisnell says that “the sea was a non-negotiable part of everyone’s life in that little town, and a future as some sort of marine engineer seemed inevitable.”
What changed it all for him? Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. “The cover said it would change the way I thought and felt about the world, and the funny thing was… it did.” Out went the plans for an engineering degree, and Mark moved on to philosophy with physics. But probably most illuminating was the realization, courtesy’s of Pirsig’s classic, “that books work — they’re important and they can change your life.”
Mark wanted to be a writer after that.
He also decided to do a bit of world traveling. Not so much the touristy thing and more like adventures (Mt. Everest base camp in Tibet!). He started to do some travel writing for various newspapers worldwide too, but got distracted when he found himself part of the 1987 America’s Cup — probably just the most prominent professional sailboat racing event this part of the world. Sure enough, that led to more sailboat races in some of the most glamorous destinations… and getting paid to do it. So can’t really blame the man for putting the writing thing on the backburner for a spell.
But not for very long. Mark now found himself writing books and articles about sailing. Which means the novelist in him was never all that far away.
How Mark Got Started Self-Publishing
Mark was still racing when he wrote The Defector, first published by Random House in the UK as The Delivery, and quickly followed by The Wrecking Crew, which took more effort to get right and picked up by HarperCollins in Australia and New Zealand. This made him realize, however, that if he really wanted to make a go of his dream of becoming a novelist, he had to put all of him into it. That meant closing up shop on his professional sailboat racing career. “I just didn’t have the time or energy for both,” he explains. The 2003 America’s Cup in Auckland was his last “big contest.”
That didn’t mean he stopped sailing — he still got involved in a number of related projects and continued writing for A-list magazines and newspapers like Esquire and the Guardian, even doing a bit of TV commentating and script writing — but he also got to spend a lot more time on his writing.
Then the Kindle revolution started. Mark did not hesitate to take advantage of it, realizing the tremendous business opportunity it presented to independent authors. He re-released his Janac’s Games books (Defector and Wrecking Crew) as ebooks, and they quickly found success in the marketplace. Then he followed that up with his historical fiction The Fulcrum Files. And recently, he released the first of his new Burn thriller series, Powder Burn. Mark is also experimenting with publishing and selling short stories for ebook readers — just a few weeks ago, he released The Sniper, an inexpensive and short (12,000 words) prequel to his Janac’s Games.
“There will be more, lots more. Just like I hoped all those years ago.”
- “The big publishing houses will focus more and more on guaranteed best-sellers that they can pile high at airports and the remaining places where they can still shift lots of paperbooks.”
- “The ‘mid-list’ author will almost completely disappear from traditional publishing, instead they will be using the growing community of much smaller publishers, or editors, formatters and cover designers working freelance.”
- “The big publishers will pick the break-out books from the indie-publishing world for their new guaranteed best-sellers — Fifty Shades of Grey is how it will work in the future.”
- “If you want to succeed in traditional publishing, first succeed in indie-publishing.”