Tuesday 28 April 2009


California based, Seth Harwood is a writer who knows how to use the Internet. He has proven the naysayers wrong - people will pay for something they've already been given free.

First of all he gave away his novel, Jack Wakes Up in Podcast form, then he produced a print edition and with the help of the fan base he had gathered with the Internet podcasts he stormed the Amazon charts. The next step was for the major publishers to come knocking and now Jack Wakes Up will be published May 5th by Random House.

I've not read the book myself yet but I have listened to it in podcast form and it's a damn good crime thriller - Tarantino on Speed filtered through hip hop sensibilities. It's garnished praise from the likes of Michael Connelly and will also be featured May 10th in The New York Times Book Review. Despite moving to a major publisher the writer has no plans to abandon the podcast medium any time soon.

Seth's arrived in style.
I asked him if his initial move into podcasting was part of a master plan to get the book into print.

"I wanted to build an audience, get my work out to people. Shopping my book to agents just wasn't a good use of time. It sucked. So I wanted to let readers (listeners) decide. I wanted to put the book on the Internet, but disseminating text on the web seemed less effective than audio, so when I saw people were doing podcasts, I jumped in. I've had commutes where I always listened to books on CD/tape, and so it seemed like a natural fit. Then my plan was to lure agents in by telling them I had a few thousand folks who wanted to buy the book. Turned out they wouldn't listen. I had to team up with Breakneck Books and storm amazon to show them I could sell the book. Once I did that, they wanted to know what I'd done and how they could get involved.

But my goal all along was to get into conventional print and onto bookstore shelves. That's been my goal for about 13 years now. I went to grad school for creative writing at Iowa and graduated in 2002. Before that I was writing novels and stories on my own. It's been a long, long road."

The music industry could take a lesson from Seth and stop running scared of the Internet. Is the electronic medium the future of the printed word?

"I think in fact, I'm following the music industry with this podcasting model. Bands have been doing similar things and giving their music away for a few years now. It's time for publishing and writers to catch up--we need to realize that giving something away is free advertising: it may not bring in money in the immediate, but you're not spending anything to advertise yourself. The publishing industry seems too intent on finding ways to spend money on an ever-shrinking advertising market. The Internet really is about free. If the mp3 doesn't cost anything to make, why should it cost money to hear it?

I see this all as a way to let readers/listeners/book buyers know who I am as a writer. That's never going to hurt me.
In terms of books, I'm not sure what the future will bring. Kindle still has a lot of drawbacks that make it harder to adopt than the iPod ever was--you can't put the books you have already onto it, for instance. Amazon would be wise to give away some free eBooks, at least the books you've already bought through them, but I'm not holding my breath. Truth is, the future of books is going to be Kindle, iPhones, books, Trade Paper, Hardcover, all of it. As writers we need to work on getting our work onto as many platforms as possible. Ultimately, it'll be the readers who decide how they want to read; I just want to be sure my book will be an option to them on the platform they choose!"

Another successful podcast that Seth set up is Crimewav which has featured works from many top writers in the crime field. What does Seth look for in selecting works for the podcast?

"With CrimeWAV, my main goal is to introduce the podcast listening audience to some of the great contemporary crime writers that I've come to know in the past few years. I also really want to show those writers how easy it is to make a podcast and read to a large audience without leaving the house. When I first started approaching people about podcasts, it scared off a lot of writers, now I want them to see they can do it too, without much difficulty.

We're looking for good, hard-edge stories that run about 3,000-5,000 words. But we've already put out a lot of stories that aren't those things. We're looking for good work. Good crime fiction."

The Tainted Archive wishes Seth's every success with the Random House Edition of Jack Wakes Up and looks forward to many years of podcasts from the one man production line. Below Seth talks about how he got involved in podcasting. And below the video is a series of useful links relating to Jack Wakes Up and Seth himself. Check it all out folks - this guy's gonna' be huge.


Seth appearance details HERE
First Three Chapters HERE
Buy signed books HERE
Crimewav HERE


Jo Walpole said...

Great interview. I admire people like Seth who have the nerve and initiative to put themselves out there.

Patrick Shawn Bagley said...

Looking forward to 5/5.

Paul D Brazill said...

Top interview. Seth is the very model of the modern, major crimewriter.

Charles Gramlich said...

Well, he had a plan and pushed it through. Congrats and kudos to Seth.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Just listening to him on crimewav sets my heart apounding.

Seth Harwood said...

Hey!! Thanks guys for the great comments and thanks to Gary for the interview! I'm looking forward to 5/5 here like a Madman!! Cinco de Harwood! Everybody buy JACK WAKES UP where you buy your books!
Or listen to it free here: http://sethharwood.com/jack

More coming soon!

Gary Dobbs/Jack Martin said...

Did you get that guys buy the book. Seth's worked hard for a great many years on this and he deserves a major success - plus it will be a victory for readers and fans as we are dictating what we want to read. No one was interested until Seth drummed up the interest with the original podcasts. I'm playing a hunch and getting a signed copy (see the link with the interview) because I think Seth is gonna get big. Real big.

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