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Self-published crime writer sells novels all over the world from KC home

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FBI agent Jack Davis fights for good in Kansas City from the Plaza to the KCK neighborhood of Argentine.

Davis has investigated a mass murder, a serial killer hiding in plain sight and a shootout at a gun show.

If you’re wondering why you haven’t heard about Davis or any of these crimes, it’s because Davis is a fictional character. He is the protagonist of a series of crime thrillers by Kansas Citian Joel Goldman.

With the advent of e-readers like Amazon’s Kindle, the publishing industry is changing at a breakneck pace. Like many authors, Goldman is taking advantage of the changing book world by self-publishing his novels.

Goldman told Anne Copeland-Davis, a producer for KCPT’s “Arts Upload,” that self-publishing through Amazon allows him to make a nice living. He said he has sold 400,000 copies of his 11 novels since starting to self-publish three years ago. Before taking the self-publishing leap, his eight novels sold only 120,000.

“Amazon gave authors like me a second chance, a second life,” he said. “It has allowed many self-published authors to make a nice living.”

Amazon’s independent publishing service is open to anyone: Authors upload their copy and can start earning money from sales in as little as two days. This almost-instant gratification has given self-published work a reputation for being poorly written — the novels that no “real” publishing house would publish. This isn’t necessarily true.

Goldman, for example, has received favorable reviews from the likes of crime writer Michael Connelly, Publisher’s Weekly and the Kansas City Star. He received the Thorpe Menn Award in 2006 for his novel “Deadlocked.” The award is given by the American Association of University Women for excellence in writing by a Kansas City–area author.

The self-publishing market got a real boost in 2012 with the publication of E.L. James’ “Fifty Shades” trilogy.

It’s hard to walk through an airport or Barnes and Noble without seeing copies of “Fifty Shades.” Between its March 2012 release and December of that same year, the Christian Science Monitor reports the trilogy sold 70 million copies. The film adaptation of the first book in the series, “First Shades of Grey,” will hit theaters in February.

The self-published origins of the series (now published by Random House) is what makes this bestselling-novel-turned-movie different than countless others before it.

Author E.L. James created the world of “Fifty Shades” as fan fiction for another bestselling series: “Twilight.” After her work was removed from fan fiction websites for being too sexually explicit, she published the novels herself, but not before removing overt references to the “Twilight” universe.

Many in the publishing industry see James’ successful foray into self-publishing as a sign of immense change in how books are written, published, promoted and consumed.

This change can also be linked to the growing prevalence of tablet computers and e-readers. Consumers can download a digital copy of a novel from Amazon and begin reading within the minute.

Goldman had already been writing for several years when he began self-publishing, but this new creative and financial flexibility for authors has allowed him to enjoy retirement from his almost 30-year career as a litigator.

He retired in 2006 after a diagnosis of Tics, a movement disorder that he said is similar to Tourette syndrome. The involuntary and uncontrollable spasms and stuttering made it difficult to continue working in the courtroom. He instead used his legal experience to create the worlds of Jack Davis, Alex Stone and Lou Mason. He even gave Davis the same movement disorder.

“It’s hard to explain what it’s like to have your life turned so upside down,” Goldman said of being diagnosed at 52. “We all want to be in control of our lives. If you can’t control your body, it’s really an assault on your bedrock sense of stability and identity. And that was the transition that I was going through, and I really wanted to explore that through Jack’s eyes, have him say the things that I was thinking and feeling.”

He said writing crime fiction is a great way to explore the human condition, the frailties and strengths and how the two interact. His professional experience was also a factor, as well as the idea that people are drawn to the genre.

“We live in a dangerous world, whether it’s a school shooting or Ebola, and people want to escape from that,” he said. “Crime fiction is a great escape because they can confront, in a vicarious way, all of those terrible things, and they know, at the end, that’s there’s going to be accountability.”

To purchase Goldman’s novels, visit his website, or the recently launched Brash Books, a web-based crime writing publishing platform founded by Goldman.

(Joel Goldman’s segment begins at 7:20 in the video above.)

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