Luke Smitherd is a British writer best known for his 2015 novel The Stone Man. Shortlisted by the Amazon.com audiobook service Audible as one of their recommended books for 2015, The Stone Man is a mix of horror and science fiction describing the consequences of a statue that comes to life and cannot be stopped as it marches across England.
Smitherd has published several other books over a writing career that now spans about six years. His new book "Kill Someone" is out today (December 6) and importantly this is the first time one of his books is being published by a major publisher, rather than being self-published on Amazon. Audible has decided that they want to publish Kill Someone and are covering the production and marketing costs for this new novel.
Not many self-published authors get shortlisted for major awards then crossover from self-publishing to being represented by a publisher so I contacted Smitherd to ask him about the new book and how it feels to finally be recognised by the industry.
Initially I asked him about the story and inspiration for Kill Someone: "If you had to kill a random stranger in order to save the lives of five other people then could you do it, how would you choose the victim, and how would you do it? If you are just an ordinary person and not a killer then how would this scenario affect you?" He added: "It's about choice and guilt and deciding where the benchmark of acceptability really is."
As with other stories by Smitherd, it's a dark story reminiscent of Charlie Brooker's Black Mirror, blending elements of science fiction, horror, and social comment. Smitherd's stories make you believe in the fantastic and he has a knack for describing a bizarre situation and then asking what if this really happened? How would a story play out if these characters found themselves in this situation?
Smitherd differs from many other self-published authors in that he has always taken audiobooks seriously. All his books are available as audiobooks, often with him reading his own work.
He explains: "I think if you are an author today and you are not doing audiobooks then you are hugely missing out. Audiobooks are my print and Kindle income again - I have doubled my income doing audiobooks. This is because you are tapping into completely different readers. I get emails from people who say 'I don't have time to read, but I listened to your book in the car and I was late for work because I carried on listening after I had parked.' Comments like that are just great to hear. People with kids, or very busy jobs, might prefer to consume books by listening to them. The car, or the gym, might be the only time they get to listen to a book without being disturbed."
Smitherd also added that there has been a revolution in audiobook use in recent years: "Audiobooks are no longer boxes of tapes or CDs, you just get an app on your smartphone and download or stream the content. It's all really simple and integrated into your phone, especially with apps like Audible."
I was curious to know how authors can create an audiobook if they don't have a publisher helping them find an actor or voice artist to record the content. Smitherd said: "Audible has a service called Audiobook Creation Exchange (ACX) which is a community where you can find help to record your book as an audiobook. I have a background in performance in music so I have managed to record several of my own books, but not everyone is comfortable doing this and ACX allows you to find a voice artist. Then you can either pay the artist by the hour to record your book or you can find someone happy to work for free on the condition that you then share royalties on the audiobook."
Smitherd is clearly a writer who is going places in 2017 and is already being noticed internationally, particularly in the US market. I asked him how he feels about publishers finally noticing his work and what is the single biggest advantage of working with a 'real' publisher. He said: "Marketing. A friend of mine told me that she saw someone reading one of my books on a train. People labour under the misconception that a publisher will get your books everywhere and that's not always the case, but marketing is the single biggest advantage of working with a publisher."
Will Luke Smitherd follow writers like EL James and Hugh Howey in graduating from self-publishing to being successful authors known all over the world? Only time will tell, but I wouldn't bet against it.