With a published book under her belt and a literary agent representing her, journalist Mara Altman seemed like someone who had solved the notoriously tricky riddle of making a living as a writer. But she hadn’t.
Money was tight. Really tight. Mara took loans from her parents. She moved in with her future husband because she couldn’t afford New York City rents on her own. And when she finished writing her first novel, her agent hated it. He never wanted to see it again, even if Mara rewrote it.
Kindle Singles allowed me the perfect amount of space. I would have had to rip the heart out of Bearded Lady to confine it into a magazine piece ..."
So Mara shifted gears and reached out to David Blum. Dave is a former editor of The Village Voice. He runs Amazon’s Kindle Singles, which specializes in publishing journalism, memoirs, fiction, and essays that are shorter than a book and longer than a magazine article. New York Times literary critic Dwight Garner praised Kindle Singles for finding a “sweet spot” between shallow shortness and tedious length. Garner wrote that Singles are “probably the best reason to buy an e-reader in the first place.” Readers can download Singles straight to their Kindles, or to any major smartphone, tablet, and computer with one of the free Kindle reading apps.
Anyone can submit manuscripts for Dave and his team to consider. Everyone gets a response.
Mara had already published one Single. Dave wanted her to write another because, as he puts it, Mara “has that rare ability to use her own experiences to tell a larger story about life.”
So Mara researched and wrote Bearded Lady. Part memoir and part journalism, the 46-page work is inspired by Mara’s secret struggle to shave, tweeze, and laser-blast away every follicle of her unwanted body hair and facial hair. “Kindle Singles allowed me the perfect amount of space,” Mara says. “I would have had to rip the heart out of Bearded Lady to confine it into a magazine piece or pad it into a bloated, overwrought version of itself to fill a full-length book.”
Bearded Lady resonated with Amazon customers. One five-star reviewer called it “an amusing take on an otherwise humiliating life sentence. Nearly everything she wrote was factual but made me have a good laugh, esp. at myself. Loved it.”
The New York Times reported that “Singles now delivers a reliable purchasing audience, giving (writers) a chance to earn thousands for their work.” Authors get 70 percent of the royalties from sales of their Singles.
Bearded Lady earned Mara the equivalent of a year’s salary.
“It’s been huge,” Mara says. “I feel like I’ve become …” She hesitates. “What’s it called when you’re responsible and can pay your bills?”
The new responsible, bill-paying Mara is now at work on her fourth Kindle Single.
Mara Altman is one of thousands of authors being discovered by Amazon customers.