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Surprise Kindle Single best-seller a ‘Dakota Christmas’ present for conservative writer
“It was a place that I felt at home again, and a relief in those days,” Mr. Bottum said. “It was a time to get out of the East [Coast] and return to the West.”
On a personal level, the return was a boon. Mr. Bottum’s wife, Lorena, loved her new surroundings. So did their home-schooled 14-year-old daughter, Faith. The family had room. For the first time in more than a decade, Mr. Bottum’s entire beloved book collection was in one place.
“We have a house with 10,000 books, and my daughter lives a very active, Western-girl life of horses and wild outdoor activities,” he said. “In some ways, I’m sort of re-creating for her my own childhood.”
Professionally, Mr. Bottum completed a book of poetry. He worked on a book about religion in America. Relying on his network of magazine contacts, he was able to secure frequent freelance assignments.
Mr. Bottum considered himself lucky: Younger, less experienced authors, he said, are simply unable to support themselves in the current market.
“It’s impossible to make a living when a 3,000-word piece is earning you $50,” he said. “This is a tough time. The Web has devalued everyone’s work.”
Last October, Mr. Bottum received a phone call from David Blum, an old work colleague and relatively new Amazon editor. Mr. Blum was developing stories for Kindle Singles, an electronic marketplace for magazine-style stories aimed at tablet readers.
“I knew about e-books, but I didn’t know at all about these Kindle Singles,” Mr. Bottum said. “David said that he couldn’t pay for the piece, but that they would give you a high percentage of the sales.
“It sounded interesting. And I had done a lot of Christmas writing over the years, somehow becoming the regular Christmas guy for the Weekly Standard - I think because everyone else wanted to go home early.”
Besides, he wasn’t the most prolific electronic reader in his family.
“My wife got me a Kindle a few years ago, but immediately took it over,” he said. “So when it shot up to No. 1 on Kindle sales its first weekend, she was watching. I’m fortunate that she’s been good about tracking it.”
Launched in January, Kindle Singles is part of Amazon’s aggressive attempt to capitalize on a rapidly growing market for electronic literature. In the final three months of last year, the company sold more e-books than paperback books.
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About the Author
Patrick Hruby is an award-winning journalist who holds degrees from Georgetown and Northwestern. He also contributes to ESPN.com and The Atlantic Online, and his work has been featured in The Best American Sports Writing. Follow him on Twitter (@patrick_hruby) and contact him at PatrickHruby.net.
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