As soon as Eduardo Spohr finished writing the 600+ pages of his first novel, A batalha do Apocalipse (The Battle of the Apocalypse) in 2007, the 35-year-old Rio-based journalist rushed to have it published. Spohr’s novel depicts the saga of angels expelled from Heaven in ancient times now seeking revenge on the day of Last Judgment. The protagonist is Ablon, who led the battle against the archangels and then was sentenced to live with Lucifer. Tragically, he can neither be forgiven by the archangels nor fully accept his fate with Satan. The story jumps between the past –- depicting ancient civilizations who failed to rule the world -– and the future . . .
Supernatural literature is a niche genre in Brazil. So, instead of going a traditional route and submitting a mere manuscript to publishing houses — which he worried would be left to molder among so many others submitted manuscripts — Spohr privately printed 30 copies of the book on his own. When he took these to editors . . . he was ignored by all of them.
Following that, you might say that he gave up on publishers, but not the book.
During this period, Spohr entered his book in a local contest and won 100 more printed copies of his book.
As he was a frequent collaborator at the Jovem Nerd, a very popular website for, well, “young nerds,” he started selling these additional copies on their online shop. The 100 books sold out immediately and readers asked for more. With a waiting list ready to buy the book, Spohr paid for an additional 500 more books to be printed. Then in 2009, with demand still rising, he printed another edition of 4,000 units. It was a ambitious move, considering the average print run for a book from a Brazilian author is just 2-3,000 units.
Not a single traditional print publication had written about the book or the author, who was relying entirely on social networking and Web sites to promote the book. Still, the 4,000 copies sold out quickly. But it wasn’t just Spohr’s ability to communicate with the aforementioned “young nerds” that was paying off: he’d also received a boost from a fellow author, one who is frequently (in his own words) “misunderstood by the press” -– Paolo Coelho. Coelho took notice of the book and tweeted about it several times, bringing it to the attention of his 1.25 million Twitter followers.
It was only after Spohr had single-handedly printed and sold 4,600 copies of his book that a publisher took an interest. Verus, an imprint of Grupo Record, bought the rights and published a new edition of the book in 2010.
Spohr’s first book signing for Verus took place at the São Paulo International Book Fair, attracting 900 people. Now, according to the Verus publisher Raïssa Castro, A batalha do Apocalipse has sold close to 100,000 so far, putting it in rarefied company among Brazilian writers.
“I couldn’t imagine this book would be so successful and that I would be a writer at this age,” says Spohr, who is still getting used to the idea of being a popular writer and has realized the benefits of having a powerful publisher promote your work. “When you sell on the Internet you get to know who is reading your book. Now I don’t know anymore!” And as time goes on, Spohr’s likely to meet even more of those fans he doesn’t yet know: rights to publish the book have recently been bought in Portugal, Holland and Turkey.
As he flies around to promote A batalha do Apocalipse, Spohr has already started thinking about the follow-up, which is likely to be the start of a new fantasy series set in the same universe, but with different characters. “I grew up with Star Wars and that helped me to see the world in a different way,” he says.
To kick start the project, he’s surveyed his readers to ask what they want to read next.
Publishers interested in learning more about Eduardo Spohr and his work can send him an e-mail or follow him on Twitter. If you read Portuguese you can also check his posts on the blog Filosofia Nerd.