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The astronomical growth of the self-publishing industry has opened the door for many aspiring authors. But marketing your own work takes some serious energy — and innovation.

THIS WAS THE DEAL: Boyd Morrison’s wife wanted to become a doctor. So, even though Morrison dreamt of a far more creative future for himself, he promised to stick it out as an industrial engineer for the nine years it would take her to get her medical degree and finish her residency. Then he would get nine years — to try to become a published author.

In 2005, with his now-MD of a spouse giving the go-ahead, Morrison said buh-bye to his job at Microsoft and started writing. Over the next two years, he penned two thrillers (in addition to one he wrote in 1996) and in 2007 made one of the most sacred connections in all of publishing: He found an agent who was keen on his novels and thought she could sell them to a publishing house.

It seemed like he was about to arrive at his goal long before the clock ticked engineer again, right?

Not quite.

“I got what I call great rejections,” says the Seattle-based Morrison. “They said all these things they liked about [them] but then ultimately decided not to publish [them] for whatever reason.”

But Morrison didn’t just want to leave the books sitting idly on his hard drive. With his agent’s blessing, he made them available for free on his website. He also put them up for sale via Amazon’s Kindle in March 2009, pricing the first book at just $0.99 and the other two at $1.99. “It was really an experiment,” he says. “I just wanted to see if I could get the word out just through viral means or word of mouth.” His entire marketing shtick? He began introducing himself and his work to his one-day (fingers crossed!) fan base on the message boards at KindleBoards, MobileRead, and Amazon.

“I did not spend any money marketing myself. I did not take out advertisements. It was word of mouth and me just talking about the books on those website discussion forums,” he says.

Within three months, he had sold more than 7,500 books. Those sales and the positive reviews he received from fans were proof that Morrison had a following who wanted more. His agent went out to a new round of publishers and in July, Morrison signed a two-book deal with Touchstone, an imprint of Simon & Schuster. Hardcover and audio editions of his book The Ark will go on sale in spring 2010.