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By Andrew Zack

It’s an exciting new time in the publishing world.  Authors without publishers are selling a million copies or more of eBooks on Amazon.  Authors are direct publishing more and more and agents are often now falling into the role of publisher, helping clients exploit rights to their works when tradition markets don’t see the potential.  Which leads us to PETROPLAGUE, a new thriller by Amy Rogers.

UCLA graduate student Christina Gonzalez wanted to use biotechnology to free America from its dependence on Middle Eastern oil.  Her genetically-altered bacteria will extract energy from the vast, inaccessible tar sands of the western hemisphere.  But an environmental extremist sabotages her work by blowing up a field test.  Soon after, an eruption at the La Brea Tar Pits makes Christina wonder if there’s a connection.  When burning cars choke the freeways and jets departing LAX fall from the sky, Christina realizes her oil-degrading bacteria have escaped–and they’re eating LA’s gas.

The crisis deepens when petroplague bacteria growing underground trigger a series of earthquakes and a lone survivalist intentionally infects the vast oil fields north of Los Angeles, an act which also destabilizes the San Andreas fault.

Can Christina stop the plague from spreading worldwide and ending the Age of Oil in human history?

Wow.  I’m almost out of breath just reading that.  Rogers, who studied biochemistry at Harvard and went on to get an MD/PhD at Washington University in St. Louis, knows her stuff and her book should appeal to fans of Michael Crichton and others who like science thrillers.  The science in the book is real and, according to Rogers, “You’d have to have a PhD to figure out where it veers into fiction.”

And getting it right is important to her.  “Michael Crichton is the king of this category and I certainly admire his work above all others.”  But she also really likes Paul McEuen (SPIRAL) and Lori Andrews (SEQUENCE) for the way they incorporate science into their books.

It’s no surprise to me that Rogers found an agent for this page-turner of a read.  But Scott Waxman is not just an agent.  He’s also become a publisher and one who was willing to “put his money where his mouth is” so to speak.  When editors didn’t snap up rights to PETROPLAGUE, Waxman did, offering to bring it out as an eBook original via his company, Diversion Books.  Rogers jumped at the offer because it’s a real publishing operation, operating like a traditional publisher, including copyediting, design, and marketing.

So, as the publishing world continues to go topsy-turvy, authors need to keep in mind that sometimes the nontraditional approach can be the most rewarding!


Amy Rogers, M.D., Ph.D., writes thrilling science-themed novels that pose frightening what if? questions. Compelling characters and fictionalized science—not science fiction—make Dr. Rogers’ books page-turners that open the reader’s eyes to threats they never imagined before. Harvard-educated and relentlessly curious, Dr. Rogers is passionate about scientific literacy and nature education for kids. She lives in Northern California with her husband and two children.

To learn more about Amy, please visit her website.

Andrew Zack
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