A Simple Concept for Publishing

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The product is the story.  Not the book, not the eBook, not the audio book.  The Story.

The consumer is the reader.  Not the bookstores, the platform, the distributor, the sales force.  The Reader.

Authors produce story.  Readers consume story.  If anyone is in the path between Author and Reader they must add value to that connection.

Thoughts?

Bob Mayer

About Bob Mayer

New York Times bestselling author Bob Mayer has over 50 books published. He has sold over five million books and is in demand as a team-building, life-change, and leadership speaker and consultant. Bob graduated from West Point and served in the military as a Special Forces A-Team leader and a teacher at the JFK Special Warfare Center & School. He teaches novel writing and improving the author via his Write It Forward program. He is the CEO of Cool Gus Publishing, which has grown to a seven-figure business in just two years, and is one of the bestselling indie authors in the US. For more see BobMayer.org or coolgus.com.

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61 thoughts on “A Simple Concept for Publishing

  1. Nothing is more profound than the truth, and you are right, at the heart of the matter is a story and a listener. The middle man needs to either play the banjo in accompaniment, or find a way to facilitate or enhance the experience.

  2. Editors are useful. They benefit both authors and readers. They are scarce, so not every work will have an editor. Whatever the mechanism, editors should be included in the equation.

    • Not only useful, but in most cases absolutely necessary. Nothing adds value to a story to equal the work of an editor; not just a copy editor. Copy editors correct spelling, grammar—and align writings to house style, something necessary for magazines, but toxic for most books, where the author’s voice, rather than the publisher’s is the most important. Although important to the quality of the final product, copy editor just don’t fill the shoes of an editor who can direct the author toward writing a better story.

  3. Nice, short, thought-provoking.
    I’d agree more if you replaced ‘Reader’ with ‘Audience’ – readers consume story through books (or e-books, or other new forms of books), so although you say ‘story is more important than book – or any other platform/media, you then bring books back to the main equation by talking about ‘readers’.
    Audiences – as in media studies, all sorts of audiences – consume stories through a multitude of media, platforms and channels. Audiences is non-platform-specific. Like story.
    Story is as they say ‘what makes us humans’ – I think we’re living in an exciting if a little overwhelming era where the digital revolution means we’re learning new, more complex ways of telling stories across multiple media and modes – transmedia storytelling. But despite all the changes in technology, we still love – need! – good stories, and this where authors, and other good storytellers like film directors, have a great potential to explore new forms of storytelling.

  4. Writers, no matter how talented, need editors. A writer can hire an indie editor just like he can hire an indie publisher or promoter. It’s a cost of doing business. But you’ll notice it’s the writer who is the active agent in this equation, not an acquiring editor. And it’s the writer who takes the financial risk, not the publisher. Thus the writer must be a businessman as well as an artist. There’s a lot more changing than just the mediums through which we share our stories.

    • I can’t help wondering what works of great literature we would not have today if the same rules had applied in the past. Being a business/sales-person and a creative have very seldom come hand in hand. How many business people out there must also be brilliant at painting just to get a chance at a job?

  5. As a storyteller I couldn’t agree more. As a publisher I also agree and where a publisher can add real value is by bringing their knowledge and expertise into play by working with authors to get their story ‘press ready’ and then work out the best channels to get the story out. If it doesn’t spread its dead-the art is in knowing where the potential target readers are and getting them the story whatever way they want it. And it could be in several forms.

    • Jaqui I totally agree with your comment, “If it doesn’t spread its dead-the art is in knowing where the potential readers are and getting them the story.” As both author and publisher that is my waterloo. How do I move cross that bridge?

  6. I agree, but nobody has mentioned marketing and publicity. Occasionally a story will ‘break out’ through word of mouth, but most die in the sad environment of today’s bookstores. I’m sorry to be pedantic, but don’t readers read (with their eyes) and audiences listen (with their ears)? So there is an audience for audiobooks and there are readers of books and e-books.

    Retired ex-banjo playing old British fart.

  7. I actually think marketing and publicity have too much focus, especially among self-publishers. They put a lot of effort into things that have little real value. The best marketing is a good book. Better marketing is having more good books.

    Nothing beats word of mouth.

    I do believe a great editor, cover artist, etc. are invaluable. But for too long many book distributors believed they were more important than the book.

    • The chicken lays the egg, but how does the egg get to the grocery store and then into my omelet?
      Or more relevant to discussion: How does my egg get to my reader’s omelet?

      I agree that there are many books our there that are dreck, But there are good ones too, and how is one to find the good ones? Word of mouth is great, but how do you find the people who would like to talk about that good book?

  8. User, not consumer nor reader, user.

    And though I want very much for you to be right about marketing, that does not explain the dreck on the bestseller lists. As we all know, few of the most popular writers can write their way out of bags, yet their works are acclaimed as genius even if they have contributed nothing but a few more tons of pulp.

    Wisdom cannot take the place of truth, sad to say. Marketing sells the worst screeds in any language. Story is nice, but it cannot beat the force of money spent to buy opinions.

  9. That’s right. Let’s reduce the books we write to simple business transactions focused on the bottom line (money). Way to take the soul out of writing and editing!

  10. As a bookseller and knowing a thing or two about publishing it concerns me that you have overlooked all the work details that help make a book ready for the public. From editorial to graphic design to promotion, all have relevance and contribute to the reading experience.

    I relish picking out a new book that caught my attention because of the cover art (graphic designer, thank you for your hard work and contribution). Further intrigued by description on the book flap ( thank you editors for your contribution). The look and feel (paper) and yes, sometimes the smell of a new book is all part of the experience .

    Word of mouth is great if you’ve got plenty of time to wait for your book to find the right reader ( oops, I almost used the word audience here!) The marketing machine many publishers employ is so powerful that people are clamoring to purchase a book before it’s even published.

    So while I’m sure it seems a waste that all these steps that cost money along way are useless, I for one am very grateful there are available and utilized in the books I sell and read.

    • Leslie, thank you for recognizing the contribution that graphic designers make. The designer’s job is to organize and present the story in a coherent, beautiful, and readable manner. Excellent design listens to the story being told and aids in its faithful transmission. It is an all too often and unfortunate mistake that many publishers do not take more care in this area.

    • I completely agree with your observations. Although I also fear that you speak for sophisticated readers with high expectations. I think its a dwindling breed.

      • I note no one in Vanity Fair when asked what they have on their nightstand ever says: Conan the Barbarian. Everyone is reading The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind.

        Right. To label one’s self a “sophisticated reader” with high expectations is interesting. So people unlike you are un-sophisticated?

  11. I suppose a book can change the world. There are few trully big authors, or artists, or painters who come either in a bunch or perhaps more lonely in the picture but always come, once every 100 years. They then cause a revolution, not in letters, philosophy, art but their societies stand on their work in order to evolve within a bloody or more peaceful way. They do not understand them, or they all think they do one day very late, (its all marketing, yesssss…), but history is strange and unpredictable, (at the same time predictable enough).
    Well, i only wish not becoming petty and smere, but i think as far as it concerns big authors and big books, we shall wait a century till we are the witnesses of Tolstoy, Hemingway, Kavafis, Victor Hugo. So, so, the century roughly has come to its renovation. Too much we endured, hocus pocus that became expensive films of all sorts. The world needs everything, but needs more to go into an evolution. Sure, the author should be then more cunning than his traditionally fat editor or his mercantile and usually narrow- minded agent of his.

  12. When I see comments about the “dreck” on bestseller lists, I shrug. The fact is those authors wrote the books, sold them somehow, and somehow succeeded. I know quite a few bestselling authors and the thing that separates them from most other authors is mostly the writing, but for many it’s also the intense effort they put into their careers.

    The literary canon certainly has its admirers, but I’m not getting into that debate. When I get an email from someone saying my dreck thriller or romance helped them get through a night in the hospital waiting room, that’s good enough for me. Even better, when I get a letter from a kid saying he hated reading and then his parents forced him to buy a book and he got the one with the flying saucer on the cover and now he loves reading: It beats the Pulitzer.

    And, of course, a bookseller sees the value of those in between, being in between. I do value the people in between, including booksellers. All I’m saying is that for too long publishing was focused on distributing physical books and that part of the process became paramount. Publishers actually didn’t even focus on selling to readers. They had a lot of people in between them and the reader.

    That is changing exponentially, not linearly.

  13. the author should be then, not an author, but the reason he becomes an author as well…he should be a person who is a perfect conductor of oral and literary speach…and peoples…

  14. I’ve played all the roles–the writer, the editor, and the agent/promoter–and I would say the first two are the most important. You can make it as a writer, but you need a good editor. It helps to have an outside promoter, but with so many avenues available now for a writer, it’s not as necessary to be able to reach your reading audience.

  15. I do not know if Mr. Mayer’s comment was philosophical, or sarcastic criticism of the publishing industry, insinuating it offers no added value to the consumer.
    It would indeed be wonderful if we could all just hear about a book, and by some awesome technology or \close encounters\ experience just absorb the content.
    But until that day comes, we all need paper, bindings, or e-readers.

  16. We apparently don’t have a lot of readers commenting here, or if they are readers, they aren’t scoring very high on comprehension. Bob never said we don’t need editors, designers, or other “middlemen.” What he said was:

    “If anyone is in the path between Author and Reader they must add value to that connection.”

    Does an editor add value? Probably. If you *do* hire an editor (and I believe EVERYONE needs an editor), that editor must make your book a better product as a result. A good editor adds value. As for marketing and promotion professionals, they only add value if they facilitate your book getting to more readers. If the resulting sales don’t cover the cost of their services, they are taking value from the connection, not adding to it.

    “Value” isn’t always measurable in dollars and cents (or any other form of currency). An excellent cover designer adds value to your book because he or she increases the curb appeal of your title. But you’ll probably never know how many additional copies of your book were sold due to that fabulous cover versus any other cover you may have put on your book.

  17. Let’s get him excited (flying saucer cover is great) but let’s give him excellent
    writing and seamless editing that contribute to the growth of his mind and
    spirit. It can be done–and the cost is justified, since the cost of not doing so
    will be measured in sloppy, unfocused thinking and a nation that
    can’t express itself.

  18. I find it interesting that often people posting contrary opinions, without links to anything indicating who they are, when you google them, turn out to be people working in those jobs in between authors and readers, but they don’t state so. They couch it in terms of defending the literacy of the country.

    Certainly understandable.

    I too would prefer us not to slide into Idiocracy. We all do the best we can, even if it’s a book about the Hatfields & McCoys.

    As far as business sense, etc. I suppose most of us work our jobs for no pay, but for the betterment of others, correct?

    Again, I’m just suggesting that the paradigm has shifted in publishing. I could easily argue how the Big 6 truly dumbed America down much more than the current freedom we have in publishing which shortens the distance between author and reader. I’m sure Snooki ranks up there in literacy along with all the other celebrity deals they’ve made? Plenty of editors, cover artists, book distributors etc. were employed doing that. How many stood up and said: No! This is dumbing America down! Or did they take their paychecks?

    It’s the same as authors who claim Amazon is the evil empire, yet still sell books on Amazon. I find that quite strange.

    The thing about being an indie author and publisher is I put my livelihood on the line with what I do and every decision I make. I think it’s a very exciting time to be an author.

  19. I don’t really understand why my occupation or who I am has anything to do with my opinion about the state of publishing or the mind of America in general. We’ve all taken our paychecks–I’ve taken mine for more than 25 years, but I am one of the first to decry Snooki publishing. In fact, I have done so more than once. The problem is nobody listens because their ears are stuffed with money. That’s what the publishing business, education, and our society in general is all about today. Do I sound like an aging hippy? Good!!

  20. You just described the basic principles of marketing, something that everyone who works with products / services and consumers should know.
    Regarding the books, the industry has produced a lot of garbage justified by the demand for literature for idiots like Who Moved My Cheese?, and Rich Dad, Poor Dad.
    There is no incentive for reading the classics, philosophy, or reading that turn readers into thinking beings who can bring benefits to society. We are living like the ancient Roman empire, live the policy of \bread and circuses.\
    People is worried about have and not to be. But, they forget that money is consequence, never it is cause.

  21. Marketing and publicity are certainly taking up too much of my time, but I haven’t discovered how to circumvent them. I’d love to learn the secret. Book distributors have been an integral part of the \gatekeeping\ of the past, but those days are fading. And I agree that nothing beats \word of mouth,\ but the effectiveness of the mouth still matters. If my best friend tells every contact he has on Facebook, Twitter, Linked-In, etc., and writes a glowing review at Amazon, B&N, iBookstore, etc., I may sell a handful of books. If Opray or equivalent tells her audience, I’m golden overnight.

  22. It is not always about the quality or the effort. Shades of Gray is proof. That author, appearing in interviews was dumbfounded by the way her book took off. She had success on fan fiction sites. I don’t even know what that is, do you? Word of mouth is always the missing link, and how do you get more of that? Be in the right place at the right time. Who has the secret to finding that?

  23. Bob says,

    \If anyone is in the path between Author and Reader they must add value to that connection.\

    We should ask \How MANY readers should an author be trying to reach?\ The answer depends on the story, doesn’t it? Some stories are only for small audiences, while others will find large audiences. The more readers you are attempting to reach, the more \anyone\ is likely to try and stand in the path between.

    And as for adding value–how MUCH value are we trying to add? How MUCH value is needed and appropriate? Again, depends on the story and the expectations of the reader. In today’s world, reader’s expectations are soaring.

  24. \Who Moved The Cheese\ is actually a very good book -it is needed for some folks in manufacturing to convey the concept that even after years of service we still need to \always look forward and contribute to the final goal\. It seems the publishing industry does not follow that concept (in general).

  25. I have my translated wife’s very heavy German family memoir on my web site for free , all of it – 380 pages .
    I am a old Viet Nam Veteran and I also went to Woodstock. any advice to get the book out there. I, personally , am still at 102 computers namaste David Froebel

  26. I really appreciate all the comments as they make me think about other ways of looking at things and that’s one of the reasons to put ideas out there in public. Not to get my own views reinforced but consider other views.

    I don’t think “literary” fiction will die out. There will always be those who can produce it and those want to read it. But the process is morphing. Right now it’s pretty wide open. A term I was introduced to last year might have a role to play in things: transmedia. Right now it’s in its infancy, but who knows where it will be in a few years?

  27. Hello Guys and specially Grace!

    I agree with all the perspectives mentioned here and people are entitled to an opinon!

    Like in any normal society there are some basic rules to achieve some basic objectives – following these rules is the basic responsibility of eveery individual who operates in the respective space.

    with this premise, an author should never forget the basic objective of penning a story or article, a reader should consider his situation and the stroy content and adjust to the situation (wheter he needs entertainment or advise or how his situation refers to the story) the distriubution should follow their objectives, sales and marketing facilitate this business of story telling.

    So at the end of all this: my opinion, i would like to state that while content is KING and the reader is the emporer, all connected to this value chain are equally important. We all in our hearts know our roles and we must just sticck to them, its that simple actually. While these discussions are good, we must ensure that we do no complicate eacch others lives!

    Mr. Mayer any comments and/or opinions

    Thank you so much
    (btw i am from the media business)

  28. That IS the secret sometimes – pure sh*t luck… There are always going to be elements beyond our control even if we like to think it’s entirely up to us. Perhaps eventually it is…
    That and while 50 Shades was an awful book in many ways it was so bad it’s still incredibly entertaining. I only ever heard of it via parodies and various reviews that were ridiculing it. Personally I actually admire it but not in the way it was intended, but there were elements to it where I could see why it appealed to people.

    It’s not always dumb or lazy readers. To be honest, I have read a lot of brilliant ‘writing’ in the literary sense that just didn’t keep me reading.

    When an author tries to make every paragraph beautiful it can sometimes come at the expense of the story, or it can become overload; the narrator spends too much time reflecting and waxing philosophical and not enough time doing anything and it can border on self-indulgence and sometimes just settles right into the middle of it. I find it’s the same with modern singers – they need to wrench emotion out of each and every note rather than easing up sometimes and really belting it out when it fits the narrative. Yes, it’s great that your vocal range is five octaves but we don’t need to hear a demonstration of it in every line.
    It’s good to let go and sometimes be a little less self-conscious. The greatest jazz singers kept it simple and for me sometimes, the greatest writers do as well.

    I think the ideal is finding what does have mass appeal – the story, the characters, the readers’ inner fantasies, capturing the zeitgeist – and simply writing a better one than you see out there already.

  29. Way to boil it down. The story IS the product, the form is only the delivery method.
    Editors and designers add value by making the work accessible – after all, most of us wouldn’t read a story hand-written on a napkin, chiseled in stone, or posted on a website in flashing neon green on black.

  30. I was wondering if someone would bring up 50 Shades…I had no idea what everyone was talking about. As a debut writer myself, I had to see what all the fuss was about. I honestly thought this trilogy was a literary work of art of something. How disappointed was I when I found out it merely amounted to tawdry sex games! An amazing adjunct of this phenomenon is how unabashedly shameless people are when discussing their guilty pleasure of reading these books. There was even an article in my local newspaper in which a mini-baby boomlet was being credited to the \great sex\ they discovered after reading the 50 Shades books. I believe this book was an e-book that went viral? Now it’s on every shelf on every bookstore. They can’t keep it in stock. Maybe the moral of this story is \know your audience…\ The Snooki’s of the world are popular because there are many voyeurs in the world (in both TV and trash novels). I apologize to Snooki if I spelled your name wrong. I never watch the show and really have no idea who you are or why you are popular (are you related to Kim K? don’t know why she’s popular either…).

    I, for one, don’t jump on the bandwagon of low-level entertainment. I can’t get past the dumbing-down feeling, nor past the editorial/grammatical mistakes of weak examples of writing, such as 50 Shades. Did the author use an editor?!? Will this example of getting rich quick push more writers into feeding into the voyeuristic nature of the lower elements of consumerism?

  31. Writers need to create a literary ecosystem: a circular, balanced, organic, evolving, sustainable, inter-dependent, international, environmentally sensitive circle. Your system will be unified by passion, interest, service, connection, and commerce. The six elements of your literary ecosystem will be

    Your work—a continuing output of your best writing in different forms and lengths that you re-purpose in as many media as you can

    Your test-marketing—proving your book works by testing it in as many ways as you can

    Your platform, continuing visibility, online and off, with potential buyers on the subject of your book or the kind of book you’re writing

    Your win-win relationships with engaged communities of people who want to help you, because they know, like, and trust you

    Your promotion, sharing your passion for your work as often and in as many ways as you can

    Your profit—what you need to achieve your personal and professional goals

    Your ecosystem will continue to evolve and become more effective as long as you keep learning from and contributing to your communities and producing work that sustains your system.

  32. It’s all about story.

    Bob Mayer is spot-on. Too many bullshit hucksters, industries, and parasites sprung up over the last few years selling one thing or another distracting authors from their goal. Intention > Objective. Obstacles come in plenty flavors, they’re diversions from the telling of the tale. I glanced through some of the previous posts…Plenty of nitpicking , excuses, and whining. Just get the job done-tell your story…

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