Enemy Mine?

Expert publishing blog opinions are solely those of the blogger and not necessarily endorsed by DBW.

I just read a blog post from some experts about how authors had more control of their destiny and could market via social media and . . . well, I just got bored.  It read much like a blog post I did on 14 September 2011 saying authors were the real gatekeepers in publishing, which only makes the expert’s observation about seven months behind my own myopic view from here in the boonies.

When I was at Digital Book World in January 2012, I was a bit taken aback.  What I was hearing from “gurus” on e-publishing was around six months to a year out of date with the reality of e-publishing.  And this was in NY City, my hometown (from da’ Bronx) and the center of publishing.  Apparently not for e-publishing.

Here’s another funny thing I noted from afar for DBW 2011 (where a big agent on a panel dismissed ebooks saying they were only 3% of the bottom line, why worry?).  Many social media “gurus” espousing the value of social media had Twitter accounts that were anemic.  40 followers.  Following 6.  12 tweets.  Huh?  They were touting something they had no clue about doing.

A few weeks ago I posted that perhaps March 2012 was the month traditional publishing died.  The response was a yawn.  My focus was not on publishing but on traditional.  I went from the Infantry (traditional army) to Special Forces (non-traditional).  I took off my crossed rifles branch insignia of Infantry for the crossed arrows of Special Forces at Fort Benning while going through the Infantry Officers Advanced Course.  I know how hard change can be.  I was on the committee that drastically changed the Special Forces Assessment and Selection (SFAS) and Qualification Course (Q-Course) to help develop our current generation of elite warriors.  We focused on results, not tradition, not dogma, but reality.

Then I posted a response to an interview with the Digital Head at S&S and the response was a correction to two parts of it, but nothing else.  No interest in my insights about how to start from scratch and build a seven-figure indie publishing house in 18 months.  Did it, done it, got the crossed arrows.  I feel like Mickey Rooney—“hey kids, let’s put on a play”.  Except it went to Broadway and is still playing and no one else putting on plays seems interested in learning how I did it, even though I’ve been offering and offering and offering.  Wait.  Yes, some are.  They’re named Amazon.  And my phone did ring with a call from Seattle. And that, my friends, is the crux of the problem NY is having.

I’ve written a book, (Write It Forward: From Writer to Successful Author) about author training and challenged every publishing house and agent to show me their author training program.  S&S says they have an author boot camp.  I have a book with S&S and wasn’t invited to attend.  Do they have hand to hand in the sand pits at two in the morning like we did at Camp Mackall during Special Forces training?  No idea.  I’d love to sell more of my title there, especially since it’s far from earning out and I feel bad about that.  Hard to believe, authors do feel a sense of responsibility to their agent and their publisher.  I’ve been able to sell more of an eBook of a title in one day than a traditional publisher can in six months.  I’ve got the royalty statements to prove it.  Think what I could do if a publisher teamed their massive infrastructure with my homegrown industry?

Jen Talty and I wrote a book on how we built Who Dares Wins (soon to be Cool Gus) publishing from scratch called The ShelfLess Book: The Complete Digital Author.

You want to know where the epicenter of e-publishing is?  Barbara Freethy.  Bella Andre.  John Locke.  Barry Eisler.  And yes, scream if you want, J.A. Konrath.  They are not the enemy.  They are the ones who’ve been, and still are, in the trenches. Some of those people still have titles with the Big 6.  Are you working with them?  Or against them?

I am completely befuddled why those in the industry are not reaching out to the authors who have been wildly successful at what the Big 6 are attempting to do with their own contract authors.

I’m not trying to be at odds here.  Really.  Mike Shatzkin invited me to Storyworld and DBW because he thought I had a very balanced view of things.  I joke that I’m a publishing whore; I’ll say yes to anything if it will sell books.  But I also am reminded of Trixie in Deadwood.  She carried a gun.

Just joking.

But keep ignoring, or worse fight, the expertise that is really needed.  People who succeed at something have more to offer than those who advise about how to succeed at something they themselves have not actually succeeded at.

That hurt my head.


Expert Publishing Blog
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.

11 thoughts on “Enemy Mine?

  1. Don Odom

    If you’re so pessimistic about the future of traditional publishing – wait a minute! there is none as you claimed it died in March 2012 – then why do you care what they think or whether or not they adopt your Write It Forward program? Sort of like teaching a dead elephant to tap dance.
    P.S. I find the crass trading on military experience, especially special forces training, to be a bit discomfiting. The SF troops that I served with wouldn’t dream of bragging about their work in such blatant manner. In fact, I never met one who bragged about anything – they just quietly went about their business.
    P.P.S. I think you should put your royalty statements on line. That would be most helpful.

    1. Bob MayerBob Mayer Post author

      You miss the point. Completely. I’m saying join forces. I’m not pessimistic, I’m optimistic. But we all have to learn from each other.

      Crass trading on military experience? How about all those who bandy military terms about without ever having served. Who did you serve with? I don’t boast about what I did– not a word– I talk about what I learned. A big difference.

      Checking your background, you run a small publishing company. Why does this post disturb you so much? One would think you’re taking advantage of the new frontier of publishing. Checking further, as I was trained, I find you come out of traditional publishing where you seem to have– well, anyone can check that stuff.

      I’ll put my royalty statements on my blog. I suggest you put your earnings for your titles on line– all five of them as far as you’ve listed. Let me know when you have a blog and have posted. I’ll scan and post.

      Sorry to be so blunt, but remember the Trixie line.

    2. Don Odom

      Dear Bob – My publishing company is (and was) not the subject of your article. Your claims and the style (or lack thereof) with which you presented them, however, are. Before I sign off, I should tell you that ad hominem attacks really aren’t cool.
      All best, Don
      P.S. I’d be happy to compare DD-214s with you anytime, old chum.

      1. Bob MayerBob Mayer Post author

        I’ve answered your issues. Why are you so threatened by this post? I’m responding to issues you brought up.
        Not your chum. Send DD-214 to bob@bobmayer.org Glad to retract anything I’ve misrepresented as always.

        Your publishing company invites no feedback. Again, I believe traditional publishing and indie have a lot to gain from interacting. Not sure why that’s a problem.

        Please post reasonable arguments about publishing rather than personal attacks so we can learn from your experiences.

  2. C.T. Blaise

    Dare I say it? Which of the Seven Deadly Sins have traditional publishers not embraced in their disdain for all things e-book? This indie author has been knocking on the Big 6 doors for years, feeling like a spawning salmon in grizzly country while doing it. The current, thanks to Amazon, now seems to be flowing my way.

    1. Bob MayerBob Mayer Post author

      That’s kind of the point. I just wish people would let go of the past and work together for a better future. It’s about the book. There’s not a person I know in publishing who doesn’t love books.

  3. Bob MayerBob Mayer Post author

    Since it was requested here is an example of sales: Area 51 Excalibur total eBooks sold by Random House for the six month period ending June 30, 2011: 276. That’s an average of an ebook and a half a day. So far this month that same title has sold 50 copies in 3 days, an average of over 16 per day (those are just Amazon sales– I haven’t checked PubIt, Kobo, iBooks, and other venues).

    The Jefferson Allegiance total eBooks sold on 4 September 2011, a single day, by my publishing company: 1876. Which is more than all my eBook sales from three NY Times Bestselling titles with St. Martins for the six months ending December 2011.

    My point is that publishers and authors need to work together in a cooperative environment where the author feels valued and part of a team.

  4. Silver Bowen

    I don’t know much about DBW or their conferences, but I’ve been paying attention to you and Shatzkin for a while now. My gut feeling, just from scanning this one webpage and the manner in which information is presented on it, is that you are going to have a tough row to hoe presenting this message to that audience. I expect you to run into a lot more who react like Don Odom. Best of luck.

    1. Bob MayerBob Mayer Post author

      Thanks– and that’s exactly the point. I don’t view traditional publishing as evil or the enemy. I’m indebted to the industry and see great benefits in working together. But when you keep reaching out and get ignored or, worse, smacked down, it gets old. I’m actually thinking I’ll just give it up and continue on with my “very nice deal” every month business that’s never announced in Publishers Lunch.

  5. Debra Holland


    You do sound like you’re bashing your head against a wall. 🙂 You might want to back off a bit to spare your brain. 🙂

    Keep in mind that traditional publishing is not 6 blocks of people, but 6 companies comprised of many individuals. Therefore, you need to educate them one at a time. You’re doing the right thing with your blogs–educating authors, and hopefully (one-by-one) people in the publishing industry. It’s not happening at the pace that you (or most of us) want. But slowly, it is happening.

    I had a big 6 editor contact me about acquiring my Montana Sky series. I could tell by the way she pitched the idea, that she didn’t have a clue about self-publishing. For example, she thought I’d be excited about receiving a “small” advance. I told her I wasn’t interested in an advance because I’d become use to being paid every month. There was silence on the phone when I told her the amount I’d made in February from those three books. (Almost $18,000.) Then she said, “oh.” Needless to say, I turned down the offer.

    However, the editor was curious and the next day, she emailed me some questions about self-publishing and my choices. I took the time to send a long, detailed reply, which I bet she passed on to some colleagues.

    So you see, we all have opportunities to enlighten publishing professionals. You are not alone.

    But at the same time, we aren’t responsible for those who chose not to hear and learn.

  6. Bob MayerBob Mayer Post author

    Actually, that has also been my experience. I’ve had several #1 NY Times bestselling authors pick my brain about eBooks and self-publishing. With one, I noted that within a few weeks her agent announced he was opening his own e-publishing arm. I doubt that was a coincidence. Actually the real question is why should we care? I make a “very nice deal” every month on my own. No publisher is going to offer me that. Or pay me as quickly. I recently realized that I was getting so used to the numerous monthly paychecks that I actually pay my authors ahead of when I receive the payment from the platform.



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