Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Bob Mayer talks to Indie eBooks about the modern publishing world

When talking about ebook publishing today the conversation always comes around to self or indie publishing. That conversation will include names like Konrath, Hocking, Locke and Eisler.
In the forums where these writers hang out you will also hear the excited congratulations for other celebrated authors like,  Victorine Lieske, Sibel Hodge, J. Carson Black and Bob Mayer.

These names have all become synonymous with writers that have taken control of their work, deciding for themselves; what, when, where and for whom they will publish. It seems that even J.K. Rowling has joined the ranks of those who at the very least are using a new hybred model to release their work to the world.

It is a very exciting time indeed and today I have the pleasure of sharing with you the Q & A that I did with Bob Mayer recently.  

Bob has started his own publishing company,  so the first thing I wanted to do was find out more about that endeavor.

Nadine Earnshaw: How did Who Dares Wins Publishing come about?

Bob Mayer: Jen Talty and I were talking about my backlist and she’d been published by an electronic press, so she had some experience. At first we were just going to do my backlist, but then we added Kristen Lamb and her original title, We Are Not Alone: The Writers’ Guide to Social Media. Since then we’ve added five more authors, primarily in nonfiction, but we just republished part of bestselling author Marius Gabriel’s backlist, which are thrillers.

Nadine Earnshaw: Do you see a permanent place for this type of publishing alongside Traditional Publishing?

Bob Mayer: Certainly. While I think a lot of authors are going for it on their own with self-publishing, there’s so much work involved beyond writing the book, that it takes a team. We give the highest royalty rates I’ve heard of, 50%, and our authors all cross-promote each other. I just saw a tweet from a conference where an editor on a panel said they are so much more picky with what they acquire now (like they weren’t before?), that it almost has to be a ‘sure thing’, which is odd, because there are no sure things in publishing.

I think self-publishing is perfect for those writers who got close—they had an agent, the agent loved the book, but publishers couldn’t see how to ‘market’ it. They key is that authors have to market their own books, regardless of it’s indie or trad published, so they know the market.

Nadine Earnshaw: How do you see this fitting in with Amazon entering the Publishing arena?

Bob Mayer: My only concern is if Amazon ever decides to change their royalty rate system. I don’t see why they would, but it’s always a possibility. Also, if they ‘favor’ their authors over others, that could be a problem. Of more interest, I’m wondering how Apple is going to handle the iBookstore versus the Kindle app. Right now, Apple isn’t really a player in the e-book market, but that could change if they ban the Kindle app from their operating system. As of end of month, they’re allowing the apps to stay, but they have merged their bookstore with iTunes.

Nadine Earnshaw: Having been a traditionally published author you must have many friends who are still have relationships with Traditional publishers. Did people take your self publishing seriously to start with, are they taking it seriously now? Lost any contacts over it?

Bob Mayer: Most people think it’s a good idea. Actually, most want to know more. Initially some people scoffed at self-publishing, but now that there are enough people doing it successfully, that tune is starting to change. It’s another option and more options are good.

What I’m seeing is a lot of authors doing both. Pushing forward with their traditional publishers and bringing out their backlist on their own. It’s a win-win situation. I was told flat out by an editor at Random House that they can barely promote their front-list never mind their backlist. But authors can promote their backlist. Random House gave me backs the rights to my Area 51 series, and it’s really gaining traction, especially with the release of Super8 this month. I can also cross-promote it with my Atlantis series, which I had written under a different pen name.

Nadine Earnshaw: When you make your living from writing it means you need the support of your family to make a serious change like moving to self publishing. How did that conversation go over at home initially? How big a chance have you taken?

Bob Mayer: I’ve always said publishing is a very iffy way to make a living. A publisher can always decide not to renew your contract, and you are in essence out of work. I always planned three years ahead at least and always stayed a manuscript ahead (writing one that wasn’t under contract while also fulfilling my contracts). That’s the only way I stayed alive in the business for over 20 years. I really like the fact that I control more of my fate now. What’s also interesting is that I get steady paychecks. Every month we get a check from Amazon, Apple, LSI, etc. Each day, if I want, I know exactly how many sales I have and how much revenue is being generated. That’s the polar opposite of traditional publishing.

The other great thing is we’re in a market that’s always expanding. In several ways: more people will buy e-readers, that’s a given. But also, Amazon just opened in Germany and we’re in the process of translating some of our books for that market. We believe Amazon will continue to expand in other foreign markets, so we can do that also. We’re translating the first book in my Area 51 and Atlantis series into Spanish, which is a huge world-wide market.

It’s a risk, but the big thing is I have such a big backlist, that we still haven’t published everything I have the rights to. I’m currently going through the last 6 of my Area 51 books and making sure they’re ready to be published, updating things a bit.

For a new writer, my biggest piece of advice would be to look to the long haul and build up your list. It’s a marathon, not a sprint.

Nadine Earnshaw: Thank you Bob for sharing your expertise about publishing. If anyone has further questions please leave them in the comments area.

Read Part 2


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  1. Good interiew. I've been wondering about Amazon's new publishing company and it's guidelines as well. I've heard the rumors they intend to only carry there own authors in time. Is there a link where we can learn more about Who Dares Wins Publishing?

  2. Glad you enjoyed the interview. Part 2 will be up on the 30th june.

    The link you are looking for is:


  3. Great interview, Nadine! Bob knows his stuff.

  4. Thanks for directing me to this interview, it's nice to read about indie successes.

  5. Thank you Bob, for sharing your very valuable publishing experience with us all.

  6. Great Interview Nadine,

    I would not be surprised if Amazon changes their pricing model; the good news is that the other online stores like Apple iBooks are going aggressively for the eBook market share so Indies still have a window. Returns with traditional publishers are significantly lower (6-12%) and the author typically gives away all print and eBook rights.

    I have been working with a non-technical author to help him get self published, like many self publishers he finds online marketing, publishing, blogging and tweeting overwhelming. However I believe, once the initial investment in creating an author brand and an online platform is made, it has long term benefits such as revenue, ownership of rights and future growth.


  7. An excellent interview, Nadine. Thank you for sharing.

    Bob's quote "I think self-publishing is perfect for those writers who got close—they had an agent, the agent loved the book, but publishers couldn’t see how to ‘market’ it." resonated with me, as that's exactly the position I was in.

    Thanks for sharing and I'm looking forward to part 2.


  8. Wonderful interview. I'm looking forward to Part 2.


    Rob Cornell
    Author of Darker Things
    Let the world you know meet the world you don't.

  9. good interview, thanks, Bob and Nadine


  10. A great interview from an author - now publisher - who has his business head firmly screwed in place. The rest of us can really learn a lot. Looking forward to the next part of his interview. Thanks Nadine for nailing him for us.

  11. great interview, great questions, great answers - looking forward to part 2


  12. Very interesting post. Thanks for sharing this with me via Twitter.

    Bob, congratulations on your new business venture and for taking the plunge from author to publisher. How exciting this new e-world is! :-)

    In late February of this year, I did the exact same thing. My company, Imajin Books, publishes quality fiction (no non-fiction at this time) by international authors and we have 2 new releases out already, and a handful of new releases slated to come out over the next 6 months.

    As a successful author, book marketing coach and now publisher, I recognized that not everyone wants to self-publish and not everyone is equipped to do it. I have always been a strong proponent for self-publishing. That's how I started my career. I then went on to being picked up by a traditional publisher and signing with a major New York agent. After considering the changes in publishing in the past few years, I decided to go back to my roots of self-publishing. And I've never regretted it.

    I can tell you're quite happy with the direction your career has taken. What has been the most difficult part for you?

    Imajin Books also gives 50% royalties on ebooks and 30% on print, plus a small advance. I think we'll see more publishers offering higher royalties, especially for ebooks. What do you think?

    I've had similar experiences with my traditionally published friends, Bob. Most are very excited to see me branch out--and how far Imajin Books has come in only 4 months. Some are wavering towards self-publishing and I believe they'll do very well. Some still prefer a more traditional-type of publishing. I think it's great that we have options. And that self-publishing is becoming more acceptable by the general public, especially if done right.

    A great interview! And I am so pleased to meet someone who has branched out like I have. KUDOS! We should do virtual coffee sometime. lol

    All the best in success,

    Cheryl Kaye Tardif
    author & publisher
    Imajin Books

  13. Always enjoy hearing Bob's perspective. Thanks for a thought-provoking article. I've benefitted from the Amazon structure as an indie author, and have heard from a few agents who want to see my growth: rankings, sales numbers, even Twitter growth! over the next few months. Indie-pub has become a kind of test-model for many houses, it seems. Are we a "sure thing?"

    RachelintheOC aka Rachel Thompson, author A Walk In The Snark

  14. @RachelintheOC
    Trying not to gush. I am a HUGE fan of yours.

    OK I am calm now. (Try not to scare the nice person away)

    You ask are we a "sure thing"?
    As the traditional publishing world moves at a slower pace it will take time to see if people like Amanda Hocking see the same success offline as online. My money is on there being a market for good product. The readers don't care where it came from. My gut tells me there must be at least a 90% chance that it will translate.

    But I do wonder how traditional publishers will deal with the network of promotional sites that have sprung up to help promote Indie writers, like this site. Will their current methods of promotion translate, especially when they have traditionally not done much work on promoting authors back-lists. Will they adapt and use this new model?

  15. @Sadiq Somjee

    OK I know this is going to sound self promotional but here goes anyway.

    I am technical, which is part of the reason why I started this site. I think I get social networking. This site is only 4 months old, didn't have some grand plan when I started it and has now had over 20,000 views.

    I really do think that those who write but aren't tech savvy should be able to find sites like these and people like myself to do the heavy lifting, in terms of directing traffic with social media. I get that most people aren't John Locke, they don't have the skill set to do both write and promote.

    Putting some money down as an investment in your work for things such as editing, covers and promotion seems sane to me, sounds like a plan. Most writers would agree that its hard to impossible to write a novel without a plan, why would you then release it to the public without a one. Not everyone is Bob Mayer with an existing name and readership.

    I think that a staggered amount of exposure through many websites like this one and having your own website is the key to finding your audience.

  16. Great interview Nadine and Bob! Very inspiring! And thanks so much for the shout out. :)

    I lurrrved this from Bob: "Initially some people scoffed at self-publishing, but now that there are enough people doing it successfully, that tune is starting to change. It’s another option and more options are good."

    This was the same reaction I had from people after getting 200 rejections. "Oh, she can't be any good if she can't get a PROPER PUBLISHER!"

    Oh, how times are changing! And that can be seen by trad-pubbed authors putting up their backlists or new titles as an Indie. More control and more royalties!

    Wishing everyone lots of success with their writing endeavours! :)

  17. Thanks for sharing that link with me on twitter, much appreciated and a very positive and interesting article for self publishers and ebookers etc

  18. Fantastic interview, and spot on. I think it's almost impossible for a new writer to sell to NY right now. Or a midlist writer in between books. And if I were a midlist writer who has a publisher, I'd be worried.

    I love self-publishing. I learned a lot from seeing how my publisher marketed books, and anyone can go on amazon and look at the covers of similar books to his own. We can LOOK like traditionally published books, and we can market a book a certain way and if it doesn't work, we have the agility to try something else.

    This is an exciting time for writers. So many get close - they have the agent, they have the right kind of book, but they cannot get published. I remember after the 30th rejection of THE SHOP, thinking, if the publishers had a song it would be, "I hear you knockin' but you can't come in!"

    Cannot seem to put up my url, so just to let you know, my name is J. Carson Black at www.jcarsonblack.com