For authors there are many roads to the Oz of publishing—thoughts from Publishers Launch

Since Mike Shatzkin published his blog on True “do-it-yourself” publishing success stories will probably become rare things have exploded in the argument of traditional publishing versus self-publishing versus agent publishing versus using those little gray guys at Area 51 publish you. I attended Storyworld and Publishers Launch last week in San Fransisco and I’m still trying to sort through all I’ve learned.  I just emailed a couple of Microsoft execs I met there and it took me a while to figure out exactly what I’d say there.

Here’s the deal.  There are many roads to Oz and, not only that, but Oz means different things to different writers.  And not ever writer is coming from Kansas.  Some are coming from planets far, far away.

There’s so much false fighting going on over what path is right, who is wrong, who is crossing ethical boundaries, yada, yada, I told you about the bisque right?

The key for a writer is to sort through all the facts, opinions and flat out lies being thrown about, figure out their own situation, decide where they want to be as an author in the future, and the smartly and courageously choose their own path.

If you don’t have over 40 books of backlist you own the rights to, you can’t really follow my path.  That’s not to say I can’t give you great advice, but it also means factor that advice into your specific situation.  If St. Martins hasn’t offered you a half million-dollar book deal, I’m not sure you can go to Thomas and Mercer and negotiate a deal.  If you haven’t hustled and fought your way into your niche and had sales explode, St. Martins isn’t going to offer you a two million dollar book deal.

I’m going to do several posts on all I’ve experienced and learned in the past week, but let me throw a few things out:

Mike’s post was in a large part based on our conversations where I said it’s really, really hard to truly self-publish.  You need help.  Whether that help comes in the form of one-time contract work or forming a publishing company like Jen Talty and I did, is up to you.

I’m shocked there wasn’t a single rep from a Big 6 publisher at the Publishers Launch.  That indicates a certain degree of arrogance.  Of “we know all we need to know”.  Not.  The editor from Random House who is the tip of their digital spear was at Storyworld.  Publishers Launch was the next day.  Why wasn’t she attending?  Anyone from writer to bookstore, to agent, to publisher, who ever thinks they know all they need to know about the digital revolution is going to find themselves left far behind.

There’s a lot of technology and software coming that is changing the playing field as fast as we can adjust.  Barnes and Noble just announced its tablet today.  And that they are going foreign.  Big time move.

Speaking of software, there’s something called Vook which I will do an entire blog post on.  Very interesting.

Let’s take the emotion out of the business end.  I’ve admitted I’m wrong more times than I care to admit in this past two years.  I just admitted I was wrong to an editor at Amazon Encore just two weeks ago about a decision I’d made.  I admitted I was wrong to Joe Konrath back in March.  And I might even be wrong in some of the things I’m putting in this blog post.  But if I am, I’ll admit them and move forward.  That is part of the key to success that we at Who Dares Win Publishing have as part of our business plan.

And, oh yeah, Readers Rule continues to expand.  We’ll have several more authors who have earned the stamp of approval of the gatekeepers in publishing:  READERS.

Write It Forward.

About Bob Mayer

Bob Mayer is a NY Times Bestselling author, graduate of West Point, former Green Beret (including commanding an A-Team) and the feeder of two Yellow Labs, most famously Cool Gus. He's had over 60 books published including the #1 series Area 51, Atlantis and The Green Berets. Born in the Bronx, having traveled the world (usually not tourist spots), he now lives peacefully with his wife, and said labs, at Write on the River, TN.

Posted on November 7, 2011, in Write It forward and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 14 Comments.

  1. Bob, I am currently taking your workshop with Jen T. and today’s opener was about “fear.” There is a palpable fear among the uninitiated as to which way to go. Afraid to make the wrong move, afraid too much social networking will sound like, see me, buy me, pretty please ); I do appreciate your candor in stating that this is a decision each person must make for themselves. If you do not have a career in writing and want to have one, the first 3-5 years will be a learning process. I will learn all I can from your workshop, take others, read as much as I can and continue to write the best I know how. There is a fear in all of us, but what I ask myself is this … am I afraid of failing or not knowing how to handle even a modicum of success? Thanks :)

  2. Bob,
    You’re absolutely right. If we’re wise, we play to our strengths. Not everyone has a waiting backlist. Not every author writes at the same speed. Not every author has the entrepreneurial spirit to manage his own career. And not every author has the skills to do it alone.
    We need to spend more time writing and publishing in whatever way seems most suitable to our character, and less time sniping at each other. It’s counter-productive.

  3. Bob, you really need a Diet Pepsi spew warning before you start throwing out the Seinfeld references.

    Several people have told me I’m an idiot for going the indie publishing route, but I’m having fun and my blood pressure is lower than it has been for years. Healthwise, this has been the best decision I’ve ever made.

  4. Bob,
    I really appreciate your willingness to jump into a fray and make a decision and go with it. I fully respect your willingness to accept when you’ve made a mistake and to admit it, GO ON, proceed and progress.
    Thanks for being a mentor for so many of us.

  5. ‘There’s so much false fighting going on over what path is right, who is wrong, who is crossing ethical boundaries, yada, yada, I told you about the bisque right?

    The key for a writer is to sort through all the facts, opinions and flat out lies being thrown about, figure out their own situation, decide where they want to be as an author in the future, and the smartly and courageously choose their own path.’

    Thanks so much for saying this – these are my thoughts as well. I agree with Wendy Bertsch that every writer is different and what works for one author won’t always work for another.

  6. Hi Bob. Thanks for putting up with my questions at E-books for Everyone Else. There’s a lot of uncertainty out there and in here, in me, but I have to keep writing regardless. I mean, what else are we supposed to do? Big pubs are even less willing to take a chance on new authors than they were, say, two years ago, as are agents and editors.
    Big pubs and agents are even less willing to look at niche authors. I think, in the end, it will be the readers who are the gatekeepers.
    There was one other point made at the conference I found extremely interesting – Book bloggers as gatekeepers. As book blogging has increased, some big name bloggers have emerged. Whether their opinions are valid or not is another story. To some extent book bloggers are poised to become the new power brokers, and right or wrong, publishers and authors are kissing their butts like crazy. I think some book bloggers are stand up people, others are not. It’s going to become an issue, sooner rather than later.

  7. Wavin’ atchya, Bob! And LOL, you know how I feel about each of us finding our own Publishing Oz…I blog about it all the time – using that exact term – on my grog The WG2E !

    Anyhoo…I’ll also keep you informed about my superfab experiences with Vook, who recently asked me to partner with them on a white paper, as well as just hooked me into being part of their new multi-media/transmedia ebook platform beta-test.

    There are just sooo many super-exciting possibilities now for Indie Epub Authors!!!

  8. You’ve shown us there are a lot of issues at stake and a lot for writers to think about.

  9. I love your posts, Bob. Thank you for sharing your journey – I know mine will be different, as it will be for any other writer I know. It’s just great to be able to hear it from all different perspectives.

  10. Bob wrote: “The key for a writer is to sort through all the facts.”

    Exactly. It’s also important for a writer to look at how each individual actually achieved their success (Hocking, Locke, Konrath, you, etc.). The stories are all different. Some writers have had significant headstarts in terms of building an audience already.

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