Category Archives: Write It forward

The Origin of “Hybrid” Author which has led to . . .

cyborg1Hybrid publishing, hybrid agents, Labradoodles, and the end of humanity as we know it as the cyborgs take over.

All I see now is people blogging about hybrid this and that, particularly hybrid authors. I just googled “earliest mention hybrid author publishing” and everything is coming up 2013/2014/2015. I first mentioned hybrid in connection with publishing on 11/30/2010 in a blog about: Agents: Human, Machine or Borg?  I first mentioned the hybrid author on 6/12/2011: Indie vs. Trads: The Elephant in the Room.

What I’m pointing out is that at Cool Gus we’ve been three years ahead of cognitive functioning in publishing. We’ve been in existence going on six years. Three years is an important number as you’ll see shortly.

I emailed my business partner, Jen Talty, a week ago, after a series of blogs and articles discussed the possibility of some big name traditional authors considering indie publishing as an option to complement their successful trad careers.  Since we have some bestselling authors working with us– and have done this for years– this is an area we have some experience in. My wife also works with several NYT bestselling authors as a story editor.

Here’s the deal– it’s a three year learning curve to truly master anything– including indie publishing. So if one wants to go hybrid from trad, you’ll be doing okay in 2018; and spend a lot of time learning a new skill set. Or use the expertise that already exists. Or go for some fly by night start up that gives boilerplate, except understand that eBooks are organic, not static like print; a different beast. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg as you’re looking at a very different marketplace in digital. It generally takes from 45 minutes to an hour for us to discuss with an author about what indie publishing entails in order to explain it. Think how long it would take a traditional publisher to explain how their business works? And many trad authors, don’t even understand all the pieces and parts in their own publishers. They just trust that it does work. That same kind of trust has to exist in a concierge publisher that facilitates traditional authors going hybrid.

I recently got an email from an author who said her agent had referred her to an alternative “publisher” if she wanted to go hybrid. This “publisher” had the following option: they get referrals from agents; they charge the authors upfront fees for cover, editing, formatting, etc. They pay low royalties, which first go to the agent who gets 15%. Thus the publishers takes a percentage on the back end even after the upfront fees. That’s three hits financially for the author. It makes no sense, but this business is running and working with agents, and through them, authors who don’t know any better. Our belief is revenue flows from publisher to author; never the other way. Or else what is the point in making a mutual commitment for the future?

When I try to explain to a trad author how they can sell 3 times less copies and still make more money they look at me like I’m a cyborg. The biggest thing, though, is the creative freedom of indie publishing. Our authors get the final say on every aspect of their career and their books. More on this in another blog, but we’re seeing more and more authors getting disgruntled with the lack of control they have. Unlike some, I don’t believe people in trad publishing are ‘evil’ or ‘dumb’. No one goes into publishing with the idea of becoming rich. We all are in this because we love books and I think that’s why some of the rhetoric could probably be toned down and even the title of my blog from years ago shouldn’t have “vs” in it. I’ve worked with many sharp agents, editors and publishers in the business. But, the playing field is changing.

Juking the statesYes, I know, eBooks have “leveled off”. Uh-huh. Except no one is counting Cool Gus’ eBooks sales. Or most indie eBook sales, which are an increasing portion of the market. So to quote The Wire, as I often do, people are “juking the stats”. Understandable. And the stats are getting juked all around with partial snapshots presented as the full reality. Regardless, the biggest thing we believe in is that every author is a unique entity, and thus every one has different needs in a publishing partnership.

Actually, most people are not deliberately changing the stats, we just don’t have the real numbers and the ones being touted make most people in publishing feel comfortable, as if they’ve weathered a storm that’s passing by– eBook sales leveling, indie bookstores opening. We all want to feel comfortable, but one thing over 25 years in this business and a decade in Special Operations have taught me is that the moment one gets comfortable, is the moment it’s over. Yes, indie bookstores are opening, but Barnes and Noble is shuttering store after store. And for the midlist author, who needs that massive rack space from B&N, that’s a very troubling indicator. Authors who are racked in airports, Target, Costco, etc, are doing okay. But if you’re not . . .

And even if you are one of those racked everywhere, you’ve still got great choices. Actually, a name-brand author is the one who would benefit most from hybrid publishing, as they have built in discoverability. I remember a publicist at Random House telling me they put most of their marketing push behind their bestsellers; but not behind midlist and new authors. In essence, becoming a top selling author happens in a way no one can really predict. But here’s a key issue: does the marketing push, once an author is a bestseller make that much difference (other than co-op money)? Or does the author’s brand already make that difference? And if that’s true, then . . .



I think it’s time we start looking at the reality of the marketplace for authors, divorced from the spin on either side. Divorced from what publishers think, what agents think, what ardent proponents of either side think, but in terms of each individual author’s career needs, path and dog preference.

I believe hybrid is a great path, which means I don’t believe it’s an either/or for an author between going indie or going trad. Go for the best of both worlds. But it has to be the best of both worlds. I do think for a new author, going the agent/trad publisher route is probably the best path, despite what others may say. There are many advantages to traditional publishers, especially for a newbie. But in the opposite direction, for a traditional author to go hybrid also requires the advantages a knowledgeable concierge publisher can offer (okay, trademarking that one).

So in a series of blogs here, as best I can in between finishing a book, feeding Cool Gus and Sassy Becca, and saving the world from the rise of the machines, we’re going to discuss the pluses and minuses of both worlds and that nebulous world in between everyone has now called hybrid.

From the Feet Up!

indexIs a phrase used often in the movie, American Hustle.  The movie about ABSCAM in the late 70’s, early 80s is a great study of character and how we’re often unaware of what we want and why we want it.

First, if you haven’t seen Winter’s Bone, then you get a true idea of Jennifer Lawrence’s acting capabilities in this movie. She may seem over the top, but strangely, psychologically, her character is probably the most self-aware. She does what she wants, no matter how crazy it is. In fact, when told NOT to do something, ie put metal in the microwave (yes, some of us remember a time when microwaves were new-fangled), what does she do?

The key thing about the movie, psychologically, is the issue of desire. We all want something. I watch people buying lottery tickets on Friday afternoons, slapping down their hard-earned cash, with the fantasy that if they won, everything would change.

Would it?

Yes and no. Studies have shown that wanting something produces one set of chemical reactions in the brain, while actually getting it, produces a different one. In fact, once you get it, you can’t want it any more. That takes a second for me to wrap my brain around. That means you actually feel differently between the wanting and the having. It’s chemical. I think we often forget that chemistry is science and it does rule, affecting how we literally feel and think.

My wife and I appropriated the phrase “From the feet up” to mean committing completely to something. 100%. But there’s a danger to that. One study got people to play video games and paid them if they succeeded. But the amounts were varied. It was found that those who were offered the most, had their brains the most engaged in playing the game; and made the most mistakes. That’s a concept for me to remember whenever I get too deep into something.

Our society in many ways is built around “wanting”. Advertising feeds it. After all, an ad for something you have, doesn’t have a strong effect. They have to make you want something. And even if you have the something, they change it, even just a tiny bit, so you want the new thing– look at the lines for the newest iPhone, video game player, etc. Why do car models change every year? But do we feel the same way about it once we possess it? Or do we move our “want” onto something else? Which means we could be living a life full of want, which is not the here and now and have.

To me, a key component of story-telling is that a message is sent, often into our subconscious. We see it, but don’t realize what we’re understanding. American Hustle is about greed; not just for money, but for power, position, it doesn’t matter. Everyone in it wants something. And the more they get of it, they want more of it. Until, in the end, well, no spoilers here.

Makes me think about what I want. And do I really want it, or do I like thinking about wanting it.

The Chaos has begun: BURNERS published today

BURNERSWhen phage spread across the world, it quickly began killing, the oldest first, and then downward in age, until in just weeks, the world’s population was devastated. Then the Chaos began, a true World War.

After the Chaos, the survivors built a new society in the Sound with the aid of Dealer, a powerful computer. It was learned that phage had whittled 98.7% of the population down to a median lifespan of 25 years. But there was the top .1%, the People, who appear to have no Deathday.

It is what it is.

Until today.

Available on all platforms, the first book in our exciting new series. Where nothing and no one are what they seem to be.

Deb and I are thrilled with this series, the result of an idea that’s been percolating for years between and has finally come to fruition! Available on all platforms via this link.

Thanks to you, the reader.

Nothing but good times ahead.

Unless phage is released.


Forget about the Walking Dead: Fear the Living

indexLife and death is about as high concept as a story can get. The Walking Dead has been one of the most-watched series of the past few years. I think that’s because the best parts are not humans vs. zombies, but humans vs. humans. Last night, in the series finale of Fear The Walking Dead, I got to the point I was rooting for the zombies. Correct me if I’m wrong, but the way I saw it, our hardy brave of heroes and heroines (and I use that term with great irony) unleashed an arena full of zombies on a military outpost/hospital in order to try to save three people who they were related to? They caused the death of hundreds of people in their quest. They also left the gate open to their previously secure neighborhood as they drove off on their quest. Yes, the zombies would have gotten out of that arena eventually, but the military was in the process of evacuating that hospital. The band caused the place to fall earlier than it would leading to nail gun doctor. And by the way, if she had the ability to nail gun all the wounded and sick and injured, the ability to make such an incredibly accurate and quick assessment and decision, she seems the type of person that would go with the band and escape, not sit there, head hung. Seemed inconsistent for character and doctors are really valuable people in the apocalypse.

BURNERS(Bob_Deb_TN)All that aside, rather than focusing on zombies and the dead, my wife and I chose to focus on the much more immediate danger of the living and the essence of life itself in Burners, which comes out tomorrow. Set in a post-Chaos future, with a closed society set in Puget Sound, we wondered what it would be like if the classic science fiction question of what would people do if they knew the day they died (there’s a great short story about the guy who invents such a machine– think of the paradox he faced, and how insurance companies felt about that invention). We broke society into four classes: People, Evermore, Middlemore and burner. How that happened, how the Chaos happened, etc. etc. will be unveiled as the series progresses (we’re releasing a book every 80 days apart in the series).  Burners introduces this world and the main characters, twins Grace and Millay, and Ryker, a wild card. And some others, but that would be spoilers. And then there’s Dealer, the quantum computer running everything; which is also more than it appears to be.

I’ll do a blog in the coming weeks about how we have so much more to fear from our fellow humans, even if there was a zombie apocalypse. I believe that is the thing to focus on in series like Walking Dead, Fear those same dudes, and more.

Meanwhile, grab a copy and read about how a society that has a .1% owning something the rest of the people don’t have; wait that sounds familiar! Don’t we have a .1%?  But instead if the inequality being money, it’s something much, much, more valuable. TIME.

Links to all versions of burners!

Amazon | iBooks | Nook | Kobo | Google

Nothing but good times and the Walking Living ahead.

And if you sign up for our newsletter (to the left), you’ll get an invite to a private Facebook group, the A-Team and free previews of future books.


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