Indie & Trad Publishing & Flying Monkeys On The Yellow Brick Road!

Flying-monkey-with-wicked-witch-wizard-of-oz-416597As you negotiate your journey through the wonderful world of publishing, be careful of those flying monkeys as you gaze in the crystal ball of your career path.

Don’t take anyone else’s monkey as your own! We all are on our unique yellow brick roads to Oz, whatever Oz might be for each of us.

Lately I’ve run into some new writers at conferences who eventually whisper to me they’ve signed a traditional deal, but they’re afraid to mention it to anyone because they get castigated. The attitude seems to be that if the book is good enough to get a book deal, then self-publishing makes more sense.

What a change in just a few years when people would break open a bottle of champagne upon getting a book deal. Now one almost dares not mention it for fear of being ridiculed for not taking the indie route. There are some indie authors saying they will never go back to traditional publishing; the key phrase is “go back”. It’s curious that a lot of us who have been successful as indies actually started in traditional publishing, giving us a distinct leg up; along with a thing called backlist.

I’m a big believer in being flexible and keeping options open. I’ve changed my view on things over the years and will continue to do so. Part of that is my Special Forces background, part of it is having experienced the spectrum of publishing.  And part of it is having learned to never say never.

For a new writer, with no backlist, it’s an entirely different event with the first book. It’s easy for me to say “Well, it would be hard for me to go trad now,” when I’ve been traditionally published 42 times. I definitely understand the ups and downs of it. Actually, with the right deal, I would do it. But the odds of that ‘right’ deal happening are iffy at this point in my career—the key being MY career with my particular monkeys, which aren’t anyone else’s (mine are cute). And the other key is I know what would make it right. Or wrong. And I would be realistic about it, not starry-eyed. Actually, I am a hybrid author in that I publish books with 47North, Amazon’s science fiction imprint. I do that for various reasons, giving up a percentage of possible royalties as an indie in exchange for other benefits. I feel it’s the right monkey for me.

I used the term ‘hybrid’ author back in 2011 in a blog post here. It’s probably the most successful way to go, unless you are a top 1% author. But you can’t be hybrid unless you are published traditionally eventually. An interesting thing few talk about is the successful indies who end up going trad.

For a brand new writer, I believe the odds of initial success going the traditional route, if one can successfully negotiate it, are better than going the indie route. Unless, of course, that new writer has mastered all the aspects of indie publishing, which is a Catch-22 right there. How can they master something when they don’t even understand, or have experience in, the basics?

The reality is that there is a reason all these people are employed by publishers: editors, cover designers, publicists, sales force, etc. And agents play a vital role for a new author, helping them negotiate this confusing path. As a small publisher, I understand that because we have to do all this at Cool Gus for an author; on their own they quickly get overwhelmed, which is the reason they want us to handle most of it, while keeping them informed. Would an unpublished author know how to do it, and not just to do it, but do it correctly? And how would they gain an audience in an eBook market that is drowning in content? Most importantly, there is definitely a place for print, and that market is not anywhere near as crowded simply because there is limited shelf space.  Right there, the trad author is ahead of the power curve.  A trad publisher getting a new author’s book into the bookstore is a very, very important thing.

backgroundA caveat is that a book deal is just the start, but for a previously unpublished author, it can be a solid start if they recognize the positive and the pitfalls and use the internet to study the wealth of information about how they should be planning for the future. I’ve gotten several emails from authors who have their first book coming out in the next year from a trad publisher, asking what they should be doing. That’s worrisome because although I have definitely seen a large improvement in marketing by trad publishers, I go back to my question from years ago of how many agents and publishers have an SOP they give to brand new authors, informing them on the process and what they can be doing? I’m sure there are those who do in this technical age, but probably not as many as should. An author needs to develop a career plan, not fall into the ‘sell the next book’ syndrome. It’s one of the reasons I wrote Write It Forward. I took what we did in Special Forces and applied it to making a living as an author.  Regardless of path, successful authors must have a career plan!

On the flip side, I do think successful traditional authors should really consider indie publishing some titles. Keep options open for the future. Because the one constant in publishing is there is no constant. The creative freedom of being part-indie can be incredibly freeing for an author who has only experienced traditional publishing. At Cool Gus, authors have the final say on everything to do with the book, from content, to cover, to pub date, to marketing. We advise; they decide.

Bottom line: long-term success on any path of publishing (including the infamous hybrid) is extraordinarily rare and difficult.

It’s like anything else: educate oneself. Be flexible. Take what you need and leave the rest. But there are many, many roads to Oz. And Oz is different for each of us. Each of us must find our own Yellow Brick Road; and we must deal with our particular group of flying monkeys.

The Events Leading Up To The Crash of Flight 447 and Lessons Learned

Flight447(4)I have to admit, that of all the catastrophes I’ve covered so far in Anatomy of Catastrophe, Flight 447 is one of the most chilling. Because a perfectly flyable plane went from over 30,000 in altitude to crashing into the ocean in just over four minutes. And while there was one major error, precipitated by one machine malfunction, the combination of events that led to the crash are very scary.

And the other key is that as we become more and more reliant on machines, where will the responsibility end up? Are pilots losing more and more of their ability as they spend less time flying planes and more time being flown by the computer?

This incident paints a scary picture for our future. I highly recommend you go through this slideshare for Anatomy of Catastrophe: Air France Flight 447. Human-Machine Interface Failure.  (But probably not if you’re at the airport right now, getting ready to board).

My wife and I came up with the Rule of Seven after studying numerous aircraft crashes and seeing a pattern. There was never a single event and then the crash. There were always at least six events, I now call them cascade events, prior to the seventh, and final event, the crash.

And one of those cascade events was man-made.

Thus, these crashes could have been avoided.

Kegworth coverI’ve done the Kegworth crash, where the pilots turned off the wrong engine (the good one). It’s now sounding like the recent TransAsia crash bears some similarities to Kegworth.

And the recent AirAsia crash bears similarities to Air France Flight 447. In both cases a rapid ascent, followed by a stall.

Isabella: Braveheart of France

IS3On sale today, from International Bestselling Author: Colin Falconer.  Isabella: Braveheart of France.

IS1Call the accused.

You are Isabella Capet, daughter of Phillip Capet, King of France, and queen consort of Edward II of England.

I am.

You are charged by History with deposing the lawful king of England and then having him murdered. What do you say to that?

I did depose him but I did it for the good of all England. Not a man stood against me when I arrived on the shores at Harwich, what does that tell you?

As to Edward’s murder, I would say: bring me the proof. Others did that, I had no part in it.

But you knew they were going to kill him?

IS2lEdward_II’s_cell at Berkely Castle
photograph: David Stowell

We offered him retirement, the same concession that I was offered when I was in his power. I lived to a ripe age, I thought he should too.

You knew that couldn’t happen! He was a focal point for rebellion.

If he was a man others would rally behind how was it that I walked in to England with barely five hundred men and marched to London without meeting resistance? Tell me that.

Besides who should they rebel against? I was regent for my son, who was rightful heir to the throne. You’re wasting my time here.

You had an affair with another man while you were still married to the King of England. This man was ruthless and ambitious and he used you to gain power for himself. You allowed it to happen!

If he used me, or I used him, it did neither of us any good in the end, did it?

But why did you do it? You had a comfortable life. He provided for you. It was your duty to obey him. He was king by divine right.

I was born to be a queen, not to be shut up like a nun and play no part in affairs.

Was it your pride that was hurt then?  … Madam?

How would you have felt, in my situation? How much humiliation was I supposed to stand?

IS4What would your father have said? He taught you to obey, did he not?

He taught me to obey him.

And what about your son? How did he feel when he discovered what you did to his father?

What about what his father did to his mother?

Which was what?

A woman was not born to be so neglected by her husband. I had a right to his company and …must I say it? To physical comforts. Am I not supposed to say this, because I am of a different time, because I was a queen?

He embittered me. He also underestimated me … didn’t he?

It was revenge, then?

Imagine what we might have been, if he had not been so weak. If he had been … a real man.

Isabella, did you ever love your husband?

How dare you ask me that! They buried me in my wedding gown at my express wish. The casket I carried with me to my grave had in it Edward’s heart. Does not tell you something?

It tells me you made your point. My case rests.

Thank you, sir. Now let me rest also.

Section Eight– one of my favorites

But Section Eight is a terrible title. I think my original title for this book was Shadow Warriors.  Which we’ve managed to add as part of this group of books under that title.  But my editor came up with Section Eight when it was first published, and I’ve kept it because I don’t want to confuse people and have them buy the book under another name and then feel like they’ve been fooled.

It’s a book I get a lot of positive feedback from readers on and we’re running a $1.99 special on it today as it has a Bookbub ad also running today.  Researching it was intriguing.  I’ve always wanted to devote an entire book to Unit 731, a real unit of the Japanese Army that committed horrific crimes against humanity during World War II.  I at least feature it in this book, along with the Golden Lilly.  Both are real.  When we say I write “factual fiction” the point is I include a LOT of facts in my books.  Mainly historical.  What I know about history is far over-shadowed by what I don’t know.

Section8Section Eight: Shadow Warriors.  Captain Jim Vaughn is an officer in disgrace. Commanding a Special Forces mission to rescue hostages in the Philippines, Vaughn’s team is destroyed, and when the smoke clears, he is made the scapegoat. Forced into the shadows by the scandal, Vaughn is offered a chance to redeem himself when he is approached by an enigmatic government agent working for The Organization, looking for a few desperate men.

The Organization pulled strings long before the founding of the United States. It dates back to the destruction of the Knights Templar and even further in history. As secrets from the Golden Lilly Operation and the infamous Unit 731 from World War II become exposed, you have to wonder who the real enemy is.

Section Eight are the men and women called upon by The Organization to do the impossible. They are the soldiers who have nothing to lose. They make up a top-secret unit tasked with one would consider suicide missions. Vaughn is now given a new team, a group of men and women outside of the regular chain of command. These are men and women who have crossed the line one too many times. Drug users. Felons. The terminally ill. These are now the soldiers that Vaughn must trust with his life. Even with a traitor in their ranks.

A team of such unique properties is the perfect tool to use against America’s enemies…and possibly America itself.

Reference Mayer’s Thrillers
“Mayer had me hooked from the very first page.” Stephen Coonts
“A pulsing technothriller. A nailbiter in the best tradition of adventure fiction.” Publishers Weekly.

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