I had some interesting travels this past week.
It started off with some issues flying out of Rochester to LGA. I had the right dates but somehow I had booked myself from LGA to ROC instead of ROC to LGA. It happens. Not often, but it does. Now this is why I heart Delta. Because I booked it through their site on my business AMEX CARD from Delta, Howard at the Delta counter worked his magic and got to NY and back without any extra charges. How awesome is that? But this was the start of a Planes, Trains and Walking movie. The emphasis on walking. Oh, and I broke my favorite black sandals that are insanely comfortable because off all the walking I ended up doing…
Bob and I decided that since I was heading to NJ to visit with one of our contract editors that it would be a good idea for me to head across the Hudson and spend a day at Thrillerfest, so instead of driving (I don’t drive in NYC) I flew. I managed to get from LGA to Penn Station via a bus, then walked two blocks to the Path and get on the train. Of course when I got to the Path I had to pick between two trains. Well, I had to make sure I got on the right train, which I did. I even got off at the right stop. All by myself. See, I don’t generally travel alone, anywhere. If its work, I’m with Bob. If its fun, I’m with Hubby. So, this is all their fault. Just saying.
Fast forward to Friday and I had to make my way back into NYC via the train. And walking. Well, not as much walking. I managed to take the Path to 33rd and transfer to the D train and then off at 42nd and then walked in the RIGHT direction to the Grand Hyatt where I was able to get into my hotel room at 10am! When does that happen? So perhaps the travel Gods are no longer frowning on me.
I didn’t actually attend Thrillerfest, so I can’t report back on any of the panels or workshops, because I didn’t attend any, but I did sit in the lobby and meet with authors as well as one of our contacts from Amazon and also got to meet face to face (even if for a moment) our contact at iBooks.
My first meeting was with Amy Shojai, one of our authors. It was nice to see her again and we discussed our plan with her future books. I then had lunch with Laura Benedict and Rebecca Cantrell and a couple other authors as well as agent Janet Reid. It was a great lunch, chatting about publishing and other topics.
But what struck me right off the bat this year at Thrillerfest was the feeling I got the moment I started to see people was an overwhelming positive sense. And, while I know the topic of Amazon and Hachette was discussed, it wasn’t THE topic of conversation. I talked with a lot of authors who are trying different things from Kickstarter to collaborations to shorts to switching genres to writing more, writing less. Many roads to OZ.
While it had a very positive vibe, Thrillerfest is still very grounded in Traditional Publishing. Even though many authors are dipping their fingers into other possibilities, the focus is on Traditional.
There is a danger in having roots too deep in any one camp. There are both positive and negatives to both indie publishing and trad publishing. I think the hardest part for an author today is sorting through all the information and making the right decision for themselves. This is especially hard when the top 1% on both sides who are well respected in the business are giving advice that is often times the complete opposite of one another. Many of the authors I talked to at Thrillerfest are intrigued by what Bob and I are doing and the Cool Gus Business Model, but, and this is a big but, they are either doing well enough with current publisher, or stuck in contractual obligations, or simply scared to make the leap in part because they do know its not “simple”. It doesn’t matter what side of the fence you sit on, or not sit on, publishing is still undergoing some major changes and there is more to come. We can fight it all we want, but that won’t change reality. Change is required to grow.
There is a lot of misinformation being passed around the internet. And a lot of slanted information for one side or the other. It’s very hard to wade through all the blogs, news articles, blogs and posts about any and all aspects of publishing. I had a long talk at Thrillerfest with Dan from Amazon, mostly about Cool Gus and our authors, since that is my business, and that is the point. It’s a business and we all have to make business decisions. Many roads to OZ and OZ means different things to different people. But we do all have to exist and often work together in this business. Sometimes ego just has to be checked at the door.
Now, how did I break my shoes?
Keith Raffel was gracious and invited me out to dinner with him, Laura Benedict, Shane Gericke, Janice Gable Bashman, Karen Dionne, Rebecca Cantrell, Kieran Crowley and Julie Kramer. The dinner was filled a lot of wonderful conversations about various aspects of publishing and different ways to go about it. Also, Rebecca was up for Best eBook Original and WON! Congrats Rebecca! Dinner was on 2nd Avenue near 77th and Keith, Laura and I got this bright idea we’d walk back. Very glad we did as Keith provided a great Fire Work show (thanks Keith!) for Laura and I and also let Laura and I window shop for shoes in some very nice little shops. But, it is a long walk from 77th and 2nd to 42nd and whatever intersection that is for the Grand Hyatt hotel. Not to mention we took a slight detour to see the fireworks. Unfortunately, these long leisurely walks weren’t meant for my very favorite black sandals and the straps broke on the way up to my room and oddly, these were the only shoes I brought with me. Thankfully, I didn’t have anymore walking and got a cab to the airport in duct tape sandals.
Nothing but Good Times.
This was Cool Gus’ third BEA. With the launch of the Author Hub, for the first time we actually had a footprint on the convention floor.
Here are ten observations from the Cool Gus team (aka Jen and Bob)
- Bob was doing an interview with someone from NPR and she mentioned there was a different vibe this year. She said she sensed that people were realizing authors were more important.
- We very much felt a different vibe. We realized it came from 2 things: we were approaching things differently and that the whole traditional publishing, Patterson comments, etc. were of little consequence to us. Dinosaurs braying in the tar pits, and we’re not in the pits. It is a natural tendency for people to defend an antiquated system that has, and continues to, treat them very well. But to wrap it up in the guise of speaking for all authors, means Patterson and many authors never ventured near the Amazon KDP/Createsapce/ACX booth where . . .
- A group of very successful indie authors made their their own footprint on the floor right next to Amazon’s booth where a video monitor continuously played with many authors giving their testimonials about self-publishing and their success. What’s most interesting is these are authors in whom Amazon has no vested interest, in the way that Hachette and its authors are tied together. If that had been the case, Amazon would have featured AP authors instead of self-pubbers who also do very well on other platforms such as Apple and Nook. I think the message being broadcast was that Amazon truly does view authors as customers and they were celebrating some of their best customers. Such as Bella Andre (being a trooper and attending even though under the weather), Barbara Freethy, Hugh Howey (who wrote an interesting an accurate blog about the Amazon-Hachette thing here), Tina Folsom (who sells as much in Germany as in the US), Lilliana Hart, HM Ward, Jacinda Wilder, Debra Holland (and if we missed anyone we apologize.) Listening to their words, while they all were more than happy with the money they make, one word kept coming up again and again and it’s a word traditional authors are pretty clueless about, because they don’t have any:
- Control. Control over content. Lilliana Hart said no trad publisher would touch the type of books she writes, yet her readers devour it. Cover, promo, pricing, distribution, etc. are all in the author’s hands. This is one of the keys to Cool Gus, because we work for the author, which is a unique perspective as a publisher. Because . . .
- A lot of people kind of like Cool Gus, but many of them aren’t sure what we do. Jon Fine of Amazon said that flat out as we crossed light sabers on Bourbon Street in New Orleans. He said, “I get what you do, but I don’t get what you do.” We like to believe we’re the template for a new type of agile, small, author-centric publishing model. The problem for others trying to do it is that it’s taken us five years to learn how to do it and we experimented on my backlist, not other authors’ books. For example . . .
- We had Jennifer Probst do a booksigning of Executive Seduction at BEA. She loved meeting her fans, but being Jennifer, because she has to have an intimate discussion with everyone she meets, she ran out of time before she ran out of fans. Janice Maynard met us there where she was doing a signing for her trad publisher, Harlequin, and we discussed ways we could help her sales of those books. Why would we care about her HQ sales? Because our approach is author centric. We want our authors to succeed regardless.
- Bob and Jen were also interviewed by a stringer from Associated Press. He pushed Bob for comments on the Hachette-Amazon debacle. Here’s the deal: readers don’t really care if a goat publishes a book they want. There have been plenty of great blogs and articles posted on it. What we do believe is that sooner or later, some big name trad author is going to realize they want the control of going indie; along with the much higher royalty rates. No one’s talking about it, but I bet several authors are seriously considering. Drop us a line.
- And Amazon isn’t the only game in town. We had lunch with Nook, meetings with Apple and Google and walked away feeling very positive. Each platform brings unique opportunities for us and we’re going to start using those better.
- Looping back, we felt the Author’s Hub was a great idea. It gave us a place to have meetings with companies like Bookbub, Library Thing and other platforms that help us reach our readers. Thanks for Porter Anderson and everyone else involved in making it reality. We’ll be back next year for it because . . .
- We left BEA feeling very upbeat and positive about the direction of Cool Gus and publishing.