Bob Mayer On Traditional Publishing, The Future, And Selling Direct To Readers

Bob Mayer has been on the New York Times Bestseller list twice. His Atlantis series alone sold over a million copies for his publisher.

But now he has the rights back and is self-publishing everything, making more than he ever did before.

When we talk about indie success stories, the same three names are always mentioned: Hocking, Konrath, and Locke.

While they all deserve that billing, there are others who deserve to be mentioned in the same breath.

One of those is Bob Mayer. A lot of self-publishers were complaining last month that things were slow. With the combination of good weather, kids off from school, people being online less, and various large publisher sales on Amazon, many indies saw a dip.

Bob Mayer sold 80,000 e-books in July – mostly at $2.99. He hasn’t even got all his backlist up yet!

He was one of the 33 authors who contributed to the success stories section of Let’s Get Digital. This is part of what he had to say (and the whole thing really is worth reading, which you can do for free, here):

My first book came out in 1991 and now, over 45 titles later, more than 4 million books sold, I’m more excited than I’ve ever been as a writer. Here’s the thing authors need to understand: it isn’t as much about what’s happening NOW in publishing. It’s where things are going to be a year from now.

There’s a huge difference between an author promoting their book and a publisher tossing a book out there, because I have an incentive to promote and also know how to promote—something New York is still behind the curve on.

I don’t think success is any easier in self-publishing. Both are very difficult. The main difference is that I have more control than I ever did in traditional publishing. Success will go to those who, first and always, have a well-written book with a great story. Then there is the need for persistence and consistency. While the digital age has made all this possible, I think it has the potential to make quitting much easier since we live in a time of instant gratification. Writers are checking their Kindle numbers daily and bemoaning lack of sales within a week of upload.

I think one trait those of us coming from traditional publishing have had is knowing it’s the long haul that counts.

Bob Mayer always has one eye on the horizon. And he always has something interesting to say. His blog – Write It Forward – is a must-read.

On top of sharing his experience there, he’s also a regular conference speaker. On a recent post on his blog, he contrasted his experiences at US writers’ conferences, and those in Australia and New Zealand.

He says that international writers are openly embracing the digital future, and self-publishing and e-publishing were central planks of the conferences. However, in the US, the topics were ignored – at least on an official level. From his post on the topic:

Plenty of people talking about it in the hallways, but the organizations, like many others in publishing, seemed loath to put it on the official agenda.

A friend on Twitter sent me a link to a great video interview that Bob Mayer gave to Dan Blank. It’s about thirty minutes long, and it’s really excellent. I urge you to watch the whole thing.

Not only will you get Bob’s thoughts on where things stand, you will get a sense of how he is looking at the future. While he is making superb money right now, and has no plans to stop writing books, he doesn’t assume that things will always be this rosy.

He is actively preparing for a future where business conditions won’t be as favorable for the independent author. He figures that competition is going to increase and that indies will need to come up with creative ways to maintain visibility.

I won’t spoil the whole thing, as it really is worth watching in full, which you can do here.

Aside from a whole slate of novels, Bob has two highly-rated books aimed at sharing his wealth of experience with writers. The Novel Writer’s Toolkit focuses on the craft, and Write It Forward teaches the business. I look forward to checking out both of them.

If you clicked on either of those links, you will notice that Bob has set up his own e-store for his publishing company Who Dares Wins Publishing (which publishes writers other than himself and pays extremely equitable royalty rates).

This is something I have been thinking about for some time, and I know that other writers, like Chuck Wendig, have had success in selling their own stuff direct.

While some worry that it might be too much hassle, or that you could dilute your sales and affect your Amazon rankings, I think that giving the customer more choice can only be a good thing.

In the video I linked to above, Bob underlines the importance of not depending on one sales channel, something that was touched on today in the online conversation between Blake Crouch and Joe Konrath.

As I get more titles up, I will have my own e-store, where readers will be able to buy my work in any format. It will also have links to all the other retailers for readers that prefer to shop there.

It may dilute my ranking on Amazon somewhat but the increased royalties and the ability of international readers to shop without a surcharge should make up for that.

What about you? Have you considered selling your work direct?