Bob Mayer: Publishing Is The Wild West – Danger, But Possibility Too

I’ve spoken about Bob Mayer many times here. And if you have any sense, you will be reading his blog regularly.

He has seen it all and sold millions of books the old fashioned way. But now he is publishing himself – and other authors too – to huge success. I invited him along to share some of his thoughts.

Here’s Bob.


I received an email from an editor in Italy who publishes some of my books responding to a question I’d asked:  What was the state of e-publishing in his country?  He replied that it was like a Sergio Leone movie where all the publishers were standing in the street with their hands hovering over their pistols, but they were all afraid to draw first.

When I was in the Green Berets, in the Kill Room at Fort Bragg, we were taught the one who shoots first and accurately usually wins.

Publishing is indeed the Wild West right now, with changes happening daily and most of the prognosticators from the beginning of this year already proven wrong, as they were last year.  And the year before.

Jen Talty and I formed Who Dares Wins Publishing in January 2010.  At the time I was looking at it as a sideline, a way to get my Atlantis series back into circulation.  I was busy writing my epic Duty, Honor, Country, a Novel of West Point and the Civil War and editing The Jefferson Allegiance in anticipation of sending them to my agent for sale.  (Jen meanwhile, slaved away full-time for the past 18 months on building the company).

As 2011 dawned, I had to re-evaluate.  2010 was a year of drastic change.  In January, ebooks constituted roughly 3% of the market.  People, ‘experts’, said they might make it to 5 or maybe even 10% by the end of the year.  They were wildly off.

I had to evaluate based not on where publishing was now, but rather where it was going to be and this is what I recommend any writer do now.  Project forward.  So I made the decision to commit to Who Dares Wins Publishing completely earlier this year.  I’m going to use my own sales numbers, not the other authors we have for the sake of privacy.

In January of this year I sold 347 ebooks.

Last month in August, I sold over 100,000 ebooks.

Pricing is key in two ways:  I only sell two titles at .99; the rest of my titles range from $2.99 to $4.99, which means they earn 70% royalties on their platforms.  While John Locke sold over a million books on Amazon, they were all priced at .99 except for his book on how to sell a million books on Amazon.

I think what he did was a brilliant maneuver for his situation and he has since scored a print-only deal with Simon & Schuster which should be the sign of the apocalypse for many working in traditional publishing but great news for authors.

My average income per ebook is roughly $1.50.  My Kindle and PubIt sales have increased every single week and I just had the #2 overall bestseller on Nook with my release of The Jefferson Allegiance.  I just counted and I have 13 of the top 100 e-titles in science fiction in both the US and UK.

We just launched a brand-new automated web site thanks to Jen Talty’s hard work that is already paying dividends in direct sales (which means 100% income, which beats any publisher/bookstore I know of).  Our authors get 50% royalties, higher than any publisher I’ve heard of.  (Jen and I unilaterally raised them from 40 to 50% because we felt that was fair).

I talked to a representative from PubIt on the phone and it was enlightening.  It was the first time in my 20 years as an author that a seller of books contacted me about selling more books (which helped lead to the amazing success of my latest release).  Traditional publishing has been so enraptured of the publisher-consignment outlet relationship that the author-seller-reader relationship was neglected.  And the reality, talking to Barnes and Noble, is that their people at PubIt get it:  that it’s really the author-reader relationship that sells books.

The best promotion for a writer is a good book.  The next best promotion is more good books.  Beyond that, it’s building a brand via social media—not trying to sell, but to establish yourself.  Today I’m working on a list of workshops regarding digital publishing, trying to formalize all we’ve learned at Who Dares Wins Publishing over the past two years into 50-60 minute blocks of time so we can pass on this information.

It looks like I’ll be presenting these at the San Diego State Writers Conference in January—and wherever else I get invited to speak.  It’s all part of my latest non-fiction release:  Write It Forward: From Writer to Successful Author, where I incorporate all I’ve learned in 20 years in traditional publishing with my last two years in indie publishing and my experience as a Green Beret.

For promotion, the single most important thing was consistency.  As I’ve noted many times, this is a marathon, not a sprint.  It’s hard work to do the necessary things day in and day out but you never know when the tipping point is going to come.  Most people will quit before they get there.

I stayed alive in traditional publishing because I always looked three years ahead and that hasn’t changed.  Jen and I will be discussing our three-year plan again later this week.  We’re looking ahead and we’ve got some ideas to explore new markets and new technologies.  Because we’re a small company, we can adapt quickly.

It might be the Wild West in publishing, but as a former Green Beret, it’s the kind of environment we were trained the thrive in.

Write It Forward


NY Times bestselling author Bob Mayer has over 50 books published.  He has sold over four million books and is in demand as a team-building, life-change, leadership speaker and consultant.  Bob graduated from West Point and served in the military as a Special Forces A-Team leader and a teacher at the JFK Special Warfare Center & School.  He teaches novel writing and improving the author via his Write It Forward program.  He is the Co-Creator of Who Dares Wins Publishing and one of the bestselling indie authors in the US. For more see or

Note: This post was scheduled to run in my absence while I am at a Portuguese wedding giving a best man’s speech. Please amuse yourself in the comments while I am causing trouble elsewhere.

David Gaughran

Born in Ireland, he now lives in a little fishing village in Portugal, although this hasn’t increased the time spent outside. He writes novels under another name, has helped thousands of authors build a readership with his books, blogs, workshops, and courses, and has created marketing campaigns for some of the biggest self-publishers on the planet. Friend to all dogs.

8 Replies to “Bob Mayer: Publishing Is The Wild West – Danger, But Possibility Too”

  1. The speed at which the terrain is changing is breathtaking. I only jumped in 60 days ago, and already have enjoyed considerable sales with my first novel and short story. Like you, Bob, I am publishing others — because they asked me to. Providing support services and set-up in return for a percentage of royalties going forward seems to be a reasonable deal in this climate, because the amount of royalties available is so much higher than with traditional publishing.

    Along with the better money, the quick availability of books is persuasive. Most powerful of all is the freedom. Write short, long, quirky, genre-blending… write whatever you want. Your audience will find you if you stick with it.

    Thanks for sharing your experiences here and on your blog.

    Patrice Fitzgerald
    founder and CEO, eFitzgerald Publishing
    author, RUNNING

  2. I encourage all writers to sell direct – in the beginning you can do it simply with paypal button and emailing ebooks and shipping print books – we even give our authors books and envelopes so they can sign them.

    As to royalties – 50% seems to be a number I see a lot of indie pressess doing. Ridan chose 70%+ based on the fact that the author’s investment in the book should be propotionate to the sales distribution. I’ve not seen anyone other than us at this level – but here’s to hoping that more and more indies adopt agressive royalties for their authors.

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