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Friday, February 15, 2013

The Evolution of the Hybrid Author

The shift from traditional publishing gathers momentum

Digital Book World is carrying the fascinating story of NYT bestselling author Bob Mayer, who is making a dramatic transition from traditionally published author to a man who has taken the reins of his fate into his own hands more flamboyantly than most.

Mayer tells it like this: 

"In late 2010 I was preparing to bring a new manuscript to my agent. I was hearing and reading buzz about “Self-publishing” with eBooks but few seemed to be taking it seriously. At Digital Book World 2010, agents were laughing about a part of the industry that took in only 3% of income.

"I wasn’t laughing. I knew how slow and technophobic traditional publishing was, after spending 20 years and 42 books in it and hitting all the bestseller lists, while also experiencing being dumped by various publishers at times due to decreasing print runs with increasing sell-through (that refrain sounds familiar to any of you authors?).

"So I peered into my crystal ball and wondered: “What will publishing be like in 2013?” Because if my agent took this manuscript and sold it to another traditional publisher, like all my other deals, I knew pub date would be mid-2012 to early 2013."

At this pregnant moment, he was approached by his business partner, who wanted to know what he was doing with his backlist.  Like many other backlists, it was moldering. Mayer evidently had had the rights reverted (which every sensible author should be doing), so they spent 2010 putting out the books, one after another, in digital format. Cool Gus Publishing was born, and grossed $26,000 that year.

Things changed in 2011 and even more in 2012.  They grossed over seven figures.

Then he decided to do something even more radical -- bring in other authors.

Such as NYT bestselling author Jennifer Probst.

But, as he says, what could Cool Gus offer her?

An extension of self-publishing that was a publishing partnership.

And so Cool Gus evolved. Like a traditional publisher, Cool Gus would have a traditional publishing schedule, but with Kindle Publishing-style royalty rates, and monthly payments. Like oldtime publishers, Cool Gus would promote her books, and set up interviews.

It is a very interesting concept.  According to DBW, about one-third of traditionally published authors want to branch out into self-publishing.  But are that many actually taking the plunge and doing it?  There's a lot to learn, and a lot of pitfalls, despite all the advice that the self-publishing platforms so generously provide.

Mayer reckons that if you want to do it right, you really can’t “self” publish. The learning curve is much too steep to risk it, he says -- that's why most traditional writers he talks to say they are scared. He's offering an alternative.  Will this publishing partnership concept work? The nitty-gritty, as they say, is in the detail, but it certainly does look promising.

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