Bob Mayer on Indie Publishing Success in a Rapidly Changing Publishing Environment

Writers In the Storm is delighted to welcome Bob Mayer, one of the premiere writer advocates in publishing today. Bob, along with Jen Talty (his co-founder at Who Dares Wins Publishing) have become very well known voices in “indie” publishing in a very short time.

Here’s Bob in his own words…

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Publishing is the Wild West right now, with changes happening daily and most of the prognosticators from the beginning of the year already proven wrong, as they were last year and the year before.  The recent settlement with the Justice Department by several of the Big 6 is a huge game changer.

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 a year and a half 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 at the moment, but rather where it was going to be.  So I made the decision to commit to Who Dares Wins Publishing completely.  Considering this is my livelihood, abandoning a proven business model for an unknown model was risky, but I’ve always taken chances and embraced challenges, from West Point to the Infantry to volunteering for the Green Berets and in publishing.  I’m going to use my own sales numbers, not the other authors we have, for the sake of privacy.

In January of 2011 I sold 347 ebooks.

By the end of the year, I sold close to half a million ebooks. 

And 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.   My average income per ebook is roughly $1.50.   We recently published The ShelfLess Book: The Complete Digital Author detailing all we’ve learned in e-publishing.

Here’s another thing few discuss:  the 100% royalty rate of direct sales.  We launched an automated web site thanks to Jen Talty’s hard work that pays dividends in direct sales.

However, I think with all the changes, an indie author has to continue to take chances.  I just signed a deal with Amazon Encore for some backlist titles and with their science fiction imprint, 47 North, for three future titles.

One marketing tool I believe is very effective is to post on other people’s blogs.  People read their own blog.  I think building community is more important than direct marketing.  Making connections with the movers and shakers in the business is also important.  That’s the reason I was just at RT and will be attending Thrillerfest in July.

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

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If you haven’t ever heard Bob speak, his classes are awesome – here he is talking about e-book pricing and the agency model:


Are you finding this changing publishing environment freeing or overwhelming? Bob is traveling to Indianapolis today for a speaking engagement, but he promised to stop by so don’t be shy with those questions. If you know the answer to someone else’s question, feel free to help each other out down in the comments section too. :-)

About Bob

Bob Mayer is a NY Times Best-Selling multi-published author. He is a West Point graduate, served in the Infantry and Special Forces (Green Beret) commanding an A-Team and as a Special Forces operations officer, and was an instructor at Fort Bragg. He teaches Novel Writing, Warrior Writer and does keynote speeches. For more information on Bob visit his website or his blog, Write It Forward.

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14 Responses to Bob Mayer on Indie Publishing Success in a Rapidly Changing Publishing Environment

  1. LauraDrake says:

    Thanks, Bob. I know many authors who are struggling with this decision – your facts will hopefully help them make the right decision for them.

  2. Jen Talty says:

    We were recently asked to detail what it was that we did that increased our sales so drastically in that six month period. Our response is nothing happens in a vacuum, so there wasn’t any one thing that happened. With that said, there is one thing we did that set it all in motion: change of mind set. The next thing was keeping an open mind. We’ve been in business together for 3 years and in those 3 years we’ve had to adjust our business plan, adapt to new challenges and changes, and re-evaluate our goals. We’re doing it again right now.

    For those who will be seeing Bob in Indianapolis be sure to congratulate him for his career acheivement award he received at Romantic Times Convention last weekend!

    • Jenny Hansen says:

      I read on his blog that he was teaching and stayed to answer questions and missed the announcement of the award. If that isn’t a perfect example of where his priorities are, I don’t know what is. Bob is all about the author.

      Thanks for all that you two do, Jen!

  3. Sharla Rae says:

    I’m one of those who just didn’t get “building community” until one day I realized it was little more than working a company party. I never did that too well as I’m often too shy but the benefit of being on line is not having to worry over much about the face to face aspect. :)

    • Sorry to tag on, Sharla. WP is blocking me again. I have Bob’s books, took his six week on line course and of course I love to read all of Jen’s posts on their Facebook page. It doesn’t matter if you are going traditional or indie, there are two facts he stresses that will help: you will need a base of at least three books and you must get out of your comfort zone.

      The future is for us to decide and to take ownership we need to be informed about all the aspects of the changes digital books are making in our world. Thanks again WITS for a great guest :)

  4. Jann Audiss says:

    Thanks Bob for blogging today at WITS and the information.

  5. jimdev7 says:

    Sharla, you’re doing it right now! Working the company party

  6. Thanks to Bob and Jen for forging their path and then sharing their success story. It’s thrilling and exciting.
    I’m not yet published and find the self-pubbing opportunity both empowering and overwhelming. I feel ready to do a serious agent search this year, but am considering the self-pub route instead. The ‘buy-in’ to ebup of an inventory of three books to start with is not something I could achieve for a year or so. Any navigational clues about a situation like mine?
    This Wild West world is changing so fast. I think it’s a great time to be a writer, even though the idea of managing all aspects of a writer’s life puddles me on the floor at times.

  7. Christy Hayes says:

    Thanks for always speaking your mind, Bob, and for your wonderful blog with Jen. The best advice comes from those who are taking risks and sharing the results. Much appreciated!

  8. Yvette says:

    Hi Bob! Great post and keep flying high and showing the rest of us the way! I really appreciate your guidance and well, spunk. I’m pre-published right now however I sit and watch the developments like a magpie, really enjoying the changes and waiting for the best route forward to sift to the top for me to pounce on it. I thik it’s a really exciting time. I love that idea of 100% royalty on direct sales. Yeah! :-) Those are my kind of returns….
    Yvette Carol

  9. Hi Bob, Congratulations on the Life Time Achievement Award at RT. Really looking forward to hearing you speak at Desert Dreams next week. Your perception of ‘building a community’ helps me see the dreaded ‘on line stuff’ from a different point of view. I firmly believe building positive relationships is how to create a good life. Not much of a shift from my current perspective to yours.

  10. Julie Glover says:

    If this is the Wild West, I’m happy that I’ve been connecting to a fabulous posse! I feel that I learn more and more every day and get closer to finding my best path to publication. I appreciate those established writers like Bob Mayer who continue to mentor and encourage us novice gunslingers. Thanks!

  11. texasdruids says:

    Thanks, bob, for pointing out the importance of Community. It truly is everything. Since self-publishing my first book a year and a half ago, I’ve met so many wonderful authors and readers online. They’ve become an extended family. If I don’t check in with my pals on Amazon, Goodreads, and our new group blog, Cowboy Kisses, I feel like I’m missing out on everything. Oh, and there’s Facebook and twitter. Can’t forget them. Without doubt, all this networking takes chunks — big chunks — out of my writing time, but it’s the only way I know to get the word out about my books.

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