07-21-18 Patricia Sargeant

Saturday, December 19, 2015

What's New In Publishing? Authors want creative control

By Bob Mayer
Bob Mayer and Cool Gus
I’m looking forward to 2016. While many believe things have ‘leveled off’ in publishing, I think we’re due for large changes. Five years ago when Jen and I started Cool Gus Publishing, one of our goals was to give traditionally published authors an option to publish something outside of what they were doing in traditional publishing. To become a hybrid author taking advantage of all that both types of publishing has to offer. The learning curve of ‘indie’ publishing is steep and, frankly, many traditionally published authors are leery of having to immerse themselves in it, especially when they’re still pursuing their traditional careers.  We’ve had several traditionally published authors avail themselves of what we offer, most notably NYT bestseller Jennifer Probst and International Bestseller, Colin Falconer, from Australia.

We’ve played with terms at Cool Gus, since we don’t consider ourselves a traditional publisher.

We’ve tried ‘agile’ publishing, which is somewhat accurate since we are small and able to change quickly. However, we’ve settled on something that we feel is accurate: Author-Centric-Team. For a long time the key player in publishing between the author and the reader was the publisher, since they had a chokehold on distribution, which in turn controlled what material and books readers were presented. That’s no longer true. There are two key components today where if you take them away, publishing no longer exists: authors and readers. And we, as a team, have to facilitate that. We work closely with our authors, offering advice, expertise, and support, but at the end of the day, our authors have the final say on every aspect of their books.

This leads me to one thing I definitely believe we’ll see happening in 2016: several big name authors branching out and becoming hybrid. While they can certainly earn higher royalties on any titles they go indie with, the biggest reason is creative. I know many authors and once they become a brand, they’re stuck with that brand. The agent, the publisher, and to a certain extent the reader, expect roughly the same book over and over. But often the author wants to try something off-brand. And also, we’re picking up feedback from readers that they wish their favorite authors would do something different. That’s opposite the trend in New York, where the brand is becoming all important, to the point where deceased authors are having their names used to market new books.

The goal of being an Author-Centric-Team (A.C.T.) is to make that opportunity an attractive one. To do the heavy lifting for the author. To give the author a single point of contact for all aspects of what needs to be done to get their stories to readers. There have been lots of start-ups in the past few years offering services to authors, but one thing about the digital world is that eBooks are organic, not static like print. Therefore the services provided need to be organic and able to change quickly.

The basis of A.C.T. came out of my time in the Army, when I went from the Infantry (think Big 5 publishing) to Special Forces. The two were worlds apart even though they were both of the Army. A Special Forces A-Team almost always works independently and has to be able to do a wide array of missions. During the Cold War, the focus was on the traditional forces; but the world has evolved and now the focus is on Special Operations. I believe publishing is going through something similar. We can’t keep trying to use an outdated template to a world that is very different. I’ve applied my Special Forces background to the author via Write It Forward, giving author’s a template for having a successful career; now with A.C.T. we’re applying it to being a facilitator for authors.

Essentially, we believe it’s the time of the author.


Judith Ashley said...

Thanks for your insight, Bob. To help me understand A.C.T., do you help authors develop marketing and promotion plans and build an author brand or are you more on the front end with story development, editing, cover design, etc. or perhaps its both?

Margaret Tanner said...

Thanks Bob, very informative and interesting.

Jessa Slade said...

"There are two key components...: authors and readers." So true and worth remembering. Thanks for sharing your thoughts for publishing in 2016!