How have things changed in the last 3 years in Indie publishing? by Bob Mayer


Below is an adapted version of the opening keynote I did for IndieRecon last week– if you haven’t checked it out, all the posts and comments and chats are still up and you can read them.  Tons of great info from people like CJ Lyons and Hugh Howey and many others.

I feel like we’ve gone through a three-year cycle and now things are re-inventing themselves.  I’m going to raise some points here that Jen Talty and I then discussed during our chat, which is at the web site above.

  1. The gold rush is over.  The market is saturated now.  Quality and professionalism are key.
  2. Everyone is an author.  There are more authors at booksignings at conferences now than there are non-authors.  How are you going to be different?
  3. Shorter works.  People want complete stories they can consume in one sitting.
  4. Serials.  Build your audience.  But make sure you let readers know what they are getting.  Hugh Howey built Wool.  John Scalzi is doing it in science fiction, but notice some of the reviews where readers were shocked at getting a short story when they thought it was a book, even for .99.  I’ll be bringing the first season of Burners out in a few months, which I feel is the best high concept story my wife and I have every come up with.
  5. Transmedia.  I think this is a while away.  It’s a nice idea, but few are doing it and even fewer are doing it well.  Mediums often don’t translate.  One interesting area is live tweeting during events and shows that might link to your book.
  6. Collaborations.  Consumers want products faster and faster.  The year between books will no longer suffice.  Thus writers will work together.  I write four times faster working with my wife.
  7. Ghost writing.  As part of the previous point.
  8. There is too much emphasis on promo and marketing, not enough on craft—distinctive voices will stand out.  Every idea has been done, but unique ideas with a great voice will win out.  Yet all we see are people wanting to know how to market and promote and not very interested in how to write.
  9. Will e-writing remain the same?  Is the structure of the novel going to stay intact or will people be more interested in episodic work?  Can you do more points of view, more characters, without focusing on a single plot line?  Sort of Games of Thrones?  Southland?
  10. Gimmicks aren’t working that well any more:  Select, Free, etc.  They’ve become saturated.
  11. Build community.  An author has to be involved with their audience and expose themselves to some degree.  What is special about you?  I was never big on Facebook but since starting a fan page, I make sure to post something of interest at least if not two or three times a day.  We’ve started giving away free eBooks and audiobooks on my fan page and on this blog to give people an additional reason to come to the page and here.
  12. You are an author-entrepreneur.  You are running a business.  You have to plan ahead.  Just because your book is on a bestseller list now, don’t assume it will be in two months.  The people who are succeeded have numerous titles that are their base.  Then they push a series.
  13. Series are essential.  It is the #1 way to build an audience.  Ask Bella Andre, Marie Force, Barbara Freethy, Jennifer Probst, etc.
  14. Urban flight—this is my new term (yes, NY you can steal it like you did hybrid author and pretend you invented it).  This is authors who will start “self” publishing outside of their NY contracts.  DBW survey says 1/3 of trad authors want to “self” publish.
  15. You can’t really “self” publish, not at volume and in quality.  Yes, I know some of you are doing it.  But you are contracting out some of the work.  The question is, does that contracting give you an organic relationship?  Netminds is the ACX of eBooks and a good idea, but again, what stake does Netminds have in your particular career?
  16. eBooks are organic.  They are not static.  Thus you need a publishing relationship that is organic.
  17. Thus a publishing team is key.  Partnerships where the author comes first.  A dangerous aspect of this is building trust.  Contracts are one thing most authors are terrified of right now.  The business is changing so fast.
  18. Amazon is not the enemy.  Nor are they your friend.  They are a business reality.  A trad publisher was never your friend either, no matter how much you loved your editor and agent.  The second the numbers didn’t add up, they dumped you.  Amazon works off numbers the same way.
  19. Kobo is a real player.  Apple is a player.  PubIt is struggling because it’s tied to Barnes & Noble.  But they are a player, especially for romance writers.
  20. Direct sales might start gaining traction.  Especially if you have a fan base and unique content, but readers prefer the McDonald’s route.  They don’t want to buy from 100 authors’ separate web pages.
  21. I go back to team-work because it’s how Jen Talty and I started out.  You are going to have to give up a slice of your profits to a team in order to be more efficient and act ahead of the power curve and react quickly as needed.  This is what we’re doing with Jennifer Probst and other authors at Cool Gus
  22. What do you think?


For more information about Bob Mayer and his work, check out his website.

This post was originally made on Bob Mayer’s other website:  Write on the River.



2 thoughts on “How have things changed in the last 3 years in Indie publishing? by Bob Mayer

  1. 1.The gold rush is over. The market is saturated now. Quality and professionalism are key.
    2.Everyone is an author. There are more authors at booksignings at conferences now than there are non-authors. How are you going to be different?

    Those first two perhaps say it all. I would also add that not everyone wants to *be* a publisher. That, for me, and all this promoting nonsense when I would rather be writing, is the hardest thing of all.

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