Down to Earth Romance

New York Times best-selling author and former Green Beret, Bob Mayer, often has interesting things to say about the publishing industry. I especially liked his blog post of April 29, So You Want To Make A Living at Writing?: 13 Harsh Truths. In his candid article he included a rant by science fiction author Harlan Ellison called, “Pay The Writer.” I agree the expectation that writers give their work and their time away for no compensation has gotten out of hand.

Bob Mayer presented a half-day workshop at my local chapter of Romance Writers of America, Valley Forge Romance Writers, with his business partner, author Jen Talty, on Saturday, August 4, 2012. The following is a repost of a report I wrote about his presentation on another blog soon after his visit. The information is still fresh, so enjoy.


Bob Mayer’s presentation to writers was offered in three parts: (1) The Original Idea: the heart of your story and key to selling your book. (2) Outlining and Plot: the events of your story. (3) Beyond the ebook: how do you sell it?

Rather than try to regurgitate Bob’s presentation from my notes, I’d like to share some of his insightful and helpful off-the-cuff comments. The following are not direct quotes, but bits of information he imparted that I found interesting.

• Write what you’re passionate about.

• 90% of all requested submissions following author pitch sessions with agents and editors at conferences are never sent.

• The traditional publishing route takes about three years from idea to bookstore.

• Traditional publishers invest their promotional dollars on a few select authors. The remaining authors are left to fend for themselves in a ‘throw it against the wall and see what sticks’ approach to sales and marketing.

• What traditional publishers think readers want, and what readers actually love, are often two different things. The same with filmmakers. When the movie “The Godfather” was completed, the studio feared they had a flop on their hands. They thought the public would hate the film. Instead, audiences loved the movie and it became a huge hit. Later, “The Godfather” became a classic.

• It’s anybody’s guess as to what will happen in this new Wild West of publishing. This is the time to invent something. Try something new. Bob went to Barnes & Noble to pitch a “Nook First” thirty-day exclusive sales option for authors and launched the program when they accepted his idea. This partnership gave him high visibility on Nook and garnered big-dollar sales.

• The secret to publishing success is tenacity.

• An author should have at least three books for sale before expecting long-term sales results. Ebook sales have a ‘long tail’ and build over time. A few years ago, ebooks sold quickly in the first month or so. That has changed. These days, book sales take time to accumulate.

• Privately, I asked Bob if he, or someone he knew, offered a book analysis service. I’m not necessarily interested in hiring a line or content editor, but someone to take a critical look at one of my completed novels and offer her insight as to its strengths and weaknesses.

Bob suggested I ask readers to look at my manuscript. “Readers, not writers,” he said. “Writers tend to be too critical.” So…I’m changing my strategy and searching for beta readers to offer feedback on my novels after my critique partners have helped with the technical aspects.

Do you have publishing insights to share? If so, please leave them in the Comments section.


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