Sure, I’m Licensed to Thrill, but hanging with thriller writers feels more than a little dangerous. Last week the ThrillerFest schedule was released and I learned I’ll be putting my life on the line again this year. Think I’m exaggerating? Um, not so much. See, I found out who my panel leader is and believe me, this guy is licensed to kill. (Check out the photo below if you don’t know about his, um, accomplishments….)
What do Robert Doherty, Debbie Cavanaugh and Robert Mayer have in common? Here’s a hint, right in the center of this target:
Bob Mayer has quite a resume, which may be why he needed all those pen names. It’s hard to imagine one man accomplishing everything he’s done before the age of 90!
He’s sold millions of books around the world, hitting the NY Times, Wall Street Journal, Publishers Weekly, USA Today and other bestseller lists in thriller, science fiction, suspense, romance and non-fiction. You may have seen him on PBS or the Discovery Channel, or heard him on NPR. He’s also been featured in USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, Sports Illustrated and Army Times as an expert consultant.
Whew! Just saying all of that makes me tired, and I’m not done yet. But that’s enough to get us started. I’m thrilled to have with us here today, my friend Bob Mayer.
Diane Capri: Bob, you’ve got to slow down a bit. You’re making the rest of us look bad. I mean, how can we tell our readers we’re working hard on our next book if they hear about your schedule?
Bob Mayer: I work two jobs: publisher and writer. I literally have two offices in my house. A nice built-in that came with the house that has Internet. That’s where I’m a publisher. Then I get up, walk down the hall to the other side of the house where there’s a room with just a desk and a monitor and a computer that ISN’T hooked to the Internet. That’s where I write. I set the timer on my iPhone and write for designated periods of time.
I tell people they can find the time to write by profiling themselves, a technique I teach in Write It Forward. There are many windows we let slip by. For example, I’m writing this at 35,000 feet over Dallas en route home from the Desert Dreams Conference. I’ve learned to work on planes, in motel rooms and find all the hidden spots with plugs in many airports. My wife told me she can’t remember me ever taking a real vacation in 20 years. I hope to rectify that later this year, but my publication schedule is very tight so . . .
Diane Capri: Readers are the ones who can’t get enough of your books. I see you have the very cool badge for Readers Rule on your website. What’s that about?
Bob Mayer: It’s a site for authors who have sold over 100,000 eBooks. It’s a badge of being validated by readers. There are so many eBooks out there now, it’s hard for the readers to sift through it all.
Diane Capri: You’ve got a serious military background, including service as a Green Beret. This video shows us a little bit about that work. It seems grueling. How do those experiences inform your writing?
Bob Mayer: Pretty much every one of my books has some sort of military aspect to it. My earliest books were military thrillers. But even my science fiction titles such as Area 51 and Atlantis have a military angle. I just signed a three book deal with 47North for a series called Area 51 Nightstalkers which is about an “enhanced” Special Operations team based at Area 51.
More importantly, my Special Forces background taught me how to operate in an efficient manner. My Write It Forward book and program incorporates many of the Special Forces strategies and tactics into the writing world.
Diane Capri: Now you’re a publisher and an indie author. And who is Cool Gus? That’s not you, too, is it?
Bob Mayer: My company was originally called Who Dares Wins. But we incorporated this year and found out the British government has trademark on that motto of the British Special Air Service. So we decided to change our name. A trademark name also needs to be non-descriptive, which is why so many companies have odd names. We were casting about, coming up with dozens of possibilities, but then I looked down at my feet and there was the answer as Gus and his niece, Becca were sleeping under my desk. When he has his shades on, he’s Cool Gus. And the other day she chased a fox, which is when she’s Sassy Becca.
Diane Capri: These three indie books look great. How are you finding the indie experience compared to working with the giant international publishers?
Bob Mayer: It’s fantastic. First, being responsible is something I relish. I succeed or fail based on my own efforts, not the capriciousness of a large corporate environment. Cool Gus Publishing is very agile and we are at the cutting edge of digital publishing, at least a year if not two ahead of the Big 6 based on my observations at Digital Book World and following the industry. And in the digital age, a year is an eternity.
I have to be honest and say the money is so much better. I make a “very nice deal” in Publishers Lunch parlance every month. The company just broke seven figures in earnings in 18 months.
Since we’re in charge, we can change quickly. We just changed out the cover for my first Atlantis book and I saw, just on Amazon UK, a $1,000 increase in sales over just last week.
Diane Capri: What’s up next for Bob Mayer?
Bob Mayer: We’re looking for a max of four more authors to join our team this year. Two established fiction authors with the rights to some, if not all, of their backlist. And two speakers with strong platform and speaking engagements who could use books to supplement their program and give them an additional revenue stream. We’re keeping Cool Gus small so we can focus on our authors and selling their books. Because we don’t make money if they don’t make money.
The publishing business is evolving quickly. I think authors have to change to survive. While “brand” authors, those in their publisher’s top 5% will continue to do well, for the rest, the shrinking print book market and the lack of publishers to work well digitally, spells doom for many writers.
The old hybrid author was one who was legacy published and indie published. Now, it’s one who is indie published and publishing with Amazon.
Diane Capri: Man, I’ve gotta take a nap! You’re wearing me out! Just one more quick thing before we let you go. Is that you in this photo?
Bob Mayer: *laughs* Let me cast about in the dark hallways of my mind…I’ve done over 100 parachute jumps—military jumps, always for either pay (jump status) or mission. Never for fun. My jumpmaster class had 86 Green Berets in it and graduated 14, as you had to score 100% on every single test.
I went to the International Mountain Climbing School and graduated, but again, I climbed for mission.
My team went to Royal Danish Combat Swim School and was one of the few teams to have every member graduate. I credit my team sergeant for that.
In other words, I’ve used up most of my adrenaline and now I just celebrated the birth of our first grandson and moved to North Carolina to enjoy our family. It’s great to be able to sit at home and work. Things are good!
Diane Capri: Thanks for joining us today, Bob. I know I’ll see Bob and more of my favorite thriller authors and readers at ThrillerFest. What about those of you reading today? Will you be joining us?
What a fantastic interview. I always love hearing how someone from a big 6 is finding going indie. Thanks so much for sharing your experiences.
Fantastic interview questions Diane.
Thanks, Tasha! I’m glad you enjoyed the interview. Bob’s a very interesting subject — he makes the job easy!
That was a fabulous interview Diane and Bob! I think you highlighted a different side of Bob Mayer the author. I really enjoyed it. I will not be with you at Thrillerfest, but I hope you and everyone in attendance have a wonderful time in New York! 🙂
Thanks, Karen! We’ll miss you at ThrillerFest — do come if you can. It’s loads of fun and I think I heard something about a party…. 🙂
fabulous interview, folks. Bob you’re a powerful example of nice guys who finish first.
So true, Louise! (Then again, maybe he just kills off everyone in his path, hmmmmm? 🙂 )
Fantastic Interview Diane! I love that he has two offices, one WITHOUT internet. Brilliant.
Brilliant, Indeed, Lillie. And an example of the kind of fortitude that Green Berets have and I don’t! 😉
Two of the authors I look up to on the same post! Bob’s insights are fantastic. Thanks, Diane.
Awwwww. What a sweet thing to say, Fabio. Thanks. Putting me in the same class of inspiration as Bob is a stretch, though. But I do appreciate the sentiment!
I love that Bob has separate offices for writing and publishing. An author friend of mine does that with her wardrobe—PJs for writing, suits/dresses for editing. 😉
Thanks for the great interview! Hoping to catch you both at ThrillerFest.
Looking forward to seeing you there, August. The two office thing reminds me of that old saying, “I can resist anything but temptation!” The internet is certainly tempting, isn’t it?
Wonderful interview, Diane and Bob. I think Cool Gus Publishing is a great name, and the photo is awesome! Especially since that’s your own dog. Makes it extra-special. I’m so impressed with all that you do and have done, Bob, with your writing career and your service to our country. What a hero!
Being close to your grandchild is important. I bet you’ll never regret making that move. I have a 2-year-old granddaughter that I don’t see as often as I’d like and a 9 month grandson that I babysit 9 hours a day. They’re the joy of my life. Can’t wait to share tons of great novels with them when they’re old enough. For now, I get a big kick out of their picture books! What a lucky little guy to have a grandpa like you to influence his life!
I wonder if your grandson will inspire you to write a children’s book for him one day?
Thanks, Lynn. I’d like to have Cool Gus snoring under my desk….As it is, I just have Lazy Maggie the schnauzer down there…:-)
Yes, Cool Gus is snoring under my desk as we speak. Very motivational.
Geat questions, Diane and great answers, Bob. I will be at Thrillerfest and can’t wait to see the two of you together, in the flesh. I heard Bob’s presentation at last year’s conference and when he talked about his WIN system for setting goals and creating a strategy for your writing career, I knew I found the leader I needed. His talk was over at about 10:00 p.m and I felt so inspired by what I heard that I went for a walk to Times Square, fearlessly, and simply enjoyed the fact that here I was in New York City, the “Oz” for so many writers and I knew I had access to all the tools I needed to take my writing career to the next step. So thank you, Bob. But here’s my two cents, I think it should be Cool Gus & Sassy Becca Publishing, because down the road you can have a line of Military Romance novels… seriously, think of the potential: “Service Member Wives in Area 51” or “Tales of the Green Barettes.” (Just having some fun, but I do think Becca deserves some props.
Good suggestion on the Sassy Becca thing, Rachel! Hmmmm…. 🙂
Becca is starting to take Gus’ seat in the Jeep so there could be a big fight looming. He was not happy today when hopped in the passenger seat
Great interview, guys. Bob’s enthusiasm is inspiring, and I’ve learned so much from following his blog the past year. Quick question, though: I assume by indie publishing and publishing with Amazon, you’re referring to small press as indie and Amazon as self-publishing? I know the indie term gets banded around in different ways sometimes.
Thanks, Stacy. Glad you enjoyed the piece. Bob may hop back in here to reply, but my understanding for his situation is “two of the above.” Bob recently signed a contract with one of the Amazon publishing imprints, meaning Amazon is his publisher (in the same way, say, Random House might be his publisher or Simon & Schuster or whoever). He’s also an “indie” publishing through Cool Gus Publishing and using Amazon as his distributor (as I do). There is also the option of self-publishing without going through a publishing company of any kind and using Amazon as your distributor. As far as I know, neither Bob nor I do this last option, but lots of authors do this very successfully. Is that what you meant?
Yes, that’s basically what I meant. So you are through Cool Gus Publishing, Diane? I didn’t realize that. I thought you were doing straight self-publishing. Or am I misunderstanding? It’s been a long day. Going with an Amazon Imprint would be great in some ways, but I don’t know what their advantages are versus the trad contract.
No, Stacy, I’m not published by Cool Gus. Bob is. And he’s also signed with an Amazon imprint for one book. My publishing imprint is AugustBooks.
Super interview! I knew Bob Mayer was a busy guy, but whew! I was tired just reading through this. Inspirational though, really shows what you can accomplish if you just set your mind to it.
Could be true, Serena, but I suspect Bob is really an entire company of Green Berets, don’t you? 🙂
Wonderful interview and I loved the video. It’s amazing how much you can accomplish when you do the right things with discipline. Bob is an inspiration to us all.
You’re right, Reetta — but I’m thinking he’s got a couple of clones, right? 😉
Bob Mayer by any name is a terrific writer and teacher! I adore his disciplined approach to writing and building one’s writing career.
Thanks, Joni! (Be careful though with all that praise — we don’t want him to get the idea that he’s too big to talk to us!) 🙂
I think the hybrid author of the future will be those who indie publish but also have some books with an Amazon imprint. It’s a matter of improving discoverability.
I agree, Bob. Being found amid the internet noise is the challenge for all of us in the virtual world. But it’s always been a challenge for authors to connect with readers and plentiful opportunities abound today like no other time in the two decades I’ve been writing fiction. I’m optimistic about the indie world. (Yes, I’ve been accused of sounding like Pollyanna all my life!) 🙂
Great interview, Bob and Diane. You both make me want to work harder, smarter, and sim for the top. In fact, in this new publishing world, you are both terrific role models. Thanks!
OMG, Sheila! It’s impossible to imagine how you could work any harder! You’re one of the hardest working authors we know! Yikes! Take a break! 🙂
F.A.B.U.L.O.U.S. – both of you. Thanks for this!
Very much welcome, Patricia! Thanks for stopping by and glad you enjoyed our conversation!