Sunday, August 11, 2013

Why Jump Into The Rat Race of Publishing? by L.J. Martin

After 30 years of writing and over 30 book length works, dozens of short stories and articles, a blog with over 3,500 postings, a half-dozen screenplays (only one of them optioned) and helping my wife become an NYT best-selling, internationally published romantic suspense author (who's convinced I'm nuts), why would this fool rush into where angels fear to tread?

Publishing is easy; the work involved in bringing a digital book to market. Selling books, be they paper or digital, is damn hard. However, I couldn't pass up the opportunity to suddenly be able to have someone in a mud hut in Zimbabwe be able to buy my book without me spending a damn dime on advertising. And be able to buy it for $.99 with my cost being a fraction of a mil…that's a tenth of a cent. And I'm going to make $.34 on that sale. That's the power of the web.

When Kat and I jumped into the writing biz, shortly after I'd had a real estate sales year exceeding a hundred million bucks, the biz was a totally different animal than it is today. Then I quickly developed a mailing list of over 1,200 independent distributors. About 1,100 of them (or more) are now out of the business as individual entities, now consolidated into huge companies. Then, 25 years ago, you may recall that every 7-11 store had a ten or twelve-shelf high four-foot wide book-rack, or a spinner holding an equal amount. Every truck stop had a rack of books twice that number. Kat and I signed for many years at NATSO, the National Association of Truck Stop Operators, and it was a powerful sales tool. Now you can't find a paperback in most truck stops. We were able to visit those independent distributors who stocked supermarkets, drug stores, and chain stores where 80% of all mass-market books were sold. And we could actually talk with—schmooze—book buyers, who made the buying decisions for their area. Now, from 1,200 there are about 20 who make those buying decisions for the WalMarts, Krogers, and Targets of our world. Waldenbooks had 1,100 stores…I don't know of one today, but then I'm happily located in the boondocks. Bantam, who did a wonderful job with seven of my titles, had over 250 salesmen in the field…I bet that number is far, far less today.

I cannot tell you how many drivers meetings I dragged Kat to (kicking and screaming) at 5 a.m. so we could buy the donuts for the guys who actually racked the books in all those supermarkets and drug stores.

You get the point. The business of real hold-in-your-hand paper books, or hardbacks, has changed dramatically. It's becoming a digital world. The bad news? Anyone can get published. The good news? You can rise above all those bad books with good, entertaining, compelling novels that people want to read. But even the best books may not get read if they're lost in that plethora of lousy writing.

Yes, I'd still love to get a million dollar advance from Bantam or one of the other big publishers, and, yes, Kat does very, very well with over 15 million books in print and nice advances, but this wonderful opportunity is out there called the web. And I just couldn't ignore it, for I'm a salesman at heart.

But it, too, has its challenges. Now, due to the ease of getting a book "in print" digitally (and anyone can) every Tom, Dick and Harry (including those who write badly about hairy Toms and their dicks) are getting published. And some of them are doing very, very well with product that would have never gotten published by the so called legacy publishers…those are the big boys in the multi-storied high-rise buildings in Manhattan. There no longer is the filter of acquiring editors between the writer and the reading public.

How does one overcome that plethora of bad books that stand in the way of yours getting read?

One has to get his/her books in the hands of readers, and those books have to urge that reader to buy another…which leads us to the obvious problem: most authors only have one book. No matter how much a reader loves your book, if there's not another one of your titles for that reader to purchase, your ability to make real money is very, very limited. Particularly if you've offered that single book for a low, low price in order to get it widely read. The other side of that coin is the fact you've made $.34 on a $.99 book, one half of what you might have made had a legacy publisher sold your book for $7.00 and paid you a 10% royalty…and then you wouldn't see that royalty for two years, and sometimes not then.

The really good news: Amazon, the world's largest bookseller, has 250,000,000 (that's 250 million) credit cards on file. And if you do a good job promoting and consequently selling your book on their platform, they'll do an even better job doing it for you, and boy-oh-boy, they know how.

Wolfpack Publishing LLC, our new company, has just begun to publish with a dozen authors in our stable and twice that many books. We pride ourselves in selling books, not in editing, but in proofing, not in trying to judge what readers want, but in giving them a choice. Yes, we want compelling books that are properly formatted and without obvious errors, but to tell you the truth, I'm no judge of sci-fi, and not much of a judge of romance; my area of interest is westerns and thrillers, so I'll pass your book onto readers who read that particular genre and who will proof the book for obvious mistakes. And if they say there's someone out there who's a consumer for what you write, we'll publish it.

Our contract is an "author's" contract, after all that's where I come from. I revised the contract so any author could feel confident in signing it. We pay 50% of what we receive, primarily from Amazon Kindle, Amazon CreateSpace (paper), Smashwords, and Nook Press, and we pay within 30 days of our receipt of the money. We, or the author, can cancel the contract anytime with 30 days written notice. You don't like what we've done with your book, cancel. It's as easy as that. We don't expect to make much money from paper books. We attack that side of the business so the author will have something in hand to show mom, grandma, and that brother-in-law who's laughed at the author's attempts to get published. The money, large or small, will come from digital publishing.

As I said earlier in this blog, publishing is easy, you can get your book formatted for Amazon, Smashwords, or Nook Press for $35.00. Selling it is the hard part, for there are millions and millions of books out there on the digital market, and many, many more coming. There's lots of competition.

We signed an author a little over a month ago, and we sold over 450 of his books in July. Some 446 more than he'd sold for himself the month before. And we're still learning. We'd love the opportunity to help you do the same thing with your book. Find us on facebook at:

I'm available at if you'd like to learn more.


  1. Thrilled to be on the Western Fictioneers blog and hope y'all will have lots of questions regarding eBook publishing. We're charging forward getting lots of books on the market and are proud of everyone of them. I'm currently working on an interesting project, English as a Second Language, a series of six interactive books to teach, just as the title says. The plan is to have the instructions in at least five languages.

  2. Hi Martin,
    Thank you for this fresh sight into the publishing business at this moment. You wrote: "you can get your book formatted for Amazon, Smashwords, or Nook Press for $35.00."

    Can you give me a contact to this guys, please

    Kiko Arocha

  3. Hi Larry,
    This is a wonderful post--very informative. Congratulations on your new publishing venture! This is awesome news, and I know you are very excited and proud of this new company of yours! I've been out of town, but wanted to jump in here tonight before I go to bed and say congratulations!

  4. Kiko, register on and search for their list of formatters. If memory serves me it's but that may be wrong. Good luck with your book.

  5. Sounds like a great project - you are about to become, even more busy. Good Luck!

  6. Hi L.J.

    Twas a pleasure reading this post and I love the way you took whipper snappers like myself down memory lane when you had to 'work' to earn your dough and build a fanbase.

    All the best and keep em coming!