Ronin Robot Press
I’m asking you to support Ronin Robot Press for two reasons.
1) I think we offer authors a fair deal. An advance in kind: the author gets a professional artist to create the book cover, a professional developmental editor (me) to work the book over, and a professional copy editor to catch those typos and errant commas. It goes up as a Kindle and the author gets 40 to 60% of the retail royalties.
2) My publisher went out of business only 6 weeks after my first novel hit the market and keeping Courier alive has used up most of my savings and maxed-out my credit cards. Having been on the other side of this sort of thing, I pay my subcontractors within 24 hours of receiving their invoice and I’m using three artists, three copy editors, two small publicists, and a PR guy so the money is going right out to a group of really good people who are in a bad way. This Pubslush Campaign should enable me to get Ronin Robot Books on a solid footing.
Here’s where Ronin Robot Press is since January 1st, I’ve written:
- Courier,” (re-published January 2015),
- “The Day of the Dragonking: Book One of the Last American Wizard,” (published on April Fools Day)
- “Warrior,” the sequel to “Courier,” (to be published on July 1),
- 7 Kindle books about things like Unemployment, Depression, Beirut, Berlin, and Tiananmen Square (two under pen names), and
- I’ve begun “Taxi Dancer,” the first book about a private eye in 1930’s Manila.
More importantly, Ronin Robot Press has published:
- “Gold for San Joaquin” by Cliff Roberts.
- “Texas Spitfire” by Chloe Mayer
- “Living in the Light” by Charlotte Chere Graham
- “Undefeated Love” by Bruce Bennett is in the home stretch,
- “Timmy and Suzie Go To The Carnival” in in rewrite.
- and 3 more Westerns by Cliff Roberts are in the pipeline.
So, how did I get here?
In 1973, someone offered to pay me to ride a BMW around Washington all day and I’ve been working in Washington DC ever since, mostly in television news but with a few forays into bleeding edge technology and entertainment. I was at ABC News for 20 years and then took a buyout in 1993. Since then, I guess I’ve had 15 jobs and a long list of freelance clients.
Finally, in 2012, after I was fired from a production company for writing a script too well (I’m not kidding,) I hit the big stop sign that says “It’s over, dude” I was 60 years old, I had put on a tie and gone to work 5 or 6 or 7 days a week at midnight or noon or 3 a.m. or 4 p.m. (oddly, almost never at 9 a.m.) I’d worked at ABC News, Fox News, MSNBC, CNN and for some of the best in the business: people like Ted Koppel, Dianne Sawyer, Barbara Walters, Aaron Brown, Sam Donaldson, and Don Imus. In previous periods of unemployment, I was always able to find enough freelance gigs to fill up a 50-hour week.
In 2012: zip, bupkis, nada, zilch. The industry I’d known has changed almost beyond recognition (remember, I entered TV news in 1973 when Woodward and Bernstein were making it cool—now a job as a Reporter is the worst job there is.)
So, like every other sweet idiot, I wrote a book. It was a thriller set in the 1972 world of Watergate when DC was smaller, smellier, and more interesting and I was a 21-year-old courier racing news film back to the studio for the 6 o’clock news. Once I decided not to base the book on myself but on a much cooler character (Nic Cage, actually,) it wrote itself pretty fast, I found an agent, and right as my finger was on the mouse button to begin to self publish on Amazon, my agent emailed that some crazy Brit was interested. Well, the crazy Brit, a genuinely wonderful guy named Emlyn Rees, wrote me an email that I still have framed and mounted on my wall—right above the computer—for those days that I feel blue.
It starts out with “I genuinely love this novel.”
So, I signed with Emlyn’s Exhibit A Crime Fiction division of Angry Robot Books for two books with an option on a third. While I waiting for my big “launch,” I wrote a paranormal thriller, ghost-wrote a right wing thriller about overthrowing a liberal president, and developed a social media machine. On May 1, 2014, I had my Big Launch in the parking lot of a local motorcycle dealer. My book leapt onto the market and I put that massive social media machine into gear.
Then my wife and I headed to my first Big Event: Thrillerfest in New York City.
On June 7, there was single note posted on the Exhibit A website:
As you will be aware, Angry Robot Books has a history of innovation and we continue to go from strength to strength. We’re constantly trying out new concepts and new ideas, and we continue to publish popular and award-winning books. Our YA imprint Strange Chemistry and our crime/mystery imprint Exhibit A have – due mainly to market saturation – unfortunately been unable to carve out their own niches with as much success. We have therefore made the difficult decision to discontinue Strange Chemistry and Exhibit A, effective immediately, and no further titles will be published from these two imprints.
A day or two later, I had my big moment in the sun—the ITW Debut Writer’s Breakfast. 60 seconds to make it or break it with the whole world watching. As usual, I hadn’t prepared anything, but I stood up and said something like:
“This story, my story, is a story of hubris—like the Greek plays—where overweening pride brings the hero down. I thought I would write a book and be a hero. It took 8 weeks to write the book. 8 months find an agent. 3 years to find a publisher. I published my book on May First. On June 7th, my publisher shut down. So [I held up Courier] I’d really appreciate it if you talked to your agents and publishers about what a great book this is. OK?”
I eventually got a letter from Angry Robot that gave me all my rights back and said they would continue to sell Courier until the end of the year. In November the ebook vanished. I had a really bad version of it up in two days. I made up a name for the Publisher and created a logo (yes, that’s Tic-Tok from the Oz books but the illustrator, John R. Neil is my Great Great Uncle and I think he’s cute.)
Then the “Amazon Whisperer,” a nice fellow in England that I hire to do my online PR, sprang into action. He changed all the Keywords, dropped the price, and then gave copies away for free. We hit the Top Ten in Free Books in 2 days and gave away almost 7,000 copies. In fact, from the very few numbers I’ve managed to winkle out, I think Courier sold over 5,000 copies in 2014.
The next step was January 1st. At that point, the rights letter said that any remaining copies of Courier would be “mulched for compost.” So, I made Ronin Robot Press legal, learned how to do pre-press, and got it up on Ingram-Spark Print On Demand.
At this point, I’d been writing for three years and living off Social Security and savings. I’d tried to do all the right things and ended up without a publisher, enough sales, or enough money.
One of the essential aspects of a television producer’s psychological makeup is a dogged refusal to give up. They don’t just develop a Plan B, you have C, D and E ready. I know producers who have booked uplinks in case a major transmitter AND it’s backup went down, I’ve seen airport air conditioner units piped into an overheating tech trailer through the local volunteer fire company’s air hoses. I was on the team as ABC came into South Africa only days before Nelson’s Mandela’s release and watched secretaries direct multi-camera setups and new video edit decks brought in to replace the ones that had literally gone up in smoke. I know of producers who have jumped out of helicopters that couldn’t quite land, scrambled through moving freight trains, and run into traffic, stopped a car, and jumped in with “I’ll give you $50 bucks to get me to a Television Station.”
Actually, that last one was me. Several times.
Yes, I get down and out-and-out grumpy. But hell, I’m clinically depressed; I’d have days like that even if I had J.K. Rowling’s contracts. The next day, I get up and start to type again.
In January, I decided to fight back, and I became a publisher and I’m asking you to help me succeed.