Authors’ Cooperative: A New Publishing Paradigm

A novelist, screenwriter, television personality and half the creative genius behind the Fight Card series, Paul Bishop recently finished a 35 year career with the Los Angeles Police Department where he was twice honored as Detective Of The Year.  He continues to work privately as a deception expert and as a specialist in the investigation of sex crimes.  His books include the western Diamondback: Shroud Of Vengenace, two novels (Hot Pursuit / Deep Water) featuring LAPD officers Calico Jack Walker and Tina Tamiko, the thrillers Penalty Shot and Suspicious Minds, a short story collection (Running Wylde), and five novels in his L.A.P.D. Detective Fey Croaker series (Croaker: Kill Me Again, Croaker: Grave Sins, Croaker: Tequila Mockingbird, Croaker: Chalk Whispers, and Croaker: Pattern of Behavior).  His latest novel, Fight Card: Felony Fists (written as Jack Tunney), is a fast action boxing tale inspired by the fight pulps of the ‘40s and ‘50s. His novels are currently available as e-books.


The publishing world is changing fast with new opportunities for writers to support one another …


Mel Odom and I didn’t start out to create a new publishing paradigm.  We started out to take advantage of the world of e-publishing to create Fight Card – some pulpy fun for a niche audience, which included ourselves.  Two years and twenty-seven titles later, we find we just might have discovered something much more precious.

The genesis of our Fight Card series began with a phone conversation between the prolific writer Mel Odom and myself.  I’ve written a dozen novels published by major traditional publishers and have worked in scripted television and film.  However, Mel’s output of paperback originals, under his own name and a bouquet of pseudonyms, numbers in the hundreds.  We’re both pros, but Mel had made a living as a writer, while I wrote as a second career while keeping my day job as an LAPD detective.

In a Los Angeles to Oklahoma phone conversation in mid-2011, we were discussing – as so many writers were at the time, and still do – how the advent of e-books was turning the publishing business on its head in much the same way MP3s and the Internet had turned the music business upside down.  Suddenly, there were viable lines of distribution for individual writers who no longer needed the monolithic, outdated, methods of traditional publishing houses in order to reach readers.

For years, the major legacy publishers had treated most writers like serfs toiling in the kingdom’s fields.  Traditionally, self-publishing, via vanity presses (where the author paid to have his or her book published), was considered the trademark of foolish amateurs and crackpots who couldn’t put two coherent sentences together.  But Amazon and other e-publishing outlets (such as Smashwords) changed all that in virtually the blink of an eye.

During our conversation, the topic came up of Smoker, a Twilight Zone style short boxing story Mel had published via Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) platform.  Both Mel and I were fans of Robert E. Howard’s two-fisted boxing tales featuring Sailor Steve Costigan, and bemoaned the fact nobody was writing stories like those anymore …

Then the light bulb clicked on …  With the advances in e-publishing and the ability to use Amazon’s publishing platform as a worldwide distributor, there was no reason why niche interest stories couldn’t be published and reach their intended audience.  While there was only a very limited traditional publishing venue for short stories, there was no market at all for the novella – 20,000 – 50,000 word stories.  Again, e-publishing had changed that paradigm completely.

Inspired by the fight pulps of the ’30s and ’40s – such as Fight Stories Magazine an Knockout Magazine – as well as the aforementioned fight fiction by Robert E. Howard, Mel and I quickly conceived Fight Card as a monthly series of 25,000 word novelettes, designed to be read in one or two sittings.  We would take advantage of everything Amazon’s KDP platform had to offer.  We could have a  blast writing and publishing stories we wanted to read without having to find a traditional publisher who would never take a chance on such a niche audience scheme.

Mel and I wrote the first two books in the series, Felony Fists (me) and Cutman (Mel), before shanghaiing noir master Eric Beetner into writing the third entry, Split Decision. We began publishing the books in January of 2012 figuring between Mel and myself and a few other writer friends, we might crank out a half-dozen or so Fight Card tales.

Then came a surprise – the stories were not only resonating with readers, but also with writers.  Young writing lions such as Heath Lowrance, David Foster, Kevin Michaels, Terrence McCauley, and Robert Evans, as well as established pros like Wayne Dundee, Mike Faricy, and Robert Randisi expressed the desire to write entries in the series Fight Card series.

Part of the appeal was the new publishing paradigm Mel and I had established … Fight Card was not a publishing company, but something different – an author’s cooperative.

Using the shared open pseudonym of Jack Tunney (to maintain series cohesiveness on Amazon) for the e-books, and the author’s own name for the cover of the paperback versions (via CreateSpace), each author would launch the books from their own individual KDP platform.  This ensures the royalties from each Fight Card title go directly to each individual writer – not to a company.

In return, each writer brings back to the cooperative whatever skills they can offer – cover art, editing, blurb writing, website design and maintenance, publicity contacts, podcasting, e-formatting, blog tours, advertising, creation of our free quarterly Fight Fictioneers Magazine, social networking, etc. – all as part of the Fight Card team. Fight Card became, first and foremost, a dynamic for the writers and of the writers.

Specific guidelines for the Fight Card stories were established, including time period, worldwide locations, a PG-13 level of sex and violence, no profanity, and, while the main character didn’t have to be a boxer (reporters, managers, etc. would also work), the heart and soul of the story had to revolve around and – most importantly – be resolved by boxing.

Within these guidelines, the Fight Card authors have submitted some incredible character pieces as their protagonists each stride a different journey to the big fight.  The big fight doesn’t usually hinge on the heavyweight championship of the world.  The stakes are often as small as a scrap between romantic rivals in a makeshift ring in Podunk, America, a bar championship in New Orleans, a pit fight in Singapore, a battle for the pride of a Navy ship in Hawaii, or a backroom smoker with a has-been champ redeeming himself on his last stop before Palookaville, but always life, liberty, love, or death hinge on the results for the characters involved.

As Fight Card moved into 2013 with a second year of monthly stories, a wider audience was sought with the addition of the spin-off brand, Fight Card MMA, which brought stories and characters into the current world of mixed martial arts.  Now, with two released Fight Card MMA titles and more on the way from MMA savvy writers, Fight Card is also moving in yet another direction.

Our Fight Card Romance brand debuted this month with Ladies Night from the first female writer on the Fight Card team Carol Malone.  Still the same two-fisted, pulptastic, stories, but with a touch of romance.

The Fight Card authors cooperative is still a work in progress. New writers and readers are regularly joining the troops – enjoying the camaraderie of fellow writers and a love for this style of storytelling.

By the end of 2013, Fight Card and our associated spin-off brands will have published twenty-seven titles, including our special December holiday offering – Fight Card: Sherlock Holmes.

2014 is also looking to be a bumper year for the Fight Card author cooperative with the upcoming Fight Card: Luchadores (Mexican Lucha Libre wrestlers), and tales featuring literary figures (such as Rod Serling, Hemingway, Jack London, Robert E. Howard) and historical figures (gangster Mickey Cohen, the notorious Jack Ruby – whose boxing nickname was Sparkling Jack) all with connections to boxing.

Boxing, MMA, romance, two-fisted prose and great storytelling from writers working together is what Fight Card is all about.  Hopefully, you’ll get on the Fight Card yourself.

Find out more about Fight Card here:

Book Expo America! Next Week!

So you might have noticed the lack of scintillating posting this week. Or not. Anyways, the reason is that I’m furiously getting ready for Book Expo America, which is happening next week in New York.

If you aren’t familiar with the event, BEA is basically the biggest publishing trade fair in the States. It’s 3 days of packing out the heinous Javit’s Center and talking to publishers, bloggers, librarians and other professionals during the day, and making the rounds of publisher parties and bars in the evening.

New York and I have an…exciting history. Every time I go there, I end up with Stories To Tell*. More accurately, stories that make people who have stories to tell look at me and wonder how I haven’t died yet. Anyways, I’m hoping that this year is much better.

I’ll be there to run the SFWA table and hold signings with some amazing authors. Check out the schedule, and if you’ll be there, come and say hi!

1:30: James Sutter
2:00: Michael Martinez
2:30: Jeri Smith-Ready

3:30: Alethea Kontis
4:00 Laura Anne Gilman

11:00: Sarah Beth Durst
11:30: Shelly Reuben

1:30: Doug Molitor
2:00: Leanna Renee Hieber
2:30: Patrick Matthews

3:30: Jim Hines
4:00: Karen Heuler

12:00: SFWA Reading
1:00: Diana Gabaldon

Wish us luck!

*The current highlight** is the cabby who couldn’t figure out where I needed him to take me. We drove around the Bronx for about an hour, stopping to ask people at stoplights for directions. This is, by the way, at about 3am, after a day that started at 9am, included a convention day, an event, a dinner, drinking, Ray Bradbury’s death, a radio show ABOUT Ray Bradbury, and seeing Ground Zero for the first time.

I finally got in a yelling match with the driver and made him let me out on some random street. I called the guy I was dating, told him what was going on, and asked him to pull up Google Maps and get me back home. We had a very long talk about safety later…which is another common theme in my life.

**Followed closely by the time I had a connecting flight through Atlanta and our plane fishtailed on the icy runway.

Success is Like Lightning

Mercedes M. Yardley wears red lipstick and poisonous flowers in her hair. She has been published in several diverse publications, and her first short story collection will be released this fall. She is a member of the SFWA, the HWA, and is represented by Jason Yarn at Paradigm. Mercedes is the nonfiction editor of Shock Totem magazine. You can contact her at or follow her on Twitter as @mercedesmy.



Success Is Like Lightning: Preparing Before It Strikes

The literary world is feast or famine.  Either you’re beating the bushes in order to drum up work, or you’re tied, screaming, to the front of a locomotive as it heads for a cliff.  I have seldom seen an author say, “Why, yes, I am absolutely comfortable with my satisfying, impeccably-balanced work load.”  When success strikes, it’s most likely going to hit fast.  You had better be prepared.

  •   Have your work ready to go.

It may seem fundamental, but you’d be surprised how many writers are still, and forever will be, in the process of writing.  I stumbled across my agent as a fluke, and had to pitch my novel on the spot.  He said, “This story is intriguing. Is it ready to submit?”  Not only was the novel polished and ready to go, but so were the query and synopsis.  It was in his inbox immediately after he requested it. Thank goodness I was prepared, because this gentleman is now my agent.

  • Have a marketing plan ready.

If somebody picks up your novel, you won’t have time to breathe, let alone plan a marketing campaign from scratch.  You’ll be hitting deadlines like a beast, so it would behoove you to already have your grunt work done.  Will you do book signings? Blog tours? Is travel a feasible option? Do you have any marketing contacts? This can all be roughly planned ahead of time so you can avoid your deer-in-the-headlights moment when life is at its busiest.

  • Collect ideas for your book launch.

When your editor shrieks out, “Go, kid, go!” you’re going to hit the ground running.  Having an idea of what you’d like to do for a book launch will save you time.  Not to mention that when you’re trying to make five million decisions in two days, you’re not going to be doing your best thinking.  Serving smelly fish sticks with paper mermaid tails at your launch probably isn’t your best idea, no matter how brilliant it seems at 2:00 am.

  •   Scout out other opportunities in advance.

Would you like to have your work considered for awards?  Are there grants or contests that you have in mind?  There are many small awards that have very specific criteria.  If you’re a Nebraskan writer of color coming out with a second book of poetry, for example, there may be a monetary award for you.  But will you have time to search this out when you’re coordinating your book launch?  No. This is the sort of thing that you find in advance and tuck away for later. Mark the application submission dates on your calendar so you can submit on time.  Even better, have your application mostly filled out in advance so you can just add the additional info. You’ll have enough on your plate during your feasting times, but it would be a shame to let these delightful opportunities pass you by. Work on them during your famine.

  • Remember you’re doing what you love.

When you’re down to the wire, the stress can get completely overwhelming.  It seems the things that normally mean the most to you and bring the most joy (your family, your book, and the things that you’re doing to get your work out there) become so heavy that they’re unbearable.  Don’t forget to take days off.  Don’t let the responsibility suck the beauty out of what is ultimately your moment.  Everything is a choice and you’re choosing to invest time in something you believe in, and something that will bring you happiness and fulfillment.

Failing, To Begin With.

Carrie Cuinn is a writer, editor, small press publisher, computer geek, and amiable raconteur. In her spare time she reads, makes things, takes other things apart, and sometimes gets a new tattoo. She has an impressive collection of published fiction and non fiction and has been a guest on SF Signal podcasts multiple times. Her website is and you can follow her on twitter @CarrieCuinn.

When I was asked to write for BookLife, my immediate reaction was to wonder what I could possibly have to offer. I am a published author, and editor, and own a small press publishing company, but I spent most of 2011 (and the beginning of 2012) dealing with personal issues that kept me from accomplishing many of my professional goals. I’d started off with the production and publication of a great anthology, Cthulhurotica, which was very well received, but what did I do after that?

To put it simply, I failed.

People fail all of the time. We make plans based on exciting new ideas that we actually don’t know how to accomplish. We have family emergencies, or relationship issues, or illnesses, that take up our time and energy. We have financial troubles. We face job losses and sudden moves and starting over in a new town. We fear turning down new opportunities, even when we’re overburdened, because we’re not sure that we’ll get those chances again. When these things happen, our goals and dreams become unfulfilled hopes, unmet deadlines, and disappointments.

In my case it was a combination of almost everything I mentioned above. While different obstacles rose up, and were met with revised plans and a determination not to fail, it was the emotional aspect of failing that threw me the most. I was afraid of letting down the people that were rooting for me, of losing my friends’ respect, and of disappointing the people who were beginning to consider themselves my fans. I should have stopped trying to manage everything all at once, cut back on my production schedule, a long time before I actually did. Eventually I didn’t have a choice; my life got so complicated it ground to a halt.

I felt as if I’d ruined everything. My one chance to be an author and to make books and to become part of the writing community was gone, because I’d screwed it up.

It turns out that doesn’t really happen.

I got my feet under me again and focused on my immediate needs first: I took care of my son and myself. I kept the power on, I kept us fed. Over time, I began to add in the things I felt I could handle: organizing my finances, sorting out school, and getting rid of a lot of things that I didn’t need (both household objects and sources of stress). I started writing again, and sold a few things. I got over my fear of my own contributors and began to let people know just how badly I had failed.

No one hated me. No one thought I’d missed out on my “one chance”. I got support, I got advice, I got offers of help.

“It doesn’t matter how long it takes you to put a book out,” I was told. “It matters how good the book is once it’s out.”

I started to look at my company from the perspective of making the business work, instead of focusing mainly on how exciting it was to work with great authors and artists, or how many ideas I had. I realized that for me, publishing will be about making the best book that I can, not about producing the largest number in the shortest amount of time. I slowed down our schedule, let people know I was sorry but there would be delays.

Now my 2012 books are coming together, and they’re beautiful. It may another year before I’m completely caught up with where I want to be, but I can see now that I’ll get there. In the end, I didn’t lose anything except my own expectations, and I learned a lot about the reasons we fail. I can’t say that I won’t make any mistakes from here on out, but I know now that I’ll learn from them, and that no amount of failure is permanent. There’s no reason to quit trying.

Five things to remember when it seems like everything is falling apart:

1. Know the rewards: each thing you do has a cost and a payout. This can be financial, it can be an amount of time, it can be personal or social. Part of getting your life back on track is knowing how much it’s going to cost you to get the life you want, and whether you can live with what you end up with. This means knowing, for example, that you’ll need to spend 30 hours of work to write a story which will net you $80, but that publication will get you into the SFWA, a goal you think is worthy of the time spent. It’s knowing when a certain deadline or event will mean that you can’t see your significant
other next weekend, or that you’ll need to order takeout for dinner on Friday because you won’t have time to cook (which means, of course, that you’ll be paying for your lack of time now with having to spend more time making money to cover the cost of that take-out).

2. Prioritize your life: there are always more tasks than hours in the day, but some of them are more important than others. Make a list of your deadlines, write to-do lists. If you know what has to get done vs. what you’d like to get done, you know where to start cutting when you only have time or resources to accomplish some of your goals.

3. Learn to say no: One of the biggest problems I had was that I would accept every bit of volunteering that was requested of me, whether it was critiquing stories, doing line edits, or writing guest blog posts. It meant that I wrote fiction for token or non-paying markets. It meant that I helped other companies with their publication projects. As much as I’d love to keep doing all of these things, it contributed to my inability to get everything done, which led to me failing. I still do help out as much as I can, but I have a much better idea of when I can say “yes” and when I have to say “sorry, I can’t right now.”

4. Communication keeps people informed: Tell your coworkers and your family and your friends what’s going on. No one likes it when you just drop out of their lives, and sometimes we take that personally – it can feel like we’re not important if you’re suddenly blowing off deadlines and become impossible to find. Letting people know why your life is upside down may feel like you’re complaining or you’re weak, but in reality, it lets them know that they were on your mind. It tells people that the way you’re treating them and their projects isn’t personal. It’s much easier to work out a new deadline when you’re keeping people informed than it is to try to rebuild those relationships later.

5. Take it one step at a time: when you have a dozen missed deadlines and a handful of future projects, the moment you start as if you can peek your head up again, you’re buried under work. It’s impossible to fix everything all at once, so don’t. Pick the most important thing, based on your analysis of cost and payout and priorities, and do that. It can be reestablishing your social network, it can be quietly finishing a short story or editing job before anyone knows you’re back in the saddle. Whatever it is, do that one thing. Then do the next thing. After that, you do one more thing. It will all get done, and by learning to work as much as you can but not more, you’re learning how to make sure that you don’t overload yourself again in the future.

After all, everyone fails, but the goal is try to only fail in the beginning.