Writ Large: Ch 1, Part 2
My publisher calls.
She has a client who desperately wants to talk with me about joining the syndicate.
It is my last day in New York and I usually allow a few free hours at the end of a trip for serendipity, which means I could see them. In addition, it is always good practice to appease your publisher, so I agree to meet in the lobby of my hotel.
Imposing, yet understated; attentive yet invisible staff: the Hotel Batista is my speed. Most people have never heard of it and that’s by design. Much like the syndicate had been until this week. Was everything about to change?
A discrete, semi-enclosed bar and lounge area off of the main lobby was where I head. As I near it, I notice my publisher sitting on a leather sofa and talking to a man, who has his back to me. I get closer and she sees me and waves. The man turns around and smiles.
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Oh, this must be one of her other clients she is meeting with and she’s still waiting for the aspiring syndicate member.
It is none other than the bestselling thriller writer Josiah Peterson. He had cut his teeth ghostwriting for James Patterson and then graduated to producing incredibly riveting stories that, in all respects, were an order of magnitude better than anything James had produced.
But I was wrong. My publisher isn’t waiting for anyone else. Josiah wants in. Josiah wants to join the syndicate!
“What you’ve done with the syndicate has been remarkable. I’m a big believer in the power of such a pool of writers coalescing under one or more author brands. As you may know I worked with James Patterson. He is a master at doing this in his own name.”
I question him as to why he then feels the need to be a part of the syndicate?
“Frankly, I miss it. Now that I’ve built up an audience and an author brand in my own right, I’d like to leverage the syndicate model. Sure, I could do it myself, but you handle a lot of the elements I have no interest in: systems, people management, publishers, sorry Lisa, marketing and so on.”
“No offence taken,” smiles Lisa. “Gentlemen, I’ve got another appointment and so I’ll love and leave you. Josiah you are in good hands.”
I stand up and hug her. “Until next time and always a pleasure.”
Sitting back down I can see from Josiah’s face that this is a big deal to him. He is anxious.
I tell him that I had no plans on growing the syndicate other than on a very slow basis. I had left my ego on the floor during my sudden cardiac death. I didn’t see myself participating in corporate empire building. That said, I said I was open to a small group of new members, who would have to audition for a place.
He tells me all three of his thrillers since leaving James have sold more than ten million copies apiece. But that they had taken him on average twenty-four months to complete, given all the other important and necessary parts to publishing a book such as publicity, marketing, social media. He is keen to accelerate that rate and steepen the curve so that he sells many more books than that.
I say that I am willing to make exceptions for a writer of his calibre, and that his experience in the model, as practiced by James, would be particularly useful for us as we scale our output. If he agrees to the percentage of royalties that the syndicate requires on all projects published while a member, or for two years after leaving the syndicate, then he could consider himself in the tent.
“Lisa has filled me in on the numbers, thanks. They make sense to me, just enough for an author to take the syndicate seriously, but not such much as to gouge them.”
I lean over and shake his hand.
“Welcome aboard the syndicate.”
He grows visibly excited and his eyes soften, a sure sign that he is relaxing.
I remind him that everything taking place within the syndicate’s virtual walls is confidential. We do not release details of co-writers who work with an author on a project, unless there is an agreement between them to have that co-writer displayed on the cover, alongside the author’s name. Our only requirement is that the syndicate be mentioned in an author’s About the Author page and on any social media or author websites they publish.
I tell him that within a week he will be on the system, have access to the directory and communications channel and be set up on all the syndicate’s systems.
I ask him if he is bringing any co-writers into the syndicate with him.
“No,” he replies. “I have written my last three books alone. One of the value adds I’m seeking from the syndicate is matching me to one co-writer to begin with.”
His goal is to narrow down his publication to market timeline to twelve months.
I remind him that this is also contingent on the publishers being amenable.
He says he has no qualms with Lisa as his publisher and she has assured him that her pipeline would be able to keep pace with his accelerated output.
I tell him that securing a co-writer, and eventually a team, isn’t a problem. We will be happy to facilitate. As part of his Welcome Pack, we will include a questionnaire asking him about his preferences in a co-writer.
The business stuff out of the way, he begins to tell me how his family life has changed. His first wife had left him during his tenure with James. The pace was vicious and he had had little time for her or their two children. He felt guilty, but they had gone into the relationship with eyes wide open and he had been assured that his workload would not become an impediment to their relationship. A few years in and the relationship was in trouble. She found her yoga instructor to be more attentive and she ran off to Bali without the children.
He had to scramble to find someone to help him care for them, and during this time he began to question whether it was all worth the sacrifice. He found a suitable young woman from Paris who was backpacking as part of a year off from studying literature. She was perfect for the children.
“Help yourself to any of the clothes in my cupboard,” he’d said to her. His wife had literally left with a bikini and a sarong. She wanted nothing more to do with him and his life.
He’d resigned from his tenure with James and hired a van. He spent six months touring the United States, Canada and Alaska during the worst of the COVID epidemic and then paradoxically found himself in a tropical paradise too. He’d got rid of the van and flown to Hawaii.
During the tour of the United States, he’d begun getting closer to the Parisian carer, but in Hawaii’s idyllic climate the two of them fell head over heels in love. And then his muse kicked in and he had an idea for a thriller, which was unlike anything he’d written before. The four of them moved back to New York and were living in the Hamptons.
I have time to get back to my room and spend a few hours updating my notes from a whirlwind tour of the eastern seaboard. I keep copious notes of all my interactions and meetings.