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  Suddenly, there were viable lines of distribution for individual writers who no longer needed the monolithic, outdated, methods of traditional publishing houses in order to reach readers.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: