Here’s what almost always has to happen for Bob and Patricia Gussin to seriously consider publishing a book: something bad, and preferably within the first 10 pages.
Their company, the Longboat Key-based Oceanview Publishing, specializes in mysteries, thrillers and suspense. In another genre, like romance, the author might have 100 pages or so to woo the reader.
“You know in the first few pages if it’s not going to work,” says Patricia Gussin, who has written five suspense novels and co-authored “What’s Next for You? The Gussin Guide to Big Changes, Big Decisions & Big Fun,” with her husband.
Since its founding in 2006, the company has published more than 80 books by 50 authors.
But there’s more than just good storytelling and writing behind the growth of Oceanview Publishing.
The company has received major exposure from Amazon, particularly when its titles are featured as a free daily download, or as one of the monthly 100 Kindle books under $3.99 titles.
Last month, for example, Longboat Key author H. Terrell “Terry” Griffin’s “Collateral Damage” was offered for $2.99 as one of the 100 books under $3.99. The title reached No. 1 in the private-investigator category for Kindle downloads and No. 5 in the mystery/thriller category. Downloads were even ahead of Suzanne Collin’s “Hunger Games” and John Grisham’s “The Racketeer.”
Patricia Gussin’s “The Test” was the No. 4 most downloaded contemporary-fiction title on Amazon for a couple of days in June, when it was offered as a free daily download.
The top three were the “Fifty Shades of Grey” titles by E.L. James.
“When that deal runs, if we look at our entire spectrum, all of our authors are up,” Bob Gussin says. “There’s a new-author factor here and a good-book factor. It really is beneficial.”
The first chapter
Bob and Patricia Gussin both retired on the same day in 2000.
He was chief scientific officer for Johnson & Johnson; she was a physician.
Before retiring, Patricia Gussin decided she wanted to become an author and started attended writers workshops. When Bob Gussin accompanied her, he realized there were a lot of writers who were unhappy.
He met talented writers who couldn’t find an agent to represent them and couldn’t find a publisher to read their manuscript because they didn’t have an agent. They pointed to the best-seller lists that every week contained the same small group of authors.
As Bob Gussin learned more about the publishing process, he thought he could start his own company and help bring new authors onto the literary scene.
He shared the idea with his wife, who was already represented by a major agent, over lunch.
She told him if he wanted to start a publishing company, he would have to publish her book first. Her agent would most likely find her a major publisher, but she knew her husband would make lots of mistakes publishing his first book and wanted him to make them on her book, rather than another author’s.
The Gussins founded the company in 2006, out of Ipswich, Mass.
Oceanview published five books that year, the first of which was Patricia Gussin’s “Shadow of Death.”
The company began publishing all of its books in all eReader formats in late 2008 and early 2009. By 2010, the couple moved the company’s headquarters to Longboat Key.
Bob Gussin explains how, as a mid-size publisher, Oceanview benefits from Amazon deals.
A major publisher might order 500,000 of a book on first printing. The volume is so large that costs to print each book might average less than $1; that company then sells the hardcover books for $27 or $28. The company already has a much lower profit margin when it sells an eBook for the typical price of $9.99.
But Oceanview’s printing costs are much higher per book because it typically only orders 3,000 to 5,000 copies on first printing. If the company can generate high-volume sales through eBook, it benefits, even at prices as low as $3.99.
Each quarter, publishers send Amazon a list of books they would be willing to offer as a deal, but Amazon doesn’t reveal how it makes its final selections.
Prices aside, eBooks have several advantages over print books from a publisher’s perspective:
They aren’t returnable. (If a bookseller or wholesaler doesn’t sell a book, it can return them to the publisher at any time.)
Plus, their flexibility makes them more accessible to readers. The font size can be adjusted to larger sizes on each device, making it unnecessary to produce different large-print copies of books.
What’s next for Oceanview?
Oceanview released 12 titles last year and plans to publish 13 in 2013. This month, it has five titles available for $2.99 or less on Amazon.
Sales at Oceanview are divided approximately 50/50 between eBooks and print books. The company recently started releasing audio books and also has a deal with Amber Entertainment to produce a feature film of Ward Larsen’s “The Perfect Assassin.”
Oceanview used to read every manuscript it received. But at one point, it was getting more than 300 submissions a week.
Its policy now requires authors to either be represented by an agent, as major publishers, or have previously had their book published (but not self-published). The company will also accept manuscripts from authors referred by another Oceanview author or an associate, offering lesser-known authors a chance they wouldn’t get from a major publisher.
Every year, the company publishes an average of four or five new authors per year.
Above all, the company looks for something in its books beyond their ability to make bad things happen: a legitimacy that allows them to tell their stories.
Pat Gussin draws on her career as a physician to write medical thrillers.
Griffin, like his protagonist, Matt Royal, is a semi-retired attorney who can draw on his breadth of courtroom experience.
Author Dr. John J. Le Beau spent 25 years working undercover with the CIA. The CIA and National Security Council had to clear both of his books before publication to ensure they didn’t reveal any intelligence secrets.
Larsen, a former U.S. Air Force pilot, writes military/espionage novels.
“When you’re not known because you’re a writer, it’s best to write what you’re known for,” Pat Gussin says.
A different Oceanview
Oceanview Publishing’s headquarters in Mediterranean Plaza on Longboat Key isn’t far from the ocean. But the Gulf of Mexico isn’t the “ocean” referred to in the name.
According to “What’s Next for You? The Gussin Guide to Big Changes, Big Decisions & Big Fun,” the name came from another of the couple’s post-retirement ventures: owning vineyards in New Zealand.
They named their first vineyard Oceanview Vineyards because its vines flourish just a few hundred feet from the Pacific Ocean.
Join the Neighborhood! Our 100% local content helps strengthen our communities by delivering news and information that is relevant to our readers. Support independent local journalism by joining the Observer's new membership program — The Newsies — a group of like-minded community citizens, like you. Be a Newsie.