Jeff Gillis: Former Google Manager Reinvents How Masses Read Books on Mobile Devices

By Herald de Paris Contributor's Bureau on November 19, 2014

unnamedBy Eliana Alcaraz Esparza, Special to the Herald de Paris
MOUNTAIN VIEW (Herald de Paris) —
 So what do you get when you combine a techie, former Google product marketing manager and all around-geek hottie with a Stanford University literature degree? A master storyteller who redefines the e-book experience.

Move over, J.K. Rowling, E.L. James, and John Grisham because Jeff Gillis has arrived via his new page-turning (or should we say page-clicking) adventure-thriller enhanced GetFisk™ e-novellas.

At last someone who gets the reader needs of today—a tech-whiz who has combined classic storytelling with the latest digital technology. As a publisher, Gillis is a visionary. He has found a way to transform fiction into modern mobile entertainment.

Jeff spent eight years at Google, commuting from San Francisco to Mountain View where he helped lead marketing for Google Analytics, evangelizing data-driven decision-making for marketers and online business owners.

During those commutes, he would read fiction that never quite fit the timeframe of his travel. He wanted an escape that was short, easy-to-read on a smartphone or tablet, and action-packed, with plots taken from the headlines. He began brainstorming a way to create fiction for people on the go, using some of the same testing techniques used in Google Analytics.

In today’s ever evolving high tech society, readers have less time and money to delve into a fast escape, while commuting or traveling. Jeff Gillis left his cushy Google job and set out to launch PotBoiler LLC Publishing Company and immediately, started writing cutting edge, digitally enhanced, fast-paced fiction reading specifically created for smartphones and tablets then you’ve got to download. Jeff and his team gave birth to the GetFisk series, which start with the action/thrillers “Midnight in Juarez” and “Pirate Lair.”

Gillis presents a fresh reading experience that goes well beyond simple black text on white background. Each installment in the GetFisk series delivers plots, characters, formats, visuals, and interactive features all customized for reading on-the-go. And, the crisp narratives feature short sentences, short paragraphs, short chapters, snappy prose, animations, and illustrations.

Fast-read formats loaded with action, sex, mystery and humor – best of all, the novellas are short enough to read in one sitting!

Reading GetFisk, I fell in love with the dashing tycoon simply known as “Fisk” who owns everything from oil companies to movie studios. He is a mysterious billionaire who, according to Gillis, “pushes his own agenda, sometime attacking others expanding his empire, sometimes defending his own assets that come under attack, sometimes pursuing a world agenda.”

And then there is the movie star, Tarita Lee, who reminds me of a combination of the elegance of Salma Hayek, the sexiness of Eva Mendes, and the fearless action star Michelle Rodriguez. Gillis will say, she’s a fictional Angelina Jolie

“She’s an exotic starlet,” said Gillis, “who also works undercover for Fisk. And there is Carlos Madrid, a former thief who has been trained by elite military units.”

Recently, I had opportunity to catch up with the young digital e-book publisher and writer and he shared how it was he was able to walk away from a cushy Google job to venture into online publishing.

Herald de Paris: With your Google experience and connections, you could have ventured into almost anything digital, why e-books?

unnamed (2)JEFF GILLIS: I wanted to do something entrepreneurial and have always loved entertainment and fiction. The idea for GetFisk came while I was at Google, and it’s something I would use, so that’s always a great start. I was commuting an hour each way to work, and wanted a fun, easy to read, smart escape that wasn’t a game or surfing the web and was something that I could read and finish in one to two sittings. I didn’t want literature that took a lot of thinking and weeks to read. A few others had the same idea, including my father, and we decided to collaborate on it. It’s been a really fun transition from Google. We’ve also added a new wrinkle to fiction content creation which I bring from my days at Google Analytics: we rigorously user-test the content and often will tweak plot points or writing style based on user feedback, all the while trying to make the most addictive and entertaining story.

HDP: In your opinion what is the most exciting forecast for the digital mobile market?

JG: According to surveys, currently just over 50% of Americans own smartphones. Everyone I know has one, and it’s just going to increase. They’re truly becoming ubiquitous. Another statistic is that people are buying more e-books because they can now carry literally thousands of them everywhere they go. They don’t just have to lug one book around anymore. They have choice and accessibility. So, reading is increasing which is encouraging to hear.

HDP: What makes your e-books stand out… what is their most unique characteristic?

JG: There are so many! But the most unique characteristic is how easy they are to read. Everything has been designed for a quick, fun read: the sentences and chapters are short, the dialogue is snappy, in script format, and the overall length is shorter than traditional novel. Our novels are about 25,000 words while a traditional novel is around 100,000. I have to mention the embedded art and animations in our e-books that add richness to the reading experience as well.

HDP: Do you think your e-books will appeal and capture some of the audio book readers?

JG: We are launching audiobooks for each of the e-books soon as well, so the answer is there will be overlap. But yes, people who love audiobooks like an easy experience… they just push play and listen. Sometimes these people are perhaps driving or moving from one place to another. We’re written GetFisk so that it’s so easy to read, it’s almost as easy as an audiobook.

HDP: GetFisk series is packed with action, adventure and full out thriller novellas, how did you decide on this genre?

JG: Data suggests that people love stories that are based on current events – ripped from the headlines. ThinkLaw and Order and all those NCIS spin-offs. All of our stories have plots that come from real events in the news, from Somali Piracy to drug warfare in Mexico to unrest in the Congo. Also, thrillers are one of the most popular fiction genres and one that we love to read. We just set out to create something that millions of readers would really enjoy.

HDP:  Where did the inspiration for GetFisk and his pals come about?

JG: They were inspired by adventure, romance and spy/espionage genres, taking the best of heroes and anti-heroes, from James Bond to The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo to Clive Cussler—all with a dash of humor and sexiness. Fisk is mysterious, handsome and very rich. Tarita Lee—movie star to the world, and secret agent working for Fisk on covert missions by night or when in hiatus from film career. Carlos Madrid—reformed thief who now works for Fisk utilizing his elite military training.

HDP:  If you were to compare Fisk to any movie or book hero, who would it be?

JG: Fisk is like an older Don Draper from Mad Men crossed with a billionaire like Warren Buffett, Richard Branson or Mark Cuban. His operative Carlos Madrid might be a James Bond-type, and Tarita Lee is like a fictional Angelina Jolie who also works undercover.

HDP:  GetFisk series contain characters and storylines that are multi-cultural/ethnic… was this a conscious decision?

JG: It was. We wanted heroes who would appeal to people across demographics, genders, cultures and ethnicities. And a diverse workplace is a better one, where people don’t come from the same backgrounds but rather bring a rich variety of experience.

 HDP: Growing up, what did you read? Who were your fictional heroes?

JG: I read anything that had action: spy novels, westerns, sci-fi and fantasy – anything from Tom Clancy to “Dune.”  And I enjoyed compelling and flawed heroes. I loved Louis L’Amour’s “Last of the Breed” which featured a wilderness mano-a-mano between two great trackers from different cultures, Joe Mack and Alehkin. I just loved both those characters. I also liked Jack Aubrey from the Aubrey-Maturin nautical historical novels by Patrick O’Brian, which was made into a movie called Master and Commander. The characters had discipline that came from being in the Navy and also in a perilous situation—at sea—but found time to stay sane with civilized rituals like playing music on violin and cello. I loved this level of detail and humanity that added texture to the story.

HDP: Do you accept writers to submit story ideas? Or are they solely written in-house?

JG: So far everything has been created in-house, but we are happy to accept story ideas from writers.

unnamed (1)HDP:  With the changing reading habits of Americans and progressive countries moving toward e-books, it seems kind of sad that it is the nail on the coffin for brick and mortar bookstores… any guilt trips about?

JG: Honestly, I hope physical books and bookstores will never go away, and in fact, we’re going to make print versions of the books available. I love the feel of a physical book in my hands and one of my favorite things to do is go sit in a bookstore and browse, relax and read. That being said, e-books make so much sense. They’re convenient – you can “carry” thousands with you instead of one or two books. Also, publishers don’t have printing or distribution costs – it’s all digital and electronic. Lastly, we’re saving trees by not printing on paper, so this trend is actually good for the environment. But again, I don’t see physical books going anywhere for a long time if ever.

HDP: “Midnight In Juarez” is awesome! I can see it as a TV series, is this direction your GetFisk brand is heading? Any ideas of your dream cast?

JG: Thanks! We’d love that, and think it would parlay well into TV with all the action and fast-moving dialogue. Dream cast! What a fun question. For Fisk, I would say Jon Hamm or Leo DiCaprio, but we’d have to wait for them to age about 20 years. As for Tarita and Carlos, I’ll leave that up to the reader’s imagination for now! I don’t want any pre-conceived notions just yet, as readers are picturing those fantastic (and gorgeous) characters in their own minds’ eye.

HDP:  What has been the hardest thing venturing out on your own as head of Potboiler LLC than when you were at Google?  And, what has been the best thing?

JG: The hardest thing has been not taking no for an answer. As an entrepreneur, you just hit hurdles, and often don’t have help. You just have to be persistent. That spins off into the best thing as well. I’ve learned so much building this company without thousand of people who can help (like there was at Google). An additional best thing has been seeing the content take form. It starts rough, and slowly, like sculpting a slab of marble, becomes this great piece of entertainment. It’s been such a collaborative effort, with artists, writers, editors, engineers and partners. I couldn’t have anticipated the end result, and every time a new person adds something, it becomes better.

HDP:  For diehard anti e-book readers is it possible to purchase a print version?

JG: Not yet, but we will be making this available very soon on Amazon, Apple iBooks and wherever books are sold.

Thank you, Jeff.

I discovered Jeff Gillis by accident when a friend, a New York-based attorney turned me on to GetFisk’s first novella, “Midnight in Juarez.” Everyone knows I’m a prolific reader and that I devour good storytelling. Once I started to read “Midnight,” I couldn’t put it down. Gillis captures readers and takes then on an adventure as electrifying as sitting on the edge of a theater seat totally engrossed in the images on the big screen. I found myself all in when Fisk gets caught in a hair-raising thriller, when his operations in Mexico are being threatened by drug cartel warfare. Then I was introduced to Carlos and Tarita, who in this first novella, team up to find a mysterious cartel boss named Paco Fuentes, who may or may not be Carlos’s half-brother. It was like reading in 3D! It was a unique and entertaining reading experience. So, instantly I set out to find and interview the author and publisher.

Jeff Gillis is determined to revolutionize the landscape of e-reading one page-turner at a time.

About Potboiler LLC:

Potboiler, based in New York City and San Francisco and led by former Google manager Jeff Gillis, brings together artists, writers, editors and designers from some of the biggest companies in the business to create this bold new digital publishing vision. Gillis explains, “The future of e-book fiction rides with stories created for mobile people, like me. So my team and I set out to create something that we wanted — short, fast-moving stories that are easy to read but also have eye-catching graphics and stimulating interaction.”

About GETFISK – Fiction Series:

The GetFisk novellas are fast-moving, action-packed and sexy tales about a powerful, mysterious tycoon known only as “Fisk” and his colleagues – special operative Carlos Madrid, and Hollywood actress Tarita Lee. The first two titles in the series available now are “Midnight in Juarez” and “Pirate Lair,” an adventure on the high-seas, when one of Fisk’s oil tankers is hijacked in the Indian Ocean off Somalia. To find the pirates and the missing tanker, he sends Tarita and Carlos into pirate-infested waters as bait in a dangerous game. Publishing in partnership with the digital publishing and distribution platform Vook, Potboiler will release new novels in the GetFisk series as well as in other series on a bi-monthly basis. GetFisk’s: “Midnight in Juarez” and “GetFisk: Pirate Lair” (each $2.99) are available now for smartphones, tablets and all major e-readers through Amazon, Apple iBooks and Barnes & Noble. For more GetFisk™ action updates, visit


No comments yet.

Leave a comment