Thomas A. Williams – Author Interview

What is your most recent book? Tell us a bit about it.

My latest book is The Self-Publisher’s Bible. Encyclopedic in format, my book pulls it all together and reveals hundreds of insider trade secrets of publishing success. Covers how-to in writing, editing, marketing, book design, typography, selling rights, profiting as a publisher. My book is for those who not only want to publish a book, but who want to make money doing it.

Tell us something about yourself.

SINCE I GIVE ADVICE on a professional subject-the building of a successful career as a writer-I’d like to tell you just how I learned the things that I share with you here.

I took the usual detour that many would-be writers take: I became a teacher of literature. In my case it was comparative literature in the University of North Carolina system. I published the usual “scholarly” articles in journals that nobody reads, but soon discovered that I was far more interested in the writing than in the scholarship. I decided to branch out. I began sending out queries and sold my first article, “How to Teach about Poetry” to a magazine called Teacher’s Scholastic. Not long thereafter, the University of Georgia Press published my first book, Mallarmé and the Language of Mysticism. Then, in a great stroke of luck (but luck that came about because I was a relentless sender-out of queries) I sold an over-the-transom article to Esquire magazine that managed to be featured on the front cover. With that clip to send out, I was a made man in the magazine writing business.

But like an actor who itches to try directing, I wanted to try my hand at editing and publishing my own books and periodicals. In 1979 I was able to buy a weekly newspaper with no cash up front by assuming some of its debts. As it turns out, I was a pretty good editor. I increased circulation by 400% and ad revenues by an even larger percentage over a three-year period before selling out to one of the newspaper chains. I started and published many magazines, including Tar Heel: The Magazine of North Carolina (a statewide magazine), The New East magazine, NCEast Magazine (regional magazines) and Washington Magazine (a city magazine). I published Welcome to Wilmington, a newcomer guide, and the North Carolina Travel and Tourism Guide.

I started Venture Press, my home-based book publishing company, to self-publish my own books. This worked well. Titles such as How to Make $100,000 a Year in Desktop Publishing and How to Publish Your Poetry became Writers Digest Book Club selections. I later expanded Venture Press into Williams & Company, Publishers, and began to publish books by other writers as well.

The result of all of this? I learned, step-by-step and from both sides of the editorial desk, how to succeed (make a profit) in writing and publishing books, magazines and newspapers. This new blog will offer you-sooner or later-every trade secret I have mastered.

In order to support myself in the modest but delightfully civilized style to which I have become accustomed, I still write, publish and sell my books and am currently doing two periodical start-ups. I do one-on-one consultation, workshops and seminars for a fee. But mainly I “gladly learn and gladly teach” (as Chaucer said of his Clerk of Oxenford). If you want to learn how the writing and publishing business really works, my book is a good, friendly place to start…

What inspired you to write this book?

Thirty years of work in publishing as writer, publisher, self-publisher, and marketer — plus an understanding of just how little most writers know about how the book business really works.

How did you publish this book? Why did you decide to self-publish?

Though several of my books have been published by “traditional” publishers, I self-published this one to optimize profits

How did you know you wanted to be a writer? How did you get started?

I always knew this. I wrote what I called a “novel” when I was twelve years old and have been at it ever since writing fiction, biography, how-to.

What do you believe is the hardest part of writing?

Writing the first draft quickly enough. The real writing — the editing of the first draft — is easy for me.

How do you do research for your books?

Read very widely in the field I am working in. Use to spen much time in libraries, but now mainly use the Internet

What are you reading now?

I am reading (and rereading) a lot of theology (liberal) as background for a novel I am writing that is set in a small protestant church

What types of books do you like to read?

Books with meat in them, with ideas.

Are you working on your next book? What can you tell us about it?

When I read The Shack I thought it missed solving the problem it set out the deal with: the problem of evil. I thought I would try my hand at it.

What is the best advice you could give other writers about writing or publishing?

Write every day. Apply the ATC factor (put ass to chair ). Read good writers, asking how they got the effect they did. Pay attention to the rhythms of words and sentences.

What are you doing to promote your latest book?

Mainly giving seminars and writing articles for the web.

Where can readers learn more about you and your book?

Go to my web site, http://www.publishingentrepreneur.com