My most recent book is The One Hour Guide to Self-Publishing: Straight Talk For Fiction & Nonfiction Writers About Producing & Marketing Your Own Books. I wrote to share what I’ve learned working with other writers and with self-publishing my own novel, Waves. There are some good books on the subject already, but many of them start with the premise that publishing is easy and anyone can do it. I think it’s easy enough to produce a mediocre book, but when you start with a glorified premise, you end up sugar-coating the rough spots to save your credibility. I’d like to empower writers to create excellent books, but at the same time, I want to let people know what they’re in for. There’s money to be made in publishing, but your independently-published mystery thriller isn’t going to leap onto the bestseller list. The book is a concise guide to how the business works, what the production process involves, what’s required of your time as far as marketing and promotion and many other details. Spend an hour reading this book and you’ll make better choices.
Tell us something about yourself.
I spent 15 years living aboard sailboats and having grand adventures before embarking on a marriage and family adventure which is equally rewarding but different. Not long after getting into that lifestyle, I knew I’d write about it one day. Professionally, I’ve been a graphic designer since the 1980s, got my MFA and have been a full time faculty member at an arts University since 2002.
What inspired you to write this book?
I started working with an author, designing his books and website, and exploring the publishing process, and that became a catalyst for my dormant desire to write. I wrote my first novel and self-published it, and I have two more being edited. Between that and marketing, I learned a great deal—including how difficult it is to sell fiction books. As a writer, designer, marketer and educator, I became my own perfect storm. I chose a nonfiction topic—self-publishing—that people wanted information about and set out to do well by doing good.
How did you choose the title?
In this case. It was entirely practical. The title tells you the book is short and frank in tone.
What obstacles did you encounter in getting this book published? How did you overcome them?
I should almost make something up here. This book came together very quickly and easily. I already knew what to do. The challenges are related to marketingit. I have a good topic, an interested audience and an affordable book. From here, it’s about connecting with the writing community.
How did you know you wanted to be a writer? How did you get started?
I knew one day I’d write. When the time came, I just started getting up early and doing it. Writer’s block is not my problem. My editor just split my 600 page novel draft into two separate books and I have over 150 pages written of a sailing memoir. I have all sorts of book ideas in line and will get to as many as I can.
Do you have any writing rituals?
I get up at 4:30 every morning and write before the morning household chaos arrives and the phone starts ringing. No chants or stretching exercises. I just make time for myself seven days a week.
Did you learn anything from writing and publishing this book? What?
If you were doing it all over again, what would you do differently?
What would I do differently? Not a single, solitary thing. Even when I’ve made mistakes, I’ve learned so much. My mistakes are part of what created the Self-Publsihing book. The trick is to leverage your missteps, not regret them. Check my blog and see how abysmal the results of my facebook marketing have been. A mistake? Not if it saves my readers and viewers some money. Ultimately, the writer is the product—not the book. If I offer my mistakes up transparently instead of pretending to be getting rich off of everything I do, I form a more authentic relationship with my viewers and book sales follow as a logical consequence. I’m selling myself as a source of straight talk, but I can’t vouch for my own credibility. Sharing mistakes is a way to demonstrate relationship worthiness and if I hadn’t made any, would you really trust me, anyway?
What types of books do you like to read? Who are your favorite authors?
As a sailor, I’m very concerned about marine conservation so Farley Mowat’s books are of interest. I love the classic sea novels of Melville, Conrad et al. I’m a Tom Robbins fan and when it comes to my fiction writing, I don’t imitate him, but because of his writing, I’m less afraid to be unconventional, colorful, philosophical and irreverent. If someone doesn’t like them, too bad. they’re my art. I enjoy biographies of extraordinary people. I’ve read a lot of classics.
Are you working on your next book? What can you tell us about it?
I have two novels in draft form that are loose sequels to my novel, The Dance. They have their own story lines, but use the same main character. They’re all based on the extraordinary adventures of a real life person. The two new books take place aboard a sailboat in the Caribbean in the 1970s. On the surface, they’re adventure books, but underneath, they’re explorations of the relationship between nature and human nature. While those are being edited and reworked—a laborious process—my writing pleasure comes from telling my own stories. My memoir has a working title of “In My OwnBack yard,” and is a series of vignettes—a sort of Garrison Keillor or James Herriot at sea format. The goal of that is to transcend “look at all the cool stuff I did.” I’m not so much telling my story as inviting my reader to experience it; it’s a word-painting exercise and I’m having an enormously fun time writing it.
What is the best advice you could give other writers about writing or publishing?
Read my book. Well, honestly, read a few books. There are some good self-publishing educators out there. By all means, write your heart out, but if you’re going to go into the publishing business, be honest with yourself about what’s involved. Get educated and make informed choices so you can measure your success on the appropriate scale. For me, finishing a book is success in itself. If you print a dozen copies, you’ve got something to be proud of and time to write another. If you’d rather write than become a book publicist, that makes sense on a business and a personal level. We all need to find where our balance points are.
Who is the perfect reader for your book?
For the self-publishing book, my ideal reader is anyone considering publishing. For The Dance, I’d have to say people who are philosophical questioners and seekers. It’s a novel with a story line, but the characters ask a lot of questions and take little for granted. In fact, the book is careful not to preach or offer packaged truths. It leaves conclusions up to the reader, but its characters present points of view about love and sex, faith and empiricism, violence and survival. I’d characterize the overall tone as upbeat, mischievous and philosophical and those are qualities I’d expect to find in readers who enjoy it. The upcoming books are similar but less esoteric. They’ll be easier for the average reader to swallow, but will have special appeal to sailors. Sailors HATE inauthentic sea books and these are clearly written by someone who has been to sea.
Where can readers learn more about you and your book?
I’d start at http://www.essentialAbsurdities.com the site for my publishing entity and my book consulting business. From there, you can link to a site for each book, including the self-publishing blog at http://www.oneHourSelfPub.com and find links to where the books are available on Amazon.