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Friday, June 22, 2012

The Doctor & Author Connection


Today’s author is a bit like today’s doctor – life used to be more prestigious and it had a higher payoff. Now authors are a dime a dozen and few earn much money from their craft. Doctors still earn more than many Americans, but not as much as they used to. Insurance companies and a broken health care system and high malpractice premiums make it harder for ordinary doctors to be rich.

The public does not pity the author or the doctor, perhaps because all too often we hear of doctors getting paid huge sums for surgery or authors striking gold with a runaway hit. But we know that such scenarios don’t happen most of the time.

In the Great Recession that has lasted nearly four years, it seems few professions – aside from Wall Street – are raking in the dough. Parents question if it is worth the heavy price tag of sending their children to expensive colleges. There is a lot of uncertainty, struggling, and fear out in the marketplace. But I would like to remind others that to be a part of book publishing is very rewarding – and it can still sometimes deliver a nice payday.

Today’s formula for success for authors includes the following:

1.      Luck in all endeavors
2.      Help from others
3.      A solid network
4.      Thick skin to overcome bad reviews and naysayers
5.      Money: to invest in executing a solid PR and marketing campaign
6.      Creativity and imagination
7.      An ability to see how he or she is unique, different, new, or better than the competition
8.      Confidence, courage, and persistence to continue in the face of overwhelming odds against your success
9.      Time: to write, edit, research, and rewrite a book
10.  Time: to blog and participate in social media
11.  Time: to promote and market a published book

It seems the modern-day author has to be one-part writer, one-part marketer, and one-part entrepreneur. He or she increasingly wears many hats and has to work harder to get less. But the author of 2012 must be prudent, smart, opportunistic and assertive. He may be a talented writer but that is a starting point. He has to hustle to survive and along the way, get a break, in order to truly thrive.

Would authors and doctors switch places with one another? Probably not. But it can still be fun to be them, even if doing so seems like a burden. Today’s author will not need to accept the new landscape out there, and once he or she does so, the fight for recognition and sales can begin.

And if you are a doctor who writes books on the side, good luck!


Interview With Author Mandy Trouten

1.      What is your new book about? Maybe Today is about a teen's experiences with peer sexual abuse in a school that prefers to pretend it isn't that big an issue. As they refuse to protect her, some going so far as to encourage her abusers, the abuse escalates and Lauren is forced to take things into her own hands. This is especially difficult as she doesn't want to lose control of who she is or her career goals, nor does she want to face charges for assault & battery--simply b/c no one will back her claim of self-defense. Meanwhile, her home life is similarly unstable. Because of abuse at home, her parents are divorced and it is her bitter and manipulative father who has custody. Maybe Today is a story of fear, hate, frustration, helplessness, strength, endurance, friendship, faith and the eternal hope that today will be the day those around her stop her abusers.

2.      What inspired you to write it? Maybe Today is based on my own experiences and on two lawsuits I came across while researching for a college paper. I was also inspired by the desire to truly reach people about peer sexual abuse. Even the best nonfictional book (which I intend to release next fall) won't convey the emotional aspects like a novel will. I want people to truly understand what peer sexual abuse looks like, without first experiencing it themselves.

3.      What are the rewards/challenges to the writing process? The reward I think is the general satisfaction of writing a book. You get to know each character on a personal level. Likewise, I enjoy the prospect of creating a book that will accomplish the above-mentioned goals of allowing people to truly understand how peer sexual abuse feels for victims and why perpetrators do it. I hope it will inspire people to get involved in stopping peer abuse. For me, the challenge was in the degree of realism used. Legal aspects especially have to be kept realistic, whereas it's a chore sometimes to keep the characters from too closely resembling real people. There are characters that are completely fictional and then there are those who are heavily based on people I know. The same is true for places. While I don't much mind telling people who inspired what, it's something else if the similarity is so obvious that the real-life person can sue me for slander.

4.      Any advice for a struggling writer? By far, the hardest part of being an author is promoting your book. Writing can be hard, especially when you want to write, or think you need to write, but nothing will come. Harder still is promoting the book. Apparently, so many books are released every day, making it that much harder to get people to care about yours. Keep all of these things in mind when you decide you want to become an author. This isn't to say don't do it. If you want to write a book, you should absolutely do it and don't let anyone tell you to lower your goals. They are your goals and it is entirely possible to work a full-time job and write a book at the same time. You just have to decide what to do when. I wrote most of Maybe Today while on break and after work before going home. A few were written between customers while on the clock. During the editing stages, I spent several hours at night editing and spent half the day promoting. If you have to, it's also possible to succeed all but on your own. Long story short: know what you want and why you want it, then go at it full-throttle.

5.      Where do you see book publishing heading? Good question. I see e-books taking over because they're virtually free to produce, the cost/necessity of agents for most publishing companies and because e-readers are the hot new thing. Other than that, I don't know. I think books will probably always be around. I love books. But, I don't know how the industry will fare, between the existence of e-readers, the economy and management decisions.


Interview With Author Amanda A. Brooks

1.      What is your new book about? THUNDER MOUNTAIN BRIDES:  THE DEVIL AND THE LORD - DANNY by Amanda A. Brooks is the third book in my ten-book western romance series set in 1880's Colorado.  Hunter Lord is a saloon owner, and Danny Bailey is a wild child, she-devil, tomboy who uses pistols to shut down Hunter's saloon.  She turns his life upside down - for the better.  Hunter is going through a mid-life crises, and Danny is the only solution.  Neither count on falling in love with the other.  It's very comedic and slapstick - with a touch of drama.

2.      What inspired you to write it? Being part of a series, I knew that the only heroine for a saloon owner was one who would do anything to shut down his saloon.  I wanted this to be an opposites attract - match made in hell - kind of book.  My first two books being serious, I needed Book 3 to be fun and light - screwball.

3.       What went into the process of writing it? I almost made Danny a women's rights leader, but then went back to my original idea of having her be a little she-devil, wild child, tomboy.  That was the only way to keep the screwball in.  I suffered from some writer's block, and then one day, I started over with the story, and didn't stop until it was done.

4.      What are the rewards/challenges to being a writer these days? The rewards/challenges of being a writer these days for me has to do with self-publishing.  It's the only way to go for me.  I have total control over my stories and my cover art.  I get to write stories - cheaply - and sell them.  It is amazing!

5.       What advice do you have for struggling writers? Struggling writers should consider self-publishing with Create Space.  Not only do you have total control over your work, you can publish your work cheaply.  You get to do it your way.

6.       Where do you see book publishing heading? I don't think books will disappear, thanks to nook or kindle.  Too many people love holding an actual book in their hands.  I am not fond of regular publishing, but I still support it by buying books.  I think self-publishing is the wave of the future - the best way to go.  It's time for people to be in charge of their own stories and finances.


Interview With Author Becky Garrison


1.      What is your book about? Presently I’m working on an ebook titled Roger Williams’ Little Book of Virtues, a work inspired by Andre Comte-Sponville’s The Little Book of Atheist Spirituality (http://www.amazon.com/The-Little-Book-Atheist-Spirituality/dp/0670018473)  and Alain de Botton’s How Proust Can Change Your Life (http://www.amazon.com/How-Proust-Change-Your-Life/dp/0679779159/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1339947849&sr=1-1&keywords=How+Proust+Can+Change+Your+Life). This series of reflections will explore how Williams’ life intersects with the four Aristotelian virtues (prudence, temperance or restraint, justice and courage) and the three theological virtues (faith, hope and love/charity).

While these themes retain a universal quality that appeal to people of all faiths and those who profess no faith at all, they take on special significance as the United States heads into the 2012 election. Why have so many Americans given up the discussion of what it means to live a “good life” to the Christian conservatives? Instead of trying to put their faith into action, these religious leaders orchestrated a climate where white noise drowns out any semblance of intelligent discourse.

In Williams, a pioneer of religious tolerance, I’ve found a figure that can unite liberal people of faith, spiritual but not religious folks, freethinkers and atheists to explore common ways we can live together in the public square in ways that honors all people. Also, this book marks my first foray into both self-publishing and the secular book market, two ventures I’ve been angling to tackle for some time.

2.      What inspired you to write it? When writing Jesus Died for This? (http://www.amazon.com/Jesus-Died-This-Satirists-Search/dp/0310292891) in 2009, I connected with the soul of my ancestor Roger Williams and began to examine the similarities in our thinking regarding the separation of church and state. As I delved into the spirituality inherent in Kelly Carlin’s one woman show “A Carlin Home Companion” for a forthcoming article with American Atheist magazine, I realized the power of delving into our collective family histories as a tool to glean insights that can guide us moving forward. Obviously, one cannot extrapolate Williams’ pre-enlightenment theology onto a 21st-century global pluralistic world. But in light of our contemporary faith fights, I thought the timing could be right to bring forth his 16th century wisdom into the 21st century.

After Parliament burned and banned my ancestor’s works in the mid-16th century, he faded from the annals of US history. Even though Williams secured for Rhode Island the first state charter guaranteeing religious liberty to be the law of the land, his books were not found in the Founding Fathers’ libraries. So his voice was notably absent during the crafting of the First Amendment. My ebook joins a few other recent works like John Barry’s Roger Williams and the Creation of the American Soul in bringing Williams’ views into this current political discourse. Once again, we see the rise of religious leaders and politicians who drape the cross in the flag of American exceptionalism as they preach a revisionist view of US history that seeks to mold civil law into their version of an evangelical God.

3.      What did you love about the writing process of this book? I wanted to tackle a book about my ancestor for some time and am elated to see this dream come to fruition. Given I’m still researching and writing the book, talking about this project feels a bit akin to asking a chef how they liked their meal when they’re still mixing the ingredients. J

4.      Any advice for struggling authors?  After I sold my first article in 1994, I wrote primarily for print publications, many of whom are no longer in existence. Fast forward to 2012 and the bulk of my work is for online publications. Thanks to models like The Huffington Post, one can find amply places to “showcase” their work online but there’s a major decrease in paid writing gigs. In light of the massive current shifts in the publishing industry, I’d say we’re all struggling how to navigate this new frontier.

When unpublished authors ask me for advice, I always respond, “Do you want to be a writer/storyteller or do you want to get published?” If it’s the latter, I tell them to delve into the reams of material about how they can market themselves as wordsmiths. I have no interest in chasing after the next big thing and building up my personal brand. But if you feel this tug in your gut to tell stories, then start writing and don’t stop. Over time, you’ll find your unique voice From that place, you can speak from your singular perspective. Over at Red Letter Believers (http://redletterbelievers.blogspot.com/2012/06/guest-post-becky-garrison-laughing.html?m=1in) I did a guest post where I explored those tugs in my soul that led me to become a writer.

5.      Where do you see book publishing heading? After covering the 2012 SXSW Festival (http://killingthebuddha.com/ktblog/networking-ourselves-to-death/), Book Expo and Blog World East, I realized that while traditional publishing might have hit a crisis point, people still crave stories. Ebook sales continue to climb and show no signs of tapering off. Along those lines, I found the rise in a host of startups designed to transform the reading experience.

I confess I’m a bit bored by the host of online libraries that seem to replicate the Amazon 5-star rating system, a thumbs up/thumbs down dynamic that elevates what’s popular often at the expense of what’s worth reading. Also, I have some concerns that too many of these new developments link to Facebook and present with serious privacy issues. But I’m intrigued by the possibilities that projects like Sbooks (http://www.sbooks.net) offer readers and authors to connect through sharing and discussing long-form texts. That challenge for me is to seek out those new technologies that actually help us explore the myriad of ways that we can tell stories.

One online site in particular that caught my eye is Small Demons (https://www.smalldemons.com), a venture dreamed up by Richard Nash (http://rnash.com) who used to run Soft Skull Press. He’s betting that the way to find stories is through the stories themselves. So, by identifying and linking details within and amongst books, amongst narratives fictional and true, we can be led to more stories, more writing, more ideas, more music, more movies. Be led not by algorithms, not by previous sales numbers, but by the power of narrative itself.

Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer, the nation’s largest book promoter. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at brianfeinblum@gmail.com. He feels more important when discussed in the third-person.

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    All the best,
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