If someone had told me a few years ago that I was going to write a book and have a Korean publisher offer me a licensing agreement, I would have looked at that person with a suspicious eye and asked, “Whaddaya smoking?” As it turned out, I started writing in August 2002, self-published in December ’03, and received an offer from a Korean publisher in April ’04.
In 2001 I used to frequent this fantastic Italian restaurant in southern New Jersey, where I always had the same young waitress. We became friends and would engage in conversations about life in general. One day she mentioned that she just knew she would end up divorced if she got married. This bothered me a lot because she was a fantastic young lady with a lot to offer the right person. Since I was 60 years old, experienced, and divorced, I started jotting notes down for her about how she should prepare for marriage when Mr. Right came along.
At the end of August 2002, after I had made the decision to take all the notes I had jotted down and write a book, I felt a cold chill and trembled. My two English teachers from high school were turning over in their graves and screaming in unison, “What! Him write a book?!”
Many Mysterious Matters
I knew just enough about books to fall into the same pitfalls I’m sure many of you fell into after you decided to write your first book. Outline? Perish the thought! How many pages? No idea. What topics was I going to cover? That was a mystery. How was I going to market my book? Never entered my mind. The one thing I did know was that I needed to begin putting words down on paper. I just sat down at the computer and started writing.
Early on, I knew I had to make two major decisions. I had to decide what to call my book and how I was going to present my material. After jotting down multiple titles I chose Are You Sure You Want to Marry That Person? because I thought it was catchy and would grab someone’s attention quickly. I didn’t want my book to be dry so I incorporated humor based on my experiences. Luckily, I was right on with both decisions.
Every time I told someone the title of my book I received an immediate response–a boisterous laugh, giggles, and a few times, “Where were you when I needed you?”
As I completed one draft after another, I had friends, old and new, read and evaluate what I had written so I could see if I was on the right track. I was surprised at the responses: “It’s great!” and, “I couldn’t put it down once I started reading it!” Needless to say, the feedback gave me encouragement to press on. I’ve had only one negative, sort of, response. This couple I know was having marital problems. She thought my book was fantastic. That’s all he had to hear. He didn’t want anything to do with it.
Putting On the Publisher Hat
Because I was going to be publishing this book myself, I obtained a Library of Congress number and registered my copyright. After that, I thought, all I would need would be a barcode, an ISBN, and permission to use some copyrighted material. Talk about eye-opening experiences.
The barcode company I called wanted to charge me hundreds of dollars. Then came the next sticker shock. I needed just one ISBN, but, as many of you know, these numbers are sold in blocks of 10 for $230. I argued my case, and Bowker agreed to sell me one. Since I used to work in accounting, I did a quick calculation: $230 divided by 10 = very reasonable. Then they hit me over the head with, “That will be $125.”
In late November of last year, as I was getting close to completing my final draft, I started surfing the Internet to get some ideas for marketing my book. That’s when I came across the Web site for PMA and learned about the Ben Franklin Awards. Then I saw the price on that. Time to take two steps back and do some serious thinking.
My decision was to go all out. But it was early December and the deadline was December 31. Crisis! My books weren’t printed yet because I still didn’t have permission to use song lyrics I had included. There were multiple e-mails that didn’t get answered. There were phone calls to Los Angeles, Chicago, and finally Florida, where I was able to find the legal owner. Crisis over? Wrong! It takes six weeks to get the permission because of all the required forms. Have you ever heard a grown man cry over the phone? ! I cried. I moaned. I groaned. I got the permission via e-mail in three days!
But the best part was that becoming a member of PMA led to having my book exhibited at trade shows, and the trade show in London resulted in publishers from England, Finland, Italy, Japan, and Korea requesting my book for evaluation. Who would have thought? Now I know!
Marketing my book is a big challenge, but I didn’t know what I was doing when I was writing it, so why change now? One thing I would like to do is find a nonprofit organization to market the book through its network in exchange for the bulk of the profits. I’ve contacted about 10 nonprofits, without success so far, but that’s to be expected. Currently one major U.S. nonprofit is considering my proposal.
Last year at a seminar I attended, a representative from a company that designs Web sites talked about how important it is to have good testimonials. I was able to get a lot of good testimonials for my site but I still needed the one testimonial that would stand out above all the others, the one that would validate what I had written. Then it happened. A reader sent me a comment that said, in part, “Your book is probably going to change my life . . . in a good way.”
One reason I wrote the book was to help people avoid becoming divorce statistics, but I was floored because I didn’t really expect my book to have such a strong effect on anyone, even though that was one of the things I wanted to accomplish. I was so overwhelmed that I wasn’t able to do anything else for the rest of the day. This testimonial is the first one on my site’s Testimonialpage.
I don’t know where this is all going to end up for me, but it’s been a very interesting journey so far. Of course I hope to make the marketing successful, but at the very least I will always have the satisfaction of knowing that a publisher halfway around the world believed in the book enough to pay for rights to it, and the deeper satisfaction of knowing that I helped at least one person through a hard part of life.
Peter A. Venuto has worked as a U.S. Navy hospital corpsman, a respiratory therapist, a real estate salesman, an accounting specialist, and, lately, as an author. His goals include writing a serious book for high school students as well as a few other books. For more information, visit www.lifeexperiences.biz.