Brian Thompson, 37, from Covington, GA, is the author of Reject High - a 270-page trade paperback available as e-book (.mobi and .epub) in the Young Adult/Sci-fi thriller genre. You can buy it on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Brian has a B.A. in English from Morehouse College and M.Ed. in Secondary Education from Temple University. He is the Managing Partner of Great Nation Publishing, LLC, and a high school teacher. You can read more on his website and blog and connect through Facebook, Twitter , LinkedIn and Pinterest.
When did you get the idea for a book, and why this particular genre? I loved Rick Riordan's Percy Jackson series, it served as a major source of inspiration and sci-fi is my first love. After teaching teenagers for seven years, I know what a tough audience they are to please. But if you can capture their interest and attention, you can get anyone. I pitched the idea for Reject High to Heather, my wife. An ADHD kid gets sent to an alternative school and finds radioactive gems that give him powers. Cool, he's super-strong, right? Wrong – he also has rage blackouts, which are scary without superhuman powers. A weakness like that added layers to his character. I wanted a person of color in the lead role, so he's black and so is his love interest, Sasha…His best friend, Rhapsody, is Cape Verdean and Panamanian. My fiction usually has a multicultural cast. Then, I build the world around them.
How long before you got around to working on the book, what kind of research did you do? Once I got the idea, I started writing. I can't keep ideas floating around in my head very long. I have to get them out and down on something. As far as research, my beta reading team is made up of a few teenagers. They help me add realism by researching their attitudes toward a number of issues – bullying, sex, death, etc.; after all, it's been a while since I was a teenager! The radiated jewels are actually derived from a real life incident – the Carrington solar storm of 1859. It was the biggest solar storm in 500 years. I thought, “What if the high energy proton radiation given off by the sun affected certain minerals?” Then, “What if those radiated minerals only affected a small section of the population?”
How long until you felt you had a finished book to take it to the next step? What was the most challenging part of the writing process? I finished Reject High in three months, but since it's a series, I went back and tweaked it even after my editor had seen it. Getting into the mind of a 15-year-old boy with major issues was challenging. Writing in first person was a different experience for me. You have to watch out as your verb tense shifts more. In third person, you use mostly past tense. It took time to get used to that. Also, writers have a tendency to rely on two senses (sight and hearing) when they write in first person. I had to remind myself to have my characters describe smells, touch, and taste.
When did you do most of your writing, did you have a schedule? Did you have any collaborators, editor, designer, co-author? My writing habits are a little nuts. I may not write anything for two or three days and then sit down and write 20 pages. It was a little easier last year because my wife Heather was still pregnant. Now, we have a five-year-old and a ten-month-old. That means my writing schedule is “whatever time I can grab.” My wife is very understanding and helps in that area. My editor is Mary Marvella and I have a fantastic cover designer who's done all three of my novels and a spectacular interior designer, Elaine, who's done my past three books.
What technology did you use to write your book? What methods of publishing did you consider or had plans for? I used my laptop and desktop for the writing and the internet for research. In 2010, Heather and I started Great Nation Publishing so that we could independently publish and control our intellectual property, so that's the route I've gone and continue to use.
What was the process after that, once you had your book ready to be published? When was it published? My manuscript went to Mary, who did it pretty quickly. Thankfully, I didn't have to rewrite much, just a misplaced comma here and a lot of incorrect verb tenses there. I added a few scenes and deleted one or two. I published it online, through Amazon's Kindle Direct Publishing program, on May 12 to build advance buzz. The paperback was published on the actual release date, June 13.
What has the response been to your book? How did you market it? Really positive so far. My faithful readers seem to love it. I started with a Kirkus Indie Review and petitioned a few of my past reviewers, Charles Clark of Brotha Online and Cyrus Webb of Conversations Live Radio. Then, I did a FIRST Wild Card Online Book Tour and asked some of my mentors to give me a push online. There was the online early release, which helped me get some advance reviews, and I did a limited release to my faithful readers to help spread the word. I've been doing social media promotion ever since.
What are you planning on writing next? Currently, I'm working on the second draft of the sequel to Reject High called Sophomore Freak and the third instalment, tentatively named Forgotten.
Your advice for aspiring writers planning to publish in the near future? Really, the best thing I can tell an aspiring writer is just to do it. I come across people who love to say “I have been meaning to write a book,” or, “I'd like to write a book,” or even, “I have a book inside of me.” That's the worst thing to me. You might have a great idea and let it sit there and rot in your head. Get moving and write it down!
Thank you Brian for sharing your writing and publishing experience. Good luck!
Noel Parent, 38, is a writer, landscaper and researcher with a B.A. from University of Notre Dame. He has lived in South Bend, Indiana and Auroville, India but currently resides in Atlanta GA. Reach him on his blog website or on Facebook. His book ‘Transcendent Sky - A Spiritual Journey of Poetry’ is a 64-page paperback and e-book on poetry, spirituality and yoga published June 2013. You can find out more on the website and the Facebook page. The book is available for purchase in paperback at the Createspace E-store, on Amazon Kindle and on Smashwords for Nook, Sony, Kobo and other E-books.
Noel shares about the idea for the book, the genre, the research - I have been writing poetry for 15 years as a natural outflow of all my inner spiritual seeking and meditation. It had become a way of expressing the deeper Truth that I was awakening to within myself, which came naturally as a part of my Yoga. Even around 2000, I had compiled one collection of poems under the same name as the current book, but never published it. I recently felt a strong need to share this poetry with everyone, and finally decided to take the best poems and organize it into a decent book to offer to others. To put it simply, it just felt like now was the time to do this book. It has been a long process of inner exploration over many years…a constant research of the Soul, Spirit, and Consciousness.
Were there challenges in the writing process, was there a writing schedule? Writing poetry for me is not about thinking, but about entering an inner Silence in order to connect with something deeper and beyond oneself, something Divine. So the difficulty comes in being able to stay with that Silence and Openness and then receiving something that is beyond oneself, and yet still a part of oneself at the same time, so that one can express it in as pure and clear a way as possible. It is truly a Yoga practice, a practice of awakening Consciousness. In fact, the writing is not the most difficult part, but rather the editing and organizing of the book after the poems are already written…when the mind becomes more involved! I had no structure, no time…whenever the Inspiration came, wherever…so many different times and places.
On collaborators, technology and publishing - My close friend Jenny Beaudin helped me with the cover image editing and creation. She does photo retouching work. Most poems I wrote by hand in a small notepad first, then later typed all into a computer document. I really saw this first book as an experiment in self-publishing. I never thought about sending to publishing companies, as I knew this would be a very long process, and I just wanted to put something into the world and see what would happen. I thought I would simply offer it as an E-book only, but then decided to also do the Print-On-Demand service through Amazon's Createspace. I wanted to cover all areas with a print version and also being able to offer it as an E-book for all formats and versions - Kindle, Nook, Kobo, Sony, even a generic PDF for those who just want to read on a computer. I feel the most options offered the better.
What was the process after that, once you had your book ready to be published? And how did you market it? A lot of the work was in the technical formatting of the book for the various formats needed - the print version needed one format, then an E-book format. In fact, two versions of the E-book were needed because of the technical demands for the different E-book formats…one for Kindle, one for Smashwords, which does the formatting for all other E-book versions. Once this was done, began the long road of marketing and researching ways to market…an endless job for self-publishers, I feel. I am still really at the beginning of the marketing phase, but I already had a blog/website related to my writings on which I added a page for my book, while writing a Book Release blog to put out into my Wordpress community, and beyond. I also created a Facebook page, and plan to use social media as much as possible. I sent a mass email to all my Email addresses to get friends and family involved in spreading the word. I hope in time to start visiting independent bookstores and other artsy shops to inquire about carrying my book, as well as visiting poetry readings. I plan to do a press release to various newspapers/magazines, and also create an email list for various poetry groups, yoga studios, spiritual communities and other groups that might connect with my particular brand of poetry. I plan to do this slowly as I have time. I'm certainly open to any leads people have to share!
His plans for the future - I will have at least one, possibly two, children's books being published by early 2014. I continue to write articles for my blog, but also have plans to write a couple novels and a nonfiction book on spirituality, consciousness, and Yoga.
Your advice for aspiring writers? Well, as I am still in the beginning of my own journey in publishing, I can only offer this: Don't be too much in a hurry, take your time and do every detail with perfection and care, follow what your inner Sense tells you in terms of what direction to take - to self-publish or to find a publisher, to do a print book or an E-book or both. And just keep at it, be creative in all aspects of the work - the writing, the design and layout, the marketing, with everything…and reach out to everyone to make the connections that can slowly grow and help build a network of people who want to read what you have to say.
Noel is the first poetry writer to be featured here. We look forward to his books in 2014!
Alisha L. Gordon is a writer, blogger, and full time graduate student from Atlanta, GA, pursuing a Master of Divinity degree at Emory University. The 30-year-old author also has a BA in English from Spelman College and M.Ed. in Secondary Education from the University of Phoenix. Alisha’s book is titled Pieces: Finding the Missing Piece is Easier than You Think. It is a 73-page paperback on Christian/Self Help/Single Parenting (published March 2010) and you can read more about the book at here. The book is also sold on Kindle, LuLu, and the blog site. You can reach Alisha on Twitter and Facebook.
When did you get the idea for a book, and why this particular genre? After having what I consider a “God experience” on New Year’s Eve of 2008, I decided to use writing as a way of dealing with issues that a lot of women face: rejection, unforgiveness, brokenness, a desire to find my purpose, a lot of things. As a single mother, I found that my experiences were universal: every woman is looking to find the missing pieces in their life – often times we lose pieces of ourselves in old relationships, burdensome jobs, broken dreams. How do we go about reclaiming these “pieces” of ourselves? This book was birthed out of the process of finding my own missing pieces and its purpose meets the needs of so many women in various phases of their life.
How long before you got around to working on the book, what research did it involve? Because the book uses anecdotal stories about my life, the research was real-time, being lived out day to day! When something happened in my life that I felt was there to teach me a lesson, I wrote about it in my book. I used the Bible as a means to shape the stories, using some biblical stories to explore the spiritual principles behind the experiences. Writing the book, actually, ended up being very therapeutic!
When did you feel you had a finished book to take it to the next step? I’m not sure when I knew that the book was finished – I prayed a lot during this process because I wanted to be sensitive about what God had to say about the book. I didn’t want it to be about me in the sense that I was making every decision based on what I thought. Because I knew the book had a greater purpose for it, I wanted to be sensitive to what the Spirit was showing about the writing process and even myself. When it was done, I just knew it.
What was the most challenging part of the writing process? Because my book was personal in nature, it was hard trying to assess what information to include and what to leave out. What I found, however, was that it was important for me to be and remain as transparent as possible in order for the overarching message I was trying to convey to do its best work.
When did you do most of your writing, did you have a schedule? Interestingly enough, I did a huge chunk of my writing during Lent of 2009. Instead of giving up something, I decided to make use of a gift God gave me. I turned my phone off from 8 p.m. - 11 p.m. every night for 40 days and I wrote. Some nights were better than others, but during this time, I was very intentional about getting the words on the paper. It was probably the most impactful time I had spent that entire year.
Did you have any collaborators, editor, designer, co-author? I was blessed to have some friends who were highly skilled in the editorial and design part; a Soror of mine did some heavy duty editing while a college classmate designed my book cover and online graphics for me! The process of self-publishing is truly a collaborative process!
What technology did you use to write your book? Before I got hip to Mac Books, I used my trusted old desk top PC and laptop. I also used Scrivener, a program that many professional writers use, to keep chapters organized and complete the outline and layout of your manuscript.
What methods of publishing did you consider or had plans for?
Initially, I thought that going the traditional route of pitching the book to a major publishing house would be the only way I’d get my book published. I bought a copy of The Guide to Literary Agents by Chuck Sambuchino and I combed through it looking for every agent who would be interested in representing my type of work. After sending dozens of pitch letters and packets (which also came with dozens of rejection letters), I decided to publish the book myself. Waiting for someone else to believe in my book, a book intended to help people overcome defeat, in itself, seemed so self-defeating. So I did the work myself!
What was the process after that, once you had your book ready to be published? I set up an account on Lulu.com because they were one of the few online sites that did printing and shipping. I invested some money in my project by buying a couple hundred books so that I could sell them at different events, book signings, etc. A number of my supporters wanted to have their book autographed so this was helpful in that process. It was a bit cumbersome trying to mail out the books myself, but the reward definitely outweighed the inconvenience. I relied heavily on social media and my website to promote and sell the book and even secure a few speaking engagements where the book became the focal point of the experience.
What has the response been to your book? The response has been overwhelming and, more importantly, has impacted the lives of women all across this country. From lawyers to stay at home moms, women have been able to reflect on their own lives and create opportunities for growth – but it is more than just individual change; Pieces allows women to change so that their families, homes, and communities can be better. When a woman is at her best, the entire community thrives!
How did you market it? Social Media, Social Media, Social Media! Twitter, Facebook, and Tumblr were essential in making sure I got the word out about the book. I also created an email account for the book (under the To the Nines Publishing umbrella) to contact local media (TV, radio, newspaper) to send press releases about my book signing and general information about the book. It became a one-stop-shop: I did the marketing, promoting, and public relations!
Your advice for aspiring writers planning to publish in the near future? Basketball players dribble basketballs. Singers sing. Writers write. You can’t make a claim as a “published author” without first taking the time to write! Do your research as well; there’s nothing that you need to know how to do that you can’t find out on the Internet! I taught myself how to lay out a book, market, and publish a book all on the Internet! You can too!
So what’s next? Alisha has spent a lot of time blogging but has two books in the works. She has been revisiting her manuscripts and hopes to have one of them ready for publishing in 2014.
Thanks Alisha for sharing your author journey and being the first author to participate in the author series. Good luck!