March 18, 2014
flat army

Lessons Learned From a First Time Author

writing2“You are way too verbose,” said my Grade 11 English teacher back in 1987.

“Don’t ever pick a career as a writer,”

he added as the follow-up to that crushing blow to childhood ability.

I never actually thought I’d become an author. I enjoyed writing, but didn’t seriously consider it as a vocation, as a job, or as a purpose. I used to write poetry and even songs when I was a wee lad.

I grew up thinking I was going to be either a doctor or a physiotherapist. As far as I could tell, both professions had the penmanship of a cave dweller. My chicken scribe technique was on par and – according to my English teacher – so were my skills at writing. “No need to think about a life in journalism,” I said to myself one day.

Over the years, I found myself writing more and more. I even partook in several “What is your ideal career” surveys and assessments. Writing would always be in the top three.

So, I began addressing this gravitational pull.

First, I was writing to myself.

Then, I began writing a few public pieces.

Eventually I started up and by the time New Year’s Day 2012 rolled around, I had committed to myself to write a trio of books.

The first of those books, Flat Army, was published roughly one year ago in North America.

And yes, it probably is “way too verbose”. It is, after all, more than 90,000 words.

According to UNESCO, there were approximately 2,200,000 books published in 2013 across the globe. Flat Army makes up 0.00045% of the titles in 2013. Not great odds for success.

What have I learned over the past year?

  • I love writing
    • If you want to be an author – and I’ve talked to dozens of authors over the past two years – you better enjoy writing, otherwise you’re going to end up miserable.
  • I love authors
    • Those aforementioned conversations have been riveting, uniting and at times cathartic. There are so many people willing to share ideas and help. It’s very inspiring.
  • Your publisher team is critical
    • I signed with Wiley, however one month after the publication of Flat Army, the entire Canadian office was terminated due to ‘downsizing’ activities. I miss them dearly.
  • PR Firm and Agency might help
    • I wanted to believe a book would sell on its own merit, on its own accord. It doesn’t. I was wrong. I suspect this pigheadedness cost me heaps of potential sales.
  • Amazon Author Central is depressing
    • Amazon itself is the book industry agora or mecca. That point is irrefutable. If you visit your Author Central page too frequently however, it’s likely you will take greater pleasure downing shots of turpentine.
  • Royalty statements are even more depressing
    • If you want to make a difference in the world (hence, Flat Army) the bi-annual royalty statement is not for the faint of heart. 6,332 units sold as of Dec 31, 2013 not including Audible, EBSCO or Books 24×7. I really wish it had done better, not for the sake of profit, but for the sake of purposeful change in today’s organizations. I hope it still has a chance.
  • Wow, I sold books?
    • Despite my wish for greater sales, it is somewhat unbelievable to me that so many people bought the book. A year ago I didn’t have a book, and a year later … I have (I hope) touched more than 6,000 people. Thank you to those that did purchase the book. I’m grateful.
  • Being Canadian
    • I love my citizenship, but at times I have felt it to be a hindrance when it comes to the contents of the book. “How could this come from a Canadian?” “Why should we believe you?” “Don’t they only play hockey and eat doughnuts?”
  • Signing books is cool
    • When people ask to have the book signed, I go into a slight moment of panic. “Did she just ask ‘me’ to sign a book?” It is a humbling experience. For those that asked for a book to be signed, you have my sincere appreciation and gratitude.
  • Book signings can be humiliating
    • If you’re at a conference, and no one shows up for your ‘book signing’ … it may be a sign.
  • Book reviews
    • Some people actually took the time to write a review of Flat Army. There are ones found on Forbes, The Globe and Mail and individual ones found on Amazon. Thanks to those that did. What’s puzzling, however is that many individuals said they would write a review, and then didn’t. Perhaps the book wasn’t good enough to do so?
  • Does speaking and other external writing help?
    • I’m not sure. I would never give up speaking as it’s a natural extension of what I love to do. (for me, it’s a lot like teaching, oh … and eating Pecan Pie) And writing … well, that’s what I enjoy doing alongside my day job. But I can’t tell whatsoever if it has made a discernible difference in terms of the number of units sold, or more importantly, the changes I want to see in organizations across the globe.
  • Proud beyond belief
    • I am so proud. I love that there is a book out there, with my name on it. (what a coincidence) My grandfather wouldn’t allow my father to become an author or journalist. Instead, he became an electrical engineer. I was so proud to give a copy of Flat Army to my Dad so he could see his last name on a book. What an awesome moment.

What’s next for the rookie author?

Flat Army by Dan PontefractI’m writing the next book and having a fun time doing so. Did I mention I love writing? I suppose I am no longer a rookie author. I’m discussing possibilities with book agents and PR firms. My relationship with Wiley is all but severed due to what happened to the Canadian office and I’m now in the process of seeking a new publisher for my next project, “It’s Work Not Jail: The Difference Between a Job and a Career with Purpose”. I can’t say enough about how incredible Don Loney, Jennifer Smith and Terry Palmer have been to me with various pieces of advice and contacts while also providing a shoulder to lean on.

If you’re interested – or know of someone who might be interested – this no-longer-rookie-author is all ears.

Although I still might be verbose … but you knew that if you made it to the end of this post.

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