Friday, May 23, 2014

Christopher L. Hedges, Average Joe’s Story: Quest for Confidence

AUTHOR: Christopher L. Hedges

Are you a full-time writer or part-time, and how do you organize your writing time?

I think I’d be categorized as a full-time writer, but I don’t honestly spend all that much time writing. When I was writing Average Joe’s Story I could be in front of the keyboard for twelve to eighteen hours straight, but now that the book is done I have moved onto marketing and I don’t do nearly as much writing. When it comes to the organization of my writing time I spend the first hour or two of a session organizing my thoughts. Then I sit down and write an entire chapter, review what was written, make any changes, and repeat as needed until the section feels right. From that point, I’ll walk away from what was written for a few days then go back and read the manuscript in it’s entirety to make sure everything still feels on-point before moving to the next section.

When and why did you begin writing?

The idea for writing started after I was asked to submit an article to my Toastmaster’s District Newsletter a few years back. I got a lot of positive feedback from fellow Toastmasters that had read the article. From there I wrote the first 8,000 or so words of my first book. I handed a copy of the manuscript to a friend who happened to be a published author. He liked it and told me now I had to finish it. For myself, I had to find something to occupy my time. At the time I had been on disability for nearly a decade dealing with some health issues. I came to terms with the fact that if I ever wanted to pull myself off the welfare system I was going to have to create my own opportunities. So I decided to try writing and we shall see where it goes.

What inspired you to write your first book?

I was in the front row of a conference listening to a professional speaker. I turned around to see the audience entranced by the speaker’s every word, feverishly taking notes. It bothered me knowing that these 200 plus people all paid to be there to take notes on subject matter I shared for free. I figured if he can do it so could I, and that moment inspired me write my first book.

What are your thoughts about promotion?

I think that writing the book is the easy part, and promotion is when the real work begins. I think this is where an author truly has the opportunity to separate himself from the crowd. There is so much you can do to make a name for yourself, and the only thing that really holds you back is your imagination. For a writer this should honestly be a nonissue. Promotion is an area that if you have a quality book and you are willing to consistently grind it out, you can develop a real name for yourself.

Who is your publisher and how did you connect with them?

Morgan James Publishing is publishing Average Joe’s Story: Quest for Confidence, and if I have anything to say about it they will publish all of my future books too. I was talking to Wesley Whittaker, the coauthor of several financial books (most recently The Little Book of Venture Capital Investing) about my plans. I told Wes that my ego didn’t need the pat on the back that comes from having a publisher, but I didn’t want to self-publish. Wes offered to make an introduction to David Hancock, the founder of Morgan James Publishing, and told me to reach out to Morgan James. I shot David an email, being totally forthcoming to the fact that I wasn’t sure if I was even at a stage where I should be contacting him. I had a few conversations with David and one of his acquisition editors. I submitted a book proposal, and a very rough draft of a partially written manuscript. Less than a month later there was a contract offered on the book, and a deadline to get it completed.

What is your marketing plan?

I’m spending the first few months marketing in Florida. I have broken the state up into three major sections and I plan to invest a month or so in each section building momentum until the book goes on sale in August. From there I have an aggressive 123-city 20,000-mile book tour that hits all 100 of the major book markets in the United States. In preparation for local, and hopefully national TV interviews I hired Starley Murray, a Celebrity Image Expert, to help me prep for what is sure to be an extremely uncomfortable environment for a novice. I’m spending more time on social media trying to build a presence for the book. I have been trying to network with people who can help me get to possible radio interviews. I’m also doing online blogging interviews like this one. I’m basically doing anything and everything I can to spread the word about Average Joe’s Story.

What do you plan for the future?

I’m already writing the second book in the Average Joe’s Story series. The second book will be a story that is based on what takes place as I travel around the country on this ludicrous book tour.

How can we find you? Website, Facebook, Twitter, blog, etc.?

I’m trying to make myself very easy to approach. You can reach out on Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter. My blog will be on my website, and I’m planning on having a video blog on a yet to be named YouTube channel.

What gave you the idea for this particular book?

I wrote the book that I have yet to see in a bookstore. Every book I have ever seen written by anyone who has accomplished something that was worth writing about wrote about the subject matter looking back in hindsight. The problem I see with that modus operandi is that I don’t think the vast majority of people will ever see themselves as a billionaire businessman, a world leader, or an A-list celebrity. So I think there will always be a slight disconnect between the author and reader. I wanted to write about life as it happened to help bridge the gap, hopefully eliminating the disconnect that I think currently exists.

What types of writing do you prefer, and why? 

No matter what type of writing you do I think there should be well planned out stories embedded into a book that entertains and connects with the reader. If you were reading Average Joe’s Story: Quest for Confidence you would probably expect to find it in the self-help section of the bookstore. However, I see it as a business book with a self-help feel to it. I don’t want to be painted into a corner by way of the type of writing I do. Now if you are asking what type of book I would pick up off the shelf in the bookstore the answer is the memoirs of soldiers. They can be entertaining, inspiring, and educational all rolled into one.

What is the toughest part about being a non-fiction writer, and how do you get past it?

I don’t think this was something specific to non-fiction writing, but rather how I chose to write Average Joe’s Story. I had extended periods of inactivity because the sit-downs I had with the people I interviewed for the book were all done face to face. This meant there were extended periods of time where I was alone with my thoughts twiddling my thumbs. This was a really scary place for me to be, mainly because I am my own worst critic. What I chose to do to navigate the waters of these periods of inactivity was begin writing the second, third, and fourth books in the Average Joe’s Story series. What has been written may be thrown away some day, but starting those manuscripts let me focus on writing and not my perceived inadequacies.

Do you have an agent and do you feel an agent is necessary for non-fiction?

I do not have an agent, and whether or not I needed one was a question I asked another published author very early on. I think having a good agent can help an unpublished author get picked up by a publisher, but I don’t think an author needs one at the early stages of their career with non-fiction. I went to Barnes & Noble and picked up about 100 different books that felt something like the one I was writing. I made a list of all of the publishers and that became my potential target market to approach. I wrote a really well thought out book proposal for Average Joe’s Story that was intended to sell my idea to a potential publisher. If you are willing and able to do the work I don’t think an agent is paramount, but they can be very helpful. Writing, as in life, is more about who you know, not necessarily what you know. A well-respected agent already has the professional knowledge of getting authors published and relationships with the gatekeepers to book deals. This could make your life much easier. Unfortunately something I learned in the process of writing, which continues to be reinforced, is that most professionals don’t want to work with you until you no longer need them. It is much harder to work with the Average Joe than it is to work with the Jack Canfields of the world. So there is a little bit of a catch-22 when dealing with agents in my opinion.

Any tips for new writers hoping to write non-fiction?

Writing the book is the easy part. Your job really gets tough when it comes to marketing. Marketing is a continual grind that never stops, so be prepared for it. Be forewarned that there is a lot of rejection in your future. This will come from publishers/agents who don’t think your book is worth the paper it’s printed on, critics who don’t understand you, and friends and family who just don’t think you are an author. Develop a thick skin early, and surround yourself with positive people who are prepared to support you through the tough times. This is one of those questions anyone who has gone through the process could probably write a Ph.D. dissertation on. For the purposes of time, if you have any questions I would be more than willing to discuss them further. See the ways in which to contact me listed above.

What book are you currently reading? What do you like or not like about it?

I’m currently reading Malcolm Gladwell’s new book David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants. I love the way Malcolm always seems to take a subject and find some new and interesting perspective to look at old material. I like the way he makes complex subjects appear very simple by giving you enough detail to capture attention without overwhelming you with too much detail. Finally I enjoy the way he makes subjects that could be very boring if told in a traditional academic style engaging through the use of storytelling. As for the things I don’t like. Well, if I have constructive criticism I try to offer it behind closed doors whenever possible. I also prefer to do it in a means that permits interaction like Skype, phone calls, or in person. There is too much that can be left up to interpretation when you write something, so if I’m going to be critical I want to ensure the person I’m talking with has the opportunity to discuss the issue with me. There’s enough negativity in the world so I try not to contribute to the epidemic if at all possible.

What has been your favorite part of being an author? What has been your least favorite?

My favorite part of being an author is easy. I get to go meet and interact with people who I admire and find interesting, I get to travel to new places, and experience new things. My least favorite is what’s to come. A friend of mine told me a story about an actor he knows. This actor told my friend that you had better be prepared for the loss of your anonymity, because once you have chosen to step into the spotlight you never get to take that back. Regardless of how famous you become by choosing to be a public figure, you are in the public eye forever moving forward. You lose some of the benefits that come with the obscurity of anonymity like making it through dinner at your favorite restaurant without someone wanting an autograph, photo, or some other form of interaction. I’m not saying I expect to be taking pictures while I’m waiting in line for my McNuggets at McDonalds, but I’m not sure I’m ready for the prospective of losing my anonymity.

BOOK TITLE: Average Joe’s Story: Quest for Confidence
GENRE: Self-Help
PUBLISHER: Morgan James Publishing

Average Joe’s Story is a book written by an Average Joe, about an Average Joe, and for the Average Joe. It’s a story of choosing to overcome the adversity life places at your feet. We are all living our own version of the same story. You may not have the opportunity to visit some of the places the author has. You may never interact with the people he has or experience the same life-changing events. However, Chris would be the first to tell you that if you look hard enough you are not all that different from the people you read about or see on TV. This is a story that attempts to dispel the myth that they are somehow different.

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