I REMEMBER my mother reading at red lights and having an extensive library at home. And throughout grade school in Staten Island, New York, we traded baseball cards and brought issues of MAD Magazine and the associated MAD paperbacks to school to read and share when we could. Between MAD, Judy Blume, and others, we were actually reading a lot on our own.
My first full novel I seem to have chosen was Mom's hardcover of William Peter Blatty’s The Exorcist which I secretly borrowed at nine years old. Lots of reference to fact in that book, actually. And to be honest, even as a youngster, I/we would "find" copies of things like The Joy of Sex and books on all kinds of subjects. (My Uncle Kenny was/is also a voracious reader and had a library of books on war, Jane's, for one.) It all made me realize books offer answers to all kinds of questions!
Throughout high school I read exactly NONE of what was required, got A's based on Cliff's Notes but mostly simply by skimming and dipping into those required books. (Later in life I'd go back and read a few.) It taught me I/we never have a problem reading or looking into something we are interested in. Today, it's the duty of any teacher, parent, person, to at least try and get a reader's interest and willingness, first.
Force on an independent mind backfires. In my career, as I have worked almost exclusively on books for popular audiences, making things as easy and enjoyable to read as possible is a priority. And in those years one of my best friends, Michael, reignited my love of books, maybe with more of a business aspect with the likes of Donald Trump's Art of the Deal and Iacocca, An Autobiography. Those and others both hold lessons I look back to even today. (And was my first exposure to a "ghostwriter," notable William Novak.)
I studied English at the University of Florida and was turned on to Steven R. Donaldson, reading his Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever series, often while walking across campus. I didn’t know books could be so engaging. At school, I wrote short stories and poetry, dove into philosophy and world religions, and found history and biography. Between parties, several friends and I were avid readers, again perhaps far too little involving our classes.
As a small business owner, I discovered self-help, which did help. I wrote copy for my businesses, training materials for real estate agents, and a real estate column in a local newspaper. But writing poetry, performing music, writing books, these are things no one can really make a living at, right? Boy was I wrong. In fact, the best advice came from a drum teacher in high school, but its importance slipped by me at the time. Will Hanson said in conversation, “Whatever you do, be the best.” Only later in life would I realize how right he was. People make great livings doing all sorts of things, and if you find your passion, the world tends to get out of your way.
After the real estate bubble burst in Florida (2008) I lost my life savings, but gained an opportunity to redefine myself. I went back to college at 40 (the best time to go to college), and my father kept bugging me to try freelance writing. I got paid crap, but each project was sacred and added to my portfolio. The jobs got better. I ghostwrote about 50 short books, from fiction to organic gardening, project management, and a short memoir of a hike to Everest Base Camp. It was great. I wrote in volume and learned self-publishing.
In 2010 a very busy small publisher of business books in Australia liked my work and asked me to start editing books by other writers. Then they asked me to hire and manage the other writers. We did another 150 books. It was incredible. I eventually went out on my own to work more closely with fewer clients, to write larger books, and to learn all I could about writing, publishing, and everything books.
People's stories and experiences, their expertise, they all create new and stimulating areas of education for me (and their readers), and I love my job! I’m also an author and compiler myself (of course, see the BOOKSTORE) and a small publisher. My first little publishing "house" was "Bimini Books," where I cut my teeth on leisure topics, hired other writers, and learned more. I was then the CEO of another startup, which I left when I realized the editor-in-chief did the fun stuff. But one of my partners had something like 20 years of experience in traditional publishing and many of his maxims still inform and apply today.
Today my favorite reads include the narrative nonfiction of Erik Larsen, David McCullough, to name a few, and I honestly don't read anywhere near as much as I'd like. (I'm okay saying that because that's what "well-read" people say, right?) I read fiction as the urge strikes, as well as history and whatever looks interesting.
In a book, you can explore far-off places, contemplate the unexplained, challenge the "explained," and walk in others’ shoes. They ignite the imagination more than other media, stimulate and broaden the mind and horizons.
And I have the coolest job in the world, if you ask me. Getting here wouldn't have happened if not for the support of my wife Dawn, best friend Lloyd, and my mother and father, not to mention many amazing author-clients
I love books, and I won’t take a project unless I love it, too. And I love the industry. We all get to be a part of this sea change in publishing, and try to understand it, try to predict it, and make it work for us. Today, becoming a successful author is more science than art (in most cases). If you paint yourself blue on weekends, not only is there a group for you, there is a way to find them! And a high tide raises all boats, which is why I'm happy to share all I've learned so more books can come to life.
It’s all so much fun, always something new, always such a challenge, it really does seem like a dream sometimes. Maybe because each published title is someone’s dream, personal, business, or otherwise. I get to be some small part of it. I love my life and I want you to love yours, too. I’ve seen what books can do, whether it’s blasting the ceiling off of your influence, preserving a life of expertise or gathering the wisdom of one, or making a child happy with wonder, books are magic.
If you love what you do, let’s write a book about it.
And if you don’t, let’s change that with a book.