Wednesday, August 10, 2011

How "Carson And His Shaky Paws Grampa" was "born" (cont.)

I had now reached the point where I had to decide if I was serious about publishing this book.  Was I prepared to subsidize the cost of self-publishing (since the chances of finding a publisher willing to publish it seemed somewhere between slim and none)?  Which companies were the best candidates for self-publishing (there are many).  How did I want to market the book?  If I am lucky enough to actually make any money from this project, what do I want to do with it?  One question led to another and another.........

With my wife's approval I decided to go for it.  I asked Becky (my neighbor and advisor) and Alison (my illustrator) for self-publishing recommendations.  I proposed a plan for sharing any profits with Alison and she accepted.  Part of that plan was that we would give a portion of any proceeds to Parkinson's research.  I started the mind-boggling job of talking to prospective publishers hoping to find one that would meet my needs and budget.

This is probably a good time to share that I, like most folks with PD, face some cognitive challenges that have made this process even more daunting.  I do not multi-task well.  I have problems with what is known as "executive function" (organizing and scheduling) and "working memory" (the ability to actively hold information in the mind needed to do complex tasks such as reasoning, comprehension, and learning).  Also, I have problems with tiredness that are exacerbated by periods of intense concentration (like working on the computer or driving).  I think it helped a great deal that I was highly motivated to see this project through.  The thought of handing the book to Carson with no forewarning and seeing the look on his face (as well as the rest of the grandchildren) would make all of this worthwhile (I hoped).

Since I have a good deal of experience with marketing, I had a very clear idea about how the book would be best marketed.  The primary customers would be those who have PD, their caregivers, and their family and friends.  This was not a book that would do well sitting on a shelf in a bookstore.  I needed to find a way to make the primary customers aware of the book, communicate what the book was about, explain what the value of the book is (if any) to them, and give them an opportunity to buy it.  I decided to communicate with the "PD world" on a number of levels, including the top sources of information and research funding, the regional organizations that provide services and communicate with PD support groups, and, at least to some extent with patients.  I began to make contact with organizations like Team Fox, the Muhammad Ali Parkinson Center, the Davis Phinney Foundation, and many more asking if they would support the book by posting information about it on their websites.

During this time I must have researched a couple dozen self-publishing companies and talked to about ten.  Some were easy to cross off the list for one reason or another.  I had a pretty clear vision from my days as a publishing marketing director of what I wanted.  Also, I did my homework to determine what a reasonable price would be.  Since it was my hope to have the book in print by October so that it would be available for Christmas ordering, I was concerned that I hadn't found a company that I felt comfortable with and the clock was ticking.  Plus I was confused by all the options for self-publishing offered by the different companies.  I took one last pass at doing a google key word search and found a small Christian publishing company that seemed to be a good fit, Innovo Publishing.  I communicated with Terry Bailey, their Product Development VP, and felt right away that I was in the right place.  Terry assured me she would give me personal attention and answer all my questions.  After some initial exploration of their self-publishing option, I asked about another option listed on their website for traditional publishing.  The timing was good as I had recently received a number of commitments of support from some major PD organizations.  I described my direct marketing plans and shared my experience as a publishing marketing director and direct marketing VP with American Express.  A short time after talking with the managing partner for Innovo, Bart Dahmer, on the phone, I received an offer from Innovo for them to publish the book.  I was happy to accept and get out from under the self-publishing process.  Now I could devote my energies to working on my marketing plan.

Support has continued to come in from organizations including the European Parkinson Disease Association, the Parkinson Alliance,  and the Southeast Parkinson Disease Conference.  More are in the works, including all the regional counterparts to Parkinson Association of the Rockies.

Terry told me that there would be a PR press release before the book was ready to go and that they would consider doing a video trailer attachment.  I had already generated enough support to make that type of investment worthwhile.

During the time since I had agreed to a publishing contract, I had been in communication with my illustrator, Alison, regarding what I envisioned for illustrations to go in the book, leaving ample room for artistic interpretation.  I was extremely pleased as her ink and watercolor sketches began to arrive.  I could see that they would be just what was needed to bring the book to life!  I have now seen the interior of the book and it looks great!  The last piece being worked on as I write this is the cover.

There is still a lot to do regarding the marketing of the book even though it is nearly complete.  But I am energized by the support and encouragement I have received from Innovo, family, friends, and my churches (past and present).  Every day, a new piece seems to fall in place.  Yesterday it was a nice article on the book in the PAR electronic newsletter.  Today it was a posting of information about the book on the Team Fox blog (August 12).  I recently told my associate pastor that I am amazed by the way that all of this has come together.  In many ways, I feel that I am being led.  The way I described it to her was that when God tells me to jump, I don't ask how high, I just jump as high as I can and trust Him to take care of the rest.

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