Interview with Dee Power, Co-author of The Making of a Bestseller: Success Stories From Authors, and the Editors, Agents and Booksellers Behind Them
Dee Power, MBA, was born on the East Coast and grew up on the West Coast. She started her writing career in the second grade by writing a Thanksgiving Day play that debuted before many appreciative parents. Dee has been interviewed as an expert on the publishing industry by The New York Times, Washington Post, the Associated Press and various local publications. She and Brian Hill are the authors of The Making of a Bestseller: Success Stories From Authors, and the Editors, Agents and Booksellers Behind Them, Attracting Capital From Angels, Inside Secrets To Venture Capital and the novel, Over Time. You can reach her through her website, http://www.BrianHillAndDeePower.com
Shel Horowitz: You’ve written two books on raising venture capital, a novel, a book on creating best-sellers (The Making of a Bestseller : Success Stories from Authors and the Editors, Agents, and Booksellers Behind Them), and now you’ve just released a business plan workbook. Is there a common thread? If not, what’s it like publishing in such vastly different genres.
Dee Power: The common thread is that we write about what we know, or what we would like to learn about. While we will continue to write nonfiction, fiction is where the fun is at. The Making of a Bestseller was born when we started researching how we could give our fiction the best chance possible for success. Who better to ask than those authors who had bestsellers?
Our novel, Over Time is a financial thriller. The villain is a vicious venture capitalist and the hero, an entrepreneur. Since our background is in finance we can add realism to the story. The setting is Phoenix, AZ and Green Bay Wisconsin, both places we’re familiar with.
Shel Horowitz: Your business books are with Wiley, a major house, and with Kaplan, a well-respected mid-sized publisher. Your novel is with Javelina House, and seems to be the only book they’ve published. I’m guessing that’s your own company. What has that road been like for you?
Dee Power: It has been a challenge. I can’t recommend self-publishing unless the author knows a lot about the publishing industry and has a platform in place to promote his or her book. It’s not as simple as writing the book, designing an attractive cover, and off you go. Unless you have a way to let potential readers know about the book and make it easy to find and purchase, don’t self-publish. Many writers think that the online booksellers are the wave of the future as far as book selling is concerned. Only about 10% of books are purchased through online booksellers.
I can’t recommend self-publishing a novel, unless the author just wants to sell to friends and family. Yes, there have been some major successes, Christopher Paolini, author of Eragon and Eldest, comes to mind immediately. I interviewed him for The Making of a Bestseller incidentally. Even Christopher decided that a major house would do a better job of getting his book, Eragon, in the hands of more readers hands than he could. When Knopf offered him that chance, he grabbed it.
Shel Horowitz: What advice would you give other self-publishing authors?
Dee Power: Make sure you have the time and resources to market and promote your book. Writing the book is the least of your worries. Understand how the publishing industry works. Recognize that if you want your book sold in bookstores you’re going to have to offer a substantial discount, up to 55% off the retail price, the book has to be returnable and you have to give 90 day payment terms.
If the major market for the title is outside of the bookstores, you have a little more flexibility. For example if you have a short print run, or you are using the digital printing technology, each copy of a 250 page trade paperback will cost you about $5.00 to have printed. If the retail price is $20.00, you’re only going to get $9.00 from the bookstores. That leaves a profit of $4.00. If the books are sold at lectures you give, from your newsletter subscribers, or directly from your website, you get the entire $20.00 and a profit of $15.00. That’s a huge difference.
Shel Horowitz: All your books are collaborations with Brian Hill. What’s your writing process like?
Dee Power: Our books have a lot of interviews, so after the book has been sold to a publisher, we take the chapter outline in the book proposal and come up with interview questions for each chapter. Each of us develops a list of who we would like to interview and then decide what questions will be for each interviewee. Of course during the actual interview if we come across a juicy topic we’ll pursue it, even if it’s not on our list of questions.
The interviews usually take place by phone and tape recorded. The tape is transcribed and emailed to the interviewee for their approval. Two hard copies and two backup files are made of each transcription.
We decide who is going to do the first drafts of the first seven or eight chapters. If one of us has material for a later chapter we go ahead and file it away so whoever works on that chapter will include it. After the chapter is drafted we switch. I work on a chapter that Brian has originally written and he works on the ones I have done.
Fiction is a little different. We spend hours on developing the characters and the plot. Then start writing. Of course sometimes a character has a mind of his/her own and changes during the creative process.
Shel Horowitz: Have you and Brian ever thought about writing a book that’s not a collaboration?
Dee Power: Thought about it? Yes. Actually done it? No. Although Brian has written a screenplay that was a prize winner in the 2005 Phoenix film festival.
Shel Horowitz: Writing business books on success-oriented topics puts you in a very crowded field. How do you get your books noticed?
Dee Power: Promotions through visibility in the media, workshops, newsletters, discussion groups and whatever we can think of. I send out press releases every month. Brian has a fabulous new blog to promote our novel, Over Time. It’s called “The Packers Literary Corner: A Cheese Blog”
I never stop promoting, as long as the title is in print, I keep marketing.