You wouldn’t be wrong to say that Robert Brodey, author of the political thriller, “Josef’s Lair” , and Natalia Zurawska, author of “I’m Not Making This Up”, a book of make-up tips for fashion newbies, come from different ends of the arts spectrum. One is an avid photojournalist and the other a talented hair and makeup artist.
What both of these authors had in common was the goal of writing a book and taking it public with or without an agent or publisher behind them. For the next two days, we will find out how they did it, what companies they chose to work with and what their results were. If you’ve ever wondered about self-publishing, stay tuned.
PBS: Can we get a bit of background? What are your books about?
RB: It’s a political thriller set in Israel and bounces around the globe, including Europe and Latin America. The story covers some big themes around war and our moral responsibility to our fellow human beings. All that in 84,000 words!
NZ: “I’m Not Making This Up” features the best makeup tips, tricks and techniques to look and feel your best all while saving time and money.
PBS: Rob you’re a photojournalist and Natalia you specialize in H&M for shoots, both are very different animals from sitting down to write a book. What was the catalyst that inspired you to take on these larger projects?
RB: Really, it started while travelling in Central America in 1993. I met another traveller, who saw that I was working on small story vignettes in my notebook. He told me that I should dive into the deep end, tackle something big. That’s where many writing challenges and learning opportunities lie. He was totally right, and I spent the next two years working on my first novel (which I eventually deep-sixed). That experience gave me the discipline and confidence to pursue bigger writing endeavours.
NZ: Being on set, I noticed the same beauty questions were asked over and over. I thought, why not write an e-book and have all of the information handy? With social media as well as the digital world progressing so quickly, the timing was perfect.
PBS: Writing a book without any literary industry guidance can be daunting – e.g. no constant editor at your back. At any point during the process, were you ready to call it a day and go back to your regularly scheduled programs? Did time or personal insecurities factor in to your confidence that the public would want to read what you had written?
NZ: I was always fully aware that whatever you put out into the public, there will be people that love it and others who do not. I watch a lot of TED Talks and Elizabeth Gilbert – the author of “Eat, Pray Love” was on an episode. She discussed her quick and very rare success. She also mentioned that she was going to be coming out with her second book and how the public would ask her how she would be feel if the reviews were not nearly as positive as her first book. She answered that life is a journey and as artists, there is too much that is attached emotionally. This is very true.
I wrote my e-books for a reason. They are different from the rest. I would much rather take a risk and follow my dream than to not have tried, and given it my best even if it did not work out.
RB: By definition, writing is a solitary process. You and the blank page. What will you imagine? What words will you write to convey your thoughts? I had many doubts about my abilities as a writer and storyteller, but I was always drawn to the ideas being explored in the novel. I thought, “Hey, if I can still be interested in this story after so many years, maybe someone else will, too!”
PBS: After, what I imagine would have been, countless edits and rewrites you both finished your projects. The traditional path is to seek out a literary agent or a publishing house. Did either of you go towards this option? What was the outcome?
RB: Over the course of the two decades it took to complete “Josef’s Lair”, I approached agents several times. Each time, the story was rejected. Last year, I hired a professional editor. He enjoyed the read, found it a page-turner, and gave me great notes. I did my rewrites, had more people read it, and then submitted the manuscript to agents, knowing most would not consider a manuscript that had already crossed their desk before. I came out empty-handed. Based on the response from readers, though, I knew the story was well enough told that I wouldn’t embarrass myself by putting it out into the world.
NZ: I decided to choose self-publishing, as it was simple. I had full control over the direction I wanted to take.
PBS: Digging deeper, there are so many platform options when it comes to self-publishing these days. What companies did you choose and why?
NZ: I chose Amazon, Smashwords, Kobo, Good Kindles and Goodreads. All of these companies offer great exposure, different digital formats and great ease when going on their websites.
RB: I went with two main delivery channels: Smashwords for the ebook (and they have e-distribution deals with Indigo, Barnes & Noble, etc.) and Createspace (a subsidiary of Amazon) to format and publish my print-on-demand paperback on Amazon’s global network. I also use Amazon to distribute the ebook.
PBS: As neither of you are graphic designers, did you feel as though you needed to have a design sense to work through the cover look and text formatting of your books?
RB: For sure. The cover is the first impression. You mess that up, and no one is going to crack the spine or download the sample ebook chapters. I did pay Createspace to layout the interior of the book, which I think was money well spent. As for the cover, I decided to save some money and create it myself. I did have a graphic-designer friend provide feedback.
NZ: I could not have done this without the help of my good friend and amazing web designer Laura Miller. She is the one who formatted everything. Not only does she do her job extremely well, she is very client oriented and works very quickly. She gave me a few options and asked me which I liked the most. Everything then continued on from there until all of the revisions were perfected.
Check us out tomorrow for part two where we talk about self-promotion, outcomes and the five tips each of these authors would give to other self-publishing enthusiasts having done the deed themselves.