Confessions of a Book Author

By Bert Ollivier

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This story is about what happened after a dear friend talked me into writing a book. After this great guy convinced me to take on such an ambitious endeavour, I decided to try not liking him so much. Almost every day, I emerged from my warm, comfortable bed to write profusely at 4:30 a.m. I was up and at 'em early because that's when my brain is at its best. Later each day, when I saw my friend, he would cheerfully ask, "Howzit going, Bert? What chapter are you on?" 

"Nuts," I thought to myself, and I would love to have added: "If it weren't for you, I'd still be in my state of not worrying how to form this or that sentence, or this or that paragraph." On the other hand, I found it impossible for me not to continue liking this cheerful, outgoing person, always so full of enthusiasm!  I would then tell him how I was progressing, and lie to him about how I was enjoying my labours. 

You see, even though I am a published journalist, having written hundreds of true stories and articles, I told my friend, quite firmly, that I had never thought about writing a book though I was told in public school that I showed signs of talent when composing stories. Later in life, I successfully completed a journalism course, which had followed considerable exposure to preparation of reports at a business college. 

Notwithstanding the former, it wasn't only my neighbour friend who suggested I put down in writing my several years' experience in the wonderful, wacky, enigmatic, but thoroughly enjoyable, supremely challenging business of selling travel! Several other friends and former business associates convinced me that it might be a good idea to chronicle my adventures in business, the travel business, that is. 

Nevertheless, it all really started when my friend would goad me into relaying my travel industry experiences. I had told him that my adventures started way back in 1946 when, fresh out of a business administration course in college, I landed a job in a travel agency at age 19.  We talked frequently, at his prodding. I told him about how the business has changed dramatically since those early post-Second World War times. He told me he thoroughly enjoyed hearing descriptions of my real life adventures in the travel business. 

The more we talked, I thought well, maybe I could start, just for the fun of it to jot down a chapter or two about my early dreams of travelling, mostly on trains. Yes, trains were the kings of the road, in those days. 

And so, I soon became hooked. After two or three chapters, I discovered that writing a book, though time consuming, is not that different from writing short stories. I perceived that each chapter was indeed, just a short story in itself.  Then, after some patient effort, I found it became less of a problem to string the chapters together and, presto, I soon became consumed with running more and more chapters into what finally developed into my pride and, eventual, joy - my book. Total time spent on the venture was nine months, coincidentally, the gestation time of birthing a child. It followed that I started to refer to my book as my baby!

Then the real "fun" began. Getting my baby out of the playpen and eventually published was the next challenge. Writing the book was definitely not easy but in comparison, much easier than all the steps that followed.

First, I explored the conventional method of sending my manuscript to publishers for approval. If accepted, a publisher usually bears the expenses and efforts involved in a book's promotion, selling, distribution and a myriad of other details. My first approaches resulted in the receipt of nicely worded rejection letters. It didn't take me long to decide I was too old to absorb the depressing moods, which would engulf me as a result of the discouraging rejection letters I pessimistically anticipated. So, I just about gave up on my neighbour's book idea. Then, out of the blue, a bright spot appeared on the horizon. 

As a member of Rotary, I regularly receive the magazines the club publishes.  Upon leafing through a copy, I came across an ad from a publishing firm that touted the idea of self-publishing. The ad was chock full of encouragement about how writers could fulfill dreams of seeing their book published in as quickly as six weeks after submission. So, guess what? I immediately inquired and was completely engrossed in the ideas that their slick brochure extolled. The advantages described by using their publishing services were very convincing.  In short, I was sold! 

But I did not sign up immediately. As an experienced businessman, I knew my first step was to investigate the firm to ensure it was on the up-and-up. It passed my tests, so I then arranged to take a trip out of town to see the establishment and meet with one of their consultants. After three meetings, I decided to sign with them by paying a reasonable sum up front. This got me started, but I soon found that the procedure was not as easy as was touted. It was true that indeed it is possible to have a book published in six weeks, provided all the steps proceed without glitches. 

First, I provided two manuscripts per instructions, one via the Internet and the other by post. Then, I had to provide artwork for the front and back covers. All this took time. Once all was accomplished, I was presented with a proof-copy of my book. To say I was thrilled to see the result is an understatement. However, the next step, before the final printing, was for me to go through the copy, carefully, page by page, proofread, and sign a form that all was correct. I found some errors. Plus, I decided on a few additional changes. I then discovered that each time corrections were made, I had to wait for them to be incorporated in the next proof. So much for the six-week promise! When all was done to my satisfaction, I was gently informed that due to an unprecedented and unexpected rush on orders, the printing department was behind schedule. 

The outcome was that the first printing of my book was delivered three months after my final authorization that all errors and/or omissions had been corrected to my satisfaction. To be fair, some of the delays were caused by me, but certainly not all of them. 

Next, I was reminded again that all the publishing company does is print, not promote. I found myself in an area of activity that was foreign to me. As a former travel promoter, I knew how to sell travel, but marketing and selling books was tantamount, in my opinion, to being a ship's captain proceeding slowly and carefully in uncharted waters without a compass or any other navigation aids. 

This chapter in my life does have a reasonably good ending. After much research into book marketing, I did meet with moderate success. At the time of writing, I am now into the second printing having sold over 400 clones of my baby. 


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