Sunday, November 22, 2009

Guest Blogger: Charles Noland

I met today’s guest blogger at a book signing held in conjunction with a larger gala fundraiser for the Rochester chapter of Gilda’s Club. He took a path to publication many authors considered but few have attempted. It’s an inspiring story that shows what can be done if you believe in you work (and his books make a great gift for the kids in your life, too).

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The Road Less Traveled
By Charles Noland

As the author of a children’s chapter book series, The Adventures of Drew and Ellie, I am often asked—how long did it take you to find a publisher?

“Well,” I begin. “I only needed to look as far as the bathroom mirror.”

I’ve always been an avid reader and love getting drawn into one of those “I-can’t-put-it-down” novels of mystery and intrigue. But having grown up in a large family and then becoming an uncle more than twenty times over, I’ve spent a fair amount of time reading children’s books too. Invariably I would often think, after setting one down, that I could’ve written it. That idea went on my mental list of things to do…someday.

My “someday” came in the early part of August, 2003. As I was reminiscing about two young children I had met months earlier, the idea and story for The Magical Dress just popped into my head. A few weeks later I presented a rough draft to some young children for their feedback. Encouraged with their positive comments, I decided to pursue publishing it. Never having done this before, I approached it the way my education in engineering taught me and that was to—research it.

Initially my findings were rather bleak, realizing that without an agent I wouldn’t get a publisher to look at me, and never having been published, I wouldn’t likely get an agent either. And, if I did manage to get my book published this way, the process could take years.

Sometimes ignorance is bliss and not knowing what I didn’t know, I plunged forward deciding to use a publishing service and gamble with a new technology called Printing-On-Demand. Heeding the advice I gathered from the Internet, I was careful about how much control I gave the publishing service and did most of the layout and design myself. By the time I got to my second book I was doing all the layout, design and editing. They merely needed to slap their logo and ISBN on it then send it off to the printer.

I should point out that my intention or motive for writing wasn’t just to be published but to convey stories that would teach children positive life lessons; stories that would inspire them to think and help them develop their creative problem-solving skills. It was also my hope that my books could be used for character development by teachers and parents.

It seemed that each step along this road prepared me for the next one, from the friendly account rep, who answered my 101 publishing questions; to the woman I met in Toastmasters who was running her own company. It was over lunch with her one day in 2005 that the most obvious question arose—since I was already doing most of it, why not do all of it and form my own publishing company? So with a leap of entrepreneurial faith, TMD Enterprises was born.

Along the way I was further encouraged by the book Inside the Bestsellers written by Jerrold Jenkins. In it, he profiles several famous authors that started by self-publishing and a couple even went on to form their own publishing companies.

TMD Enterprises suddenly gave me a lot more freedom and flexibility. Not only could I bring the price point of my books down, but there was still enough money left to donate a portion for a humanitarian cause and I started The Million Books Challenge™.

As I’ve progressed in knowledge and experience I’m now working on publishing books by other children’s authors. I’m even contemplating creating an imprint for adult books too.

So what would I tell a new author? Well, if your desire is just to get published then pursue it with vigor. But, if you have a message or story that you want to tell and it’s more important to get it to your readers, then consider the alternatives. No matter which road you choose, write with passion and believe in it! Also, it helps to surround yourself with people that believe in you, for those days when self-doubt tickles you.

Two tales worth mentioning before I close are about authors who were inspired to write merely for the reason of leaving something meaningful for their children—with no intention to publish it. They would even tell you that their success was purely accidental. In 1992 Richard Paul Evans wrote The Christmas Box for his daughters and it became the first self published book ever to make it to The New York Times Best Seller List. He eventually sold the rights for $4.2 million dollars. And in July of 2007, William Paul Young’s book The Shack was self published. What started out as a story for his six children, has now sold more than 8 million copies.

Accidental? I’m not sure. However, if you do anything with passion and belief, then success is just around the corner.

1 comment:

Debby (Deborah Turrell) Atkinson said...

Thanks for your inspiration. The publishing world is changing, and I've heard traditionally published authors say that self-publishing will be the norm.