hit tracker Dave Shields Author Blog: January 2005

A journal detailing my efforts to launch my career as a novelist. The goals are to share info about succeeding in this field with other aspiring authors, to provide updates to the many supporters who have asked me for them, and ultimately to build the momentum necessary to assure success in this venture.

Sunday, January 30, 2005

Change of Plan

Obviously, I've had to switch from my initial plan of posting five times a week. There are two reasons. The most important is that there are things I must prioritize higher, especially my family and my next novel (which needs to be in my agent's hands by the end of February). Besides that, there isn't always a lot of news to report. If my travel schedule is anything like last year, though, look for lots of developements through the summer.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

I'll Get By With a Little Help from My Friends

The best coaches have the knack for demanding more from their athletes thantheir athletes are capable of demanding from themselves. They use all sorts of different methods, and sometimes they truly get under the skin of thosethey are supposedly helping. No matter their techniques, if their underlying goal is to push their athlete to deliver their max, the results can be astounding.

The first few times I experienced a critique I had a hard time with the intense comments, but nowadays I live for them. Whether I've represented a character in a way that leads the reader to misunderstand who they are, or I suffered from a brain cramp and left a gaping hole in my logic, I need to know about it.

Of course I love to see positive notations in a crit, but it is the negative stuff that I thrive on. In rewrites I want to seek and destroy the flaws. Do I wish my first draft could be perfect? Of course. But I now understand that I'll never come close that early in the game, so the next best thing is to have people whose opinions I trust that are willing to tell me precisely what they think of my work, as if I wasn't there. That's a whole lot better than having an agent round-file a manuscript, or a reviewer slam my book for errors that should never have sneaked through in the first place.

There is no doubt whatsoever that, no matter what flaws still remain, TheRace is a far better book than I ever could have written on my own. I get e-mails complimenting the story regularly. I thank my lucky stars that none of these readers ever got to see my initial attempt. I can't believe my good fortune to be a part of the critique group I belong to. Formerly called NovelDoc it has recently morphed into NovelPros. J. R. Lankford is the founder and owner.

I learn, day by day, that breaking through as a novelist is a far more difficult task than I ever dreamed it would be eleven long years ago when I made up my mind to do it. Whether I succeed in my goal or not, I know that eventually NovelDoc/NovelPros is going to have a lasting impact on the world of literature and I am proud to have been a part.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

The 25 Hour Day

I keep wondering where that 25th hour goes. I could use it to write my blog updates, and once I find it I will. Right now the other 24 are spent in an exciting combination of critiquing manuscripts from promising authors (I'm working on two at the present time), working on re-writes of my sequel (four critiquers are currently giving me invaluable feedback), working with my agent and others on potential opportunities for the current book (there are some interesting possibilities in the works), and trying to juggle family obligations (my most important role, by far). I'll forever be in awe of families of six, ten, and even twelve kids. I knew kids from families in all of these scenarios growing up. Now that I'm a parent myself I can't conceive of how their parents did it.

Uh oh! I've got to find some time to pay the bills (and I better go earn some money to pay them with). Gotta go!

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Gooood stuff!

I believe people would be stunned if they knew what incredible work is being produced by authors almost no one has heard of yet. In the half dozen critique groups I've been in over the last ten years, I've had the pleasure of reading some fantastic work. I admit that there's plenty of bad work out there too, but it's the great stuff I can't forget. I'm critiquing a manuscript with incredible potential at the moment. There's work to do, but this manuscript is eventually going to be spectacular. I can't wait for the publishing industry, and then the world in general, to discover it.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

My Life is Going Downhill

Finally, this past weekend, I found the time to ski. What a fabulous way to get your head straight! I actually went twice. One was a wonderful powder day with my dad. He's an amazing skier and I love to hit the slopes with him. The other was with my seven year old and my two and a half year old daughters. They are a couple of shred Betties, and even harder to keep up with than my dad. Just keeping track of their gear is a full time job.

I did find some time to think about where the book deal stands. So far we fielded rights inquiries from five countries and a potential movie. At one point I thought a sale to an American publisher was imminent, but that deal seems to have been pushed to the back-burner for reasons that have never been clear to me. I'd love to see all of these things come to fruition, though I'm rapidly learning that even the simplest looking deals are exceedingly complex. I'll continue to do everything I possibly can to make these deals happen.

Friday, January 14, 2005

I'll Have My People Call Your People

Before I created Three Story Press and published my novel I had sent hundreds of queries out to agents looking for representation, but nothing had ever worked out. One day, shortly after the first books came off the press and long before the official publication date I went skiing with a client of my former company. Our conversation eventually turned to my books. He ended up purchasing a copy and loved it, then he purchased another and sent it to his friend who had won the Faulkner Award for Fiction. His friend loved it as well and contacted me about it. He asked if I'd be willing to forward a copy to his agent (who just happens to be one of the hottest agents in the history of agenting).

What a great day it was when she called and offered to represent me. Her client list reads like a Who's Who of publishing, and then there's me. She tells me that my book has "a special something," and she feels that the right publisher could transform it into a blockbuster. Oh, did I also mention that she has great taste? ;-)

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Why I Let the Cat Out of the Bag

Today a reader who says he loved The Race asked me why my sequel won’t be out until 2006. I responded, then realized that I ought to post the letter to my blog. I think it answers some of the recurring questions I get. Hopefully it also gives some insight into the reasons for changing my marketing strategy. I used to hide the fact that I was self-published because, for some people, that has a negative connotation. They believe it means that the book isn’t very good. That’s not what it means at all. I’ve read some great self published stuff, and hope you’ll agree that my book fits in that category. If I waited for one of the big houses to pick it up I’d still be waiting.

Hey Fred,
Thanks for the compliment. That's very kind of you. My posts here won't delay the new book though. As a matter of fact, the sequel is already in third draft form. There are all sorts of quirks to the publishing industry (getting into the distribution system requires lots of lead-time), my writing process (I still have to get to Europe to ride the roads I've written about in the new book for instance), and my efforts to promote the current book (I can't afford to write for purely my own entertainment), that dictate this timetable.

As to my time on Daily Peloton, I do a lot of lurking around this place. The ideas tossed about in this group are often the perfect remedy to writer's cramp. I owe you all a thank you in advance for inspiring a variety of twists and turns in the new novel. I think you're going to like them. In the mean time, a million thank you's for continuing to spread the word about "The Race." With the help of you and people like you I've sold nearly 10,000 copies. That's no-where near best-seller status, but it's light years beyond what the average self-published novel does. Several industry insiders have told me that I've already accomplished the impossible. If I can keep up the momentum I'll eventually force the New York publishing industry to take notice and buy these books from me. Turning some of the publicity tasks over to someone who has the influence to get the book noticed will mean that I can devote a lot more of my time to writing and you won't have to wait so long next time around. Same goes for Hollywood.

So until I discover the keys to truly breaking through, sorry about the delay,
Dave Shields

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Yikes! A Realization

My wife has given me three daughters and no sons. Does this mean that if I want to defend my masculinity I need to have her beheaded? I'm not comfortable with that. Hopefully we can find another solution. I'd better see if I can negotiate with the kids so that I can have a little one on one time with my wife. We need to talk things through.

Monday, January 10, 2005

Side Benefits

One of the side benifits of all this promotion has been the numerous opportunities to meet cycling's superstars. Some of them have even been kind enough to endorse my book and many others have promised to read it. Along the way I've had conversations with Marty Jemison, Lance Armstrong, Bob Roll, Phil Liggett, George Hincapie, Frankie Andreu, Tyler Hamilton, Levi Leipheimer, Dan Osipow, Chris Carmichael, Gary Fisher, Floyd Landis, Dave Zabriski, Bobby Julich, Eddie Merckx, Axel Merckx, Chris Horner, Freddie Rodriguez, Jamie Paolinetti, Eric Saunders, and more. What an honor it has been to have men like these share their time with me. What an inspiring group!

There have been other prominent people like Mark Victor Hansen, Richard Paul Evans, and Rupert Gee of David Letterman fame. There are a bunch of other celebrities who have written me, but I won't mention them here because the world doesn't know that they are celebrities yet, but they will soon. I was especially moved by a series of e-mails from the daughter of Viktor Frankl. He's an inspirational man who died a few years back. If you haven't read his book, "Man's Search for Meaning" about his experiences in Auschwicz, make sure you do it soon. It's a masterpiece!

Then there are the thousands of readers who have written telling me their impressions of my book. Many of them have shared their personal reasons for being moved by my book along with their encouragement for a sequel. I'm so honored whenever anyone takes the time to write, and I always write back. If you haven't yet, please send me a note. I'd love to hear from you.

Saturday, January 08, 2005

You're on in 3...2... ...

As stories related to the Tour de France began to get hotter starting in late June and climaxing in late July I began to have more and more success in getting radio and television interviews. All the research I had done translated to interviews that people found informative. It became the norm for interviews to go two to three times as long as they had been scheduled. Initially most of the bookings came as the result of an add I placed in Radio and TV Interview Report. Later I hired a publicist and she got me some bigger national radio interviews. Eventually my radio interviews numbered in the hundreds with dozens of national ones.

The really big stuff, though, came as a result of hundreds of calls, faxes, e-mails, and meetings that I had with producers of national television shows. Time after time I was told "no." I was rejected by The Today Show, Letterman, Leno, Oprah, Good Morning America, MSNBC, ESPN, and on and on. The recurring theme was that I didn't have the credentials they wanted. My recently released book wasn't enough. They wanted someone who had ridden the Tour de France.

But finally a CNN talent booker showed interest. I nearly jumped out of my skin. We scheduled a segment while I was in NYC at the begining of my book tour. I went to the studios and was sitting in the green room wearing my first ever faceload of makeup, when the first tapes of Sadaam Hussein's pre-trial came in. Moments later I was informed that I'd been bumped. Talk about crimes against humanity!

I called the booker in Atlanta and explained to her again what a good job I would do for her program. Hours later I was rescheduled for the next morning. I had to make some quick adjustments to my book tour, but that was no problem. This time not only did I have makeup on, but I was positioned in one of their special guest rooms in front of a remote control camera when word of Marlon Brando's death came in. They began playing their prepared eulogies, and I knew immediately that they weren't going to break into them to interview me. Damn.

We hurried from NYC to Philly and made it there just in time for the signing that evening. All the way down the eastern seaboard and then into the mid-west I kept calling the booking agent, hoping for an opportunity. Finally, they booked a studio at a PBS station in Indianapolis and told me to go there and try again. This time I had to put on my own make-up. Good thing I'd learned how to do it right. (Important note: don't use blush or eye-shadow, that's not what they want.)

This time, in a much more informal and low-tech environment, the interview came off. I couldn't see the woman talking to me or any of the b-roll they played, but it still went smooth as silk, especially when she requested that I come on the show again as the race progressed. Thank you Daryn Kagan!

That was the begining of numerous TV interviews on three national networks plus several more on local stations. It wasn't the last time I'd be bumped, though. Ironically, I extended my stay in NYC because of a booking on Geraldo, but it was canceled hours prior to air time because Geraldo had flown to my home town of Salt Lake City for the Mark Hacking story. I wish that feel good stories like the Tour de France could get the sort of drop of the hat coverage that bizarre murders can, but that will never be the case.

Now, here's to hoping that the base I built last year will help in getting similar bookings in 2005!

Thursday, January 06, 2005

The Source

I've mentioned before that I could never have written "The Race" without the help of Marty Jemison, and the same holds true for the sequel. He gave me four hours of his time yesterday, having read an early draft of my new book, and his input was as flawless as always. I only wish I could convey the intensity of life as a pro cyclist as thouroughly as he does in everyday conversation.

Within the next week I'll be entering the new manuscript in its first Noveldoc clinic. I can hardly wait for the intense fleshing out that group will do for me. By the end of this month the book should be well on its way to becoming publishable (though there will still be significant work to do, including a research trip to Europe).

In my previous post I described how and why I received reviews from the Daily Peloton. Strong reviews are like gold to authors, but getting that sort of review from credible sources isn't easy. They are innundated with books in an almost unimaginable stream. With the biggest review sources, you can practically hear the forests topple as their daily mail is delivered.

Like all publishers, I sent out hundreds of books, both galleys and finals. We turned our basement into a makeshift mailroom, and for more than a month it was a busteling enterprise trying to keep track of all the books going in various directions and to follow up on each one appropriately. It's a delicate balance between being too pushy and not aggressive enough, and every publication seems to have their own version of what sort of author follow up is expected.

For most authors, only a fraction of their review copies ever result in anything positive. Some of them show up on Amazon and elswhere, actually deducting from an author's income. In my case I got a very good return from publications with a cycling related audience, but didn't experience nearly the success in mainstream publications. That was to be expected, but I'll never give up the belief that this title can eventually go mainstream. I'm constantly receiving e-mail from readers who see it the same way. The trick is to figure out what I must do to capture their attention. In my next post I'll detail some of the things I've tried, and I'll share the results.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Another Break, Another Debt Owed

Some time ago I came across a Web site called DailyPeloton.com. It is a great source of information about both the domestic and international road cycling scenes. On one occasion I read an article about a fundraiser they were doing for the Lance Armstrong Foundation. It included a contest that would send a donor to the Ride for the Roses in Austin, Texas. I made a small donation.

On another occasion I learned that they were holding a writing contest. I decided to submit the prologue of my as yet unpublished novel. The chapter got good response on their site, then something even more fortunate happened. My name was drawn as the winner of the trip to Austin.

It just so happened that I was headed to Interbike in Vegas to hand out manuscripts to media and cycling celebrities. I learned that the owners of DailyPeloton.com, Vaughn and Janna Trevisanut, would be there as well. We were able to meet for a short time. I gave them a copy of my manuscript, and they suggested that I apply for a press credential at Ride for the Roses and write about my experience for their site. What a cool deal. Maybe I’d get to interview Lance!

I quickly raised additional money for LAF and reached a contribution level that gave me access to some private events. I spoke only briefly with Lance, but got an even better reward in the many cancer survivors and other great people that I met. I wrote about my experiences in this article.

Simultaneously, Vaughn and Janna were reading my manuscript. Not only did they love the book, and tell me so in no uncertain terms, but then they followed up their words by suggesting and implementing all sorts of ways to help get the word out. I can’t adequately express how important the support of a reputable publication like DailyPeloton was as I worked to find a way to get my book printed. Like all authors, I was confronting a seemingly endless array of obstacles, but now I’d made a friend who could help me earn legitimacy. I owe the Trevisanuts a huge thank you for the influential people they introduced me to, for the thousands they told about my book through reviews and other efforts, and for the encouragement they provided for me to see the project through. I hope the day comes that I can assist someone else’s dreams in a similar way that Vaughn and Janna have assisted mine.

Monday, January 03, 2005

My Sort of Big Break

There was probably a time when I believed that one big break was all I really needed in order to succeed in this venture. It turns out that, at least with the route I've taken, a whole slew of big breaks are required in order to get into position for the sort of really big break I'd dreamed about. Someone once said that luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity. I sure hope they were right.

Distribution is everything with books. Anybody can self-publish a novel, but if you can’t get it into the supply chain then it hardly matters how much publicity you are able to generate. Few readers are motivated enough to jump through hoops in order to find a book, no matter how many good things they've heard about it. That’s why when I heard that PMA had a Small Press Distribution Program through Independent Publishers Group I jumped at the chance to become involved.

Only after I received notification of acceptance to the program did I learn what odds I’d overcome. It turns out that they only choose to represent a fraction of the books submitted to them, and rarely do they select novels. The more I learned, the more I understood how big the obstacles to success were, but I was committed at this point.

A week after hearing of my acceptance to the IPG program I received a letter from them. It contained one piece of information that was news to me. Acceptance of my book was contingent upon a cover redesign. They thought my current cover positioned the title as too juvenile. I called the printer, and the covers had just been attached to the books. I now had 3300 copies of a cover IPG wouldn’t accept. I practically tore all my hair out before realizing I’d better bite the bullet and redesign the cover. It was nearly as expensive to strip the covers as it would be to do a new print run, so I had the books shipped to me while I went in search of a new cover designer.

Eventually I found Lightbourne. I cannot say enough about the skills and work ethic of Bob at Lightbourne or Cynthia at IPG. With their help, as well as the assistance of Jilla at Noveldoc and many others, we redesigned the book in time to make the IPG catalogue. Now I needed to beg another favor of IPG. I’d been accepted for their Fall 2004 distribution program, but I wanted my book out by June 2004 in order to take advantage of the Tour de France in July. How can I ever thank them enough for pulling the necessary strings to get my novel into their system and available for their reps to promote in record time.

With so many people bending over backwards for me (including a whole slew who I have no space to mention in this blog) I felt a deep obligation to generate the publicity required to move some books. The real adventure was about to begin!

Saturday, January 01, 2005

Hmm. I'm anti-establishment.

My wife gave me an interesting piece of news last night. She said, "I just figured out something about you. You an anti-establishment guy. I never dreamed I would have married someone like that because I'm so pro-establishment."

I don't think she was asking for a way out of our relationship (though I have misread things before), but I do know she was right about at least some of what she said. There is no one more pro-establishment than the love of my life. If someone posts a rule, she will bend over backwards making certain to obey it. It's almost comical. So, at least in comparison to her, I'm anti-establishment. Maybe that's why we are such a good team. Over the years I've delivered a lot of great adventures by forcing her to occasionally walk on the grass. Over that same period of time she's warned me back onto the sidewalk a few opportune times. Then there was the night when we (along with six others) found ourselves on foot, a mile from our vehicles, on the Serengetti Plains. That was great fun until we realized that we were surrounded by a pack of salivating hyenas. Where was the sidewalk on that day?

And now that I think of it, in a macro sense she is also correct. (She always is.) I would never have taken the risks I have if I didn't have a tendency to overlook the obstacles that rules and customs can impose. Just look at how those risks have paid off. If I hadn't gone off-roading with my career there is a fair chance I'd have established a secure and stable living with a six figure income over the past ten years instead of the tenuous, edge-of-the-seat living that I have provided my family. What fun would that have been? I'm glad I thought this through this way. My wife won't know how to properly thank me once I explain everything to her in these terms.

So, speaking of off-road careers, I'll continue with my story about how I managed to manufacture the fix we're currently in. Once circumstances dictated that the only way my book would be available before the 2004 Tour de France was if I self-published I became a whirling dervish, gathering funds, working with my typesetter, hiring an artist for cover design, reading books by Dan Poynter and others regarding setting up such a company, joining Publishers Marketing Association and taking advantage of the opportunities they presented, contracting a printer, and much more. By early January, remarkably, it was obvious that I would get the book out on time. There was just one problem. How would I make the world aware that my new tome existed? Oh boy, did I still have a lot to learn.

Until next time,