Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Book Publishing Secrets with John Benedict, Author of 'Adrenaline'

Name: John Benedict
Book Title: Adrenaline
Genre: medical thriller
Purchase on Amazon
Thank you for your time in answering our questions about getting published.  Let’s begin by having you explain to us why you decided to become an author and pen this book?
John:   The following true story explains both:  One day it struck me—at 2:00 in the morning in the midst of another grueling 24-hour shift. I had just finished interviewing a nice lady with an appendix about to burst—we’ll call her Linda. I had done my best not to yawn as I went through the routine questions that an anesthesiologist is obliged to ask. She appeared nervous, which soon gave way to tears. I did my best to comfort her, took her hand, told her I would take good care of her. That I would watch over her carefully in the operating room and see her through surgery. And be there when she woke up in the recovery room. She appeared to calm down a bit. I wrapped up my pre-op assessment and asked her to sign the anesthesia consent form, while assuring her the risks would be minimal. She raised her eyebrows at this and the fearful look returned. I wondered: What the hell does minimal mean when you’re talking about life and death? More tears. She told me of her two young daughters at home that desperately needed a mommy. I felt my own throat tighten. I quickly buried my emotions, tried not to think about my wife and three sons, and focused on the task at hand as we wheeled her litter back down the hall to the OR.
After Linda, sans rotten appendix, was safely tucked in the recovery room, operation a success, anesthetic uncomplicated, I lay down in the call room to try to catch a couple of z’s. My mind wandered as I lay there. Rarely, I thought, does a person willingly surrender control of their mind and body to a virtual stranger. Yet, this is exactly what happens when the person is a patient being wheeled in for surgery and the stranger is their anesthesiologist, whom they have just met minutes beforehand. Talk about an extraordinary amount of trust. This degree of trust made a distinct impression on me that night, some twenty years ago.
Other thoughts followed soon thereafter. What if the trust Linda had exhibited earlier was ill-conceived and her doctor was actually bad? Not just incompetent or sleepy, but downright evil. Being an avid reader of thrillers, I thought this chilling concept would make for a good story. Too bad I wasn’t a writer. (Disclaimer time: I don’t want to scare people here. All the docs I have known in my 30 years of medical practice are highly competent professional people, who would never purposely hurt anyone.) But I still couldn’t shake the evil concept; it kept gnawing at me until eventually I had to put it down on paper—lack of writing experience be damned. So Adrenaline was birthed, my first medical thriller novel that explores this issue of absolute trust implicit in the anesthesiologist-patient relationship—specifically, what happens when that trust is abused and replaced by fear.  Adrenaline was finally published twelve years after my encounter with Linda. 

Is this your first book?
John: Yes
With this particular book, how did you publish – traditional, small press, Indie, etc. – and why did you choose this method?
John: Adrenaline was first published in 2005 by the small press, Sterling House, out of Pittsburgh.  After Sterling House went out of business and the rights of the book reverted to me, I re-released Adrenaline in Dec 2013 as a self-published version (trade paperback and for the first time, ebook) through CreateSpace.
Can you tell us a little about your publishing journey?  The pros and cons?
John: You must realize the journey is long.  Good agents and interested editors are very hard to find.  I sent out literally hundreds of query letters to agents and even managed to hook up with several poor agents.  This was primarily an exercise in frustration.  Finally, I attended multiple writing conferences and did manage to get signed by a reputable agent. I thought my journey was near its end. However, I learned that even finding a decent agent doesn’t guarantee selling the book to a mainstream publisher. My agent couldn’t sell the book.  Finally, I decided to go the self-publishing route.  This proved to be the way to go for me.  I chose CreateSpace, which worked fine for me—there are several other good alternatives out there.  Be prepared to pay a small amount to get your book published—it pays to price-shop.  Once set up, you can sell your book as an inexpensive ebook on Amazon (and elsewhere).  The internet is an extremely valuable sales platform and if your book is half-decent, it can spread by word-of-mouth alone.  Readers leave reviews and rate your book and this can attract new readers.  I’m pleased to report that Adrenaline sold very well as a Kindle ebook. In 2014, over 80,000 copies were downloaded from Amazon pushing it to the #1 paid medical thriller.  I also picked up over 400 reader reviews (mostly 5-star).  Armed with these sales numbers and positive reader reviews, I was finally able to attract a mainstream publisher for my third medical thriller, Fatal Complications, due out in December 2015.
What lessons do you feel you learned about your particular publishing journey and about the publishing industry as a whole?
John: Nowadays, with the widespread availability and low cost of ebooks, self-publishing no longer has the stigma that it had even 10 years ago.  I believe it is a perfectly viable way to go.  Write the best book you can (attend as many writers’ conferences as you can) and then get it out there as a self-published ebook.  Try your best to promote it.  After you establish a good track record, then approach the agents and editors.  With this approach, they’ll be much more likely to actually listen to your proposal and may just offer you a publishing deal.
Would you recommend this method of publishing to other authors?
John:  Yes, absolutely.  Unless you can write a killer novel out of the gate like Stephen King or have friends in the industry, it’s extremely hard to get anyone to take notice of your stuff (let alone even read it).  The gatekeepers are simply inundated with manuscripts from wannabe novelists and they just don’t have the time to give each its due.
What’s the best advice you can give to aspiring authors?
John:  The goal of getting published requires hard work and perseverance.  And you must believe in yourself, even when no one else seems to.  It’s also helpful to have thick skin when it comes to handling lots of rejection letters.  Write because you enjoy the process, not because you think big success (and money) is right around the corner.  Keep writing and good luck!

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