I recently had the pleasure of sitting next to Gary Moore at a National Speaker's Association luncheon. Gary is the author of Playing With The Enemy, the story of his father's remarkable odyssey through World War II and the hardships of his off and on minor league baseball career with the Brooklyn Dodgers.
It's an heart wrenching story and a great read; so much so that it is soon to become a major motion picture produced by Gerald Molen who produced or co-produced Shindler's List, Jurassic Park, Rain Man and many more Hollywood blockbusters. Toby Moore, Gary's Hollywood actor son, will play the role of his grandfather in this next blockbuster movie.
So, as you can see, Gary's story is one of pure success and that was no accident. Gary and his wife, Arlene, have worked hard to promote Playing With The Enemy and I'm thrilled to have the honor of sharing yet another story, Gary's own saga of publishing and marketing his first novel.
Q. Gary, how did you manage to get the attention of the publishing house as large as Penguin?
A. The Penguin Group is actually the publisher of the paperback. I was first published in hardcover by Savas Beatie, LLC. Ted Savas of Savas Beatie edited and published several books on the German submarine, the U-505, which is featured in this story, so I approached him initially. He immediately said, "no" but I, along with my literary agent, Tris Coburn, shamelessly pursued him to change his mind and he agreed. The book became a surprise hit as a hardcover and caught the attention of Penguin, who purchased the paperback rights from Savas Beatie. The same is true of the audio book version, which is recorded by Oasis Audio.
Q. How many query letters did you send out and how many positive responses did you receive?
A. Getting published is like trying to be struck by lightning. I saved all my rejection letters and the file is thick. The ironic thing is the first rejection letter I received was from Penguin! Most publishers do not read unsolicited submissions. Unrepresented or unconnected first time authors are truly throwing money down the drain by sending manuscripts out in a shotgun effect. Search out publishers in your genre then go to their web pages and read their submission guidelines.
Q. Did you ever consider self-publishing?
A. I considered self publishing but did not want to give up my search for a publisher. I think many first time authors give up too easily.
Q. What more do we need to know about gaining the attention of a publishing house?
A. Make sure you have read, understand and follow their submission guidelines. They do not take it well when you ignore or do not understand their very specific instructions. Also, take every opportunity to network and make connections. Knowing someone inside … or knowing someone who knows someone is always helpful. Above all else, the manuscript must be good and marketable. Knowing someone to submit a bad or unmarketable manuscript will not help.
Q. Once you were signed by your publisher did you play an active role in marketing your book?
A. I played a very active role with the hardcover publisher, Savas Beatie and we really created magic together. I am open and am constantly attempting to create and develop new markets for the story and in constant contact with all three publishers.
Q. Gary, you've been interviewed by CNN and many popular news and entertainment publications. Who's responsible for gaining this amount of media attention for Playing With The Enemy?
A. Several people have been involved. It has been a team effort. I worked before initial publication with Carole Bartholomeaux PR for the hardcover launch. Sarah Keeney from Savas Beatie then took over and did a marvelous job. Penguin has a marketing team, headed by Louise Braverman who has done a great job, but in the end, the author has to take the lead. I spend hours daily blogging, searching the net, answering letters, seeking speaking and signing opportunities, and doing anything and everything I can to create a market for this story. If as an author your plans are to write the book and expect others to sell it … do not write the book. No person or organization will do more for your book than you do.
Q. Many authors are working on a shoestring budget. Is it possible for those who have limited financial resources to market their work successfully?
A. Absolutely. Sometimes the free opportunities are the best. Blog, blog and blog some more. Get out and speak to service groups, schools, clubs and any group that uses speakers. Get out there and talk the book up and sell them on the spot. Carry a book with you everywhere you go and sell yourself and book. It is your book and you have the most to gain. Get out and sell!
Q. Authors dream of seeing their work on the shelves of many bookstores. Is that the pinnacle of success or is there more work to do?
A. This will sound strange but bookstores are only one venue for selling books. Selling via your webpage, selling online through the online booksellers, selling on Ebay and selling at personal appearances are very useful and often times better! I tell people, "Give me a box of books and a group of people and I'll create an empty box!"
Q. Do you have any suggestions for successful book signings?
A. This is tough. New authors have a dream of arriving at a bookstore to an adoring crowd waiting in a line that stretches out the building, down the side walk and around the corner. Unfortunately, that is not the norm. You must work with the store on creating a market and seeking out community partners. If you have written a cook book, contact local cooking clubs and chefs. If you have written a basketball book, contact the local coaches and teams. If you just show up with no advance work, you may be the only attendee! My smallest signing was one person in Washington DC and my largest was in Folsom, CA with over 200. Do the advance work to reap the rewards. Action causes reaction. Do something, something will happen. Do nothing … well, you get the picture.
Q. You've done a lot of book signings and the related speaking engagements; do you suggest any other public appearances to promote a book?
A. Anywhere there is an audience is where I want to be. I've never met a camera or microphone that is not useful and if there is a single person in a room, I tell them about my book!
Q. How instrumental is your website in promoting and marketing Playing With The Enemy?
A. I get 200 hits on a low day and over 1000 on a busy day. This is low traffic compared to some sites but for a first time author, I am happy. People will not accidentally find you. You must promote your site. It is on all my literature and on my book. I mention it at every appearance and in every interview. I work to make strategic alliances and create links from and to other sites. If you do not drive people to the site, they may never find it.
Q. Did you commission your website or did the publisher have a hand in it?
A. No, the website is the responsibility of the author. My site was developed by Digi Arc. Val Laolagi of Digi Arc did an incredible job. I had the site up before I had a publisher and used the site to help secure a publishing deal.
Q. Gary, what is the most critical piece of advice you might have for the authors who are reading this article?
A. Be willing to sell. Unless you are Stephen King, you need to be the primary force in leading and creating a market for your book. No one has more to gain than you and you must conduct your life accordingly. First you must sell a publisher then you must sell potential readers. Be passionate about selling your work as you are about creating it. You must be the spark plug, the driving force and the keeper of the flame. Others will feed off your passion but it must begin with you.
Marla Tabaka is a small-business advisor who helps entrepreneurs around the globe grow their businesses well into the millions. She has over 25 years of experience in corporate and start-up ventures and speaks widely on combining strategic and creative thinking for optimum success and happiness.