Tim Bete (pronounced “beet”) began his nautical adventures as a child sailing on Buzzards Bay off the coast of Massachusetts. At age 10, he longed for a small cannon to put on his grandfather’s 30-foot wooden ketch — a quick, two-masted vessel that is perfect for catching other ships so you can plunder ’em. His parents scuttled the cannon idea, saying he “would terrorize other boats with it.” That’s exactly what he had in mind.
Bete’s humorous parenting advice has been published in dozens of newspapers, magazines and Web sites, including the Christian Science Monitor, Atlanta Parent, Big Apple Parent, Northwest Family, FathersWorld.com and ParentingHumor.com. His first book, In the Beginning…There Were No Diapers as well as Guide to Pirate Parenting were finalists in the Foreword Magazine Humor Book of the Year competition.
Bete’s hobbies include pushing his luck and skating on thin ice. In his spare time, he’s director of the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop.
Captain Billy ‘The Butcher’ MacDougall (pronounced “MacDougall”) has been hiding from authorities for most of his life. He lives on his ship, The Frightened Flounder, but can sometimes be found at the Crow’s Nest Tavern. His hobbies include plundering and rum.
You can visit Tim’s and Cap’n Billy’s website at www.pirateparenting.com.
Welcome to Beyond the Books, Tim and Cap’n Billy. Can you tell us whether you are published for the first time or multi-published?
Tim Bete: Guide to Pirate Parenting is my second book. My first book was In The Beginning…There Were No Diapers.
Cap’n Billy: Guide to Pirate Parenting be me first book, matey.
Can you give us the titles of your books?
CB: He just did. Open yer ears, you scurvy dog.
TB: It’s okay captain, I don’t mind repeating it. My first book was In The Beginning…There Were No Diapers. My new book is Guide to Pirate Parenting.
What was the name of your very first book?
CB: Okay, now yer making me real angry. His first book was In The Beginning…There Were No Diapers. But I’m more interested in Guide to Pirate Parenting, so let’s move along unless ye be wanting a taste of me hook.
For your first published book, how many rejections did you go through before you either found a mainstream publisher, self-published it, or paid a vanity press to publish it?
TB: Actually, none. A publisher came to me and asked for a proposal based on my parenting humor newspaper column. It took a while to sign a contract but it worked out. So I escaped rejection. Then after I signed the contract, my publisher was bought by another publishing company. That added another 12 months to the publishing process.
How did the rejections make you feel and what did you do to overcome the blows?
CB: He said there were no rejections, you bilge rat. But we almost came to blows while writing Guide to Pirate Parenting. I’m the captain and I demand complete control over me ship and me books.
TB: The captain is like a lot of editors I’ve met. Except the captain is more polite. And he’s sober more often.
When your first book was published, who published it and why did you choose them?
TB: It was published by Sorin Books, an imprint of Ave Maria Press. Since they bought my first publisher, you could say they choose me, I didn’t pick them. But they were great to work with.
How did it make you feel to become published for the first time and how did you celebrate?
CB: I celebrated Guide to Pirate Parenting with a bottle of rum.
TB: You celebrate getting up in the morning with a bottle of rum.
CB: But I put a lime in me rum to prevent the scurvy. It’s a health-food drink.
TB: When my first book was published, it was an incredible feeling to see it in print. But that feeling is short-lived. You quickly get caught up in all the work to promote your book. Writing a book is the easy part. Selling it and then promoting it take far more time and effort than writing it.
What was the first thing you did as for as promotion when you were published for the first time?
TB: I did a lot of online promotion. I sent review copies to blog and Web site editors who requested them. I lined up about a hundred reviews on my own. My publisher lined up quite a few, too. One of the biggest pieces of publicity I got was a 20-minute interview on a syndicated radio program with a million listeners. But good publicity doesn’t always translate to good sales. Sometimes it does, sometimes it doesn’t. In my case it didn’t, even though my first book got great reviews and won a few awards, it sold only about 3,000 copies.
CB: My promotion technique was to go into a bookstore and threaten customers until they bought a copy of me book.
TB: His technique is more effective than mine.
If you had to do it over again, would you have chosen another route to be published?
TB: No, I’d do it the same way. There’s a lot of luck involved in publishing. Nobody knows what’s going to sell, not even the publishers. All you can do is give it your best shot. You have to enjoy the writing. If you’re not in it because you love writing, then you’ll get very discouraged. My first publisher was great to work with.
Have you been published since then and how have you grown as an author?
TB: I’ve published my second book…
CB: …Guide to Pirate Parenting…
TB: … and used what I learned from the first book on book #2. I self-published Guide to Pirate Parenting because I wanted to get it out before the final Pirates of the Caribbean movie. It was a good media hook. That helped a lot with publicity. I even got a feature article in the New York Daily News. I published it with Cold Tree Press, a small POD company. They recently became a traditional publisher, so now Guide to Pirate Parenting is a traditionally-published title.
Looking back since the early days when you were trying to get published, what do you think you could have done differently to speed things up? What kind of mistakes could you have avoided?
TB: Instead of writing a book proposal first, I think I would just write the entire book. Writing the proposal takes a lot of creative energy that would be better spent on the book. Then, with the manuscript finished, I think I’d be recharged to forge ahead with the proposal.
I think I’d also focus more on unique distribution channels. For example, my first book would have sold well in hospital gift shops. But those stores don’t purchase products from the same distributors as bookstores.
What has been the biggest accomplishment you have achieved since becoming published?
CB: I plundered a merchant vessel full of gold. I also ate an entire squid on a dare and burped six verses of “Blow the Man Down.”
TB: I actually don’t see getting published as that big of an accomplishment. I realize a lot of writers have it as a goal but there are a lot of awful books published every year. So getting a book published doesn’t necessarily mean you’re a great writer. I think sales are the only real indication of success. If your book sells 25,000 copies, I’d considered that a success. I haven’t been successful by that measure.
If you could have chosen another profession, what would that profession be?
TB: I’d be a pirate but not on Cap’n Billy’s ship. I’d be my own captain.
CB: You couldn’t command a crew of parrots.
Would you give up being an author for that profession or have you combined the best of both worlds?
TB: Some would say I’ve already combined the two professions. That’s the great thing about writing. You can create your ideal world, even if it’s just in a book.
How do you see yourself in ten years?
TB: With an eye patch, a wooden leg and a schooner with six cannons. I think I’ll have written my first novel by then, too. But I doubt it will be about pirates.
Any final words for writers who dream of being published one day?
TB: If you want to write, write. Don’t worry about getting published. If you try to write for fame or money, neither will happen. Find what you’re passionate about and write about it. Just don’t write a book called, Guide to Ninja Parenting. Pirates and ninjas are mortal enemies and you don’t want Cap’n Billy to plunder your house.
CB: Aye. But if ye have any treasure, I might plunder your house anyway.