Dave Donelson’s career as a broadcaster, entrepreneur, and writer has taken him from the jungles of Australia’s Cape York Peninsula to the minarets of Riyadh. He’s climbed the spire of the Empire State Building, floated the Usumacinta River to the Mayan ruins at Piedras Negras in Guatemala, and photographed the tree-climbing lions and mountain gorillas of Uganda.
Dave’s inquisitive, active lifestyle finds its way into freelance writing and photographic assignments for magazines like Disney’s FamilyFun, Woodworker’s Journal, and Las Vegas Magazine. Closer to home, he writes features for Westchester Magazine as well as a regular column on golf. He is a member of the prestigious Metropolitan Golf Writers Association.
His first novel, Hunting Elf, began as an audio book at www.huntingelf.com and was published as a trade paperback in 2006. K9 Perspective called it “…a delicious romp through the suburbs of New York.”
Dave’s first book was Creative Selling (Entrepreneur Press, 2000), a non-fiction prescriptive described by Brian Tracy as “…a terrific book on selling.” As a business journalist, he writes for The Christian Science Monitor, Family Business Magazine, and dozens of trade publications serving industries from the automotive aftermarket to sporting goods retailing.
Dave has a BA in Rhetoric and Public Address from Missouri Western State University. He serves as a Trustee for the Westchester Library System, a consortium of 38 public libraries serving Westchester County, NY. He lives in West Harrison, NY, with his wife, Nora, and an ever-changing roster of dogs and cats. You can visit his website at www.davedonelson.com or www.heartofdiamonds.com.
Welcome to Beyond the Books, Dave. Can you tell us whether you are published for the first time or multi-published? Can you give us the title(s) of your book(s)?
So far, I’ve published three books, including one myself. My books are Creative Selling: Boost Your B2B Sales, Entrepreneur Press; Hunting Elf, a comedic canine adventure from LuLu.com; and Heart of Diamonds, a romantic thriller from Kunati Books.
What was the name of your very first book regardless of whether it was published or not and, if not published, why?
Hunting Elf was my very first novel. I couldn’t convince an agent or publisher to consider it because it didn’t fit into a convenient niche, so I finally gave up and put it out myself with a POD publisher.
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?
Heart of Diamonds is my first novel released by a mainstream, royalty-paying publisher. I spent a year querying over 200 agents, all but maybe one or two of whom didn’t bother to even read the letter, much less consider the work.
How did the rejections make you feel and what did you do to overcome the blows?
I don’t take rejections personally because I think the whole author-agent-publisher-retailer business model is basically broken. My queries were futile, not because the book had no promise, but because there’s almost no room in the industry for a new author. The odds have to be 100,000 to one that a debut novel will make money for anyone, so why should the agents, publishers, or retailers bother?
When your first book was published, who published it and why did you choose them?
Heart of Diamonds was published by Kunati Books, an up-and-coming house named Independent Publisher of the Year at BEA 2008. I didn’t choose them; they chose Heart of Diamonds from the slush pile.
How did it make you feel to become published for the first time and how did you celebrate?
I was delighted when Derek Armstrong, the publisher, called with the offer for Heart of Diamonds. My wife and I celebrated over dinner with some friends.
What was the first thing you did as for as promotion when you were published for the first time?
As soon as the deal was done, I wrote a month-by-month marketing plan that covered nine months leading up to the release date, then the first three months after Heart of Diamonds went on the market. It covered every detail I could foresee and put them on a timeline: when to start blogging, call on bookstores, email libraries, put out press releases, and so on. The plan was six single-spaced pages.
If you had to do it over again, would you have chosen another route to be published?
I’ve both self-published and had two books released by traditional publishers. In my opinion, self-publishing is a waste of money. Even the print-on-demand model doesn’t allow the author to price a book to compete in the marketplace. Distribution is essential to a book’s success, and only a mainstream publisher really can do it right. It all depends on the author’s goals, of course.
Have you been published since then and how have you grown as an author?
The process of working with an editor on Heart of Diamonds taught me quite a lot. I’ve had plenty of experience with that as a magazine feature writer and actually do some editing work, too, so I know how valuable it is to have another professional take a critical look at your work.
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?
I don’t think there’s anything that can be done to speed up the process. Agents and publishers are drowning in submissions. If you want to do it faster, just publish it yourself and accept the limitations.
What has been the biggest accomplishment you have achieved since becoming published?
One of the main themes of Heart of Diamonds is the terrible effect of endless war on the people of the Congo. Nearly six million of them have died since 1998 and more than a million are currently homeless. I have been able to use Heart of Diamonds as a platform to draw attention to that humanitarian crisis and to raise money for some fine organizations helping the victims. That made all the work of writing the book and finding a publisher very worthwhile.
If you could have chosen another profession, what would that profession be?
I am on my third career now, so I am always open to possibilities. My next one may involve using my talents for a social cause, expanding the connections I made through Heart of Diamonds.
Would you give up being an author for that profession or have you combined the best of both worlds?
I am currently very involved with libraries, which works well with my writing career. I am a trustee and past president of the board of the Westchester (NY) Library System, a consortium of 38 public libraries serving about a million people north of New York City. I find that work very rewarding.
How do you see yourself in ten years?
Who knows? I hope there will be ten more books with my name on the spine sitting on the shelves of your neighborhood library and bookstore.
Any final words for writers who dream of being published one day?
Get control of your expectations. If you think you are going to make much money as a writer, you are probably going to be disappointed. But if you feel you have something that needs to be said, a story that simply must be told, don’t let anything stop you.