Abe F. March is an international business consultant and author, living near Landau, Germany with his wife Gisela. An active retiree, he enjoys hiking and exploring the local vineyards and can also be heard singing with a regional men’s choir. Mr. March’s career has taken him around the world to work in many areas from his birthplace in the USA to Canada, Europe and the Middle East.
His first book, To Beirut and Back – An American in the Middle East was published in 2006, and is a memoir of his adventures that took him to Lebanon in the 1970s. Mr. March grew up in York County, Pennsylvania on the family farm, and he served in the USAF from 1957-61. His business career got underway with the computing sciences division of IBM’s service bureau where he held positions as manager of administration and operations analyst. He later joined an international cosmetic company where he rapidly achieved top distributor status and was promoted to vice president of sales development and product market management, an opportunity which took throughout the USA and into Canada, Greece and Germany.
With international experience and an entrepreneurial spirit, Mr. March started his own importing business headquartered in Beirut, Lebanon, for the distribution of cosmetics and toiletries to the Middle East markets. With an ease about him and a talent for developing business relationships, he also functioned as a locator of goods and services sought by Mid-Eastern clients before the civil war in Lebanon destroyed his successful business enterprise. Mr. March returned to the United States to start over, and was soon working on an international level once again. His subsequent work involved Swan Technologies, Inc., a personal computer manufacturer in West Germany, and back to the US to work with Stork NV, supporting a fleet of 1200 Fokker Aircraft.
He officially retired in 2001, and has since completed his second book, They Plotted Revenge Against America, published in February 2009.
Welcome to Beyond the Books, Abe. Can you tell us whether you are published for the first time or multi-published?
I now have two books published.
Can you give us the titles of your books?
“To Beirut and Back – An American in the Middle East,” and most recently, “They Plotted Revenge Against America.”
What was the name of your very first book regardless of whether it was published or not and, if not published, why?
The title of my first book was, “Santa Boy,” a children’s book. Starting to write about something less complicated may have been the idea, but trying to appeal to a specific age group is not so simple. The book would require pictorial illustrations and I was not in a position to hire an artist nor could I personally do the illustrations. I sent the work to numerous Children’s book publishers and received the standard responses, i.e., “Not suitable for our house.” “Not accepting new submissions at this time.” “We regret that your work does not fit our age group, etc.” I must have received at least 15 rejections.
Those were the days when the manuscript was typed on a manual typewriter, numerous re-typing to avoid ugly erasures, and had to be mailed with a return self-addressed stamped envelope. I placed the work aside to work on it at a later date and that is still on my list of things to do.
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?
I was fortunate. I did not experience all the rejections that I went through on my first attempt at getting published. I was still very naïve about getting published, however I never considered being self-published or paying someone to publish my work. I guess I was just lucky. The first email query I sent with a synopsis resulted in them wanting to see my manuscript.
How did the rejections make you feel and what did you do to overcome the blows?
The rejections came with my second novel. One book already published didn’t give me the advantage one might expect. Having learned much about the industry and participating on published Author Forums, I knew that rejections were common and to be expected. I therefore was mentally prepared to accept the rejections without taking it personally.
When your first book was published, who published it and why did you choose them?
My first book was published by “Publish America.” It was a random thing. I was living outside the country and couldn’t go to a bookstore with English titles to check on the names of would-be publishers. If I had gone that route, I would have experienced the normal rejection process. I would have learned that big-named publishers don’t accept manuscripts except through an Agent. Further, I would have had the frustration of finding an Agent with either no response or rejection.
I did a search on the Internet and Publish America’s name came up. I checked out their website, read their promotional material, and decided to submit my material according to their submission guidelines. As stated, they responded asking to see my entire manuscript.
How did it make you feel to become published for the first time and how did you celebrate?
I was elated. I couldn’t believe my good fortune. I was expecting rejection and didn’t get it. I told my immediate family about my good fortune and we celebrated together.
What was the first thing you did as far as promotion when you were published for the first time?
I didn’t know what to do. Again, I was naïve and expected the publisher to do all the work. That was a rude awakening. The company didn’t place their books in bookstores but rather made them available for purchase directly from the publisher or by on-line stores like Amazon and Barnes & Noble. I learned that I was expected to do most of the promotion. In addition to notifying everyone I knew, I joined various author forums and learned what they did to promote their work. I purchased promotional bookmarkers. I did a few book signings at bookstores. I notified my hometown newspaper and got an interview. The whole idea of course was to get my work known to the public.
If you had to do it over again, would you have chosen another route to be published?
If you asked me that question two years ago, I would have said yes. However, the industry has changed. Getting published by a big publishing house is very difficult. Unless one is a celebrity or someone with a very high profile, the chances are remote. That does not mean one should not try.
Have you been published since then and how have you grown as an author?
Yes, my second novel was published in February of this year. I now know what to expect and realize that most of the promotion is dependent on my own efforts. I have learned much from other authors – what worked for them and what didn’t. However, there is no guarantee that what worked for them will work for me. It does open more avenues for promotion. Creativity is the strongest element.
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?
Research. Learning more about the publishing industry. Learning how to write a simple error-free query letter and how to write a synopsis. More importantly, making sure the “Submission Guidelines” are followed exactly as requested. In today’s market, I wouldn’t send a query to just one agent or publisher and wait for them to respond. Some don’t respond at all. I would also make sure that the publisher or agent deals with the genre of my book and inquire if they were open to new submissions.
What has been the biggest accomplishment you have achieved since becoming published?
Recognition as an Author. Becoming acquainted with a vast number of people who share similar interests. The greatest honor was becoming recognized and listed as an expert on my subject matter.
If you could have chosen another profession, what would that profession be?
I would have chosen the teaching profession.
Would you give up being an author for that profession or have you combined the best of both worlds?
I think I have combined the best of both worlds. Writing is a great vehicle to educate.
How do you see yourself in ten years?
At my age I don’t look too far down the road, however I intend to continue writing about things that are important to me, and sharing what I have learned with others.
Any final words for writers who dream of being published one day?
Follow your dreams. Don’t be discouraged. Learn all you can about the publishing industry. Remember that publishers are in business to make money. They not only look at how you write, but will your work sell. Above all, be persistent. If you believe in your work, you must do whatever it takes to get it published. Following traditional methods may not work for you. The industry is changing and you must change your mindset to follow the course of events and the avenues available that will result in getting your work published.
Don’t stop learning. It is a never-ending process. Give special attention to the techniques of writing that will give the story greater appeal. Write to a specific audience, and then promote your work to that audience. And finally, have someone else review or critique your work before submission.