Marvin D. Wilson is a published author who has been awarded the prestigious AVATAR award for excellence in spiritual books. Wilson has had articles published in several Ezines, and has been interviewed on hundreds of blogs, radio and TV shows, both over the internet and on the airwaves. Marvin is a prolific blogger/essayist. He maintains his internationally acclaimed award-winning blog at Free Spirit, and also his other very popular “Old Hippie” blog. Free Spirit was awarded first place in the 2008 Book Blogger Appreciation Week award contest, in the Christian/Inspirational Fiction category.
Wilson is a family man, married for thirty three years, with three adult children and six grandchildren. He has been around the block of life several times, through the ups and downs, and has survived in good enough spirits to desire to write about life, to write about living life on purpose. Wilson is a self-described “non-religious,
dogma-free, Maverick spiritualist Christian.” He writes books that deliver spiritual and inspirational messages in an engaging, thought provoking, often times humorous, more than often irreverent, sometimes sexy and even ribald way, through the spinning of an entertaining tale.
Marvin D Wilson is an editor with All Things That Matter Press and also does freelance editing.
Welcome to Beyond the Books, Marvin. Can you tell us whether you are published for the first time or multi-published? Can you give us the titles of your books?
Thank you for having me. It’s a pleasure. Well, if three counts as multiple, then I would say I’m a “multi” published author (smile). My published books so far are, I Romanced the Stone (Memoirs of a Recovering Hippie), Owen Fiddler, and the just released Between the Storm and the Rainbow.
What was the name of your very first book regardless of whether it was published or not and, if not published, why?
I wrote a book length manuscript nearly a decade ago. It was titled, “My Daughter the Muslim.” I never had it published because, while it did have some good chapters and writing in it, and even though friends and family and even a couple “trusted” critical readers said it was worthy of publication, I just didn’t feel it was good enough to be my first book. With what I’ve learned over the past several years about excellence in the art of professional writing, I may go back one day, dust it off and see if I can’t turn it into a book that has enough literary merit to warrant publication.
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 could write a whole book on this subject. I have written a lengthy article about the arduous road to obtaining that elusive first publication, the different routes available and the pros and cons of each.
My first book, I Romanced the Stone, is a memoir, the story of how I overcame a deadly narcotics addiction that had ruined my life in my mid-fifties, through a profound spiritual experience. Due to its unusual combination of Christian salvation themes and the vivid depictions of scenes in the crime and drug-infested streets of inner city America, it was rejected by all the “traditional” pubs. The Christian pubs considered it too graphic and worldly, and the secular pubs thought it to be too “religious.” Go figure. The book is not religious at all, it is a tell-it-like-it-is truth telling. But anyway, I eventually gave up on getting a contract with the big boys and started submitting the manuscript to smaller, quality POD’s – the ones that only print books that have gone through an evaluation process by their staff and been deemed fit for their standards. I finally got an affordable deal with a fine outfit. This whole process took nearly a year.
How did the rejections make you feel and what did you do to overcome the blows?
They motivated me. I kept all the rejection letters and emails from pub houses and agents and still have them in a hard copy file cabinet. I used to pull them out occasionally and re-read them just to get fired up and try harder. I would prove them all wrong!
When your first book was published, who published it and why did you choose them?
I went with Global Authors Publications. My manuscript had been approved by three “selective” POD’s by then, and I felt that the quality of their books, the level of scrutiny they put a new author through, combined with their fees-to-royalties-paid ratio was the best deal on the table for me.
How did it make you feel to become published for the first time and how did you celebrate?
It was like seeing and holding your first born child. Exquisite joy, I was ecstatic. I took the wife out for dinner to one of those gourmet restaurants that are definitely not in the normal budget.
What was the first thing you did as far as promotion when you were published for the first time?
I started promoting months before the publication release date. I joined writers and readers Yahoo groups, and other online groups like Goodreads and Shelfari. I networked and interacted with other authors, read and learned everything I could. I prepared media releases. I created a marketing plan. I lined up radio, TV and blog interviews in advance, created a website about the book, started cross-linking and inter-linking it, and marketing it as best I could. Once the book was out I put my marketing plan into full swing. I had personal speaking engagements lined up, a couple local book signings, I did the shows and interviews online and on the airwaves, made online announcements about the book’s release to all my groups, e-blasted the news to all my email contacts, every possible tool at my disposal I used to its fullest capacity.
If you had to do it over again, would you have chosen another route to be published?
Only if I could have gotten a contract with a large mainstream traditional publishing house. And even then maybe not. I’ve heard horror stories about novice authors getting taken on by the bigs. Often they will edit the book (you have to give them this right in many cases before they will agree to “take a chance” on you) to the point where they feel it will sell better to their readers but you scarcely recognize it as your book anymore. You give up a great deal of say in the finished product.
For most aspiring first-time authors, especially if you are an “unknown,” I recommend going with a good quality POD or a small traditional press. The exception would be if you are already a household name, someone who is popular because of some previous notoriety, or perhaps if you have an inside connection – like your relative or friend is a decision maker with a big pub house or literary agency. Aside from those situations and the one-in-a-million perfect Cinderella story opportunity, the POD and the smaller traditional pubs that give greater control to the author are the best choices.
Have you been published since then and how have you grown as an author?
Well yes, as I said previously, I have since had two more books published. The second book, Owen Fiddler, was published with Cambridge Books. They are a small traditional pub, one of the new breed of “cross-over” presses that offers contracts for the rights to publish your book, but they also print on demand. I even got a small (okay I admit, it was “tiny”) advance! Woo Hoo! They don’t have the budget to print up tens of thousands of books and then hope that they all sell. This, by the way, is I believe the wave of the future. If you read the news articles in the literary world, even the bigs are moving away from huge advances to the author and the automatic printing of masses of hard copy books. Ebooks and advance orders for print books are part of the new “green” movement. I submitted my manuscript to Cambridge Books under the recommendation of an author friend who had used them before. I was elated when they voted to take my book on. They are very selective. They have to be because again, they are small and have only so many resources of staff and time. And they have to make sure the books they choose will turn out to be profitable for them, since they take on all the costs of production.
My third and latest book, Between the Storm and the Rainbow, was published by another fine quality POD, All Things That Matter Press. Another “cross-over” pub house, they are “traditional” in that they do not charge the authors fees to print the books they choose to publish, but they are very selective. They actually contacted me and requested a submission from me. How cool is that?
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 would have done more homework on which agencies and publishing houses I submit to. I also would have studied how best to write an effective query letter before starting to send them out. Each pub house and literary agency has different preferences with regard to what format they want queries and submissions to come in. They also will let you know on their websites what genres they are looking for and whether or not they are even accepting any new submissions at all – especially from first-time authors. I highly recommend going to http://anotherealm.com/prededitors/ for extremely valuable information when putting your submissions plan together. An informed, skilled and targeted submissions process is the most effective in terms of energy and time spent procuring a contract for your book.
If you could have chosen another profession, what would that profession be?
I always wanted to be an NBA All Star. But as an aging short white guy with no shot left who can’t jump and is getting slower every year, I’ve had to give up on my dream – ha! Seriously, my first love was music. I was a Hippie rock and roll musician back in the late 60’s, and all through the 70’s and wanted to make it as a big name rock star, helping to change the world with original message music. But that career never made the big bucks or the cover of the Rolling Stone, so I went into business. Had to. I had gotten married and had a kid on the way. Everybody has to grow up some time. So I raised a family, and now in my golden years I feel writing is my calling. And it’s starting to work out for me.
Would you give up being an author for that profession or have you combined the best of both worlds?
Not anymore, I don’t have the kind of youthful energy required for touring and playing a rigorous schedule of concerts, doing the clubs, all that. I still play my guitar, and I write and record music. Not professionally, but for personal enjoyment. I have a CD produced that I sell, but only on a small scale, it’s mostly for fun and diversion. So while I do not have the best of both worlds, I do derive satisfaction from both of my main loves, music and writing.
What has been the biggest accomplishment you have achieved since becoming published?
That would be becoming a fairly well known and followed blogger essayist. I started blogging seriously in the summer of 2008. I post every day on Free Spirit and at least twice weekly on Tie Dyed Tirades. I’ve won an international blog popularity contest, a boat load of awards, and have a globally growing following of readers now. Free Spirit is read by people from nearly 70 countries last I checked the stats. Now when I publish a new book I automatically have a readership that likes my writing and it’s much easier to get a new publication paid attention to, talked about, and bought.
How do you see yourself in ten years?
I want to be known as a best-selling novelist and an author who creates positive, peace engendering effects on people, our society and planet through my spiritual/inspirational writing.
Any final words for writers who dream of being published one day?
Never give up. No matter how many times you feel knocked down, get back up and try harder. Take criticism seriously, look at it with an open mind, and if it has merit, do the work to correct your errors and try again. But don’t let criticism and rejection affect you personally. Like any other art, practice makes perfect. Be a student of your craft. Work at it every day. Study, write, read other authors all the time, study, write, and never give up.