E. J. KELLY
- Self-help Author -
Welcome to an interview I had with a self-help author, one he calls, “A helpful interview by self-help author, E. J. Kelly”.
Welcome, E. J ...
TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT YOURSELF AND YOUR WRITING JOURNEY.
I am from New York, where I grew up in 4 out of the 5 boroughs. Family or lack of family required me to make the moves. These were great experiences, especially the final stop in Manhattan. Along with the various moves, came an education parcelled out by different Catholic schools. The quality was always good. Manhattan is where I got most of the real education required to survive. There while attending night school, I had to find work. The work, I found laid the foundation for my future entrepreneur ways. It sounds like a cliché but, the streets are where you learn the most. It is the streets where I set up my first business.
Hard to say, although early in my life, I did write a book about herbal aphrodisiacs. This was a long time ago before the advent of self-publishing. This subject of course has been replaced by a host of pharmacological substances which have proven to be more effective. I thought writing about the possibilities of enhancing one’s love life would be a natural winner at the time. I wrote this when I was 25, but lost the damn thing in one of the various moves I made while living in New York.
If I had that manuscript today, I would prep it and have it up and running on Amazon in a couple of hours. I know there are people who would prefer a natural route to better orgasms.
So writing in some ways has always been with me, but I did not write anything new until I started teaching.
Teaching, with its flexible schedule and the feeling one has of almost being in a laboratory has inspired me to go back to it. Throwing out or sharing ideas with students and getting real time feedback, is helpful in discovering what is needed as well if an idea may work as a book. In fact, I wrote two different books about teaching getting ideas from the 'classroom jungle'. I use this term affectionately, but the work was a direct result of student feedback.
Go here for an idea as to what I am talking about.
WHAT DO YOU ENJOY MOST ABOUT BEING A WRITER?
I guess it would be the joy of words. Just finding the right word in the right spot is immensely satisfying. An editor I use, questions me a lot about grammar, ideas, and even punctuation, but 90% of the time she agrees with my choice of words. This is cool to me as I have always enjoyed using new vocabulary in front of my friends. Writing allows you to do more of this and also and you can always discover new ways to express yourself. The other thing, I really enjoy about writing is the possibility of helping. You have to remember I write self-help books, and when readers' reviews and feedback are positive, I know I'm writing helpful and useful stuff.
The hardest thing is to put things down in a logical order. For me, this is where most of my time is taken. The effort needed to be consistent from idea to draft, to rewriting before the final edit is difficult. I have solved this somewhat, when I use a TOC and stick to the content needed for that particular chapter. When writing 'self-help books' the idea is to always be informative. This is difficult to do, especially when you are trying to add some personality to the book.
Just as hard, is paying attention to the smallest details, from punctuation, spacing, and the use of homonyms. I can’t tell you how many times I use a word like ‘there’ to mean ‘their’. This problem is solved with experience and heavy duty proofreading. Lastly are the distractions. When writing, I am usually on line and constantly being buzzed by incoming emails, news etc.
I realize this is bad, but as a news junkie, I need my fill. It is hard for me to let go. If I could cut the distraction cord, I could write at a faster pace.
WHAT WERE YOU IN A PAST LIFE, BEFORE YOU BECAME A WRITER?
Well my latest book kind of explains it all. The book is biographical and explains the many hats I wore as an entrepreneur. The book http://www.amazon.com/Economy-Business-Startups-survivors-ebook/dp/B00AFROVOO/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1366618989&sr=1-1&keywords=trump+the+economy is a look at being successful while being bohemian or at least maintaining your desire to be. In my past life it was all about survival and travel and somehow starting companies to allow me to do this.
I think the latest book is because; I had to rely on my memory and then apply those memories into usable information for the readers. As an “iceman” (independent creative entrepreneur) you tend to just do it. Consequently you don’t think about articulating the process unless someone ask or you attempt to write about it.
I also think, that there are so many people who want to do something with their lives and if you can motivate and show them how with a book like this…it great!
WHAT ARE YOU WORKING ON AT THE MOMENT?
At the moment working on this and trying to get your answers back as soon as possible. Seriously, I have several ideas. One is a complete departure from anything that I have ever done. It has to do with food. Requires a lot of research and I am certain it will be extremely helpful. Other ideas are slight variations of what I have already written. One example is expanding on teaching English to Spanish students, by writing a pronunciation guide. Another idea is to complete a third book on vintage watches
but this time on Military watches. I use to think that as you get older you lose the ability to generate ideas, but in my case the ideas keep on coming. Some of them base on material already written. I find when you write, you also produce a healthy set of new ideas.
WHAT INSPIRES YOU?
Inactivity. The need to get busy and do something with my time is a real motivator. There is the need to fill the time with some creative activity. Being useful is paramount. I am not searching for purpose as this is a whole different question. I just want to be of help to people. Other than that, a good book, a good movie, a good museum exhibition, travel, and getting a beautiful woman to talk to me are all awe inspiring.
WHAT GENRE DO YOU WRITE?
Self-help books. This may change in the future as I have ideas for some fictional material. I probably will not go the fictional route until I run out of ideas for self-help or motivational books.
Just get started. If you find yourself with free time on your hands, pick up writing as a hobby. As you delve into your hobby more, find the time to complete entire projects. Also, if you are in the position where the ideas are coming so fast and the fingers can’t keep up with your thoughts, keep on going…do not stop, do a complete brain dump. Finally, try to avoid distractions. I am writing this from a cave somewhere along the Mediterranean coast.
DO YOU SUFFER FROM WRITER’S BLOCK?
Really never. Sometimes I walk away from the work for an hour, while other times I let it go for up to a month. It is not from writers block. This is either from boredom or the need to stimulate my brain in some other fashion. There are times when I get stuck with a specific idea and find myself scrambling for an answer but this to me is not writer’s block. For example, I was stuck with an economic term. I couldn’t find the right answer or the right way to articulate it. So what happens, I meet this economist at a dinner and I said something like, “answer this question with the first thing that comes to mind”. He did and it solved the problem.
DO YOU HAVE A PREFERRED WRITING SCHEDULE?
Not really. However, I find writing in the morning to be more amenable to my life style. I think writing in the morning is more advantages especially when you get a good night sleep. At some point I think this will change for me as I have noticed my best ideas come before I dose off. If only I had the energy to get back up and write.
DO YOU HAVE A FAVOURITE WRITING PLACE?
My cramped apartment, in an area designated as an office. The area consist of various clothing racks, portable desk draws, unopened cartons from a move ( 3 years ago) and paintings I never quite got around to hanging. The best is that I have a balcony with huge windows and lots of morning sunshine streaming into the room.
WHAT IS YOUR GREATEST JOY IN WRITING?
Expressing what I hope will be helpful to people.
Making people laugh. Making people’s lives better.
WHO IS YOUR FAVOURITE AUTHOR AND WHY?
This is like asking what your favorite movie is. There are too many genres, too many styles and so much more to see and read. I have lots of favorites. I am reading Bill Bryson “A short history of nearly everything”. I love the book and the writing style. I like Phillip Roth, Umberto Eco, and Christopher Hitchens. I just read the Physician by Noah Gordon. I read a wide variety of stuff. I will read whatever I can get my hands on that is written intelligently and gives the reader a ride or is teaching you something.
WHAT’S THE GREATEST COMPLIMENT YOU EVER RECEIVED FROM A READER?
I received a review the other day where the reader was about to make changes to one of her books. Before she did, she revisited my book on writing and self -publishing. http://www.amazon.com/Passion-Easily-Create-Self-publish-ebook/dp/B008668XUY/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1366622635&sr=1-1&keywords=write+with+passion She went on to say that the chapter on writing with passion was very helpful as well checking my book for the necessary formatting changes required before she published. I have received other compliments, most of them along the same lines.
WHAT WAS THE WORST COMMENT FROM A READER?
A reader from England stated that one of my books was sloppily edited. I agreed and revised and updated it. This was a little strange because I never had this complaint before. In fact, I have had hundreds of sales with high praise. I had no idea that the book needed editing. The lesson learned here is that reviews are important whether they are positive or negative. In addition, all those satisfied readers, who may have noticed errors were more interested in the content than the way it was edited. Go figure!
WRITERS ARE SOMETIMES INFLUENCED BY THINGS THAT HAPPEN IN THEIR OWN LIVES. ARE YOU?
Yes all the time. The experiences in life are the gravitas for any author.
OTHER THAN WRITING, WHAT ELSE DO YOU LOVE?
Like you I am interested in self-improvement, entrepreneurship, photography, travel, movies, books, art, and my love of different cultures and my desperate attempt to learn a different language. I love it all!
DID YOU HAVE YOUR BOOK / BOOKS PROFESSIONALLY EDITED BEFORE PUBLICATION?
At minimum, I have all my books proof read for grammatical errors and punctuation. My latest books are now being professional edited. Since mine are in the genre of self-help, most readers are more interested in the content rather than the few errors. Because of the various formatting methods, readers can expect errors in e Books. I do my best minimizing this with good proofreading and testing the book (before publishing) on a reading device like Kindle.
In my book “Write with Passion...Sell with Power” I actually take the reader through the formatting process with one of my own books. What fun!
DESCRIBE YOUR PERFECT DAY.
Depends where I am. In the city, I am up at dawn to write a few words. Coffee and toast with tomatoes and olive oil. Next maybe a run over to a park with my Kindle, spending time reading and absorbing sunshine. Then lunch with a friend or two. Maybe a siesta and after hitting the gym and then back to an outdoor cafe to study my new language while people watching. Come to think of it, this may be the distraction keeping me from learning the language. Have to think about changing this part of my routine.
Anyway, after this I may take in a good movie.
At the beach, a whole different set of dynamics kick in. All of it works for me.
IF YOU WERE STUCK ON A DESERT ISLAND WITH ONE PERSON, WHO WOULD IT BE? WHY?
Man oh man what a cool question. It would have to be someone who is way smart, yet able to explain what the hell he or she was talking about in simple terms. I think a guy like Bill Bryson could be the man. If there were no possibility of getting off that island, I would want that person to be female for more than intellectual reasons.
WHAT WOULD YOU SAY IF YOU HAD THE CHANCE TO SPEAK TO WORLD LEADERS?
I would tell them to cut the crap! Follow the money and stop the inherently bad influence it has. Stop the hoarding of resources. Insist on every form of government separating religion from state and grant every woman equal rights and protection from the bad shit they get from men.
WHAT ARE YOUR PLANS FOR THE FUTURE?
I want to do more traveling. Use my camera more. Write 3 or 4 more books and have as much sex as possible. Is this a narcissistic pursuit of happiness? Yes it is and everyone should have the ability to do the same thing.
WHAT FIVE BOOKS WOULD YOU TAKE TO HEAVEN?
I don't believe in a heaven so I would carry around the books in the here and now. If heaven existed there would be no reason to have books. Everyone there is super smart and all information is redundant. Luckily here in the real world devices like Kindle exist. I can stuff more than five books on that sucker. So should I look at my Kindle and give you the best five? See question 15.
I have been told I am quite a character. I think this question applies to fictional works and therefore not to me. But then again, there is always a little bit of me in all my books.
DOES THE PUBLISHING INDUSTRY FRUSTRATE YOU?
Fortunately I have never had to deal with them. I grew up being bombarded with internet get rich quick schemes. If you paid attention, most of the schemes dealt with information in the form of 'how to' content. Usually that information was sent via a PDF file or some other format. I got kind of use to downloading this stuff to my computer and always thought I could produce something and distribute it along the same lines. In fact, I was one of the first authors to digitize a book about vintage watches. The key to success for that book was the photos, the price relative to other books, and the subject written in a non-pretentious way, by someone who was successful buying and selling vintage watches. The biggest advantage was the ability to sell and distribute in digital format.
So in a sense, I was primed to self-publish a long time ago. I really never wanted to submit any of my manuscripts to a publisher. I always thought I could do it on my own. However unlike internet marketers, I never promoted my books as get rich schemes. Now that, the Amazons of the world have come along, the distribution part is easier.
DID YOU EVER THINK OF QUITTING?
Once and awhile I get frustrated because of lack of sales. Always wondering whether the work is good enough or the public will gain some benefit. I am a natural optimist, so I am always telling myself things will work out. The big take-away is patience and not taking anything personal.
WHAT WAS YOUR FAVOURITE MANUSCRIPT TO WRITE? WHY?
This will sound strange but the second book on quartz and electric watches was probably my favorite because of the research involved and the subject. For me a very interesting subject and one newer generations don't really know about. In putting the book together, I really had to dig into archive files, old newspaper articles, and old advertisements. Of course all this research has a tendency to slow the writing process down but in the end I was quite satisfied with the outcome. For sheer fun, the manuscript for Trump the Economy and how to launch a start-up, is one of my favorites, because it is based on some real funny stuff.
HOW WOULD YOU DEFINE ‘SUCCESS’ AS A WRITER?
Selling plenty books to generate enough passive income so as not to have to worry about a meal or my general overhead. This would be nice as I find I need to still generate income from other sources to cover those expenses. The ultimate would be having a self published mega hit producing enough cash to allow me to take a long sabbatical. As a writer this represents financial success, however that long vacation is a sign of success as well. Many writers including myself, would take the time to experience life anew and generate ideas for new content.
WHAT SHOULD READERS WALK AWAY FROM YOUR BOOKS KNOWING? HOW SHOULD THEY FEEL?
Hopefully,the book was engaging and has touched them in a way they now feel motivated. The information being passed on is explained in every day terms and can now be used in their everyday lives.
HOW MUCH THOUGHT GOES INTO DESIGNING A BOOK COVER?
I talk about this in http://www.amazon.com/Passion-Easily-Create-Self-publish-ebook/dp/B008668XUY/ref=sr_1_2?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1366697603&sr=1-2&keywords=write+with+power in a chapter called Spineless Work. Book covers in the digital world are ultra important. At first glance this is the only chance you get to make an impression and get the reader to buy. Most times there is no second chance, so you have to get it right.
With that said, I used to do my own. I am a photographer and I always thought I could do this with no problem. Wrong. At one point I created all of my covers until I decided to put my ego aside and seek professional help. Glad I did. Found a great guy who now does all my covers.
WHAT’S YOUR ULTIMATE DREAM?
Getting to the point where I don't have to worry about the cost of supporting my hobbies like traveling and photography. Retiring while I am still in good health. I have always dreamed about getting all my friends and family together at one major, hell raising event.
Yea the marketing side is difficult and just as arduous. With the advent of self-publishing, marketing and gaining recognition as an author has become very competitive. There is only so much space on a screen (digital content) and so much time in a day that a potential buyer has. I can knock off a book in a month with no distractions; however, to get that book discovered may take heck of a lot longer. Writing blogs, interviews, and using available platforms to market your work all take time. Yet it has to be done, and I think most writers now must steep themselves in the various marketing methods to reach their audience. As I mentioned I grew up in the age of 'internet marketing gurus', so I may have had a head start. I try to take advantage of everything, including running PPC campaigns.
For all the bad juju, the legacy publishers have received lately, one thing they were good at was getting the word out about your book. Having established distribution channels, access, and unlimited resources they were able to push any author to the frontal lobes of avid readers. This was and is still the case but comes at a hefty price to the author.(royalties). I think the compensation (or lack of )to the authors became the driving force behind self-publishing.
If only they were fairer.
All self-publishers should look at the methods and models the legacy publishers used to generate best sellers. In reality, it is not all that different from what we have available to us today. The biggest difference for most of us are the resources, and this can be made up by using the internet.
A word about reviews. Some say they live or die with them. Well I say forget about them. If you solely rely on good reviews you are in for a surprise. I have personally sold hundreds of books with no reviews. On the other hand, I have a book with excellent and more reviews than any I have produced, yet it is my slowest seller. What gives? I don't know.
My last thought...be patient and try to keep writing. Your audience with eventually discover you. It will happen.
ARE YOUR BOOKS SELF-PUBLISHED?
Yes. All my books are self-published.
ANYTHING YOU’D LIKE TO ADD?
Yes. I want to thank you for the questions. Very interesting. They have allowed me to fine tune my mission and regain focus.
On the marketing side, I hope those of you in Australia reading this are using your devices to get books from Amazon. At the moment, there are 10 countries Amazon has deals with to sell using their platform. Australia does not show up. Why is this? I can't figure out. The irony is on eBay I use to sell a bunch of my books to Australian readers using PDF. If you guys own readers and other devices download the Amazon Kindle reader app. It is free and should allow you to make purchases from their main site.
Again it is beyond me as to why Australia is not on the list because I know those from 'Downunder' are avid readers.
Amazon Author's Profile:
Clancy's comment: Thanks, E.J. Appreciate your tips, and am sure others will too.