Category Archives: Book publishing

How an author and novice publisher gets his book before the public.

Heading off to Annapolis, MD

Wednesday, I am off to Annapolis, Maryland, where I will give two talks and will sign books on Thursday, January 14, about my father’s odyssey through the Pacific in World War II and about my recently published trilogy about it: Wilber’s War, An American Family’s Journey through World War II. I welcome all.  Light refreshments will be provided. The trilogy (three books in a slipcase) will be sold at both events and I will sign them if you wish. It will be a festive family event because my sister Valerie and her sons live in Annapolis and will be there. Valerie is a principal player in Wilber’s War.

The two talks are at:

Heritage Harbour Community Lodge, 959 River Strand Loop, Annapolis. 10 AM, Thursday, January 14.

The Annapolis Bookstore, 35 Maryland Ave. Annapolis, 7 PM, Thursday, January 14.

Do come to hear about Wilber’s odyssey, the impact on his family, and about the travails of someone publishing his own book.

Halloween during war

On halloween, 1943, my father wrote from the Solomon Islands to the wife of one of his artillery 2316 169FA Officers, chapel Ondongaofficers, Dixwell Goff, of Rhode Island, giving him great praise. He wrote: “I saw him save scores of lives for our infantry by placing artillery fire exactly where the Japs were sure we couldn’t put it. I watched him in a critical time adjust our artillery fire so close in to our troops that shell fragments fell all around those of us fifty yards farther back than Dixwell. That time he came back with that big grin and his eyes sparkling because he knew he had done a real Goff job.”  Two months later, the battalion officers were photographed outside their jungle chapel. On this photo our father’s face was circled in crayon by my young sister Valerie, and Goff is the second man to the right, with mustache.



A Novice Book Marketer

8/30/15. I return to my blog after a two-month absence with apologies. I promise to be more attentive to it. Do look for a monthly or biweekly contribution on the topics of World War II, the Pacific Theater in particular, and the adventures of marketing one’s own book. Today it is mostly the latter, while recognizing that two days from now, on Sept. 1, 1939, World War II was initiated by the German entry into Poland 76 years ago. Thus began the long road to victory nearly six years later.

Wilber’s War was officially published two weeks ago on the anniversary of V-J Day. On that day, I was in the bookstore of the National Museum of the Pacific War doing a “book signing.” I sold four of the trilogies in the first ten minutes and none the rest of the day. Later I learned that two of the four were returned. The trip cost perhaps $1500, so it was not a profitable excursion, but the reward was in the pleasure of talking to many people about the work and to be on that scene for V-J Day. I especially savored reading Wilber’s humorous story about ants on his bunk to two young boys.

Plaques on wallThe next day, we dedicated the memorials I sponsored (for the 43rd Division and four individuals – see my blogs of 4/26/15 and 5/16/15). Here I post a photo of the plaques mounted on a wall in the memorial garden. Altogether, there were perhaps 15 people there, and several were related to 43rd Division WW2 vets now deceased. Most important was the daughter of Gen. Harold Barker, the division artillery commander. She is about 92 and wheelchair bound, but she got there!

My publicist, a young lady in New Jersey, has lined up radio show after radio show that wish to interview me. I have probably done close to ten of them by now, including an in-studio interview on WBZ Boston from midnight to 1:30 AM. I find myself becoming quite adept at filling airtime. You can find two of the interviews here.

I also have had two op-ed articles published, one on and another in the Fredericksburg, TX, where that Museum is. Two other magazine articles were requested from me; they are written and in the works. I have given talks about the book at a launch party at the Salem Athenaeum (July 31), at the memorial dedication in Texas, at the local Marblehead Rotary, and at our Essex Condominium last week. you can see all the print items, by me and others, here.

I find that such direct contact produces a few sales each time, but so far the op-eds and radio interviews seem to have had little effect, at least for now. I have sold perhaps 50 sets as of this date. Not huge, but not bad either for the first two weeks. There are still 1950 sets sitting in Canada hoping for a home.

This is all new and a bit bewildering to me, but I am actually having fun doing it. People really appreciate the story when they hear about it.

Hurrah, a great review of Wilber’s War

6/23/15. According to Midwest Book Review (June 2015), my World War II trilogy, Wilber’s War, is “…informed and informative…thoughtful and thought-provoking…an inherently fascinating read…deftly crafted…very highly recommended for both community and academic library …collections…”

For the entire critique go to the Press page of this website or go to Midwest Book Review directly.

Getting an independently published  book recognized is not an easy task and I have encountered my share of rebuffs on this project. I had become totally ready for this work to disappear without a ripple, when (surprise) in came a review from a highly respected review service, Midwest Book Review, AND it is highly positive. They accept no money for reviews and of course are flooded with book candidates for review. A book must make the cut for possible review, and then one of their reviewers must choose to review it sometime over the next 15 weeks or so. It appears that Wilber’s War “made the cut” and was chosen for review within a week or two of its submission. The review (actually a short “critique”)  is totally favorable, though it is lacking in detailed commentary on the writing, the historical value, the design, etc.

As for other review services, I submitted the work to the Library Journal and also to Foreword Reviews and have not yet heard from either. Neither accepts payments and again one hopes one’s work is selected for review. I also submitted the work to Kirkus which charges about  $500 per book, but we differed greatly on how to handle a trilogy. Since their maximum word count for the basic fee is 200,000 words, I thought my 310,000 words could reasonably be reviewed for 155% the basic fee, but they wanted 270% (for three books, less 10%). They had gone ahead and reviewed the first book v(only), but I did not download it. In the end they agreed (with no argument) to return my money. I am curious about the  content of that review, but it would cost me $575 to find out!

In May, my publicist sent out about 60 unsolicited copies of the trilogy to organizations that might choose to review the trilogy. So far I have heard from none of them, but it is early given the August publication date. The Independent Book Publishers’ Association (IBPA) has given me a platform for advertising the book to potential reviewers and to display it at book shows. I have a few minor leads from the ads (small weekly ads), and I have exhibited the work at the Book Expo in New York and will do so next week at the American Library Association book show in San Francisco. I did attend the former and will attend the latter. In New York, I did make a few contacts that could turn out to be useful. Mostly I learned how huge the book business is and the microscopic contribution my great work makes to it.

I am still waiting for my printer to produce the slipcases for the full order of 2000 sets. In the meantime, I and my publicist get small quantities of the set for PR purposes. The publication date, V-J Day, Aug. 14, 2014, rapidly approaches!

That’s all for now from this amateur book publisher and marketer.

V-E Day in the Philippines

5/8/15 (V-E Day). The world was celebrating Victory in Europe Day (V-E Day) on May 8, 1945, but the troops of the 43rd Infantry Division had just begun an attack on Ipo Dam in the Philippines, still held by the Japanese. It was a critical water supply for Manila. On May 13, the rains began and on May 17 the Dam was captured. It was the final major campaign for the division.

A month later, my father Wilber, an artillery battalion commander, wrote about keeping the artillery functioning during the heavy rains; getting ammunition to the guns and maintaining communications were both critical and difficult:

“At one time (3 days) I had 25% of my men repairing and relaying wire. One of my men came up to me with tears in his eyes and his voice so broken he could hardly speak. He was about to drop with fatigue. (I didn’t feel too peppy either.) It was pouring rain. He said, “Col[onel]. I’ve repaired the lines here seven times this morning and that dozer driver tore it out seven times. I asked him and told him to stop and he just said, ‘To Hell with your wire, I have to build a road.’ and went ahead thru my wire again.” I know he expected me to go right over and shoot the dozer driver but all I could do was explain that he too was having trouble and had an important job too. I tried to let him see I knew just how hard he was trying to keep his lines in and how I thought he was doing a grand job, patted him on the back and went sloshing up the next hill. One feels pretty humble about commanding the American G.I.”

Trucks in the rain and mud on the newly constructed road leading to Ipo Dam, in the 103rd Infantry zone, 5/18/45. [Photo: U.S. Army Signal Corps, SC 312642] The photo caption states that the men, with the help ofrr a bulldozer, drag vehicles out of a muddy hole, but the helping is not evident.
Trucks in the rain and mud on the newly constructed road leading to Ipo Dam, in the 103rd Infantry zone, 5/18/45. [Photo: U.S. Army Signal Corps, SC 312642]

My website is online!

3/19/15. I am most pleased that my website is finally on line, though the commercial Buy-the-Trilogy part is not yet active. I most pleased with the website design, done by a small local firm, Sperling Interactive, based on the book cover design by Lisa Carta. The site content is rich with descriptions of the Trilogy, Wilber’s writings, samples from the Trilogy, WW2 documents, and photos.

Soon one will be able to pre-order the Trilogy. The release date will be the 70th anniversary of V-J Day, Aug. 14, 2015. We (me, my editor Francie King and Lisa) have approved the final printer’s proofs and the presses (at Friesens, Inc.) will soon be rolling. The content  of the three books has been sent to a conversion firm for conversion into two standard ebook formats, mobi and epub. All this is really happening and it is so exciting.

Getting started with my blog

2/4/15 This begins my blog focused on  World War II and my father’s experiences in it. Actually, I am now focused on getting my book(s) about it (Wilber’s War) into print. Today my designer (Lisa Carta) will, I think,  be shipping off the files (InDesign or pdf) to the printer (Friesens) with the cover artwork to follow a few days later. We plan a release date of V-J Day (70th anniversary) on Aug. 14, 2015. I spent from 1980 to 2013 learning about my parents’ lives during WW2 and producing the trilogy, but in 2014–15, I am being forced to learn about publishing books and marketing them. It is a whole new world for me. I am a new business owner – of Van Dorn Books! So this blog will probably be a mix of talk about independent book publishing by a newbie and World War 2.