An Interview with Andrew Benzie of Andrew Benzie Books

November 28, 2014

1. How did you get involved in the self publishing business? Did you take classes? Was there a part of your educational background that helped you pursue this career?

My art degree from UC Santa Cruz combined with 25 years’ experience in the design/print industry has prepared me well for the self publishing revolution. I first became involved in self publishing when I designed, published and marketed my father’s first novel The Elusive Immigrant in 2008—since then I have published over 20 books for local Bay Area authors.

2. Have you written a book? If not, what would you write about if you had all the time in the world to do so?

I have written bits and pieces here and there, but haven’t managed to complete a book just yet. If I had unlimited time, I might explore creating an interactive animated children’s ebook.

3. What is the most common problem you’ve encountered with manuscripts submitted to you, i.e. formatting? What do your clients do that makes Andrew nuts?

After I enter a client’s manuscript into one of my templates, I always go through the text and check for things like the number of spaces between sentences, indents instead of tabs, make sure the use of em and en dashes is consistent, do a final spell check, etc., so I really don’t run across anything that drives me nuts formatting wise. I tell my clients not to worry about the formatting—that’s my job, just focus on the writing.

4. What is your favorite color and why? How many walls in your home are painted your favorite color? Is your car that color?

Blue, because my wife’s eyes are blue. Yes, she told me to say that. Sorry, I have no blue walls or cars.

5. Who is your favorite author?

That’s a tough one, it changes all the time I suppose . . . but I recently enjoyed plowing through Isaac Asimov’s Foundation series.

6. Other than Curious George, what is your favorite book? How many times have you read it? (Not Curious George but your favorite book.)

I have probably read the Lord of the Rings trilogy more than any other book as it was the first book I really enjoyed reading as a child. And that was way before the movies came out!

7. You play the drums. Which rock star would you like to be?

There are a lot of drummers out there who I admire, but I think I’ll just stick with being me. Even if that means I still have to lug my own drums around. One of these days I’ll hire a roadie.

8. What is your favorite food?

Pizza. It’s the whole food pyramid served in the shape of a food pyramid.

9. What advice would you give someone who is considering self publishing, other than seeking the expert services of Andrew Benzie?

I would suggest anyone considering self-publishing do as much research as they can about the many options available to them, and to learn as much as they can from others who have been through the process before. And don’t forget to have fun, it can be a very rewarding process!

10. From your point of view, what is the most challenging or difficult thing about self-publishing?

Often its the marketing side that’s most challenging for my clients. To offer assistance, I offer marketing consultation services to help authors find ways to promote and market their books.

To learn more about Andrew Benzie Books, visit http://www.andrewbenziebooks.com/Home.html.


An Interview with Melanie Denman – 2014 IPPY Award Winner

November 15, 2014

VTS Front Cover

1. In one paragraph, summarize your new book.

Set in the Bible Belt of Deep East Texas, Visiting the Sins is the story of three generations of women whose lofty social aspirations are exceeded only by their unfortunate taste in men and a seemingly boundless capacity for holding grudges. A legacy of feuding and scandal lurches from one generation to the next with tragic consequences that threaten to destroy everything these feisty but perennially dissatisfied women have sacrificed their souls to build.

2. Tell us about the signature drink that was developed for your book.

The “Pokeyteeny” is a drink named in honor of one of my main characters Pokey, the love-starved, pistol-packing matriarch of the Wheeler clan. Like its namesake character, the “Pokeyteeny” is nicely aged, a little dirty, and packing heat! It’s made with tequila and will liven up a book club discussion, for sure.

3. Who are your favorite authors? 

William Faulkner, Larry McMurtry, Leon Uris, Paul Bowles, Gabriel Garcia-Marquez. I like Katherine Anne Porter’s short stories. All of Mary Karr’s memoirs. And mysteries by James Lee Burke.

4. What has been the biggest challenge on your path to publication?

Learning to appreciate criticism.

5. Where did you come up with the idea about your devil painting? 

I grew up with a big painting of the devil hanging on the wall in our living room.

6. If you were to describe yourself as a type of southern food, what would you be?

My favorite southern food is Mexican food, so maybe I would be an enchilada with mole sauce.

7. What did you think the major advantages to doing a professional program like the Stanford Writing Program as compared to being involved in a critique group?

Actually the writing program and my critique group were both instrumental in the development of my book, just in different ways. In the Stanford novel program, we dissected a lot of novels and worked on improving specific aspects of our own novels, such as character development, dialogue, point of view, setting, and plot arc. It sort of forces you through a process that refines all aspects of your novel. Within a critique group, the writer chooses what to submit for critique, so you can really drill down and work on whatever aspect of your novel you think needs the most work.

8. How did growing up in east Texas influence your writing? 

It probably infused me with the joy of storytelling. Humor, suspense, cadence, irony, the element of surprise.

9. Since you are writing about an East Texas family, do you fear any repercussions? Will anyone write you out of their will? Will you ever be able to go “home” for Thanksgiving after your book is released without someone trying to poison your turkey?

No, all my characters are fictional. But I think all my female family and friends harbor a secret wish that I will write a book about them that gets turned into a movie so they can play themselves and have a kissing scene with George Clooney.

10. What have you done (will you do) to broaden the appeal of your book since it reflects a specific area in Texas? Are there common themes or threads with which people in other States can identify?

In my experience, people enjoy reading about settings and cultures different from their own. Most people can relate to personal struggles with ambition, forgiveness, and self-destruction. And some things about human nature are universal, such as the ability of mothers and daughters to make each other homicidal.

I hope you’ve enjoyed learning about Melanie Denman. Learn more about the book and purchase Visiting the Sins at http://www.melaniedenman.com.


#3 – What do I call myself?

September 25, 2010

#3: What do I call myself?

Pete Masterson advised I pick a publisher name, one I’d be doing business as (DBA) since my intention was to have a commercial publishing firm do the actual hands-on printing and distribution work. This need was unexpected, but, I understand is relatively standard. Fortunately I’d learned of the need before my visit to the Livermore library. The Bowker volumes there offered a mind-boggling record of publishers whether or not a DBA firm. Easy enough so far, right?

Pete advised I not use the DBA name I’d used in my earlier consulting work. Also recommended I not use my actual name as part of the DBA name selected. After a few days trying to imagine something catchy, and without noticeable success, I narrowed the list of potential DBA names to about 50. The Bowker listing search cut that number to about twelve. My wife cut it down to 5. The ones we really found attractive were either already in use or had negative regional implications. A coin flip selected “Alamo Hills Press.” It’s now been approved and filed by the Contra Costa County registry as a legitimate (and taxable, I find) doing-business-as (fictitious) name.


#2 – Is my proposed title unique?

September 20, 2010

The self-publishing journey involved exploring relatively unknown realms and issues.  Two key element of my story needed to be resolved.  The first, was my intended title unique, or would I run the risk of controversy with some author who had chosen the same title?  Thanks to the multiple search engines available on the web, that search took the better part of a day. It turned out my title was unique so far as the web was concerned.  There were numerous references to “Dangerous Waters” but “In Dangerous Waters” had apparently not been claimed before.

The second stage of the same search involved searching Bowker’s international registry “Books in Print.”  “Just check the library.  They all have copies,” was the advice received from friends.  Not so, in our area at least.  Only the main library in downtown San Francisco, and the new library in Livermore were listed as having copies.  Livermore was closer so problem solved. A simple search of the Bowker collection confirmed that no other author or publisher had duplicated my proposed title as of the 2008 edition, the latest published.


My self-publishing journey – step 1

September 16, 2010

Since my last posting you probably wondered if I’d forgotten all of you.  Not so.

Earlier in the Spring I announced my intention to end the fruitless search for an agent for my novel “In Dangerous Waters.”  The novel is complete.  I think it’s a good story, and most of my critique group seem to agree.

Self-publishing (dealt with in several terms, I find) has become increasingly popular, even in the case of some big name authors.  I took a short course on the topic and did some reading.  If others can do that, why can’t I?  I can, and will.  Or more directly, as I post this, I have – begun the steps, that is.  I’m not “published” yet but soon will be.  I’d like to share some of that excursion with you.

Since the BLOG provides a convenient path to tell you of my experiences, I plan to post several times, usually as relevant events occur in the self-publishing process as I experience them.  I welcome your questions on any related issue.

For starters, let’s look at my first active step.  The class and reading proved some background, a place to pick up some of the terminology and an overall understanding of how the self-publishing process compared with the tradition path.  They also convinced me I needed experienced help if I hoped for a book in hand, and eventually available in e-book format as well.

A member of the CWC Mt. Diablo Branch, through the “Back Fence”, recommended I contact Pete Masterson, himself a published author, who specializes in formatting content for authors as well as managing the entire process from raw draft to book in hand.  Pete is well-regarded and past president of the Bay Area Independent Publishers Association (that may not be the exact title.) Pete and I hit if off right away with a phone call and a lengthy discussion.  He appeared pleased I’d done much of my homework, would be a cooperative client, and had a good idea of what was ahead of me, but simply needed some experienced help.

So we began.