Hi Dan! Thanks so much for coming. So, how did you begin your journey on the crazy path to publication?
My path to publication was probably a little different from that of most people.
When my wife and I found out we had a baby on the way eight years ago, we were very excited. Facebook was kind of new to me at the time, and I was posting a lot because I was excited – obviously. Did I mention I was excited? Because I was excited. (The stork had missed our house despite years of trying our best to get him to land here.)
I was about to become a father for the first time at forty-seven years of age – an age where most of my friends were getting ready for grand kids or their children’s marriages or their children going off to college.
As a result, they were really enjoying all the things I would post about. Preparing the house, our stay in the hospital, late-night feedings – all that good stuff. I’ll spare you the intricacies of diaper pails and spit up towels. Burp towels. Whatever they’re called. I knew seven years ago. I don’t need to know that know.
Unfortunately, I am the type who, when I wake up in the middle of the night, I have a hard time going back to sleep. So a lot of those 3 AM feedings turned into an opportunity for me to jot down the activities that had taken place during the day with the baby. And then with the one-year-old, and with the two-year-old. Not all at 3AM, but you get the idea. See, my brothers and sisters and dad and friends, they all said: Kids grow up fast. Enjoy this time.
And even though I was a sleep deprived zombie half the time, I did enjoy it. A lot. Kids are definitely the coolest toy in the room.
So I’d write down the fun stuff we did that day, like go to WalMart to look at tricycles and end up playing soccer in the aisles for an hour, after an hour of bouncing on trampolines and testing the finger paints.
I’m not saying these were all good ideas.
But they were fun…
And at night or in the morning, I’d write them down and post them on Facebook, go off to work and think nothing of it.
But then a funny thing happened.
When I would come home from work that night, there would be 100 comments from my wife’s friends, all reliving their own precious moments with their little ones. And telling me how I had made them laugh or cry before they went to work that day.
And then comments started coming in like, “You should write a book.”
And if enough people who you believe have your best interest at heart tell you to do something, you seriously begin to consider doing it.
Sounds like good advice! How did you transform your posts into a full-fledged book?
I wrote a few books about what it’s like to be 47 years old and a first time dad, walking around with your one-year-old bundle of joy, taking her to Home Depot in a sparkly princess dress and whatnot. That went on Facebook, too, along with me asking if any of my friends knew anybody in the publishing business.
One friend did.
After talking with that agent and sending him the manuscripts and following up, and realizing that things seemed to move a lot slower in that world than the Fortune 500 companies I’d worked for, and deadlines in the traditional publishing world didn’t really mean anything (to them; I always had to meet mine), I got a little frustrated and decided to part ways.
With a few online courses, I found out how to publish my own book, and after scrubbing my manuscript clean, I sat down and put it in the computer and hit the publish button.
And then I literally sat back and waited for Oprah and Ellen to call.
I’m not kidding. I was in the shower shampooing my hair, rehearsing answers to questions Ellen was going to ask, and practicing my dance moves.
After about three sales of books in three weeks (mostly to family members, I think) and no call from Ellen, I figured I would probably have to change the way I was doing things.
I can be slow, but eventually I learn. Baby steps.
What changes did you make to your marketing strategy?
I actually marketed.
I had been in some online author groups, and one author in the health area was looking for some time management tips. That’s what I used to do as a Fortune 500 sales manager, so I helped him a little bit – and as we talked, he explained he was struggling to get his next book out. Coincidentally, I had collected a bunch of “family favorite” recipes from all my brothers and sisters, to assemble into a cookbook with funny anecdotes from our childhood. I asked him if he would help me market my book in exchange for helping him with his time management. Long story short, we released that book and it shot straight to number one.
The things I learned doing that allowed me to market the other book that I had already put out. (Ellen still hadn’t called.) It started selling, and eventually it got to number one, too!
And I put out a bunch of titles in a very short period of time that all did really well. But it felt like a niche market. I wanted to branch out and really test my wings. I’d write a book in each genre until I found what I was good at.
Why not? Baby steps.
For those who haven’t checked it out, Dan’s first book, Savvy Stories is a hilarious and poignant chance to experience that wonderous ‘baby stage’ WITHOUT having to go through the diaper changes. 🙂 )
So, as you were exploring all of these genres, did you do anything in particular to strengthen your writing craft?
Well, in a round about way. The part I skipped was when people ask, “Did you always write?” Originally I would’ve said no, but the fact is, I did. I always wrote. I made cartoons as a little kid; I wrote stories for my older brothers and sisters. I created a newspaper at my grade school and was co-editor of my high school newspaper. I wrote short stories for fun in college…
And then like everyone else, you seem to get away from it for a while.
So when I started marketing my book, it was suggested I join a critique group. I wanted none of that! A bunch of no-talent hacks, sitting around telling each other how great they are? No thanks.
I could not have been more wrong.
I was able to show a lot of people what they were doing wrong – and how to fix it – but I was able to learn a lot. When you are looking for mistakes in other peoples’ work, and having to explain what works and what doesn’t, it sharpens your eye. It helps you. As a result, my stuff got much sharper.
But additionally, I made lots of contacts with people who were getting ready to publish their books. And I was able to help them, and they were able to help me.
Some of my connections have gone on to become bestselling authors.
That’s pretty awesome! So, what do you enjoy most about writing?
It’s not being your own boss, although that’s very liberating. It’s writing a story that gets people involved, and then throwing a twist at them, or making them laugh, or cry, at just the right moment. That’s a lot of power just from typing letters on the keyboard, and it’s one I do not take lightly. I’m good at it, and I love doing it. It will always be cool that complete strangers pay good money to read my stories, and lots of people pay me a lot of money to get my input on their stories.
Many things have become available to me since I published my first book. I’ve been invited to the Board of Directors of the Florida Writer’s Association, one of the largest and most prestigious writing organizations in the United States; I have given many presentations on writing for many writers groups. I have spoken more times than I care to admit to my daughter’s grade school because they view me as a celebrity. That’s still pretty cool, even if Ellen is still missing out.
And occasionally a friend will ask me to share my insights on her blog, so we can help others on their writerly path.
I’m so glad that you were willing to share them here, today! Do you have any final thoughts?
Here’s the bottom line.
Whatever you want to know about how something is done in writing a story, grab a book where it was done and see how they did it – then go from there. Witty dialogue exists in lots of books (like lots of mine). Find it and study it. Car chases and gun battles and ghosts and demons, all that stuff exists with terrific examples from masters in each genre. Read them. Study them the way a little leaguer studies Babe Ruth or Ty Cobb. Then, carve your own path but, there’s no reason to reinvent the wheel, if I mix a metaphor or two.
Be as helpful to as many people as you can. Some of them are going to be way more successful than you, darn it, but they will still be your friend. Others will struggle and will need your help and guidance. Lend your clout to any and all of them when you can – which is always – and remember that all of them will help you write better stories. In the end, that’s what I want to do. I want to write the best stories I can possibly write.
And, well, yeah… retiring on a yacht in the Caribbean would be good, too.
Thanks again Dan, for sharing your stories and your insights! If you’d like to find out more about Dan, his other books, and the contests he hosts, he can be found at https://danalatorre.com.
Many thanks for visiting!