“I’ll own it. I like to write. Indeed it’s my preferred means of communication. But digging into it deep enough to have it make me a living, now that’s another matter.
I started having fun with words in my teen years, writing poetry and silly short stories. Sometimes I would even share one of these with a friend. When I was 24, I journaled every day of a three month trip while travelling with friends through the U.S., Mexico, and Canada. The result was a mesmerizing but ultimately unpublishable chronology of the trip. I continued to write through my twenties into my early thirties, finding time to create interesting, little pieces, mainly poetry.
During these years, I wrote a lot but had never sold a thing. Writing was more like playing. Then things got serious.
I did marketing research in my early thirties. As a subcontractor, I worked with marketing teams in local companies and ad agencies, helping them to develop their marketing and advertising strategies. Then I began writing some of the advertising for them and soon took on a full-time job as an advertising copywriter.
Now my writing did make me a living. It was serious business.I worked at it. I even took classes on “writing readable prose” and “writing to persuade,”which helped me to fine-tune my writing skills.
But it was also in my early thirties when I experienced a major change in my life. This occurred sometime between writing for fun and writing for a living. I quit my alcoholic drinking.
What a challenge this was! It took a while for me to rebuild myself. Staying sober required diligence. And dedication.To be successful in recovery, one needs to find a program that works. For me, that program did not include Alcoholics Anonymous. I developed something new for myself. I crafted a complete program using alternative techniques that had been proven effective for breaking addictions.
I had about two years in recovery when I decided to write a book. And for the moment, I had something to say. It was “how to quit drinking.” No it was more than that. It was an entire program that a person could use to quit drinking. Moreover—and here’s the key point—it would work whether or not the person went to AA.
In fact, my first choice for a title was “How to Quit Drinking Without AA.” In addition, I knew this book would be revolutionary. After all, this was the 1980s, a time when AA was generally regarded as the only way to quit drinking. But I had more than enough material on the subject. I had researched everything about breaking a serious drinking habit. I even knew the success rates of the various techniques and programs (and by the way AA’s success rate was not at all spectacular). In addition, I had studied holistic health techniques and realized their positive impact when included in a program for recovery.
I was ready.
But could I write a whole book that was coherent and comprehensive? And even if I could write it, would it be published?
I started anyway. I amassed pages and pages of potential text. It became my passion, my life’s work.The more I wrote, however, the more I wondered if this creation would ever see printer’s ink.
I decided it should be published. So I studied books on how to find a publisher. I learned, for a nonfiction book, I would need to write a “proposal” consisting of a synopsis, an outline, and a couple of chapters.
I started preparing this. I managed to complete it but the task alone seemed to take forever. I needed the writing to be my absolute best.
ThenusingWriter’s Market, I chose 29 publishers and sent copies of my proposal to each. The results?Most editors returned the proposal with a simple rejection. Some returned it with a warning, stating some variation of: “We don’t think a book that runs counter to AA stands a chance.” But I also received four positive replies, each offering some kind of “co-publishing” deal. These went something like: “You, the author, will invest a sum of money (this varied from $2,000 to $6,000 depending on the offer) to cover a portion of the expenses, and we, the publisher, will manage printing, marketing, and distribution of your book. Oh, and for sharing the risk, we’ll split the profits with you 50/50.”
This sounded attractive but lost its appeal the more I analyzed it. First, where could I get that much money? And if I had that much, why not publish the book myself—and take 100% of the profits? To do that however, I’d need a distributor, a good one that would promise to get my book into bookstores.
This option intrigued me. So I made a financial assessment and found that I could borrow enough money to start a publishing company.
With that in mind, I sent the same book proposal to eleven high-profile, national distributors. From these, I received a few positive replies. The one I liked the most came from Publishers Group West (PGW). I liked it because they promised to help me market my book as well as distribute it. Better yet, they gave me some deadlines.
I signed their contract.
At this stage, I worked harder than ever on the project. I sometimes spent 40 hours a week on the book while still working my 40 hour a week day job. My goal was set though. I kept writing and researching. And it paid off. I finished the book in two years, on deadline, after having put a total of about ten years into it.
This was 1991and the book finally hit the market. In publishing terms, it was a modest success. Prior to its release, PGW had garnered orders from bookstores for over 8,000 copies and they recommended a first press run of twice that.My initial run was 16,500 books. These would all sell in the next two years, and require an additional press run of 7,000. All of these would sell as well before this book was picked up by a traditional publisher.
This was my first book and, within the specific genre of addiction recovery books, it became a bestseller.I was elated.
The title? How to Quit Drinking Without AA.“