Update: Interview, Pearl Jam & Book Talk, 10/19

Last week, the blog, How Did You Write That, interviewed me about Alex Haley, self publishing, and how I found time to write amid work, family, and sleep.

Also, last week, a post I published about Pearl Jam a few months ago on Medium was added to the popular “World of Music” collection.

And, finally, for those of you who live or will be in the San Francisco Bay Area on Sunday October 19, I will be giving a talk about Alex Haley in Walnut Creek at the Contra Costa Jewish Book & Art Festival.

See flyer below for more information.

Flyer for Book Signing

Q&A with Indie Author Alysha Kaye

As more and more authors leap into self-publishing, there are a handful that have proven themselves well above the ordinary. These writers not only take the craft seriously, but have a knack for marketing their product.

Alisha's BookDebut novelist Alysha Kaye is one of these authors.

As a biographer and nonfiction author, our paths would never have crossed if it weren’t for our mutual interest in self-publishing. We read the same blogs, listen to the same podcasts, and follow the same authors. Kaye isn’t just on the sidelines watching and studying what others do; she’s on the front lines, establishing a name for herself.

In fact, recently she was offered a publishing contract by a small press, which she declined.


As she put it in her blog, “I was led to believe that their marketing wouldn’t be any better than my own.”

By day, the author teaches high school in Austin, Texas. But when Kaye is not grading papers, she’s spending time Tweeting and blogging about her book, The Waiting Room. It’s a story, she explained, that began as an innocent “love poem” to her boyfriend.

Having spotted a post of mine on WordPress, Kaye asked if I’d review her book. Instead, I preferred to conduct an interview about her experiences as a self-published author.

  1. Tell us about your adventures in self-publishing. Harder than you thought?   

    MUCH harder than I thought. I was lucky enough to find an amazing editor, graphic designer, and website designer through Expert Subjects. I’m so grateful to them. But the marketing aspect of this roller coaster? Geez. It’s been so time-consuming, especially now that I’m back to my teacher’s schedule! Who has time to Tweet, blog, Instagram, Facebook, etc.?

  2. What self-publishing blogs and podcasts do you follow? And why?  


    Author Alysha Kaye

    I’m WordPress obsessed. You should know this, Adam, since that’s how I came across your lovely blog. I search under tags like “self-publishing” and “book review”. I read more blogs than books these days. I love feeling like I’m part of that blogging community.

  3. What are 3 mistakes/lessons you have learned from self-publishing your current novel? What do you plan to do differently for your next book? 

    I learned that even after edit #1, there will be mistakes. A second edit is needed! And probably a third, fourth…. I very foolishly thought, “I’m an English teacher, I got this!” Yeah, right. Lots of red marks! I also learned the importance of social media. If I could go back in time, I would have started promoting the novel MUCH sooner. Lastly, I learned not to be afraid to simply ASK. Now I know that many book bloggers, for example, will gladly help you out—all you have to do is contact them!

  4. What’s your next project about? 

    I’ve written one chapter. And I’m not sold on it. It’s realistic fiction- no fantasy aspect in this one, which makes me sad.

  5. What book (or author) inspired YOU to become a writer?

    Whew, so many. When I was interning at a publishing company in New York, I read The Time Traveler’s Wife and I immediately wanted to create that same heart-wrenching, punch-you-in-the-gut love that Audrey Niffenegger is so great at.

For more about Alysha Kaye, visit her websitehttp://alyshakaye.wordpress.com or follow her on Twitter@alyshakaye7The Waiting Room is available on Amazon.

Alex Haley’s Roots – An Author’s Odyssey by Adam Henig

Adam Henig:

I don’t normally gloat (let alone, reblog) about every positive book review I’ve received, but on this occasion I could not resist. The blogger did an excellent job of integrating the actual book review with his personal connection to Alex Haley and Roots. It serves as a reminder of why I became a writer. Enjoy – AH

Originally posted on thegatvolblogger:

This is the front cover to the book Alex Haley's Roots - An Author's Odyssey by Adam Henig

This is the front cover to the book Alex Haley’s Roots – An Author’s Odyssey by Adam Henig

Every once in a while you stumble on a book that challenges everything you thought you knew about someone. Alex Haley’s Roots is one such book. I admit I was more familiar with his most famous works such as The Autobiography of Malcolm X and Roots than I was with the author of these phenomenal titles.

The Autobiography of Malcolm X propelled Alex Haley into the spotlight.

The Autobiography of Malcolm X propelled Alex Haley into the spotlight.

The little I thought I knew about him was what I gleaned from the latter book and the subsequent miniseries. Adam Henig, the author, presents a succinct and orderly narrative capturing the author’s odyssey conveniently beginning at the threshold of Haley’s fame and success.

That is shortly after the publication of Roots and serialisation of the book into a miniseries. It carries us through his…

View original 790 more words

Alex Haley’s Roots in Paperback w/New Cover; Book Talk, 10/19

Featuring a new cover design, Alex Haley’s Roots: An Author’s Odyssey is now available in paperback.

The new format includes a few minor updates to the story and a collection of blogs about my self-publishing adventures and researching Alex Haley. The eBook edition includes these changes too.

front new small fileNEW DESIGN

For those of you who participated in the interest poll for my new book cover design, I appreciate your help in selecting the winning design.

Congratulations Rachmad Agus!

Also, thanks to 99 Designs for an easy, exciting, and affordable service, and, of course, to the Self Publishing Podcast team—David WrightJohnny B. Truant, and Sean Platt—for their “bad ad reads,” resulting in my confidence in their sole sponsor, 99 Designs.


Finally, if you are a San Francisco Bay Area resident, or will be in the region on Sunday, October 19, I will be delivering a talk about Alex Haley’s Roots and will be signing my book afterwards at the Under One Tent: Contra Costa Jewish Book and Arts Festival.

See flyer below for more information.

Flyer for Book Signing

BOOK REVIEW: “The Brothers”

To those who have studied modern U.S. foreign policy, the first thing you discover is that every conflict stems from a previous one. But if you were to seek out its origins, much of it can be traced to two men, the Dulles brothers.    

97808050949781384278601In The Brothers: John Foster Dulles, Allen Dulles and Their Secret World War, Stephen Kinzer focused on the scope of power and influence wielded by the Dulles brothers, Allen (CIA Director) and Foster (Secretary of State), in Washington and abroad during the early period of the Cold War. Their impressive foreign affairs pedigree (grandfather and uncle both served as Secretary of State) allowed them unprecedented access and opportunity to construct (and eventually deconstruct) America’s standing in the global community.

Author Stephen Kinzer

Author Stephen Kinzer

Although the Dulles’ had convinced politicians and the public that their allegiance was to their country, Kinzer argued that the brothers, who were high-powered attorneys,”sought nothing less than to shape the affairs of all the world for the benefit and well-being of the select, their clients.” How Eisenhower missed it but Truman didn’t could be the topic of Kinzer’s next book. Well-written and throughly researched, though the pace of The Brothers, at times, was slowed with Kinzer giving away the story before the event actually occurred.

Overall, it was an informative read that should be on the bookshelf of anyone interested in America’s past and future foreign affairs.

This review originally appeared in the Tulsa Book Review.

Click here to read more about The Brothers.

Alex Haley and the Making of a Writer

Alex Haley in Coast Guard uniform, 1949. Courtesy of the USCG Military.

USCG Journalist Alex Haley, 1949.  Photo courtesy of the USCG Military.

On August 11, Alex Haley would have turned 93 years-old. To commemorate his birthday, I wanted to share a story about how he got his start as a professional writer.


Long after he became a best selling author, Alex Haley recalled a phone conversation he had in 1952. “I was standing up at the telephone. And when it hit me who [the caller] was, I just froze.” It was the editor of Coronet, a popular monthly magazine (owned by Esquire), who was looking for a writer. Then serving as the US Coast Guard’s Chief Journalist, the thirty-one-year-old Haley was desperately trying to break into the competitive magazine writing industry. His rejections slips piled high.

Hope was slipping away.

And then came the memorable phone call from the editor of a major New York City-based magazine. To have an article published in Coronet meant so much to the struggling writer that when he was told his byline would not be his own, Haley was not dissuaded. At the time, it was not unusual. Similar publications often hired unknown authors to serve as ghostwriters for celebrities, such as Frank Sinatra, Zza Zza Gabor, and Groucho Marx.

Under contact at $125 (or $100 if written under his own name) for each 600-word article, Haley went to work. Between 1952 and 1960, the neophyte writer penned more than twenty articles for Coronet, with only three attributed to himself. The others were written on behalf of singer Kate Smith and radio/television host Robert Q. Lewis.

Coronet, May 1953 issue.

Coronet, May 1953 issue.

Strangely, the Coronet editors did not think its readers would find it odd that Smith and Lewis, both of whom had no background in maritime or black history, wrote about sea rescues and African Americans—topics that reflected Haley’s expertise.

In “Always a Champion,” published in May 1953 with Lewis’ byline, for example, the story focused on a boxing match that took place on a coast guard cutter. Actually, Haley had written an identical piece in SeaFarer, a short-lived newsletter that he had created for his crewmates.

In “Whittler of Time,” published in June 1954 with Smith’s byline, this piece was about the 18th century African American inventor and scientist Benjamin Banneker. It was highly unusual for a popular magazine like Coronet (that was geared toward a white audience, as demonstrated by its advertisements) to feature an article about an African American figure, especially one who was neither an athlete nor entertainer.

Haley had to pay his dues–even if it meant writing under someone else’s name. In the long run, it paid off. Eventually, he published in Reader’s Digest, Playboy, Saturday Evening Post, and Cosmopolitan, with his name in the byline.


Best Part About Being a Self-published Author….


99designs-logo-r_0What’s the best part about being a self-published author?

Well, that’s easy—selecting your book cover!

One of the biggest gripes among traditional published authors, aside from getting nominal royalty rates, receiving minimal visibility in bookstores, and waiting months (if not years) for your book to be published is that they have no control over one of the most important features of their book—the cover design.

For self-published authors, we can choose any cover design we like or, if we have enough talent, create our own.

One of my editors recommended a professional graphic artist who designed my current book cover.

My plan was to have him use a photograph of Alex Haley, which I had purchased from Associated Press (AP) granting me eBook commercial rights for five years. The artist, whom I had hired, did a splendid job, positinig the photograph, title, and my name on the cover.

He charged his standard fee for a single design. If I wanted another design, there would be an additional fee.

Six months later, when I began thinking about publishing a paperback edition of my eBook, I investigated the cost of publishing the same photograph on a hard cover. To my chagrin, AP charged about the same fee I had paid to have the image on my eBook cover.

Furthermore, I would have to pay my designer another fee just to create a back cover (since there wasn’t one prior).

And I would have to renew the rights to the photograph every five years.

At that point, I had all but given up on publishing a book I could actually hold in my hands and turn the page.

Then, it occurred to me while I was listening to my favorite podcast program on writing—Self-Publishing Podcast—that there was a plausible alternative.


The podcast is hosted by three indie authors—Sean Platt, Johnny B. Truant, and David Wright. It was their lone sponsor, 99 Designs, who caught my attention.

99 Designs is a San Francisco-based web company that provides a marketplace for graphic designers to showcase their work based on a business’ needs.

The designers compete in a contest (paid for by a business or an individual), and, whichever design is selected by the person(s) paying for the service, the winning artist receives two-thirds of the fee. 99 Designs takes the other third.

The best part about working with 99 Designs is that there is no obligation if you don’t like any of the designs. You’ll receive a full refund.

Although the concept seemed perfect for my situation, I was convinced when Wright said on Episode #109: 

“We’re not going to advertise anything on this site that we would not use….If you want a professional design, go to 99 Designs.”



At first, there were only a few and they weren’t eye-catching. I began to wonder if I had made a mistake. But by the following morning, scores had been submitted and there were enough quality designs in the lot that I knew a refund would not be necessary. By the end of the seven-day-period, I received a total of 145 submissions in the opening round! At least twenty of them I deemed “cover worthy” and those made it to the final round.

I haven’t chosen a cover yet, but I’ve setup an interest poll featuring my favorite designs. I want YOU to help me select the best design!

POLL: http://99designs.com/book-cover-design/vote-ersphb