From One Author To Another: Q&A with Michael Rank

The one advantage of being a commuter is I have the opportunity to listen to podcasts on a regular basis. These include, among others, NPR’s “Fresh Air,” “This American Life,” “Self-Publishing Podcast,” and “Creative Penn.”

A few months ago, I began listening to “Kobo Writing Life Podcast,” which is geared toward writers who want tips marketing their books on Kobo’s website. Michael Rank’s September 16 interview on “Writing Life” caught my attention.

Author Michael Rank, who is a PhD student at Central European University in Budapest and host of "History in 5 Minutes Podcast."

Author Michael Rank, who is a PhD student at Central European University in Budapest and host of “History in 5 Minutes

Not only was I interested in the subject matter, but it was refreshing to listen to a discussion by an indie author – currently working on his Ph.D. at Central European University in Budapest – who is not writing fiction or a “how-to” publication; he’s writing social and cultural history, fully documented. Author Michael Rank, who is a PhD student at Central European University in Budapest and host of “History in 5 Minutes.”

This is not easy, especially without a publisher providing an advance to supplement the research-related expenses (e.g., travel, copying, archival assistance, etc.).

So, I wanted to know more about Michael Rank, and he agreed to participate in my recently launched Q&A series, “From One Author to Another.”

  1. Most self-published authors are novelists, and, therefore, do not need to cite sources or fact-check the text. With no on-site editorial support, is it more difficult for a non-fiction, research-based author to self-publish? 

    It depends on what you are comfortable with. I am getting a PhD in history so I am used to working with historical sources, bibliographies, textual citations, and Chicago-Style footnoting. Other novelists may dislike that, but they can craft plot lines and do world-building in a way that would be almost impossible for me. Any aspiring writer should do what comes easiest to them. Writing is hard enough. Why make it harder on yourself?

  2. Before you self-published, did you attempt to go through the traditional publishing process? If so, what did you experience? 

    spies espionage and covert operations ebookI was spared the process because my mother wrestled with that industry for three decades before ultimately abandoning it for self-publishing. She wrote over a dozen books and sold hundreds of thousands of copies for her publisher. Did her publisher bother promoting her books? Hardly. Did they gladly keep nearly all her profits? Of course. When I discovered that self-publishing was now a respectable way to work as an author, I jumped in and never went back.

  3. How has your podcast, “History in Five Minutes,” helped you as an author? podcastimage1400x1400

    Podcasting helps me connect with future readers in a way that no other medium can. I tried blogging, Twitter, Facebook, and all that other social media stuff. All of those things are good, but they only hold the attention of a view for a few seconds, if that. But with podcasting I have somebody’s undivided attention for 5-10 minutes. They get to know me. If they like what I have to say, they will probably buy one of my books. I can’t think of a better way to connect with an audience than podcasting.

  4. Your podcast covers an array of subjects–from the Ottoman Empire to modern day Iowa. Which period do you enjoy writing about the most? 

    I like any period of history that is widely misunderstood because I want to explain those misunderstandings. Not because I want to be a boor and correct people, but because these eras reveal lots of hidden treasures. Take the Middle Ages. Everyone assumes that it was a time when toothless, dirt-faced peasants believed in any religious superstition that came along. They were at the mercy of the church, which spent all its time keeping the public illiterate and burning witches. It turns out this view is completely false. Enormous scientific advancement happened in the Middle Ages. Scholars read the Greeks and Romans long before Renaissance thinkers discovered them. Nobody even believed that the earth was flat. But if this “common knowledge” about the Middle Ages is false, why does everybody assume it to be true? These are the sorts of misconceptions I like to debunk.

  5. What is your next book about? 

    It’s called How Iowa Conquered the World: The Story of a Small Farm Small State’s Journey to Global Dominance. The book is a bit tongue-in-cheek, but it chronicles the outsized influence that a quaint little farm state of 3 million has had on the world. Iowa saved billions of lives in the 20thcentury, created the global university system, started Silicon Valley, and even standardized the American accent. I figured all those accomplishments were worth a book. But I am from Iowa, so of course I am biased. If it sells well, I am not opposed to writing 49 books for all the other states. Look for How North Dakota Conquered the World at a bookstore near you!


To read more about Michael Rank, visit his websitehttp://www.michaelrank.net. To listen to his podcast, “History in Five Minutes,” click here. Read the previous From One Author to Another Q&A with author Alysha Kaye.

Book Review & Author News

The Path to Power: The Years of Lyndon Johnson by Robert A. Caro

86524As we embark on the eve of Election Day, it’s an opportunity to reconsider one of the most powerful twentieth century American political figures, President Lyndon Baines Johnson.

Of all the authors that have written about the controversial thirty-sixth president, no one has come close to doing a more exhaustive job than two-time Pulitzer Prize-winner Robert Caro in his epic series, The Years of Lyndon Johnson.

Caro’s first volume, The Path to Power, focuses on LBJ’s roots and his meteoric rise in Texas politics. A standard book review for this tome would normally be about 2,500 words and rest assured it has been done many times over. I have no desire to rehash what has already been said.

But I wanted to point out a particularly interesting episode, about how a piece of advice from a father to a son may have altered the course of our nation’s history.

In 1937, during the Great Depression, twenty-eight-year-old Lyndon Johnson, who was then overseeing Texas’ National Youth Administration, was in a predicament.

The longtime Congressman in Johnson’s home district, James P. Buchanan, had died unexpectedly.

With a special election schedule, it was presumed that the deceased lawmaker’s widow would announce her intention to run for her husband’s seat. There were few other serious contenders, including Johnson, but all of them immediately backed off once word spread that Mrs. Buchanan was running and would be a lock for the seat.

Author Robert Caro

Author Robert Caro

Since his days in college, Johnson had been positioning himself for an opportunity like this one—working closely with local politicians, making connections with wealthy businessmen in his district, and building up an army of campaign volunteers. But Johnson’s closet political confidantes advised him not to run—he’d lose and might not be able to recover for a while. It looked like his dream of being a member of the House would be, at the very least, postponed.

The day before Mrs. Buchanan was planning to officially announce her candidacy, Johnson visited his father, Samuel Ealy Johnson, Jr., a former state legislator.

The son explained his predicament.

Samuel wasn’t having it and was surprised that his overeager son was acting so docile.

“‘She’s an old woman,’” Samuel told him. ‘“She’s too old for a fight. If she knows she’s going to have a fight, she won’t run. Announce now — before she announces.’”

And so Johnson announced his candidacy and, sure enough, the following day, the widow declared she would not run. All of the prospective candidates, who were on the fence, immediately jumped into the race. In a hard-fought battle, Johnson emerged victorious and that election launched a long and very successful congressional career that would eventually carry him all the way to the White House.

Although Caro’s Path to Power is close to 800 pages, don’t allow the length to dissuade you from reading this masterfully told tale about a man’s obsession for acquiring power.


Author News 

A couple of weeks ago, my family and I visited Minneapolis to meet my wife’s relatives. While there I took the opportunity to connect with my editor, Amy Quale, and her colleague, Dara Beevas, who is the author of Indie Author Revolution: An Insider’s Guide to Self-Publishing. We met for breakfast at a local café and chatted for 90 minutes. They will soon be publishing Beyond the Book, a book designed for indie writers. We also spoke about upcoming conferences in the book publishing industry (look for them at PubSmart in Charleston, SC), and

discussed their thriving business, WiseInk, which serves writers (both indie and traditional) from all genres..….Recently, I have hired a narrator to be the voice for the  audiobook version of Alex Haley’s Roots. Release date will be January 2015……Finally, two  weeks ago, I had my first book talk and signing in Walnut Creek, California. More than 60 people attended and I autographed 39 books! All in all, it was an exciting and successful evening. If you are interested in having me speak about Alex Haley, contact me at info@adamhenig.com.

Collage of 1st Book Talk

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

From One Author To Another: Q&A with 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.

Why?

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?  

    Alisha

    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.

BOOK TALK & SIGNING

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.