Wednesday, August 31, 2005

MANDATORY READ: The Michael R. Crider Interview

Okay, thanks for the standing ovation, everyone--but please take your seats, we need to g--oh, what, flowers for me? Oh, thank you, adoring fans. You are so sweet! Okay, sure, why not--we'll keep the open bar alive for one more hour.

With us today in the grand ballroom of the Center for Misapplied Theory and Filament Production is bestselling author (his book is the best in its genre, and it's selling fast), Michael R. Crider! He is the author of THE GUY'S GUIDE TO SURVIVING PREGNANCY, CHILDBIRTH AND THE FIRST YEAR OF CHILDHOOD (Da Capo, 2005), formerly released with iUniverse with "DADA:" added to the title. Michael has graciously agreed to answer my ridiculous questions in exchange for some mid-range Merlot and a plate of Gruyere.

Girl: Welcome, Michael. Thanks for coming. If you want to say something funny, just hit that button labeled canned laughter on the arm of your chair and you'll be a sure fire hit! So . . . the idea for DADA/GUY'S GUIDE is deliciously commercial. Did you try to get an agent/publisher before going POD?

Michael: My original idea wasn't even to write a book. I just wanted to document my experience so that later on in life my son could look back on it and say, "Oh, so that's how Dad was feeling at the time." The more I drudged through it I realized that this was the parenting book I would have wanted to read when my wife was pregnant. It's not too clinical, yet not cartoon-ish. So I started pitching it to agents and traditional publishers. The publishers wouldn't work with me because I didn't have an agent. The agents wouldn't work with me because I hadn't been published. Talk about a Catch 22!! It was at that point that I opted for POD, as kind of a "foot in the door".

Girl: Looks like that decision was a wise one. What made you go with iUniverse over the countless others? What kind of experience did you have?

Michael: I had heard good things about iUniverse from other authors. They were (at the time) the least expensive POD out there. I don't know if that's true now, but that was certainly the case in 2001. So I went with them and never looked back. I love iUniverse, particularly my editor Pam Anderson. They were great to work with. Overall, publishing with iUniverse was the right move for me at the time.

Girl: How much do you think the Star program helped bolster sales? And how hard was it to get selected?

Michael: They came to me and told me they wanted the book in the Star Program. The book had been pretty successful by iUniverse's standards, and they wanted to give it a push in the Star Program. So they selected me after DADA had sold well on its own, without really any marketing behind it.

I do think their Star Program helps sales in a way. They re-designed the cover, hired copy editors to go over it with a fine-toothed comb and put some marketing dollars behind the book. They were definitely committed to making it a better book.

Girl: Marketing dollars, eh? I wish my publisher would put some behind me. But I'll save that diatribe for another time. Were you seeing DADA in stores?

Michael: No. And that was the frustrating part about working with a POD. The return policies really prohibit major brick and mortar stores from wanting to stock titles like mine. I don't know how many times someone said to me, "I tried to buy your book, but the bookstore won't even order it because it is non-returnable." That was maddening. Supposedly the Star Program titles are returnable, but it still wasn't easy to convince bookstores to carry it.

Girl: So, how many units had you sold at this point?

Michael: I hadn't anticipated on selling more than about 50 copies. I genuinely thought it would be read by my family and friends, and that would be the end of it. I told my wife that I would be happy and surprised if it sold any more than 50 units. But Dada took on a life of its own. It just exploded, selling 19,009 copies by the time Da Capo Press bought the rights. It was's # 1 parenting title 8 times.

Girl: What?! Over 19,000 copies? That is stellar, and likely a record for a non-Amy-Fisher POD release. No wonder Da Capo was waiting in the wings. What came next, an agent or book deal?

Michael: Actually, next came the mentor. I became friends with Arthur Marx (Groucho's son and famed writer) in 2003. Groucho Marx is my idol, so to get to know his son was a thrill for me. Arthur saw how frustrated I was, knowing that if I could get the book into the hands of a traditional publisher, it could do so much more. So he set me up with a couple of agents. The first one said "This book will never work. It has run its course." The second agent, Frank Weimann, took the book and sold it to Da Capo in less than a week. So it just goes to prove that no matter how many times you hear the word "NO", you shouldn't give up. It's a numbers game.

Girl: Yeah, and in my case, a bad numbers game. Did the folks at Da Capo do a lot of editing to GUY'S GUIDE? And why did they change the original, cool title??

Michael: They didn't change a whole lot of the text. They gave me the opportunity to change anything I wanted, they suggested certain changes or additions and that was pretty much the end of it. The editing process was pretty painless. Even if they would have edited a lot out of it, I wouldn't have really minded. I'm not the kind of writer that believes every word I've written is sacred. In the end I just want what's best for the book.

They opted to change the title because in their focus groups, the word "Dada" evoked images of the art movement "Dadaism". They bounced a few titles around and eventually came up with "The Guy's Guide to Surviving Pregnancy, Childbirth and the First Year of Fatherhood." It's a mouthful, but I trusted that Da Capo knew what they were doing. And it has done extremely well. It sold out of its first printing of 10,500 units in a month. It was Life Magazine's book of the week in June. It's gotten praise from the likes of Jenny McCarthy, Sid Caesar, The Chicago Tribune, Miami goes on and on. It was even one of's Top 200 Humor books. (And all this time I thought it was a parenting book, not a humor book. Go figure...) So while I would have liked to keep the old title, I think they have done a fantastic job with the book.

Girl: Wait, so now we are up to 30,000 copies in print? Man, you've eclipsed me! So, with everything that has happened, are you happy having gone POD, or would you do it differently with everything you know now?

Michael: I wouldn't change a thing. Honestly I would probably have stuck to working with PODs if it wasn't for the fact that you just can't get those titles in bookstores. That is one way that the POD industry has to change; evolve or die. If the return policy isn't there, you simply won't see your book in Barnes and Noble or any of the other chains. And that's a shame because there are a lot of terrific POD books out there.

Girl: Yes, there are. So far I've found about 30--but it ain't easy. Any advice for someone thinking of plunking down hard-earned cash to get published via POD?

Michael: Just know that you will have to hustle if you want your book noticed. You have a disadvantage over a book that has been released by a "traditional publisher". They have the marketing dollars. They have the brick and mortar stores behind them. They have the upper hand, even if the books themselves aren't necessarily better than yours. So to compete you really have to market yourself every chance you get. Send out emails to radio stations and magazines. Make phone calls. Put up posters all over town. I call myself a "book whore". I'm out there pushing my books everywhere I can.

Girl: Good advice--for any author, actually. What's next on the horizon for Mr. Crider?

Michael: I'm currently working on a couple of books and ghost-writing a book for an NBA legend, which I can't really get into at this point until it becomes public. Aside from that I'm just going to keep writing and saturating the market with my word, for what it's worth. But right now I'm going to go take a nap...

Girl: Yeah, that sounds good. Just pull up the arm on the Lazy Boy there and press the button labeled cutting Z's and you'll be on your way.

Well, how about a quiet whisper thanks for Mr. Crider's excellent insight into this "is-it-worth-it-or-not" business of POD. And pick up a copy or two of GUY'S GUIDE--it is excellent and entertaining--and I'm neither pregnant nor a guy! An excellent gift for that "dude" who is or will be on the easy side of the delivery table.

See you again soon, with more interviews, books, inane stock tips and grocery selections. And get ready: publishing is coming back from summer break!