Wednesday, May 04, 2005

MANDATORY READ: The Natasha Munson Interview

In our midst is one of the golden children of the POD world: Natasha Munson. She started her journey having self-published her book LIFE LESSONS FOR MY BLACK GIRLS via iUniverse and quickly turned it into a significant publishing deal with Hyperion.

She has agreed to an interview with the executives here at POD-DY MOUTH.

That'd be me.

Her book, now titled LIFE LESSONS FOR MY SISTERS will be released in stores today, May 4th. And guess what: it will actually be in stores. How's that for a change of pace?

Here is the promo: "Life Lessons for My Sisters is for anyone who has felt stressed or depressed about the choices they made in their life. It's for anyone who has felt overwhelmed and discouraged. It's for anyone who is struggling to change the course of her life. It's for those who are desperately trying to push a dream into existence. It is for the woman that needs to know how to say no, how to handle her finances, how to choose the right relationships and career. It is really a guide to becoming the best you, the best woman, possible. Life Lessons gives you the foundation to live a life you LOVE."

I had a chance to chat with the fair Ms. Munson, and here is where we went:

Girl: The subject material for LIFE LESSONS is not only practical, it’s commercial. I’m amazed it hadn’t been snatched up by the New York brethren from the get go. Did you try to approach any agents and editors?

Natasha: I sent my manuscript to at least three major publishers. I never even received a rejection letter. I just received no response at all. It was really disappointing but also a turning point because it helped me to search out ways to have the book published myself. I gave the manuscript to two agents. One informed me that there wasn’t a large market for the audience I was trying to reach. The other agent basically said the same thing, that it’s difficult to sell inspirational nonfiction geared toward younger women.

Girl: And, as usual, no one in New York has a clue about what they are doing. Everyone is reactionary and can't think out of the box. Because, you know, what we really need is another 250 DA VINCI CODEs. What a shame that you would have to self-publish something so useful and important. So how did you end up at iUniverse?

Natasha: I started researching the publishing industry and realized the publishing process can take years, literally, to have a book published. I wasn’t patient enough for that so I decided to self-publish. Especially after hearing the comments two agents had given me, and not receiving any feedback from a major publisher. I found iUniverse on the Internet and decided to go for it. They have exceeded my expectations since day one.

Girl: And I'm sure iUniverse was happy you stumbled upon them. How many copies did you end up selling prior to your traditional book deal? And how much of that was sold via Amazon and B&N?

Natasha: Nearly 20,000 copies of Life Lessons sold through iUniverse. It was their bestselling book for years until Amy Fisher published with them in September 2004. I’m not certain how many went through Amazon and BN but I would say the majority of my sales were online because I was not really carried in any traditional bookstores. Barnes & Noble stores carried a few.

Girl: Holy cow! 20,000? That's more than my book has sold through it's traditionally published life (as far as I know.) That is truly mind-blowing. iUniverse must be thrilled to have you on their roster of success stories. How did the traditional book deal come about?

Natasha: I was featured in a wonderful article in USA Today with the heavy hitters of self-publishing. They interviewed or discussed Robert Kiyosaki, Dan Poynter, James Redfield and me. And I was the only one with a picture in the article. It was amazing! And David Dunton, who is now my agent, saw the article and contacted me. Not to be too cliché, but the rest, as they say, is history.

Girl: Hey, when you get a significant deal you can be as cliché as you like. Just ask John Grisham. David Dunton, by the way, is a great guy. He sold a hilarious novel by a guy named Shawn McBride called GREEN GRASS GRACE, a book that never would have seen the light of day otherwise.

So how much did your editor at Hyperion change/alter your book?

Natasha: The book needed very little editing. The layout was changed. For instance we moved a poem so that it would have its own page rather than be on the same page with the chapter that it was opening. One of my author friends, who is with St. Martin’s, couldn’t believe the small amount of edits I needed because she had pages and pages of suggestions.

Girl: Indeed. And thus supporting my position that many POD books are as good as the stuff already run through New York's best editors--and that many traditionally published authors need a ton of editing (myself included.)

I noticed you have two titles slated for release: LIFE LESSONS FOR MY SISTERS (May 2005) and SPIRITUAL LESSONS FOR MY SISTERS (June 2006). Do you anticipate writing more titles in the series?

Natasha: I want to create a whole series like Chicken Soup for the Soul. I have just finished my third book, tentatively titled LOVE LESSONS.

Girl: All best with that. Nothing thrills me more than seeing a self-pubbed writer break out. Actually, there is one thing: Seeing New York pay ten times what they would've paid for a book had they opened their eyes at the onset--as in your case.

You are living proof that good titles can start on the POD front. Any advice for those folks rejected by NY but feel the manuscript is worthy of release?

Natasha: There’s an old saying that some people like and some people find offensive but it is simply this, One monkey don’t stop no show. Any author with a quality product should never allow their dream to be restricted because of a NY rejection. Find another way to make your dreams a reality. The only time you do not have other options in life is when you refuse to see the options. You have to firmly believe in your success. You have to see it in your future like a light at the end of a tunnel. If you have limited resources and cannot afford to self-publish on your own, then check out

Girl: Wow, terrifically upbeat. No wonder your book sold so well; you practice what you preach. I'm going to check out LIFE LESSONS and encourage my readers to do the same.

LIFE LESSONS FOR MY SISTERS is available today from Hyperion. Get a copy to enjoy and make a point to NY in the process.

You can check out further info on Natasha and her books by visiting her site.

We'll be back with more interviews in the near future. You never know who will stop by the POD-DY MOUTH cafe.