Guest Post by @AuthorLHerman: The Economics of Self-Publishing a Book

The Economics of Self-Publishing a Book

a guest post by Louise Herman

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Hello everyone, and I hope you are enjoying the week.

I have decided to take a week’s respite from writing the third book in my YA urban fantasy series, Split Blood, to catch up with author interview and guest post requests. I am looking forward to discussing my thoughts and opinions on the economics of self-publishing a bookas well as giving some advice on what aspects of self-publishing is essential to a budget and what I have experienced as a waste of time and money.

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Why did I decide to Self-Publish my books?

I would love to say it was a choice, however, after I sent a number of emails to literary agents and received no replies, I decided to close my eyes and jump straight into the self-publishing ocean.

It was nerve-racking at first because I had no idea about self-publishing but after a lot of research and learning from my mistakes along the way, I am enjoying the self-publishing journey.

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What are the common misconceptions of self-publishing?

I think the biggest misconception about self-publishing is anyone can publish a successful book in today’s technological world.

For example, you have a great idea for a story, you get so engrossed in writing it, you take the leap and self-publish it on the internet and then you sit back and wait for the big bucks to start rolling in, along with literary agents fighting to represent you, right?

Not quite!

The reality is only a handful of self-published authors break even (the total cost of publishing against the profits of the sales, after each website has taken its percentage) and if you do not have a regular presence on social media sites then you could find it difficult to be seen and network with influential people who can help potential readers find your books.

These people are bloggers and reviewers.

I have built up a good relationship with many bloggers and have added them to my list of ‘Go to People’ when I need to do author interviews (to discuss my past, present and future. This is not all about promoting my work. It is for potential readers to get to know the person behind the books), Guest Posts (topics related to writing that are important to me) and Spotlights (a full discussion about myself, my work and upcoming projects).

It’s also fun to communicate with these bloggers because it is a two way process. They advertise an author on their blog and social media sites, therefore, as an author, I also do the same (I will post the promotional item on my blog, which advertises their blog to my followers, and on my social media sites).

However, not all bloggers work the same way.

Some specialise purely in reviews but some are open to other forms of promotion.

I have found that trying to get reviews can be quite hard because many are overwhelmed with requests and often close their review request channels until they can catch up with the backlog.

While others will state they do not accept requests from self-published authors, with some going as far as to state that they have a problem with the quality of the self-published books they have previously read.

I used to find this slightly insulting but when you take into consideration that they are doing these reviews for free, they should be allowed to have an opinion on what types of books they want to review.

NOTE: Reviews are usually free and reviewers usually have full or part time jobs but review in their spare time. This means try to give at least three months’ notice to your reviewer. If you are asked to pay for a review, try somewhere else! Not only is it slightly frowned upon in the self-publishing industry but it’s just an unnecessary, extra cost to your ever rising budget!

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What are the advantages of self-publishing?

I like that I have the opportunity to learn about online publishing first hand and that I have the chance to communicate with a range of people with similar interests.

I learn something new every week to help enhance my writing and advertising skills and I really enjoy having full control over every aspect of publishing my books.

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What are the challenges of self-publishing?

Although I enjoy having full control over publishing my books, I do sometimes think that it would be nice to have a literary agent to help take on some of the advertising tasks because having full time job, restricts the time I can dedicate to writing and sometimes the advertising infringes on the writing time.

I have also found that it takes a lot of work and effort to gain a strong following. I write Young Adult Urban Fantasy novels, which is a popular genre and I have found that it is extremely difficult to get new followers interested in looking at my new pieces of work if there are no reviews to give them an inclination of how the book has been received by other readers.

There will be potential readers and followers who will read the synopsis and give the books a try but there are some who use reviews to help them decide whether or not it is the kind of story they would enjoy reading.

It is the latter type of follower that bad reviews can affect your potential sales.

Some reviews that are lower than five stars can be disheartening to an author but if they offer constructive criticism (e.g. “there was too much fighting in it”) then it could be a case of what one person dislikes about the storyline, another reader maybe looking for this type of drama.

However, if they give you one star because they “just couldn’t read it because you should never write again”, it offers nothing to a potential reader about the story and many would not take this type of review seriously.

And lastly, I have given out copies of my eBooks for a review in the past, only to be disappointed to never receive one.

It is disheartening but all these things are part of the learning process and have helped me focus on what works and avoid what wastes time and money.

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What are the costs to publish your own book?

Here are the basics of what it cost me to self-publish my first book (The Orcus Games: Blood Moon):

  • Book cover artist –  This is difficult because it depends on the type of cover you want? You can get book cover images from a variety of stock photography sites and prices vary on each site. For a basic book cover with an image that does not need to be edited and text, I would estimate between £50 (~$70) and £150 (~$212).
  • Proof-reader or Copy Editor –  Between £600 (~$850) and £1,000 (~$1418) (depending on word count, how many hours it takes them to work on the book and how much work the book needs).
  • eBook Conversation Costs  If you cannot convert your eBooks yourselves then it might be worth getting a professional to do this for you. I convert my books myself but I have received quotes in the past for this type of work and the prices were between £50 (~$70) and £150 (~$212).
  • Distribution costs –  (for reviewers who only accept hard copies): I have heard that some websites do give a small discount to authors who buy their own books but I am yet to find these sites. Therefore you would be paying the same price as a customer to purchase your paperback books to send to reviewers. Many authors buy in bulk for this purpose and can spend between £599 (~$849) and £1099 (~$1558) for an order of 100 books.
  • URL for website Having your own website is essential for an author and you can buy domain names from nearly anywhere on the internet at the moment.

I have a website through Fat Cow and bought my URL through them as soon as I set it up.

It cost me approximately £8.99 (~$12.75) to buy the domain name + £60 (~$85) for the year (with added extras).

However, different extensions can either increase or decrease the cost (e.g. com, co.uk, org. Etc.)

  • Publishing sites percentages
    • Amazon – There are two royalty options. (correct as of January 2016)
      • Option 1: Keep 70% of the royalties. However this option is only available to books sold in a specific territory of countries set out by Amazon Kindle. Any books sold outside of these regions will give you a 35% royalty.
      • Option 2: Keep 35% of the royalties. This is the standard royalty rate.
    • Smashwords – (correct as of January 2016)
      • “Smashwords authors and publishers earn 85% or more of the net proceeds from the sale of their works. Net proceeds to author = (sales price minus PayPal payment processing fees)*.85 for sales at Smashwords.com, our retail operation. Authors receive 70.5% for affiliate sales. Smashwords distributes books to most of the major retailers, including Apple iBooks, Barnes & Noble, Kobo and smaller retailers.  Sales originated by retailers earn authors/publishers 60% of the list price.”
    • Lulu – (correct as of January 2016)
      • Lulu prides itself on working on a 90/10 royalty split, therefore if you have published your book after 6th September 2011 and it is priced at $1.24 or higher then you can qualify for a 90% royalty revenue.

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What advice would you give to someone wanting to self-publish their first book?

There might be something I have missed out because every week I am learning something new about the self-publishing world but so far I have eight tips that would help a new author get started:

  • Test it out on free sites like Wattpad first to see if there is an audience for it and find Beta readers in these groups to help highlight elements that may need extra attention (e.g. such as continuity issues, plot holes, creating believable characters or scenes, etc.)
  • Build up a following and make amendments based on the feedback
  • Get a professional book cover artist (unless you are good with graphics software or you are a good artist)
  • Get your work proofread or copy edited
  • Publish on the main publishing sites
  • Build up a group of regular reviewers
  • Be active on social media (not just to talk about the book but share your interests and get involved in group discussions)
  • Remember success doesn’t happen overnight (it could take years), so continue with your passion and never give up!

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About the author

Louise Herman is a North London Fantasy author obsessed with pear drops sweets and 80s Fantasy films.

In between reading James Herbert novels and drinking too much coffee, she writes Young Adult Urban Fantasy and Paranormal Romance novels.

Louise Herman has currently written five YA Fantasy books to date (December 2015); The Orcus Games Prequel Trilogy and The Split Blood series, which take the reader on a journey of magic, mystery, obsession and forbidden love with seductively dark consequences.

For more information, please go to: www.louisehermanauthor.com

Find out more:

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Fan Interview #1 – @cerebraltart interviews Me

For the last few weeks, I’ve been asking my readers to send in questions that they’ve been wanting to ask me. They could be about me as an author, a blogger, or even me as a reader. Almost anything goes.

So far, the response hasn’t been that big, but I’m hoping that now that September is here and that I’m posting my responses to these questions, more people will send some good ones in. I really think this can be both fun and informative and ultimately, a great addition to the blog.

If you’d like to send in some questions, I’d be happy to answer them. Here’s the original post looking for them if you’d like to check that out and find out how to send in the questions.

Thanks in advance, and thank you to those who’ve already asked some great things.

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Today’s interviewer is author India Reid. You can find more about her on her website, TwitterFacebook, and Goodreads

When did you first start to feel like a “real” writer?

I’m not sure really. I think there have been a few times in my writing life where I’ve had different levels of “I’m a writer” in my mind. After writing my first poem in 11th grade was when I first felt like I’m some sort of a poet. However, it wasn’t until after I graduated my first college that I even considered myself a writer enough to pursue getting better at it. That’s when I started working on my creative writing degree. The program itself didn’t make me feel like I was a writer until late in the game. I blame that on the education system, not the CW professors or department at all. There was just a lack of time for those IMPORTANT courses when each student was required to complete so many other classes outside of their major. A big “I’m a writer” moment was sometime in my last semester of college, I think. When I was working on what would later expand to be From Where I Stand and getting feedback from my professor on my work. It felt like I was “really doing it”. My stuff was good and had potential to be better. It also helped that in that course we had to organize a public reading of a bit of what we were working on. Getting a reaction from a nice sized audience was probably what I needed all along for me to feel like I was doing something great.

How often do you write?

I wish I could say I write every day. I used to back in high school and early in college. I’d write at least a poem (whether it was good or bad) every day or multiple times a day. Lately (the last year or so) I seem to be in a BIG funk. I keep wanting to sit down and write something, but nothing happens. I need to fix that big time. I need a good kick in the ass probably and to not just accept that inspiration hasn’t hit yet. The dry spell has lasted too long.

What’s your word count per day like?

I don’t write like that and to be honest, I don’t think I’ll ever write with a word count goal of any sort. It seems to be the only way some writers work, but for me, I’ll either write a lot or a little, but all that matters is that I wrote and it’s semi-usable material.

Part of this might be because I write poetry a majority of the time, too. You can’t really put a word count on that form of writing. I have some poems that are only 30 words, but they can get a better reaction from my audience than another poem that’s 200 words. I tend to write shorter poems anyway. If I were to have a “goal” for a day, I think I’d be safer setting a goal like “edit X poems per work day”. It wouldn’t even be about writing them, but reworking them. That’s where the real work comes in for me after I’ve gotten it down on paper.

Question and Answer Time! (Please Share Around)

I haven’t been interviewed in quite a long time, but maybe some of my readers would like me to be. Recently, I thought about this and came up with an idea: How about my readers interview me!

I’m going to be away from the computer until early next week, so I think this would be a great time to start collecting some interview questions to answer upon my return.

I’ll make this simple as to not bore anyone. If you’ve ever wanted to ask me something, this is your time. I’ll link my contact form below, and all you need to do is write in your question. Then I’ll gather them all up and answer them in a series of posts. I think it’ll be a great way for you all to get to know me better and for me to get to know my readers a bit.

All I ask: Help me organize these questions. In the subject box please type it whether the question is aimed at me as an author, blogger, reader, etc. This way I can group the questions and answers as more of an “author interview” or “blogger interview” for example.

Almost anything goes, just keep in mind that these questions will be made public. But I won’t put your name with them if you don’t want to. If you’d like me to list your name just let me know. Also, I can link to your website or social media link of your choice if you include one. I’m all for helping people connect.

So here’s the contact form. Please share this post around for me while I’m gone. I hope I’ll get flooded with questions. This can become a very fun series of posts.

ASK YOUR QUESTION(S) HERE

Books on Books

…no this isn’t a post about books having sex with other books. Well, I hope it’s not going to be like that. That could get awkward with all the high risk for papercuts. Let’s not let my mind wander further into that land of weirdness right now.

Books on books. What’s this all about? Well, I just finished reading Susan Hill’s Howards End is on the Landing and loved it. I’ve never read any of her novels before, but this one was mentioned on the Books on the Nightstand podcast  and like many books Ann and Michael mention, I felt the need to buy it. As you might remember, I found it at a garage sale last month and it became book number 2000 for my collection. So anyway, I finished reading this book today after stretching it out for a month. I didn’t want to finish it to be honest. It’s a shortish book (236 pages), so that was a task. I seem to enjoy when an author dedicates a book to talking about books.

It might seem dull, even to people who enjoy books, to talk about books passed the extent of a book review or blog post, but what I find happens more often than not, a writer brings in so much about life, a book’s author, history, and more. They turn into explorations of those topics, almost leaving the book behind. That’s why Hill’s book was enjoyable to me. Through her discussing the books she read from her home’s shelves for a year (without buying any new books, as her challenge to herself dictated), I got to know her. I got to learn about authors she’s known in her life and others that influenced her. I also learned that I’m not alone in they way I might impulse buy books or feel guilt about not reading a book I bought until years later.

Another notable “book on books” author is Nick Hornby. I love his books, but what I also enjoy his column, for The BelieverStuff I’ve Been Readingwhich has been compiled into a few collections so far. I think this was my first taste for someone writing about books. Hornby’s style really makes the column what it is, but it’s also the sharing of his reading life and lack of regret for certain habits (which many of us book lovers share) that keeps me coming back for more.

I’ve read a few more books in the past that fall under this category, and a few that barely do. I’d say memoirs in which an author talks about his/her writing life have a similar spot in my heart. I remember reading Annie Dillard’s The Writing Life and ending with the feeling that she was human like the rest of us. The same goes for other writing memoirs. Whether it’s a book loving author or an author writing about life and writing together, it grips me and makes me feel like I’m not so alone in some of my feelings about things. These people aren’t always extraordinary, but are just as interesting as if they did lead extraordinary lives.

Next time you pick up a book, or just look at one of your shelf, think about all that’s attached to it. The events that lead to you bringing it home or how you felt the last time you read a book by the same author. Books aren’t just objects and aren’t just the words types on the pages. They have a life of their own, and we’re lucky to be able to share the journey and add to those lives.

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Do you enjoy reading about books? What are some of the books on books that you’ve enjoyed in the past? I’m always looking for more suggestion because my collection, though vast and diverse, doesn’t have many more to satisfy my craving of this type of book.

P.S. – One of the most dangerous things to come from reading books like this is that a TBR pile is almost guaranteed to double or triple. It’s unavoidable as books sound amazing as you read and have to write them down to check out later. You’ve been warned.

Aged Pages: Buying Habits

Aged Pages, new banner

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I haven’t done an Aged Pages post is (looks at last AP post) a LONG time (August 2012). It’s now the end of March 2014…seems about as good a time as any to try getting the series going again. This post isn’t exactly focused on use bookstores, specifically, but it is focused on buying books and the idea for it started IN a used bookstore. I hope you’ll let it slide this time 😉

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Yesterday…I went to my local used bookstore. Big shock, right? It’s not like I go there every time I go into town or anything 😉

Since I wasn’t in a rush this time around, I figured I’d pay a little more attention to the books…and also more attention to how I went about picking the books I wanted to buy (or at least keep on my mental list for future visits).

Some people will buy books based on the covers. Others on title or the author. There are some readers who’ll grab a book from looking at the back cover (or flaps of a hardcover) alone.

I don’t consider myself someone to buys books because of their covers. This is different when I’m looking at ebooks, but I’ll talk about that a little later. Right now I’ll focus on print books in a physical store. The cover matters least when choosing books to read and buy, for me. Though, I will say that when I have the choice between a movie cover and non-movie cover…duh, I go for the one without the movie cover. Other than that, it could have anything on the cover and I don’t mind.

So, what did I find to be the influencer(s) on my choices? Book titles and less influential, author name. Like most bookstores, the one I go to has the books with their spines facing the customer. While scanning the shelves I read the titles, and some just grab me. I didn’t realize just how much a title will make me grab a book until today. One example is from one of my purchases. It’s called Perfect Reader by Maggie Pouncey. “This must be a book about books/a reader.” Books like that always sound good to me. It’s normally easy to connect with characters or the story sometimes since we both love books and reader. (That’s just a simple generalization of what draws me in.) I slide the book from between its neighbors and turned to the back cover…not the front…and read what it was about. Notice that? I didn’t look at the front of the book. What’s there for me to care about? It doesn’t tell me anything about the book like the back does. I found it interesting that I did this because it wasn’t a conscious move. But I’m pleased to notice that I did that for a majority of books I took a look at. There were a few exceptions. Those were mostly classics that had a few books by one author in them. The covers of those often list what  books are included (and the back rambles on about the author but not the books themselves).

As I mentioned earlier, ebooks are a different beast. Because of the nature of ebooks, there’s not a spine to read the title from. Books aren’t (99% of the time) on places like Amazon with just a title and author name in a big list. There’s a cover, then the price, title, etc listed next to it. But the COVER is what is seen first. It’s almost unavoidable. And you can’t even read a description until you click onto the book’s page.

I admit it, my browsing habits for ebooks are the total opposite of my print browsing habits. Does that make me a weirdo? Probably not. I’m sure I’m not alone with this. At first when I realized I DO buy due to an ebook’s cover I wasn’t too pleased. I took pride in not being cover biased. But there are reasons behind the cover bias for ebooks that I won’t get into in this post. Simply put, a print book with a blank cover (just title and author) doesn’t bother me in the least. Many of my older paperbacks (and hardcovers missing the dust jacket) are like that. But when I see an ebook with a similar cover, I normally move on to the next one. As I said, there’s a reasoning to this, but I won’t bore you with it today.

That being said, title also plays a role in me looking at an ebook. It works in the same way as it does print, but still, the cover grabs me first, then I see the title on the cover/next to the cover.

What am I getting at here? Well, it started as just a simple observation into how I find books. I was curious about it when I was in the bookstore. As I wrote this post, I noticed that I never really put much thought into these habits for print or ebooks. I only semi-consciously knew how and why I did things. It’s interesting to look into the psychology of a book buyer (even in the minimal, ramble way I did). I’m sure there are real studies on this, as there are with almost anything you can think of. Instead, I hope this small insight into my book habit at least tickled your fancy slightly. Maybe it’s even gotten you thinking about your own habits. If you’d like to share them, please leave a comment below. We’d all love to read what you have to share.

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And if anyone was curious, here are the books I bought:

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Neverwhere, by Neil Gaiman

Visions of Cody, by Jack Kerouac

Slammerkin, by Emma Donoghue

Perfect Reader, by Maggie Pouncey

#Review: Building a Promotional Package, by @MichaelKRose

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Title: Building a Promotional Package: How to Prepare for Your Successful Book Launch
Author: Michael K. Rose
Rating: 5/5 Stars

“New authors often find book promotion to be a confusing and frustrating experience. In this concise step-by-step guide, author Michael K. Rose will walk you through building a comprehensive promotional package. He will show you how to organize all your promotional material in one place where it can then be tailored to your specific needs.

Whether you’ve yet to promote an upcoming release or are a planning a promotional push for a published book, Building a Promotional Package will give you the tools necessary to help ensure your success.” (description from Goodreads)

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I don’t normally check out books of this kind, but I’ve read a few of Rose’s stories and seen his promotional work around the web. Being that I’m somewhat familiar with how he gets his name out there, I figured I’d take a look at this ebook to see what information Rose has to help authors out.

Even though most of the information in this book isn’t new to me, being that I have a few books out and have some my own form of promotion for each, it was still a great book to read. I can say that there are many new authors out there that this could benefit, and even some experienced authors who could use this to boost or alter their own methods of promotion.

The information is presented is a very organized fashion, and it would be easy to go back to in the future for reference. The reader isn’t bogged down with too much information or terminology. It’s easy to follow.

The examples that the author includes in this book is directly from his own promotion, which in its own way shows another area to promote one’s own work. At times doing this could seem too self-serving, but I didn’t feel like Rose was pushing his work on the reader. The way everything was worded worked very well throughout the book.

If you’re an author looking for a place to start or haven’t found a way or promotion to work to your liking, I’d suggest checking this book out. While its basic information, it’s still very helpful and I’d recommend trying some of it out.

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You can purchase a copy of this ebook from:

Amazon

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About the Author:

Michael K. Rose has spent most of his life in the American Southwest but he has also lived in Maine and the Middle East. He received a Bachelor’s degree in Anthropology from Arizona State University in 2006.

In addition to writing, he enjoys traveling, attending the symphony and the opera, smoking pipes and cigars and, of course, reading. He is a wine enthusiast with a particular fondness for vintage Port.

His favorite book-and movie-is 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Find out more on:

Authors We Love, Part VIII: Rob Kristoffersen on Dean Bakopoulos

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Today our guest reader is none other than Rob Kristoffersen. He is a writer for teamhellions.com, focusing primarily on music, but books and movies as well. In August, Rob will be releasing a short story called “I Am Afraid of the Ancient Astronaut” He will begin research for his first novel in the fall of 2012; a fictional account of the lives of the Fox sisters.

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“For the most part, we pictured our fathers sad and alone. We could see them riding in flea-ridden freight cars on bumpy tracks. We could see them struggling to make campfires on a beach as the wind whipped off the ocean and sand stung their faces. We saw them in anonymous cities, dwarfed by skyscrapers, trying to get together enough spare change for a hot dog or a bowl of soup. We saw them climbing desert mountains, muscles tearing and burning with fatigue, tongues swollen with thirst.”

For the reader, there will always be the author that comes along at the right time for the right moments. To get you through the dark, make the light brightest, and create the characters you most resonate with. For me, that man is Dean Bakopoulos. I first discovered him, when his debut novel,Please Don’t Come Back From The Moon was published in 2005. At a time when I seldom purchased books, this one found me. Strange to say, but I remember entering Borders book store (R.I.P.) and ignoring it on my first walk by. I was there for DVDs and CDs, not books. On my way out, empty handed, I noticed the artwork on the cover; I picked it up, examined it, and was sold instantly. I felt connected to it, like a human being to others.

The book seemed more like a music album, comprised of ten tracks with unique chapter titles. The books appellation was appropriated from a Charles Mingus composition, and may have been a factor in the purchase. As a music critic now, it’s an additional seller. I ripped through it in a week, which is fast for me considering I was adverse to books at the time. Not that I didn’t want to read them, but the school system’s penchant for stuffing overrated hum-buggery down your throat was still strong in my mouth. Granted I was removed from high school for three years, and college for one, but defiance is strongest in those who fight hardest against that which they find oppressing. This book taught me: leave that mind behind and embrace literature as an outlet more than a malice. I revisited this work over different periods in my life; when my mom left my dad for the second time, when my dad passed away, when I moved into my first apartment. Much of the world still new to me, The Moon was there.

The story of Mike Smolij and his fatherless town, resonated more with the relationship I had with my mother. Granted it’s never been perfect, and it’s become more difficult since my dad’s passing, but Mike’s struggle was not unlike mine. His struggle to define himself in this post father world is unorthodox, particularly in his relationships with others. It’s relation to my generation is heavy.

For a while after, I abandoned it. It was always there in my mind, but I never acknowledged it well enough until last year. When Dean’s new work, My American Unhappiness, was released in 2011, I was going through another crossroads in my life. I had just come off of unemployment, unable to collect more payments, I couldn’t return to college after I had made so much progress; I was lost, with no real saving grace. This book was the last purchase I made on unemployment, it was a necessity for me, having waited so long for a follow up.

When I received it in the mail, I was elated, but let it fall by the wayside for a couple of weeks. In that time, I landed a job, and soon after I started writing for a blog. But before the blog, there was this book, this tome of someone’s hard work; my favorite authors hard work. I fell in love again, a book, but more really. Here, he created a transfer for my depression and sadness. A book is always more than a book to a person who’s read it; often times it’s a love affair, an obsession, a therapist, our political proponent and outcry, and most importantly a friend to those who need it. These books are my best friends, reliable, deeper with every connection; emotional with it’s tears, genuine with it’s laughs, and blatant with it’s words. In short they’re beautiful, and Dean Bakopoulos, I owe many thanks to him for doing something he never set out to do.

“There are many of us who love our country, who have spent decades examining its complex woes and its noble ways, and simply cannot bring ourselves to be the sort of highly visible cheerleaders our media demands. The spirit of critical inquiry and constant reflection is too bright within us. I wonder how many capable, smart, and worthy public servants might shy away from office simply because they are not comfortable with such outward displays of emotional patriotism.”

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To find Rob around the web