Our guest today is Brian Bennudriti, author of the sci-fi, Tearing Down the Statues. Brian has degrees in physics and business. He’s taken a nuclear reactor critical, piloted a destroyer, slept in the Omani desert, negotiated multi-million dollar acquisitions, run two companies, provided strategic and management consulting across the United States and traveled around the world in every hemisphere. He’s a plankowner on the aircraft carrier, USS Harry S Truman and has made a lifetime study of religious beliefs and mythology. Brian lives in Kansas City with his wife, two children, two dogs and a lizard.
His book, Tearing Down the Statues, focuses on Misling who is a Recorder, having perfect memory and expected to help build a seamless record of history. That’s what the Salt Mystic taught us two thousand years ago when she came stumbling from the flats with her visions. Unfortunately he’s probably the worst Recorder ever. So when he meets a joker with an incredible secret, the two of them are soon on the run from swarming lunatics and towering assault troops in the heart of a city under siege.
As it has for three generations, the horrible Talgo family is the spark of this swelling world war; and their wily generals and scheming counselors clash their fleets in battles of shrieking steel-entrained tornados, cannonballs of lightning, and tanks the size of cities. But it’s the joker’s secret that is the most powerful weapon of all…a trigger set by the Salt Mystic herself in myth, to save the world from itself.
Dorothy Thompson: Can you tell us about your publishing experience?
Brian Bennudriti: I typed the last few words of my first novel parked at a cold, rainy beach in Maine one afternoon at the end of 2014 with no idea what a smoking mess the publishing business is. Hop in the time machine & ask THAT me about Amazon reviews – I’d have said they’re legit and not bought and are great barometers on quality. Ask him his thoughts on agents, he’d have said, “No need” – there are zillions of publishing houses, just be ready to slug through their submission processes. Ask at last about marketing and look how funny that facial expression is…that guy has no clue what he’s in for. Then because I was exhausted from writing the book, I did absolutely nothing at all till the summer of last year.
So then I polished grammar and punctuation till I was blue in the face and submitted to a couple of publishing houses with zero response. I got familiar with a number of agents specializing in science fiction and got nice things said back to me but when translated into regular street English really meant, ‘Thanks but no thanks’. I even had a spreadsheet of all the agents I’d heard from, their feedback, and prospective agents along with turnaround times, all driving I dunno how many versions of the query letter and blurb after blurb. Because I’m a reckless idiot who asks for advice from friends and family but ignores whatever they say, I decided against the traditional route and to self-publish.
Then I ran into an inordinate amount of scam and snake oil such that it’s a national disgrace. We should all be ashamed at how many con men are out there trying to charge exorbitant fees for editing, covers, ghost writing, book trailers, blurb writing, ad copy – even for getting a Library Of Congress number which is free and takes practically no effort at all. I read a poor guy’s rant one time saying he’d spent $5,000 having a book cover made! Are you kidding me? Why would he do that? How is this different from what banks did to people wanting mortgages but unable to afford them? Sorry – I’m getting my Irish up on this! Anyone reading this – please be aware that if you’ll invest a few minutes looking into something like obtaining an ISBN or how to submit to the buyer at Books A Million, you’ll find how to do it yourself for a minimal fee without an intermediary. Stop thinking you’re an artist and someone else will have to handle the $$$ – or make peace with watching the money burn.
When you finally say, ‘Screw it’ and jump off the cliff, it can be fun and scary and seem ridiculous sometimes; and that was my experience. I started Grailrunner Publishing for myself and maybe a tiny select group of fellow authors who want basic advice and consulting so I don’t have to hire anyone or get fancy – the two dogs who sit watching me are plenty of staffing for now, the kids and wife have no interest in what dad’s doing up there. Adobe’s Creative Cloud is the mother of all brainbabies; and there is no magic you can’t perform with Photoshop, Acrobat, and Indesign with Google’s gentle, guiding angel voice whispering in your ear. We kicked off marketing that first novel in November, Tearing Down The Statues, available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble in both ebook and paperback. We attacked social media, are setting up the blog tours and interviews now, and will be jackhammering brick & mortar bookstores both big box and independents in the Spring. I’m thrilled about the next novel, probably coming out in the summer, because it’s a creepy horror novel with something entirely new we’ll call, The Line Of Them.
D.T.: What can you tell aspiring authors on their quest to be published? Any advice?
B.B.: I saw the other day someone trying to sell an ebook with the most childish looking cover and containing poetry about alien invasions and robots she wanted people to pay $14 for. I remember another guy called his book, A Story Of Me. Understand – I’m not making fun of these people; and I’ve fuzzed the details up enough so you’ll hopefully never google them out of the noise to embarrass anyone. Not my intention here. What I’m pointing at with all the courtesy my southern Tennessee upbringing demands is that you can’t just vomit whatever crazy is in your head onto the page and expect the Stephen King treatment. Somewhere, I wish I could find it, Michael Moorcock asked the question – “Do you really want to write the kind of books you’d have to in order to sell like you dream of?” Think about that when you’re plotting the storyline and when you’re casting your nativities to breathe life into the folks who’ll live that story for you. Stay true to your vision, sure…say what you need to say, what’s rising up inside you to rattle the world and make it listen, yes…but understand the reality of how many freaking people are out there trying to sell books and are all shouting over one another. You will have to be able to spell it out simply why you should be heard. Or just write lesbian vampire fiction and put soft porn on the cover. That’ll work too.
I’ve learned to be more linear with the story, though I want with every popping neuron to flip between several storylines and several point of view characters. People will drop the book if they get confused after a few pages. I’ve learned people don’t actually read every word on the page, especially with long paragraphs without dialogue. Our readers aren’t examining every page like an alchemist interpreting oracles, they’re on a subway or a beach or trying to ignore someone snoring beside them, or tired at the end of the day and just want to zone out. I’ve learned to remember all that and structure so it’s still fun and interesting and thought-provoking even if you’re one of those people.
Please don’t pay someone to do something you can do for yourself. Big publishing houses are swamped and don’t do that much for you anyway. Big marketing budgets are all already spent. You’re chasing the lottery if you believe you’re the next J.K. Rowling…same scenario and same logic. I agree there will be a next J.K. Rowling and there will be a lottery winner; but the chances are razor thin on any one person irrespective of their merit becoming that winner. There are wonderful, engaging and probably life-changing books out there, maybe even ones capable of catching fire and changing the world with its living, glowing ideas or characters, that are growing colder and more pale in Amazon databases entirely unread. Go get your Adobe software, read up on book covers, keep good notes, get active on social media and market the living crap out of yourself and your book with any and every method in your sphere of influence. If you’re going to spend any money at all, spend it on marketing.
D.T.: Where can we find you on the web?
B.B.: I’m on Twitter and Facebook. I have an author page at Goodreads.com. You can visit my official website, where I keep the art celebration and gallery, news about upcoming and available novels, and random bits of brain-tingling yammer.