Rich Babbitt wrote and self-published his first book in October 2010. Just five months later, Dementi Milestone Publishing agreed to publish his work as a paperback illustrated by artist Wendy Custer. The new book — From PAPERBOY to BOOMER: How Lessons Learned from Paper Routes and Lawn Mowing Helped Shape 10 Skill Sets of Today’s Leaders — was released in September 2011.
Melissa P. Gay, author of the blog This Common Reader, interviewed Rich in December 2012 and got some good advice for authors publishing and marketing their first book.
When did you discover you were a writer?
The earliest writing I remember was in elementary school when my sister and I wrote, copied, and delivered our own neighborhood newspaper around the block.
When did you begin writing and what or who influenced you?
In high school I read Walden by Henry David Thoreau and wrote a term paper on it, and I really enjoyed expressing myself on paper. I don’t remember any one person who influenced my writing other than some of my English teachers in school.
Do you have a job other than your writing activities?
Yes, I am an account executive for SunTrust Merchant Services. I also developed, copyrighted, and market a healthcare product locally called “Walk & Roll.”
What kind of writing do you do and why did you choose that topic or genre?
My first book is a business non-fiction account. I have always had an interest in writing a business-related book. The book actually began as a Christmas gift for my two older brothers, and the journey to getting it published was extremely fun!
What do you like to read?
I really enjoy David Baldacci and the Camel Club series, as well as Christian writer Max Lucado. Right now I’m reading Baldacci’s Deliver Us from Evil.
What tricks and techniques help you to be both creative and productive?
When I wrote From PAPERBOY to BOOMER, I was flooded with ideas and contents all at once one afternoon. The process that worked for me was to scribble on paper major topics with a couple words beside each one as they came to mind. This formed the rough outline of the book. After spending a couple of late nights on the computer, I began to “schedule” a writing hour each night after dinner and devote that time to expanding each topic. This process probably works better with non-fiction than with fiction.
I had in mind what my introduction and conclusion would be. So, the main creativity came in organizing and defining my “10 Skill Sets” of the book so that it made “business-sense.”
What are your thoughts on the self-publishing vs. traditional publishing debate?
This topic was probably my biggest struggle and delayed my decision to even publish at all. I have a full-time job and didn’t have the time or upfront money for traditional publishing. My decision to finally publish was really impacted by attending and networking at James River Writers events. I met self-published authors, published authors, publishers, bookstore owners, and agents. I also read a whole lot on publishing, to the point of being overwhelmed.
I actually self-published first and booked my own events, and then developed that book into an illustrated paperback with local publisher Wayne Dementi, who coached both me and the illustrator very well through the process.
The big revelation about the publishing debate is that whether you self-publish or traditionally publish, YOU must be heavily committed and involved in promoting your book. You just can’t write a book and watch it sell! You must be your own “salesperson” to talk about your book, to have your “elevator speech” ready to tell everyone, and to push your book with the media, friends, and strangers.
What is the best thing that has happened in your writing career thus far? How did you make it happen?
The most exciting and fun events were arranging my initial “self-published” book release and media blitz. I created a release date and arranged the release signing event. Ahead of that self-imposed deadline, I sent out my own press releases and scheduled my book signings, radio interviews, and TV interview during the first week of the book release. I had collected over 200 media email addresses and continuously sent out press releases in order to get interviewed and to put the book’s name out there constantly. All of this activity got the book noticed by the media and eventually lead to the conversation with Wayne Dementi.
What is the worst thing that has happened to you? How did you overcome this challenge?
The month before my self-published book release, my computer crashed. I already had the books printed, but most of my marketing material and contact info was on there. I had to get the computer’s system and data restored in a hurry so I could get everything I needed to announce the book release event on time, which I did.
As an author, where do you hope to be in five years?
I have a dream to see From PAPERBOY to BOOMER on the shelves of every Cracker Barrel store location. Since it is a nostalgic and illustrated look about the jobs from our youth, the book fits the restaurant’s theme. I hope to also write another business book about creating my “Walk & Roll” business from a crazy idea. I plan to call it 52 Cents! Taking an Idea from the Garage to the Retail Shelves. I would also want to write a faith-based book one day.
Do you have any parting words of wisdom for other aspiring authors?
In a word, create! We were all created to make something unique. If you enjoy writing and you have a passion about a subject, you can create a finished book from your ideas with determination and persistence. Figure out your step-by-step process and a schedule that works best around your individual lifestyle. You may want to think of creating a book as a part-time job. Just be sure to set realistic timeline goals.