So your new book is a memoir about your garden. I know from my own experience that anytime you're writing about something that's true, you have all these creative challenges to deal with–other people in your life become characters, you have to find a plot and a narrative arc , and so on. What was it like for you to take the actual events of your life and your garden and make a compelling story from them?
First we have to assume there is a compelling story. This is not a traditional memoir in the sense that it has a specific storyline or narrative arc with full character development. There are links along the way between the forty or so essays, but I wanted this book to work more like a poetry collection—anyone can pick up where they want to and dive right in, but if you read it straight through you can get the garden as a story over three years. Some of the essays were blog posts first, but most were just snapshots of moments dug into and cultivated a little more (pun intended).
It's a weird time to try to publish a book, what with the publishing industry in an upheaval and ebooks on the rise. Do you want to talk about the publishing process for this book, and what it's been like to make the book available as an ebook and a paperback through Amazon? (If you'd like to talk about the mechanics of the whole process–what services you used, how much time & effort & money, etc, I think people would be interested in that.) Also, can independent bookstores order it through their distributor?
I’ve matured as a writer, or begun to, at the very worst time possible—or so it seems. Publishers are cutting back on books, and only accepting those they know are easier sales. Few risks are being taken, except for the smaller independent and university presses, but still, not enough going on there either.
I sent SCL to several presses and got very good comments from two places in particular. I had sent my other garden memoir to 100 presses and agents over the last two years, spoke on the phone with a few, but no cigar. That process so exhausted me I decided that after a few rejections I’d just dive in and self publish SCL through CreateSpace. I’ve heard of others going this route, who then get a following, have decent sales, then present that platform to a press—which makes publishing the book much less of a gamble. “I sold 5,000 copies, look at what I can do for you.” That’s what it seems the publishing business is going toward. I hope not. How can a writer write AND be a PR firm? Makes me feel cheap and drains my focus.
And let me be clear—on the paperback and ebook I make very little money because I priced it as low as I could to get a certain set of services. I did just raise the price of the paperback to $5.99 (from $4.99) so I could make it available to indies and libraries.
If I sell to an indie via CreateSpace Direct I make $.20 per sale on the paperback. If it’s purchased on Amazon I make $1. The ebook gets me around $.80 to $1.20 depending on the device (Nook, Apple, Kindle, Sony). At 112p it's still a good deal, right? I’m a writer and I want to be read, I want to have a conversation with you. What other option do I have after the traditional ways of publishing have failed and I’ve been told I have a decent book?
And if anyone wants to know more about the self pusblishing procees, they can contact me via my author website at http://bevogt.com.
Has writing the book changed how you think about your garden?
Strangely enough, I now feel more distanced from it. Like it was a writing project itself, and I’m now looking forward to the next big thing—which I hope is an acreage I can convert to prairie. Pipe dreams.
I'd love to know who your literary idols are. What writers inspire you the most?
Nonfiction: Terry Tempest Williams, Michael Pollan, Scott Russell Sanders, Loren Eiseley, Kathleen Norris.
(This is the part where I let Benjamin write his own last interview question!) Why should anyone buy your book?
It’s so affordable! And you'll learn how to control grasshoppers organically (ahem). And there are pictures. One of them is of me so you can frame it and build a shrine. If you’d like to.