Wednesday, 22 April 2009

A Thousand Beauties by Mark Adam Kaplan

Title: A Thousand Beauties by Mark Adam Kaplan
Published: Bewrite Books
ISBN: 9781905202942 (paperback)
ISBN: 9781905202959 (e-Book)
Genre: literary fiction
Price: £7.99 (UK) $14.99 (US)

What is your book about? A Thousand Beauties is about Rupert Ruskin, a successful but unpopular man who has isolated himself from the world to chase his family’s elusive vision of enlightenment. He believes if he can see a thousand beautiful things in one day he would achieve the perspective of angels and spend the rest of his days in bliss. But his vision-quest is interrupted when his ex-wife, Elaine, bursts back into his life with the news of her cancer. Ruskin figures that if he can help Elaine find a thousand beauties, then perhaps her last days won’t be completely miserable.

Why did you write the book? I began writing this book after the death of my paternal grandmother who succumbed to pancreatic cancer, an illness that I discovered ran in my family. My maternal grandmother died shortly thereafter. I have been fortunate to lose few loved ones during my lifetime. Their passing forced me to stop putting off my novel writing and sit down to work.

Where did you get your inspiration from? Believe it or not the inspiration for this story came as I sat at the desk in my garage, and discovered a spider moving in on a fly. I found myself captivated by the scene (which appears in the prologue of the book). I felt myself gain insight, a feeling that I had only had once before, when looking at a totem pole in a park in Seattle. These moments of insight granted me perspective, and were beautiful to me. From the combination of these momentary flashes of insight, the idea of the Ruskin family’s philosophy was born. The recent deaths of my grandmothers, combined with a new and volatile marriage fed the rest of the story.

How does your book differ from others that are similar? Literary fiction is a genre that defies concepts of similarities, or differences. Two writers may very well focus on the same idea, but their work will target vastly different aspects of it. I do not know of any books that present this kind of tragedy and still leave some room for hope. This was my intention with A Thousand Beauties, but only the objective reader can tell me whether or not I succeeded.

Why did you choose POD? The fact is that I had been sending the book out for about three years with no success when I came across Bewrite Books. The editor, Neil Marr liked my submission packet and requested the script. He wrote to tell me how disappointed he had been with the execution of the book (I am paraphrasing), and that they would not be interested in publishing it in its present form. He took the liberty of including notes on the manuscript, which he offered up for me to use or discard. When I reviewed his notes I found that they were exactly what I needed to see the manuscript clearly again. I wrote to ask if he’d be interested in reviewing the book again after I reworked it. He was, and did, and later accepted it for publication. I was so happy to find an editor who actually edited, that the details of how POD worked were less important to me than maintaining and extending our professional relationship.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of this method? The advantages of this method, for me, have come in the pre-publication stage. My work with Neil renewed my faith in the industry and made my book exponentially better. I believe that without the pressure and cost of a large initial book run, and big author advances, POD enables editors to discover and work on books that might not otherwise seem profitable. Certainly, a literary novel like A Thousand Beauties would be a hard sell to an editor who wanted to know the niche audience, or targeted readership. This is its greatest advantage - the opportunities it affords editors to take risks on authors or books that might otherwise not have a chance.

Its disadvantages are that the marketing of the book falls predominantly on the authors’ shoulders. The book is launched without the hoopla afforded by the budgets and connections of the big publishing houses. Reviews are harder to come by, and some venues, such as the New York Times Review of Books will almost never publish an opinion about a book from such a small house. The lack of big name reviews hurts sales, and makes marketing the book that much more difficult. Publicizing the book becomes a grassroots effort, which takes longer to yield results and requires tremendous energy and enthusiasm.

How do you market your book? I am marketing it on all of the Internet sites I can find, holding readings in the local library, and bookstores. I am contacting friends and family in every different city I know and asking their help getting the book out. My brother will work Chicago, my sister New York, I will work Los Angeles. I have a friend in Washington D.C., one in Amsterdam, etc. Also, I am sending interviews out, cold calling any possible venue for exposure I can find, and hawking the book at work to try and generate word of mouth.

What was the biggest challenge you had to overcome? My biggest challenge was and is time management. I am a full-time public school teacher, the father of two young daughters, and currently attending graduate school. Finding the time to work, rework, and work the book over again was difficult. Returning to it so often, and maintaining a fresh perspective was difficult. In fact, just finding the energy to sit down and look over the pages was sometimes too much for me. But it was all worth it, and now I have a book that I can be proud carries my name.

What would you say to others considering POD? Understand the advantages, but realise that the book may cost more than a similar book from a big house. Also, be certain you can live without the hard cover that has haunted your dreams. Lastly, listen to your editor. If you’re lucky, you will find someone willing to work with you to hone your work into a thing of beauty. Be open to their criticism and willing to keep working. They don’t have the budget for a big launch, so your book won’t make it into the rack at the grocery store unless you work to make that happen. Don’t expect the big display at Borders. But be proud. This publishing is as big a deal as any. Remember, even after the book comes out you still have work to do. After all, it’s your work. Get it out there. And don’t be afraid to work it one reader at a time.

Where can I get a copy of your book? A Thousand Beauties is available at Amazon US, Amazon UK, Amazon CA,,, (Germany), (France), Liberia Universitaria (Italy), Powells – US, The Book Depository,, and Borders and Barnes & Noble. In the UK, the book can be found at Waterstones, Foyles, Blackwells, WHSmith and Tesco. In Australia at Angus & Robertson, in Canada at Chapters/Indigo, in South America at Kalahari, and Exclusive Books, and in Asia at Paddyfields.

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