On Thursday morning the library welcomed Dr. Jack Polidoro to discuss his books, self-publishing and learn about his interesting life. He has a PhD in Veterinary and Animal Sciences from UMASS and has worked in pharmaceutical industry for over thirty years. He uses his knowledge of pharmacology and toxicology in many of works which are generally medically related mysteries. Much of his pharmaceutical work deals with reproductive biology and partly for this reason, Jack noted that he does not shy away from controversial issues.
He has also written songs for over fifty years and feels that many of the same skills go into both projects as most ballads are incredibly abridged stories. His music has its roots in 1960s folk music, but also captures many local history
An important part of reading in both fiction and nonfiction is to provide some education as well as entertainment. As part of this he felt that it was important to be as knowledgeable as possible on the topics he or a potential new author is writing about. He admits that this is not a universally accepted policy as Stephen King has noted that fiction writing should be focused on entertainment. Yet, knowledge sharing is an important facet of Dr. Jack’s works. For him a large part of writing a novel is taking features from life and incorporating them into a work.
Most of his books are based in Boston (where he worked for a number of years for Arthur D. Little Consulting) or New Hampshire (where he has lived for many years). The Christmas Chiave is a novella about the holiday that follows an Italian American family in Boston’s north end. Rapid Descent is a novel that depicts what might occur if a commuter plane were to crash land in Boston Harbor. Tattoo takes place around the Weirs during Motorcycle Weekend. The Dog in the Outhouse takes place in several locations in New Hampshire and deals with first and second amendment issues as well as the New Hampshire Free State movement. He has also written down over 4500 observations in a book titled Lavatory 101: Bathroom Book of Knowledge and an essay on Grace Metalious, author of Peyton Place.
Jack laid out a four part framework for the overall process of bringing a book into existence: writing, editing, producing and marketing. Jack spoke about different writing styles some authors used, including storyboarding or using a chalk board or wall to track characters and plot points. Jenna Blum, an author who Jack has had fairly regular contact with uses a storyboard, for instance. He said that he personally just works one chapter at a time with less of a formal outline. He rarely struggles with writer’s block and could finish a book in three months if not for his regular job and other commitments and interests. While it is important to write from your own experience and knowledge, it is also important to appeal to a broad readership whether writing a novel, a memoir or a biography. Another facet of good writing is maintaining the integrity of characters: physical description, education, dialect etc. Jack wrote his first two books by hand, but has recently come to the opinion that the greater flexibility of having it on a computer outweighs any benefits of handwriting.
Editing also has many techniques and determining how much of this should be done personally versus by friends and family or if it makes sense to hire a paid editor can be challenging. Authors have a tendency to automatically correct errors in their head, so they can miss these issues in print. Also, repetition is fairly common in the writing process and can sometimes be more obvious to a new set of eyes. Jack will often have four or five drafts before being sent for printing and will often read the manuscript ten times. Afterwards, he noted, he has little interest in rereading his work.
Main stream publishers generally require a literary agent as a point of contact and will generally send manuscripts sent to them directly back to the writer without opening them. Jack has been using self-publishing as a means of more easily getting his works out. Jack uses xlibris for book production, an online site that allows self-publishers to choose between one, several, or hundreds of prints at a time. Another advantage of this site is it allows for a good variety of cover formats. Jack believes it can be very important from a marketing standpoint to have a great cover, particularly in many retail outlets were books from large publishers tend to be on the shelves at eye level. One of the only issues Jack had encountered with xlibris was a lack of continuity with contact people. Other sites for self-publishing include lulu.com and authorshouse.com. This model works for Jack because there is one set up front cost, they provide a ISBN and upload the work on to Amazon for ease of access to a wide base. They do generally charge more for an e-book platform. Another facet that Jack has not engaged in or even researched is creating an audio format for different works.
The final part of producing a novel is marketing it. Determining the appropriate time and cost commitments is an important step and varies from author to author. Bookstores are often receptive to having book signings. Also, some will have separate spaces for local authors’ works. Making connections both within the book and movie world can greatly impact book sales. Often having a single major hit can propel all of an author’s works forward. It is a balancing act between promoting an existing book and working on the next. Generally allowing a year for the complete process has worked for Jack.
The library is grateful for Dr. Jack Polidoro’s visit and for everything we learned about the self-publishing process. Two additional author visits are planned for the summer, on Thursday July 14th at 10:30, we welcome Philip Soletsky, and on Thursday August 4th we welcome Killarney Traynor. We hope you can join us!
The Librarians and Library Aides of the Meredith Public library: Erin, Chris, Matthew, Karen, John, Cherie, Joyce, Jessica, and Linda. Please check out our Staff page for more information.