Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Former-newspaperman's publishing business helps local authors

This news article was originally published in "The Daily Local News" on Tuesday, March 30, 2010.

Photo of Bruce Mowday, at right, president of The Mowday Group Inc., with some of his publishing company's books, is by Tom Kelly IV.

New service helps authors through publishing process

By Brian McCullough
Journal Register News Service

So you’ve written the Great American Novel — or maybe a not-so-great American novel — what do you do with your labor of love now?

That, according to Bruce Mowday, the author of 13 books and a former editor at the Daily Local News, is a question he has been getting with increasing frequency in recent years, and one he had to answer himself when he first became an author 10 years ago.

“As a writer, you’re sitting there with your manuscript. What do you do next?” asked Mowday, whose first book, “Unlikely Allies: Fort Delaware’s Prison Community in the Civil War,” came out in 2000.

In response to that question, Mowday’s Brandywine River Publishing is launching a new set of services for aspiring authors, including consulting, coaching, marketing and publishing.

“Aspiring authors, especially first-time authors, are faced with many decisions. The wrong decision can be frustrating, cause them to abandon their dreams and cost them money,” Mowday said.

Mowday’s books are on true crime, history and business topics, and sales of his books are in excess of $500,000.

For most people motivated enough to want to publish a book, rivaling the works of the world’s great fiction writers isn’t usually the goal.

Most are passionate about a particular subject and want to weigh in on those topics or want to recount for history a particular accomplishment of themselves or of loved ones.

Mowday, through personal experience, said he is able to identify what the market might be for their work and how they should proceed with getting it published.

Authors must decide what publishing method makes the most sense for their book, said Mowday, of Uwchlan, whose Mowday Group also handles media relations and political consulting.

“In the past few years, I’ve been approached by a number of authors wanting to know about obtaining a traditional publisher, the pros and cons of self-publishing and marketing issues,” Mowday said. “In today’s publishing world, authors need to do more than write a manuscript. That is just the beginning. Each book is different and a one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t work in publishing.”

There’s self-publishing, in which new copies of books aren’t printed until orders have been received; vanity publishing, in which authors pay a publishing house to publish the book; and traditional publishing, in which publishers assume the risk of publication and production costs.

“If it’s too localized a subject, publishers won’t do it,” Mowday said. “One of my first questions (to authors) is, who do they really think will read it?”

In recent years, Mowday has helped local marketing executives put out a book on the Phillies’ world championship run, a West Chester trucking company produce a book marking 85 years in business, and a daughter capturing the passion of her father in “The Changing Boundaries of Pennsylvania From 1493 to 1921.”

“People have tons of different reasons for doing a book,” noted Mowday, whose own passions trend toward Civil War and Chester County history.The West Chester trucking firm that used Mowday’s services recently put out “The First 85 Years: A History of A. Duie Pyle.”

Chairman Peter Latta said the trucking company wanted to publish the book to honor past and present employees with the idea of giving it as an employment anniversary gift to current employees, as keepsakes for retirees and their spouses and as gifts to customers.

“It wasn’t done with the idea of selling copies, although we have gotten some calls from people saying they’ve heard we’ve put out a really nice book and they’re looking for a copy,” said Latta, whose daughter, Sarah, co-authored the book. “Bruce knew we wanted to create a nice piece of memorabilia on the history of the company to pay tribute to the people who made contributions to its success.”

Mowday’s biggest contribution was “creating the skeleton and building the flesh around it,” Latta said. “He kept it on schedule and on task.”

For authors seeking a general audience, the second part of the process can be more daunting than their research and writing, Mowday noted.

“Selling the book once you have it, that can be a shock,” said Mowday, who has - what else? - written a book out on the subject, “The Selling of an Author.”

Mowday makes himself available as a speaker, always brings along his books. When he’s releasing a book on the Civil War, he reaches out to historical societies, senior citizen groups and Civil War organizations.

Authors also need to know how to work with bookstores and online book sellers, how to properly price their books, how to calculate and remit sales taxes, how to get an ISBN, and decide whether they will take checks and credit card transactions.

Said Mowday, who worked as a reporter and editor at the Daily Local News from 1974 to 1997 and whose latest book is on the notorious Johnston Gang, whom he covered for the newspaper: “There are lots of costs in selling. That’s why making these decisions is better done before than after. It may be a case where 300 (books) is better than 5,000. If you’re not careful, all of a sudden you can lose a lot of money on a book.”

On the Web: www.mowday.com/brandywineriver.htm.

Brian McCullough is the business editor for The Daily Local News and may be reached at business@dailylocal.com.

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