Interview with Local Author, Howard Shulman
1) When did you start writing Running from the Mirror and what pushed you to pick up a pen?
I started writing my memoir about eight years ago. After reading some great memoirs, like Running with Scissors, The Glass Castle, and Eat Love Pray, I thought I also had a good story to tell. With the help and support from the writing community and friends, it became a reality.
2) What did you learn about yourself while writing the book?
I had never shared my fears, anxiety, or pain with anyone. As I started writing my life story, I discovered I could let down my guard and reveal the most personal secrets to complete strangers. That was a big surprise. I also discovered a tenacity I didn’t know existed. I was determined to complete the project.
3) What did you learn about writing itself while writing the book?
I discovered the three Rs of the publishing process: rejections, rewrites, rewards. Rejections lead to rewrites, which, when done well, lead to rewards. Rejection is really tough, but it helps to understand that it’s a standard part of the industry. Once I regrouped from a disappointing letter or email, I would return to the manuscript and look for ways to improve it. Over time, I considered myself fortunate if I received constructive criticism that could guide me in the revision process.
I also learned that like most things in life, the more I wrote, the better I became, but it was difficult at first. To create a marketable memoir, it’s crucial to be as honest and uncensored as possible. In the end, there’s no alternative. If a writer holds back, readers will know.
4) You had some ups and downs (as we all do) with agents and publishers—tell us some of the highlights and what you eventually decided to do?
After being rejected dozens of times, I was picked up by a former top William Morris agent, who had worked on many book-to-film projects. Unfortunately, after six months, she decided to leave the industry. I then connected with the agent for The Blindside. But after many rejections and insignificant offers, we agreed that it would be best for me to self-publish, which I did in 2013. After receiving some TV press and great reviews, I was picked up by a small publisher who gives authors a lot of individual attention: Sandra Jonas Publishing. The advantages are a higher royalty, substantial marketing support, and a wonderful business relationship.
5) What are your thoughts on traditional publishing vs. self-publishing?
With the growing number of self-published books, the advances in technology (both print on demand and ebooks), and the fact that book prices have stayed the same or decreased (thanks mostly to Amazon), the Big 5 have become risk averse. It is much more difficult to align with them because their budgets for advances and marketing support have been slashed. I advise first-time writers to seek out that indie publisher who shares their passion for their work and can commit to helping with marketing efforts.
6) What is one lesson you wish someone told you about before you began your publishing journey?
I go back to the three Rs: rejections, rewrites, rewards. It would have been helpful if I had been more mentally prepared for the amount of work it takes to create a marketable memoir. At the same time, I wasn’t aware that I would gain such valuable insights into myself and my life.
7) Where/how can we get the book?
The ebook edition is available on Amazon.com: http://amzn.to/1HH23Nc
BIO: Howard Shulman was born in Orange, New Jersey. After losing half his face to an infection as a newborn, he was abandoned by his parents and spent the first three years of his life confined to a hospital. Years later, a veteran of the foster care system and a homeless dropout, Howard relied on street smarts and grit to turn his life around, ultimately going from dishwasher to successful entrepreneur, from loner to family man. He lives in San Diego with his wife and two stepdaughters.