What I Wish I Knew Before I Wrote My First Book

As many of you who read this site regularly know, I have been working on a second book for much of this year. It’s a self-help book written with an LMFT from California that is geared toward the female partner of a male pornography addict.

While the last part of the book is still being edited for clarity and content, I have begun the arduous task of finding a publisher. There are a lot of lessons I learned the first time around and am being reminded of as I look for someone to put their company behind the book. If you’re reading this, there’s about an 80% chance that you’ve got a blog of your own, and I would bet there’s just as equal a chance you’ve considered writing a book.

Here are the three main things I wish people told me before I started the first time:

It’s a very impersonal process – Despite the fact many agents and publishers specifically say, “We will get back to you within 12 weeks, if we don’t, it means we’re not interested” it is still a bit of a blow to the ego when it’s not even formally rejected. When they are kind enough to send a letter of rejection, 9 out of 10 times, it’s a form letter.

With a memoir, like my first book, it felt like a rejection of my personal story. It was as if my tale of redemption was not important. The most grueling, yet transformative part of my life – easily the part of my life that deserved a book – didn’t deserve most publishers’ attention

The truth is, publishing houses will get hundreds, if not thousands, of queries every year. Let’s say a publisher gets 1,000 queries per year. They may ask to see 150 manuscripts and of those manuscripts, they may only print 20. When you boil that down to real numbers, that means only 2% of the original queries become a book. Those are mighty odds no matter what your story is about.

It’s a very long process – Aside from the fact it took 8-10 months to write and edit the book to a point I was happy to share it, I started looking for a publisher in May 2017. It wasn’t until August that I found the right one. I had a few nibbles of interest here and there, but people either wanted me to change the language to make it more salacious or were trying to get me to front the money to publish the book to be my “partner.”

We originally planned for the book to come out in October 2017, but when I wanted to give it another hard edit to eliminate a few thousand more words to make it tighter, it was pushed to early January 2018.

Aside from the initial burst of sales in the first 10 days, it took about six weeks for the book to gain traction. My best selling months were actually April and May. I didn’t see my first royalty check until July. My guess is if you figured out the dollars and cents, I probably made 40 cents per hour.

You will be doing the marketing – Unless you’re with a mammoth publisher that makes up one of the big five, you’re working with a smaller publisher that may help with marketing, but you’ll have to carry most of the load. This website was started to help market the book – although it grew into something bigger. I spent many hours just as the book came out searching for people to review it (very few people review non-fiction) and for podcasts to appear on. Thankfully, over time the podcasts and radio shows started reaching out to me.

I know that a lot of people make the Field of Dreams-inspired mistake of “If you write it, they will come.” That’s not true. You have to drag them to it, give away free copies and hope they read it and tell others. If you don’t have it in you to spend dozens of hours promoting your book, don’t expect much in the terms of sales.

Also understand that many media outlets are not interested in promoting a book that is self-published. While there are many fine self-published titles, the fact is, a self-published book doesn’t go through the same vetting process as one that has a commercial publisher.

And, much like with finding a publisher or agent, most of the time your queries to media outlets will go unanswered or rejected with a form letter.

It’s a small miracle any book gets a legitimate publisher to stand behind it. I’m hoping that this second go-round is a little easier, but at least I know what I’m up against. If you are thinking of writing a book, good luck. It’s one of the most satisfying experiences I’ve ever had.

 

 

Feeling human again, if only for a moment

Lately, I feel like I’ve been in a place where I recognize just how few people, especially where I live, are ever going to be ongoing parts of my life again. As time marches forward, and the reality of the situation sinks in, it’s made me a bit depressed. That negative feeling was broken, if only momentarily, last night and it felt wonderful.

As I’ve said in the past, I’m a loner who doesn’t like to be lonely, but since I was arrested back in March 2014, I’ve been living in exile – just as much in my head as in my home.

I know people have short memories, but I also know how prominent I was in my community, publishing the regional magazine and serving on the City Council. It’s been 4.5 years since my arrest, but there are still the moments I’m out in public, see somebody I recognize, make eye contact, and watch them hurry away as quickly as a roach when the lights are turned on.

Because of this, I don’t approach people. I don’t know what people’s true opinions of me are and I don’t want to nurture an awkward situation. I also stay away from places that I know are well-populated. I go out to dinner with my family on Wednesday or Thursday nights, leaving Friday and Saturday for the non-convict crowd.

Last night, I was at one of the two decent independent Italian restaurants in town with my family.

When I was given my seat, I recognized a couple who were sitting with a larger party about 15 feet away. They were the parents of my high school girlfriend. We were together for about a year-and-a-half if I recall, maybe a little longer. I became much closer to her parents than she came to mind.

Family was priority at her house, and while my nuclear bunch were good, these folks had the market cornered on what family meant and they welcomed me into their arms back then. I haven’t had a set of parents as cool since, including my wife’s. When we eventually broke up our junior year of high school, I remember telling people I’d miss her family more than her.

I knew I wasn’t going to get up and go say hi, and part of me hoped that my features changed enough in the last 25 years and they wouldn’t recognize me.

At one point, when my wife and daughter went to the restroom, my ex-girlfriend’s mother came over to say hello.

“Josh, do you remember me?” she said.

“Yes, Mrs. L, I do. How are you? I responded, although I used her real last name.

“How have you been doing?”

“Very well. I’m healthy and keeping everything in balance. This is my son, Kaden,” I said.

“Hi Kaden. Your dad and my daughter were friends in high school,” she explained.

“I think she was my only girlfriend in high school,” I told them both. She was. No thinking needed.

We exchanged a couple pleasantries of a memory she carries about me and where both of us were living now, then she said the most important thing:

“We got your book and read it. It was good. How are things going?” she asked.

“I’m at four-and-a-half years sober from both addictions. I’m working on a new book for partners of porn addicts,” I said.

“We’re so proud of you. I’m glad you’re doing well, give me a hug.”

I hugged Mrs. L and she made her way back to her seat.

My wife and daughter returned and I told them about the exchange. I think my wife could tell it really stuck with me through dinner and into the night.

It’s the first time I’ve talked with anybody who I was once close with, read about my ordeal in the media, made the decision to read the book, and either as a result of the book or my confirmation of doing fine now, literally embraced me back into their life.

I’m not going over for dinner anytime soon. Hell, I may never see them again in my life. But that lifted my spirits in a way they haven’t been lifted in a long time. So much of my life is spent waiting for people to make me feel bad about myself that having someone come and provide a boost of confidence is unfortunately foreign.

I know Mrs. L doesn’t realize just how much that meant to me, but I hope that I can return the favor to someone else someday.

The manicotti was good, too.

Help Me Figure This Out: Am I Overreacting to this Situation?

Maybe this is just me venting, or maybe I’m looking for validation that I’ve been treated poorly or maybe I need to hear that I should just shut up and accept things, but I’ve been dealing with a situation over the last day involving a library where I was going to be giving a presentation about pornography addiction. They decided to back out and I just need somebody to let me know what they think from an independent perspective.

I don’t want this to come off as sour grapes on my part, so I’m not going to talk specifically about where the library is or the names of the people I’m dealing with. I understand that they are legally entitled to do whatever they want. I just want to know if I’m correct in thinking that I’ve been treated unfairly. Sometimes I have a complex about these things.

Some background:

In early March, after donating a copy to this library in a nearby state, I was taken up on my offer to give the presentation “The Addiction Nobody Will Talk About” which while it shares a title with my book, it is more an educational lecture about pornography addiction, looking at statistics and what the signs of addiction are, while also sharing pieces of my story. The whole “porn addiction expert” thing comes from having the experience of being one, plus being well-studied on the subject. This presentation is the best of both worlds.

About three weeks after we set a date for May, I was sent an email suggesting the appearance be moved to September, for fear that a nice Sunday in May might keep potential attendees at home. I figured they knew their stuff and agreed. I haven’t spoke to them directly in almost three months.

However, as the book has caught the interest of libraries across the country (and New Zealand…no idea why 4 libraries have it there, yet I still can’t get one into a state ending in the word “Dakota”) I have periodically updated a list kept on this site. I’ve always noticed that library never appears. It was never entered into their electronic catalog.

So, anyway, we move into the last 24 hours. Yesterday I got an email that says:

Hi Joshua
Some sad news – there has been a change in directors since we last talked and they do not want this program. One of her concerns is that people would think attending indicates they have this problem too and they don’t want to have that reputation. She is the boss now so we won’t be able to work with you.
BUT
I was thinking if you set up a discussion panel with you and a therapist or some professional counselor who deals with this – that would make libraries feel more comfortable.  All the podcasts on your website lend a lot of credibility. In your letters to libraries you could mention the website with all your radio and podcast work. And maybe a library would feel better having this as part of a series on addiction:  not just including substance abuse but work addiction and adrenaline addiction – those are not talked about very much either.
I’m disappointed since I know you are doing a good work for the community. But good luck in the future.

This absolutely floored me, but I’m smart enough now to think before I speak…or write. I did want to know one thing though. What happened to the book I sent them? Much like my presentation, was it deemed too controversial? Here is the response I got:

No – I am embarrassed to say it is still on my coffee table for me to read. It definitely has not been removed. For items that could be challenged by a community member I like to read first so I can have the arguments ready as to its inclusion. In all my years of library work I have not personally had a book challenge – but you never know. Take Care

If I was floored yesterday evening at seeing the first email, this one left me looking around to see who was playing a prank on me. Maybe there was some Candid Camera/Punk’d for a new generation involving addicts or authors. It seemed more likely than somebody being serious about worrying their patrons would be seen as porn addicts or that the book would be so offensive that it needs to be examined, even if nothing in the history of the library has ever been deemed offensive. So, I decided to give myself a little bit more time and went out to lunch with my parents and my son to celebrate his last day of school a couple days ago. When I returned, I wrote this:

I have done four library presentations to this point, with (OTHER LIBRRARY) being the only other in (STATE), and I’ve not been met with any of the resistance that either you or your director seems to fear. The idea that people who attend the event are going to be labeled as porn addicts is only true if either of you are doing the labeling. Would you invite an author to present a book on the Holocaust, but assume the attendees are Nazi sympathizers? Would you not allow a book by somebody who was an Army sniper for fear attendees would be the kind of people who like to shoot others?
In (OTHER LIBRARY), I think we drew 8 or 9 people. It was mostly middle-aged women who worked in health care who wanted more education. I don’t think anybody jumped to any conclusions about them, and if they did, so what? Shouldn’t those people get the chance to hear a presentation that is about the healthcare crisis of pornography addiction? After the event, a woman, probably about 35, came up to me and admitted she had a problem and wanted help. After a couple of days of exchanging messages, she found a therapist and began attending a 12-step group for women in (NEARBY MAJOR CITY). So you’re right, you may get an addict there. In this case, it was one who finally got help. She finally met someone in real life who experienced addiction years ago, doesn’t judge and was able to be a resource.
The book is in almost 200 libraries in four countries at last count. I get email daily from some of the people who read the book. Most thank me for trying to start a discussion. To date, I’ve done over 50 radio shows and podcasts not to just promote the book, but to educate about the addiction. A recent study by Canadian researchers said that in the last 6 months, 98% of married men and 70% of married women under 35 looked at pornography. 48% of households say porn has a negative effect on their home. 24% of people have looked at porn at work in the last 6 months. If your fear is that people in (LIBRARY’S TOWN) may end up with the assumption porn addiction is a problem for many of its residents…it is. I can guarantee that, no matter how much people wish it wasn’t so. And the library should be a place that residents can find resources. If this were 1982, would books on heroin and other opiates be ignored because back then, most wanted to believe the people who used those drugs were just the kind of people society looked down upon. Now it’s hard to find a family not somehow affected. Why? Because our society was reactive to the opiod crisis, not proactive.
If this is just a matter of “porn is gross” I don’t disagree with you. There are lots of gross things in this world we wish weren’t here and it’s every individual’s right to make the decision to stay away from it. It’s just a bigger deal when that person is the gatekeeper of information in a community, much like your role and the director’s role in the library. Prior to entering recovery and learning as much as I could about this addiction, I would have fought you hard about the library’s actions because it seems so unjust to me. Somebody standing in the way of someone else delivering information because the first person doesn’t like it just smacks of censorship. I would have taken to social media and contacted the newspaper and try to stir things up, but I’m just not that guy anymore. It wouldn’t really matter anyway because it wouldn’t spread the message that porn addiction is going to be a healthcare crisis of a new variety for the 21st century. I didn’t expect a large audience, nor did I expect the book to have holds on it for the first six months in was on the shelf, but it is nice to think that, like those libraries who didn’t cancel me and who haven’t hesitated putting it on a shelf, their patrons can make that decision for themselves. I hope the irony of the title “The Addiction Nobody Will Talk About” isn’t lost on anybody on your end. 
If you choose not to put the book on the shelf because it will introduce dangerous ideas to your community, I’d just ask you donate it to a Goodwill, Salvation Army or local church fair. Thank you for hearing me out.

 

I half-expected that to be the end of it. I figured the only response could be one that either doubles-down on her vague position, or admits to being wrong upon further analysis. Instead, I got a strange blow-off about an hour later earlier today:

Thank you for writing this – it is very informative.  Your book will 99.99% end up in the collection – the only delay has been that it got stuck in my reading queue but I will put it at the top now.  From the bit I have scanned through I don’t see any problems – but for due diligence I need to go through the whole thing.
It is most excellent your experience at other libraries and hearing of the kind of audiences.  Can I recommend you mentioning this in your website – the well received library visits – and the exact libraries?  If they could give you a blurb to put on your website too – that would be great. After you’ve added the library stuff to your website you can ask one of the libraries to recommend you on a listserv that most all librarians in (STATE NAME) read. Ask one of the libraries where your program was really successful to put a recommendation on the list and contact info on that list. This gives you a lot of credibility and will definitely increase your bookings.
So can I ask you to contact me in 6 months? If you’ve gotten libraries on your website and even a rec on the list – it will be an easier sell for me.

A big piece of me wants to send a response asking if they had to spend time going through all of the pro- and anti-Trump books coming out now on their shelves. A bigger piece of me wants to prod them into telling me point blank what the REAL problem is. I think I know what it is – it’s the “porn addicts are gross, we don’t want one here and would rather pretend they aren’t in our community” stance. The biggest piece wants to write back and say, “Don’t tell me how to become all prim and proper so I can possibly book your library down the road. I don’t want to step foot in your library…ever.”

But I won’t. I won’t send any of those things. I’m going to let it go as far as they are concerned.

I’m just left sitting here trying to think if I’ve been treated poorly, if I’ve been essentially discriminated against, if anybody with a porn addiction is being discriminated against and if the poor people in that town don’t have unfettered access to information at their library. It’s like Footloose, but actually important.

If nothing, it’s at least bad form to book somebody and cancel, right? I know you’re only getting my analysis of the story, although I gave you as much as I have to go on. Am I right to feel slighted and hurt or am I making too much of this? I’d love to know what you think.

Oh, and if you’re new here and don’t know the book I wrote that I’m talking about, you can get the details of it on Amazon HERE. Buy several. Send them to the residents of that New England town.

 

Ask Me Anything… And They Are

So Monday is my usual day for an entry on my site but I have been absolutely slammed with questions for the Ask Me Anything I’m doing over at AMAHost.com  I didn’t know anything about this site until I was asked to do it last week, but I’ve now got over 30 questions answered and have actually tackled a bunch of topics that I’ve never talked about on this site beyond my porn addiction, in more depth, like my alcoholism and process for writing my book. If you have enjoyed my writing in the past, I hope you’ll click over to this site and check it out.

Click Here for my Ask Me Anything event

In Overcoming Addiction, Long-Held Dreams Can Still Come True

It’s fascinating how things work out. Andy Dufresne just wanted to work on a boat project and the younger version of Joshua Shea just wanted to walk into a library and see one of his books on a shelf. Life got in Andy’s way. He was falsely accused of killing his wife, ran a sweet embezzling scheme while behind bars and escaped prison. Of course, he was also a fictional character in The Shawshank Redemption. I, on the other hand, am as real as my mind allows me to be.

Life got in my way, too. When I was 17-year-old high school senior, I saw an ad in my local newspaper’s sports section advertising the position of “sports clerk”. The clerk’s job was to take calls from coaches whose games we didn’t cover either because they were too far away or because we didn’t have the staff and it was deemed unessential for real coverage.

One day, about six weeks after starting, the first round of fall playoff games were rained out. Since the department was down two people, the “real” adult writers were overworked and instead of giving them overtime, they gave them the day off. The editor thought we’d just fill the section with national stories.

A few hours into our shift he came to me and said, “Hey, this is the first year in like a decade the Lewiston High School field hockey team made it to the playoffs. Why don’t you call the coach and have her give you a sense why she thinks they may go far in the playoffs?”

Since I went to Lewiston, I said to my editor, “I’m friends with the two captains, I can call them both, too.” He was impressed I went the extra mile. The next morning, my first bylined story was in the paper.

I almost never had to take another sports clerk call after that day. I was given a staff writer position and was still a high school student. A couple months later, I had proven myself enough that when a job opened in the regular news department, I took it. I fell in love with journalism and never looked back.

Fast-forward 15 years and I’m a magazine publisher, I’d started a film festival and was a local politician. None of this was young Josh’s bucket list stuff. It paid the bills and helped fuel my narcissist side while I hid my addictions, but this stuff was never part of the “dream” plan, they were just good gigs.

As you probably know if you’ve read this site in the past, my world ultimately imploded with my very public arrest for an inappropriate chat room session with a teenage girl. I lost everything I’d worked for professionally. After an intense recovery, I went to serve 6 months in jail. While there, I finally wrote a half-decent book about my addiction. That process revealed to me that I want to help people who are dealing with this issue and help educate those who know nothing and live in a world of stereotypes and assumptions.

When I got out of jail, I continued with recovery and spent the next year editing and polishing the manuscript down to a workable document. I finally found a publisher who would print it.

What’s interesting now, several months after it was officially released is that it’s popping up on the radar of libraries. They automatically get most best sellers or books from the “Big 5” publishers, but little books like mine often go unnoticed.

Thankfully, mine is starting to gain a little bit of traction in the library community. There really isn’t a book written from a male perspective using real names and real events that illustrates a descent into addiction like mine out there. Like the book or hate it, it still can be a resource unlike anything out there and I think that’s why it’s gaining traction.

Not too long ago, I walked into a library that I knew had the book. I went to the New Arrivals section and saw it sitting there, on a shelf with books by authors I recognized and books on subjects I’d want to read about.

Twelve-year-old Josh wouldn’t have believed the subject matter, nor would he have believed that he would write over 2,000 newspaper or magazine articles before his first book would come out, but he would have been psyched to see a book he wrote sitting on a library shelf.

It was a bumpy road on a route to hell and back I’d never advise anybody to take, but there it was…a dream come true.

Morgan Freeman has one of his best voiceover lines of all time at the end of The Shawshank Redemption: “Andy Dufresne crawled out through a river of shit and came out clean on the other side.”

Yeah, that sounds about right.

Kennebunk

If you’d like to see a list of libraries my book is in, Click Here

If you’d like to buy the book, Click Here