Red nearly dropped an entire tray of blueberry cream stuffed croissants on the floor when she heard a woman’s voice order a Coca-Cola at the counter. When she popped out of the kitchen to see Ann Uhry Abrams smiling at the cashier, she told someone else to grab the tray to put in the display and sat down across from Ann to talk to her about Atlanta, Asa and academia.
M3: Give the M3 Readers a bio line about yourself.
AUA: An Atlanta native, Ann Uhry Abrams has years of experience in studying and teaching history. She’s authored four books, including Formula for Fortune.
M3: Anyone you want to thank?
AUA: Yes, I have to thank a crusty old professor who marked up everything I wrote with a red pencil. He criticized my language, my style, everything. Above all, he told me that the secret to good writing is rewriting. I’ve never forgotten that and go over every paragraph dozens of times.
M3: I think we all had him for at least two semesters. Where did you get your start in the publishing industry?
AUA: I got my start as a writer in college, when I went back to school at age 30. I was a terrible writer during my first college experience because I loved to do the research and believed it all had to be incorporated into my papers. In short, I didn’t learn to edit my own work.
M3: Editing is just as important as the writing. You have a mixed bag with the traditional industry. Any bones to pick with the big dogs?
AUA: I have many bones to pick with book publishing today. The big trade publishers won’t consider manuscripts unless submitted by an agent, and agents are very hard to find if you have no previous connections.
M3: Ah, yes. The proverbial Catch 22. Do you think that has to do with the traditional publishing industry looking down on self-published material?
AUA: Yes, definitely. Libraries and book stores often don’t want to carry self-published books and reviewers won’t consider them.
M3: In spite of the difficulties, you managed a triumph over the industry.
AUA: Yes, my third book, Explosion at Orly, was self-produced ten years ago, and it has been selling consistently ever since. In fact, I’ve made more money from that book than from the two previous academic books combined.
M3: Having a consistent seller, especially one for that long, is definitely in the win column. Since this is not your first rodeo, do you have any advice for the new authors just embarking on the journey?
AUA: Be a perfectionist in your writing. Always let your work sit awhile before rereading it. It’s amazing how you will see it differently and want to change it. Then after you’re fairly satisfied, let someone else read it, listen to their suggestions and criticisms. That way you will begin to look at it afresh, even though facing the criticism may be painful.
M3: I think all criticism is constructive in some way. (Whispers: Even if we only learn the critic is clueless and reading the wrong book.) Many new authors complain about not being able to find time. Is that you?
AUA: If you really want to write, you won’t have any trouble finding the time. But it’s a lonely occupation, and I have to see friends and family, go for a walk, or go shopping to be with people.
M3: You are definitely a people person! Seems like an endorsement for taking hiatus.
AUA: A hiatus is definitely important. It clears the mind and gives you time to consider a new topic.
M3: Are you on one right now or do you have something in the works?
AUA: Nothing is in the works right now. I need a rest before I embark on another project.
M3: Some days, I wish I was doing that! Should any of the M3 Readers care about your day job?
AUA: No, I think working while writing is a very good thing. I did some of my most productive writing while I was teaching. It kept my mind churning and generated new ideas. Of course, it helps if the day job is somehow related to your writing. But often something entirely different can be rewarding in another, unexpected way.
M3: I am often surprised at the disparity between really creative work and the mundane or tedious jobs the authors hold. I have to ask. Is there something you may want to share only with me?
AUA: I am a terrible speller and would be totally lost without spellcheck. I am very self-conscious about this, especially since my grandmother (who had been an elementary school teacher) used to correct all of my letters and send them back to me. It didn’t exactly make me want to write her!
M3: (Laughing) I would suppose not! Let’s talk about your book. What makes it close to your heart?
AUA: The story of the Candler family and the origins of Coca-Cola is the story of my hometown, Atlanta. By investigating their lives, I learned about my city’s past. Their homes were dotted around my childhood neighborhood, and as an adult I received a graduate degree from Emory University that was founded by Asa Candler.
M3: Home is where the heart is. What is it about Formula for Fortune which makes it different from other historical biographies?
AUA: There is no other book that combines the founding of Coca-Cola with the intimate lives of the man who started the company and the family that profited from its tremendous success.
M3: The multi-generational approach is novel. Given your teaching background, would you say the history genre picked you?
AUA: I guess you might say that history did pick me. I’ve always loved research and learning about other times and those who inhabited them is a perfect way to immerse myself in another world.
M3: What a way to enjoy what you do! Being a self-published author means there are some things you must do on your own. How important is your own marketing effort?
AUA: I know marketing is very important and so is networking. When I meet people personally, I am usually able to sell books. I’m new at social media marketing, but I’m certainly willing to try that kind of networking to familiarize others with my book.
M3: Having met the M3 Readers, tell them in 15 words or less why they should buy your book.
AUA: Because it is an absorbing tale about the beginnings of an American institution.
M3: It is that, indeed!
Dearest M3 Readers,
Please take a few moments to check out Ann Uhry Abrams and Formula for Fortune: How Asa Chandler Discovered Coca-Cola and Turned It into the Wealth His Children Enjoyed. Visit Ann’s blog to learn more about the author and her books. Follow her on Twitter for the latest on her upcoming books.
Thank you for your constant support of the talented M3 Coffee Shoppe authors. When you tweet and +1 this post, please use the hashtags #authors, #books and #WW.
(c) Ann Marie Dwyer 2012
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