New: Check out my latest book: Different Drummer: One Man’s Music and Its Impact on ADD, Anxiety, and Autism
I’ve written eight books, seven of them under the For Dummies brand (check out my amazon.com author page here).
Why, you may ask?
Well, it just happened.
You see, in 2000 I was busy looking for an agent to represent me in selling a book on the research we were doing at the Strong Institute. I sent out hundreds of query letters to prospective agents – even talked to quite a few – but the consensus was that a book about my esoteric brand of music/drumming/therapy was just too small of a niche for any real agent to care about (and by extension, any publisher willing to advance a decent contract to make it worth the agent’s time).
I suppose I could have gone directly to a smaller publisher, but fate intervened when one agent called me and asked if I’d be willing to write the definitive drumming book for beginners. I’d get to expand beyond the drumset where most drumming books focus and dig into any kind of drum I wanted. As a drummer who played nearly anything (I play a mean dining table, just ask my mother-in-law), I was sucked into this vision. So when the agent mentioned the franchise I’d be writing for I was already hooked on the idea of beating a different drum in the publishing world and didn’t give the Dummies image a second thought (okay, that’s not entirely true. I had reservations, but every dummies book I looked at was full of solid information, title aside).
So, I said yes, and sent in a rough proposal to IDG Books, the then publisher of the For Dummies books.
Now, I neglected to mention one thing earlier when I said that I was turned down by hundreds of agents in my quest to publish my tome on our research. And this is a big one:
I couldn’t write myself out of a paper bag.
I was a very good drummer and a decent researcher, but I sucked at writing (even though I had published quite a few articles about my work). This was a point made all the more evident because I was (and still am, happily) married to a poet with an MFA from Columbia University. Anyway, I digress (which you’ll find a lot of on this blog – I am an adult living with ADHD, after all…).
So, my point is that I had a tight deadline to present a proposal to the publisher on this great drumming book I was going to write. In spite of my limited writing skills it only took me a couple of hours that turn that puppy around (yes, I got a bit of help by my Ivy League partner – I’d be stupid not to). Then it took them less than a day to give me an offer I couldn’t refuse (I needed the money. Did I mention how expensive research is?). Fate indeed.
So, in the fall of 2000 I started writing Drums For Dummies, my first book. It was an arduous nine months with text that had to be written (yes, I wrote it – my wife was too busy with our infant daughter to pitch in), photos that had to be taken, musical notation that had to be hand drawn, and a CD that had to be recorded. I hate to think what my hourly wage was for that book – I probably would have made more money working at Starbucks. But, hey I was soon to be a published author and according to my agent I’d be infinitely more publishable. Maybe I’d even get to write my tome.
Another side note: The ironic part is that first contract happened at a time when publishers were still offering livable advances. Nowadays, forget it.
So, I worked my butt off and produced a book that I’m exceptionally proud of. The only downside, and it was a big one, is that the book hit the stores on Monday September 11, 2001.
Yep, that 9/11.
7,000 copies sat.
No one was buying books. And my beautiful, ground-breaking book was just sitting there. I should note the the impetus for my book, Guitar For Dummies, sold well over a hundred thousand copies its first year. The expectations for Drums For Dummies was pretty high.
The good news is that during the writing of Drums For Dummies, I had proven myself to be a hard-worker and pitched an idea for the next generation home recording book. And before Drums could bomb I landed a contract to write Home Recording For Musicians For Dummies. This book ended up doing what Drums FD didn’t – it sold very, very well.
I don’t know if you know this, but one of the biggest risks that publishers face is not just the unknown of whether a book will sell and earn its investment back, but whether the book will even get written. A ton of book proposals get bought only to have the book die from an author’s inability to finish or to provide a book even remotely resembling the book that they said they’d write. So, in my experience if you prove to be a good writer, are reasonable to work with, and possess the expertise and can actually translate that to the written page, editors will look for other projects for you to work on.
This is where my Woodworking For Dummies and AD/HD For Dummies books came from. In addition to my expertise on music and recording, I’m also an adult with AD/HD and an amateur furniture-maker, so they mined these talents and I got to write a couple more books I’m very proud of.
My two other books, PC Recording Studios For Dummies and Pro Tools All-in-one Desk Reference For Dummies, on the other hand, came from the unexpected success of Home Recording For Musicians For Dummies.
In all honesty, PC Recording Studios FD, though a very good book, got lost in the mix when the second edition of Home Recording came out and we switched to a more computer-based recording focus. It will likely never be updated. Home Recording, on the other hand, is in its fifth edition and I expect it will continue to be revised every couple of years as technology changes. It doesn’t hurt that it still sells very well.
My Pro Tools book is also a solid book (often the best-selling Pro Tools book). It’s in its third edition and will also continue moving forward as the software changes. If you bought just one of my recording books, this is the one I’d recommend.
So, you may ask whatever happened to the book on my research. Well, here it is