Welcome to my Authors 40+ Series – sharing the stories of amazing authors who published their first book over the age of 40. The series features talented, experienced and inspirational writers who share their (often non-conventional!) writing and publishing journeys honestly and articulately. Next to feature, is Todd Paine!
1) What is the title and synopsis/premise of your first book and how old were you when you published it?
The title of my first book is The Corner of My Round Room. The Corner of My Round Room was created from one of the many wild stories I love to tell from my experiences in the classroom and from the fields. There is always something new every day that comes from a kid’s mouth that you never heard before, and I decided a few years back to write down some as I went along. They were becoming so uncommon that others who had never sat in a classroom began to think that I was making them up.
Those who have taught should be able to relate and get a laugh from some of the outlandish things I have come across. From disgruntled parents, crazy softball players, out of control parents, and crooked school employees, to bonehead answers, insane excuses, foreign exchange students, and dumb jocks. You cannot help but to scratch your head and laugh at the high jinks on every page.
I was 44 years old when my book was published.
2) Tell me about writing the book e.g. where did the idea come from / how long did it take / what did you learn along the way?
Throughout my years of teaching, you always hear teachers and coaches telling stories of things that they have heard or seen and at least one of them saying, “I should write a book one day!” Well, I decided to do it. I guess I would say it took me roughly around 8 months from start to finish. I was going through a bit of a rough patch in my life – my father’s passing – so I worked on it sporadically when the urge hit me.
Along the way I learned a few things. One, I am thankful I am a history teacher and not an English teacher. If it wasn’t for spell check and an editor, I would have been in a world of hurt. Commas, semi-colons, apostrophes, and whatever have to be put in the exact place and I just thought I knew where they went. Also, I learned that writing is very therapeutic. It gave me chances to “get away” and be in my own little world with just my laptop and my thoughts. It helped tremendously to slow me down and enjoy the days.
3) Tell me about your publishing journey step by step – what happened once the book was finished?
It was a bit of a luck that led me to getting my book published. I was typing one evening in my recliner watching football during bowl season, when a commercial came on about being an aspiring author and needing help. I didn’t pay any attention to and just kept on typing.
For the next few nights it came on at about the same time, sort of like a sign from above. Being the sucker that I am, I called the number after several views of the commercial and began to talk to the person on the other end of the line. I came to find out, it was for a self-publishing kit that they were going to send me for free, giving me step-by-step instructions to publish my work for the low price of around $10,000. Well, being the high paid, public educator that I am, I shrugged it off due to the fact that I didn’t have that amount of cash laying around in a coffee can in my cupboard. One thing they failed to disclose to me was that when I called in and gave them my information, they must have put my name in a database for publishing companies. I began to receive calls from companies all across America, all willing to help me out for a nominal fee. Still, I hadn’t found a money tree so I had to decline.
One day, I received a call from a man at Page Publishing in New York, New York. He proceeded to talk to me like normal person; asked about my book, the title, how long I had been working on it, and then asked for a few stories. After about 30 minutes of laughing and talking back and forth, he explained how the process worked: how long it should be, how to determine the length, what his company was looking for, and how to present it to his review board. He gave me his number and email and asked me to contact him when I got the book to a certain length, never once mentioning price. After another few months, I contacted him and told him I was satisfied with the length of it. He explained that he would submit it and to send it in, warning me of the chances of them not liking it and it being rejected due to the shear number of submissions they get. He explained it normally took around 10 days to hear and he would get back in touch with me. Well, about 5 days later, he called and said they loved it and wanted to send me a contract overnight to look at. In shock, I agreed and sure enough I had a contract the next day.
The process was way easier than I had ever imagined. Once we agreed to terms and the contract was finalized, I had a portal set up on their website to where I would finish out the process with my own company liaison. First, the editing process started. I would receive edits about 20 pages at a time that I would look over and make recommended changes and updates, things such as spelling, punctuation, clarifying southern phrases, and paragraph breaks. Once that was completed, I had to choose things like fonts, page styles, number styles, pictures, font sizes, and other cosmetic things. Once the book was laid out the way I liked it, I had to decide on front and back cover images and styles. Then came the synopsis for the back cover and website, registering for a bar code, book number, binding styles and then, the coolest part, registering with the Library of Congress. Once all this was finished, then the price of the book was dictated. When all of this was wrapped up, it went to print. I received the first copies around a month later and it went on sale around two weeks after that. All in all, publishing the book took roughly around 5 months.
4) Who or what has helped you the most in becoming a published author?
The following is a story in my second book detailing my inspiration for becoming a published author.
About 5 months after my dad’s passing, I had a foe confront me that I had never imagined would show up, nor be such an adversary. Cue anxiety! And when it hit me, it hit me hard. I had heard about it and thought I knew what it was. I knew some who went through it and to be honest with you, I thought that they were a bit on the koo-koo side. Buddy, I was wrong. I had no idea the battle I was in for and had no clue what was going on with me.
For me, it hit me in 3 stages: fear, depression, and anger. At first, I went through a fear stage. Seeing how my father left my mother financially stable; money, cars, and homes, scared the shit out of me. I had never planned that far ahead. Life- insurance, retirement, and future plans had never crossed my mind, and thinking of what my family would do if I were to suddenly leave this earth took its toll. It sounds crazy, but every thing in the world scared me. Every ache, muscle twinge, pain, cough, or just about anything sent my mind racing. I would self-diagnose myself with everything from tumors to cancer to heart attacks and anything else under the sun. It went so far one day and I had myself so worked up that I had to get a nurse and assistant principal to carry me out of my class in a wheelchair and rush me to the hospital because I was having a “heart attack”. I couldn’t fix it. Nothing I did or what anybody told me would work. When the doctors at the hospital told me that I was healthy and nothing was wrong, that wasn’t good enough. I finally decided to go see my family doctor for the 40-year old plus checkup. Again, I drove myself crazy being afraid of what he would find. In the end, after he ran every test he could and tested every bodily fluid I had, he sat me down, looked me in the eyes, and said “Todd, there is nothing wrong with you! Every test I ran came back good. You are healthy as a horse.” And then, he gave me some of the best advice I ever received. After ensuring me that I wasn’t crazy, he looked at me and with a grin gave me this bit of advice. “Sometimes you just have to look in the mirror and say, WTF?” It may sound crazy, but it worked. Not all at once, but it worked. I spent a lot of sleepless nights saying it, but it eventually did.
Then came the depression. I was self-diagnosing myself less and less as time went on, but I really started to miss dad. I cried every day. Every. Single. Day. I couldn’t go to the cemetery because I would be crying so much I couldn’t see to drive. I couldn’t hardly stand to go see my kids play a sport because other kids’ grandfathers would be there and theirs wouldn’t. Songs reminded me of him, golf reminded me of him, coaching my own team reminded me of him because I would catch myself looking in the stands for him. I was a wreck, but hid it from others out of fear they would see me as being weak. I was still broke, and couldn’t fix it.
Then, the last stage sank in. Anger. I began to get mad at myself on a daily basis. Mad for being this way. By doing this, it spilled out to my life. Personal and professional. Now, instead of being upset dad wasn’t there, it pissed me off. To no end. I went about a month or two where I wasn’t a good person to be around. I wasn’t a good teacher, coach, co-worker, son, brother, but most importantly, I wasn’t a good father or husband. The crazy thing is, I knew it. I would catch myself losing it and couldn’t stop it. How I didn’t lose everything is a small miracle. I knew I had to do something but I just couldn’t figure out what it was.
5) What are the main obstacles you faced / overcame when writing and publishing your book(s)?
My inspiration was also one of the biggest obstacles I had to face. Dealing with anxiety and being a husband and a father at the same time was rough. Although it gave me an avenue to escape and get away, the mind always wanders. While helping, it still did not take the pain and the constant bearing it had on my mind. I would tend to daydream and drift away regularly. Staying focused was a battle. Also, still having teaching and coaching responsibilities, it was definitely a chore to juggle getting the regular time to write and finish up.
6) How do you promote/advertise your book(s)?
I used, and still do, several different avenues to promote my books. I created a Facebook page, Randall Todd Paine Author/Coach, and asked people to like and share with updates and when an where it could be bought and joined numerous Facebook author groups and posted on those pages as well. The more the merrier. I gave away free copies to people I knew in certain industries that could help get the word out. I created an Amazon author page, under my full name, for those who purchased online to like and leave reviews, and I even took part in a radio interview with a radio station out of New York.
Here is the link to the broadcast, http://www.artistfirst.com/bookshows.htm.
7) How did you celebrate the incredible achievement of your first book being published?
Believe it or not, when it first hit the market, I was on vacation in Colorado and one of my former softball players texted me and told me it was for sale. That night, the whole family went out for a celebration dinner and some adult beverages.
8) What advice would you give to other authors about to begin their publishing journey?
Trust yourself and believe in yourself. I have talked to so many people who doubted themselves and if their work would be good enough. When you finally decide, find a publishing company that will shoot you straight and you feel comfortable dealing with. There are numerous ones out there that are only looking for a profit and not in it for the author. For a lot of them, it is all about the money. Go with your heart and instincts.
9) Where is/are your book(s) currently available to read and where can people find you online?
You can find my book in all Barnes and Noble bookstores, online at barnesandnoble.com and amazon.com (just type in Randall Todd Paine in the search engine), on Kindles, Nooks, iBooks on iPhones, and any e-readers. You can also find me on Facebook in two places: my personal page Todd Paine and my author page Randall Todd Paine Author/Coach.
10) Are you working on anything new we can look forward to in 2019?
I am currently working on Part II of my book, title yet to be determined. I am going to add more stories from coaching and teaching in the years since my first book plus a few I left out of my first one. Also, it is going to be a sort of smart-alec guide to parenting through the eyes of an educator. Just some tips and words of wisdom on how to parent and raise kids in today’s world to prepare them for the classroom and the playing fields.
Thank you for taking part in my Authors 40+ Series Todd! If you are an author who published their first fiction or nonfiction book over the age of 40 and would like to be featured in this blog series just like Elizabeth, Stephen, Iuliana, Tamsin, Julie, Lynne, Devorah, Paul, Joanne, Paul, D.P., Reyna, Michael and Christina, please get in touch!