My Favorite Book: Emperor Dad

Emperor Dad
Emperor Dad

It was shortly after I took a severance buyout package from Motorola that I had a little more time to write than before.  I had written other novels, but the number of New York publishers that would even look at an un-agented novel was shrinking rapidly.  I remember the decision to write a novel just for fun — not because I thought that was the most responsible novel to write at the time to advance my writing career.

There was an old story from 1995 that I had struggled with, never getting beyond simple outlines or a first chapter, but that seemed like it would be fun.  I toyed with the idea of the garage inventor inventing teleportation, and the sphere concept that was its core.  But as I toyed with the story, I came to realize that just maybe, it wasn’t the inventor’s story.  It was the son’s.

Now, friends of mine had commented that I tended to write young adult stories, but I hadn’t really believed them.  Now, with this idea, I went into it whole-heartedly.  This was to be fun.  The son was the main character, although some of the details had to be from the father’s perspective.  I even made the story more personal — setting the family in my town, in roughly my house, and borrowed bits of my son’s life to round out the main character.

The story came together well, with a detailed outline and a story that I was able to write quickly.  I packaged it all up and starting sending queries to the last few NY publishers that I thought might take it.  I even queried an agent or two with it.  There was no interest.  Once again, the major publishers and my writing style were heading in different directions.

But then, I had an idea.  Why not publish it myself?  I could save it as a PDF file and peddle it online. I chose $5 as a random price and set up a page on my website where I could take PayPal.  It was just an experiment, and I had little expectations of massive sales.  My brother bought a copy, as well as a couple of friends.

Time passed. Lulu the self-publishing website caught my eye.

I’d been writing for decades.  I’d had mild success with short stories, but now I was writing novels and I liked the scope that the longer format gave me.  If the big publishers were never going to like what I did, then why not give self-publishing a try. It was a hard decision, more than selling a PDF off my website was.  Still, I had tried the PDF experiment.  Why not try a Print-On-Demand experiment?

I would need a cover. I passed the word, and Scott Cupp introduced me to his nephew, Wes Hartman via email.  He asked for ideas and I sent him a few to choose from.  He put them all into the very busy cover — but I liked it.

I researched what a book format was supposed to look like and laid it all out in my aging copy of Word. (Insert whole book about what I learned about publishing here.)  I printed a few dozen copies and tried to peddle them at science fiction conventions.  Again, my sales were infrequent, but people liked it.  That was enough.  It won the Darrell book award, and was a finalist in the Next Gen Indie Book awards.

I did have trouble placing it in bookstores, and with a few typos showing up, I decided to make a second edition with all the formatting lessons learned and typos corrected.  That’s what I’ve been selling since, although I still have a handful of first editions left if anyone wants them.

The e-Book world exploded.  Emperor Dad was my first experiment there.  Just recently, my first audiobook came out, Emperor Dad was my trial experiment in that media as well.

So, Emperor Dad was a fun book that was my first steps into publishing and proved that people actually did like my books. That’s why it’s my favorite.

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