Interview with song writer Alan Gembola

As a Buffalo copyright attorney I meet many new authors. A childhood friend of mine recently published a book of songs he wrote and I asked him to share some of his thoughts about the publishing process with my LoTempio law blog readers.

Here is what Alan Gembola had to say:

Can you give us a little background about yourself and how you decided you wanted to be an author of a book?

I’ve always loved music and listening to the radio. In the early 70’s I heard the rock operas ‘Tommy’ & ‘Quadrophenia’ by The Who; at that point I wanted to write.

I eventually got some words down on paper (mostly trash) but kept trying. I was further motivated by Peter Gabriel’s (Genesis) ‘Lamb Lies Down on Broadway’ & bands like Roxy Music (plus a little encouragement from friends).

Eventually I just wrote because it was fun. Around 2001, I decided to make a serious attempt at writing a diverse collection of song lyrics; a unique collection that had a CD & perhaps author notes & illustrations, the seed for ‘Silver & Leather’ was planted.

Ten years later, and a lot of long writing & recording sessions, “Silver & Leather’ is in stock and ready to ship from  Amazon and released on Christmas Day 2011.

How did you find a publisher?

I self-published Silver & Leather. Trying to find a publisher (for a first book author) – I felt – would have taken a lot of resources, with no guarantee of success. I decided to direct what limited resources I did have into creating, publishing, promoting, & distributing ‘Silver & Leather’.

What are some of things you learned about getting the book published?

Besides the numerous technical challenges I faced (with software, printing techniques, font conflicts, CD creation, laptops crashing, etc.) the biggest thing I’ve learned is once you do publish, the project isn’t over; the hard work of marketing and distribution is just beginning.

Can you put together a checklist of things a new writer should know and do?

Here are a few tips that helped me write & publish ‘Silver & Leather’:

  • I learned from lyric writing, a good first step is to have a title, theme, or concept.
  • Visualize, based on your title/theme/concept, what the finished product will be.
  • Start writing (and have fun doing it!) – try to do a little every day (if you’re waiting for “inspiration” to write, you will probably never publish your book).
  • Once you feel confident that you’re actually on-track to finish the book, publicly announce a release date – this was a critical step for me and forced me to push myself, to the point of exhaustion, to meet this date.
  • When your first draft is complete – edit, edit, edit, edit, edit!
  • It doesn’t cost too much to write a song lyric or book; but, publishing does cost. Expect to spend a little money along the way – printing fees, ISBN purchases, copyrights, software needs, giveaways, promotions, and in my case, CD labeling & creation/packaging costs, etc., etc…
  • Cut a pre-release (beta copy) and send it select individuals for feedback – this really helped me a lot!
  • Once you have the final, final, final version of your book – assign it an ISBN number & bar-code – you are now considered published and can copyright your book as such.

What were the most difficult things you had to overcome to write the book and get it published? What were the things you enjoyed the most about putting the book together?

Silver & Leather was over 9 years in the making; so, most of the actual song lyrics were already written (and many of the vocal tracks were recorded in 2006) – but – organizing them all into a standard format, making last minute corrections, and adding the author notes & CD created some challenges.

As far as the actual publishing, the most difficult obstacle was creating a master file for printing; any little changes can really confuse the printing process. What was enjoyable throughout all this was watching, slowly but surely, my original vision for ‘Silver & Leather’ coming to fruition in every detail.

What would you do differently if you had to do it over again?

Next time I’ll use a lot more outside people and resources. For ‘Silver & Leather’ I’ve done almost every job in the writing, publishing, & producing processes. I won’t for example, edit the book myself or manufacture and package the CD’s for the next project.

What were some of the administrative challenges?

90% of the lyrics were previously registered with the US Copyright Office in 3 different volumes as “unpublished” works (2004, 2005, & 2011). I also was going to copyright a sound recording (‘Silver & Leather The CD’) for the first time with a few new lyrics and other contributing artists.

Somehow, I wanted to combine the entire package into a single copyright for ‘Silver & Leather’ – including the CD. Now that ISBN numbers are assigned, I can proceed with the single copyright for the “published” collection.

What are some of the marketing techniques you use to get your book noticed?

I started with teasers about the release date and progress of the project on Facebook. I then issued a pre-release package of materials to select individuals encouraging them to provide feedback to info@gembolalyrics.com and to share the materials with family & friends.

I opened a website gembolalyrics.com (which by the way is the official publishing company of ‘Silver & Leather’) that provides a link to my exclusive Amazon distributor, Insight Media.

Finally, I created a special workbook edition of ‘Silver & Leather’ designed specifically for my #1 target audience – musical composers. My distributor & I have a lot of great marketing ideas and will have the 2012 plan in place by the end of January.

Who proofread and edited your book for you?

I did the editing myself – never again – a very time consuming and inefficient process that I’m sure didn’t catch all the details it needed to. As far as the research of names, dates, and events called out in the author notes and song lyrics, they were checked by the new internet research company www.onlythefactsman.com.

Are you considering writing a second book? How did you get on Amazon? How did you get an ISBN number?

I have plenty of ideas for a second project but will probably spend most of 2012 promoting ‘Silver & Leather”

I was very fortunate to partner with the well-established, highly rated, Amazon seller, insight_media, who is currently the exclusive distributor for ‘Silver & Leather’s’ hardcover edition, special workbook edition, and electronic edition; insight_media specializes in books and CD’s.

No book critic, retail or online book outlet, library, or school is going to recognize your work without an ISBN number (along with a bar-code, indicating the retail price) assigned to each edition; this serves to clearly identify the details (like binding & number of pages) of your book for the buyers’ information.

ISBN numbers and bar-codes are sold to publishers. In my case I self-published (Gembolalyrics.com) and purchased a block of 10 ISBN numbers and three bar-codes from Bowker (an authorized broker company); as far as I know, this is the only place you can get an ISBN in the United States. If you have a publisher, they will probably have a number & barcode for you.

Is there anything that you would like to share that I didn’t ask regarding the process of writing a book and getting it published for sale?

I just want to say thank you to LoTempioLaw.com for the interview and suggest we get together again in a year to see how the marketing plans have worked out.

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