Friday, September 02, 2011

Q & A with David Bueno-Hill: An Author's Tough Love

With a changing publishing world, David Bueno-Hill was among the first wave of authors to take advantage of new technology. La Bloga's Melinda Palacio interviewed David Bueno-Hill about his decision to cut out the middle man and share his work with his students and readers.

David Bueno-Hill, author and teacher

When did you start publishing your books in e-format?

Almost two years now, I really had to think about that one. It's something you just do one day and then forget about it. If people are buying cool, if not, you haven't lost anything by putting an e-book out there. I get small 15-30 dollar deposits every month from Kindle sales and I'm happy with that. I don't have to ship or print books, and the money is directly deposited in my bank account, how cool is that?

Does someone help you with the e-formatting or do you do it yourself?

I do it all myself. Amazon's directions are pretty straightforward. You just upload your word file and your cover file. If it's too big or too blurry or whatever, you'll get a message back and you just fix it. If you're savvy enough to buy a book on Amazon, you can put an e-book on Amazon.

What is the toughest part of this process?

You do need ISBN numbers, that's the worst. Dealing with the Bowker's website is not fun. You can pay 125 for one ISBN or 250 for 10. So, what do you do? Is anyone gonna write 10 books. But if you write 3 it's totally worth it. Oh, yeah and the actual writing. As an artist it's difficult to create an entity and then put it out there for the world to look at. The internet is so infinite, you ask yourself, will anyone even look at this little monster that I've made or will it just sit lonely in a cave somewhere? So the toughest part is that darn ISBN number and dealing with the emotions of hitting that finish button and hoping someone buys your book and doesn't regret it later. Seeing a negative review on Amazon is funny, but a part of you also dies while you're laughing.

Do you self-publish your books in paper and what is the toughest part of this process?

You know, I do self-publish but I hate to admit it. I created a whole cool name for my company and everything to fool myself into thinking I wasn't self-publishing. The fact is that I am the writer, editor, marketing exec, financier, publisher, website designer, and president of Broken Wing Press. Visit us at was the marketing exec. writing that). There is no tough part about self-publishing. I love writing. I don't want to write what I'm told to write. I was in a gang when I was younger, but I didn't like following orders. If I was in a publishing gang, and I had to do what some O.G.C.E.O. told me to do, then that would be tough. But running the show, writing what I want to write, when and how I want to write it isn't tough at all. I do what I love and I've received recognition for it from the International Latino Book Awards and from the many other Latino writers that I've met. So I'm self-made, what's tough about that?

Why did you decide to self-publish?

My writing is hard to digest. My art imitates my life: violence, drug use, alcoholism, and sex are infused into my work. Major publishers don't want to touch it, especially coming from a Latino. They want heart-warming stories of immigration, and beautiful Mexican girls marrying handsome white guys. Publishers don't want to hear about how some kid that used to sell drugs and beat people up for fun is now teaching English. Besides, I gave it a good year of sending out the manuscript to first book, I Wasn't Born a Teacher. I had a stack of rejection letters and a stack of nothing, most companies didn't even bother to respond. I was slush and I knew it. I also knew that there was an audience for my work. I knew that I was born to write. I knew that with a lot of time and a little money this thing was doable. I never gave up on myself. That's what self-publishing is, believeing in yourself.

Are you naturally tech savvy or did you have to take classes in web design, etc? How long have you been using a computer?

I guess humility won't suit me now, so I'll just say yes, I'm tech savvy. I never took a web design class. The web trapped me, I had to fight my way out. Since I first logged onto AOL ten years ago I've been trying to figure this thing out. How does it work, what do you do with it, how do you reach people, and when I was done chatting and meeting girls online, done with porn, done with everything lame that the internet is about I started trying to figure out how to make money with it. I ebayed for a long time, but when I was done with my books I discovered Amazon. I was the yearbook adviser for my school's yearbook and that forced me to learn about page layout, and cover design, The yearbook comapany's rep came out and showed me a few things, but I took off with it. This year I redesigned the cover of I Wasn't Born a Teacher re-released is as a 2nd editon. I received an Honorable Mention at the 2011 Latino Book Awards for Best Cover Design.

What's your favorite gadget or tool?

I love using a reciprocating saw, with the right blade those things can cut through trees, metal pipes, 2x4s, anything. I'll stop by the side of the road and throw a desk in the back of my mini-van just so I can saw it up and throw it in my fireplace later. Sorry, I grew up helping my Abuelito around the house, so when you ask about tools I still think of tools, lol. On the net, I just love the evolution of Word. I first began writing using a word processor in college. Remember those things. I thought I was all cool with my little digital typewriter. Now I'm stuck to my laptop. I have my current project right on my desktop and I write, write, and write. You can't put out an e-book if you haven't written a book.

Are you happy with your sales and business on e-books?

I'm not on any best seller list, but yes I'm happy. I sell more e-books on amazon's kindle than actual paper books. I'm working on expanding right now. I actually don't even have my 3rd book on as an e-book yet, but it's been in print for over a year. By the end of the year I'll have a Teacher's Edition for my YA series, Mr. Clean and the Barrio, Mr. Clean's Familia, and soon to be released Mr. Clean's Last Stand. You will also be able to get the complete Mr. Clean Trilogy as one book. So, even though I'm happy right now, I'm still hungry. I want Mr. Clean to be read in classrooms across the world. With Amazon, I can do it. Teacher's will be able to download a digital copy/e-book teacher's edition loaded with worksheets and chapter questions to use in their classrooms for around 10 bucks. The paper copy will have to cost twice as much due to shipping, and printing costs.

What are the most satisfying aspects of being a writer?

You know, I almost quit. The small press that signed me went bankrupt before they printed a single novel. I had gone to every major literary festival in L.A. and I still had a garage full of boxes of books. I felt like a failure. I entered Mr. Clean and the Barrio into the International Latino Book Awards in the Young Adult-English category in 2009. I said to myself that I was done if I didn't get recognized. I had tried self-publishing, I had been signed by a small company that busted, no large comapnies wanted to touch me. If I was going to continue writing and making money at it I needed to get my name out there. I know that my subject matter isn't going to win a pulitzer. Latino Urban Fiction isn't taken seriously. They want books about girls visiting Puerto Rico and rediscovering their roots, or watered down barrio stories...boring. When I saw my name on the winner's list, when I got that Honorable Mention I was reinvigorated. I said who is Oscar Hijuelos and how did he beat me. Then I discovered he was a pulitzer prize winning writer who just happened to write a YA book that year. 2nd place went to a book about a girl who discovered her culture in Puerto Rico. And then there was the Honorable Mention - Mr. Clean and the Barrio, a book about a Mexican-American gangmember who betrayed his barrio in order to pursure his dreams. That is the most satisfying part of being a writer, especially a self-published writer. Seeing your name on a list with people who have editors, and publishers, and agents, and thinking damn, they had all those people helping them, but I did this by myself.

Last question, could you tell me about your day job?

During the day I'm an ESL teacher for LAUSD. When I get home I'm a husband and a father. Late at night, when noone's awake, and I'm alone basking in the dull glow of a menacing 17" monitor, I'm a writer.


Virginia said...

Melinda, thanks for this inspiring interview. David Bueno-Hill is making his own luck. This is what it really takes to be a writer – taking the bull by the horns.

Unknown said...

Adelante David. Great tips and real story of self publishing. It doesn't seem so scary now, just takes a lot of ganas and faith in yourself.Thank you.

Thelma T. Reyna said...

David Bueno-Hill is a true inspiration, a genuine American success story of pulling oneself up "by the bootstraps," as the old cliche goes. Every student, no matter the color, should read this interview to realize that each of us is capable of so much more than folks might think, if we only have faith in ourselves. Thanks, David, for sharing yourself with us.