This article was originally intended to be in the Collegiate Newspaper at Grand Rapids Community College, but now it’s here for you on my blog. Read and write on, fellow writers!
On Wednesday, Oct. 23, 2013, from 11:15 to 12:15pm in Grand Rapids Community College’s Wisner-Bottrall Applied Technology Center, the session entitled “How I Turned One Good Idea Into a Book Series” was held in room 120 with Paul A. Krieger, professor of Biology and author of the Visual Analogy Guide Series, was the speaker.
Mursalata Muhammad, professor of English, introduced Krieger to an audience of about 50 students attending the lecture.
The lecture began with Krieger discussing how one idea he had altered his life and work. “It started with an idea. The idea was to teach students anatomy and physiology,” Krieger began as he stood before the crowd, smiling. “The idea was visual analogy.” He spoke about how he did research, went to book stories, and discovered that there were no books out there in stores that really explained anatomy, biology, chemistry, and physiology and had visual aids to benefit the students learning. From there, his idea sprout and grew. He drew up drawings by hand to accompany the chapters and sections of the book idea he had blossoming in his mind.
“Working on that book combined three of my interests: biology, writing, and illustrating.”
His first book, A Visual Analogy Guide to Human Anatomy, came out of this idea he had been creating; however, the book wasn’t without difficulty to get published as he went onto tell us all. Here was when he really dove into how he turned his idea into an entire book series.
Eugene, Krieger’s father, was a Lutheran minister and taught him “the power of words.” Krieger’s English 101 professor in college, Walt Lockwood, emphasized the process of writing rather than the finished product. “You never get it right the first time, so you keep practicing,” Krieger said. These two important people influenced him to become the person, teacher, and author that he has become today. His first mentor, Mike Timmons, an author and professor of Biology, was instrumental in narrowing down Krieger’s book idea when he first started out working on it 12 years ago. With Timmons advice, Krieger’s idea became more tangible and he could see where it was going to go. His second mentor, Kevin Patton, author and professor of Biology, advised him to get into an organization that could help him get published.
From there, Krieger took Patton’s advice and joined the organization called “Text and Academic Authors” (TAA). This was the right direction for Krieger because in the organization he learned the business end of publishing, networked with others authors in different fields, took workshops on improving his writing, and met auditors. He explained that not knowing the business end of writing an being an author will hurt writers looking to publish their works. When addressing the audience, Krieger advised the attendees to seek out professional business correspondence from lawyers because they should be certain that publishing companies and editors aren’t taking advantage of them and that they get their contracts as close to 50/50 as possible. “Always read the contract thoroughly,” Krieger said. “Don’t sign your life away.”
The great part of writing a series of books, according to Krieger, is that with each new book it’s a new negotiation opportunity to get paid more for your work that you didn’t get the first time around.
“When selling your idea to an editor, you have to put your best salesmanship on,” Krieger said. “It was very difficult.”
A Visual Anatomy Guide to Human Anatomy, his first book, took him roughly two-and-a-half years to write and illustrate. He explained that working on his book took a lot of time management and that it became easier when he broke the project up into smaller pieces. There’s no guarantee of success and only about 17 percent of first edition books make it to a second edition in academics. After a great deal of time and through numerous rejections, he found Morton Publishing, which published his first book and still publishes his entire Visual Anatomy Guide Series.
Today, his Visual Anatomy Guide Series is used in schools across the country.
Before the session came to a close, Krieger left the attendees with his final words of advice. “The learning never stops. When you’re working on your writing skills, know that those skills apply to a lot of things. It can help you for your careers down the road.”