Category Archives: Publishing Process

Suggestions for New Writers- A Twelve Step Program

The Fredericksburg Writers Group recently asked me to speak on publishing my book, Carrying The Black Bag, and to provide thoughts for new writers trying to become authors. I was pleased to do so and thought I might share these same thoughts to my readers.Carrying the Black Bag book

My book took me five years to write (on and off) and confronted many difficulties and rejections. Some suggestions on dealing with this process are as follows:

1. BE passionate about your story. In my case, my stories demanded to be told. I felt my patients  entrusted me with their stories, and I was brimming to share my patients’ humanity and courage.

2. LEARN to write for a popular audience. This may seem simplistic but it is not. I found it challenging to break away from scientific and medical writing. Texas Tech University in Fredericksburg offered popular writing courses that proved  very helpful. I developed the courage to begin using similes, metaphors, alliteration etc., something as rare in medical writings as finding the Lochness monster.

3. REWRITE, Rewrite, and Rewrite some more. I had at least a dozen edits that I thought were wonderful, until I reread them. Your finished product (or at least what you think is your finished product!) must be your best to stand a chance of being published.

This young reader gave me a great morale boost by reading my book between surgical cases

This young reader gave me a great morale boost when I saw this picture of her reading my book between surgical cases

4. JOIN a critique group. Critiquing others and having them critique your work are extremely helpful for improving your writing. It may seem a little threatening, but you’ll get over it. Once trust has been established you will end up sharing what you may never have shared with your spouse or even with your dog.

5. IDENTIFY beta readers for your best version. These are a few folks well versed in literature and grammar and can provide a good editorial review.

6. FIND an agent. The best way to do this, in my opinion, is by going to Literary Conferences. Many conferences have agents and publishers present and interested in the subject material of the conference.  It’s a great way to practice your pitch, gain feedback, and make helpful contacts.
In my case I landed two prospective agents at a medical writer’s conference. I selected Don Fehr at Trident Literary Group in New York City. It is the largest such group in the U.S.A. and has substantial expertise and reach.

7. From my agent I learned that for nonfiction, publishers did not buy books, they bought book proposals! This was news to me.
Many books exist on how to write a book proposal. My agent stressed the proposal be at least 65 pages long and be extremely well written. This was quite a task.

8. The agent then sends the proposal (in the case of a nonfiction work) or the entire fiction manuscript  to a number of potential publishers. Then you wait, wait, and wait some more for the reviewers to respond. Ugh!

9. Once a publisher says it is interested, the publishing house (in my case Texas Tech University Press) will assign an editor. I can only hope you find someone as good as Joanna Conrad at TTUP. She was delightful and made the book better.
Following the review process by your press (mine being an academic institution, the manuscript had to be approved by, of course, various committees!) The next step is copy editing. I had a contract copy editor who proved extremely helpful. It’s humbling to learn that errors still exist in your much pored over manuscript.
Expect your publishing house to change your title. It’s inevitable. Also it will assign an artist to develop the cover, but hopefully it should ask you for your opinion. Also you will be asked to supply the “information about the author” and various blurbs for your book.
The whole process of publishing may take one to three years before your book reaches the bookshelves. This considerable delay is a frequent surprise for most new authors.

10. HIRE a publicist. Unfortunately even the largest publishing houses these days have limited marketing budgets. While this seems strange given that marketing sells books, but it is a truism. Authors are being asked to do more and more to market their books. As an aside, my barber even keeps a supply of my books in her shop. Customers ask about them and she has sold a number of my books. Be Creative!
Actually I have enjoyed marketing my book. It has been a heck of a lot easier than writing it. I began by forming a “street team” of people that liked my writing. These wonderful folks became “Tom’s Wranglers” and were invaluable in spreading the word, writing initial reviews, identifying book events where I might present, and providing much needed encouragement.

Two of my Wranglers- Betty and Cecil Selness

Madeline Douglas and La Nelle Etheridge, two more of my wonderful Wranglers

Now back to publicists– these are invaluable. A cost is involved but you really didn’t think you were going to get rich on your book, did you? The publicist can arrange for reviews of the book and may put your book up for awards.

11. Speaking of awards, nothing builds the confidence of a struggling writer as much as public recognition. In my case I won a third prize early on in a writing contest.  Woo Hoo! This provided a surprising amount of confidence.
I next won The Creative Expression Award from the American Academy of Neurology. Now this award, given by my peers, made me feel like a real author. You likely too have some outlet through your vocation to provide an outlet for your work and an possible award. It is worth a try.

In my case the agent and I went through some thirty publishers before finding one that wished to take on the task of putting my book into print without having to do a major rewrite. Authors best have thick skins as this process can be painful. There is simply no way to sugarcoat this– rejection hurts.

12. Once published my book won an award for best debut author and became a finalist for the Montaigne medal. These awards proved reassuring for me as a writer. How much they contribute to sales is highly questionable, but undeniably recognition provides a stimulus for the author to keep writing. Again, these awards were the result of the knowledge and expertise of my publicist, Maryglenn McCombs.

 

So there you have it. Becoming an author is arduous. It is nine tenths perseverance. One author I heard speak recently said success publishing depended on three things: 1) talent, 2) determination, and 3) luck. I agree that a degree of talent, a lot of perseverance, and finally a little luck are all needed to move from being a writer to becoming a published author. I wish all of you good luck in this process.

Best New Debut Author for 2017

Recently received the very good news that my book, Carrying The Black Bag: A Neurologist’s Bedside Tales, won a national book award for 2017 from The Feathered Quill. This is a really big deal!

Will you please share this good news? The marketing/publicity from a regional publisher is limited and your help in networking my book would be much appreciated. Below is the news release for this award.

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact:                Maryglenn McCombs (615) 297-9875 maryglenn@maryglenn.com

 

TEXAS DOCTOR WINS NATIONAL AWARD FOR MEMOIR:

Carrying the Black Bag by Tom Hutton, M.D. among honorees in literary awards competition

 

LUBBOCK, Texas – Texas doctor Tom Hutton, M.D.’s memoir, Carrying the Black Bag: A Neurologist’s Bedside Tales has been named among the winners in the Feathered Quill Literary Awards.

 

Sponsored by Feathered Quill, a leading web-based book review, the Feathered Quill Literary Awards is a national awards program that celebrates excellence in publishing. Recognizing books from both large and independent presses, the Feathered Quill Literary Awards honors the best books in numerous categories.

 

Carrying the Black Bag: A Neurologist’s Bedside Tales, a memoir of Hutton’s career in medicine, was awarded the Bronze medal in the “Best Debut Author” category. Published by Texas Tech University Press, Carrying the Black Bag is available in hardcover edition (6 x 9, 257 pages; photographs; ISBN: 978-0-89672-954-4)

 

According to Ellen Feld, Editor at Feathered Quill “We were overwhelmed by both the number and extraordinary quality of entries for this year’s awards program. In particular, The Best Debut Author category was filled with worthy entries: consequently, it was difficult for our judges to pick among the many excellent contenders. Tom Hutton, M.D.’s memoir, Carrying the Black Bag was a real standout: compelling, well-written, and an incredibly beautiful and hopeful testament to the human spirit. It is our great honor to recognize Dr. Hutton among this year’s Best Debut Authors. We can only hope he has more books in the works.”

 

During his thirty-plus years of practicing in West Texas and Minnesota, physician and neurologist Tom Hutton discovered that a doctor’s best teachers are often his patients. From these (extra)ordinary individuals, Hutton gained a whole-hearted respect for the resourcefulness, courage, and resilience of the human spirit. Hutton’s patients—and the valuable lessons they taught—served as the inspiration for Carrying the Black Bag. Part memoir and part tribute to the patients who faced major illness with grace, grit, and dignity, Carrying the Black Bag invites readers to experience what it is like to be a doctor’s hands, eyes, and heart. Imagine the joy of witnessing a critically ill five-year-old who, against all odds, claws her way back from a coma and near certain death. Meet a lonely Texas widower with Parkinson’s disease who hosts elaborate pinochle parties for a pack of imaginary canines. Step into the surgical booties of the author when he attempts to deliver his own child amid heart-stopping obstetrical complications—during a paralyzing Minnesota blizzard. Through real-life patient narratives, Hutton shines light on ordinary people facing extraordinary challenges. Moreover, this captivating tale captures the drama of medicine—its mystery, pathos, heroism, sacrifice, and humor.

 

Tom Hutton, M. D., is an internationally-recognized clinical and research neurologist and educator. The past president of the Texas Neurological Society, Dr. Hutton served as professor and vice chairman of the Department of Medical and Surgical Neurology at the Texas Tech School of Medicine. He now lives on his cattle ranch near Fredericksburg, Texas. Visit Tom Hutton online at: https://jthomashutton.wordpress.com/

 

Members of the news media wishing to request additional information about Tom Hutton, M.D. or Carrying the Black Bag are kindly asked to contact Maryglenn McCombs by phone: (615) 297-9875 or email: maryglenn@maryglenn.com

###

 

Appearance on Alternative Talk Radio

What fun I had as a guest on KKNW 1150 AM, alternative talk radio for the hour long program “Sunny In Seattle“. Sunny Joy McMillan hosts this wonderful program and asked insightful and probing questions about my book, Carrying The Black Bag: A Neurologist’s Bedside Tales.  We also had well-informed callers who  provided thoughtful observations and questions.

Any opportunity to discuss my book and writing method is always welcome, but particularly when it is carried out with the joy and intelligence shown by Sunny. Below is a MP3 link to the interview on “Sunny in Seattle” should you wish to listen to the full program

I wish everyone a marvelous Thanksgiving. It is good to stop and ponder that which we are grateful among which I am grateful for you, the readers of my blog.

TV/Film Rights to Carrying The Black Bag

15998415Felt emotionally uplifted when I recently received an inquiry from L.A. area for the TV/Film rights for my  book, Carrying The Black Bag: A Neurologist’s Bedside Tales. The inquiry asked who to contact and I responded with the contact information for my agent, Don Fehr, at Trident Media in New York City.

Suspect many inquiries are made and few books are acquired. Nevertheless, it’s wonderful to be sounded out. This would give a boost to the book and extend the stories into a new medium. Here’s hoping!

Continue to give talks on my book and have several scheduled over the next month. Have particularly enjoyed the interaction with various book clubs, but also the various women’s clubs and service clubs have been great fun. These are enjoyable experiences, as I always enjoy telling the stories within the book. Trudy has been a great help in this regard.

Remain open to additional invitations to speak. Am willing to travel. Trudy keeps the calendar of events and can be contacted at trudy_hutton@yahoo.com.

Lubbock Book Tour This Week-Carrying The Black Bag

21122377Looking forward to several book related events this week in Lubbock. Thursday morning I’ll tape a thirty minute program for Dr. Tom McGovern”s radio program that will play on the Texas Tech University NPR station. Dr. McGovern is a fine Ethicist and a wonderful human being whom I always enjoy being around and learn from.

Then on Thursday evening at 7 pm I will be presenting at the Texas Tech University Library on my book, Carrying The Black Bag: A Neurologist’s Bedside Tales. The event is open to the public.

Friday evening my good friends Judy Wilkins and La Nelle Etheridge are having a “Celebration and Conversation” event where I will speak about my book to their invited guests. This is such a generous invitation and one I’m greatly looking forward to.

Then on Saturday morning I will again share stories from my book at the Lubbock Roundtable at 11:00 at the Hillcrest Country Club.

I feel fortunate to have been asked to give numerous book talks since Carrying The Black Bag came out three months ago. These are all fun events. I particularly enjoy gaining feedback from folks whose lives have been impacted meaningfully by my book and from learning their stories. Let me know if you would wish to schedule me for a book talk and Trudy and I will try to make it happen.

If you are in Lubbock this week, hope to see you at the TTU Library Thursday night or as Charles Osgood says, “I’ll see you on the radio.”

Midwest Book Review of Carrying The Black Bag

15998415

My book, Carrying The Black Bag: A Neurologist’s Bedside Tales recently received this wonderful review in Midwest Book Review. I am gratified to share it with you:

From March 2016 issue of Midwest Book Review…www.midwestbookreview.com

MBR Bookwatch: March 2016
James A. Cox, Editor-in-Chief
Midwest Book Review
278 Orchard Drive, Oregon, WI 53575

Dunford’s Bookshelf

Carrying the Black Bag
Thom Hutton, M.D.
Texas Tech University Press
PO Box 41037, Lubbock, TX 79409-1037
http://www.ttupress.org
9780896729544, $27.95, HC, 240pp, http://www.amazon.com

Synopsis: During his thirty-plus years of practicing in West Texas and Minnesota, physician and neurologist Tom Hutton discovered that a doctor’s best teachers are often his patients. From these (extra)ordinary individuals, he gained a whole-hearted respect for the resourcefulness, courage, and resilience of the human spirit. Part memoir and part homage to those patients who faced major illness with grace, grit, and dignity, “Carrying the Black Bag: A Neurologist’s Bedside Tales” invites readers to experience what it is like to be a doctor’s hands, eyes, and heart. Imagine the joy of witnessing a critically ill five-year-old who, against all odds, claws her way back from a coma and near certain death. Meet a lonely Texas widower with Parkinson’s disease who hosts elaborate pinochle parties for a pack of imaginary canines. Step into the surgical booties of the author when he attempts to deliver his own child amid heart-stopping obstetrical complications. Through real-life patient narratives, Dr. Hutton shines light on ordinary people facing extraordinary challenges. Moreover, this captivating tale captures the drama of medicine, including its mystery, pathos, heroism, sacrifice, and humor. For more than just those working in the healthcare profession, “Carrying the Black Bag” also shares a behind-the-curtain peek at the rapidly changing American health care system.

Critique: Impressive, exceptional, absorbing, informative, thoughtful, and entertaining, “Carrying the Black Bag: A Neurologist’s Bedside Tales” is a compelling and rewarding read from beginning to end. “Carrying the Black Bag” is very highly recommended for both community and academic library collections, as well as to the attention of non-specialist general readers with an interest in the ‘real world’ experiences of a dedicated physician.

Michael Dunford
Reviewer

Blog Tour and Recent Presentations

My wonderful publicist, Maryglenn McCombs, recently arranged a 10-Texas Blog Tour. This has brought about increased information and excitement for my book, Carrying The Black Bag. One blog asked me to answer a series of questions. Since I have found these to be frequently asked questions, I wanted to share this now with my blog readers (see below).

Also have enjoyed recently speaking at the Hondo Rotary Club and the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute in the Texas Hill Country. These were a lot of fun and met many nice folks. i continue to be extremely gratified by the overwhelmingly positive response to my book including reviews by the Manhatten Book Review, The Chicago Sun Times, and the Austin American Statesman among others. I welcome opportunities to share these stories with other organizations. Just let Trudy or me know if you would like for me to speak to your groups and we will see if we can schedule an event.

 

Blog Tour Questions

  1. What made you want to share your story and write this book?

One reviewer described Carrying The Black Bag as part memoir and part love story between a doctor and his patients. While unusual, this statement is largely true. The wonderful patients described in my book have by now passed on, making me the last person standing who can share their poignant, humorous, and courageous stories.

The sobering impact of life altering illnesses crystalizes what is most important in our lives, deepens commitment to spouses and families, increases reflection on spiritual lives, or even, in rare instances, as described in the book, leads to revealing hallucinations due to loneliness and illness.

Family caregivers are usually irrevocably changed by intense caregiving and might just discover unknown depths of resolve and determination.

Such insights allow intriguing insights into the human condition.

 

  1. What do you want people to take away from reading this book?

First, I want them to experience a good read. Without reading enjoyment few would continue turning the pages. Secondly, I hope these stories will help others deal with current or future medical problems with greater insight and confidence and be inspired by the patients described.

I also hope readers will develop greater understanding of the importance of good doctor-patient-family communication and how this benefits patient care. The reader should as well enjoy and experience “a behind the curtain peek” at the medical profession.

 

  1. What is the most important thing you have to do as an author of nonfiction vs. fiction?

Nonfiction must have authenticity as well as be engaging. Whereas fiction can be spun from whole cloth, nonfiction must strive for accuracy, develop context within our life experience, and inform to a much greater extent.

 

  1. Did you find writing about your life as a physician a difficult or therapeutic process?

Reliving the excitement of a fulfilling medical career was a wonderful experience. Admittedly dredging up the intense challenges, the anxieties of a newly minted physician, and recalling the overwhelming fatigue proved emotionally difficult but overall proved therapeutic and satisfying.

 

  1. Now that you are retired, what do you say was the most challenging part of your profession?

Doctors along with their families must sacrifice in order for the doctor to be available for patient needs. Illnesses and injuries ignore social calendars. For example, my formally dressed wife on several occasions spent her evenings sitting in a busy emergency room amid feverish people, inebriates, and the injured waiting for her sidetracked husband to finish up. Trudy fortunately was able to accept my demanding schedule. Many doctors were not so fortunate and suffered high divorce rates.

I don’t know if my children realized the effort required to be present for their events, to enjoy a regular family dinner, and make sure family vacations came about. On the other hand, I know I missed events important to them while attending my patients who had first claim on my time. This proved painful for me. Managing these medical versus personal challenges proved the most difficult part of my professional life.

 

  1. What do you say was the most rewarding part of your profession?

Without a doubt, the most rewarding aspect of my medical career was the unique relationship that develops between a doctor and patient. The doctor/patient relationship is like no other in that trust has to exist. Few other relationships involve this degree of intimacy and sharing of personal information. Open communication also becomes vital in order to provide the best of care. The trust and appreciation shown by my patients proved incredibly rewarding.

Practicing neurology also proved extremely satisfying. Neurological diagnosis requires careful history taking and examination. This teasing out of clues is paramount to making a correct diagnosis. In a way in this day of enhanced medical imaging and laboratory evaluations neurology is an anachronism. Due to the amount of medical instruments required for the examination, its practitioners may appear old fashioned as they still carry black medical bags.

 

  1. What do you think is the biggest challenge facing medical care now and in the future?

The inherent conflict between the need to combat rapidly escalating medical costs and the ongoing desire of people for individualized medical care presents the greatest challenge to medicine today. Drastic limitations on time spent with each patient driven by third party reimbursements, increased record keeping requirements, and cookbook medicine detract from patient-specific needs.

I hope the art of medicine and careful communication between doctor and patient will not be compromised in a headlong pursuit of cost saving nor will the art of medicine give way entirely to technological advancements such as in imaging and laboratory evaluation.

The sharing of electronic medical records has potential for great benefit. A less attractive aspect is the growing diminished face-to-face communication among members of the medical team. Such institutions as the “midnight meal” for interns and residents may become a thing of the past. Nevertheless newer means of exchanging and gaining further information than from chart reviews and fostering collegiality will be needed.

 

  1. Any other projects planned for the writing world of Tom Hutton MD?

At least two projects interest me. First I would like to write a sequel to Carrying The Black Bag, perhaps titled Retiring The Black Bag. With the tremendous number of baby boomers retiring each year, a continuation interests me including my own personal challenge taking off the stethoscope and becoming, what my wife refers to as a real person. Further I wish to share the unusual/incredible role an amazing Border collie named Bandit had in effecting this challenging transition. Moreover the colorful people involved in this important phase in my life would provide interesting reading and relatable events. It might prove helpful to others anticipating and hopefully planning for their own retirements.

Secondly, I am interested in writing an expanded version of the account of Adolf Hitler and his medical problems. In addition to his neurological disorder, Hitler had serious heart disease and a litany of other medical complaints and disorders. The horrendous impact that der Führer had on the twentieth century continues to fascinate and too little attention has been paid to the impact his poor health had on his decision-making.