Spotlight 32: Andrew Einspruch
Mark Dawson: I’m Mark Dawson from the Self-Publishing Show and this is Self-Publishing Spotlight where we shine a light on the indie authors who are changing the world of publishing one book at a time.
Tom Ashford: Hello. Welcome to the Self-Publishing Spotlight. We meet indie authors are all stages of their careers and ask them a series of five questions. Five questions about their process, their mistakes, and their successes. Five answers that will help you level up your own author career.
My name is Tom Ashford and I’m part of the Self-Publishing Formula. Don’t forget that you can get your Self-Publishing Resource Kit at selfpublishingformula.com/starterkit.
This week’s guest is Andrew Einspruch. He’s written about 120 books in the education and young adults genres and he lives in Australia.
Andrew Einspruch: Thank you so much for having me. It’s great to be here.
Tom Ashford: So first of all, let’s address the 120 books part. That is a obviously a mammoth amount of titles in your back catalog.
Would you like to go into how that’s come about?
Andrew Einspruch: Sure. I sold my first book in 1994, it was a book called Dunkin’ Dazza’s Soaring Slammer and it was a basketball story written for reluctant readers. And in 1996 it actually came out. So that gives you a sense of the time delays at the time.
Over the years I’ve written a lot of texts for the education market, both fiction and mainly nonfiction about everything from how the rides work at amusement parks to how the Australian government works, which is a bit of a mystery and everything in between.
I think I had my last trad published education book out in 2017. Since then I’ve been focusing on humorous young adult fiction with my series of the Western Lands and All That Really Matters. And that’s where my heart lies and what I’m trying to put the focus on now.
Tom Ashford: Nice. And it’s also worth pointing out that as you live in Australia at the time of recording, it’s going through a bit of trouble at the moment with the fires.
Andrew Einspruch: That’s for sure. I have a charity called the Deep Peace Trust. And through that charity we run what’s Australia’s largest farm animal sanctuary. We take care of about 500 large animals here.
And at the end of November, we were one of the first fire affected properties. We lost all of our bush land, probably about 20% of the property burned. We lost some holding yards and about four and a half kilometers worth of fencing.
The good news is that the humans were okay, the animals were okay. So that’s all good. The infrastructure was mainly okay. Sheds and houses and stuff.
But it’s been a hard time. I count myself very much among the fortunate because we didn’t have more of a problem than we did have. But it’s been really hard here in my part of the world for sure. Thousands of homes lost. Lives lost. It’s been really hard and there’s a lot of trauma out there. It’s going to take a while for that to play itself out.
Tom Ashford: I read somewhere that it’s estimated over a billion animals lost or something so far.
Andrew Einspruch: The number I saw was half a billion, which makes sense if you’ve lost million square kilometers and you have 100 animals per square kilometer, be easy to get into the half billion range. Whether it’s more than that now, it could well be that kind of estimate.
The size of the burn areas are just staggering. The last time I checked the burn area was the size of West Virginia or something like that, and there’s only been more that’s burned since then. It’s just growing and growing.
We’ve been in drought for about, I don’t know, three, three and a half, four years, and so when the fires came through just everything was so dry that it was really hard to keep it contained.
Tom Ashford: It’s terrible. Hopefully it gets better. I don’t know what the solution is, but hopefully it gets better.
Andrew Einspruch: For sure. Well, yeah, the solution is to pay attention to the science.
Tom Ashford: Yes, there is that.
Andrew Einspruch: There are solutions that are out there. We just have to have the will as a human species to take care of it.
Tom Ashford: Okay. Well, let’s dive into the five questions.
The first one is, why do you write?
Andrew Einspruch: I’ve always liked this question because it makes you think about the motivations behind what you do.
I’ve always loved words and I was always an avid reader. And I also have a background in improvised comedy.
When my wife and I met in the late 80s, I was doing improv comedy and she was doing standup and so it was a match made in heaven, if you will. And so words have always been part of what I do, and had this long stretch of doing these children’s books.
I’ve also done a lot of technical style writing, but somewhere along the line there was this thing inside me that said, you’ve got to write these other stories, so why don’t you start doing that?
Somewhere around 2015 I started trying to do that a little bit more seriously. I find that it helps keep me grounded and that creative expression is an important part of being in the world. And I think that applies to everyone, whether they create with a welder, or a paintbrush, or with keyboard like we all do.
Tom Ashford: Was there a particular story that you wanted to tell given that you went into education? Was there a particular topic or reason behind that?
Andrew Einspruch: The way it happened for me was I used to teach a lot of creative writing courses and because I taught a number of them, I had standard exercises that I would do and one of the exercises was write for two minutes as fast as you can with a sentence that I would give the class.
I have these sentences that I would use over and over and one of them was, “Please, please, marry my son.” Because it was more interesting to me to do the classes than just sit there and watch everyone else, I would sit there and write as fast I could just with everyone else.
In one of these classes, I wrote the words, please marry my son, said the chipmunk to the maiden. I was like, that’s interesting. And that stuck with me.
Over the years I started, I just held onto this idea of why would this chipmunk be trying to convince a young woman to marry her son?
Eventually I started figuring out what that story was. And the first words of my first book in the series, the first book is The Purple Haze in the The Western Lands and All That Really Matters series, please, please marry my son, said the chipmunk to the maiden. It survived all these years.
Tom Ashford: That’s awesome.
Andrew Einspruch: And so it was just that point of curiosity that made me wonder, well what is this?
The world is a world with weak magic and the interaction of humans and animals is as equals and they can all speak to each other. The main character is a princess named Princess Eloise and her champion is this chipmunk. And the way she gets out of marrying the chipmunk’s son is by making him her champion. And the story goes from there.
Tom Ashford: Nice. Is that one a self published book?
Andrew Einspruch: Yes, absolutely. I’ve self-published all of the humorous young adult fantasy.
Tom Ashford: Cool. What led you to go to self publishing rather than the traditional publishing background that you had?
Andrew Einspruch: We self-published my wife’s book, Secret Animal Business, in 2008, so we’d had a taste of it before. But when I first started writing this story, I didn’t know how long it was going to be. I didn’t know really know where it was going to go. And I always thought, well, I’ll go find a publisher because that’s what you did.
And then at some point I came across, I think it was December of 2016, I came across SPF and SPF 101, and it was like there’s another way that could work better than what we did before. And it started me thinking, all the mindset pieces that I needed to have to take write in a series and you can self publish it and you can make a bit more money, but you’ve got to take charge of it.
I started putting all those things in my head and I just figured there’s no way with the kind of thing that I’m writing that a publisher’s going to take it on and do a better job than me, so I may as well do it myself. And that’s how I went.
Tom Ashford: So do you tend to, now that you’ve switched to young adult, do you tend to plot the stories out beforehand or as you said, come up with an idea and then just run with it?
Question number two is how do you write?
Andrew Einspruch: I think of myself as a loose plotter. I tried to pants this book and I got about 15,000 words into it and totally ground to a halt.
At some point I said to myself, you’ve got to know where you’re going. So I had a sense of where the story started and where it was going to end. I didn’t know at that time it was going to take me three books to get there. I thought, this’ll be a little 35,000 word book. No. A little bit longer than that.
But what helped me get out of the rut was saying, okay for me to get from here to here, I need to go through this dozen set of things. I also had to learn, it was one of those things that I had, because I’d written really short, really tight books, where the education texts would be, you have to have 123 words on this page, and it’s got to use these three verbs, and it’s got to have a reading level of 3.2.
So it was super structured and it took me a while to figure out that if you want your hero, or your heroine in my case, to get from here to over there, you got to write from here over there. So doing that loose plotting helped me get over that hump and I’m still using that approach today.
I also tend to think of the stories in script writing terms with the three act structure and turning point here and a midpoint there and a turning point there. And what’s the central dramatic question that gets asked across the movie. But what’s the question that gets asked in this act, because I studied script writing, so that’s a good framework for me.
If I can know those pieces then those can help me make sure that I’m writing in the correct direction and I can discover the rest of the story as I go.
Tom Ashford: What software do you use? Scrivener, or Word, or things like that?
Andrew Einspruch: I’m a Scrivener devotee. I love Scrivener. I use it every day. And not only do I use it on the desktop, but I use it on my phone, and I use it in my iPad, and I take advantage of Scrivener’s ability to sync between the different platforms.
You have to be a bit careful when you’re syncing so that it’s a little bit more manual than you might want, it’s not as fluid as maybe a Google docs might be working with other people.
I spend a lot of my time out loading hay into a vehicle and then taking it out to an animal and it happens a lot where I’ll think, that’s the next thing. So I’ll get out my phone and use Scrivener on the phone to type in that next little bit, or the next paragraph, or the next few sentences, and then sync that back to the desktop, so when I get back, it’s already there. I’m a big fan of that.
I also like ProWritingAid as an intermediary step between me and my editor. I try to give my editor as clean a manuscript as possible, figuring that if she gets a clean manuscript, she’ll go through it faster, it may not cost me quite as much.
When I’m finished and I’ve done all my passes, I do a ProWritingAid pass to try to get rid of what I call the stupids. The curly quote that isn’t right. Or the ellipsis that is three dots instead of an ellipsis. Finding my verbal ticks, like I write a bit a lot. So try to find those things.
That’s one of the tools I use. And of course I’m also Vellum user. Vellum, as everyone who comes on your show who uses Vellum says, it’s astounding and thank goodness for the people who create Vellum because they’ve done a good service to our community for sure.
Tom Ashford: Definitely.
Is there a particular time and place that you prefer writing?
Andrew Einspruch: I do my best to write first thing in the morning, get up early and do my writing first. But I really do have to be an opportunistic writer. If I’ve got five minutes while I’m waiting for my wife to join me so we can go check an animal together, I’ll do my best to write a few sentences. I find that that works for me. Just do it when I can.
Tom Ashford: Question number three is are you a full time author? If you are, how did you get there, and if you aren’t, what steps are you taking to make it happen? But I suppose in your situation it’s also, do you want to be?
Andrew Einspruch: So the short answer to that is yes, I’d love to be. I’m definitely a full time writer. The day job is as a technical writer. It’s possible that my business processes and my software manuals are super riveting. I don’t think that’s the case for anybody. But I’m definitely not a full time author yet.
And what I’m doing to try and get there is mastering the marketing side of things. It’s taken me a while to get to the point where I’m ready to take that on and I’m just now trying to wrap my head around the Amazon ads and BookBub ads and all that and go through the ask for authors material and try to apply it. I’ve dabbled with this stuff before, but 2020 is the year of taking it seriously and doing my best to make it work for us.
Tom Ashford: Question number four is what mistakes do you think you’ve made and what have you got right?
Andrew Einspruch: I think the biggest mistake I made was not starting sooner and even after I started not taking it seriously enough sooner.
For too long, it was this vague idea that I had in my head that I should write that someday, or as once I finally got to it, it’s actually there’s something here. You should have done that a few years ago. I’d consider that a mistake.
And there’s also possibly a mistake that I haven’t really dug into the marketing side of it as much yet because there’s been the cost of time going by.
In terms of successes, for someone who’s at what I consider myself at the early stages of this part of my career, just getting it done I think is a success. We all know how hard it is just to finish the thing and get it edited and get it right and get it out there.
It’s important to celebrate those successes. Just having a good product on the market that people are enjoying is plenty. I think that’s probably the best success that I’ve had so far.
Tom Ashford: Question number five, it’s what’s your final piece of advice for authors starting out in indie publishing?
Andrew Einspruch: I’ve got a couple there. One of the things I always say to myself, and I encourage if anyone ever asks, I say it is, just write the next sentence. The best thing you can do is write the next sentence. Maybe you haven’t figured out the whole thing, or maybe you’re a little bit stuck, but if you could just write that next sentence, you’re that one step closer.
As a corollary to that, like the idea that math is your friend. I’m not a 10,000 word a day author. I just don’t write that fast at the moment. If you can write 685 words a day, you’re going to write 250,000 words in a year. Even if you just write 350 words a day, that’s 128,000 words a year. That’s a decent size fantasy novel or three shorter romances. You can do a lot with that.
So developing that habit of consistency and even taking small steps often can really add up over time, which is what they’ve done for me.
And I guess the last thing that I often think about is I just like to be aware of what it is that I’m putting out into the world. I once heard a story about Sting, the musician, and he said that he wrote this song, Every Breath You Take, as a lark sitting in his front parlor, and they recorded it and they put it out into the world. And this song about obsession and stalking and this horrible sentiment about possession, became this worldwide massive hit.
And he went, oh. A few years later, as a deliberate antidote to that song, he wrote, recorded, promoted, pushed, and got out into the world the song, If You Love Someone, Set Them Free, as a direct response to this earlier thing that he had done.
One of the things that I try to be aware of is what is it that I’m putting out to the world because I never want to have to put out something that’s an anecdote to something I did earlier. That would be a bit of advice. Just be a bit aware of that kind of thing.
Tom Ashford: Well those are your five questions. Thank you very much for coming on and for coming on an at odd time because obviously the London to Australia time zone differences are quite brutal.
Andrew Einspruch: It’s a bit tricky for sure. But thank you so much for having me. It’s been great to be with you.
Tom Ashford: That’s it for this week. Self-publishing spotlight.
Don’t forget that you can get your free self-publishing resource kit at selfpublishingformula.com/starterkit and if you want to appear as a guest on this show, send us brief details about yourself and your writing at selfpublishingformula.com/spotlight-guest.
I’m Tom Ashford and I’ll see you again next week.
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