Every person with diabetes needs to be informed about current treatments and advances in the fight against diabetes. However, just 10 years ago there was little helpful information available. “It was monumentally depressing. There was little in the way of selection when it came to books on diabetes and what there was made it sound like you’d have to live the rest of your life like a lab rat,” says Barbara Toohey co-founder of The Sugar Free Center and co-owner with June Biermann of Prana Books.
Fortunately, in the past 10 years many small publishing houses and book sellers like Prana Books have made up for the lack of diabetes books available in bookstores. Toohey estimates that at least 15 new books on diabetes are published a year. And many publishing houses and authors are now presenting diabetes education in new and creative ways. DIABETES HEALTH talks to some of these authors and publishers who are making a difference in diabetes education.
Diabetes Publishers – “Choose your Grandparents Wisely”
Torrey Pines Press
When John Walsh, PA, CDE, and Ruth Roberts, MA, wrote their first book, Pumping Insulin, they were unhappy with the lack of control over the books marketing and the small profit they received. A friend suggested that they self-publish, so in 1994 they started their own publishing house and called it Torrey Pines Press. “It’s much better that we had no idea how much work was going to be involved. Otherwise we might have had second thoughts,” Roberts says in hindsight.
Still, their hard work has paid off for them, and they now sell more than 70 titles devoted to diabetes and have published four of their own books including Stop the Rollercoaster which is in its 3rd printing and Pumping Insulin which is in its 5th reprint.
“The wonderful thing is if someone buys your book, you get feedback directly through the sales you’ve made,” says Roberts.
The internet has also been good for business. When John Walsh constructed a web site about two years ago their business increased ten-fold. “We are always adding products to our web site. It was what Torrey Pines needed to get the word out,” says Roberts.
Susan Schwartz had been in the book industry for a decade when she decided to start her own publishing house. “I’m not the kind of person who works well for others,” she says. So, in 1982 she started up Surrey Books in an office borrowed from a friend.
Today, Surrey Books has 40 books in print and promotes about 12 to 15 books a year. On average she sells over 100,000 books a year. “Primarily we do cookbooks, but not entirely,” says Schwartz. One of their biggest sellers is Free & Equal, a cookbook about baking with the sugar substitute Equal. It has been in print since 1985 and has sold over 250,000 copies.
In 1984 the author of Free & Equal, Carole Kruppa, had the luck of finding Surrey Books by accident. “She got off the elevator on the wrong floor,” laughs Schwartz. When she mentioned that she had a whole collection of recipes using Equal, Schwartz took an interest. The author had called Equal to see if they wanted any part of the cookbook, but they declined even though they told her they’d had over 450,000 requests for recipes.
Schwartz decided to put out the cookbook herself and has had great success with it ever since. However, she is still adamant about the hard work and lack of profit that publishers often incur. “It’s good to choose your grandparents wisely,” laughs Schwartz. “It helps if they are rich.”
Chronimed Publishing currently represents 25 titles, half of which are books related to diabetes. Two of their hottest sellers are Diabetes 101 and Diabetes: A Guide to Living Well which have both sold 50,000 copies.
Unlike many larger houses, Chronimed Publishing in Chicago will accept manuscripts without an agent, explains director Cheryl Kimball.
Kimball notes that the author’s credentials are very important to Chronimed’s consideration of a medical work. Kimball also stresses that submitting authors have a clear vision of their book. “If they can’t tell you what it’s about in ten words or less, you’ve got trouble.”
Doing it Yourself
When Sheila Glazov’s son Joshua came down with diabetes at the age of 15, she wanted her son to view the disease as an opportunity to grow rather than an obstacle. Inspired to help him, she decided to write a book for children that would help them to deal with self-esteem issues and the challenges that a chronic illness like diabetes brings. She also wanted to donate part of the proceeds to diabetes research and education.
From June 1995 to April 1996, Glazov worked on her book titled Princess Shayna’s Invisible Visible Gift. Readers follow Princess Shayna through her journey, learning lessons about relationships, respect, self-esteem and responsibility.
“Writing a book is hard. You have to have a passion for it and stick to your vision,” says Glazov. When she first started the book she had a publisher, but they soon had a creative parting of ways over the direction the book was taking. Suddenly, she was without a publisher. Without a publisher and the book nearly finished, Glazov decided she’d self-publish her book instead. “I took 20,000 dollars of my own and printed 3,000 books,” she recalls.
Self-publishing was no piece of cake. Writing a book wouldn’t make much difference if no one saw the book. Glazov would have to figure out a way for her book to reach the public.
She created book signings and sent out invitations. She also called newspapers, television and radio stations to get the word out about her book. “You have to be a terrier, but do it graciously,” says Glazov. She also hired a publicist and created her own distribution house with an 800 number because the large distribution houses she had contacted dipped too far into the profits she wanted to give back to diabetes research.
After two years of hard work, Glazov has sold about 2,000 of her books across the country. “At times it’s been tough and people aren’t always kind or receptive, but on the whole it’s been a joyful and wonderful experience,” she says.
Don’t Give Up
For Gary Arsham, MD, and Ernest Lowe, the entire process of writing and publishing their book Diabetes: A Guide to Living Well took six years. According to Arsham, the most frustrating aspect of the whole experience was looking for a publisher. “We had to do a lot of leg work,” he recalls.
When both the agent and the book producer they’d hired couldn’t find someone to put out their book they decided to give it one more shot on their own before they self-published. “We didn’t know where we were going to find the money but we were determined to get our book out anyway,” says Arsham.
Arsham and co-author Lowe took the book to an American Association of Diabetes Educators meeting where Chronimed had a booth set up. “They were the last booth we took it to,” says Arsham. “We thought they only published their own books. We were surprised, to say the least, when they took our book.”
The book is now in its third edition and the rest is history.
Tips for Success
Susan Schwartz recommends that anyone interested in getting published should study the industry first. “Find out specifically what a publishing house publishes before you submit a manuscript,” she says. She also recommends a book called How to Get Happily Published for anyone who is interested in learning more about the industry.
If he could do it again, Arsham would have gone straight to the ADA or to Chronimed publishing with his book. “I know now that they are the major players when it comes to diabetes publishing,” he says.
Also, sending a query letter explaining the book helps. “Tell me about the book and if it sounds good I might take a second look,” says Schwartz. She also suggests using an agent because agents know the industry and have contacts at many of the publishing houses. However, with smaller publishing houses there is a greater chance of getting a book accepted without an agent.
Chronimed requires that authors submit a proposal, a cover letter, a sample chapter (if possible) and their credentials. “One of the great things about smaller publishing houses is that authors have more chance of being interactive with their cover art and the way the book will be presented,” says Kimball.
Sheila Glazov suggests tenacity and self-honesty as her tips to success. “Ask yourself honestly, first of all, if there is a book inside of you,” advises Sheila Glazov, “then make the time to write or you will lose passion for it.” She also suggests that writers have a good support network such as a writers’ group to keep them on the right track.
Despite the lack of profit and long hours of work, those involved in writing and publishing have no regrets. Author and publisher, Ruth Roberts sums it up best, “It’s one of those rare jobs where you can truly affect the quality of someone’s life and learn a lot in the process.”
The following publishers have put out books about diabetes:
IDC Publishing (612) 993-3874 www.idcpublishing.com
Chronimed Publishing (800) 848-2793 www. chronimed.com
Torrey Pines Press (619) 497-0900 www.diabetesnet.com
Prana Books (800) 735-7726
Juvenile Diabetes Foundation (JDF) Publishing (800) 533-1868 www.jdfcure.com/
American Diabetes Association (ADA) Publishing (800) 232-6733 www.diabetes.org/publications/
Surrey Books (800) 326-4430 www. surreybooks.com
Johns Hopkins University Press (800) 537-5487 www.press.jhu.edu
American Association of Diabetes Educators (AADE) Book Publishing (312) 654-1710 www.aadenet.org (books for educators only)