Book Publishing Secrets: A Conversation with Mac Fallows

We’re talking to authors from all walks of life about their experiences in publishing their book.  Some have smooth paths, some rocky, but they all share a common goal – to see their name on the cover of their creation.  It’s interesting to read what path they decided to take to get there and my guest today is here to tell everyone what he/she did in order to make it all happen so that other writers will learn a little something from the experience.

Today we are talking to Mac Fallows, author of the musical fantasy novel, Wondertown.

Reclusive writer and composer Mac Fallows first began pitching the idea of a musical book for teens and adults to music and book publishers in the late eighties. But without the technology to support his vision, he didn’t get far.

So instead, he set out to travel the world in search of new challenges . . . and stories. He went on to write and produce over 100 songs in a dozen languages in places including Dakar, Mumbai, Prague, and Santiago for singers including Youssou N’dour, Shankar Mahadevan, Pape and Cheikh, and Kavita Krishnamoorthy.

Along the way he lived with taxi drivers and their families, camped in farmers’ fields, butchered bulls, sold tea, raised chickens, translated travel contracts, worked as a session musician, a construction worker, a teacher, and toured the biggest festivals in Europe as a member of one of Africa’s most celebrated bands.​

Wondertown is the first true musical story he’s published. It includes a full-length fantasy novel, 12 related songs and 17 illustrations.

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Thank you for your time in answering our questions, Mac. Let’s begin by having you explain to us why you decided to write a book?

For the past twenty-five years or so, I’ve been wrestling with the idea of combining a fantasy novel with a collection of related songs sung by the characters themselves. The concept was formally rejected over a thousand times during that time period, but I couldn’t let it go. Finally, when the iPad arrived, I decided to give it a try myself. Wondertown is the result.

Is this your first book?

The first one I’ve published, yes. I’ve published about 100 songs, however.

Can you tell us a little about your publishing journey?

I wrote an earlier version of Wondertown in the eighties and tried to generate interest in the concept, to no avail. Eventually, I packed up my things and spent a decade traveling the developing world, thinking that I could make something happen easier with less red tape to work through. I made my living writing and producing music for local artists and occasionally playing in bands- it was an amazing experience. All these years later, the traditional publishing industry still feels the same way about musical stories, however, and I ended up publishing a musical story myself.

What lessons do you feel you learned about the publishing industry?

That they’re under extreme pressure right now, and as such, that they’re going to really struggle to get out in front of a new concept. They’re cost cutting and looking for anything that’s already proven. They need to minimize risk right now. Traditional media of all kinds is under the same pressure. What’s more, musical stories have a tough business model for traditional publishers with potential upfront costs around recording and songwriting. In the end, it’s likely going to be the artists themselves who grow the musical story genre. I just can’t see traditional publishers ever venturing down that road.

If you had the chance to change something regarding how you got published, what would you change?

More groundswell through non-traditional means. Building a community around the product, no matter how small, is clearly the way to start things these days.

Did you credit any person or organization with helping you get published?

I have a business partner who is very tenacious.

What’s the best advice you can give to aspiring authors?

Don’t undervalue the entertainment factor. People need to enjoy the experience. And don’t ask the audience to work more than they’re used to working to be rewarded, if you can help it. It’s a significant barrier to success.

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