My friend Andreas Ramos wrote a book entitled How to Write a Book.
Andreas interviewed a handful of authors, each of us with the same questions.
Here is my interview:
The Author Speaks: Susan Levitt
Susan Levitt is the author of five books published in eight languages including the best sellers Taoist Astrology (Destiny Books, 1997) and The Complete Tarot Kit (U.S. Games Systems Inc., 2012). Susan is a professional astrologer, tarot reader, and feng shui consultant in the San Francisco Bay Area. She’s been featured on CNN, was voted Best Astrologer by SF Weekly in San Francisco, and was interviewed on the television program Chicagoing. She holds a B.F.A. from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago.
Why Do You Write?
I write because I have ideas and I have a lot to say! I have a strong point of view. I write about what interests me. Writing has always been my path. I could read when I was three. My older sister learned to read at five, I watched over her shoulder and picked it up immediately. My childhood existed in Victorian England and feudal Russia. I loved Lewis Carroll, Dickens, and Tolstoy. I became very interested in languages, applied myself at school, and skipped three grades. I supported myself as an English tutor and writer of college papers during two undergrad degrees and grad school. I kept learning how to write better by reading great authors.
How Has Writing Affected Your Life and Career?
I started studying astrology when I was eleven. When I was 17, I had my first tarot card reading. I developed an interest in metaphysics and started writing about it. Writing has affected my career by giving me professional credibility. “She wrote 5 books!” seems to put people at ease about my credentials.
Do You Prefer Self Publishing or Traditional?
Traditional. Let them do the distribution! But self publishing can work too, especially for books on a specialized topic. Just be aware about self-publishing operations are actually vanity presses. Yes, you have a book, but they’ll publish anything if you pay them.
How Did You Find and Choose Your Publisher?
I wrote reviews of spiritual books that I liked. A publisher of spiritual books, Inner Traditions, sent me their catalog because I was on their radar from reviewing a couple of their titles. I liked their list so I sent them some notes that I had about Chinese astrology. I’d been working on the notes thinking the material could be used in Chinese medicine schools in the west. And I had some Chinese astrology notes that I gave to clients who came to me for astrology readings. I sent my notes to Inner Traditions on Monday, and in the mail on Friday was a book contract. I added more text and they they published my first book Taoist Astrology, which was the first Four Pillars book in English. Taoist Astrology was so successful they asked me to write Taoist Feng Shui and Teen Feng Shui. Inner Traditions attends the yearly Foreign Rights book fest in Hamburg, Germany. They sold the foreign rights to all three of my books that are now published in eight languages.
Something similar happened when I was published by U.S. Games Systems, Inc. I was teaching tarot classes and made copies of info to hand out to students. I was hassled at a Kinko’s about intellectual copyright when copying tarot cards. So I sent my class notes to the publishing house that owns almost all tarot imagery and tarot decks. I just wanted to find out how I could copy the cards, but they sent me a book contract. Together we designed The Complete Tarot Kit. It was an international best seller. My tarot book Introduction To Tarot that was part of the kit was published separately a year later.
Did You Start with Traditional or Self-Publishing?
I’m grateful my five books were with reputable publishers who are respected in their fields. But today I self publish my writings in social media and blogs.
What’s Your Experience with Self Publishing?
So far with self publishing, it’s all been good. For material that I publish online, I’m glad it’s still free to post. I like the convenience of going to my web site and changing text at any time. I also appreciate that I receive monthly payments from internet astrology sites where I provide articles, such as OnlineChineseAstrology.com and Astrology.com. I email my text and they post it.
What’s Your Experience with Traditional Publishing?
I really didn’t have bad experiences with traditional publishers. But I they were slow, and not early adopters of new technology. Some publishers still take orders by fax.
Do You Have an Agent?
I don’t need an agent, and the handful of agents that I’ve met didn’t seem insightful or well read. If publishers want to publish my books, they deal with me directly.
Did a Lawyer Review Your Contract?
I read my contract thoroughly and didn’t require legal counsel.
What’s the Best Way to Promote Your Book?
The publishing houses did that for me. But a very old-fashioned marketing tool, word of mouth, really worked. My books have a cult following.
What Would You Have Done Differently?