Monday, June 24, 2013

Robert Yehling - HBS Author's Spotlight

Today our blog puts the Spotlight on Author, Editor and Poet Robert Yehling. Also, he teaches creative and spiritual writing and conducts workshops around the country.

Author Genre: Fiction, Non-fiction, Poetry

Author's Blog: Word Journeys
Blog: 366Writing
Twitter: @WordJourneys
Goodreads: Check Out Goodreads
Facebook: Check Out Facebook
Pinterest: Check Out Pinterest

Author Description:
During his 37-year professional writing career, which started when he was 16, Robert Yehling has written 10 books and ghostwritten seven others; his most recent titles are Backroad Melodies, his fifth collection of poetry and essays (2013: Tuscany Global), and The Champion’s Way (2012: SwymFit Publishing). He has also authored nearly 1,700 feature, profile and topical articles for 50 different magazine titles worldwide, while serving as editor of titles such as American Idol Magazine and Innovation & Technology Today, a new digital magazine. In 1994, he compiled and edited One Giant Leap for Mankind, NASA’s official publication to commemorate the 25 Apollo 11 lunar mission.

He has worked with world champions and Olympic gold medalists, Apollo astronauts and moonwalkers, Fortune 500 executives, entertainers, top filmmakers and television producers, musicians, artists, filmmakers, authors, poets, politicians, spiritual and social movement leaders, and more. Taken collectively, they have influenced most of American culture since 1960. Yehling is a three-time Sigma Delta Chi journalism award recipient and 2007 Independent Publishers Book Award winner.

Yehling writes and edits books in all genres. He is a hybrid author, combining contract published works with partnership publishing. He also teaches fiction and nonfiction, memoir, and promotional workshops at writer’s conferences throughout the country. He is a former college writing professor.

On the Internet, Yehling co-created and edited, which won two awards for content quality in the late 1990s. He also wrote a 250-page web exhibit, Poetry Through the Ages, presented by the Institute for Dynamic Educational Advancement. It examines poetry over the past 4,500 years. The site was featured on “Voice of America” and Poetry Magazine. (

Yehling’s new novel, Voice Lessons, will be published in Winter 2013-2014. He is under contract with Houghton Mifflin for Just Add Water, a biography of surfing great Clay Marzo and his life with Asperger’s Syndrome. He is also working on When We Were the Boys, with Stevie Salas, contemporary music advisor to the Smithsonian Institution and the former lead guitarist for Rod Stewart and Mick Jagger (solo tours).

SPOTLIGHT Questions and Answers with the Author

Congratulations. Your newest collection of poetry and essays, "Backroad Melodies," came out this week (see buy link below). Can you tell our readers something about the collection?

Sure! I used to live in a very rural setting, with Civil War-era marching roads and the like. Songs and melodies always came to me when driving, running or walking down those roads. I also saw the different nuances of life, of lifestyles and views, among the people there. So that’s how the title came about. It’s my first poetry and essay collection since 2008, and for the most part, celebrates the simple magnificence of life in places where nature dictates so many things. I’ve got poems set in the Sierra Nevada foothills, California gold rush country, the Ohio River Valley … backroads.

Now that you have Backroad Melodies out the door, what do you have on the drawing board next? Can you tell us the timeline for its release and give us a little tease?

I have a few projects. I’m compiling 60 of my more than 200 Word Journeys and 366Writing blogs, some about the craft of writing, others vignettes and stories. The Best of the Word Journeys Blog, Vol. 1 will be out in late July, published by Tuscany Global – which also published Backroad Melodies. I just sold a biography of surfing great Clay Marzo, who lives with Asperger’s Syndrome, to Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. That is due in Summer 2014.

And we’re shopping When We Were the Boys, a memoir I’m writing with Stevie Salas, the contemporary music advisor to the Smithsonian Institution. It’s all about Stevie’s meteoric rise from playing in a backyard party band in Carlsbad, Calif., where we grew up, to standing center stage as Rod Stewart’s lead guitarist – three years later.

Since you started before the social media buzz, what impact has social media relationships had on your current success? How much has it changed your book launch process?

Social media has transformed my book launch process. I turn into a social networking buzzsaw when launch time nears, posting on the sites, writing blogs and linking them to other sites, and posting excerpts on some of the more than 120 Facebook groups and 30 Linked In groups to which I belong.

I also use Goodreads and a lot. And I do the same for my clients. Social media is an intrinsic part of my business, both for updating and getting business. I find myself asking the same question I asked in the late 1980s, when FAX machines and personal computers became part of my daily life – how did I ever do it without social media?

You do a lot of book signing, interviews, speaking and personal appearances? When and where is the next place where your readers can see you? Where can they keep up with your personal contacts online?

I’m taking a well-deserved break in a couple of weeks, but will be back for live readings July 23 in Laguna Woods, Calif., and August 19 in Encinitas, Calif. There will be others; setting up the schedule now. I love readings; nothing enlivens a piece faster to the reader than hearing it live. You can keep up with me on or my Facebook group, Word Journeys – Resources for Writers.

Today there is a buzz in the industry about high rankings on retailer’s lists because of the use of on-line advertising sites. Have you ever promoted your books with paid advertising? What has been your experience?

I promote very selectively with online paid advertising – just to get the buzz going. I find it effective when used in conjunction with a promotion – “the 1000th, 1100th and 1200th autographed copies of Backroad Melodies.” As for on-line advertising sites skewing retailer rankings, I don’t like that at all. It’s not reflective of what is really hot. I liked the old way, where they polled bookstores nationwide, got their top sellers, and built the lists from there.

You have great covers. How does your book cover creation process work? Do you hand over the basic theme or do you have more of a hands-on approach? Do you get your readers involved in its development?

Thank you. I take great care with my covers. About ten years ago, a Random House editor told me, “The cover is 50% of the reader’s buying decision. At least.” My titles come to me quickly. For example, one of my collections, Coyotes in Broad Daylight, was exactly that – I was running past a small farm pond on a sunny, cold winter morning, and a coyote was stretched out in the grass. Backroad Melodies speaks to a frame of mind and a point of view. I believe in dynamic photos or graphic designs, and picking the right type font is essential. I work collaboratively with publishers to finalize the cover.

What kinds of writer support groups do you belong too? Do they help with the writing, marketing and the publishing process?

All of the groups I belong to are online, and yes, we help each other along. That’s not to say I don’t believe in critique groups; I do. I facilitate them at the Southern California Writers Conference twice a year, so I definitely believe in them. The key is to find writers at your ability or slightly above, and to engage in positive, constructive feedback. If someone starts ripping on your work, leave. You don’t need that toxic energy in your psyche when you’re doing something as difficult as writing a book. A good group helps immensely with the writing process; marketing and publishing fall more into the province of consultants, marketing experts and literary agents you may seek out.

Between your book writing, blogging, marketing, family and all the other things that can get in your way, how do you manage your time? Do you have a set schedule or do your sort of play it by ear?

Can we expand the daily clock to 30 hours? That would work! I always start early, by 6 a.m., so three hours elapse before the world gets busy. I usually work until 2 p.m., take a break to go to the beach or run (I’m a marathoner), then work for a couple more hours. I find nutrition, exercise, and fresh air are vital to remaining sharp and energized. In any given day, I’m writing new material, possibly ghostwriting, editing a book, social networking, perhaps preparing a workshop, and writing a blog, so I parse out the time. It’s a full load, but a labor of love – I love words and I love helping other authors.

Has the advent of ebooks changed anything in your writing, your marketing and the relationship with your readers and fans?

It’s definitely changed what is possible for publishing. I can now publish works in a few weeks that would have taken a year or more – if they were acquired in the first place. Ebooks are also great for spot promotions, to offer them at a very low price. That tends to drive sales up for the print version as well. However, they haven’t changed my writing at all – and there’s a point in this. Right now, the e-book world is saturated with terrible, terrible writing delivered by people with marketing savvy – taking advantage of the platform. This is a travesty. The e-book is a platform for delivering a book, but the book itself should be of highest quality, conveying your story or subject at the pinnacle of professionalism. Readers expect it, and deserve it.

What has been your experience in giving your books away free? Have you been involved in any other type of giveaways and how did that work out? What was your main goal in doing this? Did you run into any obstacles?

I give a lot of books away, to people who are in a position to “pay it forward” – book reviewers, other authors, related causes, conference directors, school teachers, and friends who are part of book clubs. I also do freebie promotions in my social networks. Word of mouth is the greatest form of advertising; one happy camper can lead to a lot of sales. Since I use Amazon as a platform for some of my work, I plummet the price of a particular Kindle book every month, just to drive sales and elevate my ranking on Amazon. That’s a big benefit to giveaways – getting the ranking up. It makes a big difference when people do online searches for, say, poems about the Sierra Nevada foothills – and up pops Backroad Melodies, because it moved up the search engine rankings due to the giveaway promotions.

You publish fiction, non-fiction and poetry. Does changing hats create any problems? Any tricks you can share with us? Which version do you enjoy writing the most? Does moving from one to the other give you some breathing room?

I love them all. I hate them all. Depends on what day you’re asking! (LOL) Seriously, I started writing professionally when I was 16, at a daily newspaper. Because I was a teen and I had talent, they moved me around the different sections, gave me different stories, expanded my scope. It was the best thing that ever happened, because I already knew I wanted to be a book writer. I started writing poetry in high school; I’d written short stories (some not so short) since age 8; and I spent 20 years as a newspaper and magazine journalist. All the bases were already covered. If I had to pick one, it would be fiction, though I’m most published in non-fiction and poetry. Moving from one to the other creates not only breathing room, but also the ability to always feel fresh and creative.

You have a great blog. You do a great job keeping readers informed, marketing your books and providing useful information to other writers. What is your primary goal? And where in the world do you find the time to create great novels, take care of the social media and maintain your blog?

I don’t think about the time, because every time I do, I get overwhelmed. It stops me in my tracks – sometimes for a painful week of writer’s block at a time. I just move forward to the next project, and the next. I’m a very fast writer as well. Back to the newspaper and magazine days: We had daily deadlines. We had to produce every day for years. That discipline stays with you. So I write every day, and I’m very, very good at deadline writing (though my fiancĂ©e doesn’t particularly like how amped up I get! But she’s also a writer, so she understands.)

As for my blog, I want people to feel the writing and reading experience, from an insider’s perspective. So I share the craft, the lifestyle, and lately, the lifestyles of other authors, through my interview series. I also do instructional pieces, since I’m a former college professor and still teach at writer’s conferences. Everyone wants good advice – and who better to give writing advice than those of us who work with words every day and, in my case, deal with editors, agents and publishers all the time?

I’m very blessed. Incredibly fortunate. I’ve worked with astronauts, Olympic gold medalists and world champions, politicians, the greatest filmmakers, musicians, artists, poets, top businessmen, the finest journalists … people who strive to be the best in the world at what they do. I’ve spent 37 years at it, and I will undoubtedly take my last breath while writing about something I love – or doing field research, like seeing how well you can bodysurf at age 85. That’s what I try to convey through my blog, and why it does very well readership wise for a writer-centric blog. Hopefully, that spirit of celebration comes out in The Best of Word Journeys Blogs, Vol. 1

Author's Book List
Backroad Melodies: New Poetry & Essays
In this new collection of more than 50 poems and essays, Robert Yehling (Shades of Green, The River-Fed Stone, The Champion’s Way) returns to a prime source of inspiration and fulfillment – the back roads. Blending challenge with adventure, and natural observation with awakening, he uncovers the textures, rhythms, loves, tears, laughs, and ever-renewing cycle of life off the beaten path – visiting a few cultural icons along the way. Backroad Melodies reminds us of those treasure-laden roads deep inside ourselves that we all too rarely explore. “With clarity of thought and mastery of word order, Robert Yehling alarms the conscience, stimulates the brain, tugs at the heart, and tickles the funny bone—all to excess.” —Charles Redner, poet, author, publisher of The Hummingbird Review “You're talkin' my language. And drivin' my landscape. The colors. The sky…” —Luis Alberto Urrea, American Book Award-winning author of The Hummingbird’s Daughter and The Devil’s Highway, finalist for the Pulitzer Prize.

Order the Book From: Amazon
Stroking The Media! - How To Work From Home
How would you like to be able to get more exposure to any product, service or band without having to spend a lot of money? What if you can get that massive exposure without having to spend ANY money at all? How about giving your online and offline reputation a boost? This book can not only teach you how to do that but so much more by leveraging the media. This is the guide to becoming newsworthy and getting FREE publicity you couldn't buy. Brian Wilkes goes shares many powerful strategies to give you an advantage over the competition. The key is becoming genuinely newsworthy so that the media regards you as a reliable source of information in your field, the “go-to guy” when they need a comment or analysis.

Order the Book From: Amazon
The Champion's Way
It's the first thing they think about every morning and the last thing before bed. Their days, weeks, months and years revolve around it. They are champions on their most difficult, rewarding path that separates them from all competition. Self-perfection burns in their hearts. They aim to be the very best, and to win. Always. In this practical and captivating guide to athletic excellence, former US Ski Team conditioning coach Dr. Steve Victorson and sports journalist/coach Robert Yehling show how the best competitors on the planet get there. Through over 60 interviews, anecdotes and stories, and drawing from Victorson’s doctoral dissertation, the authors demystify the champion's way through 11 specific qualities that all champions master. The Champion's Way offers a path for anyone in pursuit of excellence. Only the greatest get there - but the possibility lies within each of us. For athletes, sports fans and those inspired to achieve their very best in any pursuit, this book will show a path that many have discussed, but few have revealed.

Order the Book From: Amazon - Barnes and Noble - Smashwords
The Write Time
After ten years of development, The Write Time: 366 Exercises to Fulfill Your Writing Life is complete! These incisive, story-driven exercises offer working writers—professional, academic and aspiring alike—a chance to polish their specialties while experimenting with new expressions. Other features: • Motivational quotes after every exercise • Author birthdays • Space to jot notes or self-prompts • More than 120 featured websites for writers • Western, Celtic and Native American sun signs

Order the Book From: Amazon - Barnes and Noble
The River-Fed Stone
THE RIVER-FED STONE follows the current of a season that flowed through love, settlement, inner journeying, great celebration, new and renewed friends, adventures in diverse landscapes, soul reclamation, deep loss, and contemplation of new roads. In this collection of more than 70 poems and 10 essays, author Robert Yehling utilizes poetic forms old and new to convey the polishing process that life provides souls committed to growth, when they will allow themselves to absorb and feel each experience. He also celebrates poetry itself, the oldest form of literature-and, along with music, the language that connects the seen and unseen worlds.

Order the Book From: Amazon - Barnes and Noble
Coyotes in Broad Daylight
otes in Broad Daylight brings together the timeless themes of community, nature, love, humor and observation, plus current social issues, in a collection of new poems and essays. Author Robert Yehling explores a world without the many masks of fear and self-trickery that we wear for acceptance and survival, a world in which we reveal our deepest selves and separate from the tricks the world and others can play on us. This collection also features a few selections written in previously forgotten Ancient Greek poetry forms, as well as a series of new essays that will challenge and entertain you.

Order the Book From: Amazon - Barnes and Noble
Shades of Green
The layers of life and heart intermingle with observations of nature's rhythms and tides on four continents in Shades of Green, Robert Yehling's first printed collection of poetry and essays in 15 years. Spanning nearly a quarter century, Shades of Green presents more than 60 poems and essays that capture moments experienced in castles, the Italian Alps, Machu Picchu, the Himalaya mountains, a homeless man's cardboard hovel, an Apollo astronaut's house, Hopi mesas, a dying youth's ping-pong table, the eyes of two lovers, and more.

Order the Book From: Amazon - Barnes and Noble
Writes of Life One - Using Your Personal Experiences In Everything You Write
the crucible of human nature. Personal stories form the basis of most great literature-whether fiction, non-fiction, poetry, essays or biography. Let's allow the magical, mystical storyteller within us to spin our thousand and one tales with complete freedom and abandon, and use our own walk as the authentic foundation for our writing life.

Order the Book From: Amazon - Barnes and Noble
Author Recommended by: HBSystems Publications
Publisher of ebooks, writing industry blogger and the sponsor of the following blogs:
eBook Author’s Corner
Mystery Reader’s Circle

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