Thursday, November 10, 2005

Shedding some light on Into the Unknown
Hans Kraus has a story worth telling. A medical pioneer and a legendary rock climber, Kraus also was one of the first to sound the alarm about America’s slide into an unhealthy, sedentary lifestyle. But when professional journalist Susan Schwartz approached traditional publishers, they refused to get out of their chairs.

Schwartz brought her book, Into the Unknown, to iUniverse and now Kraus’ story is available to all.

How did you first become aware of Hans Kraus' story and what inspired you to write the book?
The book grew out of a magazine interview I did in 1994 for the leading climbing magazine, Rock+Ice. I used to write regularly for the climbing/outdoor magazines, and this particular one asked me to write a series of articles on leading climbers, one of whom was Hans Kraus. When I met Hans, then 89, I was so impressed and left feeling that there was a remarkable story that couldn’t be captured in a standard 3,000 word magazine feature. And indeed there was.

What type of research did you do for the book? How long did it take to do the research?
The research was extremely complex and involved, requiring lots of different kinds — historical into the Nazi era, medical into back pain and surgery, the Kennedy years, as well as sports history. One of the many challenges was figuring out how to go about such diverse types of research. Occasionally I would find myself go off on tangents, because the research was so fascinating, then ending up with considerable amounts of material that I would later cut.

Did you shop the book to traditional publishers and agents before coming to iUniverse? What kind of experience was that?
I did, and even though I had an established reputation in the climbing/adventure world, I got the same response again and again. . . You write like a dream, write a great proposal, but you’re a first time book author, writing about someone who is dead and is no longer famous, so the experience with these kinds of biographies don’t make best sellers, which is what everyone is looking for. Understandably too, given that publishing has always been a tough industry, but more so than ever. People forget that it was always tough to get your first book out in print. There’s a long list of famous authors who ended up self publishing their first book, such as Emily Bronte and Beatrice Potter.

You've got some great blurbs for your book? How did you go about obtaining them?
Thanks so much. Lots of perseverance. The most famous ones were literally cold — that is, not family or friends. There were people I tried to get blurbs from, but they didn’t respond. Others, such as Katharine Hepburn (obviously when she was alive!) and Mike Wallace, were extremely gracious. I was quite gratified by the power of writing a thoughtful, direct and sincere letter.

How did you determine that iUniverse was the right place for your book?
I researched the range of smaller publishing companies and looked at the pros and cons of going with them, and weighed that alongside self publishing and the options that presented. And for me, I decided that iUniverse was the best place for my book. No regrets at all. I’m very grateful to the opportunities that iUniverse opened up for my book.

What kind of experience did you have with iUniverse, the editorial evaluation in particular?
It’s been a great experience. Everything was laid out, very professional, very clear. Of course, I say I particularly loved the editorial evaluation — it was extremely extremely positive!

What is your impression of the end product?
I get loads of compliments on the book, the quality of the writing, but also on the appearance.

It looks like your doing some neat stuff with your book signings (a slide show, etc). Can you describe what all your book signing entails? How have those been going for you?
The book signings and slideshows are so much fun — I love them. As an author today, with iUniverse or a small or even large publishing house, you carry responsibility for much of your marketing and need to take the initiative. I realized that you have to treat the promotion/pr/marketing as a necessary part of being an author. I joke that depending on how you look at it, now that the actual writing is finished, I either promoted or demoted myself from author to SVP of Distribution and Marketing for the book! That included putting together an appealing package for promoting the book. I spent literally weeks putting together several different slideshows to promote the book, including buying a MAC rather than using my old PC, as I had researched that the slideshow capability on an Apple was better. And it’s really paying off. I’m getting wonderful responses to my slideshows . .. And when I give them, I get wonderful responses to the book. And wonderful sales.

What's your next writing project?
I have a couple of exciting ideas in mind . .. But first, I’m, going to concentrate on getting the world out there about my current book, Into the Unknown!

Visit Susan's website at