Author, Sean Donavan, sits under tree with stack of published books

Q&A with Sean Donovan

By Tiffany Yancey // Photos by Kelsey Walters

Q: Where are you originally from and what brought you to Ormond Beach?

A:I was born and raised in Richmond, Virginia and I lived in Virginia Beach through my college years and most of my twenties. My daughter moved to Ormond Beach with her mom around 2003, and the first time I came to visit her, I fell in love with Volusia County (who doesn’t love palm trees?). My original plan was to buy a winter home here, but when the economy tanked in 2008, I decided to leave my roots and transplant to Ormond Beach permanently in 2009.

Q: What exactly does it mean to become an authorpreneur?

A: Authorpreneur is a term I coined to describe a successful, business-minded author; a combination of an author and an entrepreneur. I’ve identified three distinct jobs or phases of being a successful author. The first is the one that everyone thinks of and that is the creative phase, which entails getting the ideas out of your head and into a tangible medium. The next is the publishing phase which encompasses the editing, formatting, cover design and printing/production.

The final phase is the promotion, launch, marketing and sales. If you’re not good at all three phases, or don’t have experienced help where you are weak, you’re probably not going to be successful as an author. You can have the best story in your head, but if you can’t articulate it well, it means nothing. A great story packaged in a poorly edited book with a boring cover is not going to appeal to anyone; falling victim to the old adage – people do judge books by their covers. As an authorpreneur, I not only write, publish and market my own books, but I also help aspiring authors bring their books to life through my author coaching, ghostwriting, editing, formatting and publishing services.

Q: Do you have any formal training or life experiences that helped prepare you before you began?

A:One of my early claims to fame is that I won several spelling bees and a Young Authors contest back in elementary school. I was definitely a nerd! My friends were at the pool and I was home reading the dictionary.

I’ve always had a knack for writing. In fact, I have been known to write book reports on books I never read – and get As! I would simply “interview” classmates and friends on what they liked/didn’t like about the book; asking more and more questions of them until I had enough info to write an entire essay on the book.

This is the first time I’ve let that secret out! I believe that writing is a talent and a gift that some people are just born with.

Q: What inspired you to complete your first book, what was it called and how did it make you feel to hold the first printed copy in your hand?

A:I always knew I would write and publish a book, but life kept getting in the way. I had many inspirations along the way, it just took me a while to actually listen to them and follow my passion. I have a remarkable health and wellness mentor who coached me for years, giving dozens and dozens (if not hundreds) of hours of his valuable time to me. Whenever I offered to pay him for his services, he would tell me to simply pay it forward and share the information with others who could benefit.

Then I lost a close co-worker to cancer. Her demise, coupled with my mentor’s teachings and a couple hundred pages of my health-related notes, inspired me to write and publish my first book, “Health and Happiness: An Owner’s Manual for the Mind and Body.” The project was arduous, and I made every mistake in the book (literally), costing myself money and time in the process; however, the end result was so fulfilling that it made it all worthwhile.

I will never forget retrieving the first copy of my first book from the mailbox. My hands were trembling as I carefully opened the box. The smell of the fresh printing, the glossy shine of the cover, and the dream of holding my own book was finally a reality. That day, I ran all over town showing my book off to my friends. I will always cherish that experience.

Q: How many books have you written and personally published?

A:My first book was “Health and Happiness.” My second book is “The Trip,” which was inspired by a trip I took to Tahiti. I worked on that 199,000-word epic adventure novel for the better part of a decade. My next book, “Invest in Yourself: Six Strategies to Make This the Best Year of Your Life,” was written and published in just 10 days – start to finish!

I wrote a poem called “Fly Away” that has just been illustrated and will soon be released as a children’s book. I co-authored “The BookBook: A Recipe for Writing and Publishing Your Own Book” with my good friend and colleague, Dr. Kevin Snyder.

I will be launching a novella called “The Legend of Hoku” soon, and my goal is to finish my next novel, “Brilliance,” in mid-2019.

Q: Why did you decide to take a risk on yourself and start this business venture as an authorpreneur/author services provider?

A:As with many good ideas and business plans, this one came to me accidentally. Although I always dreamed of becoming a published author, I never envisioned doing it full-time, let alone helping others write and publish. The universe had other plans for me.

The more I promoted my own books, the more other people expressed interest in writing their own, questioning me about the process and asking for guidance. That’s how I got the idea to write “The BookBook” and transgress from health and wellness coaching to author coaching.

I love the fact that, unlike my former career as a realtor and contractor, this business is 100 percent mobile. I love to travel, and I love to work; now I don’t have to take time off from work to explore the world because I can work from anywhere, even a sailboat. Added bonuses are that I don’t have very much overhead and I don’t have to rely on employees. The best part of my business is that, after realizing that I can only experience the excitement of receiving the first copy of my first book once in a lifetime, now I get to relive the experience again with each and every one of my clients as they receive the first copies of their books.

My real why is that I love helping people bring their dreams to reality. I’ve worked with clients who have been working on their book and aspiring to be a published author for as long as 17 years. With a little guidance, I was able to help this particular client get his book across the finish line in just a few months.

I worked with a client whose native language was not English. She had a phenomenal story based on real-life events, plus a publisher in India who was ready to sign and promote her. She had tried for five years to write the story herself with the help of family, friends and an English teacher, but to no avail. She was an excellent verbal communicator and was able to relay her story to me quickly and efficiently. I did the ghostwriting of her 73,000-word, 300-page novel, from start to finish in 62 days. The book is selling well in India and it helped her launch a new chapter in her life.

Q: “Write your life” is such a great tag line for your company. How many people have you helped tell their story?

A: “Write Your Life” is a double entendre – or a phrase with dual meaning. I’ve always been driven to help people become the best version of themselves. My philosophy is that we’ve all got a story to tell – our lives are stories, and every day is a new chapter. But what most people don’t realize is that they have the opportunity to write the script for their life every day.

So, if you don’t absolutely love your life, write a different story – and start living it! I’ve helped 14 people write and publish their first books in just the last 12 months and I’ve collaborated on dozens more, in some capacity, over the last several years.

Q: How exactly does the process work? What services do you offer your clients and how much do they cost?

A: I’ve never worked on two identical projects or with two individuals who needed the exact same level of assistance. So, the first step for me is to do a needs assessment with my prospective client. This process entails me asking the right questions to determine their exact needs, and it reveals our ability to communicate with each other.

I also have them submit a sample of their writing, so I can meet them at their current skill level with the appropriate degree of coaching and editing. For those that want to physically write themselves, I will structure a coaching, editing, formatting and publishing package that addresses their needs and goals. For those who can’t seem to find the “write” words or the time, I offer ghostwriting services in which they relay their story to me verbally in a series of interview sessions. Then I do the writing for them, with their constant input and guidance.

As for my pricing, I wish there was a “one-size-fits-all” model, because I really spend a tremendous amount of time and effort on my proposals/estimates. The reality is that I customize every single proposal to fit my clients’ needs and, whenever possible, their budget. Some of my services are flat-fee based like my publishing package that includes book cover design, e-book conversion and print-on-demand publishing.

Editing rates are based on the word count with the price of editing ranging from $.03 to $.15 per word, depending on the author’s writing ability. Ghostwriting rates range from $.25 per word up to $1 per word, depending on the scope of the project, the topic, and the author’s ability to communicate with me.

 

Q: Entrepreneurs have to constantly grow and push themselves to stay on top of their game. What organizations are you involved with that really help you achieve this goal personally and professionally?

A: The 1 Million Cups (1MC) entrepreneurial group has been phenomenal for me; as an attendee, past presenter and now as an organizer. I’ve met so many talented, business-minded people there – including three lovely ladies from East Coast Current Magazine!

I’m also honored to have been selected by my fellow 1MC organizers to represent our chapter at the annual 1MC organizer summit that’s hosted by the Kaufman Foundation in Kansas City this October. I also gave my “Write Your Life” speech at Elevate Daytona Beach last January to over 500 attendees. Elevate is a semi-annual event, featuring 13 speakers, each giving a five-minute presentation with self-advancing PowerPoint slides behind them. It’s similar to Ted Talks, but with a different format.

I’m also a fan of life-long learning, therefore I’m thrilled to be an advocate for the Volusia’s Best program, which was founded by Ned Harper before he retired from the small business development center. This county-sponsored program leverages the resources of Daytona State College and local experts to bring high-quality training programs to Volusia-based businesses. Being a part of these groups keeps me well-networked and in touch with the community.

Q: Why should someone write a book?

A:It’s a fulfilling venture. The end result is you can share your knowledge and stories to help enrich the lives of others. Whether you want to pass on family history, or teach someone a skill that you’ve mastered, imagine how much information has been shared in this world through the written word. I’ve worked with a Vietnam veteran who was able to overcome his PTSD by unleashing his pent-up emotions through the cathartic act of writing.

I’m currently working on a book project with a gentleman who is blind. His mission is to help others cope with their problems by sharing his story and teaching them to appreciate the many blessings in life. Leave a legacy – write a book!

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