Our guest today is Joel Craig, author of the graphic memoir, Welcome to Nursing HELLo. Joel is a nurse who works at a busy hospital in Los Angeles and lives with his husband, Donovan. They have been married twice with the second time finally being legal. In addition to writing about nursing, Joel is also an actor, having appeared in the films, Sideshow and Sordid Lives. Currently he is acting in the web series, What’s My Intention? He’s working on his next graphic novel, Vampire Nurse in Hollywood.
Thank you for this interview, Joel. Can you tell us briefly about yourself and how long you’ve been writing?
I have been writing in a journal since I was seventeen and later I wrote plays and screenplays. It had never occurred to me to write about myself until I became a nurse. There wasn’t anything interesting about me. I never had any tragedy happen to me and then I became a nurse.
Can you tell us briefly what your book is about?
Welcome to Nursing HELLo, a Graphic Memoir is about my first four years as a nurse on a medical/surgical ward in which we would have a variety of patients such as fractures, cancer, gall bladder removals, appendectomies, etc. I tell. You know those mushy stories where some patient touched a nurse’s life and they were changed forever. Well my story is not that in any way. I tell my truth. Floor nurses who provide direct patient care get what I’m saying because they have had the same experiences. And I have some really funny stories too.
But I think people who are not nurses will like my book because it’s about what happens when an artist can’t make a living doing what he loves.. I am an actor and writer and I explore that in detail in the book. Maybe I should have called my book, An Actor’s Detour.
Why did you choose your particular genre?
I always wanted to draw but never thought I was any good but I still loved it. Then I read this graphic memoir by Miriam Engelberg called Cancer Made Me a Shallower Person. I loved her in depth writing with these really simplistic, not drawn very well, cartoons. But her drawings took me on a journey because the writing was so good. My drawings aren’t that good either but I get my point across and hopefully take the reader on my twisted, but not too twisted, journey.
What was your greatest challenge writing this book?
Encountering the stress at work and then going home and writing about it was my greatest challenge. So I threw in these imaginary conversations I had with the singer and actress, Madonna. That offset the overwhelming task at hand of writing about work. That was a way to make the whole process fun.
Are you published by a traditional house, small press or are you self-published?
Self published. I used CreateSpace. I uploaded a PDF of my work and JPGs of my front and back cover to them. They printed out how many books I wanted. Even if I only wanted one book they fulfilled the request. I did that quite a few times when I was proofing my book. In all, I only paid $35 for Expanded Distribution which allows them to release your book through other sellers and libraries. I’m still not quite sure how that works. I also paid $49 for a LCCN number plus whatever I spent on ordering proofs. I did not use any editing or book cover design services but they were available if I wanted them. And when I was done proofing my work, I submitted the final draft and in a day or so, it was available on Amazon for others to purchase.
Was it the right choice for you?
At this time yes. I had no one knocking on my door to publish me and I didn’t have the patience to shop it around to publishing houses. There is non-creative writing work involved in selling books. First, there’s the task of finding a publisher and then second, marketing. A lot of publishing houses want you to do your own publicity or so I’ve read. Self publishing let me cut out part of the work that takes away from writing another book. And that’s the exciting part. Not everything else.
How are you promoting your book thus far?
Facebook. Twitter. I’m trying to blog more on my website. I’ve gotten a few Amazon reviews from sending books to top Amazon Reviewers.
Also I have WTNH pens and I’ve designed some t-shirts that I wear and give away.
Also I’m getting bookstores in Los Angeles, where I live, to take my book on consignment. They just started selling my book at Skylight Books in Los Feliz next to Hollywood.
I’m also working on doing a thirty second or one minute video trailer for my book.
How is that going for you?
It’s slow. I don’t have a lot of Facebook and Twitter followers yet but I’m working on it. Just the other day I got a follower from doing a twitter search for: nurse writer. I sent a reply to one of their tweets and they followed me. From that I might get a book sale and hopefully more exposure.
Can you tell us one thing you have done that actually resulted in one or more sales?
I wish I had the magic bullet. Ask me in a few months. I’m hoping that by doing Dorothy’s blog tour through Pump Up Your Book I will get a little more visibility.
I thought about marketing my book as being banned by Nurse Eyesore (not the actual nurse’s name). She’s a nurse blogger I found on Twitter and sent her my book. She refused to review my work. She said my book had content that was “inappropriate for all ages” which is kind of silly but that’s her opinion. But she did say that she had some of the same nursing experiences verbatim so I guess I’m not crazy.
Do you have another job besides writing?
I make my living as a registered nurse. About three months ago I took an administrative nursing job away from bedside nursing which was the best decision I’ve made in my nursing career actually. It would be nice to make a living as a writer and at some point I will. I’d love to have my book turned into a Comedy Central cartoon series and do book tours.
If you could give one book promotion tip to new authors, what would that be?
Ask for what you want. Most people can’t read your mind. For example, if you want to sell your book in your local bookstore ask the contact person to carry your book on consignment. The worse anyone can say is no. And do promotional things that are fun for you so the task won’t be drudgery and you end up doing less promotion.
What’s next for you?
My next venture is going to be something in fiction, a graphic novel. I’m writing Vampire Nurse in Hollywood about this vampire nurse who is trying to be an actor.
Can you tell us where we can find you on the web?
Thanks for interviewing me.
www.facebook.com/joelacraig (Don’t forget to put the a between Joel and Craig)
Welcome to Nursing HELLo is available at Amazon.