John (Jack) Lugar is an associate professor of cinema and media arts. He holds a J.D. from Indiana University, and has been a writer and producer on numerous television sitcoms. In 2016, he joined AU’s Department of Communication and Design Arts as full-time faculty. He and his wife, Beth, run a successful real estate agency in their free time.
You wrote and published a book this summer. Tell me a little bit about that process.
Actually, I wrote the book mostly during November and December of 2018. I put the finishing touches on it and officially released it in June. That book was a young adult novel, a new thing for me, because I’ve been doing some children’s middle-grade books, which is first through third and fourth grade, somewhere in there. This is much more geared towards high schoolers, maybe college-age readers, although some of the predominant readers of young adult novels are actually adults. I took November and December to write, then I spent the next three months editing, rereading and sending it off to some people who would be my proofreaders. They kind of helped me make sure the story made sense and then had a cover design. Then, I independently published.
What helped you make your decision to switch to a different genre and a new group of readers?
Mainly, I’m exploring where the reader market is for independently published books. Most of us are familiar with a traditional publishing model, where you write a book or you write part of a book and you query a publisher or find an agent who will query the publisher for you. They publish your book and they basically take control from there. They pick the cover, they may connect you to a copy editor, but they take control of the final process and then they’ll say, “OK, every two years we’ll put out a book that you write, and if it doesn’t sell, then we’ll probably drop you from our publishing label and you can go find somebody else.”
My goal in writing is to eliminate, or go around, that process and instead independently publish where I have control. I own everything, and so I own it whether succeeds or fails. So I wrote the middle-grade books, the “Katz Pajamas” series, as really an exploration of writing kids’ books and if there is a market for them. What I learned through writing those books is that they’re shorter, so you can write them a little faster. The personal expense was a little higher, because I had to hire not only a cover designer, but also someone to draw some interior art, so some designs of characters for each chapter and so on. We then published them as an e-book and as a paperback book.
Did you find that the younger market was harder to sell to?
The challenges that most first through third graders have is that they are not particularly e-book readers. They still read mostly print books in paperback or hardbacks. What I found was that the easiest way and the best way to sell those books was to set up speaking events in schools. I would go into a school and when I would come in to speak, if students wanted to purchase a copy of the book, they could. That was the best way to sell those books as paperback copies. I wanted to explore the market in a different area.
A very popular thing in independent publishing is that you write right to the audience. In a sense, who is the audience that is reading a lot? Well there are a lot of fantasy readers, there are a lot of romance readers, there are a mystery readers, so I picked the young adult fantasy genre to see what that might entail when writing a series. So don’t just write a one-off book, because what happens is that most of these readers love to use that “Netflix model,” and will go from one book right into the next, so doing a series gets them to read all those books in the series. And so what happens from a marketing and selling standpoint is, hopefully, you get maybe 80% of the readers to jump into the second one, then the third one and so on.
Tell me a little more about about your most recent book, the first in the series, I believe.
It’s about a teenage orphan girl who, after bouncing around from foster home to foster home, ends up at an elite private school. While she was there, she discovered her connection to Norse mythology, or what we think is mythology, being the Norse gods of Thor and Odin, the nine Realms of Asgard and so forth, that we know so well thanks to the Marvel characters, which have very loose connection to Norse mythology, by the way. Through her connection, she is actually put in a spot where she confronts Hel, who is the daughter of Loki and oversees the realm of Niflheim, which is essentially a hell-type place, and she has to basically conquer hell and keep Hel in Niflheim before she takes over Midgard, or Earth.
Why did you decide to go in the direction of mythology?
Well, the great thing about mythology is that it’s a myth. You can really do whatever you want with it. The sky’s the limit on changing things around. I went with Norse mythology as opposed to Greek or Roman mythology, because it’s not as familiar. Even as I was exploring it, I was learning myself. It’s nice because you don’t have to rely on some of the things that have already been tread upon. I think the Norse mythology is less known. but it’s cool because you’re playing with Vikings a little bit, and some other things so it’s really cool.
This book is called, “Sessi and the Gate to Hel.” It’s the person, not the place. The second one will be called, “Sessi and the Race to Oden,” then the third one will be something like, “Sessi and the Path to Thor.” You’re playing with these well-known names, but they’re all going to have similar covers and go off of the same story, obviously.
Covers are very important. They say you can’t judge a book by it’s cover, but yes you can. If you see this book on Amazon or something, the thing that will draw you in is the cover, so that’s very important to me in this process.