The Bean Straw, discusses his book, his journey as a writer, and self-publishing on Kindle.
DAVID WISEHART: What can you tell us about The Bean Straw?
DAVID HAMMONS: The Bean Straw is a single-panel comic strip. It is reminiscent of Gary Larson’s The Far Side. The humor is surreal, quirky, and downright bizarre. I take the mundane and familiar and turn it on its head. Each panel twists the everyday event into the outrageous. I am not an artist by any stretch of the imagination, but the humor will stretch your imagination beyond its comfort zone. My cartoons explore the answers to fanciful questions: What if Dracula bit a bear? What would a cat prefer for a scratching post? How do slugs discipline their children? How can Jedi mind tricks best be used in an office meeting? What would dogs have in their reading library? What kind of music do cows listen to?
DAVID WISEHART: Whom do you imagine is your ideal reader?
DAVID HAMMONS: Anybody who loved The Far Side will have a deep appreciation for my book. Also, those who like the comedy of Steve Martin or Stephen Wright would really relate.
DAVID WISEHART: What was your journey as a writer?
DAVID HAMMONS: The foundation of my humor began the moment I was born. My entire family on both my mother and my father’s side have a very keen sense of humor. Later in life, I started writing The Bean Straw in response to comments from family and co-workers about my unusual sense of humor. Initially, I didn’t know how to channel my talent. I wanted to do something that would utilize my comedic sense, but I wasn’t sure how to express it. Since I was a fan of Gary Larson’s The Far Side, I decided to try cartooning. I have considered writing humorous novels, but that is just a thought for now.
DAVID WISEHART: What is your writing process?
DAVID HAMMONS: Generally, an idea for a cartoon can come to my mind at any moment. It may occur during conversations with friends or co-workers, walking around the mall, shopping at the grocery store, etc. The moment I have an idea, I will jot a note down on a post-it note, scrap of paper, or anything immediately available. When there hasn’t been anything to record the idea with, I have, on occasion, asked my family to remember a catch-phrase to help jog my memory when I get home. Once I’m in front of my computer, I enter the ideas into a spreadsheet. Here I describe the scene in the cartoon and possible captions and/or dialog. The idea may sit in the spreadsheet for months or years before actually being drawn.
DAVID WISEHART: What authors most inspire you?
DAVID HAMMONS: Among cartoonists there is Gary Larson (The Far Side), Scott Adams (Dilbert), Johnny Hart (BC, Wizard of ID), Brant Parker (Wizard of ID), and T.K. Ryan (Tumbleweeds). Honestly, I haven’t read too many humorous novels or shorts, but my favorite writers along those lines are Steve Martin (Cruel Shoes) and Patrick McManus (column for Outdoor Life Magazine).
DAVID WISEHART: What one book, written by someone else, do you wish you'd written yourself?
DAVID HAMMONS: Obviously, the answer to that question is The Far Side. I consider Gary Larson to be the master of what cartooning was meant to be. And yes, I wish I would have written that entire series. A close second is See Dick Run. It speaks to me in its simplicity—besides the fact that it would have taken about ten minutes to write. :)
DAVID WISEHART: How have you marketed and promoted your work?
DAVID HAMMONS: This is a tough question to answer, because I still feel like I am just floundering around in this area. Given my limited knowledge of marketing, I can only tell you what I have done so far. I have been active on web sites like Kindle Boards, Twitter, and blogs like this one to get the word out.
DAVID WISEHART: Why publish on Kindle?
DAVID HAMMONS: The primary reason I published on the Kindle is because of the relative ease in which it can be done. A printed version of The Bean Straw also exists, but the process of publishing the Kindle version was much easier. My particular experience may be unique given the plethora of images in the book. Even after all the textual editing was complete, I ran into a slow cycle of proofing and reformatting due to technological inconsistencies. This process took about three months before I thought it was presentable. It only took about a week and a half for the Kindle version. I could verify formatting issues almost immediately.
Also, the printed version of the book has a significant markup associated with it. To realize a nominal profit, I was forced to price the book much higher than I ever wanted it to be.
DAVID WISEHART: What advice would you give to a first-time author thinking of self-publishing on Kindle?
DAVID HAMMONS: Have a great editor. Fortunately for me, my editor is my wife. She majored in English and has worked for a newspaper. So, she is really good, but she sighs with grief every time I ask her to edit something—like when she reads this interview.
DAVID WISEHART: Thanks, and best of luck with your books.
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