In today’s author interview, James Zender, Ph.D. shares his journey to write, publish and launch a health book, from early influences and the inspiration for his book to several steps along the way: his participation in Harvard Medical School’s CME publishing course, working on the book proposal, and his current exciting pre-launch activities. Dr. Zender is the author of Recovering From Your Car Accident: The Complete Guide to Reclaiming Your Life (publisher Rowman & Littlefield). He is a fully licensed psychologist with a full-time private practice in Michigan.
Early Influences to Write, Publish and Launch a Health Book
Kristin Meekhof: Let’s start by sharing a little about yourself and why you chose to be a psychologist.
Dr. James Zender: My decision to become a psychologist came early after experiencing the effects of depression and PTSD in my family. It struck me in my sadness that there should be help available to those suffering in families, and in my case no one was there. I needed to understand what caused such suffering and wanted to find ways to stop it.
Kristin Meekhof: Your new book, Recovering From Your Car Accident begins with a powerful story about your mother. Is this why you wrote the book?
Dr. James Zender: In the prologue I write about an accident my mother had when she was only four years old. One Fourth of July, she and her sisters were lighting firecrackers. Somehow, her dress caught on fire. She suffered severe burn injuries and nearly died. It took a year to recover physically. However, the psychological impact lasted a lifetime with mood disorders and PTSD symptoms. Many years, she experienced severe anniversary reactions on the Fourth of July. There were rage episodes and isolation.
As a child, I did not understand what was happening during these episodes. I was frightened, confused and saddened. As fate would have it, my birthday coincided with the Fourth, which added another dimension to my confusion and sadness.
Kristin Meekhof: This sounds like your mother suffered from post traumatic stress.
Dr. Zender: Ultimately, when the diagnosis of PTSD emerged in the early 1980’s I felt a lot of relief that the legacy of my mother’s trauma could be better understood. Up until then, the mental health community was limited by an outdated paradigm for understanding many manifestations of mental illness.
The Inspiration to Write, Publish and Launch a Health Book Tweet This
In addition, I want to add that my other reason for writing Recovering From Your Car Accident is to document what I witnessed with my patients over the past 15 years or so in my auto accident trauma specialization practice. I see many commonalities which I call “Vehicular Trauma Syndrome.” The common symptoms include elements of traumatic brain injury, depression, PTSD, difficulty coping with pain, ongoing medical procedures and fatigue. There are often vision and hearing difficulties.
As much as possible, I wanted to lay out a roadmap for recovery for survivors of serious car accidents. I also wanted to better inform insurance and legal professionals to humanize how survivors are treated. Finally, I hope my book has an impact on public policies with respect to prevention. 90 percent of accidents are due to human factors and behaviors that can be changed. So there is much that can be done in the way of prevention.
Writing about the Mind-Body Connection
Kristin Meekhof: In Recovering From Your Car Accident you mention alternative healing modalities. Can you speak a little about the connection between mind and body when it comes to healing?
Dr. Zender: Yes, in Recovering From Your Car Accident I write about healing from a mind-body perspective. I emphasize the importance of keeping a hopeful and positive mind-set. Typically, the recovery process takes months and, not infrequently, years.
It’s important to keep an open mind and try things outside the box. Healing is not a one size fits all. We know from neuroplasticity, epigenetics and psychoneurouimnunology how thoughts impact the fear response and related neuro chemicals. Also, we know the importance of diet, exercise, meditation and group support on supporting the body’s amazing ability to heal and human resilience.
The Audience for the Book
Kristin Meekhof: Who did you write the book for? Who is the audience or market for Recovering From Your Car Accident?
Dr. Zender: Firstly, I wrote Recovering From Your Car Accident for people recovering from severe auto injuries and their families. Secondly, I wrote it for all health care providers who provide treatment and care. Thirdly, I wrote it for insurance and legal professionals, to enhance their sensitivity to stressors accident survivors and their family members cope with. Fourthly, I addressed emergency responders’ stress, coping with the life and death issues they encounter on a daily basis. And finally, I wrote for government policy makers who make decisions that impact treatment and prevention.
Gathering Stories to Share in a Health Book
Kristin Meekhof: In listening to one of your interviews, I learned you spent years gathering conversations from patients (you changed their names in the book) to share in your book.
Can you describe this process?
Dr. Zender: In the beginning, I conducted in-depth interviews with accident survivors, emergency responders and insurance professionals. For the first four years I collected interviews, read, took continuing education classes and networked on all the issues related to the topics of the book. While my family was away for several months on an extended vacation last summer, I pulled everything together for the final draft. My best writing was in the early morning hours ranging from 2 am to 6 am.
Then I assembled an excellent team of coaches, editors, a literary agent, consultants and Rowman and Littlefield, my publisher. It soon became clear that it required a village. Fortunately, I found the right village to nurture the book into existence.
The Editing and Book Proposal Writing Process for a Health Book Tweet This
Kristin Meekhof: Can you tell me a little about your editing and book proposal writing process?
Dr. Zender: I found an editor in California who worked during the night. We sent drafts back and forth throughout the night, so it felt less isolating. There were many editors working with me on the book proposal drafts. My writing coach, Lisa Tener, was fantastic in providing guidance, support and edits of the book proposal. Lisa stuck with me through the entire writing and publishing process.
Also, Lisa introduced me to my accountability partner, Gayle Myers, MD. Dr. Myers provided a great early endorsement for my book, which was helpful for the book proposal. She was a great source of support and I hope I have helped her as well.
I do not believe I would have completed the project without Lisa’s support. There is a lot of anxiety in the writing process and with all the professionals involved in the publishing business.
Kristin Meekhof: I know you met Lisa and your agent, Linda Konner, at Harvard Medical School’s CME publishing course. You later went on to become a speaker as guest faculty. What else came out of that course? What were the key takeaways for you?
Dr. James Zender: I learned a lot about using social media and the publishing business. It is a very rich course that covers proposal writing and the entire publishing business. Plus, there are many networking opportunities that I took advantage of.
On Launching and Promoting a Health Book
Kristin Meekhof: What surprised you about the publishing process and business?
Dr. James Zender: When I spoke with author JJ Virgin, a four times New York Times best-selling author and fitness icon whom Lisa Tener suggested, JJ told me writing the books is the easy part; it is the promotion that is difficult.
It Takes a Village
Now that my book is completed, I am starting to understand what JJ meant. Fortunately, Lisa introduced me to a superstar book launch consultant, you, Kristin Meekhof! You are making a lot of big magic happen that I otherwise would not have accomplished.
Prior to my book even being released, you added me as a panelist at the global “Organic Spa” Wellness Experience Summit. You also secured an interview with CBS Sports radio, an interview with ABC Detroit Metro News (5 PM slot) and Dr. Deepak Chopra shared one of my Tweets. There was a fun collaboration with a small business that won a FedEx award, and the brilliant neuroscientist Ariel Garten interviewed me for her podcast, Untangle which has 4 million listeners.
Kristin Meekhof: Gosh, thank you for this mention. I’m wondering, how are you managing to balance everything with your career and launching a health book?
Dr. Zender: With running a busy clinical practice, there is not enough time and energy left to manage everything. Luckily, I have an excellent executive assistant who carries a lot of the load administratively. And again, I have a wonderful team of professionals working to make the book a success.
A Celebrity Foreword Writer and Other Tips to Attract a Publisher
Lisa Tener and my agent, Linda Konner, encouraged me to get a celebrity to write the foreword to my book. Through Twitter, I connected with Angela Molineux, a wonderful singer and songwriter who is a car accident survivor. Angela wrote a fantastic foreword to Recovering From Your Car Accident. She also assisted in many other ways. She helped carry the final editing of the book across the finish line and was a constant source of emotional support with the anxieties related to the creative process.
Growing a Platform
Kristin Meekhof: What are the things you did to grow your platform and make your proposal compelling to your agent and publishers?
Dr. Zender: Well, I attempted to implement all the strategies I learned at the Harvard Writer’s course, which I attended for five consecutive years. Then I accepted speaking invitations and hired a social media consultant. She developed my Twitter and Instagram. Also, I wrote an op-ed that the Detroit News published. And I wrote a series on brain injuries and PTSD for a newsletter. I then began blogging for Psychology Today. That got a lot of traction and connected me with some very important people in the field who are now supporting my work, as I support theirs.
Tips on Writing a Book Proposal
Dr. Zender: Try to look at some other successful proposals and follow their format. And think outside the box regarding the potential scope of the project and how it might connect to other authors in your field of interest. Most importantly, work with an experienced coach who can guide the way and connect you to resources you are unaware of.
Final Words of Wisdom
Kristin Meekhof: What final advice?
Dr. Zender: Enjoy the journey. After all, you never know where your book will take you—or the amazing people you will meet along the way.
Dr. James Zender is the author of Recovering From Your Car Accident: The Complete Guide to Reclaiming Your Life (publisher Rowman & Littlefield). He is a fully licensed psychologist with a full- time private practice in Michigan. He was the founding director of the Center for the Prevention and Treatment of Psychological Trauma at Detroit Receiving Hospital and University Health Center—one of the premier trauma hospitals worldwide— where he also served as Instructor in Psychiatry.
In order to create optimal outcomes for all parties, Dr. Zender is determined to improve the relationships among insurance companies, providers and the injured insured. Knowing that proactive, appropriate insurance coverage for accident survivors actually benefits the bottom line and market growth of companies, he is determined to help them navigate the world of trauma treatment more effectively. You can find him on twitter at @drjameszender