Newly published author Rick Burton has built a career around sports. Right out of college, he took a job with the Syracuse Post Standard as their sports writer. He’s worked at the Miller Brewing Company managing public relations for sporting events. While at ad agency DMB&B, Burton worked with clients such as the NFL and Reebok, and is currently the Professor of Sport Management at Syracuse University. So Burton is about the last person you’d expect to write a World War II based thriller centered around the exploits of the B-17 100th Bomber Group, much less a great one.
“Imagine this unknown sports guy pitching a WWII novel.” Burton says. “Not only was I 20 years behind the curve of writers like Jack Higgins and Alistair Maclean, but I was entering the publishing industry at a time when the decision to publish an author virtually has to go to the CEO of a publishing company.”
Burton got the idea for his book, The Darkest Mission, while working at Miller Brewing Company after a life-changing chance encounter. An actual bomber group, wanted Miller Brewing Company’s help staging a 40th anniversary reunion for those serving aboard the bomber appropriately named “High Life.” After meeting the crew, and hearing stories of the supposed “curse” placed on the group, Burton was hooked.
“I started doing a lot of research about World War II bombers and started the process of getting an agent and a publisher,” says Burton. “It became a nice distraction from my day job. Regular guys golfed – I worked on my book.”
Burton soon realized how quickly the book industry is changing and that if he wanted to go the traditional route, he’d have his work cut out for him.
“If I was writing about vampires, I’d have done fine,” jokes Burton. “Agents and publishers kept telling me: ‘This is fantastic, but not for us,’ or ‘this is really good, I wish you’d brought it to us 10 years ago.’”
Not to be discouraged, Burton thought back to sports for inspiration, thinking about Michael Jordan and how he got cut from his high school basketball team, only to go on to become one of the greatest players in history. Burton knew he couldn’t just give up.
“I understand the need for rejection,” Burton says. “You take the criticism, you make revisions, you get better. But there comes a point when being rejected doesn’t move you forward anymore.”
So Burton turned to Lulu’s open publishing platform for help and after a year of putting the finishing touches on his work, The Darkest Mission is available to the pubic and is selling quite well – there’s even a production company looking to turn Burton’s work into a movie. Burton stresses that a large part of his success has come from setting realistic expectations and goals.
“At first I felt kind of like I was selling insurance to family and friends,” Burton laughs. “But I thought conservatively and set thresholds for myself. Can I sell 100 copies to people other than family and friends? 200? 500? By meeting these goals a step at at time, you can really feel validated.”
Burton also believes it is important for authors to step away from the “lottery mentality” of publishing, where an author writes a book and just instantly finds a publisher and becomes an overnight sensation.
“The myth surrounding publishers has historically been: If I write it, they will come,” says Burton. “Great writing will always get picked up, regardless of genre eventually. Luckily places like Lulu exist to make the process easier, and I can move onto book two.”
Be sure to check out Burton’s new book, The Darkest Mission, available on Lulu.com today.
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