James W. Lewis is a novelist and freelance writer who has been published in several books including: Zane’s Caramel Flava, Chicken Soup for the Soul (2 series), Gumbo for the Soul, Truth Be Told: Tales of Life, Love and Drama and Don’t Forget your Pepper Spray. Magazine credits include 3AM Magazine, Eyeshot, Dare Magazine, Naptural Roots Magazine, Lucrezia Magazine, Circle Magazine, Rundu Bedtime Stories and American Fitness Magazine. His 2 novels are Sellout and A Hard Man is Good to Find. He is also a managing partner of publishing company The Pantheon Collective.
After spending 20 years in the Navy, James retired from active duty and is now completing his studies in kinesiology. In addition to writing, he loves to DJ and has a collection of more than 300 vinyl records. He does extensive volunteer work at a local veterans assistance center and the Boys & Girls Club.
What are you working on right now?
As a novelist, I’m working on my third novel Tangled Web, scheduled to drop in the summer of 2012. As managing partner of my publishing company, I’m expanding our business with an author services division, where we’ll assist authors with services like typesetting, ebook formatting and marketing plans. Also, we hope to publish other authors and launch our non-fiction book about indie publishing.
Where did the idea for The Pantheon Collective come from?
In the summer of 2007, Stephanie Casher, Omar Luqmaan-Harris and I made a pact: if a traditional publisher doesn’t sign us to a book deal by 2009, we’ll create our own publishing company (we’d been soliciting our manuscripts to agents/publishers for at least 4 years). Coincidentally, I retired from active duty service in 2009, which gave me room to go full-speed ahead into a new career and by then, we still didn’t have a book deal. I was somewhat reluctant to go into business with friends; I always believed mixing business with friendships was a bad idea, but I decided to dive head-first into this new venture. I’m happy I did!
We decided on the name, The Pantheon Collective (TPC3), because we feel we are 3 powerful individuals with unique skills and talents, but as a team, or “collective,” our ability to brainstorm and make things happen has no boundaries. Plus, we have 3 times the promotional power. I call ourselves the “Literary Voltron” and our tagline says it all: Three Minds. One Mission. No Limits.
What does your typical day look like?
After retiring from active duty, I became a full-time student at a 4 year university and now spend much of my time getting heavy doses of higher education during the day. At night, I devote time to promoting our books via social media, book reviewers and bloggers. Throughout the day and into the wee hours of the night, I try to concentrate on my third novel, Tangled Web. Got a deadline to meet!
How do you bring ideas to life?
I try to keep my ears open to random conversations and pay attention to my surroundings. Often, an idea sparks just by being around people and socializing. So if an idea pops up, I make sure to write it down. If not, it’s lost forever.
Three trends that excite you.
- Established authors seeing the value of indie publishing by publishing print books with a traditional publisher and using indie publishers for ebooks.
- Increase in major ebook distribution channels beyond Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Apple.
- Demand for ereaders and society’s acceptance of them.
What is the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?
The worst job I ever had was at Domino’s when I was 17. I didn’t get paid a lot, I didn’t have a car, and the job was 3 miles away, so I walked. Because I ditched work a lot, I was fired. It taught me the importance of timeliness and responsibility. You don’t get paid if you’re not there to work!
If you were to start again, what would you do differently?
I would have chosen my collateral duties more wisely while active duty Navy. It would have helped me get promoted quicker.
What is the one thing you did/do as an entrepreneur that you would do over and over again and recommend everybody else do?
As small business entrepreneurs who are also authors, my partners and I discovered early on marketing and promotion is more about selling yourself than selling the book. Readers want to know the person behind the words and love a personal touch, whether it’s an autographed novel or response to their emails. Facebook helps with the one-on-one connection, so I’m very interactive with my Facebook friends; many of them are readers of my books. It doesn’t matter if it’s a direct message or comment, I’m very much involved with my page instead of just trying to push my book 24/7. People get tired of authors wearing the Buy-My-Book hat all the time.
Tell us a secret…
I know how to juggle!
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
We have a free marketing plan template on our website!
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill epitomizes how anyone can achieve great things despite their background. I believe in his mantra “what the mind of man can conceive and believe, it can achieve.”
If you weren’t working on Tangled Web, what would you be doing?
I’d be studying anatomy and physiology considering I’m a kinesiology student. Wait, I’m doing that, too!
Three people we should follow on Twitter and why.
Stephanie Casher (stephcasher), Omar Luqmaan-Harris (BookMarketing33) and James W. Lewis (biglew1971) of course! As the TPC3, we’re always posting helpful tips not just for writers but also for small business owners.
When was the last time you laughed out loud? What caused it?
When I watched Andy Sandberg’s group The Lonely Island DVD video for the first time. They are a comedy music troupe with hilarious music videos.
Who would you love to see interviewed on IdeaMensch?
Omar Luqmann-Harris because he is a unique split personality. He is not only a marketing guru who’s a chief operating officer for a major company in integrative technology, but he’s also a poet and novelist with a strong love of the arts. Talk about a harmony of left and right brains!
Why did you decide to go into business with 2 friends when you were strongly against mixing business with personal relationships?
I recognized our individual skills and I believed they were ideal for starting a publishing company. So I took a leap of faith. Luckily, I was right!
When are you getting back into your other passion—DJing?
When I convert all my vinyl records to MP3s! It’s hard work carrying around crates of records!
Mario Schulzke is the Founder of ideamensch, which he started a decade ago to learn from entrepreneurs and give them a platform for their ideas.