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Devin Blankenship’s venture in self-publishing – Selling Sherman’s Eagle

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It started with an office joke gone slightly bad.

Devin Blankenship told the folks at work that co-worker Darrin May’s attempt at writing a novel was a lackluster one at best.

“He had read my latest one and he was giving me a hard time about it,” said May. “And I got mad and said that was harsh. I put like two years into this thing.”

Of course, he was only joking, but soon realized that his comments kind of bothered May and, as time went on, Blankenship felt worse and worse about his attempt at humor.

“It’s still, to this day, one of the crappiest things I’ve ever done in trying to get a cheap laugh,” said Blankenship.

The irony here is that Darrin May is his boss.

Fast forward to the present, and now the shoe is on the proverbial other foot.

Blankenship has written a book of his own but is still waiting for May to poke fun at him.

Blankenship said it was his comments to May almost two years ago that ignited the spark he needed to check something off of his personal “bucket list”: write his own novel. After poking fun at May, he wondered deep inside if he could pull off the same trick and write something himself.

“I told myself that I wanted to see how much work he put into doing it, and what I realized right away was that how off I was, and how much work and time he had invested,” said the first-time writer.

Nearly five years later, with help from, well, almost no one, he self-published his first novel “Sherman’s Eagle,” and May hasn’t said a word.

Blankenship, a local guy, graduated from Sacramento State with a degree in public relations. He currently works for the Sacramento Kings in the media relations department.

The book encompasses several locations and points in time, including Atlanta, Ga., and the Civil War, and works all the way back to the author’s hometown of Sacramento, Calif. Even the secret underground of the Capitol City are included in this history mystery.

“Growing up here in Sacramento, you lose sight of the fact that, at least I did, of what a historical place this is and how many connections it has to the development of the West and even this country,” said Blankenship.

Writing a book is always a challenge, but like most first-time authors, Blankenship also had to find someone to publish his fine work once he was finished — a trick much harder than you’d think.

Blankenship created a website called “Selling Sherman’s Eagle,” in which he chronicled his efforts to find a publisher for his novel. It became kind of a sounding board for the author to vent and post the roadblocks and choices he was facing in getting his book to print.

“At that point, people knew I had (written) the book, the book was pretty much completed,” said Blankenship. “I was just in the process of finding a publisher, and it just helped me put my own thoughts down and see where I wanted to go with it.”

Some things never change — even in the publishing world.

Finding an agent is the first order of business, but that’s a chore in and of itself. You can’t go straight to a publishing company. You must get an agent to get your master work in front of a publishing company.

The agent then must like what you’ve written, like the premise of the book, and then, if you’re lucky, they will ask for an advance copy. If they like it, they will sign you up and move to the next step, which is trying to sell it to a publisher.

“With the economy, an agent doesn’t really want to stick his neck out unless it’s really something they feel close to,” said Blankenship.

Facing that roadblock, he decided to create his own publishing company, thereby holding all the book’s rights in the future.

Considering the advent of e-books and e-readers like the Amazon Kindle, self-publishing has lost some of the stigma it faced in the past.

Blankenship created 916 Publishing and bought the rights to the book himself. Now, he basically uses Amazon as a printing company. He just pays them a modest printing fee for each copy, and is free to do whatever he wants after that.

“Prior to self-publishing, if an agent didn’t like it or the publisher didn’t like it, you were screwed,” said Blankenship. “Now, it’s an easier way for voices to get out. The flip side is that there is a lot of not-so-good work out there since anyone can put anything out, but I think people that had quality stuff and may have been shot down by the gatekeeper is now out there and it’s up to the reader to decide if it’s something they’re interested in.”

The question now must be with his first novel out there, will he use his 916 Publishing company to help other authors that are in the same boat he was in the not-too-distant past?

“There’s a lot of writers out there that are struggling to figure out how to get their work out there, and maybe this is the vessel,” said Blankenship.

He hasn’t even gotten a chance to get out there and promote this book, but people that have finished “Sherman’s Eagle” are already asking about a sequel.

“I didn’t intend to (leave an opening for a sequel), but people have been asking. I’ve been thinking about it more. There is definitely an opening for it, so I would say there is a high probability there will be a sequel and maybe even a third one,” said Blankenship.

You can purchase the book here at Amazon.com.

Look to The Sacramento Press in the near future for a full review of “Sherman’s Eagle.”

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