One Chapman student has learned that if at first you don’t succeed, do it yourself.
After he was unable to get a publishing company to pick up his book, sophomore Josh Berman, 20, self-published his first novel, “The Golden Handle,” in February with AuthorHouse, a self-publishing company. Berman did not want name recognition – just to share his passion.
“By the time publishing companies respect me as an author, I may be over the book and think what I wrote is complete trash,” he said.
A double major in psychology and screenwriting, Berman spent about $1,500 getting his book published and should receive his first quarterly sales report next month.
“I’m praying my book makes enough money so I can quit my job at Golden Spoon,” he said. “But I know without name recognition, that’s not so realistic.”
Although he has been writing since he was 6 or 7 years old, Berman has never taken a creative writing class at Chapman and does not think it will make or break his writing career.
“I don’t need a class to tell me that I’m a writer,” he said.
Martin Nakell, professor of English, thinks it would be extremely hard for a student who has never been published to get a publishing company’s attention, but not because of a lack of experience.
“Until about 20 years ago, there were no such things as creative writing classes,” he said. “No publisher will care anything about an author’s academic career – they will only care about the work itself.”
However, Nakell recognizes that self-publishing also requires authors to distribute the novel themselves, which he said can be daunting.
Berman began writing the novel, which follows a girl dealing with a traumatic incident she experienced at a young age, during his senior year of high school. He was inspired by a psychology lesson on how people affected by traumatic events create false memories to protect themselves.
“When I came [home] from school, I just started writing,” he said.
A story of love and family, “The Golden Handle” centers on Wendy, a girl who runs away on her 17th birthday in search of happiness and a new life in Boston with her Uncle Jim. On her way, Wendy becomes involved in a murder, kidnapping and horrific fire, but that pales in comparison to the psychological trauma that awaits her at her destination.
Berman finished the book halfway through his freshman year and began contacting publishing houses, but he did not let their disinterest sway him.
“I seriously sent like fifty query letters to companies who either wouldn’t give me the time of day or just kept jerking me around,” he said. “There were several times when I wanted to quit and give up.”
Kevin Park, sophomore business administration major and Berman’s roommate, said he was not surprised when Berman decided to publish his novel.
“Josh is really ambitious and likes trying new and different things,” Park said.
Jessica Petrucci, Berman’s InsideTrack coach and one of his mentors, thinks his drive and ambition helped him throughout the publishing process.
“I am consistently impressed by his commitment to meeting deadlines,” Petrucci wrote in an email. “I know Josh’s passion for writing will provide inspiration and motivation for other student writers who want to become published.”
The reaction Berman received from his parents was somewhat different than that of his friends and mentors, but Berman said he expected it.
“My parents have never really been the best at emotional conversations,” he said. “I think my dad is secretly hoping the book will fail – he always wanted me to become a doctor.”
The novel can be found in three local Barnes & Noble locations and on websites, such as Amazon.
“I had to basically go up to the manager at every store … and pitch the idea to them,” he said. “I even found it listed on a European website. You can actually buy my book in pounds.”
Berman is adapting the story into a movie script for his film adaptation class.
“I don’t think many people can truly say they have a passion that outweighs everything else in their life, but I can, and I love it,” he said.