I met Belo around the time I was getting onto twitter early this past summer. And I was so glad I did after reading his inspiring memoir. Belo Cipriani is a Lambda Fellow, Literary Death Match Champion, and the author of Blind: A Memoir. His writing has appeared in INSIDEPRIDE, The Bohemian, Wiredlatinos.com, Sopalatina.com, Lighthouse Monthly and quarterly. Belo has been featured in the SF Chronicle, SF Examiner, San Jose Mercury News, Univision, Compete Magazine and was the keynote speaker for the A.D.A celebration 2011 in San Francisco, Belo continues to speak in diversity and inclusion panels for national organizations.
Belo, so glad you could join us here today. Tell us when you started writing.
As a teen, I kept a journal and dabbed into short fiction. However, once I began to explore writing careers, I was quickly discouraged by teachers and lack of published gay authors in the 90's. I put writing on ice and focused on my corporate career until I became blind. When I lost my sight, I sought empathy and understanding in literature and was disappointed by the scarce and inaccurate representations of the blind. There were only a hand full of memoirs about adults losing vision and in fiction, the blind were dualistically de-eroticized and romanticized; annoyed, I decided to write a book that gave a more contemporary glimpse into blindness.
You have such a unique story to share; did you try different routes to get the book published?
I landed my first agent while still in my graduate writing program, but that fell apart after a few months. I tried the traditional publishing route first and landed an agent three weeks after my first mailing of query letters. The strong response I received from agents gave me the confidence I needed to later pursue Indie options. My decision was solely based on the fact that I would not have an audio book unless I became a bestseller. I could not stomach having a book about blindness and not have it in an accessible format.
When did your book come out and how can people find it?
Blind: A Memoir was published May 2011 by Wheatmark and is available in paperback, eBook, MP3 download, flash drive, audio disc, DAIS (digital access information system), and Braille. It can be purchased through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Powell's, Audible, iTunes, Sony, and local Indy bookstores. It is distributed through Ingram in the USA and Bertram in the UK.
What has your experience been like on the publishing side of things?
I have had a few wins and losses; I faced challenges in finding a website design firm and even had a guy take money for work he never completed. Many long hours of online research lead to find the people who brought my book to fruition. Author Marketing Experts handles all of my PR efforts; Monkey C Media handles website, business cards, bookmarks and designed my cover. Wheatmark, My publisher, even altered their publishing process so that my technology worked and I wouldn't be left out of the process.
I love that Wheatmark found ways to work with you on the process. Anything else you would like us to know?
I did face some challenges, but it was through those challenges that I learned to navigate the Indy experience. I would advise anyone to ask for references from anyone they initiate business with and spend time calling those references.