Ashish Mukharji: From Pitchapalooza to Publication

We first met Ashish at a Pitchapalooza @ Kepler’s in Menlo Park, South of San Francisco. At that point he just had an idea for a book. Then he attended our Stanford workshop. From the first time he met him, he seemed like such a radiant, intelligent, generous, thoughtful and funny person. He also just read it kind of healthy glow. And he was so enthusiastic about his book. We’ve observed over and over again that the sort of passion is contagious, and the driving force behind almost all the successful authors we know. So now, his book is out. It’s called, Run Barefoot Run Healthy. And here’s a story.

It all started with an aptitude test. After a day of having me play with little metal pins and then write essays about nothing at all, the good people at Johnson O’Connor Research Foundation (JOCRF) gravely informed me that my mathematics degree and subsequent 20 years in technology were completely misdirected, and my (only) high scores in
“ideaphoria” and “vocabulary” directed me to one career and one career only: writing fiction.

At the time, my sole interaction with books was reading them, typically racing over the details to find out what happened at the end. Did he get caught? Did they get married? Who won? The scenery along the way … in one eye, out the other. And at work, conversations tended to revolve around the benefits of “hardware tessellation,” or why our “front-side bus” was better than theirs. Or
maybe we were better because we didn’t have a front-side bus. Whatever. I had no connection to the production end of literature, so while I enjoyed imagining myself as a swashbuckling Hemingway or globe-trotting Pico Iyer, it didn’t seem particularly within reach.

What’s that they say? “Time drags when you’re really, really bored at work.” High ideaphoria people need variety, which is not the defining characteristic of the corporate world. So I suffered. Only two jobs and five years later, I finally said “it’s now or never – I have to try that writing thing.”

I took a few classes at Stanford, culminating in a term with the wonderful Alice LaPlante, learning not only how to critically read a piece and observe the author’s technique, but also that the boom and gloom now in vogue in fiction, was not for me. I do not need to read, much less write, about drug addiction, child abuse and suicide, without which modern literature apparently cannot sell. So fiction was out.

But could I possibly bring my 99%-ile creativity (I do like saying that – forgive me) to bear on a topic of non-fiction? What did I know enough to write about? What did I want to write about?

Like everyone else in California, I am a marathon runner. Not a world-champion marathoner, in fact I rank fifth out of five runners in my apartment building, but a middle-of-the-pack fitness runner, like millions of others. Specifically, I was a middle-of-the-pack runner who had recently found religion in the form of barefoot running, which had banished my 20-year-chronic injuries to the dust piles of my walk-in closet, along with my running shoes. I could not stop talking about my bare feet, and how everyone else should have bare feet too.

15 million Americans run at least twice a week. 437 million more Americans want to run, but don’t because their knees hurt. I made up that second number, but you get the idea. There’s a market. And my friend Jason was already writing a barefoot running book. And I was encouraging him to do it!

Inspiration is a strange thing. I’ve run barefoot for years, I’ve known about my writing destiny (courtesy JOCRF) for years, but I can’t explain why the idea came to me exactly when it did. Once I had the concept, putting my thoughts down onto paper was easy. Organizing them
into coherent structure was harder. Figuring out how to get published, well, that was more complex still.

It has never been easier for an independent, non-rich and non-famous author to go to market and reach a global audience. And the number of plausible publishing options has never been more overwhelming. If you need a path through the chaos, the Book Doctors’ “Essential Guide” is
comprehensive. They lay out all the possibilities, and what each involves, from the nitty-gritty of traditional publishing, through the various assisted options, to doing it all yourself.

The one thing David and Arielle can’t do for you is to know yourself. Authors and businesspeople often inhabit opposite ends of the producer/marketer spectrum, and my sense is that many authors are uncomfortable with self-promotion, or with manipulating a profit and loss spreadsheet. I have a background in business, and I thrive on independence, so I immediately gravitated toward the DIY option. Some call it “self-publishing,” but to me that word is a bit like “atheism” – not a label one uses in polite society.

I decided to start my own publishing company. It really is quite straightforward. A publisher is anyone who owns an ISBN, the identifying number applied to all books. Buy a number and you’re official. All you need is to write the book, hire and then micro-manage an editor, several proofreaders, an illustrator, book designer, indexer, and cover designer, then negotiate photo and other
rights … and you’re in business. You might want to talk to a lawyer. Then there’s the marketing. The process is spelled out in great detail in Aaron Shepard’s _POD For Profit_. My book is a paperback, so I chose to print it with Lightning Source, a division of Ingram,
which automatically secured me distribution through Amazon, and other retailers.

I’ve compressed time in the telling of my story. Unearthing David and Arielle’s book, and Aaron’s book, took a lot of work. But with them to map the path ahead for me, the rest has been “easy” – no longer confusion or doubt, merely the challenge of efficient execution on a budget. How hard are you willing to work? How much do you love sharing your ideas with others? How willing are you to run a business?

I work past 1am seven days a week, and I’ve never had more fun. And my book is selling, and people are writing in with how it is changing their running, their health, and their lives.

Write. Publish or get published. I recommend it.