Self Published Author Lessons Learned

This past year has been very rewarding with the publication of Muddy Jungle Rivers. In December it was nominated for the Minnesota Book Award. On January 26 the four finalists for each genre will be announced.
Bemidji State University used the book in a Fall 2012 History Class and will use it again in a Spring 2013 Honors Program class. Thank you Professor Tom Murphy—it was rewarding to speak to your students.

Two years ago Muddy Jungle Rivers was a 350 page manuscript collecting dust in my office. I was busy doing research and writing my next book. Each day I was distracted by that dusty manuscript and finally realized I must publish it before I could fully concentrate on my next project. After sending query letters to several agents and publishers who worked with war genre literature I realized no one was going to publish an unknown living in northern Minnesota.

I began studying self-publishing avenues and was horrified at the exploitation of uninformed first-time authors by so many Self Publishing companies. As I researched, I came to the realization that I could publish my own book. On January 1, 2012, my wife and I created Hawthorn Petal Press, LLC. Today, Whispering Petals Press is our imprint and a resource center for other self-publishing writers.

2012 has been a learning experience about book-selling and distribution. I received a $1,000 Individual Artist grant from Region 2 Arts Council for marketing. The grant allowed me to purchase three advertisements in the New York Review of Books. The reason I used NYRB was because Steve Almond, a well-known East Coast author, had graciously written the Foreword for Muddy Jungle Rivers. Steve’s work is light-years from war genre literature. I reasoned that his name on a Vietnam War memoir would piqué his audience’s curiosity. Steve and I had developed an interesting connection when I studied under him in a writing workshop. After each advertisement in NYRB I experienced a small on-line sales increase but certainly not worth the cost of the ads.

One morning at breakfast, Kent Nerburn, a local resident and nationally recognized author, and I discussed book marketing and sales. Kent expressed frustration with the traditional publishing industry and said that he is impressed with the positive reception and interest he receives when visiting regional libraries. I respect his knowledge and experience.

2013 my goal is to expand into the regional systems of Kitchigami Regional Library and Lake Agassiz Regional Library.

My marketing plan is:

Sell a minimum of thirty books at each presentation. At that threshold, I can donate five dollars to the library for each book—a minimum of $150.00—and five dollars for each additional book sold. Because it is a Vietnam War memoir, I hope to create a partnership between the participating library and the local American Legion and other veterans’ organizations.

I just scheduled my first presentation at Lake Agassiz Regional Library—Fosston Branch, for April 16, 2013 at 7:00 pm. Rob Mayer, Commander, Fosston American Legion, is excited about the opportunity to collaborate with the library in this veteran Community Support idea.

If your organization is interested in booking a presentation, please contact me at

Our community has been fantastic in their promotion of Muddy Jungle Rivers since it was published in April 2012. Thank you, Bemidji Public Library, Bemidji Community Art Center, Beltrami County History Center, Region 2 Arts Council, Luekens Village Foods, Book World, Kat’s Book Nook, TJ Design Studio, Shannon’s Art and Soul, KAXE Radio, Lakeland Public Television, David Quam Video Productions, and American Legion.

View Muddy Jungle Rivers interview on Lakeland Public Television at:


  1. Nita (Northup) Walker says:

    I have never before read a book written a) about the Vietnam War or b) by an author from that small area in Northern Minnesota that I call home. It was an experience I’ll never forget. I was old enough to pay attention during that faraway war; my brothers served close, but not IN Vietnam; I knew people did not respect the returning Vets, but I really didn’t realize the depth of the vitriol they were forced to endure. The war journal impacted me very deeply. I felt as if I were riding along in Wendall’s backpack, seeing, hearing, smelling everything he did. It was very powerful. The memories of life in our little corner of the world struck way too close to home. My siblings and I could have written almost very word of that portion of the script. We always felt very isolated, and didn’t share our homelife with others. It was too painful and too embarrassing. Wendall said it all, and didn’t pull any punches. Thank you, Wendall, for saying it for all of us!

  2. Larry Reid says:

    It was great to talk to you Wendell and I hope you were able to play the dvd with my video of our old buddy Buddha. I am very glad that you wrote this account of our experiences way back then. This survivor of the “well deck” appreciates your courage and focus under the extreme conditions of a river ambush. I also appreciate your information about the Kissinger strategy. No wonder we had no concept of what victory might entail. I keep a pair of handcuffs in my car in case he is ever in Nashville, TN. You will see me on the news if he comes here.

    Are you going to the Mobile Riverine Force Association reunion in August? I think you could sell a few books there and meet some amazing folks. This one is in Indianapolis, IN. I will be there if health allows.

    I hope to finish some writing projects and would be honored if you would take a look. I would trust your publishing company if anything was worth a second glance.

    Well done Wendell and thank you.


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