Feature article in the New Albany (Ind.) paper

Posted on February 16, 2006

This is a couple of days late, but after waiting and realizing the New Albany, Ind., News-Tribune wasn't going to put the feature article about me online, I decided to type it myself. Here's the great article reporter Greg Gapsis wrote about the recent book signing I had at Destinations Booksellers in New Albany:

Self-made man

First-time author's novel embodies humor, energy

Greg Gapsis - 2/5/06

A cozy group came in from the snow Saturday to hear author Ben Woods discuss his debut novel, "The Developers," at Destinations Booksellers.

Woods embodied the energy and humor central to his well-received book about the crazy world of Web developers and secret government projects. And he was disarmingly candid about the challenges faced by first-time authors succeeding in print.

"If you don't have contacts in the publishing industry, you're not going to get very far," Woods said.

But that didn't stop him. A Purdue graduate with experience as a copy editor, Web developer and technology columnist, Woods took the boot strap route to becoming both a published novelist and getting his book noticed.

After three years of creation, Woods also did the design, layout and got his work into print with the help of both friends and family members.

"Despite being a copy editor, it's true you're blind to your own mistakes," Woods said. "I handed it off to my grandmother, who used to proofread theses at the University of Louisville, and she found about eight billion mistakes."

Woods asked an ex-co-worker in Owensboro to create the cover design, a clean white swath reminiscent of an iPod adorned only by chat room emoticons and the title.

"The Barnes & Noble buyer wanted something more splashy like all the other books out there," Woods said. "But I like it and others have said it's cool."

The story is about a group of creative people building a revolutionary Web site despite the constant distraction of "fast food addiction, incessant sexual tension and heated bingo competition."

While purely fiction, Woods rates the book as a PG-13 read that touches on some major issues of personal privacy and plans by the government and big business to get and use as much information as possible about ordinary citizens.

"Right now federal regulations limit what the government can do with the information the Census Bureau collects," Woods said. "But just a small change in the law, one most people wouldn't even notice, could change dramatically what they could do."

Woods said big businesses like Google are already treading in this realm, both limiting access to information for users in China and collecting data from free email accounts they offer.

"A friend had a sump pump go out and his basement flooded," Woods said. "Because he wrote emails to friends describing getting it fixed, putting new carpets in, etc., the guy now gets ads coming to him about sump pump services. You gotta wonder what (Google's) doing with that."

After describing the options he cut through before getting into print, Woods said the real challenge comes later.

"I now spend a could hours a day working on heads, trying to get reviews, presenting to bookstores and other outlets. I've even put up a Web site to make it easier to share information."

He's made significant progress, and you can find his book at New Albany's Destinations Booksellers, Louisville's Borders Books, Carmichael's and even Amazon.com. He makes local regional appearances and hopes to extend his presence with a trip to the East Coast later this year.

"It's all about generating some interest, telling you friends, and getting some people to show up," Woods said. "I hope to break even and then with my next book go to a publisher and say, 'Just think of what I could do with a national scene.' "

He's already at work on the next book, a story about another crazy workplace, one like an experience he really had.