When trying to get attention for any groundbreaking title,
always be mindful of the difficulties involved in
getting your author’s message out.
Garden City Park, NY: Independent publishers have many reasons for bringing out the books they do. Most people never have an opportunity to see what’s behind the curtain. These are two “inside” stories that I thought I would share.
Early on in my publishing career, I was lucky enough to learn about alternative approaches to personal health. It began when my house produced a guide on the various uses and benefits of vitamins and minerals. Prior to the book’s publication, few books—if any—listed the amount of nutrients one might take on a daily basis. If they did, they always drew data straight from the USDA’s recommended list of nutrients—a list that was created back in the 1950s, and which focused solely on the minimal amounts necessary to ward off various diseases. My author believed that, based upon newly published studies, these long-established dosage levels did not provide the appropriate amount of nutrients for optimal health. We made sure to include a References section that comprised about twenty percent of the book, just to ensure that our readers could double-check the latest research then available.
Although I may have been naïve, what surprised me the most was the lack of reaction our title received from the mainstream media. When I checked into why the book was either being ignored or questioned, I learned that the media would first pass along any and all books that dealt with nutrition to a pre-selected team of far more “old school” nutritionists and/or doctors for their review. While the book went on to do quite well, that was the first time I learned that there already existed these established but largely hidden and self-interested barriers in the area of consumer health titles.
While I believed then—and now—in both conventional and complementary medicine, from that point on I came to realize that there were two routes through which to garner attention for our health books. One was a relatively easy path as long as you chose not to rock the boat. The other, for boat rockers? Not so easy.
A number of the books that I have chosen to publish over the years because of their importance seem to have run into more than one informational roadblock along the way. Consider the following:
When medical anthropologist Sydney Ross Singer, first approached me with his book proposal, I was somewhat taken aback by it. He and his wife/fellow medical anthropologist, Soma Grismaijer, had conducted a survey to see if wearing tight-fitting bras might increase a woman’s risk of developing breast cancer. The results showed that they did. I needed more information, though, and Sydney swiftly provided me with more. Apparently, according to Sydney and Soma, tight bras would impair the natural flow of lymph in and around the breast area—and this constriction allowed toxins to remain trapped in the breast tissue. What their research also showed was that many women would wear their bras twenty-four hours each day. Based on the compelling information presented in their manuscript, I decided to go ahead with the book’s publication. We named the book Dressed to Kill: The Link Between Breast Cancer and Bras.
Approximately a week after we publicly announced the book’s forthcoming release date, I received a call from a woman who said she represented an intimate apparel trade association. She had heard about the book, and was calling to let me know that Sydney Singer had lied about receiving his master’s degree from Duke University—and as such, she further warned that the book I was now slated to publish would likely be rife with misinformation. I have to admit that this alleged revelation did throw me. I said I would check into it and, if she was right, I would then pull the plug on the book’s publication. She then warned me that if we still chose to bring the book out, her association would sue us. That warning struck me both as strange and a little desperate. After all, if she already knew that our author was lying about his credentials, then why would she also need to threaten my company with a lawsuit?
Once that call was finished, I promptly called Duke University and was connected to a person in their Student Records department. Normally, schools don’t provide such information over the phone. After I explained about the call that I had just received the person on the other end of the line told me to wait a few minutes—and sure enough, a few minutes later she confirmed that Singer had indeed graduated from Duke with a master’s degree in Anthropology. We went on to publish the book on time and as publicized—and we never did get sued by that intimate apparel association.
Dressed to Kill is now in its second edition, and it has actually helped pave the way for some changes in the world of bra fashion—doing away with metal underwires and producing looser-fitting bras. It has also encouraged the “Go Bra-Free” movement, and the book’s findings have been further validated by dozens of other studies around the world. What it has not yet done is to impel medical authorities here in the US to call for more research into this important bra/breast cancer link. If the Nurses’ Health Study group, which focuses on cancer, were to investigate—at very little cost to them—whether bras do cause cancer—just imagine how many women could be spared the suffering associated with this disease. Unfortunately, while the group refuses to even consider underwriting such a study, the fight continues on here in our times.
Meanwhile, the inner workings of the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) would never have been a subject that I’d choose to pursue—until one of my authors introduced me to Dr. Renee Joy Dufault. Dr. Dufault had worked for the US Public Health Service specializing in toxicology, environmental health, and industrial hygiene. As such, she had been sent to work at the FDA as an investigator. Her assignment was to go to food production and distribution plants throughout the country, and to report on the relative quality of the foods that were being manufactured there. She was called upon to collect samples of the foods, and to then send them over to a food laboratory for fuller content analysis.
After sending several samples out from the various plants she had visited, the results came back. The lab report showed that the samples she had submitted contained traces of heavy metals (e.g., mercury and lead), pesticides, and other dangerous contaminants at levels far higher than the standards set by the FDA. Thinking the lab may have made a mistake, she submitted new samples to be analyzed a second time. The same results appeared in the new analysis. Based on these findings, Dr. Dufault prepared a full report that she then submitted to her immediate supervisor at the FDA. The next day, she was told that her assignment was over—and no further explanation was provided. When she asked to have the report included in the FDA’s online site, she was denied. It was not until the publication of her book with Square One—Unsafe at Any Meal: What the FDA Does Not Want You to Know About the Foods You Eat—that this information was made public. And yet, as important as this story is to the health and well-being of children and adults alike, too few people are aware of Dr. Dufault’s disturbing discovery.
In spite of all the time and effort that the Square One team has put into getting this book the attention it so rightfully deserves, the mainstream media seems to have ignored Dr. Dufault’s findings. Yes, the book has had excellent reviews and Dr. Dufault has appeared on numerous local radio shows. Still, those barriers to her receiving a greater visibility have seemingly been snapped into place. Is it too outrageous to think that the FDA would hide the fact that the processed foods that many of us eat every day help cause so many of our current health disorders? Perhaps, but the facts don’t lie.
As an independent publisher of such titles, I have come to understand just how difficult it can be to get these messages out. That should never become a reason to avoid moving forward, though. If anything, barriers can often strengthen one’s resolve. In these chaotic and often worrisome times, it’s still vital to provide a viable platform from which authors with an important message can be heard.