Author Spotlight: Phillip Vega

See full issue for 2017 11-06

If you had a writing motto what would it be?

I can’t pick just one. In no particular order, they would be: "Keep growing!" "Be yourself!" and “Don’t give up!” Writing is a new chapter in my life. It all began, one rainy Saturday afternoon, in August 2015. After an afternoon of grocery shopping with my wife, she took the dogs and went for a nap, while I sat down to watch TV. There was nothing on, so I opened my iPad, and started typing. The next thing I knew, I was three chapters in.

Six weeks and over 800-pages later, I completed my hefty manuscript for Last Exit to Montauk. The good news is, I found a great editor, Janet Fix of thewordverve, who encouraged me to cut the fat, and delivered a “Pitch Perfect” winning, 388-page debut novel. So, the three motto's I listed above are definitely important. You'll be amazed where life takes you, how can realize dreams you never knew you had.

Where do you draw your inspiration?

Having grown up in the ‘70s and ‘80s, I certainly drew inspiration from my own life for Last Exit to Montauk. I continue to do so, though now, since the floodgates have opened and I continue to write, my inspirations come from many aspects of the world around me. Without a doubt, God propels me in all of this, and there are spiritual elements in everything I write.

This is the closest way I can describe it: I’ll be driving along, running an errand, sitting on the beach, absorbing some Vitamin D, or mowing the lawn, and ideas and emotions start flooding my senses. The story starts playing in my head, like a video or movie, but more immersive. It’s like I’m standing right in the middle of these events playing out in my mind’s eye. This is what occurred when I wrote Last Exit to Montauk, and it’s what’s happening now, as I work on my follow up novels.

I have 16 stories in various stages. This will keep me busy for a very long time.

What is one interesting fact about you?

That writing a novel—or being a published novelist, which is still funny to me, to be frank—was never in the cards for me. Had someone told me in July of 2015 that in May 2017, I’d be releasing my debut novel—to great reviews, no less—I’d have laughed.

It just wasn’t on my road map before then. I have been selling software and software services for over 20 years. Yes, I’ve always been creative. I’ve sung on stage, I’ve acted some, and even performed stand-up back in the late ‘80s, but novelist? Well, that was definitely an unexpected and pleasant surprise.

Another interesting part to all this: I’m actually not a big reader, even though I have read the Bible cover to cover a couple of times. And I love, love, LOVE going to a bookstore. I can spend hours there, walking around, browsing, but rarely buying. There are a few writers that I enjoy, but my personal library is full of music and movies, not books, which may sound strange for a writer, but there you go. A writer who’s not a big reader. Go figure.

Have you learned anything from the self publishing process and would you do anything differently next time?

I don’t think you have enough space on your site for me to fully answer this question. I’ve learned so much from this process. Having a business background has helped, but I had no idea what I was doing, or getting myself into, when I decided to publish my novel.

I didn’t know anyone in the industry. I didn’t know you needed an editor, a copywriter, and a publishing vehicle. Advertising, distribution models, pricing models, blogs, websites, articles and interviews? Really? Who’s going to want to interview me? What do you mean that I need people to read and review my book? Reviews matter that much? Won’t my friend’s review it for me? What do you mean that not everyone will like it? But … but I poured my blood, sweat and tears into this! I’ve stayed up all night writing, locking myself away in my office. What do you mean that you’re rejecting my manuscript? You want to charge me how much to edit my manuscript? Who am I, Bill Gates? Who has that kind of money? What do you mean that I should find the right cover art? Font size matters? I thought size didn’t matter? And what’s this copywriting and ISBN thing? How do I do that? Man, I wish someone had a kit for new writers. Everything you need to know when publishing a book. Oh wait! Those exist!
The only problem is … I doubt I’d read it. I’m one of those.

The only thing I’d do differently, maybe, is delay publishing a few months and sending it to various publications for review. Of course, there’s no guarantee that anyone would have read it, let alone given me a positive review, so who knows. Aside from that, I wouldn’t change a thing.

What has been your most successful marketing strategy?

Reaching out to as many independent bloggers, reviewers, and sites like Underground Book Reviews and asking if they would read and review my book. That, and offering as many interviews as possible and promoting them as they are published. I’ve used this, in conjunction with putting my novel on sale periodically, throughout its initial summer 2017 release, to drive business.

I also created a Facebook page, Twitter account, and website, although I’m more active on social media, than I am on my webpage. This is something I continue to work on and try to figure out. The good news is, I understand this is a learning process, and I’m willing to learn. It’s become a passion for me, and frankly, I love it.

What is the best kept secret you have found in regard to indie publishing?

Find a good editor, partner, coach, and encourager. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve reached out to my editor and publisher, Janet Fix ( for advice. We jokingly call ourselves #TeamV!, but it’s how I really feel. Getting Last Exit to Montauk out was a team effort. It was a collaborative effort. She had ideas, I had ideas, we put our heads together, and it’s worked out great.

That, and research. There are so many publishing vehicles out there. Take your time. Do your research. Read the contracts. If someone rejects you, move on. They won’t remember you until you become famous, and then they’ll look like the idiot, not you. How many people saw the Beatles before someone signed them. How many people rejected Stephen King, JK Rowling, and Paula Hawkins … and look at them now. Thanks for the Spotlight! This was fun! I hope you enjoy my book, Last Exit to Montauk, and future novels as they are released.

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