Making "Ayahuasca, An Executive's Enlightenment" Come To Life
We love a good adventure story here at Reedsy, so we were delighted to help Michael Sanders bring his book, Ayahuasca: An Executive’s Enlightenment, to life. Becoming worn down as the vice president of an advertising agency and the co-founder of a startup company, Michael made a life-changing decision to venture out into the Amazon jungle to discover his path to self-transcendence. Michael drinks the psychedelic plant medicine Ayahuasca in three shamanistic ceremonies and connects with the Mother of the Rainforest and creator of the universe. This remarkable story examines the very essence of human nature and how this experience gave Michael absolute clarity as to his purpose and path in life.
Michael needed an editor and designer to help take his book to the next level. So he came to Reedsy and now decided to share his experience with us. Enjoy the interview!
Hi Michael thanks for chatting to us, just to start with, tell us a little about your book and what brought you to write it.
Ayahuasca: An Executive’s Enlightenment is about my journey into the Amazon jungle to drink the sacred and psychedelic plant medicine known as Ayahuasca.
At the start of 2013, I was experiencing extreme fatigue. I was working as the vice president of an advertising agency and as the co-founder of a startup in the gaming industry, and I was training athletically and intensely 10 to 14 times each week.
I decided to consult with a naturopath who helped me develop a daily meditation and play practice. After a few months working with him, my friend Sid suggested we venture to the Amazon to drink Ayahuasca—something that had been on my radar for about 18 months.
Sid, another friend Carl, and I ventured down to the Peruvian jungle on Boxing Day of 2013. We trekked through the Amazon for a week—encountering all sorts of incredible wildlife and adventure, and developing a bond with nature that transcended my previous notions of connecting with the Earth.
On New Year’s Eve, we arrived at the ceremonial grounds of Nihue Rao where we had our first Ayahuasca ceremony. Drinking Ayahuasca shattered the paradigm of reality in which I formerly operated and showed me something beyond my wildest imagination. In a nutshell, all of my life’s existential contemplations were resolved during three Ayahuasca ceremonies over the course of four nights.
One of my intentions for my ceremonies was to determine a clearer career path, and it was revealed to me that I need to hone my gift for storytelling and write a book.
How did you hear about Reedsy and why did you think it was the right place to develop your book to the next stage?
I heard about Reedsy while working with Publishizer. Publishizer is a crowdfunding platform for authors, and the company’s CEO Guy Vincent encouraged me to check out Reedsy for all of my editing and design needs.
I checked out Reedsy’s website and loved the intuitive design. It was so easy for me to find skilled editors and designers, to communicate with them, and to receive quotes on how much their work would cost.
Tell us how you came about choosing Maria D’Marco as your editor
I was scrolling through editors and Maria's headline jumped out at me: “Empathetic, bespoke editor - collaborative partnerships - developmental specialist, copy editor, book marketing, front-to-back support.” Empathy is exactly what I was looking for in an editor, and I also saw that she had worked on a number of fantastic books. When Maria and I chatted, she really resonated with my story, so I knew she was the perfect editor for me.
What did she bring that elevated the story the book in some way?
Maria brought an objective perspective and a set of fresh eyes. I had worked with seven editors along the way—all of whom are friends of mine—and for the final edit, I wanted someone who hadn’t seen the work before.
Maria’s goal wasn’t to infuse her own thinking into my story, but to instead allow me to best tell the story that I wanted to tell. She wasn’t afraid to challenge me: she was very direct and blunt with what needed to be done. My story was pretty polished by the time Maria had her first read, so I didn’t need to make a ton of changes, but the changes she did suggest elevated the narrative substantially.
Specifically, Maria had me include more physical descriptions of the characters in my book, which was a really interesting process. Because the people I had traveled with were so familiar to my mind, I had forgotten that the reader wouldn’t know what the characters looked like. So, adding the physical descriptions really brought the other characters to life.
Additionally, Maria suggested I completely change my introduction. Maria explained that the introduction I first presented to her wouldn’t grip anyone who wasn’t familiar with Ayahuasca. I understood her point, and after some contemplation, we arrived at a much better introduction. I’m thrilled that I took Maria’s advice: So many people have told me that they were hooked right from the first page.
Now let's talk about Peter, how did you choose him and how did you finalize on the design of the book cover with him?
I already had a minimal cover concept in mind, and I was looking for someone to execute it. Searching through designers, Peter’s portfolio of work grabbed me—minimal and evocative. After chatting with Peter, he seemed like the right person for the job.
Peter was a joy to communicate with, he worked quickly, and he was very responsive and accommodating. He did a fantastic job on the design—both the interior and exterior—and was very knowledgeable on formatting for both the print and electronic versions.
Finally, is there any advice you would like to give people who are thinking of self-publishing?
In terms of execution, I recommend writing the book first. Once you have had some friends and editors give you feedback and you have a solid manuscript, you might consider crowdfunding the publication. Crowdfunding only works if you think you can connect with a wide audience and you can offer your backers awesome incentives: it’s important to remember that other people don’t care as much about your dream as you do, so you really have to incentivize them to pay for a book before it’s published. If you’re willing to put in the work to connect with a wide audience and provide awesome incentives, then crowdfunding is an amazing way to generate momentum prior to the book’s release.
In terms of editing and design, I fully recommend Reedsy. It’s a wonderful and intuitive platform.
Lastly, enjoy the journey :)
You can buy "Ayahuasca: An Executive’s Enlightenment" on Amazon here.
How did you go about publishing your book? Have you considered crowdfunding before? Tell us about your experiences, or ask Michael any question you want, in the comments below!