Dr. Sheldon Cohen had an illustrious career as a physician in Chicago and became writer in retirement. Now, through the development of electronic publishing, his books are for sale.
“I didn’t write anything before I retired except patient records,” Cohen said. “I had had an idea for a book, but I had never had the time for it. When I retired, I wrote it. It took more than four years. I had an editor look at it. She said, ‘this isn’t a novel, it’s actually a medical report.’”
By the time he’d finished the fourth version of Brainstorm, it had been accepted for traditional publication. “But just when they started to print the book—they had run 200 copies—the company went bankrupt,” Cohen said. “I tried with the other books, but did not succeed. The publishing world is very difficult. Meanwhile, I kept writing because I found it intellectually satisfying.
“Now you have electronic publishing. It’s very inexpensive once you have the final version of the manuscript. So now I have 18 books out. I do it for the pleasure and for the learning.”
Cohen has written two types of books. His fiction—including Bad Blood, Brainstorm, Revenge and Holy Warrior, Trojan Horses—deals with medical crime, Islamic terrorism and historical fiction based on World War II. Revenge, for example, is a mystery about five doctors’ murders by medical means in a hospital.
His non-fiction titles—among them The Coming Healthcare Revolution, The History of Physics, World War IV, Symptoms Never to Ignore, The Patient’s Guide to Health Risk Factors—explain medical and scientific subjects, and several are intended to prepare the public for the implementation of Obamacare by helping them learn how to ask questions about their care.
“[Obamacare] will go through lots of bumps before it gets to be a system like Europe where everybody gets free care, a single–payer system,” he said. “It will happen because care is becoming so massively expensive.”
He markets his books through his website, cohenebooks.com, and his Facebook page (both set up by his granddaughter). His books are also available through Ebookit.com, the Massachusetts company that prepared the books in their electronic version.
“I’ve bought e-books. I don’t mind reading them that way. The whole world has changed. Any writer can publish books now.”
Book formatting of the manuscript costs $149 and a cover costs another $75. Books on the Ebookit site range in price from $1.99 to $9.99. Cohen gets 50 percent of each sale of his titles. His e-books are also available from amazon.com and barnesandnoble.com.
Ebooks through Ebookit can be from 10,000 to 300,000 words long. Cohen’s average about 250,000. It costs $300 each to get a printed version of the e-book file. He did that with his book about his medical education so that family members could have copies of it.
He’s written two novels about World War II. The books, which describe partisan fighters, are set in eastern Europe and based around actual events.
“I was 12 when Pearl Harbor happened. I had four cousins and an uncle fighting in the Pacific and Europe. I followed that war closely.”
His grandparents fled czarist Russia in 1904. His grandfather was a deserter from the army. His other grandmother lost 12 family members in the Holocaust. Both sides of his family came from the same village in Poland and arrived in America at Ellis Island.
His uncle was a doctor and that was all Cohen ever wanted to be. His career was in internal medicine, and after his retirement he worked on hospital accreditation standards and inspections in the U.S. and internationally. He was the medical director of two HMOs and a hospital. He worked on reducing medical errors. He still lectures on medical topics.
Cohen has lived in Crozet 12 years. He and his wife, a retired nurse, moved here when his son, whose career has since taken him to Richmond, was living in the area. “It’s great here. I love it.”
He writes about four hours a day and between books takes breaks for a few months. “One of the hardest things for me—I kind of ignored English in high school—was getting the language formatted right. I needed to learn English.
“The ideas just come. I would try some outlining, but it doesn’t work. As you are writing a scene, the next one just comes to mind.” He thinks his writing has gotten better, particularly his handling of dialog.
The lesson for others, he said, is that “you can put your dreams into action.”