Big Pharma Toxicologist to Thriller Novelist – Bill Powers: 2BB 079
10.07.2016 - By 2 Boomer Broads Podcast
Our guest Bill Powers had a successful career working in the Big Pharma world as a toxicologist with a Ph.D. He is now a full-time thriller novelist.
Coming to you this time from the podcaster’s pharm pasture.
In his former career, he was a guy who worked on making drugs safe so nothing bad happened when you took them. But, he’s always been interested in writing and stories.
He tried penning a Sci-Fi novel in grad school, but it was “horrible” and he put it aside. Ten years ago, he tried again while still working his Big Pharma job and published his first book called “The Pharm House.” It’s a thriller set in the pharmaceutical world. The main character is a toxicologist (like Bill) who is trying to raise a child alone and grow his business after becoming a widower. He gets mixed up in a plot to take over the company which would make him the fall guy and puts him in danger of losing his job or going to jail.
The Big Pharma World
We were curious to find out what it was like working as a toxicologist and asked him to explain about all the scary side-effects we see in drug commercials. He said you rarely ever experience the side-effects because the drugs are tested extensively. However, since it’s possible, all side-effects must be listed.
We also wanted to know why drugs are so expensive in the U.S. He told us most drugs are discovered and developed by big pharma companies in the US and Western Europe. The cost of research and development (R&D;) has to be absorbed by them. They exist to make a profit for shareholders and not just for the good of mankind. He did a write up recently that states the cost of developing a drug in the U.S. is approx. 2.8 Billion dollars and takes 10-12 years before it’s available. The entire process is resource intensive.
The Canadian government caps the price of drugs. The drugs they purchase are made in the U.S. but are sold for a lower price in Canada.
If too many limits are put on the cost of development, drug companies will lose their investors and go elsewhere. Limits also have an impact on research and development. It’s a balancing act.
His new books
Bill’s second book, “The Torch is Passed” is already out and a third “The Lost Codicil” is in the works. All three are part of a trilogy based on “The Pharm House.”
Self-publishing for aspiring novelists
Getting his books published was a long process. At first, he got stuck, so he locked himself away for 2 weeks until he finished his first book. He tried going the traditional route of getting an agent and collected 30 rejection letters. Frustrated, he put his book aside, then rewrote it and tried again 5 years later. This time, he got another 30 rejection letters, but they were all electronic so he felt he made progress.
Then, he signed a deal with a small independent publisher. They published “The Pharm House,” but the deal wasn’t good, so he broke his contract and self-published the book himself. Since then, he has stuck to self-publishing.
Self-publishing vs. traditional options
Amazon has changed the traditional publishing route entirely. There used to be 15 main publishing houses and now there are only 5. Also, it can take 6 months to find an agent, 6 months for the agent to find a publisher, and then with editing and scheduling it can take 1 – 1 ½ years before the book actually comes out.