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Published: 7/24/2011 - Updated: 2 years ago

Authors find audiences through self-publishing

BY ROSE RUSSELL
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Everybody has a story to tell, and today many people are telling them in print, thanks to the technology and plethora of self-publishing companies.

Although thousands of books are published each year, people who know their stories won’t capture the interest of big publishing houses turn to self-publishing. Some have good experiences, some don’t. Some spend lots of money, others spend nominal amounts.

All in all, though, little compares to finally seeing one’s own name and title on the cover of a book. Some pursue the task for the sheer pleasure of it, believing they have something to say that should interest other people.

Self-publishing a book isn’t easy, however. In addition to writing their stories, authors do their own research, marketing, and promotion of their books.

Rejection from some of the major players in book publishing sent Holland resident John C. Moore out on his own. Some of the 46 rejections he received for his first book, A Positive Attitude is a Muscle: A Managed Stress Survivor’s Manual, that he published in 2001, cited excessive title length or a need for rewriting.

"Some rejections were nice, but others really hurt you to read," he said. "One said I would never be published. I sent him one of my books with a nice note. He wrote back saying, ‘Sometimes I’m wrong,’" said Moore, a retired vice president from the former Toledo Trust, a retired vice president at Bowling Green State University, and former chairman of the board of trustees at Owens Community College.

Moore’s book on stress grew out of a series of 15-minute workshops on stress. Those sessions grew to two hours, and Moore traveled the nation presenting them. While struggling with how to put all the information in the form of a book, Moore said, "I woke up at 2 o’clock one morning and had the title, and then by the time I went to work, I had the outline of the book."

His second book, Alvetta, named for his late wife, chronicles his journey during her last two years. Though it is intensely personal, it is a gripping story.

His up-front costs were about $695. All the work of self-publishing falls on the author’s shoulders, and it sometimes shows, Moore said.

"If you go through Alvetta and Stress, you will find some errors. There is no one to help you do clean-up work. No one helps you with the marketing," he said.

But that won’t stop Moore from self publishing again. He is conducting research for another book he expects to have out in a couple of years.

Sometimes these authors tap the skill of colleagues for help, as did Cindy Hampel of Royal Oak, Mich.

Her book, It’s Not Personal — Lessons I’ve Learned from Dealing with Difficult Behavior, is available in paperback and on Kindle. She asked a friend in the Detroit Working Writers to read and edit the work.

Hampel, a mother of three who is taking paralegal courses now, said that though "I did not plan to write this type of book when I left my full-time job in media relations, I felt the calling, if you will, that God must have put these experiences in my path for a reason, and I grew compelled to write about them."

Hampel was not intimidated about the process of writing and self-publishing her first book. She turned to an online group called CreateSpace. Her initial cost was less than $50.

Though it took years to compile her material, from the time she started to write it to its publication — including the time it took her son to help format and design the book — she invested about a year.

Would she do it again?

"Possibly," she said. Though "I don’t know if it will be nonfiction. I understand that self-publishing works well with nonfiction. At this point, I am enjoying seeing what I can do for this book, but ... it was easy enough to do."

James Boyk didn’t send his fiction to a major publishing house. The author of self-published novel Out of Tune Piano Blues lives in Los Angeles, where he is a concert pianist, performer, and teacher of gifted students and who was pianist in residence for 30 years at California Institute of Technology.

"This is something I wrote because I wanted to write the story that says something about music, careers in performing music, and I couldn’t figure out how to say in any other way and not be didactic or pedantic," Boyk said.

Boyk began writing his book in 1998.

"The completely dominant factor is the time that went into the book. It was thousands of hours over a 13-year period," he said.

Though it cost him several thousand dollars to self-publish his work, he said, "The process of writing fiction for me is just the most fun of any work activity, equal to the joy of playing a concert. It’s absolutely enormous fun. You get to say what you want to say and the way you want to say it."

Former and long-time Toledoans and anyone interested in the city’s history will enjoy James B. Moore’s self-published book, The Naked Badge — True Police Experiences Stranger than Fiction. The retired Toledo police officer discusses some the dangerous as well as humorous encounters police have. His book shows photographs of himself, fellow officers, and long-gone Toledo scenes and buildings, some of them from The Blade’s archives.

His book also grew out of other work. As a member of the speakers’ bureau at the community college in Scottsdale, Ariz. — where he moved after retiring from the police force in 1980 — "I made up a program called ‘true police experiences,’ " he said. "So many episodes I was involved in almost read like fiction."

The former police sergeant, lieutenant, and captain, who spends his summers here, decided to self-publish because he understood that as an unpublished author whose subject was about Toledo, he had a slim chance of interesting major publishers and a nationwide readership. His experience was frustrating.

"The first draft had 33 typos and the photos didn’t correspond with the stories," he said. The writing began in 2002; the book was published this year.

He’s not totally discouraged about self-publishing, though. He acknowledges that he had no experience, and so he’s weighing whether to write a sequel. It could include tales never told, such as the time he responded to a call at Calvary Cemetery, and then, after spending some time at his mother’s grave, found that he was locked inside.

Contact Rose Russell at: rrussell@theblade.com or 419-724-6178.



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