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Friday, Aug. 26, 2016

Writing a book is just part of the challenge for authors

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Leslie Whitten makes a display of books by local authors.
SIKESTON -- Sikeston resident Barbara Watkins had no problem getting her two novellas published and released within a year's time. It's getting the public to know her books are on the market that's proved challenging.

"It's a cut-throat industry anyway, but especially when you're unknown," Watkins said. "And it's difficult to get the word out and difficult to get the bookstores to want to carry the books more than one copy at a time."

Watkins' first novella, "Behind the Red Door," was published by traditional publishing company, PublishAmerica, and released in trade paperback last August. Her second novella, "Thorns of an Innocent Soul," was also picked up by PublishAmerica and scheduled to be released May 1.

"'Behind the Red Door' is still doing really well," Watkins said about her psychological thriller. "I've been busy and had a good book signing in Arkansas and one at the Sikeston Depot."

Other local authors who've had their books published and released over the past year include "Shattered Lives" by Brad Bloemer of Sikeston, "Hannah and Friends" by Sherry Machen of Dexter, "Max the Knife" by Dr. Max Heeb of Sikeston and "The Wayne Cryts Story" by Jerry Hobbs of Puxico.

Watkins said it's easy for authors to get frustrated when trying to promote their books.

"The author can't sit back, even those with big publishing companies," Watkins said. "You can't just think publishers are going to do everything for you. Even Anne Rice is out on a book tour right now. No matter how big you are, still have to be out in the public."

John Fisher of Kennett, treasurer of the Heartland Writers Guild, agreed an author's work isn't finished once the book is.

"A lot of people think, you can write it, get it published, put it on a store bookshelf and millions of people will buy it," Fisher said. "Just because it's in the bookstore doesn't mean anyone is going to buy it."

One of the best ways for authors to publicize their book is to connect with the civic groups and organizations in the community and do programs for them about the book, Fisher said.

"Any opportunity you have to speak to groups and that sort of thing is one of he best ways. Generally, you can always sell books when you speak to civic groups," Fisher said.

Another way to promote the book is by doing articles for newspapers or magazines. Sometimes they may be for pay or simply contributed to the magazine to get a little publicity.

For example, Fisher wrote "Catfish, Fiddles, Mules and More: Missouri State Symbols" published by University of Missouri Press in 2003. Now he writes a short column on state symbols for Missouri Life magazine.

Doing interviews on community radio and TV programs may also help, Fisher said.

"It's always something that authors have to do -- try to promote themselves. Some authors will have a Web site to give themselves a presence on Web," Fisher said.

Publishers will do a certain amount of publicity such as run ads in some magazines, but it's also important for the author to do some things, Fisher said, adding often times local stores will feature books.

Other ways Watkins is promoting her books are through a personal Web site, doing local book signings and sending out news releases to media. Watkins is also trying to get credible book reviewers to give her book a chance.

"I'm constantly working 13 hours at a time. It sounds crazy, but I'm always on the computer doing something," said Watkins, who credited her family and friends for support

Watkins' publishing company has also sent her different marketing tips, she said. And she was able to get information from different Web sites.

A member of Heartland Writers Guild, Watkins also recommended getting into any kind of writing organization because authors can learn more and meet talented authors at seminars.

The 2006 Heartland Writers Guild conference, which will be held June 8-10, at the Sikeston Best Western Coach House Inn is a great place for authors to learn and make connections, Fisher said.

"We will have a book signing as part of that. All the authors who attend can bring their books to share," Fisher said about the conference.

Now at work on her first novel, Watkins is considering getting an agent. "It's basically true one author out of a million is going to get anywhere without an agent," Watkins said.

Watkins recently received a confidence boost from best-selling author Anne Rice (yes, it's legit).

"I looked at her Web site and found a place for personal e-mails so I e-mailed her and told her a little about myself and how I got started," Watkins said. A few days later, Rice sent a short note to Watkins, wishing her ongoing success.

"She congratulated me and told me not to give up, to stick with it and it would be worth it," Watkins said.

For now, Watkins said she has no intention of stopping her writing. "No matter what my books do, if they just die off," Watkins said. "I just started this. It's in my blood, and I can't seem to stop."