Local authors help others break into publishing world

Bellmore Library to host Indie Author Day


For an independent author, the heavy lifting begins when a book is finished, according to Dina Santorelli, a local writer who self-published the second book in a series of thrillers, “Baby Bailino,” last September.

Santorelli will join author Ellen Meister and literary agent Jan Kardys, along with roughly 20 other local writers, on Oct. 14 at the Bellmore Memorial Library’s first Indie Author Day, an event aimed at acquainting aspiring authors with the modern publishing landscape.

There is no secret to publishing a novel, said Meister, of Jericho, who has had five books published by companies including Penguin, Random House and Harper Collins. But, she said, “Tenacity is really important … and the ability to handle rejections.”

Meister will host a panel discussion at the library called “How to Hook a Literary Agent,” in which she will coach attendees through the publishing process, starting with securing an agent to act as the liaison with publishers.

Gauging the interest of a literary agent works much like applying for a job, Meister explained. First, an author sends a query letter — similar to a cover letter — summarizing his or her novel. She said that this can “drive people absolutely crazy, because you need to find a way to encapsulate your manuscript into a few paragraphs.”

Aspiring authors must market their novels, Meister said, by writing query letters that stand out among the hundred or so that an agent might receive in a day. For her, this meant keeping at it, despite 50 rejections that were “every bit as heartbreaking as you can possibly imagine,” she said. The 51st time she tried, however, she was able to publish her first book, “Secret Confessions of the Applewood PTA.”

The agent, meanwhile, faces the task of finding a publisher. Stanley Barkan, a multi-lingual Bellmore poet and the owner of a publishing company called Cross-Cultural Communications, said he looks for content that appeals to foreign audiences.

Growing up in Brooklyn, Barkan, 80, developed a passion for uniting people of different nationalities through literature. “Most of my friends had escaped from Nazi-occupied Europe,” he said, adding that he had begun studying languages when he was young. His company focuses on literature that transcends borders.

Barkan, who started Cross-Cultural Communications while teaching at Long Island University, said that writers should always be willing to publish, even if their worked is not backed by a literary agent or publishing company. “Self-publishing is a lot easier today,” he said. “And there are so many resources.”

Santorelli, who teaches several continuing education classes on writing and publishing at Hofstra University, will host a panel discussion on Indie Author Day called “I Just Wrote a Book. Now What?”

The author asked herself this question, she said, when she wrote the first book in her “Baby Grand” thriller series. Self-publishing wasn’t her initial plan, but Santorelli recalled that although she was working with a literary agent, the novel was rejected numerous times, sometimes for contradictory reasons.

“One [publisher] loved my writing and didn’t like my story, while another loved my story but didn’t like my writing,” she said, adding that she was then drawn to the budding self-publishing market.

“The process is the same,” Santorelli said. “You write your book, edit it, design the interior, and market it.” And the author, she added, controls every aspect of publication.

“You could pay people a whole lot of money or you could kind of do everything on your own,” said Matt Curcio, 24, of Merrick, who self-published his first novel, “1 Train.” “I literally taught myself everything about it,” he said, explaining that he wrote the book at age 21, while studying broadcasting at Manhattan College.

It took Curcio a few years to edit the book, design its cover and get it on Amazon.com, but eventually it started attracting positive reviews on the site and was distributed through Books on the Subway, a distribution service in which curators leave books at Manhattan subway stops. Curcio’s second novel, “The Lonely Constable,” will be released on Oct. 31.

“I tried and tried to get involved with a literary agent,” said Vincent Scialo, of Bellmore, who has published seven novels with an independent company called Author House and will appear at Indie Author Day. Through the company, authors can pay to format their books, learn the basics of marketing and even have their work reviewed by the New York Times.

But self-publishing can drain your bank account, Scialo warned, describing it as the price of your passion. “I was once told that only 3 percent of authors could make a living from it,” he said. “I make just enough to pay me back.”

Nevertheless, he said, he thinks of positive feedback as a greater reward than money. As a reader, Scialo added, books sometimes move him so much that he doesn’t want to put them down. “It’s mesmerizing to me that people feel the same way about my book,” he said.

Indie Author Day, which will start at 10:30 a.m. on Oct. 14, is free to the public. In addition to panel discussions, it will feature writing workshops, book readings and other activities.