BLEVINS: Advice from a self-published author
By Vivian Blevins
Almost 20 years ago, author Terry Pellman of Sidney, Ohio, retired early from his role as a social services administrator.
“My health was in the dumpster, and I thought that perhaps I’d have a few months of retirement,” he said. “I decided I wanted to get a book I had written years before, ‘The House on Weston Road,’ published before I kicked the bucket. So I pulled it out and started working on publishing it. My health got better and better, and after publishing the book in 2003, I just kept on writing and writing.”
Pellman updated his ancient computer system and set to work.
If you go to Amazon and search for Pellman’s publications, you’ll find a list of a dozen titles since 2003, ending with his latest, “Mating For Life,” published in July 2019.
There are hardbacks, paperbacks, e-books and revisions. There are novels and a short story collection.
Now he uses Dragon, a voice recognition software, to offset his manual typing deficiencies and to allow him to speed along.
In the time of this writing frenzy, Pellman has learned a good deal about all that is involved in writing and self-publishing, and he recently shared his expertise with an online class entitled “Write Your Book” that I am teaching for business and industry employees.
The panoply of advice he gave my class participants included the following:
- To be a writer is to be a “shameless self-promoter.” Authors must market their books by getting them in gift shops, independent book stores and similar places in addition to doing readings for schools, colleges, libraries, restaurants/coffee shops, service club meetings and book clubs.
- He indicates that his inspiration for his work comes from objects such as a checkered table cloth, a place such as a farm where he baled hay as a young man, a dream or an emotion that elicits scenes and characters.
- Pellman refers to himself as a “binge writer” and advises authors to not worry about perfection and to complete the initial draft in as short a time as possible. He’s written the first draft of a novel in 10, days and believes this approach is highly motivating. Revisions/rewrites come later.
- Social media is essential in today’s environment, and Facebook is an important venue. Facebook allows writers to pay a small fee for a “boost” to reach readers who otherwise would not know them and their work. Pellman has learned that YouTube was not particularly helpful to him, but it might be to others.
- Writers need diligent editors who will be “brutally honest in terms of grammar, punctuation, tone and other issues.”
- Business cards are essential because social interactions almost always lead to conversations about writing, and having that card always available may open doors.
Response to Pellman’s presentation was highly positive.
Rosa Vasquez of Colorado wrote, “I appreciated that he was so honest — and positive — about my publishing bilingual books because they are so needed right now.”
Karen Wallace of Minnesota said, “Having the privilege of hearing from Terry Pellman who has run the gauntlet in the self-publishing industry was a priceless experience. His marketing tips will help me immensely with that issue.”
Pellman makes enough money annually from his Amazon accounts to pay for family vacations and other expenses, and he reports that Amazon “pays $4 to $5 for an e-book and $6 for a paperback.”
He first knew he was interested in writing when his Houston High School English teacher went on maternity leave and Dick Bollenbacher came in as a substitute.
An assignment from the substitute was to write a short story. Pellman’s story, “The Republic of the High Tide,” was about “three guys getting ready to go to college who claimed one of the islands off the coast of Florida, an island that was underwater at times and unclaimed.”
A Republican activist and a conservative, Pellman was unable to run one ad on Facebook because of politically objectionable material.
His Eden novels foretell the political breakup of the U.S., and the ad for one was rejected. He indicates that his intention has been to market his two Eden novels to primarily conservative readers, but the content was considered unsuitable for an ad. Still, he has aired a YouTube video explaining the role of faith in his writing. Go figure.
My strong belief is that writing — both fiction and non-fiction — can be an important part of our lives in that it encourages both the creative and the cognitive aspects of our thinking processes. I have watched this development in the participants in the creative writing classes I teach for business and industry as well as in my creative writing students at Edison State Community College.
Many believe they have a book idea that teases them, asking to be written — a memoir, a family history, a “how to” book, a novel, a collection of stories or poems, a film script — and Pellman says, “If you’ve got a book inside of you, you don’t want to live with regret, wishing you had done it.”
Pellman recommends that writers consider self-publishing and selling on Amazon, the dominant company in the publishing business (Kdp.Amazon.com/en_US/).
The process there is “manageable,” he said, but the first order of business is always to write that book.