2013-09-05 / Top News


Local authors turn to self-publishing to get their books on shelves

DR. RUTH WESTHEIMER helped readers understand their sexuality. Anne Rodgers and Dr. Maureen Whelihan think they can do the same.

But Dr. Ruth relied on a mainstream publisher to print and distribute her book. Ms. Rodgers and Dr. Whelihan are doing it on their own, self-publishing “Kiss and Tell,” a 370-page book that explores what women experience and want from their sex lives.

But they’ll have to get in line with hundreds of thousands of other authors.

More than 350,000 books are published each year in the United States, according to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, or UNESCO.

Forbes, the financial magazine, estimates that number actually may be more like 600,000 to 1 million books. Of those, at least half are self-published.

Most of those titles will languish; but some will take on lives of their own, as their authors tour and talk about their books.

Here are the stories of four self-published books and their authors.

Anne Rodgers,

Co-author of “Kiss and Tell”

Anne Rodgers’ debut as an author was not necessarily as she would have planned it.

After all, doesn’t every journalist dream of writing that next great novel?

Instead, she drew inspiration from a battery-operated toothbrush. The devices are known for stimulating gum tissues. But a Wellington gynecologist had learned that the toothbrushes were good for stimulating, well, never mind.

Ms. Rodgers wrote about it in a newspaper column and ended up co-authoring a book with the doctor, Maureen Whelihan.

“Not in a million years did I think I would write a book about sex,” Ms. Rodgers said. “And it’s interesting because people get this idea about you once you write a book about sex. ‘Wow, she’s having this really raunchy, adventurous sex life.’ It’s like, ‘No, I wrote a book about sexuality, but that does not mean that I’m a particular type of person,’ so that stereotype does kick in.”

Anne Rodgers Anne Rodgers Ms. Rodgers was features editor at both The Austin American-Statesman in Texas and at The Palm Beach Post; for several years, she wrote a column on women’s issues for The Post. Since retiring, she has freelanced and has worked as a pet-sitter.

But what about that next great novel?

“I had dabbled with fiction but trying to invent everything out of my head was so hard, and since I was a journalist, it turned out that it was easier to write about something where there was research and there was fact base,” she said. “Plus, it intersected with my interest in women and getting their stories, which I had done at The Post, so it was a really nice dovetail.”

To write the story, Ms. Rodgers interviewed hundreds of women of all ages about their sexual activities and likes and dislikes.

Dr. Whelihan had conducted a survey of 1,300 patients ranging in age from 15 to 97; it took 15 months to compile the information.

“I found the younger women fascinating in the book, but I admit there was more resonance for me with those women over 40,” she said.

It has been the point of many wanderings for Ms. Rodgers, who has traveled throughout the country to promote her book, even speaking to her mother’s PEO sorority in Texas.

“You have to be very careful because the young women have all this vocabulary and language to talk about sex but no wisdom to share. The older women have a lot of wisdom and experience but they don’t have any words. They aren’t used to talking about sex at all, and so you have to be very diplomatic in the way you interview them,” she said. “The things I would ask the teenagers, I wouldn’t in a million years ask the older women, and some of the older women were so reticent that it would take me a very long time to work up to a question like oral sex, whereas with the teens you can say anything.”

She had to refine her interview techniques.

“You say that to a woman who’s 80 and she’s insulted and offended and you have shut the door on any further communication,” she said.

But open that door, and it can be quite revealing.

“My 80s ladies were my favorite decade for a long time. They just completely surprised me. Some of them were very frank. They had great stories,” Ms. Rodgers said.

It took a journalist’s thirst for information to bring those stories together in the 370-page book, which is organized by decades.

“I was curious about why some women had desire for sex and some didn’t,” Ms. Rodgers said.

She quoted a saying by Dr. Whelihan: “Women don’t have low desire for sex. They have low desire for the sex they’re having.”

She hopes the book, which has sold more than 1,300 copies since its launch in February, can change that.

“I was so grateful to the women for being so honest.”

— Anne Rodgers’ and Dr. Maureen Whelihan’s book “Kiss and Tell” is available for $18.95 at kissandtellbook.com.


Bruce Portmann,

Author of “Elvis Presley: My Second Chance”

Everyone of a certain age remembers where he or she was when they learned the King had died in 1977.

But Bruce Portmann had a different vision: What if Elvis had lived?

“I was with a friend of mine who is an Elvis impersonator. And he’s healthchallenged right now. I used to help him out. He said, ‘Bruce, you need to make a movie about Elvis.’ I said, ‘Russell, it’s already been done.’ He said, ‘What if he didn’t die?’”

And that is the premise of his debut novel, “Elvis Presley: My Second Chance.”

“I’d heard the stories about people seeing him,” Mr. Portmann said, citing the alleged sightings of Elvis at fast-food restaurants or sailing the Caribbean.

“I have a pretty good idea he would have tried to turn his life around,” he said.

Writing about a music icon came naturally for Mr. Portmann, who spent his career in the music industry.

“I was in the music business myself. He worked for RCA Records and I worked for Capitol Records,” said Mr. Portmann, who was international marketing and promotions director for two years at Capitol. “He was a competitor, but I was always a fan.”

He had a visceral reaction to the King.

“I was aware of him and I admired his talent. Saw him once in Baltimore and it sent goose bumps up and down me,” he said. “It was magic. When he hit that stage, the energy just hit me completely.”

It was enough that some 30 years later, he was compelled to write — only he didn’t write a book.

“I did it kind of backwards. I wrote it as a movie script, and when I stopped, it was 240 pages long,” he said, adding that the average script is 90 pages or so.

“I probably should have written the book first then negotiated a movie deal,” he said.

He initially contemplated hiring someone to rework the script as a book, including journalist Alanna Nash, who had covered Presley’s death, but found the costs to be prohibitive.

“It’s a good thing I had a Plan B and Plan B actually turned out to be me writing the book. I actually had four different editors working on the book to sort it all out,” Mr. Portmann said.

He sought guidance from others.

“I joined a writers group and they had a meeting up in Orlando. The reason I went was because there would be other writers there, as well as agents and publishers while I was there,” he said. “To be honest, I got a less than lukewarm response from them.”

He persevered, recognizing changes in publishing.

“The book industry is going through what the record industry went through 15 years ago, when it wasn’t just 45s and 33s anymore,” he said.

That doesn’t leave much room for the little guys.

“Unless you’re an author who can guarantee 100,000 copies or have already got a name, they’re not into developing new acts. They want something proven,” he said, citing the cost of printing and distributing books.

Of course, people are turning to electronic media such as Kindle.

“I said, ‘Let’s get with the times and selfpublish it and do it myself,’” he said.

So Mr. Portmann is offering his books as print-on-demand.

“It’s printed and sent off,” he said of the books, which are printed in Charleston, S.C. “It’s not like I have 10,000 sitting in my garage. I order a few hundred at a time.”

— Bruce Portmann’s “Elvis Presley: My Second Chance” is available in a Kindle version for $9.99 at amazon.com. The soft-cover version also is available at amazon.com.



B.R. Barbara,

Author of “Dearest Gerry”

B.R. Barbara had a happy marriage.

Then her husband began to exhibit signs of dementia. He died five years ago, too young, too soon, at age 68.

“But I didn’t start thinking about the book five years ago. I went through a grief period,” she said.

The storytelling came later.

“I started writing favorite memories of the early years so I could share them with my daughter, who’s 31. If my husband had lived, these are stories we would have been telling her now,” Barbara said.

She hopes her stories will reach a broader audience.

“As it turned out, I decided to publish it. I’ve gotten very good feedback,” she said.

But her book, “Dearest Gerry,” is not a traditional narrative story.

“It’s a series of vignettes from the early years, written as love letters, and I haven’t had anyone tell me they don’t like it,” she said.

Her goals go beyond just telling the story.

“With my book, I hope to have book signings and talks, which I will do in person or by Skype,” she said. “When I have the book talks, I intend to emphasize three parts. I want to talk about the essence of love, the core character and how it never changes, and I want to bring sensitivity to dementia.”

Her husband’s decline was gradual.

“Of course, there were problems, but I think my husband handled his illness well, and adapted,” she said. “He had a lot of compassion; he was kind, he was giving.”

That remained intact.

Her husband had been a top executive at Prudential Securities, working in computer systems.

“Even though he couldn’t do the complicated, intellectual things that he did, he was never negative or angry or mean. He just learned to do something else, and he would just do little things, like carry the laundry basket, whatever he could do, and he never had a chip on his shoulder. He was just a great guy,” she said.

And Barbara, an artist, needed to tell his story.

“I sat in my favorite chair and I started to write. I didn’t sit down and write continuously. I had a notebook, I’d put it down and when I would think of something I’d sit down and write another letter,” Barbara said. “It was over a long period of time. I can’t tell you how long it was. I just knew when I was doing the end of it. I knew when I had completed it.”

And when she completed it, “Dearest Gerry” was 64 pages of letters to her husband.

“I also know people don’t read as much as they used to, so I didn’t write a long book. I wanted something that would hold them, grab their attention,” she said, adding that someone who sits down with the book can finish it in a couple of hours.

She published the book in August and has been writing national organizations. She would like to see the book used as a way of helping others who have been in situations similar to hers. She also has written a compendium, “Moving Through Grief.”

As she went through this process, Barbara knew she wanted to keep the book as local as possible.

“I wanted to stay with a publishing company in Florida,” she said. She had narrowed her search to two companies, one in Tamarac, the other in Sarasota.

She chose the Sarasota company, The Peppertree Press, because she felt it had a better website. She estimated it cost her more than $4,000 to print an edition of 300 of the books, which carry a price tag of $12.95.

“The feedback has been very encouraging,” she said. “It is a nice love story.”

— B. R. Barbara’s “Dearest Gerry” is available for $12.95 at Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble and Books A Million; soon she will sell it on her website, creativememories- favorites.com.


Jack McLain,

Author of “Which Way America?”

Jack McLain is a man on a mission.

He wants to steer the United States from what he says is a dangerous path.

So when last year’s presidential election cycle came around, he wanted to let people know what was wrong with the country and what could be done to make it right.

Then he wrote a book about it.

“I had a book that I thought was kind of urgent and had a lot of information that I wanted them to read before the election,” he said. “I went to publishers and discovered there was a lot of delay and cost.”

In talking to publishers, he learned it might take as long as 60 to 90 days to publish a completed manuscript.

“In talking to different people, I decided to try self-publishing,” he said.

He found a printer in Michigan to do the work.

“We got everything decided up on, cover and everything, and they had had books in to me in two weeks. They were so prompt compared to the publishers,” he said. “They did a wonderful job. I am so pleased.”

His 133-page book has 26 chapters that cover such topics as “Our Bill of Rights,” “Right to Life,” “The Sanctity of Marriage” and “The Socialist Myth.”

Mr. McLain has been printing batches of the books.

“At first, I had 250. You can get as many as you want. Since then, I’ve ordered 200 at a time,” he said.

“We belong to the Constitution Party and I felt that our party could use the book,” Mr. McLain said.

He drew inspiration from the American Protestant anti-communist author John Stormer, who in 1964 wrote the book, “None Dare Call it Treason.”

“I patterned my work after him. Not only did I want to put opinions in my book but I did a lot of research into it,” he said.

Like Mr. Stormer, he also offers solutions toward the end of his book.

“I’ve got about 20 points about what we should be doing to save our country. I think our country is in pitiful shape. We need a real awakening in America,” he said.

He has been selling his book to people he knows and with whom he has been associated at his church.

It is part of his tradition of conservative activism that includes two runs for Congress.

“This wasn’t written to promote the Constitution Party,” he said. “I have a great burden for people, for souls and for our country.”

— Jack McLain’s “Which Way America?” is available by sending Mr. McLain an $8 check at 16874 131st Way N., Jupiter, FL 33478 or emailing jmclaincpf@bellsouth.net.

Other books by local authors

¦ “Journey of a Motherless Child,” by Mi Sun — North Palm Beach author Mi Sun was born in South Korea, lost her mom at the age of 3 and came to the United States in 1970 as a pregnant teenager. She has worked as a UPS driver, an upholsterer, and supervised and subcontracted numerous residential construction projects. Her book is $24.45, including postage, at misuns.com.

¦ “Wise Up: Be the Solution,” by James L. Casale, Ph.D. — In 1974, Dr. Casale became the first male Florida Teacher of the Year. After more than half a century as an educator, he has written this book to assist parents in becoming their child’s first teacher. Dr. Casale lives in Palm Beach Gardens. His book is listed at $8.50 and is available through Amazon.com and through his website, Ask the Principal, www.asktheprincipal.info.

¦ “My Mama and Me,” by Crystal Bowman and Teri McKinley — Ms. Bowman, a Palm Beach Gardens resident, and her daughter, Ms. McKinley, wanted to help mothers begin regular devotions and spiritual conversations with their young children with this book of faith-based devotions and activities. List price is $14.95; it will be published sometime in September by Tyndale House, which publishes the Living Bible and other religious texts. See crystalbowman.com.

¦ “Rescue Off Peanut Island,” by Jane E. Niebch — The Palm Beach Gardens author pens a rescue story about a 9-year-old girl named Jenna who goes swimming off Peanut Island, gets caught in a storm and is assisted along the way by a dolphin. List price is $21.99 for the 28-page picture book; ebook is $3.99. See www.Xlibris.com.

¦ “The Stage Bride,” by Jerrica Knight-Catania — Ms. Knight-Catania, who lives in Palm Beach Gardens, has released this book, her seventh historical novel and the last in The Daring Debutantes series, which tell the tales of society girls who find themselves in the middle of adventures. Book is $3.19 on Kindle, Amazon.com. Or visit jerricasplace.com.

¦ “The Cross and the Mask,” by James Snyder — Mr. Snyder, a Jupiter author and historian, wrote this historical novel about the interactions between the Spaniards and the natives of Florida. The book is listed at $24.95; pharosbooks.net.

¦ “Odyssey in Exile,” by Rolland Doerfer — The author, who lives in West Palm Beach, tells the story of his family during a five-year span in middle 19thcentury Baden, Germany. Listed at $16.99 hardcover, $12.99 paperback, through friesenpress.com.

¦ “Verbal Snacks: A Taste of Short Stories,” by Nancy S. Sims — The author’s collection is built around pieces that showcase the powerful influence various inanimate objects have exerted on the lives of the characters. List price is $12; www.nancy-sims.com. ¦

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