Marion O. Celenza's dreams of becoming a published author were almost dashed forever about eight years ago, after she received a half dozen rejections from small publishing houses.
Then, she finally found a home for "Menu Log," her cookbook comprising 52 appetizer-to-dessert menus with accompanying recipes that had been tested, tried and retried over 30 years. It was her life's work, featuring health-conscious, easy-to-prepare recipes dating to the 19th century, passed down by generations of her Neapolitan ancestors.
But before it reached print, the publisher folded.
"I thought, 'What am I going to do?' " recalled Celenza, now 77, a widow and retired English teacher who lives in Melville.
Instead of going "over the transom again," however, Celenza chose the self-publishing route, an increasingly popular alternative for unpublished Act2-generation authors with a dream and enough disposable income to make it come true. Celenza, whose husband was a dentist, paid Cherry Lane Lithographing Corp. in Plainview to turn out 1,000 copies of "Menu Log," at $30 each.
Unlike some self-published projects, however, "Menu Log" has actually been selling (albeit at a loss, at $19.95 each).
Celenza used publishing industry connections to find a book distributor and get a notice in Kirkus Discoveries, which reviews self-published authors. And Celenza has become something of a cottage industry, following up with two more self-published cookbooks and a collection of poems about dogs. She gives copies as gifts to friends and family.
Her publishing dreams realized, Celenza says, "I love the last seven years of my life."
Respect has increased
Got your own cookbook, Gothic novel or life story seemingly ripe for a memoir? Sorry to say, you may never see that book published the "old-fashioned" way, with a fat cash advance and a string of public readings at Manhattan bookstores.
A shrinking publishing industry and the public's waning appetite for print have radically revised the landscape for authors who aren't presold celebrities or professional athletes.
Although self-publishing used to be anathema to serious authors, respect has increased for vanity presses such as Xlibris, iUniverse and the venerable Vantage Press, as well as some of their authors, say Long Islanders familiar with the industry. And some in the Act2 generation are using advanced technology, such as Kindle, to get their work out there.
Julianne Wernersbach, the publicist for Book Revue, an independent bookstore in downtown Huntington, says many self-published Long Islanders are good writers who just haven't been lucky to hit the right note with big publishers.
They are "older people who have a little saved in their bank account, who say it [publishing] is a dream they've had for a very long time," she added.
Book Revue features a stream of older self-published authors who may attract 30 to 100 family and friends to their readings. Most of the titles are self-help books with an emphasis on spiritual growth, and novels, she said.
One novelist who has thrived after self-publishing is Carol Hoenig, 54, of Bellmore. She had despaired of finding a publisher for "Without Grace," a 232-page manuscript, hammered out in a burst of creativity in the late 1990s. The semiautobiographical novel about a woman searching for her long-lost mother had been submitted to mainstream publishing houses and literary agents' offices, receiving praise but no acceptance letter.
"I would say I had probably 30 rejections slips," Hoenig said. To complicate matters, as the national events coordinator for the Borders bookstore chain, Hoenig knew the odds were stacked against her.
A step up and selling well
So she, too, decided to try the DIY method. "Without Grace" was published in 2005 as part of iUniverse's selective Star program. A step up from vanity presses, iUniverse is a print-on-demand company, producing copies as they are ordered. The average age of iUniverse authors is 54, says spokesman Kevin Gray, and the average cost to the author is $1,000 to $1,500.
"Without Grace" has sold more than 1,200 copies since 2005, earning about $2,000 in royalties, and has won an award from the DIY Book Festival. Hoenig has hawked her books as far away as Burlington, Vt. Best of all, she says, publishing helped her become a freelance writer and publishing consultant.
If you have a story to tell and want an immediate turnaround for your finished work, you can publish it yourself at the local copy center. For instance, FedEx Office, formerly Kinkos, will produce 1,000 copies of a no-frills, 200-page soft cover book, for $6,990, according to an estimate provided by their National Bid Center. Authors can go to the local FedEx copy center for details.
And then there's cyberspace
Carol Pack, a Westbury resident who describes herself as "over 45," works as the assignment manager of New York Institute of Technology's LI News Tonight. But she moonlights as a writer of historical fiction, featuring a spy named Evangeline.
After receiving a "stack of rejections" and considering a self-publishing company, AuthorHouse, she decided on an e-book. In January, her first novel, "Code Name: Evangeline," came out on Amazon Kindle.
But if you crave the crack of a new binding, it will cost you.
Joe Satriano, 57, of Oceanside, a retired Roslyn High School math teacher, spent about $20,000 to self-publish "In Sickness and in Health: A Memoir of Love," through Legwork Team Publishing in Hauppauge.
The nonfiction book is about his late wife, Sue, and her battle with cancer. Satriano says he's sold about 800 of the first 1,000 copies. The softcover sells for $17.99, the hardcover for $28.99, with proceeds going to the Susan Satriano Memorial Scholarship Foundation.
"His book is doing phenomenally well," said Yvonne Kamerling, Legwork chief executive officer.
Satriano, who publishes under the pen name J.S. Russo, is already working on a sequel, titled "After Math: Life Without Susan."
"Readers have written incredibly wonderful things to me." Satriano said. "I want my next book . . . to be better than the first one."