Russell Moran was excited to show off copies of his book “The President Is Missing” when the Long Island Authors Group set up its “mobile bookstore” — two white vendor tents topped with the inviting sign “Your neighbors, your local authors!” — at the Harborfest Craft Fair in Port Washington last month. Still, he had one concern. Though Moran’s book came out in May 2017, a new thriller by former President Bill Clinton and James Patterson with the same title had just been released one day earlier.
The key thing that Moran wanted was to make it clear to everyone who stopped by that the two books were very different. “One of the weird things in book publishing is that you cannot copyright the name of a book,” Moran, 72, of Islip, said. “And frankly — not that James Patterson or Bill Clinton cares what I think — but my book was out there, and it’s doing very well.”
Moran is one of many writers who belongs to the Long Island Authors Group, which was formed in 2007 to help self-publishing and small-press authors network as well as develop programming and promote the Long Island writing community. The group’s next event is the Eisenhower Park Art Craft & Gift Market on July 14.
Membership chair Ron Scott said the group had about 30 members when he joined in 2010. It’s now at 65, up 33 percent from 49 at the start of 2017.
Most of that influx spiked when group president Roland Allnach introduced the mobile bookstore last year, said Scott, 74, of St. James. “Applications just soared,” he added.
Before the bookstore, “We would go out to fairs, and there would just be table signings,” said Allnach, 49, of Kings Park. “It has been a huge help. It didn’t always seem clear to people why we were there, or what we were doing. What says books? A bookstore.”
The store contains two wooden bookshelves stacked with about 45 titles. Authors — who are chosen on a first-come, first-served basis — and books at the events are rotated and include many genres.
AUTHORS OF A CERTAIN AGE
As people get older and retire or become empty nesters, they usually find they have more free time. It’s no surprise that the LIAG membership tends to skew older, Allnach said.
“It’s often a second life pursuit or passion project and now that they are getting at a time in their life when they have that time, they want to get it done,” he said.
LIAG charges a $65 annual membership fee. In addition to access to the fairs, expos and book signings, members, who must be published Long Island authors, have monthly meetings on topics ranging from writing workshops to seminars on marketing and promotion.
Going by her pen name, member Cassandra Dallas, 67, is a retired counselor, mother of three sons from Valley Stream and author of “Going Dutch,” a “steamy romance novel” about a businesswoman who meets a prominent Dutch bachelor on a trip to Amsterdam.
“I think it’s ‘R’ tending toward ‘X,’ ” said Dallas. “It’s not pornographic. It’s sexy.”
Dallas got the idea for her debut book, which was self-published last year, after visiting Amsterdam in 2011.
Before “Going Dutch,” which has sold less than 100 copies, Dallas wrote essays about her family and a couple of children’s stories. “So, it’s kind of ironic that the story that turned into a book is anything but a children’s novel,” she said.
PICKING HERNOM DE PLUME
Dallas said two of her sons were fine with her using her real name for the book, but her middle son said she should use a pen name “to protect the innocent.”
Moran, who sold his legal publishing company in 2000, has written 18 books, including his 2013 sci-fi novel, “The Gray Ship.”
“I sold the company and my wife was bothering me, frankly, saying, ‘What are you going to do? What are you going to do? You can’t sit around. Why don’t you write a novel? You’ve been talking about it.’ ”
Using his experience in the Navy as a starting point, the story is about “a nuclear-guided missile cruiser captained by an African-American woman that goes through a time portal and winds up two days before the Civil War,” Moran said. The book hit the Amazon bestseller chart and sold 10,000 copies in the first year.
“My first check from Amazon was $2,000. I was like, ‘Wow!’ ” But competition among independent authors has grown exponentially since then. That’s why LIAG’s efforts are so important, Moran said.
He, too, joined LIAG after meeting members at a fair.
“They’re good people. They provide inspiration. I hear what other people are doing, and we share ideas.”
For instance, he learned about Draft2Digital, a company that designs, prints and distributes independently written books.
“Writing a book is one thing, but doing all the formatting and stuff is tricky,” Moran said. “I’m a writer, not a book designer.”
Dan Mariani, 62, of Massapequa Park, whose 2016 debut novel, “The Road to Chapultepec Park,” falls into the genre of climate-change science fiction, or “cli-fi,” wanted “to get people to think about the climate a little bit more. I think something is happening to the climate, whether it is man-made or not.”
The self-published book has sold roughly 600 copies since launching in November. He used Amazon CreateSpace, which recently stopped providing editing, marketing and design services, and spent about $1,300 putting it together.
Mariani, who sells industrial supplies for Grainger, previously wrote trade publication articles on business and sales and an unpublished slice-of-life novel about living on his own while taking acting lessons. But now, he said, “I’m evolving to have more time to devote to [writing].”
A SUCCESS STORY
One of LIAG’s most successful members is Phil Keith, 71, of Southampton, who spent 24 years in the military before moving to careers in educational software publishing and teaching. Keith landed a deal with traditional publisher St. Martin’s Press for his two nonfiction books about the Vietnam War, “Blackhorse Riders” and “Fire Base Illingworth: An Epic True Story of Remarkable Courage Against Staggering Odds.”
How did he do it? “The short answer is, it wasn’t easy,” he said.
He got a boost in credibility after winning fourth-place in Amazon’s Breakthrough Novel Award program in 2008 for “Anumis,” a terrorism thriller set in the Hamptons.
Fellow Long Island author Tom Clavin, who instructed Keith in writing seminars, connected him with his own agent, who happened to be looking for military nonfiction material.
Keith submitted a proposal and it was “immediately rejected.” Clavin urged him to reconfigure and resubmit the proposal to the agent. “I went back and forth five times before he agreed my proposal was good enough to put in front of publishers.”
He was 66 when “Blackhorse Riders” was published in 2012. His books have sold more than 100,000 copies.
Keith jokes that he plans to keep going as long as “the brain cells last.”
Linda Maria Frank, 77, of Massapequa Park, taught science for 30 years at Seaford High School and as an adjunct professor at Hofstra University for 11 years. Twenty years of that experience included teaching forensic science. As a child, she liked Nancy Drew mystery novels.
Now, she marries her two interests with The Annie Tillery Mysteries — a series she describes as Nancy Drew meets “CSI.” She also produces “The Writer’s Dream,” a local-access TV show in which she interviews authors, including LIAG members.
Frank, who started writing in the 1990s but didn’t publish her first novel until 2010, as self-publishing became more the norm and after she overcame breast cancer, joined LIAG in 2012 and said she appreciates the marketing and networking opportunity it offers.
“When you self-publish, you need all the help you can get.”
Meet the authors
Here are some updating events where members of the Long Island Authors Group will be setting up shop.
WHAT Eisenhower Park Art Craft & Gift Market
WHEN | WHERE 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., July 14, Field 8 at Eisenhower Park, East Meadow
INFO Free; 516-442-6000, nassaucountycraftshows.com
WHAT Freeport Summer Craft Expo
WHEN | WHERE 1 to 8 p.m., Aug. 26, Sea Breeze Park, 11 Richmond St.
INFO Free; 516-442-6000, nassaucountycraftshows.com
WHAT Brooklyn Book Festival
WHEN | WHERE 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Sept. 16, Brooklyn Borough Hall, 209 Joralemon St., Brooklyn
INFO Free; brooklynbookfestival.org