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Local Authors Discuss 'Publish on Demand'

From the fun to the scary, over a 10-year period, Herndon resident Mike Maggio compiled a dozen of his short stories in a volume entitled "Sifting Through the Madness."

But readers will not necessarily find Maggio's book on the shelves of the local bookstores. Maggio, and other authors like himself, have gone the P.O.D. — or publish on demand route to give life to their literary works and they discussed the process as well as their books last Thursday, Jan. 24 at the Reston Barnes & Noble bookstore.

"This collection of short stories was written over a 10-year period — some with a Middle Eastern flavor," said Maggio, having lived in that region of the world for six years. "Some just came to me and there are a couple of traditional stories — some are fun and some are scary," he said.

Maggio, who used the publisher Ex Libris, said he researched the company to determine its legitimacy. "They are, and I'm pleased with the product," he said. While he had no up front costs, he also said he had no control over pricing of the volume, which he admitted, "is not a long book." At $20.99, Maggio said, "it's over-priced — it's poorly priced — I'm not Tom Clancy. I paid no money up front, so I guess there's a trade off."

Fairfax resident Antoniette Wallace, known in print as A.B. Wallace, agreed with Maggio, regarding pricing. "Yes, it's over-priced. I have no say," said the author of "The Mark of the Werewolf." The publisher determines pricing based upon page count and genre, said Wallace, whose book, published by PublishAmerica, costs $19.95.

"I received plenty of rejections," said Wallace, opting for the POD method where she can purchase and sell her own books. "They do little marketing," she said.

"Pricing is high," said Vienna's Charles Sheehan-Miles, author of "Prayer at Rumayla," published by Ex Libris. At a cost of $21.99, "it hurts selling," said the Gulf War veteran, having sold less than 500 copies of his book.

However, "I'm fairly pleased," said Sheehan-Miles. "I'm establishing a market and getting reviews." Sheehan-Miles' start-up cost was $200 with Ex Libris, which he said has since risen to $500.

Yet, 25-year McLean resident David Shapiro is unfazed by the $20.95 price tag on his book "Not Invented Here" published by Infinity. "Pricing is a customer's problem, not mine. They do it by page count — I have a hefty novel and I think it's worth reading," said the World War II naval aviator.

"I have a grand plan. I want to see David James Elliott in a mini-series," said Shapiro of the direction he wants to see his book take.

Although Austin Camacho said the $13.95 price of his mystery "Blood and Bone" is "a little higher than trade paperbacks, it's not outrageous. I have some control, but the publisher recommends the price." Camacho's book is published by Infinity and he said he was pleased because "we own the rights and I own the art," referring to the design of the book's jacket.

"It's a heart rending process. Most books won't get looked at," said Camacho of the more traditional or mainstream publishing houses. "People have been self-publishing for decades. It's a way to do it without costing thousands." Camacho paid $400 to get his book in print. "It's not a huge outlay."

"There's more to it than making money. I'm pleased with the product. I had final say on the cover, chapter breaks, margins — it's very literally my work," said Camacho.

With advances in technology, a POD book can be ordered and received in four to five business days, said Toya O' Hora, community relations manager for Barnes & Noble. Technology also allows upfront costs to remain small for the authors.

Camacho also praised the technology with regard to fixing an error. Because the books are printed upon request, an error he noticed was corrected with the very next printed copy of his book.

<mh>Novel Ideas

<bt>Camacho described his "Blood and Bone" as a "hard-boiled mystery. There are lots of twists and turns." His story involves a young boy dying of cancer — only a transplant will keep him alive. The only person not to be tested is the boy's father — missing since the boy's birth. "Follow the clues," said Camacho.

"The book is set in Northern Virginia and D.C. — places I know and go to all the time — that made it easy," he said.

"I tried to write an entertaining novel," said Shapiro of his "Not Invented Here." Based in locales such as Thailand, Israel and Washington, DC, Shapiro said the book is based upon personal experiences.

"One central plot is woven together by four main characters. It tells the real reason why we have certain aircraft. You do not need to be an aerospace engineer to read this," he said of the book he hopes to turn into a mini-series.

Sheehan-Miles' "Prayer at Rumayla" is set during the final battle of the Gulf War. "It's a 20-year-old soldier's internal struggle because of things he has seen and done. He returns home and no longer has a fiancee or a best friend. It's a personal experience as a private in the Gulf War six weeks out of basic training," he said.

The theme in Wallace's "The Mark of the Werewolf" is that "there are good werewolves and bad werewolves. It's a supernatural mystery. A New York police detective determines there are werewolves in New York and they are trying to kill him. A little secret — he's one too," said Wallace, hoping to turn the volume into a series.

<mh>Author Reviews

<bt>"This was most interesting," said Falls Church resident Dick DeCorps. "Each author had a story that wanted to come out."

"This was a terrific event. It was beneficial for me to come here as a writer to learn for these authors," said Herndon resident Ruth Buys, a part-time writer who has completed the first draft of a mystery.

"This was enjoyable — I learned a lot," said unpublished author Bill Ryan of Oak Hill. "This was a good event. Barnes & Noble deserves an 'atta boy' for putting this on.

"This was our first try — our first draft without editing," said O' Hora of the event that was taped for future airing as an edition of C-SPAN II's "Book-TV" program.