Cover Story: Single-Handed

Local writers go it alone in the publishing wilderness

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Joe Hoffert



They call it the rejection notice, the "ding" letter, and it is something all but the most fortunate writers have found in their mailboxes. It's often the painful punctuation to months, sometimes years, of hard labor. Of course, some publishers are encouraging. They'll invite you to send future work. But can't they see that genius doesn't always strike twice?

So you've been rejected. Sure, you can rationalize it: What do these fat cats, these suits, these soap salesmen know about true literature? Nothing. Nada. They haven't read a real book since they struggled through A Separate Peace in the 11th grade.

Am I bitter? Yes.

And you would be too if you had two rejection notices arrive on the same day, the same day that you found that you were in that sad percentage of men whom Rogaine only affects their wallets and not their hair lines. Could I have been so wrong? Is my work really so unpublishable? Is it really possible that there is no audience for My Way or the Highway: A Hitchhiker's Guide to Teenage Sex? Is there no need for the witty repartee of Gotta Match? My Ass and Your Face, Plus 149 Other Hilarious Insults?

Ultimately, though, I only have myself to blame. I see that now. I can sit around and wait for my ship to come in or get out there and make something happen. There are other ways to make it in this writing game than to wait for others to recognize your talent.

How? Do it yourself. Independent film companies and record companies are completely credible, so why not start your own renegade publishing company?

Take, for example, two writers with Cincinnati-area roots, Joe Hoffert of Northern Kentucky and Bill Lambers, a College of Mount St. Joseph graduate. Both writers will be making the rounds at our local bookstores in the next month promoting their self-published works.

Hoffert, a full-time freelance writer and a stay-at-home dad, began Pennick Publishing as an organ for printing his series The Cases of Kye Redfoot: Monster Hunter. In Hoffert's fictive world, there are monsters lurking in the Tristate — many of whom do not even own professional sports franchises.

The Cases of Kye Redfoot: Monster Hunter is for anyone, Hoffert says, who likes being scared and enjoys the dark and disturbingly weird. But, perhaps sensing minimal worldwide interest in Tristate monsters, Hoffert decided to go the self-publishing route, not even considering more conventional publishing methods.

"After having read a great deal about the industry, I don't know that I wouldn't work with a publisher for national distribution or something, but right off the bat I thought it would be fun to try to publish myself," he says. "(And) I've not soured on (publishing) at all. I like the idea of thinking (Pennick) could be a conduit for other people's work. That's probably the most intriguing aspect of this whole thing."

Lambers, Borders Books' local "author of the month" for September, began publishing his own work through slightly more conventional channels. His two works of historical fiction, The Battle of Britain and From War to Peace: The Story of Great Britain and the United States, are published through his family's business, Lambers CPA.

"Our family business has been publishing books for about 30 years in accounting," he says, "so there's a new division of our company called Lambers Publications, and that distributes not only the CPA review books, but my two books and a couple of coloring books I've produced for friends."

As both writers can tell you, the actual writing is only the first of many steps in publishing a book. And that's why Hoffert and Lambers will be out stirring up interest for their work at local bookstores. According to Hoffert, self-publishing has more to do with motivation than anything else.

"It's not rocket science. It's 90 percent labor," he says. "You simply have to hustle it out. But you also have to be enthusiastic."

As the sole proprietor of Pennick Publishing, Hoffert has to do all of his own legwork. In a way, the self-publisher is a little like the old traveling salesman, selling vacuum cleaners door-to-door. You show up, talk to some people about your product, and then move on to the next batch of customers.

Lambers, however, has been fortunate to distribute his books though Lambers Publications, which makes it less important for him to beat the pavement to get his books in stores.

"Through Lambers you can get the books anywhere in the world," he says, "because they are listed with all the major distributors. And since places like

 
Joe Hoffert



They call it the rejection notice, the "ding" letter, and it is something all but the most fortunate writers have found in their mailboxes. It's often the painful punctuation to months, sometimes years, of hard labor. Of course, some publishers are encouraging. They'll invite you to send future work. But can't they see that genius doesn't always strike twice?

So you've been rejected. Sure, you can rationalize it: What do these fat cats, these suits, these soap salesmen know about true literature? Nothing. Nada. They haven't read a real book since they struggled through A Separate Peace in the 11th grade.

Am I bitter? Yes.

And you would be too if you had two rejection notices arrive on the same day, the same day that you found that you were in that sad percentage of men whom Rogaine only affects their wallets and not their hair lines. Could I have been so wrong? Is my work really so unpublishable? Is it really possible that there is no audience for My Way or the Highway: A Hitchhiker's Guide to Teenage Sex? Is there no need for the witty repartee of Gotta Match? My Ass and Your Face, Plus 149 Other Hilarious Insults?

Ultimately, though, I only have myself to blame. I see that now. I can sit around and wait for my ship to come in or get out there and make something happen. There are other ways to make it in this writing game than to wait for others to recognize your talent.

How? Do it yourself. Independent film companies and record companies are completely credible, so why not start your own renegade publishing company?

Take, for example, two writers with Cincinnati-area roots, Joe Hoffert of Northern Kentucky and Bill Lambers, a College of Mount St. Joseph graduate. Both writers will be making the rounds at our local bookstores in the next month promoting their self-published works.

Hoffert, a full-time freelance writer and a stay-at-home dad, began Pennick Publishing as an organ for printing his series The Cases of Kye Redfoot: Monster Hunter. In Hoffert's fictive world, there are monsters lurking in the Tristate — many of whom do not even own professional sports franchises.

The Cases of Kye Redfoot: Monster Hunter is for anyone, Hoffert says, who likes being scared and enjoys the dark and disturbingly weird. But, perhaps sensing minimal worldwide interest in Tristate monsters, Hoffert decided to go the self-publishing route, not even considering more conventional publishing methods.

"After having read a great deal about the industry, I don't know that I wouldn't work with a publisher for national distribution or something, but right off the bat I thought it would be fun to try to publish myself," he says. "(And) I've not soured on (publishing) at all. I like the idea of thinking (Pennick) could be a conduit for other people's work. That's probably the most intriguing aspect of this whole thing."

Lambers, Borders Books' local "author of the month" for September, began publishing his own work through slightly more conventional channels. His two works of historical fiction, The Battle of Britain and From War to Peace: The Story of Great Britain and the United States, are published through his family's business, Lambers CPA.

"Our family business has been publishing books for about 30 years in accounting," he says, "so there's a new division of our company called Lambers Publications, and that distributes not only the CPA review books, but my two books and a couple of coloring books I've produced for friends."

As both writers can tell you, the actual writing is only the first of many steps in publishing a book. And that's why Hoffert and Lambers will be out stirring up interest for their work at local bookstores. According to Hoffert, self-publishing has more to do with motivation than anything else.

"It's not rocket science. It's 90 percent labor," he says. "You simply have to hustle it out. But you also have to be enthusiastic."

As the sole proprietor of Pennick Publishing, Hoffert has to do all of his own legwork. In a way, the self-publisher is a little like the old traveling salesman, selling vacuum cleaners door-to-door. You show up, talk to some people about your product, and then move on to the next batch of customers.

Lambers, however, has been fortunate to distribute his books though Lambers Publications, which makes it less important for him to beat the pavement to get his books in stores.

"Through Lambers you can get the books anywhere in the world," he says, "because they are listed with all the major distributors. And since places like Amazon.com have sprung up, that really helps an independent publisher."

Lambers' first book, The Battle of Britain, evolved out of a college class assignment. And through Lambers Publishing, he was able to manage the project from start to finish.

"I published it on my own," he says. "I got the pictures from the Royal Air Force Museum and the Imperial War Museum in London and that really helped a lot. Actually they waived the reproduction fees at the Imperial War Museum, I think because they were really busy at the time with the 50th D-Day anniversary and my order got pushed aside, and I think it was maybe because I was a student too."

Although both writers are serious about their work, neither has any illusions about quitting his day job, and so far at least, publishing has been more for pleasure than for real profit.

"My real joy is using language and having fun with it. But (Kye Redfoot) is strictly entertainment and nothing more," says Hoffert, who has plans for his second set of Kye Redfoot stories. Lambers echoes Hoffert's sentiments regarding his own history books for young adults, and he seems to enjoy the stability of his job with Lambers Publications to support his work as a writer.

"I think there are only a couple of authors who can support themselves just with their books. I don't look at it like that. That would be way too much pressure. It would take the fun of out of it. But, hey, maybe if I get on Oprah or something. ..."



JOE HOFFERTS will sign copies of Kye Redfoot at the Florence Barnes & Noble on Sept. 16 at 1 p.m. BILL LAMBERS will sign copes of his books at the Springdale Borders Saturday at 1 p.m., the Northgate Borders on Sept. 16 at 2 p.m. and the Deerfield Twp. Barnes & Noble on Sept. 17 at 2 p.m.

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