By Charles Winokoor
Taunton Gazette Staff Reporter
TAUNTON — Go ask Stephen King: Getting a book deal with a big publishing house can be as difficult as landing a role in a major motion picture.
With that in mind, a group of more than two dozen serious part-time authors, illustrators and poets gathered Saturday in a secluded dining-room area of Smokey Bones restaurant on County Street, for some sound advice on furthering their careers.
It was the first time the four “core members” of the loose-knit, SouthCoast-based Authors Without Borders — which promotes, encourages and guides aspiring authors — held a group meet-and-greet.
What emerged from the casual gathering was that networking and self-promotion are vital to getting one’s name into the boundless arena of readers looking for something new.
Core member Alberta Sequeira has paperback and Kindle versions of books listed on online seller Amazon.
Her two books dealing with the alcohol-related deaths of both her former husband, Richard Lopes, and their daughter, Lori, have received generally strong customer reviews.
“I’m just thrilled that they’re here,” beamed Sequeira, 75, as she spoke in a hushed tone while her fellow organizers addressed the crowd and fielded questions.
A central goal, she said, is to convince local self-publishing writers and illustrators to contact Authors Without Borders via its website anytime a question arises.
In addition to the nominal charge of $35 for a three-year membership, the group’s site lists a virtual myriad of writer-related websites offering advice ranging from editing skills and photo entries to personalized bookmarks and warnings of dubious agents and publishers.
Local author, playwright and fellow core member Joyce Walsh said Saturday’s conclave was unequivocally beneficial.
“Writers are very solitary people for the most part,” said Walsh, adding that the meet-and-greet had succeeded in producing “a very vigorous discussion.”
Walsh, who during the past decade has seen half a dozen self-penned books — ranging from mystery-novel genre to real crime — published in print offered some basic advice.
“Do what you love, and no matter what else happens do your best,” she said.
Walsh strongly recommended that new writers consider self-publishing through Amazon-owned CreateSpace, which ensures creative control and copyright ownership, as well as access to readers worldwide via Amazon.
“No one wants to go to a legacy publisher,” such as Random House, she said. “You need an agent and it can take 12 to 18 months before anyone reads your manuscript.”
In addition to being picked up by an independent publishing house, Sequeira, who lectures on the subject of alcoholism and has had four books and three handbooks published under her name, suggested using CreateSpace which charges $6 to print, publish and deliver each copy.
She says her fellow writers should be under no illusion that they’re destined to get rich quick. The idea of using a service like CreateSpace, she says, is simply to “get the message out” to the public.
Walsh and Sequeira also co-host a local-access, cable television program on New Bedford’s NBTV95 called “Authors Without Borders Presents.”
A three-year associate membership includes a free interview on the show and a free CD to promote oneself on his or her’s personal website.
Core members of Authors Without Borders currently include two other female authors, Willie Pleasants and Patricia Perry.
Michael DeCicco, 64, says he’s been a correspondent, or stringer, since 2011 for the Standard-Times newspaper in New Bedford.
In between covering various town meetings the freelance writer has managed to self-publish two books of fiction, one in paperback and another on Kindle.
“I need to use social media more to promote myself,” said DeCicco, who added that he’ll be renting a table to sell his books at an upcoming book festival in New Bedford.
His “Kid Mobster” novel, he said, can be downloaded on Kindle for $2.99. DeCicco readily admits he’s yet to see a profit.
It’s one thing to self-publish a book but another to get anyone to buy it.
Core member Pleasants stressed the importance of developing a 30-second pitch to potential publishers and readers: “Make a main point that tells us why we should want to read it,” she said.
Charles Coe of Cambridge, who previously worked at Massachusetts Cultural Council, is co-chair of the Boston chapter of the National Writers Union and has had two books of poetry published, came to Taunton to check out Saturday’s meet-and-greet.
“I love it,” he said, when asked his impression of the meeting.