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So ya wanna be a writer

Over the years,z publisher Jo Blackmore has seen her fair share of the good, the bad and the really awful.

Over the years,z publisher Jo Blackmore has seen her fair share of the good, the bad and the really awful.

Surprisingly though, the publisher of Granville Island Publishing, which helps authors self publish, said the number of really good manuscripts that end up on her desk never ceases to amaze her.

"The creativity of people and the incredible stories they tell is why I love my job," said the avid reader. "I love producing a fine product."

Blackmore is the first in a series of four speakers who are taking part in the inaugural Third Age Learning at Kwantlen (TALK) series of literary lunches, beginning Tuesday, Nov. 1.

Blackmore will speak to aspiring authors about what it takes to publish a book, whether to self-publish or go the traditional route, distribution channels, publicity and marketing and more.

"I will also touch on the roles of the publisher, editor, copy editor, proofreader, agent and others involved in the whole process," said Blackmore, adding her company publishes at least eight books a year.

During the last 15 years, Blackmore has helped more than 100 authors self-publish their books, including novels, histories, children's picture books, scientific treatises, autobiographies and hiking books.

The process from manuscript to getting books the shelf of a bookstore can take as little as three months and as long as two years. (Average is six months).

"There are many variables to getting a book published that people might not realize," she said, adding scientific books sometimes need complete rewrites, hence take longer. "I will discuss that during my talk, but it really depends on how much rewriting and editing is required."

Blackmore will also discuss the difference between an aspiring author going the mainstream route of sending a manuscript to a large publishing firm for approval versus self-publishing.

"First off, I tell people to make sure they go with a reputable self-publishing company ... do your homework," she said. "In cases such as Granville Publishing, we actually get the book into the proper distribution channels, on the shelves of bookstores, listed on Indigo and with Amazon.com."

When someone chooses to self-publish, the author has more say throughout the process.

"In traditional publishing, the author must agree to go on book tours and book signings to promote their book," said Blackmore. "Even really, really good authors can have a long, tough grind of selling their manuscript to a big publishing company.

"Also, it can take months before you hear whether your book has been accepted and then years before it goes to print."

Meanwhile, there still exists a negative perception about self-publishing, Blackmore acknowledges.

However, she said, many people don't realize that bestsellers such as The Joy of Cooking, the Wealthy Barber and The Celestine Prophecy were all self-published.

Blackmore has had many successful authors. The Stark Reality of Stretching: An Informed Approach for All Activities and Every Sport by Dr. Steven D. Stark and Jim Farris' book, Hockey Play-By-Play: Around the NHL with Jim Robson have both sold more than 100,000 copies each.

Self-publishing isn't cheap. An average 200-page manuscript, complete with 50 to 100 advance books and a run of 1,000 books will cost between $12,000 and $13,000.

However, a good self-publishing firm will also introduce newly minted authors to publicists, those who write press releases for distribution to media outlets, as well as attempt to get authors interviews on television and book reviews.

"I don't normally recommend that new authors begin with a 1,000 books, they should start small," she added.

One of the people responsible for the Literary Lunches series is Jean Garnett, TALK Program Chair and facilitator of Literary Lunches.

"We had a very successful series of literary lunches in White Rock last year and discovered some fascinating authors who we might not otherwise have come across, so we decided to replicate the experience in Richmond," she said.

"The authors we have chosen have a wide variety of life experiences and it will be fascinating to hear their stories -- of how they came to write them and what the process of being published was like."

Meanwhile, Blackmore will also discuss formatting, e-book conversions and much more.

Literary Lunches begin Nov. 1 from noon to 2 p.m. at Kwantlen Polytechnic University, Richmond campus for anyone age 50+. Tickets are $30 per session. For more information, call 604-277-1130, or visit www.kwantlen.ca/talk.html. Note: Bring a brown bag lunch or pick one up in the cafeteria downstairs. Cathy Sosnowsky speaks at the next lunch on Nov. 8.

Blackmore's Tips:

- Ask yourself: Where do I want to see my book? With my grandchildren, on bookshelves in the province, or all over the world?

- Look at covers. What catches your eye? Your cover has to look good on the web too.

- Find out where your book would be in the store.

- Look at lots of books on the same subject. Check their retail price.

- Choose a standard size if cost is a factor.

- If your manuscript is too long, consider making two books.

- Always have your book edited and proofread.

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