Central Illinois authors are on the rise. With the Internet changing the way books are published and marketed, more people are taking advantage of opportunities to publish their own works, said Mary Beth Nebel, owner of I Know You Like a Book bookstore. Nebel plans to assemble more than 20 self-published authors for book signings Saturday for Duryea Days in Peoria Heights.

Central Illinois authors are on the rise.


With the Internet changing the way books are published and marketed, more people are taking advantage of opportunities to publish their own works, said Mary Beth Nebel, owner of I Know You Like a Book bookstore in Peoria Heights.


“It can be rocky sledding for an author with publishers cutting back on advances,” Nebel said.


It’s also getting harder for writers to get noticed, she said. Nebel plans to assemble more than 20 self-published authors for book signings Saturday for Duryea Days in Peoria Heights.


“Publishers want big-name authors. Some publishers won’t even look at a new author, but local authors need community support. You might just find the next best seller,” she said.


A listless economy hasn’t helped, said Nebel. “The number of books printed by publishers has shrunk,” she said.


Self-publishing, sometimes referred to as the vanity press, can be the answer.


Printing limited runs of books for previously unpublished authors is nothing new, but the Internet is making it easier.


So-called print-on-demand technology means books, stored on computer disk, can be printed as ordered rather than in large numbers. So for a limited press run (less than 1,000 books), costs can be considerably less than with conventional printers that may not agree to such a limited run.


Such differences encouraged authors such as Carol Huff, an East Peoria resident who hopes to have her third book, an historical romance titled “Purple Heart, Broken Heart,” out later this year.


“For my first book, ‘Adelia,’ I went on the Internet and picked a print-on-demand publisher. I wrote that book for my niece so that she would have some memory of my sister,” she said.


In “Adelia,” Huff recounted the life of her sister who died in 1971 at the age of 28 as a result of complications from polio.


Another local author who found a voice is Edith Barnard of Peoria whose book, “Suddenly Single Island Style: Betrayal and Recovery in the Tropics,” was printed through Booksurge, the self-publishing arm of Amazon.com, the giant Internet marketplace.


Barnard spent $5,000 to print copies of the book, which is based on her own experiences while living in Barbados.


“I must confess that it is a funny Caribbean travelogue as well as my autobiography of how I handled my horrific divorce,” she said.


Barnard plans to use the book as a manual for a six-week seminar that starts Thursday at Lakeview Museum called “Thrive — Don’t Just Survive After Divorce or Loss.”


Barnard already has held several signing sessions for her book, including one in Barbados.


"It’s been going great. I’ve received letters from people all over the world,” she said of response to her book.


While self-publishing can be an opportunity, it also has its drawbacks, said Thomas Hollowell, an author who was in Peoria this summer to sign copies of his book, “Allah’s Garden.”


“One thing about self-publishing that seems to be true is that it can get expensive if you don’t take certain precautions,” said Hollowell, an Indiana native who now lives in Morocco.


“No matter how a book is published, it’s all about it being something worthwhile and the marketing that goes into it. It’s a tough playing field no matter who is involved,” he said.


“Traditional publishing routes are flawed in some ways, as are self-publishing ones. While regular publishing has not changed since the Great Depression, self-publishing has different rules and hurdles,” said Hollowell, a former Peace Corps volunteer.


“Allah’s Garden” tells the story of Dr. Azeddine Benmansour, a Moroccan doctor held captive for 25 years by a militant group in prison camps in the Sahara Desert. Hollowell learned of Azzedine, who was finally released in 2003, while teaching English in Morocco.


To help market the effort, Hollowell offers readers the chance to win a trip to Morocco when they purchase the book. “Because the press for the book is small, I had to come up with some innovative ideas for marketing,” he said.


“Doing your own marketing is the real challenge,” agreed Jim Eller of Bartonville who has produced two books  — one at Versa Press in East Peoria and another at Multi-Ad in Peoria.


After a bad experience with iUniverse, an online self-publishing house, Eller counsels those interested to publish through local printers.


Despite the title, “The Chair,” where the central character uses a wheelchair in a tale that Eller describes as a Christian dramatic thriller, the story isn’t autobiographical, he said.


Since a 2003 accident in which he fell off a roof and broke his back, Eller uses a wheelchair. He works at Eller’s Custom Cabinets, his family’s business, but writes on his own time.


“I never thought I’d be writing anything,” said Eller, already preparing his next work, a children’s book.


Steve Tarter can be reached at (309) 686-3260 or starter@pjstar.com.