Friday, October 31, 2008

Self Publishing 2

It took me a while to get back to this, partly because the Sisters in Crime e-mail list addressed self publishing this last week. Mostly in negative way, I might add. I certainly do not sell my books door to door, as one person said would be the only way I could sell them. And I have had several book signings and presentations, in bookstores and libraries, which a couple people said was impossible for a self-publisher.

If you are going to self publish you have to take care of the things you would expect a publisher to do for you. One of those is to make sure you have a quality, thoroughly edited product. In addition to my critique group and numerous friends, I have two editors in whom I put great trust: Roberta Jean Bryant, author of books on writing and my critique group mentor from Seattle, and Mary Jo Zazueta of Traverse City. Mary Jo, with her imprint To the Point Solutions, made it possible for me to self-publish. She not only did a final edit on my book, she took care of all the nuts and bolts of getting ISBN numbers and getting the book listed in the Library of Congress. She handled cover design and interior design, with MY approval. With a publisher you are lucky if you get any choice in these. She found three printers to print the book and I chose among them. Again, a control only available with self-publishing. In other words, she handled all the details I didn’t know how to or didn't want to handle, but I had the final word on everything that was done with my book. Of course, that cost me money, but I gained a lot for what I spent.

So, what about after the book is published? Doesn’t a publisher do promotion and get your book out there in a way you couldn’t do on your own?

Yes and no.

Writers, even when published by major publishers, are expected to do more and more of their own promotion. The publisher does, however, have a reputation that makes it possible to get reviewed and listed in areas the self published have to struggle to break into.

I hired a publicist from Gaylord, Michigan, Denise Glesser of Progressive Book Publishing. She works a couple hours a week to get me book signings in book stores, spots at book fairs, gets my name out to book clubs and libraries and all the other avenues of promoting my book, and does a lot of the internet stuff I’m not up to yet. In other words, I am self-published but at both ends of the “publishing” part I hired expertise to make sure my book was a good a quality and as “out there” as books published by big companies as I could make it.

Some say self publishing is the wave of the future. I don’t know. Traditional publishers are under the gun and have made it difficult for writers to break in, but to self publish in a way that puts out a quality product that is visible to the market costs money. I wanted to be published and see if I could build a readership. If my books are good enough, I think I can do it. The final answer will come from readers – like you.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Self Publishing


Vanity Publishing?

What a negative term!

No, I’m not self-publishing because I have an inflated opinion of my work. I like my book, and I hear other people saying they like my book, but years of ingrained self-doubt makes me wonder if I can really write a book that is good enough to be published.

I am sixty something. I believe in my work and know given enough time I would find a publisher for it, but I don’t have forever to find out. And, fortunately for me, I can afford to spend the money up front to self publish. Yes, it does cost money up front. BUT, in return, I have complete control over my book. No one can sell rights without my okay, or own my copyright, or control what is happening with my book unless I let them. I don't have to worry about my publisher being taken over by another publisher and what will happen to my rights. I am hearing enough horror stories lately to make me believe I have done the right thing by self-publishing.

However, don't go into self-publishing with a blindfold on. Unless you are willing to spend the money and take the time to be sure you have a quality product to hit the market, and the follow-up to get it noticed by the market, self-publishing may not be for you.

My next blog will address these issues.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Cozy Mysteries -- My Way

One of the reasons I write "cozy" mysteries is because, when I started, I couldn't find enough of them to read. Since then I joined Sisters in Crime and discovered a lot more of them. If I'd joined sooner I might never have felt compelled to write them!

To me, a cozy means a book without gore, without murders happening "on the page", without hard core detective or police characters, without anxiety raising terror, and without graphic sex scenes. A "whodunit" that involves everyday people not involved in a professional way with crime, who happen (or snoop) their way into the action and discover a talent for ferreting out the truth. None of the discussions I've seen about what constitutes a "cozy" mystery limits them this much, but that's my view.

One of the best comments I received about What Did You Do Before Dying? (after the ones about it being a "page turner") was that, even though it is not a YA novel by any stretch, the reader felt free to hand it on to his 16 year old granddaughter without worrying about her reading something inappropriate. That may not be a criteria for a cozy mystery, but to me it comes close.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Remember the Slower Is Better Blog?

I started writing when I was 8 years old, but with school and then working never had the energy to do it seriously. So, thirty years later, when my husband’s job took me across the country from Philadelphia to Seattle, I told him I was going to write for five years and if I still hadn’t made any money I’d go back to work. I joined a writer’s critique group and spent four of those years trying to write short stories. Didn’t happen.

Then I started something I soon realized was going to cover three generations. I knew I had started a novel, but I didn’t believe I had the perseverance to write a novel – that’s why I was trying to write short stories. To my amazement, I completed the book.

While the book was reviewed by a couple of agents, its real value was that it showed I could do it. I could keep going until it was finished. I could rewrite and correct and still stay involved with the work. I loved it and wanted to do more, but my five years was up. I got a job.

Five years later I had a short break between jobs and decided to write as much as I could while job hunting. Something fun. I’m a puzzle doer, and I like to read mysteries, especially cozy mystery series. So What Did You Do Before Dying? was born.

About a third of the way through I got another job and the book went into a drawer (figuratively speaking, since I work on a computer). A little over ten years later I retired (early, so I’d have years left to write). I started spending four hours a day writing. It was heaven. I finished the first draft of the book and starting a second one. This writing was FUN! I sent What Did You Do Before Dying? to the leader of my old writer’s group. I sent her the first chapter of the second book in the series, too.

She said to throw out What Did You Do Before Dying? and start with the second one. I was crushed.

I kept working on the second one, trying to figure out how I was going to introduce the important parts of the first one as flashback. It didn’t work. Somehow, I had to make the first one good enough. So I tucked away the second book and went back to the first.

Then my husband was diagnosed with stage four terminal cancer. The next four years my writing tapered off until it was nonexistent, though I did send out What Did You Do Before Dying? to several agents and publishers with no success. When my husband was gone, I moved back to Traverse City, Michigan, to be near my aging mother. I had a hard time finding the motivation and energy to write again. I joined a writer’s group at the local library. Then I attended the Pacific Northwest Writer’s Conference and, in particular, a session called Writing the Breakout Novel by agent Donald Maass. It was like opening a door. I knew that his techniques were the keys to improving What Did You Do Before Dying?

When I had spent as much time as I could on that, I returned it to the drawer and went back to the second book. I told myself that if I had three books completed publishers might take me seriously. They like mysteries and romances in series. Besides, I didn’t have the heart to start sending it out again and face all those rejection slips.

Then Mary Jo Zazueta talked to my writer’s group about how she helped people self-publish. I knew that was frowned upon by the publishing world, but decided I didn’t care. I wanted my book out there right now. After all, I’m not getting any younger.

I pulled What Did You Do Before Dying? out of the drawer and reread it to decide how much more work it needed. Wow! I liked it. I asked Jean Bryant to read the book again. One of the blurbs on the back cover is her reaction.

So, how long did it take? About 23 years. But you won’t have to wait that long for the next one. Why Did You Die In the Park? is due out early 2009, and Who Wanted You Dead the Most? Will follow on its heels.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

September 11, 2001

Followed by confusion
And anguish.

Why does any mother’s child
Nurture so much hatred
And inflame so much anger
To justify
Such violence
Against another mother’s child?

I don’t understand.
I don’t understand.

Why does the hatred spread
Through a society
So that young children
Dance in the street
At the news
That some mothers’ children
Have died a fiery
Violent death?

Some mothers’ children
Who are not so different
From their own mothers’ children
After all.

Vengeance is in the air.
How dare they?
How dare the likes of them
Think they can
Attack the likes of us?
How dare they do it?
We must strike back.
We must teach them a lesson.

Their mothers
Must suffer
As our mothers
Have suffered.

Find someone like them
To make suffer.

Hatred grows
As violence begets violence
And our hearts cry
For the pain
And the suffering
Of those against whom violence
Is perpetrated
For the pain
And the suffering
Of those
Who perpetrate it.

Friday, September 5, 2008

So, How Do You Do This Again?

I have so much to learn about blogging, and CrimeSpace friends, and social sites. I know that learning new things – any new things -- is good. I take classes and practice ways to learn new things all the time. But with this stuff I get so anxious because I can’t seem to figure out how it all works. I don’t know how to connect with others, so I feel lost, writing a blog in a vacuum. It makes me sympathize with my mother and mother-in-law, and wonder how they’ve handled all the changes they’ve seen in their lifetimes.

Especially my mother-in-law, Biji. Biji comes from a rural village in India, from an ultra conservative family, where the girls were never allowed to leave the walled compound of the extended family home. An aunt who married into the family and had some education took it upon herself to teach the girls the alphabet and start them with reading and writing. That was it until she married at age sixteen, when her husband continued teaching her to read and write Hindi.

In the late sixties, when I met and married her oldest son, even urban India was still considered by some Indian economists to be fifty years behind the U.S. economically and industrially (It has certainly done a good bit of catching up since then). So imagine this woman moving from such a secluded upbringing, to marrying a man in public service with the social obligations that involves, to living with a son in the even more advanced University Professor’s life after her husband died, and eventually with other sons in the modern day United States. She is totally at a loss as to how I used the computer to get Indian food delivered to my house in Traverse City, Michigan, where she is visiting me. Probably as lost as I am about how to get my blog connected with other blogs.

One big difference: While she has made strides the size of which few of us will ever need, she does seem to have reached her satiation point. I’m not there yet. I WILL figure it out eventually. If you’ve asked me to be a “friend”, be patient. Allow me a few anxiety attacks and a little more time and soon I’ll be wondering what I was so worked up about.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

My Book Titles

The editor working with What Did You Do Before Dying? suggested I change the title. Titles these days are short and sweet, and definitely not questions. I said no, that was the only title that would work for this book but she was free to make suggestions for the second one, whose working title was April's Fool. Nothing satisfied me, however, until I had a brainstorm -- an absolutely unique idea. ALL my titles in this series would be questions and they would follow the journalistic who, what, why, where, and when. The title for book two became Why Did You Die In the Park? Clever, huh?

I thought so, until a slow book signing day at Clues Unlimited in Tucson. I wandered over to the new arrivals section and found a book whose title was a question: What Are You Wearing to Die? Not only a question, but a clever one that tickled me. And it was also written by a woman whose first name was Patricia. So, what if someone read that book and didn't like it? Would they ever pick up one of mine? They might not remember last names and think it was the same person. I'd better buy it and read it and find out how much trouble I was in. (Does anyone else have the problem of spending more than they make at book signings?)

Horrors! This book was good. In fact, it was the kind of book that made me start writing traditional mysteries -- I couldn't find enough of them to read. I liked it so much that when I found one in my local Horizon's Bookstore in Traverse City, MI, I bought it, too. How can you resist titles like Guess Who's Coming to Die?, Did You Declare the Corpse? and MORE. AND I discovered with a little reasearch that Patricia Sprinkle had been a successful author for some time and I just hadn't yet discovered her and devoured her every word. Who was I to think I could compete with her?

And now that's the problem. What if someone picks up one of my books because they remember reading a good book with a question for a title and an author whose first name is Patricia. Will they be disappointed?

Friday, August 15, 2008

Just An Observation

I do a lot of driving in Michigan for book signings and family visits. I always kept my speed within five to eight miles of the speed limit (depending on what that speed limit was -- it is 70 on expressways in Michigan).

Then the price of gas skyrocketed.
Then I read that every additional five miles per hour increases gas use by 15%.
Then my pastor reminded us that environmental responsibility is one of our Christian duties.

Now my cruise control sits on the speed limit. I don't notice that I've been late for anything, or even that it took me appreciably longer to get anywhere.

I drove across the Mackinac Bridge for the first time last Spring. Due to construction, only one lane of traffic moved in each direction. The speed limit for loaded trucks on the Bridge is twenty miles an hour -- otherwise it is forty five. I found myself about four cars behind a loaded truck, going 20 miles an hour, on a glorious sunny day, with a view that wouldn't quit. Without that loaded truck I would have felt pressured to drive forty five -- and what I would have missed!

Sometimes slower is better.

Like my writing, maybe? More about that later.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Me? A Blogger?

They told me I had to do it, so here I am। As soon as my fingers hit the keys on my computer, I thought I probably belong here -- a place where I can let them fly, roam where they will, not to be reined in by plot or character or that dreaded word, "saleability".
I'll be telling a little about me as I get my act together (if?), and a little about my writing world and how it has meandered through the years, and hopefully a little about some of my readers (if?) as they come aboard।
If you read this before I finish getting my act together (which could be a long time in the future) let me know what you think about my current meanderings.