Wednesday, March 30, 2011

If Publishing a Mystery Were Only as Easy as They Think!

People other than published authors tend to see writing as a life of ease rewarded by huge paychecks, the adulation of millions, and one’s name on the NYT best-seller list every other year. Let’s talk about the life of ease part.
All my life I was told I had writing talent. I went to a good college and studied writing with excellent instructors. Then I spent three decades teaching others about writing. Despite all that apparent talent and actual experience, writing a book--at least a good book--is hard, very hard. It takes a long time, a lot of effort, a sense of organization, and a dedications to one’s readers that is hard to describe. They say everyone has a book in his/her head. Yeah, well, come and see me when you’ve got something on paper, and not just the first three chapters!
My April 1 release, THE DEAD DETECTIVE AGENCY, took months to write and self-edit. (I have a system that is fairly complex, but it works for me: reading for a single facet, like characterization, and then reading again for a different facet, like sensory detail). When I had done what I could for the time being, I had a couple of friends read the story. They loved the premise, the fun I had mixing life with afterlife. That was good, but they had suggestions, too, so I read it again, taking my friends’ comments into serious consideration. Then I asked my son to read the manuscript, because the setting is an investments firm and he is in that business. I wanted to make sure I didn’t say something dumb about a business I don’t have much experience with. That meant more changes, reading through the whole thing again, and fixing areas he commented on.
Once the book was accepted by a publisher, it went through several more editions. The first editor and I haggled over terms (are they “slacks” or “pants” nowadays?) At her suggestion I expanded some characters and minimized others. She wanted more information on the setting, Grand Rapids, Michigan, so I had to do more research to make sure the details I added were correct. She helped me clarify my portrayal of the afterlife at the beginning of the book so the reader would not be confused later about what can and can’t happen there. All in all, that was three more edits, three more times through the story with a pen and a microscope.
Then the “big” editor took a turn through the book. She made suggestions to further clarify details. She asked questions about what my intentions were in certain spots. In short, she fine-tuned the book so that the humor comes through better and the reader doesn't feel left behind.
Finally, the copy editor had me take a last look through to find the itsy-bitsy things that drive readers crazy: punctuation/spelling errors, extra spaces, etc.
Now the book is ready for release. My publisher, who has been very supportive, arranged a Cyber-Launch on Author Island ( stop by and ask a question or make a comment!) for April 1. She also found a respected reviewer willing to read a book by a fairly unknown author, and the review is positive (YAY!). My part is to tell the world I have contact with about the book, hence a Blog Tour, a Facebook ad, and lots of trips/mailings to bookstores, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.
So where is this life of ease? Writing is work, real work, and promoting is work piled on top of the original work. Authors do not have it easy, although I don’t know a single one who doesn’t feel that it’s all worth it when just one person says, “I loved your book.”
People often ask me what it takes to get published. Unless you already have a platform (some sort of fame attached to your name), it takes persistence: persistence to write the best book you are capable of, persistence to get it published professionally, and persistence in spreading the word that, among the million others out there, there’s this great little mystery called THE DEAD DETECTIVE AGENCY.

THE DEAD DETECTIVE AGENCY is available in print or e-book form at and will soon be at most e-book retailers.

Teaser: Tori Van Camp awakens one morning on a cruise ship. She seems to be a welcome guest, and the ships offers anything she might require or request. But why does she have a clear memory of being murdered, and how can she find out why someone wanted her dead?

“The Dead Detective Agency combines belief in the afterlife with the paradoxical uncertainty of survival in the present, and is full of wickedly dark humor combined with regular laugh-out-loud moments.” —Sam Millar, New York Journal of Books

1 comment:

Maryannwrites said...

It's never easy, is it. I think most of us have shared similar experiences, and the key is to be persistent. Don't give up.