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Many an author embarks upon a publishing journey armed with little more than talent, desire, and blind faith.  Unfortunately, snake oil salesmen love the rookies in this business (discussed in Part I of this Authors Helping Authors series) and my next guest learned this lesson the hard way. 

Meet mystery writer Evelyn Cullet. An aspiring author since high school, she began her first novel, Romancing A Mystery, while attending college. After years of hard work, she submitted the manuscript to multiple traditional publishers and, like many other talented writers, her efforts were met with rejection. She went on to self-publish the story. 

Evelyn,what can you tell others about your experience with self-publishing?

For my first book, Romancing A Mystery, I used an all-inclusive publishing company called Outskirts Press. It was an expensive option, but my book was published. Things went fine until I ended my contract. I wanted to re-write the book, so I asked that they remove my ebook from Kindle. They’d  set it up for me in the first place — at a price, I might add — but they informed me that, since my contract had ended, they had nothing to do with the Kindle version. They said, as the author, I had the responsibility to deal with Amazon. When I contacted Amazon, the reps told me that they could only deal with the company who set up the Kindle version. Outskirts Press refuses to help and Amazon says they are following ‘company policy’. So, it’s a “Catch 22”.  I’ve contacted both firms several times and they both say the same thing. It became so frustrating I finally gave up. It’s a big mess and there’s nothing I can do.  Getting old physical copies of that first novel off the market is impossible, too. Buyers are reselling copies on Amazon. Now it’s too late to do anything, but I am re-writing the book.

You’re rewriting Romancing A Mystery?

Yes. In retrospect, I see why it had been rejected by traditional publishers. The story had a lot of good light romance, but there wasn’t much of a mystery.

You went on to write more mysteries, but you didn’t self-publish those? 

No, I’m happy to say they were both accepted for publication by Wings ePress.  My second book, Love, Lies and Murder, is about two capricious friends who turn their small town upside down in an attempt to solve the gruesome murder of the town’s millionaire industrialist, only to discover that people are not always who they seem, and a single error in judgment can prove fatal. The third, Masterpiece of Murder, is the sequel about a heartbroken art student who follows her errant fiancé to Bariloche, Argentina. His reasons for being in Bariloche complicate her life and threaten her very existence as she unintentionally stumbles into a downward spiral of deceit, art forgery and murder. Both books are mysteries, but I’ve added light romance and a little humor.

Where do you get your story ideas?

So far, my story ideas come from my own experiences. Romancing A Mystery grew as a result of a trip to England I had planned with friends when I was twenty-four years old. I wound up getting married instead and since I couldn’t take the trip, I wrote about how it might have turned out had I gone. Most of the action in Love, Lies and Murder takes place in a small company office, much like the one where I worked when I was single — and where I had an office romance that ended badly. The idea for the Masterpiece of Murder came when I was taking art classes and met an artist who had gone to Bariloche, Argentina for a Master art class. Upon seeing the lovely photos the artist had brought back, the writer in me immediately envisioned Bariloche as a great setting for a murder mystery. And it turned out I was right.

If you could, what would you tell your ‘younger writing self’?

I’m sorry now that I didn’t work with a professional editor when I was writing my first novel. I wasted a great deal of time and expense that could have been avoided. I should have done more research before self-publishing. I also should have asked Outskirts to take the novel off of Kindle BEFORE I ended my contract. How many more mistakes could I possibly have made with that first novel? Live and learn.

You have learned. Now you enjoy a successful writing career. What’s your greatest struggle as a writer?

Finding the time to write. I thought that after I retired from my day job, I would finally have enough time, but in fact I don’t, because now I find all kinds of other things that require my attention. Marketing my novels and doing a blog are just two of them.  I just have to try and budget my time so I can get in a few hours of writing. Limiting my online time is important as well.

What do you think is the best way for authors to reach readers?

Guest blogging, doing library talks, book club talks and craft shows. I recently did a large Christmas craft show where I got a chance to talk with mystery readers who had never heard of me. I sold quite a few novels, and I passed out a lot of bookmarks to potential readers.

The experience with your first book obviously hasn’t stopped you from pursuing what you love. What are you working on now?

Right now I’m editing my next mystery, Once Upon a Crime. Containing several of the same characters mentioned in my previous novels, it’s about a newly published mystery author who goes to Michigan with her friend, to take a much needed rest. She gets anything but rest when she becomes involved with stolen gemstones, two murders, and her friend’s handsome, Machiavellian cousin. I’m working on a release date of Spring, 2014.

Evelyn is a current member of Sisters in Crime. When she’s not reading mysteries, reviewing them or writing them, she enjoys playing the piano, is an amateur Lapidary, and an organic gardener. When she’s not ‘limiting her online time’, you can find her on Facebook , Pinterest, Twitter, Goodreads, and her website.

© 2014 Robin Cain, author of THE SECRET MISS RABBIT KEPT and WHEN DREAMS BLEED

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