Can you give us a brief overview of your latest book?
No Substitute for Murder is a cozy about a woman who’s trying to get her life back on track—she’s divorced from a cheating con man and downsized from her job as a radio producer—when she discovers the body of an unpopular teacher and then is assigned to cover his classes. Many of the characters are quirky or a little over-the-top and it was a lot of fun to write.
Did you try the traditional route to publishing, i.e. querying agents/publishers?
When I decided to get serious about writing novels, that was the accepted way to go, so that’s the way I went. I have a file cabinet stuffed with query letters and rejections—hundreds and hundreds of them. Twice I’ve had agents, and once was within a whisker of a deal when that particular division of a major publishing company folded. After I sold Hemlock Lake to Five Star, I realized the electronic rights weren’t part of the contract and I released the e-version myself. That gave me confidence to launch other works as indie titles—first An Uncertain Refuge, then A Place of Forgetting, and most recently No Substitute for Murder.
Do you belong to a critique group? Have they helped improve your writing?
I belonged to a critique group for many years, but last year broke away. I found that others’ stories were getting stuck in my brain and I was spending more time thinking about their plots and characters than my own. I’m not getting any younger, so I decided to put my books first.
What factors influenced your decision to self-publish to Amazon?
The answer to question 3 is part of the answer to this one. I’m not getting any younger and I don’t seem to be writing what agents and editors are looking for. I decided to take a chance that readers might be interested and invested in cover art and professional formatting. Amazon made the rest of it so easy that I was able to upload the books with just a little help from my friends.
Did you hire an editor to review your manuscript before publishing?
I worked for many years as an associate editor for Elizabeth Lyon’s Editing International so I’m able to do a lot of this myself. But Elizabeth looked at my books and so did some sharp-eyed friends. Still, a few typos slipped past. The eye and brain often fill in what isn’t there on an unconscious level and I’ve found typos in hardcover recent releases from major publisher. That’s no excuse, though, and I intend to fix my errors as soon as I can.
What have you learned during your self-publishing journey?
To help others when I can, to be kind to myself, and not to let bad reviews get to me.
I taught a novel-writing boot camp in Vancouver, Washington, for about a decade, and am in touch with many writers who took it and are putting books into production one way or another, so I help them when I can.
I don’t compare my progress and success to that of others. I’m not much of a saleswoman/promoter, and I don’t tweet because I don’t think I have anything to say—at least not on a daily basis. But I take advantage of the opportunities that come my way—like this one—and I’m patient and I believe in the power of reader recommendations to sell a book. But not every book is for every reader and freedom of speech is what this country is all about, so I have to expect and accept criticism.
Besides Amazon, are there any other sites where your books are for sale?
They are also available at Barnes & Noble
What kinds of marketing [twitter, facebook, blog, forums] are you involved with for promoting your book(s)?
I use Facebook, but not often, and I participate in some of the Amazon forums and blog as a guest for others (mostly mystery writers) and on my own blog. I don’t do as much of this as I should, but I make an effort to do something every day.
Do you find it difficult to juggle your time between marketing your current book and writing your next book?
Like I said, I don’t do as much marketing as I should so the juggling isn’t all that difficult—it’s more like I’m juggling two rubber chickens instead of six chainsaws. When I get into “writing mode,” lot of other things fall by the wayside—cleaning, laundry, gardening, etc. Every morning I scan my e-mail and I make an effort to set aside one day a week to catch up on marketing projects.
What advice would you give a new author just entering into the self-publishing arena?
Make sure that self-publishing is the right choice. If your dream is to be published by a major house, then pursue that as far as you can. But if you decide to go the indie route be a good friend to your book, make sure it’s ready, and don’t rush to publication just because you can. Get a picky proofreader and “professional” formatting and cover art. Write a strong blurb with multiple hooks and create compelling tags when you put the book up. Then be flexible. Review your blurb and tags regularly and change them if you need to.
Go out and get all the reviews you can, participate in forums, blog for yourself and others, use Facebook and Twitter if that’s your thing, and let your personality come through.
What’s next for you?
In a few months I’ll release Through a Yellow Wood, the sequel to Hemlock Lake. It’s also set in the Catskill Mountains and begins with the death of a search-and-rescue dog trainer at the hands of a serial killer attempting to cover up his crimes.