Please welcome Judy with a most fearless story in the publishing world!
Ten years ago, when I first turned my attention to writing mysteries, I was bewildered by the publication process. I had written extensively for young adults on a variety of subjects as well as several historical novels for adults about women in the American West. I thought I knew the ropes, but I soon discovered the mystery world is a territory unto itself.
Take the search for an agent: it can last years, and I heard horror stories of authors who’d been rejected over a hundred times. My agent for westerns had died several years earlier. I did query others, but I knew that a writer’s relationship with an agent is like a marriage, so you better get it right the first time (and boy, did I get it wrong at least once). I never found an agent with whom I clicked. Besides, I was pushing seventy and did not have years to spend looking for an agent. I had stories to tell, and, like every author, I wanted instant publication. I’d paid my newbie dues years earlier.
When I was active in Western Writers of America, Inc. (I’m a past president), I met several agents, and I knew one was with Kensington, a major publisher for mysteries. I wrote him about my first mystery, thinking he might suggest a mystery editor. He replied that he was now editing cozy mysteries. I should have been leery, because his letter indicated he considered this a demotion. But he agreed to read my work. As we’re advised, the proposal also included a brief synopsis of my planned second in the series.
This unnamed editor wrote back that he liked the manuscript I sent him, but he really liked the idea of the second novel better. He wanted me to revise so that the second novel became the first in the series. I took a deep breath and considered.
Here it was—an “almost” offer from one of the important houses. Most beginners would jump at the opportunity to at least negotiate with the editor. I didn’t. I said “Thanks but no thanks.” The back story was built into the first book, and I liked the way it flowed and introduced the main characters. Instinct told me it was good. The editor lost interest in the first book, and I ended publishing with a small press that went out of business after I’d done six mysteries with them. Today I am an indie author.
Do I regret it? Not a bit. If I’d signed with Kensington, I’d have been subject to the pressure that goes with working with a major publisher—produce so many books a year and maintain certain sales goals. As it is, the novel, Skeleton in a Dead Space, was the first of a series that will, come October and publication of Contract for Chaos, have eight titles and will keep on going. In addition, I write the Blue Plate Café Series (four culinary titles) and the Oak Grove Mysteries (two academic titles). And I write at my own pace, without pressure (except my own) to meet sales goals.
So that fearless step I took almost ten years ago turned out to be one of the best things I’ve ever done. I’m for listening to instinct every time.
Dallas developer Silas Fletcher sees endless real estate opportunities in Wheeler, Texas if only he can “grow” the town. Blue Plate Café owner Kate Chambers likes her hometown just the way it is, thank you very much, without big box and chain stores. When Fletcher tries to capitalize on a thirty-year-old unsolved murder, Kate know she must fight for her town, and she uses historic preservation of the old bus depot as one of her weapons. A suspicious death and a new murder make her also fight for her own life.
Links for Judy:
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