It is with great pleasure that I welcome the bestselling American Author, Joan Livingston back to the blog today. This time I have asked her to give her insight into getting books published. Thank you for your time today. Joan.
Thanks Val, for this opportunity to share my experiences with the publishing world. One of my mottos as an author is: There is writing and then there is the business of writing. Like many would-be authors, I found the second part much harder than the first. As the author of the Isabel Long Mystery Series plus other novels, I am still trying to work that part out. And although I have found the business end frustrating at times, I didn’t give up writing. I enjoy it too much to stop.
After I completed my first novel before 2000, I contacted oh so many agents. In those days everything was done by mail, with a self-addressed stamped envelope for replies. I did land an agent, who made an honest effort to get three of my books published. I remember how excited I was visiting him in New York City. Ah, but eventually, we parted ways. As he wrote me, “we failed you.”
Then, after a few years I was onto my next agent who I found on LinkedIn. That didn’t work out either, but that’s all I am going to say about that.
On the advice of a fellow author, I self-published three books, including a bilingual novel for kids. But they didn’t get a lot of traction.
I am not a person who gives up easily, so once again I began pitching agents and those small publishers who didn’t require one. By now the industry had changed with eBooks and the abundance of indie presses. Competition with other writers had become fierce. These days, most agents and indie publishers claim they will get back to you if they are interested or want more — say anywhere from six weeks to six months. Otherwise you won’t hear a darn thing. Ah, the great wall of silence.
Another motto: You gotta have thick skin.
In fall 2017, I found Crooked Cat Books (now darkstroke books), owned by Laurence and Steph Patterson, who founded their publishing house in Scotland before moving to southern France. Laurence worked in academic publishing. Steph writes romantic historical fiction. I followed their submission requirements and was a bit surprised when they asked to see the whole manuscript. A couple of weeks later, after a conversation with Laurence, I was offered a contract, which I signed. Chasing the Case was the first in the series published in mid-2018 in Kindle and paperback. Darkstroke has published five more in what has become my Isabel Long Mystery Series — I am past mid-way on number seven — plus a thriller called The Sacred Dog.
Last year, darkstroke published: Working the Beat, Following the Lead — both in the series — and The Sacred Dog. In all I have twelve published books, plus four completed novels sitting in my computer.
I learned that I had to give up my old ways of thinking about being a published author, like the emphasis on hard cover or paperback books and going on tour to do appearances. I also don’t just think of having readers in the U.S. Sales are digital first and likewise, so is how I handle paid promotion. Give my Kindle books away for free? Yes, for a couple of days, and as long as I do paid promotion it leads to a boost in interest and sales in my other books. Let the world know about your books through social media? Sure, as long as you don’t beat people over the head with that “buy my book” mantra. Be someone who is interesting. Be yourself.
Have I figured it all out? Of course, not. I’m still learning.
Joan Livingston is the author of novels for adult and young readers. Chasing the Case, Redneck's Revenge, Checking the Traps, Killing the Story, Working the Beat, and Following the Lead, published by Darkstroke Books, are the first six books in her Isabel Long Mystery Series, featuring a longtime journalist who becomes an amateur P.I. solving cold cases in rural New England. The Sacred Dog, a thriller that is not a part of the series, has a Dec. 27 release.
She draws upon her own experience as a longtime journalist in Massachusetts and New Mexico to create Isabel Long, a sassy, savvy widow who uses the skills she acquired in the business to solve what appears to be impossible cases. She also relies on her deep knowledge of rural Western Massachusetts, where she lives, to create realistic characters and settings — from country bars (where Isabel works part-time) to a general store’s backroom where gossipy old men meet.
Joan relied on those insights while writing The Sacred Dog, a story about bad blood between two men. Frank Hooker owns The Sacred Dog, the only bar in a small, rural town. The only one not welcome is Al Kitchen, who he blames for his brother's death.