Last month I mentioned in my blog that several agents had suggested that I stop writing my Charlie Parker series and write something else, under a different name. A reader questioned why those in the publishing world would suggest such a thing, and I thought that would be a great topic for this month's post.

First, a little background: Publishing is a strange business. I don't know any other way to say it. Traditional New York publishing is now owned by six large corporations and publishing decisions are driven almost completely by sales numbers. It doesn't help that so many independent bookstores have gone under, in the face of overwhelming competition from chain stores and online sellers. The large chains set up sales models which were monitored by a very few buyers in a central location. Computer reports dictated what the stores would stock and this largely determined the fate of an author.

The way a book moved through the system was based on advance "buzz" about the title. If big advertising dollars were going to be put behind a title, the chains could justify ordering multiple copies for each of their stores. Publishers paid tens of thousands of dollars for placement of those books at the front of the store (don't think for a minute that some bookstore employee just takes a look through the stock and starts sticking books on shelves and tables---it's all very carefully planned), and that money was spent on the "name" authors and titles.

Okay, so what happens is that First Time Author writes a book and it gets published. Let's say there is a good amount of buzz, some positive reviews, and the author has planned a little signing tour (for all but the top ten or so bestseller list writers, all this is done at the author's expense). First Time Author's book does okay. For the sake of argument, we'll say that it sells 10,000 copies in the first two months. That's not bad. But by then new books are coming along, and the bookstores are allowed to return unsold stock to the publishers (a VERY weird business practice, in my opinion, but that's how it is in publishing). So, maybe 2,000 copies get returned, for a net sales total of 8,000 books.

The author has written book #2 and it comes out a year later. But this one doesn't get quite the buzz of the first. Face it, everyone loves the concept of discovering that fresh new voice! So, this time the chain stores look at their records and see that the author's first book didn't sell out, so they order even fewer copies of the second book--say, 5,000 total. These most certainly won't get placed on a table at the front and, buried among 50,000 other books, will likely not get noticed at all unless the author has really pushed hard for this one. So, probably half of Book #2 get returned and the publisher is thinking this is an author who is definitely on his way out the door. If they give the author a chance at a third, fourth or fifth book, it will almost be a miracle. The computer doesn't lie, and that computer is telling everyone in the publishing world that this author is a loser.

The author still wants to write. There are fans who still want to read their books. But the publisher and the stores are no longer interested. So, if the author is still on good terms with his/her agent after all this, the agent may recommend writing a whole new series or genre and submitting it under a different name.

So, that's the strange world of publishing.

Now, I must say that my own case was not quite this bleak. I was lucky to be with a smaller press in the beginning and they stuck with me through ten books. But when my original publisher changed hands and the interest seriously began to wane I just didn't have the sales to make an agent or a bigger publishing house jump for joy. That's when I began to get those suggestions from agents.

Making a long story just a little bit longer...I came to the realization that the group who were really being left out were my readers. People wanted more Charlie books and I was  determined not to quit writing them.

Enter the new realm of e-books, printing presses designed to fill demand as needed--and I was on my way! Now I can write as much as I'm capable of, and I can get them out to the people who want them. To me, it's about the relationship between author and reader. Period. As long as I can come up with fresh plot ideas, and as long as you are out there wanting new books I'll be here!
It's always so exciting for me when I've finished a new book and know it's coming out soon. My newest Charlie book, Stardom Can Be Murder, was slated for early May release but I've learned that a couple of sales outlets have gotten on it even more quickly. So, I'm having a hard time waiting to tell everyone.

Yes, there will be a paperback version. Yes, the ebook version will be out there to all sales outlets very soon... Meanwhile, for my readers who've been asking about it, Stardom is already showing up on these sites in ebook versions:

Kindle version

Sony, iPad, Kobo and others

Thanks to everyone who has encouraged me to keep writing this series. And a huge thanks to everyone who has recommended my books to their friends and posted such wonderful comments online. I couldn't do it without you!!

Happy Reading!
I guess there are several reasons why readers gravitate toward mysteries. There was some discussion of this recently among members of a writers group I belong to, Sisters In Crime, and the consensus really went along with all the reasons I've personally found the mystery genre so satisfying and fun to read.

1. Mysteries give us the sense that justice prevails. A crime happens, the sleuth follows the clues, the bad guys are caught and put away. Since real life often doesn't give us that satisfaction, finding resolution in fiction meets one of our basic needs.

2. Mystery readers love series. Unlike many other fiction genres, with mysteries we get to stay with a set of characters we like. Sometimes it's a location that appeals to us. Often the protagonist's profession is one that we find interesting. As we get to know those fictional folks and learn more about them, we develop a bond. Multiple literary agents over the years told me that I should drop Charlie after the first few books and start writing something new. But when I talked to readers they were appalled. They wanted Charlie and Drake and the whole gang to stick around. Well, guess who was more important to me?---My readers!

3. Readers often look for the bits of the story that come from the author's life. Many authors draw from their own experiences in creating their fictional worlds--be it the police department, the hospital, the courtroom or some other career. In my case, the whole world of helicopter operations comes out of my own life. My husband is that handsome helicopter pilot and his work inspired many of the situations in my books.

A lot of my own work experience before I began writing full-time was in accounting, so it was a natural to use that as Charlie's profession. At an earlier point in my life I decorated cakes and sold them for extra spending money--that became the basis for Samantha Sweet's career in my new series (okay, that and my obsessive love of all things chocolate!).

Now that you know which parts are real, I guess I need to state for the record that there are many parts of the books that are completely made up. I've never fired a gun at a person; I've never seen an up-close dead body that wasn't first prepped by a funeral home; I've never been brave enough to go chasing down bad guys. Probably at least 80% of Charlie's adventures come right out of my head.

But maybe that brings us to another thing readers love about mysteries. We get to live a lot of those outside-the-box experiences without really having to put our own necks on the line.

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