by Sandra Murphy
& Hy Conrad
This week we have a review of a brand new book by mystery author Hy Conrad, and an interesting guest post from Hy about moving into self publishing. Details at the end of this post on how to enter to win a copy of the book, and a link to purchase it.
The Fixer’s Daughter by Hy Conrad
Review by Sandra Murphy
Callie McFee became estranged from her father three years ago. Buddy McFee, former attorney general and now fixer of problems, was investigated following an offhand remark Callie made during her on-air television job. Now fired from her job, she’s returned home, and the only work she can find is as a reporter for the weekly local free paper, a giant step down in life.
Her brother, State, is a police detective. Upon her return home, she has no place to stay so meets State to discuss staying at his house—with his wife and twin five-year-old sons. His meeting place of choice? The morgue. A college student was found raped and murdered, being dragged across a field by a man with a shovel. He refuses to give a statement but calls on Buddy for help. He’s the CEO of a large company and manages to keep his name off the police blotter and out of the news.
The worst part is, Buddy seems to be losing his edge. Is it merely age or early signs of dementia? Buddy is the keeper of secrets for many influential people. If word got out, there would be panic.
Callie inadvertently meets the college girl’s parents and that starts her investigation into the girl’s murder. She’s not done investigative journalism before and makes some errors but is generally on the right path and not afraid to take a risk.
To say much more would give away too much of the plot but be warned, just when you think you know what’s going on, the final twist will prove you wrong. The need to know that last piece of the puzzle will keep readers turning the pages to a satisfying conclusion.
Conrad is the author of three Amy’s Travel mysteries, four Mr. Monk books, and Things Your Dog Doesn’t Want You to Know: Eleven Courageous Canines Tell All, where the pups tell secrets like, “We are only wearing this stupid birthday hat so we can get some cake. No self-respecting dog cares about his birthday,” and “Moonbeam is not a dignified name for a mutt.” A must-have for dog lovers.
My Foray Into Self-Publishing
By Hy Conrad
On my journey from traditional publishing (nineteen books) to self-publishing (one), I promised myself to be diligent and do my homework. This strange, do-it-yourself world was completely new to me, and I was determined, from the onset, to plan as much as possible, to learn as much as possible, and to get it right the first time. The results of that effort are still pending.
It’s been a long, time-consuming, overwhelming learning curve, I discovered, and one of the things making it so time-consuming is the seemingly endless number of blogs, videos, books, and websites meant to help you on the journey, each one giving away or selling hundreds of hints on how to make your self-published book a success. I even found one expert who advertised, “My book can make you a best-seller author, just like me. His book, the only book he ever wrote, was basically titled, “How to Become a Best-Selling Author Like Me.”
When I first began writing books, a few years after Gutenberg invented movable type, the world was simpler. Publishers paid you a decent advance and set you up with a talented editor, cover illustrator, and copy editor. They worked with you on the title, sent you author copies, put your book in their newest, glossy catalogue, and got their sales force energized about pushing your baby out into the world. They organized the radio interviews and invited you to parties and events, and occasionally, sent you out on book tours. In exchange, they kept ninety-some percent of the list price and, twice a year, mailed you a check attached to a long, complicated statement, which you tried to understand but wound up just filing away. For me, it was the perfect profession.
Over the years, as the internet grew, things changed. Traditional publishers cut back on their staffs and wanted the writer to take a more active part in the book-promotion process. Guest blogs (like this one) became the norm, plus online interviews and questionnaires. The houses put fewer and fewer resources into marketing, and encouraged the writer to create, and pay for, his own advertising and marketing strategy.
Then it got even worse. Before a new publisher would sign a contract with you, they would demand to know about your readers. How many followers do you have on Instagram or Facebook or on your website? Do you do email blasts? How engaged are your fans on a weekly basis? Are you active on Goodreads? And what exactly is your “platform” for this new book? In exchange for all this expense and work, the publisher magnanimously agreed to pay you exactly the same royalty as before.
As everyone knows by now, promoting a book is the hardest, most time-consuming part of the job, whether you’re with a traditional publisher or not. My childhood dream had always been based on the Hemingway model – to sit on a beach, create my own literary world, put out a book or two a year, and be universally admired. At no point did I dream of spending half of every day promoting a piece of fiction that should be able to generate excitement and sales all on its own.
For me, the breaking point came on my last novel. Just as we were starting to gear up for the pub date, my editor, a woman I had worked with for years and a big supporter of mine, found a new job and a new life in Philadelphia, leaving me pretty much an orphan at that critical juncture. Dutifully, the publishing house passed me on to another editor, one who didn’t know me from Adam and who already had a full slate of new books in the pipeline. Every time I got in contact, I felt as though I was introducing myself for the first time and, before long, any pretense of marketing and promotion was discarded. It was not a happy experience, not after I had spent over six months crafting a novel and dreaming of huge sales.
As a published author since the 1990s, I had always been disdainful of self-publishing. The world had set up these gatekeepers, I thought, perhaps a bit smugly. There was a system in place, I thought, to make yourself worthy of having your work appear on a bookstore shelf. After years of honing my skills, I had made the cut and was proud that someone had always paid me to put my words into print and on a shelf. But, for better or worse, the world has changed and, after that orphan experience with my last publisher, I finally felt that I had to change with it.
The Fixer’s Daughter, my new book, is my first foray into self-publishing. Hopefully, not my last. I think it’s my best, most mature novel to date, and the early reviews have all been very gratifying. For anyone interested in the broad strokes of my publishing choices, I went through KDP, Kindle Direct Publishing, and settled on a combination of ebooks and print-on-demand paperbacks. My husband, a retired ad executive, graciously agreed to be my marketing guru. Together, we made a lot of decisions about advertising and marketing and timing, sometimes with the help of a pair of dice.
I’m sure we’re making mistakes along the way. How could we possibly avoid them? To follow all the Internet advice about self-publishing would be debilitating, not to mention contradictory and befuddling. But I no longer feel that the one hundredth article I read on the subject will suddenly reveal the secret to creating a best-selling title. There is no one secret. If there is, I missed it. But we will learn from the experience, find out what works for us and do better the next time.
I do miss the old days, I have to confess. I miss being part of a team that knows what they’re doing because they’ve all done it a hundred times before. I miss the events and the free author copies and the editors who will get enthused about my every new idea because that’s their job. But those days, I keep reminding myself, no longer exist. No one, except a few writers in the top echelon, get that kind of treatment anymore.
The good news is that we’re smart people who believe in what we’re doing and who are now in control of the process, even though it’s a confusing, still overwhelming process for us. But thanks to modern technology, the book will never be out of print or put on remainders. We, as our own publishers, will never forget about the author and go onto the next shiny thing on the horizon. We will always return this author’s calls and treat him with the respect he deserves. And let me tell you, publishers like that are hard to find.
To enter to win a copy of The Fixer’s Daughter, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “daughter,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen September 26, 2020. U.S. residents only, and you must be 18 or older to enter. If you are entering via email please include you mailing address in case you win, it will be deleted after the contest. You can read our privacy statement here if you like. BE AWARE THAT IT WILL TAKE MUCH LONGER THAN USUAL FOR WINNERS TO GET THEIR BOOKS DUE TO THE CURRENT CRISIS.
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