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Getting to a Self-Published Cozy Mystery Series

It was natural for me to want to write mysteries.  My parents loved to read them and I became one of those kids who hid with an apple and a book to get out of something more responsible I was supposed to be doing.

For a number of years I wrote and occasionally submitted, trying to stay abreast of what was selling and which publisher was buying what.  No success with fiction, some with nonfiction.  Then I published a mystery/romance with what is now Author House, and I did about 50 percent of everything wrong.  Typos aside, it wasn’t my natural voice and parts of the story seemed forced.  Now what?

I said (more or less) “screw it, I’m going to have some fun.”  Over four years I wrote the first two books in the Jolie Gentil Cozy Mystery series, what a friend calls “mysteries on the cozy side of cozy.” It would be great to say that Appraisal for Murder was meant to remain unpublished for three years while I wrote Rekindling Motives, but that would be a lie, and who wants coal in their stocking?

The toys-rather-than-coal truth would be that I sent Appraisal for Murder to a couple of agents ( no takers), and then let it sit while I started the second book. That book took awhile, as I had started a new job and was working on a couple of nonfiction projects. The benefit of not publishing the first book was that as I worked on Rekindling Motives I honed Appraisal for Murder a lot.  Characters developed some new traits, I got better at adding false leads for readers to follow, and I felt as if I really knew my mythical New Jersey beach town, Ocean Alley.

And–here’s the best part–the books got funnier. I have wacky sense of humor, and the one part of me that I let into the series is my own brand of humor.  The third and fourth books of the series (When the Carny Comes to Town and Any Port in a Storm) bring the characters’ lives more fully into the books and there is more humor than in the first two books. I think I’ve hit my stride.  Time will tell.

Of course the other thing that happened while the books sat was the explosion of e-publishing and with it the east of self-publishing.  As I’ve said in other posts, I wouldn’t have loaded my garage with paperbacks and driven from bookstore to bookstore to sell them.  Thanks to on-demand printing and Create Space in particular, paperbacks are relatively easy now, too.

Experience has added a few more white strands to the head and I still have not found a fool-proof solution for typos. I did come up with a few ideas, which appear in a post on Typo Avoidance for Creative Writers.

The four Jolie Gentil books together still only sell about 5-600 books per month on all sites (Amazon, BN, iTunes, etc.), though I’ve had a couple months with a lot more.  The only speculation I have on volume is that in spring 2012 a lot of people really got into their e-readers. My goal for 2013 is to get sales numbers bumped up to 1,000 books per month.  And, of course, to finish the fifth book, Trouble on the Doorstep.  If you’d like to see what I’ve published, the most comprehensive list is on Amazon, though you can get most books on other sites.  Thanks for reading.