Murder We Write

Murder We Write
SinC CCC members pose for a photo for the chapter's anthology

Thursday, May 28, 2009

DAVID VS GOLIATH by Sunny Frazier

Small publishing vs. BIG PUBLISHING.

Every Author sets out with high hopes of publishing their book and seeing it on the shelves of the big chains. They deserve to be there. After brain-sweat and sacrifice, the reward should be wonderful book signings and lines of buyers waiting for an autograph.

That's the carrot that keeps writers pounding away at the keyboard. It happens to a lucky few. But sometimes the author published by a major publishing house is a one-book wonder and left to contemplate why the publisher deserted them. Sometimes they can't meet the sales expectations of their publisher on the second book and get pushed to the sidelines. Sometimes the economy downsizes them right out of their career as big publishing can't balance cost of putting out a book with a frugal public. Authors never fantasize about that aspect of the industry.

Then there are the small press authors. We're the ones who looked at the slush pile and the long lines in front of agent's doors and said, “I can do better.” We rolled the dice and took a gamble on a small outfit, a one-man-(or woman)-band. We were impatient and wanted our work out there before we were too old to travel and promote.

I started my career by joining with two girlfriends and putting out a regional mystery anthology of our prize-winning short stories. Anthologies are tough to get published, but nobody told us. We found a reluctant publisher, designed the cover and each paid $2,000 dollars to co-publish. The publisher put in a thousand dollars.

Soon it was apparent that no store, not even the independent book stores in our city, would carry the books. It was also apparent that we had a public delighted to read about the San Joaquin Valley. We had published the first mystery anthology in this region.

I'm lucky to have such a rough start. It banished my own illusions of the publishing world. I actually had to learn everything from the ground up. After being dropped by my second publisher, I met Billie Johnson, Oak Tree Press, with that knowledge and experience.

She offered me a contract and I brought to the table my marketing experience and a few new authors. My attitude from the start was “What can I do for my publisher?” My reasoning? She took a chance on me, put her own money on the line to produce an incredible book cover for WHERE ANGELS FEAR, gave me my first ad for the Left Coast Crime Convention book, and gave me a column to talk marketing. I set out to make money for both of us because I knew if my publishing house went under, as so many small houses are doing in this economic crisis, I'm left searching for yet another publisher. I also know my chances will be slimmer because it's a cold, cruel world out there.

I knew from the outset that my success would happen under my own steam. I love having a big say in how I market, it makes me feel in control of my career. I didn't hand my work over to corporate strangers and trust that they would have my best interest at heart. I bounced off the contacts and savvy I'd learned from the first books I published. I had a readership in place salivating for the next book in the series. I also delved into Internet promotion and invited several of you to join me.

What I love about being with a small publisher is that I feel nurtured. I know my talent is respected. I email my ideas to bring the OTP author together as a “family,” all working toward one goal—to keep our publisher afloat so we can keep producing books.

I have no expectations of being in a chain store, but through contacts I get great book signings. I put together a BookFest for every local author in Central California and sold out my entire book stock. My town is giving me a huge book launch at the prestigious Carnegie Museum because of the author's program I've done with the library over the past year. I do press releases for author events, so the media knows me and supports me. I've made myself a visible part of the community, locally and world-wide. I give to the mystery community with my Murder Circle column, and they support me in return.

Not bragging. Everything I've done, any author can do. Even being with a small publishing house it's possible to become a player in the literary world. Some may feel they are too big for small publishing. I feel you can't promote what doesn't exist, so while some authors spend time looking for an agent and a publisher and hoping lightening strikes, I'm out selling my next book.

Small publishing is a choice. My career is what I make it, not what a faceless committee decides. I choose to enjoy the freedom, explore the possibilities and reap the fruit of my labors.

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