Sunday, March 6, 2016

Book Publishing Secrets with Tj O’Connor, Author of 'Dying to Tell'

Book Title: Dying to Tell
Genre: Cozy Mystery
Publisher: Midnight Ink
Thank you for your time in answering our questions about getting published.  Let’s begin by having you explain to us why you decided to become an author and pen this book?
Author: I’ve been writing since I was in the fifth grade. I began writing short stories and plays for my friends. I knew I wanted to be a writer after reading Mystery of the Witches’ Bridge by Barbee Oliver Carleton and Mystery of the Haunted Mine by Gordon Shirreffs. I was hooked and soon after, devoured books from the Dixon’s The Hardy Boys to James Grady’s Six Days of the Condor. By the sixth grade I would be a writer, and well, I guess I was even then.
Is this your first book?
No. I’ve actually written eight novels and I’m working on my ninth. Dying to Tell is the third book in the Gumshoe Ghost series (sorry, but I hate that moniker but my publisher likes it). Dying to Know, the first in the series, was my first novel to be published and it was the fourth book I ever wrote. So, all in all, I’ve been pretty lucky and perseverance paid off.
With this particular book, how did you publish – traditional, small press, Indie, etc. – and why did you choose this method?
Author: I published traditionally through Midnight Ink and with my agent, Kimberley Cameron. When I first tried to publish my second novel, The Whisper Covenant, I was told that self-publishing was taboo and I had no idea about indie press or any other format other than traditional publishing. Wow, it took me a long time to figure out traditional publishing, too, and I dare say, I still am a rookie. I went with traditional because that’s all I knew at the time, and once I landed my agent, I followed her lead. Truth be told, though, she has an indie press herself now and we’ve discussed having my work in both traditional and indie presses as the need arises. So I look at it as a business decision to keep one foot on either side of the fence.
Can you tell us a little about your publishing journey?  The pros and cons?
Author: Wow, I could write a novel about that. I started with my first novel, The Whisper Covenant. It was a monstrous book, 150,000 words. I had several agents interested in me but couldn’t quite get over the goal line with one. I kept trying while I wrote another book and that one also got within inches of landing an agent and getting published. I was learning as I went, and then, the internet was still building and I was new to it. I learned by bumping along and getting “no” a lot and unanswered queries and lots of nasty replies. I did not quit, and after some great encouragement from my mentor and others, I kept writing. I’ve learned more on my own than at conferences and such, but I still found them very important. I learned a ton from other authors, too. One good thing about the author communities, they share. I found very few folks who found success somehow and didn’t want to help out others. They are great people—great people. The pros of traditional publishing are different for everyone. For me, it started as just a stamp of approval that I was good enough for a press. And it was good to have a three-book contract, too. But, that’s sort of where my love affair ended. I had little to say about the process, covers, back cover copy, and all. (And I think to my detriment.) But, my editor (Terri B) is super and if not for her, I would have had a worse time. She’s tops. I am exploring many areas now, including indie press and self-publishing because I just want to know my options and when you have options, you have more control and say-so. I will always look to traditional publishing for my works first. But, if my agent likes them and no traditional press takes them, then they’ll find a home in either indie or self-pub. My litmus test is my agent. She’s top-notch. If she likes my work, then I’ll get it on the shelf somehow.  
What lessons do you feel you learned about your particular publishing journey and about the publishing industry as a whole?
Author: See question above for the real answer. But the short answer is this: don’t take no for an answer and don’t give up. Writing teaches writing. Talk to other authors. Listen to everyone and take what works for you and ditch the rest. If you stop writing, or if you pull back because of rejection on your work, then you really don’t want to be a writer anyway.
Would you recommend this method of publishing to other authors?
Author: Absolutely. I recommend all three—traditional, indie, and self-pub. I know authors in all categories. Some are successful, some not as much. But I will tell you, from what I know and I’m learning, you can be successful in all three methods if you work at it. The world is changing and the book world is, too. My work will always go through my agent. If she likes it, we’ll try to put it into traditional presses. If that doesn’t work, it will go into indie or self. But it will go. Many, many authors are taking that very approach.
What’s the best advice you can give to aspiring authors?
Author: Write. Rewrite. Keep writing.

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