Writing Horses and Things I Learned From My Horse, articles for worthy publications, or about people in the next town being murdered, Susan trains horses and teaches people how to ride them. She serves on the steering committee of the Sisters In Crime-Guppies Chapter and is co-president of the Puget Sound Chapter of SinC. DEATH BY A DARK HORSE, is Susan's debut mystery and the first of a series. Her website is http://www.susanschreyer.com/.
EBD: How much time did you spend writing and revising the book, and were you in a critique group?
SS: It only took me about three months to complete the first draft of DBADH. Now the editing and revising…well…that went on for several years! Being my first novel, it was a learning process of major proportions for me. I was fortunate to hook up with some wonderful critiquers—both where I live, and in Guppies (an online chapter of Sisters in Crime). The generosity of other writers is amazing.
EBD: Did you market the manuscript to agents? How many agents did you query and over what time interval?
SS: I started shopping the manuscript to agents soon after I'd finished the first revision and gained some immediate interest, which was thrilling. Of course the subsequent rejections were equally devastating, but I joined Guppies soon after I started the process, and the support, encouragement, and shared experiences really helped me to keep going. I've queried close to one-hundred agents and small publishers (combined), and still have about thirty-eight queries outstanding!
EBD: What was the pivotal element that determined your decision to self-publish?
SS: There wasn't a single circumstance, but it was rather a nexus of circumstances. The list is quite lengthy! Combine the "query situation" of being continually close to getting an agent, offers from small publishers that didn't sit right with me, the soaring popularity of e-books, my own love affair with the Kindle, other people's experiences with self-publishing in an e-format, the current state of the publishing industry, and my desire to earn a living wage and you could say I was pretty much walked right to the point I am now. I've run my own business in the past, so taking this kind of control over publishing my books is not a foreign feeling. There is a great deal of empowerment in making one's own way. And it's not like there is a void of support and advice. There's plenty to draw from when needed. Still, the decisions are all my own. It's a thrill.
Most important is that when I made the decision to self-publish it felt right for me. I didn't make the decision because I was angry with the traditional path to publishing, but chose this route after a good deal of research because it fit with my goals and desires. And it fits with my personality.
EBD: Did you employ a professional editor?
SS: Yes! Absolutely! I've had three. And I must point out each of the three had a different purpose (although you can't help but get some overlap). I used a copy editor, and two content editors, one of whose job it was to help me polish the beginning of the book—my most difficult part.
SS: Yes. Although I do artwork myself, I knew this was beyond my capabilities. I simply don't know how to use a computer for graphic art, I don't own the software necessary, and the bottom line was I didn't want to do it. I tried, but found I had no vision for the cover, either (which was something that I found astounding). I hired Tracy Hayes because I saw her work and fell in love with it. As I suspected, she came through with flying colors (pardon the pun). She not only had great ideas of her own, but listened to my input, making it feel like a collaborative effort.
Many self-published authors will do their own cover work, others will hire it out, and some have friends who will pitch in and help. You do what works for you. There are no rules, except to have a cover!
EBD: What companies did you contact to self-publish and what formats were required?
SS: I looked into most of the typical self-publishing companies (like Lulu and iUniverse) and ultimately decided to use Amazon and Smashwords as my aggregators. Their business models fit what I wanted. Between the two of them, I have pretty much all the e-reading devices covered. Their ease of accessibility to readers (the people-type) is well known, and their distribution network is extensive. Add to that free downloading, excellent royalty rates, access to up-to-the-minute sales data, a monthly paycheck, my own control over content, price, and samples—it pleases the control-freak in my soul.
EBD: What type of marketing will you do to attract readers?
SS: This is an ongoing learning curve for me. I expect it will be the process I adjust more than anything else. But that's the beauty of e-publishing. There's such a long tail that you can try new approaches. Immediate sales feedback lets you know if your efforts are good or a waste of time. Currently, I've got a website—http://www.susanschreyer.com/—and two blogs which I update weekly. One blog—Things I Learned From My Horse —is aimed directly at my horse-loving audience and the other—Writing Horses--is aimed at those more interested in the writer's perspective. I blog about my journey through the self-publishing world as well as talk about my books, interview characters, and bring in guest bloggers.
I also use Facebook and Twitter, and regularly visit blogs and websites that interest my target audience. My aim is to simply become known, so when my book comes out people will recognize my name and go have a look.
I think it's important to help fellow writers, too. I help them promote as much as I am able, buy and read their books, and write reviews on Amazon or other places. Of course I hope they'll "talk me up" too when the time comes.
EBD: Can you give us the hook and a short synopsis?
SS: My hook is horses, and specifically dressage. My protagonist Thea Campbell is an amateur dressage rider who has a very special connection with her horse Blackie, a seven-year-old Hanoverian gelding (who isn't black, by the way). Here's the short synopsis:
Thea Campbell goes out for revenge when the one person who is simultaneously the most likely and least likely candidate for thief steals her horse. But Olympic hopeful Valerie Parsons is past caring about being arrested. She’s dead. At first Thea’s horse is assumed to have killed the woman, but when the coroner determines it was a human hand and not a horse’s hoof that ended Valerie’s life Thea becomes a person of interest. Now intimidating people with little regard for due process are showing up on her doorstep looking to even the score.
Toss in her wrecked love life, a sexy geology professor who stirs up more than dust, and an alleged psychic horse, and it soon becomes apparent that Thea’s predictable life is now out of control. As she takes charge of clearing herself of the murder she discovers the victim had a knack for making enemies—one of whom is Thea’s ditsy sister. She pursues her investigation with more at stake than ever, and in a seedy biker bar comes face-to-tattoo with information that will lead the police to the real killer. She dutifully reports to the detective in charge. But Thea is wrong. As close to dead wrong as she ever wishes to get.
WWK Blogger Paula Gail Benson has two short stories running in Kings River Life Magazine this weekend, "Pelican Spring" and "The Mama Factor." Both are Mother's Day short stories. You can read them by going to: http://kingsriverlife.com/category/kings-river-reviewers/terrific-tales/
Linda Rodriguez is a finalist in two categories for the International Latino Book Awards (given out at BEA the end of May)--one for Every Last Secret and one for editing Woven Voices: 3 Generations of Puertorriquena Poets Look at Their American Lives (with Gloria Vando, Anika Paris, and Anita Velez-Mitchell). Congratulations, Linda!
The second SinC Guppy anthology, Fish Nets, has been released by Wildside Press. WWK authors, Gloria Alden, Warren Bull, Kara Cerise and E. B. Davis have short stories in this volume, which can be bought at Wildside Press, the usual retailers and will be available at the Malice Domestic Conference. Look for "the story behind the stories" on May 1 here!
Upcoming Salad Bowl Saturdays include authors Carolyn Mulford on 5/25 and Liz Mugavero on 6/1. If you are interested in being a guest blogger, send a message to Jim Jackson at firstname.lastname@example.org.