Friday, May 03, 2013

Venturing Back Into the World of Self-Publishing

It's truly amazing how much the world of book publishing has changed since 1996, which is when I saw my first novel, Cold White Fury (HarperCollins) on a book store shelf for the first time. That day ranks right up there with the other all-time best days of my life and I will never forget the thrill and excitement I felt. To me, it was the beginning of a lifelong dream finally recognized. I was so proud, and happy, and full of hope. But I was also naive.

I managed to ride that wave of ecstasy for several years and it felt wonderful. I didn't mind the book signings that no one came to because there were plenty of busy ones to offset them. I didn't mind having to wait months ... no, years actually, to know how my books were selling. And when HarperCollins reorganized just before my third novel with them came out (Second Sight) and decided they weren't going to contract with me for a fourth one, I was bummed but still optimistic. My agent and I worked feverishly to shop that fourth book elsewhere, but no one would take it based on a synopsis alone; they all wanted a finished manuscript. That meant months of writing, months of reading, months of waiting, months of prep if the thing did sell, and likely years before another book would come out with my name on it. Any momentum I'd built up with the first three books would be lost.

Ever the optimist, I kept at it and wrote the book. Nearly a year later, before I finished it, my agent called me with the news that she was going to retire from the business. Now I had no agent, no publisher, and no momentum.

I decided it was a good time to try writing something different, something I'd started during the months I spent shopping the manuscript for Cold White Fury around to agents. It was a very different piece, a humorous mystery with a smart-alecky protagonist who was a nurse-turned-coroner. My funny bone needed an outlet and this was it. Then Cold White Fury found an agent and within weeks of that a publisher, and suddenly my funny bone was stagnant. I had thrillers to write. I had thrillers under contract.

My funny bone started yelling at me again when I lost my agent. I figured if I was going to break off in a new direction, this was the time to do it. I resurrected that humorous mystery, changed the setting from Virginia, which is where I lived when I started it, to Wisconsin, which is where I lived at the time. It all came together beautifully and quickly. I loved it. And I used it to start looking for a new agent. For several years I played around with some agents: one who had me change so many things in the manuscript that I didn't recognize it any more, so I bid her adieu and went back to my original product, another who made some mediocre attempts to sell the work without any success. When I parted ways with him, self-publishing was peering over the horizon and after some research and homework, I decided to self-publish the book. It sold a rousing 782 copies total and 25 of those were to me. In the end I made a small profit, but it was barely enough to buy a fancy dinner for two.

So I pulled it off the market and started the agent hunt again. This time I got lucky and my agent sold the book as part of a three-book deal a short time after I signed with her. That led to five books in the series (Working Stiff, Scared Stiff, Frozen Stiff, Lucky Stiff and Board Stiff) all with Kensington Books, plus another series with Kensington that I pitched to my editor with some guidance from my agent. Total time from when I first started the manuscript that eventually became Working Stiff to the day of its release was 14 years. And since no one remembered who Beth Amos was by then, and the earlier books that were published under that name were all out of print, I was reborn as Annelise Ryan.

I didn't give up on writing during that time. In fact, I wrote three other novels. My agent and I made some attempts to sell one of those, but it's one of those cross-genre things that editors are wary of placing. So I decided to dip my toes into the waters of self-publishing again and Nick of Time, a story of romance, ghosts, and time travel, is now available as an e-book. I'm also working on reissuing my earlier books as e-books since they were never available in that form and I have all the rights back. So for your reading enjoyment at the very reasonably price of $2.99, you can buy Nick of Time at Smashwords, Amazon, Kobo, or any other book e-tailer you like. I hope you enjoy it.