If you are a reader who has discovered me only recently, you may be wondering why the hell you have never heard of me before. The answer is pretty simple: there are many of us mid-list writers out there who do not get the kind of large-scale, national marketing campaigns that are needed to help an author and their books break out from all the many books in the marketplace today. We get buried in a mountain of new print releases, not to mention the avalanche of ebooks that come out virtually every single day. Many of us, like me, have been writing book since well before the advent of electronic platforms and we write as well, if not better, than the authors you see on the bestseller lists. In fact, our books can often be more original and surprising than those on the bestseller lists.
How can that be true?
Being on the bestseller list has little to do with writing quality (although a few writers do indeed land there because they have amazing literary voices). Being on the bestseller list is more a combination of being in the right place at the right time, being a decent writer, knowing the right people, and being one of the very. very few authors who get a large advance from their publishers. The last factor is the most important. A large advance equals a big investment that must be protected by promoting the hell out of the book so the publisher can get at least their money back. In addition, authors and books that end up on the bestseller lists are first bought—and then promoted—because they are most like existing bestsellers, and thus deemed most likely to sell by editors. There’s a momentum that comes with being pushed forward in front of the pack right out of the gate, and those of us who do not receive large advances and the marketing support they bring from our publishers at the start are seldom plucked from obscurity for promotion. Instead, we are left to keep writing on faith and tiny advances, while hoping that we will be one of the rare authors whose books break out on their own.
But it’s not all bad being a midlist author. Not at all. We don’t have the pressure to produce another book exactly like the one we just wrote. Our storylines are not at the mercy of a meeting between editors and publicists, all keenly aware there’s a big advance on the line. We’re pretty much left alone and we can afford to put a lot of love, care, and ourselves into our books. Plus, the determination and love of writing required to hang in there can manifest itself in better and better books, rather than carbon copies of the last big seller.
God knows, I don’t write books for the money (and I’d be a huge failure if I did). I write them because I have something to say, or I have fallen in love with the characters I have assembled in my imagination and believe that they deserve to live. I write to understand being human. You see, writing is an awful lot like going to a shrink to deal with your real life. Only we authors are writing, instead of talking, and using fictional characters instead of real people, to try and make sense of it all. I think most authors are driven to write because they are attempting to understand the world around them, by exploring different themes and combinations of characters and meaningful events in their books. I know that I am one of those authors. It’s a gift to be able to understand life through words and I am grateful for it.
If there is one theme all of my books and series share, it’s this: while human beings may all look and sound quite different on the surface, underneath we all have the same hopes and dreams, and we all share the same kind of pain. We’d be a better world if we saw that first and stopped focusing on the superficial.
Yet all of my series are quite different in the way I express that sentiment. Most of my books have humor in them, because that’s how I deal with the world. That’s not for everyone, and certainly my particular sense of humor as shown in my Casey Jones series may not be for everyone. If that’s the case with you, that’s fine. You might want to give my Dead Detective series a try. That’s my most serious effort. But stick with Casey if she speaks to you, even a little, because she gets better and better with each book. Keep in mind that when she was written, there weren’t very many hard boiled female sleuths around (now you couldn’t wade through them with a cattle prod in each hand). Casey has mellowed a bit in later books, but she is still a fierce believer that everyone deserves justice, no matter how poor or how outside the system they may be. But if you love a more gentle kind of humor, I think you would really enjoy my Hubbert & Lil books, which are all cozies and are guaranteed not to make your grandmother faint. Yet they’re still quite funny in a low-key, wry way, because how could they not be? Living in New York City—or anywhere, really—is an absurd experience and the Hubbert & Lil books show it.
In the end, writing is an act of faith. It is a communion between author and reader. It is an honor that you are willing to spend at least a few minutes of your life on what I have to say. Thank you for that. I hope you enjoy my books and I hope that you continue to give other new authors a try. Look for more midlist writers like me… we’re out there and we’re worth it.
Please feel free to share some of your favorites in the comment section below: