Flying into the Clouds Without a Compass by Nancy Means Wright


Since 1996 when my first mystery novel came out from St. Martin’s Press, I’ve been with traditional publishers. Patti Nunn was my security blanket through her wonderful BreakThrough Promotions, sending out flyers and getting me on radio gigs (I loved curling up in a chair and chatting about books).  I marketed a number of adult mysteries  this way, and two middle grade novels, which won an Agatha Award and Agatha nomination. I was content to make my advance each time and to remain a midlist author.

Then midlist writers became a thing of the past, and hundreds of new writers appeared, selling or giving away their books online. I suddenly wanted to be part of all this, and in control! So I turned my backlist into e-books, and an in-progress adult mystery, Broken Strings, into a partially self-published book.  I say ‘partially,’ because I panicked at the thought of doing everything from manuscript conversion, to e-and-print book.

Cruising the web one day, I discovered Great Minds Think Aloud Publishing. I envisioned folks shouting out their books in subways, groceries, and coffeehouses! I discovered that publisher Kitty Bullard would convert my manuscript into an e-book with frequent chances to offer it free. She included artwork, a blog tour, and a print book through Create Space. She didn’t offer any editing, but she put me in touch with a professional free-lance editor who charged a reasonable rate

My sleuth is a failed actress named Fay, who is shocked to find a puppeteer friend dead of poisoned yew. She’s an offbeat character from my St. Martin’s series, who will carry on the troupe and track down the villains. I gave her three lively foster kids, a kooky psychic friend, and a shy but attractive male neighbor to help with the puppets. The editor liked the book, which I call a “dark cozy,” and held me hostage until I “got it right.”

The finished novel looked great, but had none of my usual reviews from Publishers Weekly, Kirkus, Booklist, who only deal with traditional publishers. I tried to buy a PW review (for $140), but, for some reason, the online application process kept rejecting me. (Did it know I wasn’t wholly self-published?). I found a few review sources through a Step-by-Step self-publishing list, and spent hours writing blogs and answering questionnaires.

A Vermont bookstore invited me to do a book launch, and I asked my Very Merry Theatre son to direct A Tale of Two Lovers—my one act riff on the fairy tale Sleeping Beauty, which figures in my book. Working a marionette is truly an art, so my puppeteer spouse taught the six players only the basics. But the date the bookstore gave us turned out to be the eve of an eighth-grade graduation for three of the actors. They thought they could act and graduate the same day, but their parents disagreed!  So we’ve had to reschedule the event until fall.

And now I must expand the play into an hour-long production, my son insists, with song lyrics and parts for fifteen players.  And more string, rod, and hand puppets to create, of course.

Oh dear. It seems the novel I thought would take less marketing time has ballooned into a major flight!  I only hope I don’t end like Amelia Earhart who tried to BROKEN_STRINGs_Tradecircumnavigate the globe, but finally sank into the Pacific Ocean.

But a writer has to take risks, right? So here we go: sailing into the clouds… And hoping for a happy landing!

Nancy Means Wright has published 18 books, including 6 contemporary mysteries from St Martin’s Press and two historical novels featuring 18th-century Mary Wollstonecraft (Perseverance Press).  Her two most recent books are the mystery Broken Strings (GMTA publishing) and Walking into the Wild, an historical novel for tweens (LLDreamspell).  Her children’s mysteries have received an Agatha Award and Agatha nomination. Nancy lives in Middlebury with her spouse and two Maine Coon cats.


5 thoughts on “Flying into the Clouds Without a Compass by Nancy Means Wright

  1. nancy345wright says:

    Thanks so much, P.J., for inviting me to do a guest post on your excellent blog-site. It’s a pleasure to read other posts here, as well. And your blogroll is full of winners! Cheers and huzzas… (Nancy)

  2. EARL STAGGS says:

    You have paid your dues in every way, Nancy, and I wish you as much well-earned success as you can handle.

    • nancy345wright says:

      Thank you, Earl! So thoughtful of you to respond! We’ll see what happens next. As you well know, we writers take giant risks just throwing our words out there into the great unknown!

  3. pjnunn says:

    Welcome, Nancy! I just love your work. Can’t wait to see Broken Strings. What a unique premise!

    • nancy345wright says:

      Thanks again, PJ. It was a joy to be here!
      I might add: so easy to make a comment without a lot of fanfare and deciphering a maze of letters to prove I’m human!

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