S.L. Smith is a new acquaintance of mine from the Murder Must Advertise e-group.
How long have you been writing?
I began work on my first novel in 1996. That was a learning experience, and will probably be seen only by my computer.
At what point did you reach a place where you felt successful as a writer?
I’d have to say the day I heard back from a publisher, saying they wanted to publish my first novel. I knew what rejection felt like. The affirmation I experienced when someone wanted to publish me was a thrill.
Is the writing life what you expected when you started out? If not, how is it different?
The writing part is absolutely what I expected. The marketing is not. Being an introvert, the marketing is far more stressful than the writing, and I wish I could ignore that critical facet of the process.
The general public seems to think authors are relatively wealthy. Without prying too much, has your writing income lived up to expectations?
Once I abandoned my aspirations for a significant advance, it was easy for reality to meet my expectations. The expenses, including editing, bookmarks, etc., greatly exceeded my expectations. Even so, that won’t stop me. I love what I’m doing.
Early on, so much focus is given to getting published. Now that you’re published, how has your focus changed?
It’s curious, but my self-confidence level, relative to my writing, remains relatively low. For each book, I worry whether people will like it, and come back for more.
How long did it take you to get published the first time?
Technically, it took eleven years. However, there was a major intermission. I completed an earlier version of Blinded by the Sight in 2001. At the time, it was entitled Dot Con, and was connected with the .com era. I found an agent. Then I realized someone should write family memoirs to preserve family stories. Didn’t take long to know it was me or no one. Redirected my attention to the memoirs. Five years later, with no interruptions from the literary agent with whom I’d signed, I completed the memoirs and returned to fiction.
By then, the .com era was passé. A major rewrite was necessary. Once I accomplished that, I paid a woman who taught writing at The Loft Literary Society in Minneapolis to critique Blinded by the Sight. She gave it a rousing endorsement. That was all I needed to fuel my search for a publisher. Signed the contract in February of 2011. Thought I’d died and gone to heaven.
Would you do anything differently if you had it to do over again?
At the eleventh hour, I changed the publisher for book two. Book one went well with that publisher. Unfortunately, the picture changed dramatically with book two. I learned the contract had better outline everything, including the year the novel would be published, when and how many advance copies would be produced, you name it. Forget past history. Make sure you have all of the bases covered—in writing.
Writing new material, rewriting, submitting new work, waiting, promoting published work…the list is large. How do you manage to divvy up your time to give adequate attention to all needed areas?
Unfortunately, it’s impossible to give adequate attention to all areas. I have to prioritize, and that usually means promotion gets the short stick. This year, I abandoned work on book three while I reviewed, edited, and finalized the proof for book two. Work on book three also suffered while I got the word out about events for book two. Now I’m behind with book three. My neighbor is growing a clone to solve this problem. She should be ready to go in another five months. (The clone, not the neighbor.) Can’t wait! Meanwhile, I do what I can with the time I have, and hope for the best.
What is the single most exciting thing that’s happened to you as a writer?
I’d have to say it was seeing and holding an advance copy of my first book, Blinded by the Sight. It was like: Wow, I wrote this! These are my words. It finally happened. Interestingly enough, that topped my first glimpse of the final version of that book.
What is the single most disappointing thing that happened to you as a writer?
That has to be the delayed release of Running Scared from September, 2012 to September, 2013. I worked like crazy to complete the manuscript by the publisher’s deadline. While doing that, I put the rest of my life on hold. I realize that in the scheme of things this is really no big deal. Even so, I felt like my world came crashing down when notified of the delay.
What’s the most memorable thing (good or bad) that’s happened to you while promoting your work?
The lead investigator from the Ramsey County Medical Examiner’s office attended the launch for book two. For starters, he told those gathered that my books portray the true picture of the relationship between the cops and the ME’s office. He also said the relationship between my two protagonists is “spot on.” What an endorsement!
With more books being released each month now than ever before, what do you believe sets your work apart from the others?
My books have a Midwest feel. They are not about mass murderers. Time and again, they show how anyone can become a murderer. They portray my beliefs and priorities, whether consistent or at odds with those of the characters.
What would you like to share with writers who haven’t reached the point of publication yet?
Don’t give up! Keep plugging away. Keep striving. The most important thing is to get a story written. Once that’s accomplished, there’s plenty of time for perfecting it. Just set your butt on that chair and write! Once the book is “done,” explore your options. Used to be that self-published authors were an inferior breed. No longer! Some highly successful authors, including New York Times best selling author Vince Flynn got their words and names out there by self-publishing.
What do you feel is your most effective tool for promoting your published work?
Once my books are out there, my most effective tool is word of mouth. I order 1,000 bookmarks and give them to bookstores, friends, family, people I meet in airplanes/airports, folks in grocery stores, anyone who crosses my path and is willing to take one. Inevitably, some are tossed, but some result in sales.
What area of book promotion is the most challenging to you?
Talking to people is difficult. I’m a lot more comfortable talking to my computer than to people.
Do you have a local independent bookseller you’d like to mention?
Can I mention two? Once Upon A Crime in Minneapolis and SubText in Saint Paul have supported me ever since I first walked in their doors, begging to schedule a book event. To top it off, they recommend my books to their regulars. Couldn’t ask for better support than that. J
Give us a list of your published titles in chronological or series order:
Running Scared (September, 2013)
Share with us an elevator pitch (no more than 30 seconds) of your latest title:
Nick Rice knows someone is after him. He doesn’t know who, and he doesn’t know why. Efforts to determine both are unsuccessful. This morning, he concocts a sure-fire solution.
St. Paul investigators Pete Culnane and Martin Tierney must determine if a horrific crash on Wheelock Parkway was accidental or deliberate. Their step-by-step investigation uncovers secrets that leave more than one person running scared.
Where can we buy it?
It’s available at the two bookstores mentioned above, as well as at Amazon and Barnes and Noble. If you’re searching on the Amazon or B&N websites, please specify: “Running Scared by S.L. Smith.” Also, here’s the link to my webpage that lists locations: