Susanne Matthews

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Susanne Matthews has had negative experiences with traditional publishers, but has learned valuable lessons along the way. She shares them here in this detailed interview.

1. Tell me briefly about your latest book – what is it about and what motivated you to write it?

My most recent release is Murder & Mistletoe. It’s a Christmas-themed romantic suspense set today, that deals with reuniting two branches of a family separated after the American Civil War—the rich Kaynes of Georgia and the middle-class Kaynes of Northern New York. Not everyone in the family is happy with the idea of sharing their current riches, as well as missing pirate treasure hidden somewhere in the house. One member of the family determines to get rid of the newest Kayne while another falls in love with her and vows to keep her safe despite the attempts on her life.

I decided to write the story after I got my DNA results back last summer. There were things I knew would be there since I had a fairly complete family tree, but there were also a few surprises. Among these were the fact that some members of my family, Acadians, were deported to Louisiana by the British in the mid-eighteenth century, meaning I may have some American family I don’t even know exists. How would they feel about having a French-Canadian cousin?

2. How have your sales been?

Disappointing is the best way to put it, but I have had a few thousand pages read through Kindle Unlimited, and the few reviews I have are positive.

3. You’ve used both self-publishing and traditional publishing.  What are some of the pros and cons of both?

This is a hard question to answer because I believe I got into the writing game at its most
unstable time in modern history. On the pro side: to this day, a traditional publisher, especially a well-known and well-respected one, brings a sense of legitimacy to your writing in the eyes of a large number of people. To many, even in this digital society, you aren’t a real writer unless you publish paperback or hardcover books, available in bookstores.

Traditional publishers take a lot of the grunt work out of publishing, but unless they are a big house, they don’t put your books in brick and mortar stores either. They do provide the editor, the cover artist, and look after the format for the cover release. They may send out copies to reviewers and look into some marketing for the book, but on the con side, they may not see the story the way you do, and they have the last word on edits and covers. A so-so cover can ruin a book’s chances at attracting readers, something a new writer has to do better than an old established one. Some publishers may provide you with paperback and ARC copies for promotion, but many don’t.

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Jessica Caris

Jessica Caris likes to explore the boundaries and ranges of the human experience with her writing.  The author of Breeding in Captivity and a former television writer and literary publicist, Jessica discusses her focused marketing techniques.

1. Give me the “elevator pitch” for your book in five to ten sentences.

Naomi Carter is a fast-rising, romantically-challenged professional, who aches to get married and have a family.  After many first dates which never lead to a second, she is introduced to a handsome client.  A whirlwind courtship ensues, and she blinks an eye and is married, finally!  Like bad egg salad, things spoil quickly, and she suddenly finds herself pregnant, mother to a toddler, and divorcing. With all of her accounts mysteriously cleared, our spoiled princess is broke.  Travertine gives way to Pergo and Hermes is replaced by Target.  Just as she clawed her way up the corporate ladder, our heroine finds the moxy to overcome circumstances that would have reduced many women to a long “goodnight” with a fistful of Vicodin and bottle of Belvedere.

This book will remind any woman, young or old, married or single, who has ever thought her life was “ruined” or “over”, that a superhuman strength she never knew existed, resides deep within her.

2. Why did you become an indie writer?

I’ve always been a writer in some capacity.  I’ve written for TV at CNN and Bloomberg and as a corporate writer have had articles published, mostly in national trade magazines, such as Barron’s, Career College Central or Tennis Magazine, to show the wide and wacky range of industries I represent.  The dream to write a book was always there but when I was pregnant and going through a divorce, I was incredibly hormonal and emotional. The experience inspired me to finally embark upon my first book.  I eat books for dinner some nights, and when I was going through this transition in my life, I was disappointed at the lack of fiction writers brave enough to cast a single mother as a heroine, and one who was inspirational, fun and funny.

My father is a beautiful writer and a clean, Spartan, funny one.  When I got those first few sentences out, he was tireless in his encouragement. It’s so hard not having a perception of whether your manuscript is good or birdcage-worthy.  He saw that it was a catharsis during a time of crisis and probably knew it was emotionally beneficial for me to work on it.  He never got bored hearing about how I was developing my character or changing the narrative voice or killing a scene.

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Wendy Cartmell

Wendy Cartmell is a British crime novelist who recently published her first book, Steps to Heaven, on Amazon (also available on Amazon UK).  She’s had a fair amount of experience sending out query letters to agents.  In this interview she discusses that along with her book and other marketing efforts.

1. Tell me briefly about your book – what is it about and what motivated you to write it?

Steps to Heaven is the first book in the Sgt Major Crane series.  Crane is a Special Investigations Branch Detective in the British Army, based at Aldershot Garrison.  He is disturbed by the horrific case of a soldier called Solomon who, after recently returning from Afghanistan, murdered his wife and 6 year old son and then committed suicide.  It seems Solomon was attending a local church which encourages people to join by offering salvation to its members.  But as Crane investigates and the body count rises, events take a darker turn and he wonders what the church is offering – salvation, or slaughter?

My inspiration for the Sgt Major Crane novels has been my love of crime writing (which I read voraciously) and my husband’s 22 years of service in the British Army.

2. How have your sales been?

I have sold around 50 copies so far over three platforms.  I have nothing to judge this against though so I don’t know if this is good or bad for the first month of publication.

3. You’ve sent query letters to literary agents.  Describe that process – how do you find them and what do you say to them?

I sent query letters out to a host of agents about Steps to Heaven.  I found them through Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook.  The query letter gave a blurb about the book, similar to that found on a book jacket, and the remainder of the letter gave brief details about me and my background, linked to the book.   The majority ignored me but I had two agents request the full manuscript: Peter Buckman at the Ampersand Literary Agency and Becky Bagnall at Lindsay Literary Agency.  Both were interested in the central character Sgt Major Crane, the setting of the British Army and the plot.  But both seemed to have trouble with the voice and also selling the book into the crowded field of crime.

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