Please welcome guest Mike Sherer, whose new YA/New Adult thriller, BLIND RAGE debuted April 19th~
Welcome to the Brave New World
Or, How BLIND RAGE Got Published
For any author, getting a book published is a big deal, an exciting time. So I’m thrilled that BLIND RAGE, the first book in my Tess Barrett young adult/new adult thriller series is coming out on April 19th.
While there are more roads to publication these days than ever, they are rarely smooth. My own journey has taken twists and turns, traveling down broad highways only to abruptly end up on a scenic dead end. Somehow, I keep finding a way forward.
Here are the roads taken and how they led to the publication of BLIND RAGE. My first mystery was published in 1988 by an old, traditional NYC publisher, Dodd, Mead & Co. (The story of how that book came to be published is too long to relate here.) Through no fault of mine, I’m glad to say, the publisher went under shortly after my book came out.
Two years later, however, I sold the paperback rights to that book, plus the next two books in the series, to HarperPaperbacks. Harper was just starting its paperback mystery line, anchored by Tony Hillerman’s books, and I was excited about my prospects with them. Alas, one month after the first of my three books came out, Harper declined its option on the fourth book based on four weeks of sales. That meant, of course, that they put no marketing effort behind books #2 and #3.
Ten years went by (raising kids, working a regular job, etc., etc.) before Ed Gorman called to tell me of an opportunity to get back into print with a small library edition publisher. I ended up publishing three more books in the Emerson Ward mystery series with Five Star, as well as a standalone suspense novel.
I knew, though, that to get back to the big leagues, to get sent up to The Show from the minors, I had to come up with a new series. I decided to try my hand at a thriller this time, and after a casual conversation with my local bookstore owner, I came up with a character I loved and a crazy, but just plausible plot. After a year-and-a-half of research and writing, I finished my first Blake Sanders thriller, NIGHT BLIND.
I also knew that the publishing industry had changed dramatically since I sold my first books. Back then, (an era I refer to as “B.K.”), editors at traditional NYC publishing houses still responded to query letters from unagented authors. If I wanted to this new book to land at a big house, I’d have to get an agent. After a two-year search, I was lucky enough to get picked up by Lukas Ortiz at the Philip Spitzer Literary Agency, the shop that represents Michael Connelly, Alafair Burke and her dad James Lee Burke.
But even the weight of that esteemed agency couldn’t get me a contract in NY. And the earth shifted once again. During the process of writing NIGHT BLIND, e-books were a novelty that started to gain steam. But suddenly, an online bookstore called Amazon introduced its own e-reader, the Kindle.
Not long after, Amazon also announced that it was creating its own publishing imprints in different genres. I talked with Lukas about it, and we agreed that Thomas & Mercer might be receptive to my new series. They were, and brought NIGHT BLIND out in 2012. The book was nominated for an ITW Thriller Award in 2013. But five days prior to the announcement, T&M told Lukas and me that they didn’t plan to publish the rest of the Blake Sander series.
Self-publishing “Before Kindle” was a nice way of describing vanity publishing, wherein authors pay a press to print copies of their books and then use the subsequent unopened boxes of books to weight their car trunks for traction in snow in the winter. But Kindle, with Amazon’s algorithms and marketing muscle, leveled the publishing playing field somewhat. So, I ended up self-publishing the next couple of Blake Sanders thrillers.
In the meantime, I woke from a bizarre dream one morning in which phrases incorporating the word “blind” had tumbled through my brain—blind rage, blind justice, blind instinct… I shook myself and wondered what the heck it meant, and realized that they were book titles for a thriller series featuring a blind girl.
With dismay, after waking further and drinking a cup of coffee, I realized that a blind girl couldn’t solve crimes or mysteries, let alone be the protagonist of a thriller series. Until a few moments later I was struck by the brilliant thought that she was assisted not by the traditional see-eye dog, but by a seeing-eye guy. I liked the idea so much that before starting on my fourth Blake Sanders novel, I dove into BLIND RAGE, finished it, then wrote a second Tess Barrett book called BLIND INSTINCT, and developed an eight-book story arc.
Lukas, though, isn’t well-connected to the YA/NA genre, and felt uncomfortable representing the series. But after my experience in self-publishing, I felt strongly about having some sort of publisher put out BLIND RAGE.
See, the thing about self-publishing is that e-readers and platforms like Kindle, Nook, and iBooks have made it incredibly easy to “publish” a book. But you still have to find an audience. And now that self-publishing is so easy, you’re trying to make your voice heard over literally a million other authors.
I approached an editor at Skyscape, Amazon’s YA imprint, whom I’d met before, and asked if she’d like to take a look at BLIND RAGE. She said she would, so I sent it to her. And waited. And waited some more. When two years went by with no response to my follow-up queries, I took the hint and decided to try a new Amazon feature, Kindle Scout, where readers nominate books they’d like to read based on excerpts. Those books with a high level of reader interest are selected by Kindle for publication on the Kindle platform. Amazon pays a small advance ($1,500), and modestly promotes the books.
Our younger daughter is a design major at UW, and I asked her if she’d be interested in designing a cover for the book. She agreed, and came up with one of the most striking book covers I’ve ever had. By January, 2015, all was ready for me to pull the trigger. I took a deep breath and uploaded both the file and cover image to Kindle Scout and began my 30-day campaign to find readers. Five days after the campaign ended, Kindle Scout e-mailed with the good news that BLIND RAGE had been selected.
If there’s any moral to the story, it’s that persistence can pay off. If you believe strongly enough in your work and don’t give up, there’s always a way.
Michael W. Sherer is the author of the Seattle-based Blake Sanders thriller series, including the just-released Night Strike. Night Blind, the first in the series, was nominated for an ITW Thriller Award in 2013. In addition to the Tess Barrett thriller series, his other books include the award-winning Emerson Ward mystery series, and the stand-alone suspense novel, Island Life.