How did publishing your first book change your process of writing?
WHAT WOLFPACK AUTHORS HAVE TO SAY:
The process changes with each book written, hopefully improving, hopefully getting more compelling and harder to put down. My first book actually didn’t get published until twenty years after my second, and until after being rewritten several times. And even then, there’s not one of my 65+ books I don’t think can be improved…and when one doesn’t think so, it’s probably time to hang up the quill.
The first book I ever wrote was published by a famous publisher in NY. Imagine my thrill when I boarded a plane and saw a guy in first class reading it! The next one, 12 years later was published by a smaller publisher in Texas. Great, but no marketing. It just sat there on Amazon. I used Amazon publishing for the next eight books. Generally five-star reviews. I was in management with a large federal agency. No time to market. They sat with the others. My lesson was that you can write a great book, but if nobody knows about it, it will just sit. Things did not take off until I met Wolfpack at the Western Writers of America convention in Tucson. Paul Bishop gave me some writing guidelines which made me a much better writer. I eliminated the word “that” from my writing. I largely cut out long, complex sentences. I concentrated on showing, not telling. Added more dialogue. Mike Bray's marketing expertise worked its magic and my books started selling. One came out the chute as Amazon's Best-Selling Mystery Anthology. My hobby turned into a post-retirement mini-career. I am writing in the genres I love to read (Westerns, thrillers and mysteries), and things are picking up.
Working with Wolfpack Publishing has been one of my 43-year-long professional life's best experiences for a variety of reasons. Mike Bray initially approached me at a time in 2014 when several of my former longtime publishers were making radical changes that left me behind as an author: one fired my Westerns editor of 12 years, effectively cutting me loose at the same time; another began the drawn-out cancelation of a series I'd written for since 1981 (though they dragged it out for another five years in fits and starts); and a third (nonfiction) declared that books in the subject area wherein I'd written eight between 2006 and 2015 were “no longer selling” and showed me the door. Wolfpack's overture thus came at a very opportune and welcome moment, and they've been extremely accepting of my work since 2015. During these five years thus far, Wolfpack has published 35 original novels and one reprint of an older work. Those novels break down into five separate series, plus 30 one-off stand-alone stories. Aside from Wolfpack's most generous publication of everything I've sent to them so far—personally unheard of—I've also been impressed with the high quality of their cover art and the incorporation of various novels into subsequent omnibus editions that give them new life online. If all that weren't enough, they also pay royalties promptly, even in these trying days of COVID-19, when we are scattered to the winds far and wide. Now, very recently, they've also taken onboard best-sellers such as the late Harold Robbins and a personal friend of mine for many years, the inimitable Max Allan Collins. Two enthusiastic thumbs-up on all counts. There'd be more if I had a third hand, but that would just be freakish!
Through the editorial process, I’ve learned more and more about writing in general with each book I’ve had published. Is writing a craft or an art? My answer is yes, if one never stops learning.
I was working full time, along with taking care of a house and a husband. But I decided this was it. Either put up or shut up. I wrote whenever I had a chance, often making notes ahead of time and using my lunch break, and at home, stealing downstairs to my office for short increments of time. At last I thought/hoped/believed my first book was ready to see daylight. Euphoria! Validation! It was picked up by an online publisher that went broke before the story saw the light of day, but then a local audio publisher took it on and it did quite well. That was all the encouragement I needed. After that I scheduled two hours a night to write. The scant hours taught me discipline.
I was 19 years old and in the army when I published my first book. I had been trying to write more “literary” tomes than the adult/action book that my first one was. (A genre recommended to me by Bill Butterworth, better known to his readers as WEB Griffin.) After finding a publisher for my first book, I did about ten more for them. The company was so small that I never saw any of my books in the bookstore, or in a drugstore that carried books. But, knowing that I could publish, I got ambitious enough to break out of a genre that I didn't even want my mother to read, and submitted to a larger publisher where I actually saw books that I wrote showing up in bookstores.
Bumps in the road. Everyone has them. For me, one of my “bumps” turned into my first novel.
About a decade ago I was diagnosed with a mild seizure disorder. The diagnosis left me feeling low. It meant medication (probably for life) and the memory loss I’d experienced was permanent. One night, after getting a bunch of tests, I went to bed thinking about my situation. That night I had the most vivid dream. I woke up and knew I was going to write a novel. For me, that was something new. I had been a journalist and written non-fiction for fifteen years. I had always told myself that fiction was way out of my league. Turned out writing fiction was like therapy for me. For the first time while writing, I felt unencumbered by the rules of the craft. My first novel opened up a new world … and I've never gone back.