It can be said with near certainty that I didn’t follow the path of the average writer. As a child, I never dreamed of writing a best-seller, never aspired to write the next classic novel, I wanted to be an NHL superstar…period. Unfortunately injuries shortened my career to only four games with the Florida Panthers in 1999 and a six-year career in the minor leagues, so I needed to find a new path.
From a family of avid readers, even as a child, I always had a passion for books. Whether it was reading novels on road trips or writing assignments in school, literature was always part of my life.
In the winter of 2000, after sustaining a season ending eye injury while playing professional hockey in Oklahoma City, I found myself with a lot of time on my hands, and a new hobby emerged.
I didn’t write with the intention of being published. I wrote for the love of writing, as a hobby. I continued to hobby write through the years, honing my craft, making time between work and family obligations.
Then I made a decision to take my interest one step further. I’ve never been one to take things lightly or jump in half way. I took a full year off from writing to study the craft.
I constantly read, from novels in my favorite genres to books written by experts in the writing field. My first two purchases were “Stein on Writing”, a book written by successful editor Sol Stein, and “Self-Editing for Fiction Writers” by Renni Browne and Dave King.
I read through these novels and highlighted important answers to my questions. My major breakthrough from Stein’s book was to “Show don’t Tell”. I had to trust my readers. I even wrote that phrase on a sticky note and put it on my computer monitor.
The Self-Editing book helped me learn how to cut the FAT off my manuscript, eliminating unnecessary details, making it more lean and crisp, with a better flow. I learned to cut repetition and remain consistent throughout the novel.
I continually researched the internet, reading up on the industry and process “What is selling?” and “Who is buying?” were my two major questions.
I attended the “Bloody Words” writing conference in Ottawa, Canada, rubbing elbows with other writers, editors, agents and publishers. I made friends (published and unpublished authors), bombarding them with questions, learning what it took to become successful.
Feeling that I was finally prepared, in the winter of 2007, with an idea in mind and an outline on paper, I started to write DEAD MAN`S HAND.
My marketing started with the writing of my book. I always had a plan, an idea of the plot, but now I had to think about the characters and setting.
I wanted characters who readers could relate to. Characters that were real, not fictional to the point of unbelievable. My protagonist, Calvin Watters, is as real as they come, with faults and weaknesses like us all. Because of my sports background, I wanted Calvin to also have an athletic background. I was a pro hockey player, but I decided that hockey would be fine for a Canadian fan base, but I wanted to cater worldwide, so I chose football. I believe that more people follow football than hockey.
For the setting, I needed a major market in the United States that people would want to read about, so I chose Sin City, Las Vegas. Everyone is interested in this fast-paced, party-all-night lifestyle and city that is party-central.
But in today’s society, most people don’t realize that writing a book is more than just putting a good story down on paper. I learned this quickly. Agents and publishers want someone with a “platform”, someone who already has a fan base and is guaranteed to sell books. It’s risky for a publisher to take a chance on a new writer, because there is no telling how many books they will sell, no matter how good that book may be.
In 1999 I graduated from Rochester Institute of Technology with a degree in Marketing, so I felt I had a running start at promoting my work.
It took me two years (working around full time jobs) to complete the first draft of my novel.
The first person to read my completed manuscript was my former high school English teacher. With her experience and wisdom, she gave me some very helpful advice. I then hired McCarthy Creative Services to help edit DEAD MAN’S HAND, to make it the best possible novel.
I joined a critique group, teaming up with published authors Nadine Doolittle and Kathy Leveille, and exchanging manuscripts and information. Working with an editor and other authors was very rewarding and not only made my novel better, but made me a better writer.
When I was ready, I researched agents who fit my criteria (successful, worked with my genres, etc.) and sent out query letters. After six months of rejections, I pulled my manuscript back and worked on it again. Then in my next round of proposals, I was offered representation by the Jennifer Lyons Literary Agency.
After months of editing with Jennifer, and more rejections from publishers, my dream was finally realized in April, 2012, when I signed a publishing contract with Imajin Books (Edmonton, Alberta).
Once my publishing contract was signed, then the real work began, building my “platform”. I knew that when I signed on with a smaller publisher that the bulk of the promotion load would fall on my shoulders, and I accepted that.
I did four things quickly: created my own website, started a blog, and opened a Facebook page and Twitter account.
Now, I have been fortunate to have had many jobs in my life, jobs that have created interest in not only myself, but what I do.
Here are some things I did next:
- I scribed a letter to all of my email contacts (2500) and all of my FB friends (2500).
- I scribed a letter for all of the media outlets (radio, TV, print) in the cities where I played hockey, or have contacts. One of the benefits of playing professional hockey was that I went through a lot of interviews with personalities in all forms of media.
- I picked out the site for my launch party and spoke with the owner about it.
- I played hockey for teams and leagues all over North America, creating a fan base in a variety of cities, and also worked in hockey camps, so I already had some followers that I contacted.
- I was a reporter on the radio for a couple of years after retiring from hockey, and my radio reporting was a presence on the web as well as in radio.
- My sports column, Overtime, which was a main feature in The Pontiac Equity, not only had a following but helped in writing concise and exciting prose.
- I composed a list of local stores for potential book signings
- I compiled a list of local stores to sell my book
Next I picked out my target audience and searched the web for them:
- Thriller readers looking for an atypical thriller hero—an African-American who is no saint.
- Sports fans will be fascinated by Watters’ struggle to recover his decency and win, a kind of Blind Side story with little sentimentality and few illusions.
- A Las Vegas setting—the world of The Hangover movies and many youth films like Bridesmaids—will appeal to 20s-30s readers.
- Watters’ romance with a former prostitute will appeal to younger female readers. The marital tension between Detective Dayton and his wife will interest adults. Both men and women will enjoy the twist on the femme fatale figure of the murderer’s lover, who has her own schemes.
- Lovers of history, as the term, “Dead Man’s Hand”, is a legend dating back to the Wild West of the 1800’s.
I started creating relationships on the internet through Facebook and Twitter. I met not only authors, but fans of the genres I write.
When my book was released in October, 2012, I felt I had a solid foundation to stand on, but I still had a long way to go.
I contacted media for interviews, held book signings, joined shows and blog toured. I contacted anyone who wrote a blog and asked about being a guest. I joined Pinterest, Linkedin, and Google +, as well as sites created to support Indie authors. I did anything I could to get my name out there, get my book in front of readers.
My publisher set up special promotions where my book was FREE on Amazon for certain periods of time. All of this was done to increase my following, and expand the awareness of my book on a worldwide scale. This will hopefully lead to future sales with not only my debut novel, but subsequent books.
I’ve been happy with the result thus far, but I don’t have anything to compare it to. I feel that the more books I write, the more success I will have. The more I get out there, the more excitement and interest is garnered.
It’s a marathon, not a sprint.
Marketing My Debut Novel, syndicated from @AuthorLMurphy
Marketing My Debut Novel, syndicated from @AuthorLMurphy