This past weekend, January 25-26th, I went to the "2014" San Diego State University Writer's Conference to shop The Rainy Day Murders around and see if I could generate some professional interest in it.
This annual event matches writers with editors and agents, not so much to provide an active marketplace, but more to educate writers about the very complicated and evolving book business. It's impossible to be successful in publishing if you don't understand the rules of the business.
At one time, new authors could directly approach a publishing house with an unsolicited manuscript. In today's market, without the help of a literary agent, that door is closed to all but a few proven cash cows. Now, writers must query agents and/or editors to inspire them enough to take a chance on you.
That's not as easy as it sounds because they all seem to be "Looking for the next new thing." Agents don't get paid by the writer; they work on a 15% book contract commission, so the competition is cutthroat.
I signed up for two Advanced Readings of the first ten pages of my newly completed manuscript in its first full, unedited form. One of the readings was with an editor and the other with an agent.
The agent suggested that I redo my beginning to strengthen my personal connection to the John Norman Collins story. This was counter-intuitive to me as non-fiction should strive to be as objective as possible. "Not necessarily anymore," she said. After I gave her remark further thought, she may have helped me solve a narrative problem that's been troubling me.
My second reading was with an editor who was more positive and encouraging. Of all the submissions he reviewed over the weekend, he said he liked mine the best and recommended me for an editor's "Choice" award. The award is not meant to be a publishing offer of any kind; it is meant to encourage writers to stick with it.
After I make a complete revision and edit, I look forward to entering the marketplace and attracting some professional interest in The Rainy Day Murders.
If I am unsuccessful in attracting a publisher, my true crime book will see the light of day, even if I have to self-publish it. This is a story that has waited a long time to be told. Too long!