Saturday, November 28, 2009

The Little Press That Could

By Pat Browning

It’s been almost a year since a brand new small press got off the block running with a reissue of my mystery. Now the Krill Press catalog lists four mysteries, with a fifth due in December. Not bad for a press that started out as a bright idea.

Looking back on a whirlwind year, I came across my January guest post on Helen Ginger’s blog:

I’m reprinting it here as an example of how easy it can be to deal with a start-up press. But first, here’s the current Krill Press catalog:

 ABSINTHE OF MALICE by Pat Browning.
Old crimes come back to haunt a small California town. Penny Mackenzie, Lifestyle reporter for The Pearl Outrider and a cast of unforgettable characters find their lives turned upside down after chance discovery of a skeleton in a cotton field leads to murder...and romance

THE WELL MEANING KILLER by Miranda Phillips Walker.
A maniac is terrorizing Baltimore. "The Wishing Well Killer" is discarding his victims like they were the kitchen trash...stuffing their bodies in plastic garbage bags and throwing them down abandoned wells in the Maryland countryside.

 LITTLE BLUE WHALES by Kenneth R. Lewis.
A sadistic killer stalks the summer beaches of Oregon and the only cop who can stop him is about to let him get away with murder, in this adrenaline rush thriller where the most dangerous secrets to keep...are the ones you don't know you have.

 THE BIG GRABOWSKI by Carolyn J. Rose and Mike Nettleton.
When the body of an unscrupulous land developer washes in with the tide, there are more suspects than mourners in the quirky town of Devil's Harbor, Oregon. For Molly Donovan, the murder creates an opportunity to use her crime reporting skills.

Coming in December: COUNSEL OF THE WICKED by Roberto Kusminsky.
Prominent surgeon and ex-Navy Seal Gerson Asher embarks on a harrowing journey from the broad avenues of New York to the back alleys of Buenos Aires in search of stolen WW2 art treasures, Nazi war criminals, and the killers of his grandfather.
Here's my nod to other reissued mysteries, and a blow-by-blow account of getting my “new” book out into the world, and the revisions I made during the process. From "Straight From Hel" January 2009:

ITEM: Dec. 5, 2008
From the New York Times top 20 sellers in Paperback Mass-Market Fiction. Of the 20 top titles, three are reissues:

THE MANNING GROOMS, by Debbie Macomber. (Mira, $7.99.) A reissue of two novels: “Bride on the Loose” and “Same Time, Next Year.”
FOUL PLAY, by Janet Evanovich. (Harper, $7.99.) A veterinarian hires a woman who has lost her TV job to a dancing chicken, then helps her prove her innocence when the chicken disappears; a reissue of a 1989 book.
LOVE BY DESIGN, by Nora Roberts. (Silhouette, $7.99.) A reissue of two novels from 1989: “Loving Jack” and “Best Laid Plans.”

ITEM: December 2008
FULL CIRCLE by Pat Browning, revised and reissued by Krill Press as ABSINTHE OF MALICE.

That came out of the blue. It was a three-month ride on a Tilt-A-Whirl, and I’m still dizzy. Krill Press is a micro press in Oregon, with a multi-tasking publisher who puts the pedal to the metal. As in:

SEPT. 1 -- Krill Press was formed, more or less in the mind of said publisher, after the idea was kicked around in an Internet group we both belong to.

First bump in the road: He asked for a Synopsis of FULL CIRCLE, which I self-published in 2001, and also one for my half-finished second book, working title SOLSTICE. I started to sweat out that horror of horrors, the synopsis, for not one but two books.

SEPT. 6 -- Publisher said forget the synopses. He was reading FULL CIRCLE and liked it. He had already read the first three chapters of SOLSTICE on my web site.

SEPT. 14 -- Publisher loved FULL CIRCLE, suggested bringing out an “updated, refreshed 2nd edition” with a new title and new cover. Offered me an advance. I fell over laughing when I read the proposed new title, ABSINTHE OF MALICE, and saw the jazzy, sexy new cover proposed. But the more I thought about it, the better I liked it. We jumped right into proposed changes and details of a business relationship.

SEPT. 17 – We signed a two-year contract for publication in trade paperback, E-book and other electronic download formats, and Amazon’s Kindle.

SEPT. 24 – Advance check. I printed out a copy suitable for framing.

Second bump in the road: Publisher wanted manuscript by E-mail, in Word. I couldn’t find my computer file anywhere. I did have a printout of my iUniverse proof sheet from 2001. Nothing to do but make a new Word file by scanning in that proof sheet, one page at a time. More than 200 pages, one – page – at – a – time.

OCT. 26 – Publisher finished book block and e-mailed it to me for proofing. Last minute updating of cover blurbs and reviews for Krill Press web site, which was still under construction.

NOV. 3 – Book uploaded to printer (Lightning Source). Publisher signed contracts with Lightning Source and Ingram Book Group to have book distributed in Canada, the UK and Europe.

NOV. 6 – Lightning Source sent proof copy to publisher via UPS 2nd Day Air. Publisher made plans for virtual launch party on NETDRAG podcast.

NOV. 7 – Pursuant to my notice of cancellation of contract, iUniverse gave me written acknowledgment and washed their hands of it. It’s no longer listed on their web site.

Ongoing blip: FULL CIRCLE is still listed for sale by online booksellers and will be until they get rid of their last copy. If I could afford it, I would buy them all up.

DEC. 4 – I had copies of my brand new book on hand for a book signing at the local library.

Krill Press is promoting ABSINTHE OF MALICE in every known market. It’s displayed on Google Books, as far afield as an Italian library. has it displayed for sale in the UK, Germany, France, China, Japan … It’s print-on-demand but the publisher, bowing to marketplace realities, offers a heavy discount to bookstores and makes it returnable. He’s sending sell sheets and queries to Internet book review sites.

The publisher is doing his share and then some. I’m more of a hand-seller: “Pssst! Wanna buy a good book?”

It’s an ill wind, as the saying goes. Having to scan the book a page at a time gave me a chance to polish it up, tighten it up, and generally shape it up. It also gave me a chance to rewrite a couple of key scenes.

One has to do with my protagonist, Penny Mackenzie, a baby boomer whose first love shows up after a long absence. I had written her as a bit of a schlump, in a rut. The publisher picked up on a short scene where she whacks off her hair and throws her dowdy duds into a wastebasket. He took it a step further, seeing her as a woman whose long-suppressed vanity reappears when her old flame shows up. I rewrote the scene to fit the sassy, sexy new book cover.

The other has to do with DNA testing of an old bone. When I wrote the book in 1999-2001, DNA testing was fairly new. I misinterpreted a news article I read about a portable DNA machine developed by the military for battlefield use. Since then, of course, I’ve learned that DNA from old bones is mitochondrial DNA, passed down only through female ancestors. The test destroys the bone, making it impossible for a character to run it through a portable machine and then replace it in the police department’s evidence room. I feel a lot better for having rewritten the scene to reflect the differences in DNA, keeping a character from subjecting an old bone to the wrong kind of testing.

While all this was going on, my work-in-progress was shoved to one side. Now I’m picking up where I left off four months ago. Touching base this week with a friend, I mentioned that finishing the second book is essential to the success of the first one. His e-mail reply is taped to my computer monitor.

He wrote: “And if I were you I'd finish that second book. There's only so much promotion you can do without turning into a used-car salesman, and there's hardly anything worse than a used-car salesman who only has one car to sell.”
Words to live by!


Helen said...

What a journey you've taken - and you've accomplished so much!

Straight From Hel

Chester Campbell said...

Love the used car salesman analogy. Actually, I've been following his advice lately and am getting some writing done.