Friday, September 7, 2012

How I Almost Killed My Series and My Best Book

by L.J. Sellers, author of provocative mysteries & thrillers

I've been reminded of that nearly tragic scenario because Dying for Justice, the fifth book in the Detective Jackson series, just won the silver in the 2012 Readers Favorite Awards in the Mystery category.

But I almost abandoned this novel and the whole series back in winter 2009/2010. I had decided to give up the series because it was floundering under a small publisher. I'd had two failed launches in a row and I wasn't making money. I thought if I could launch a new series with a new character and new publisher, I might be able to save my career. So I mapped out a plot in which Detective Evans, one of Jackson’s sidekicks, was the lead character with Jackson as a strong secondary character—hoping my readers would come along with the new series. I thought I had written my last Jackson book.

Then everything changed. I was laid off my newspaper job, e-books started to take off, and I re-envisioned my novelist career. I set aside Dying for Justice  to rewrite two standalone thrillers and publish them on Kindle, then to regain the rights to my other Jackson novels and self-publish them as well. That took six months.

Dying for JusticeIn October, my Jackson stories became bestsellers on Kindle and readers were asking for more. At that point, I was ready to start writing again. After reading through my outline for the Evans-based story, I decided I really liked the plot and would go ahead and write it, giving the two detectives equal POV roles.

Dying for Justice went on to become a readers’ favorite and the highest-rated crime-fiction novel on Amazon. It also fully launched the Evans character who later took a starring role in The Gauntlet Assassin, my futuristic thriller, another reader favorite. So today I'm celebrating the Jackson story that almost didn’t make it to publication, but I’m so glad it did.

Here's a link to an excerpt if you're curious. 

Have you ever abandoned a novel and regretted it? Or brought it back later in a new form?


  1. I'm so glad things worked out for you as they did, LJ! I love Dying for Justice, and am proud to have played a small part in copyediting your last three fabulous novels. And congrats again in being accepted by Amazon to publish your whole series as well as future novels! Can't wait to read the next one!

  2. It's really wonderful to hear a story of a book blossoming like that. (We always hope all our children will do well, don't we?)

    I never really abandon a book. It just goes onto the shelf for later.

    But yes, I have a couple which I'm circling, trying to find that emotional wedge that will make them exciting for me again.

  3. LJ, funny you should mention this... When I returned from my first Left Coast Crime conference in Santa Fe, I began the edits of a novel I'd already re-written once. It had begun as a women's fiction (which bored me beyond reason), then morphed into a thriller. I wasn't happy with it.

    Blame it on either Jackson or Sellers, (LJ was my roommate at the conference), but I decided to rewrite it yet again into a police procedural. The Missings will be published in about a month.

    I guess, when there are some good bones to a story, I'm like a dog...

  4. Peg, I'm glad to be a good influence. The Missings is an exciting story!

  5. The Missings is an excellent story! I can't wait to see how it turns out! And to see it published for the rest of the world to read!

  6. How close we come to the edge and then make one little decision that turns out to have been a big decision. Such is the stuff novels are made of!

  7. Congrats on the award and so glad you didn't give up! It's amazing how the little moments can change everything.

    Thanks so much for sharing with us.


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