Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Nice To Be Here

by Michael Sherer, thriller author

What an honor to join the author members of Crime Fiction Collective! When my friend LJ Sellers messaged me and asked if I’d be willing to replace a long-time blogger here, I jumped at the chance. Blogs like CFC, Killer Thrillers, Jungle Red Writers, Type M for Murder and others demonstrate the power of author collectives in building readership, generating dialog about a wide range of issues relating to writing and publishing as well as a number of other topics of interest to many of us, and drawing attention to causes that feed our passions.

Blogs like CFC also show how important group strength has become to individual authors’ careers in the Internet age. More than ever, it takes a village not only to raise well-rounded individuals, but also to grow an author’s readership and build his or her career. Readers have so many choices now. Especially with the advent and growth of self-publishing, breaking through the media “clutter” has become increasingly difficult.

My first mystery was published 25 years ago by Dodd, Mead, an old New York publisher founded in 1839. The company’s authors included Agatha, Christie, Ross Macdonald, Judson Pentecost Philips, Cornell Woolrich and many others. Consolidation in the publishing industry was taking place even back in 1988, and Dodd, Mead was a victim of a failed LBO as the industry contracted. Since then, I’ve seen phenomenal changes in the business. I sold my first novel on my own because editors used to read queries from authors and accept manuscripts submitted “over the transom.” 

Relatively quickly, the role of editor at the major NYC houses changed. Editors became pitchmen for the books they liked and believed in, hoping to convince sales, marketing, finance and representatives of other departments sitting in editorial meetings to acquire those books. Once editors got a green light, they were essentially production managers, shepherding manuscripts through the process of becoming books. Authors soon needed agents to get in the door, and agents often took on the role of actually editing manuscripts to polish them enough to get them read by publishers.

Self-publishing, more often known by the euphemism “vanity publishing,” was a dirty word, and a true indicator of poor writing quality. Very few self-published writers sold their books, and fewer still sold enough to attract the attention of a “real” publisher.

Now that game has changed. Self-publishing is slowly gaining the respect it so often deserves. More so-called “mid-list” authors like me, who were dropped by traditional publishers, have turned to the relatively level playing field of e-books, and many are selling far more copies than they would have as traditionally published authors, and in some cases far more than they ever dreamed of. Budding new authors like Theresa Ragan are selling half a million copies of their books, and critically acclaimed and traditionally published authors like Marcus Sakey are turning down half-million-dollar contracts with traditional publishers to either sign with Amazon imprints like Thomas & Mercer or go indie.

For even the best writers there remains, however, the task and conundrum of finding and communicating with readers. And that’s where community comes in. Over the course of the past week I’ve been amazed by the outpouring of love and support for the family of Michael Palmer after his death last Wednesday. More surprising to me was the number of authors who called him friend--good friend, close friend, buddy. In the 25 years I’ve been writing and going to conferences, I never met Michael, and I feel a sense of loss for not having known him, as if I missed out on a secret that everyone else was privy to but me.

I’ve always thought of writing as a solitary business. Yes, we rely on outside experts to get the details of our books right. But the nitty-gritty of putting the words down on paper or screen is entirely up to each of us. But I’m coming to realize how many of us rely on each other for help and encouragement, from inception of a new book to spreading the news about a special price promotion on Facebook or Twitter.

My biggest thrill to-date as an author—a Thriller Award nomination for Night Blind tho past summer—was exciting because of the company in which I found myself, authors like Alison Gaylin, Sean Doolittle, Blake Crouch and Alex Marwood. Now I’m thrilled to be in the company of the terrific authors who make up CFC, and very happy to be included as a member of this village. 

You’re all members, too, and the only way we can help each other is to communicate what we need. I hope you share your thoughts with me, tell me what you’d like to hear from me and let me know how I can help you. 

What “village” do you rely on most in your life?

Michael W. Sherer is the author of Night Tide, the second novel in the Blake Sanders thriller series. The first in the Seattle-based series, Night Blind, was nominated for an ITW Thriller Award in 2013. His other books include the award-winning Emerson Ward mystery series, the stand-alone suspense novel, Island Life, and the Tess Barrett YA thriller series. He and his family now reside in the Seattle area.

Please visit him at www.michaelwsherer.com or you can follow him on Facebook at www.facebook.com/thrillerauthor and on Twitter @MysteryNovelist. Night Tide is available on Kindle and in print at http://tinyurl.com/nrzlp6x.


  1. Welcome! We're lucky to part of the crime-fiction community, which is the friendliest and most supportive global group you can find. Within that community, I rely on a smaller group of writers and readers for the daily encouragement and smiles we all need to keep going. Half of those people are right here on this blog, and I'm grateful to have them in my life!

  2. What a terrific first post, Michael!

    As a writer, my village is made up of other writers and readers. As a wife, bonus-mom, grandma, daughter, sister, friend, neighbor, my village shifts a little in its makeup. The point is, I'm never alone in either my successes or my failures, professionally or personally.

    And you're right, CFC is a terrific village!

  3. Welcome to CFC, Michael! What an excellent, comprehensive post, touching on a lot of important matters facing authors today, especially indie authors.
    The sense of community we get from blogs like this and social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, not to mention writers’ conferences and other author events, is so valuable on so many levels, both professional and personal, especially since, as you say, writing is such a solitary endeavor.
    As one of the founding members of Crime Fiction Collective, which started on April 1, 2011, I’ve found this group to be mutually supportive and, with all the fantastic posts and subjects explored and elucidated here, very illuminating and stimulating for my own work. And we have a blast when we all get together, like at Left Coast Crime!
    Recently, I’ve joined another great blog, The Kill Zone, and, although it takes more time and effort to keep up with two group blogs, the rewards are well worth it. Not only do I enjoy the camaraderie with talented writers and great people, I get far more exposure for my editing and my two craft-of-writing books through these group blogs than I ever would from my own blog.
    Group blogs like CFC, The Kill Zone, and others like you’ve mentioned above are so valuable for networking, sharing, and that sense of community that keeps us going – and helps us sell our books! I highly recommend newbie authors to find a like-minded group of writers to share a blog and divide up the work, while reaping the rewards of the increased exposure.

  4. Welcome to CFC, Michael, from the only non-author in the bunch.

  5. I remember when I started in this biz back in the 70s. It was a much lonelier world. I hung onto my annual Writers Market like a security blanket! By the late 80s, I had a little more interaction with publishing HQs and other book reps. But all that was nothing compared to the connections via the Internet. The blossoming in the past ten years, and especially the last five, has been phenomenal. I'm especially stunned and thrilled that the stigma around self-publishing is simply gone. Gone. Who would have dreamed that was possible? That shift in thinking is damn near as monumental as the Berlin Wall going away.

    1. Indeed! I would have never believed it either if someone had predicted it 7 or 8 years ago. Amazon and indie publishing made my fiction career possible.

  6. Thanks, all, for the warm welcome. I'll try to live up to the terrific rep all of you and CFC have established!

  7. Wonderful post, Michael. My village consistes of other writers and readers. Not only has writing been fulfilling, but I've made some good friends along the way.
    Marja McGraw


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.