I've got some exciting news to share: I've formed Gargoyle Girl Productions and I’m going to publish my first mystery novel myself!
Publishing is a crazy journey. I've been having fun with it, so at first I was content to keep writing while my agent pitched my books and I waited for forces to align and result in a sale. My breast cancer diagnosis changed my thinking. When I thought about what I wanted to do to live my life to the fullest during these uncertain times, along with what I've learned about publishing in the last few years, everything clicked into place. Here's the story:
The 10 Reasons Why I Formed Gargoyle Girl Productions and am Publishing My Novel Myself
1. I didn’t rush into this. I’ve written mystery stories and scripts since I was a kid, and wrote my first [awful] novel in college. It wasn’t until I wrote a draft of the mystery novel Artifact for NaNoWriMo six years ago that I felt I really had something.
2. The novel has already received several distinctions. I was awarded a Malice Domestic Grant for unpublished traditional mystery writers while Artifact was a work in progress (2007). After getting involved in writers groups and learning how to edit a novel (2008), the manuscript was a finalist in the St. Martin’s Best First Traditional Mystery Competition (2009). It also received an Editor’s Choice award at the SDSU Writers Conference (2009).
3. I kept writing and had a work of fiction published. After Attifact, I wrote a YA mystery novel, another book in my mystery series, outlines of several more books in the series, and two short stories with series characters. My first short story is out in Fish Tales, a Sisters in Crime Guppies Chapter anthology, and the second one was accepted into the next anthology.
4. I got myself an agent. After going through the process of learning how to boil down my novel into a query letter, a synopsis, and a one-line pitch, I signed with an agent who shared my vision for the book and series.
5. Through two years of pitching to big publishers, my agent and I heard a lot about how good Artifact was, but that it didn’t fit established genre lines. I have a very lighthearted voice but write international treasure hunt adventure plots. It’s a cross-genre combo I happen to adore (think Elizabeth Peters and her Vicky Bliss mystery series) but not one that big publishers seemed keen on right now. I tried to write a "dark" mystery last year, but my natural voice came through and it turned out even more lighthearted than Artifact! At first I was content to wait out the market, since I’m having a blast writing more mysteries. But then:
6. I was diagnosed with breast cancer earlier this year, at age 36, which is the kind of thing that helps you clarify your priorities. I’ve always loved crafting mystery stories. I’d like to share them. Yup, it was the health shock that pushed me over the edge to make the decision to publish my mystery series myself. The diagnosis gave me a newfound clarity to see things I already knew. I love my day job at a non-profit, so I’m not looking for a new career. I want to make sure I’m releasing quality books, but I don’t want to rely on a publishing house to determine the fate of my books. And not to be too much of a downer, but with my uncertain health, I want to embrace life with my own deadlines.
7. My agent suggested it was time to think outside the box. She had this idea right before my diagnosis, suggesting we consider different publishers than the main NYC presses, but I didn’t have time to consider my publishing plans until I was recovering from surgery. I thought about what “thinking outside the box” meant to me at this juncture in my life. I would have decided to move forward with my self-publishing plan regardless, but I’m glad she supports my decision to put my book out myself so it can find its audience.
8. I have the design and production skills to produce my books myself. My title at my day job is Graphic Designer and Publications Manager. I do design, layout, and distribution of public education materials. With my skills, I can put in my own labor to create book covers, eBooks, and printed books. I’m working with a professional editor because I believe it’s such an important part of the process that signing with a publisher would have given me. The rest of the production process I can do myself.
9. I know what I’m getting myself into. My network of writers – Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America, Romance Writers or America, my critique partners across the country, and my local brainstorm partners – have taught me so much about the business of writing and publishing. Even though those were sometimes hard lessons to learn, I’m forever grateful to them. I know this isn’t an easy path I’m taking. But I also know what I need to do to make it a good one for me.
10. Life itself is a risk, and I want to have fun living it. Toward that end, I formed Gargoyle Girl Productions. Named after my mystery-themed photography site, it’s an umbrella creative boutique to encompass all of my creative work: writing, design, and photography. I’m launching the first book of my Jaya Jones Treasure Hunt Mystery Series as both a printed book and an ebook next year to coincide with the end of my main cancer treatments. I’m going to throw a big party. I hope you’ll join me in celebrating.
ARTIFACT comes out in August 2012: When historian Jaya Jones receives a mysterious package containing a jewel-encrusted artifact from India, sent by her ex-lover the same day he died in a supposed accident in the Highlands of Scotland, she discovers that the secrets of a lost Indian treasure may be hidden in a Scottish legend from the days of the British Raj. But she's not the only one on the trail...