Sarah Shaber is the author of the forthcoming LOUISE'S WAR (Severn House, July 2011), the Professor Simon Shaw murder mysteries, and editor of TAR HEEL DEAD.
by Sarah Shaber
Last summer, when Kaye asked me to blog for her this year, I remember saying something like “but Kaye, I haven’t had a new book since 2008, what if I don’t have a new contract?” She assured that she wanted me on her schedule anyway. I thought then I’d write about being a frustrated writer wandering in the wilderness of the unpublished.
A little background is in order. I wrote five Professor Simon Shaw mysteries for St. Martin’s Press. The first, SIMON SAID, was a Malice Domestic Award winner. A couple of the sequels were Mystery Guild selections. I always earned out my advance and got good reviews. But then I caught the midlist disease. My readership wasn’t growing, and St. Martin’s started letting my backlist go out of print, even though they were getting orders for those books. This became common practice among publishers during the decade before the Great Recession, when publishers focused on bestsellers instead of their entire list.
I’m not picking on St. Martin’s here. I’m beyond grateful to them for publishing me. They introduce more new authors to the mystery community than any crime publisher out there. Ruth Cavin, my editor, was a jewel. She bought all five books I submitted to her.
But who wants to read a mystery series if all the books aren’t available?
I decided to start a new series and find a new publisher. With the advent of ebooks, keeping a backlist in print would be easier, too.
My first series featured a historian as sleuth. I decided my new series would be historical, set during World War II, and star a young woman who goes to work in Washington DC during World War II. Louise Pearlie was born.
I had no idea how much work this would be! I researched and wrote draft after draft, wearing out my agent, family, and friends. We’re talking three years, people! But I’m persistent (stubborn) and an optimist (Pollyanna) and I kept at it. Finally the manuscript of LOUISE’S WAR was ready to submit.
Then the Great Recession hit. I don’t have to tell you what happened. Publishers and bookstores hit the trenches. I began to wonder if I’d ever be published again.
I have the best agent in the universe, Vicky Bijur. She submitted LOUISE’S WAR to four editors she believed would like the book. I got one offer, a two-book deal from Severn House, but one is all I needed!
LOUISE’S WAR will be published officially on August 1, but it’s already available. I’ve almost completed a sequel, LOUISE’S GAMBLE. Publishers Weekly gave LOUISE’S WAR a very good review, as did the Wilmington Star. There’s a five-star reader review on Amazon already.
Yesterday I went to Quail Ridge Books, my local bookstore, and signed newly arrived copies of LOUISE’S WAR. I’m having a launch party, with cake, at Quail Ridge on August 9. I am a happy writer!
And out of the wilderness!
Sarah R. Shaber