A DANGEROUS FICTION is out in Penguin paperback!

Dear Friends,

As you know, this blog generally focuses on the business and craft of writing, but this time I have some important personal news to share: As of today, A DANGEROUS FICTION is out in paperback!

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Seeing the Penguin imprint on my book is particularly meaningful for me. Many years ago, before Amazon was even a gleam in Jeff Bezos’s eye, I lived in Ein Gedi, a nature preserve near the Dead Sea. It is one of the most pristine, beautiful places on earth, but it had one huge drawback: the closest bookstore was hours away in Beersheva. Once a month or so, I’d hitch a ride to the city and head straight for that bookstore, where I scooped up every novel I could find with the orange Penguin logo. I might not have known the author, but for me, the imprint itself was a guarantee of quality. I’m quite proud that A DANGEROUS FICTION will bear that logo.

Publishing, as readers of A DANGEROUS FICTION know, is murder. You might think that once a writer has broken into print, it’s easy sailing. Not so much. Without the support of loyal readers and the opportunity to find new readers, writers cannot exist (i.e. publish, which is existence for a writer.) Because I think of you all as my cadre, I’m turning to you for help in launching the paperback edition of A DANGEROUS FICTION. Help me make this one a success, and there will be more to come in the series of Jo Donovan mysteries.

How can I help, you ask? A few things can make a huge difference, with number one being the most impactful.

  1. alex eating bookIf you can, buy a copy today. Sales on launch day in particular are tremendously important in positioning a book to succeed. If you already own A DANGEROUS FICTION, consider buying a copy or two for friends who love mysteries, via Amazon, B&N, or a brick and mortar bookstore near you.
  2. If you belong to a book club, online or in person, consider recommending A DANGEROUS FICTION. Viking put together this very useful reader’s guide for book clubs. If your book club does choose the book, let me know and I’ll do my best to drop in via Skype for your discussion.
  3. 20130821_130753_1Talk about the book to friends who read, both in real life and online via Facebook, Twitter, blogs, forums or other social media. Publishers always claim that word of mouth is what sells fiction; with your help, I’d love to prove them right.
  4. Review the book on Amazon and/or Goodreads. These reviews directly influence readers’ choices.
  5. Take pictures of the book, in the wild or in captivity, the more imaginative the better. Post them online and send me a copy 1012440_10200362644900845_1675904216_nand I’ll share them as well. As a small thank you, I will choose one (U.S.) photo at random; the sender will receive a personally autographed copy of A DANGEROUS FICTION or another of my books.  [Insert book pix)

Please understand that I’m not asking anyone to do all these things. I know you all have busy lives that, strangely enough, don’t revolve around me. But if you can do any of the things on this list, you’ll be helping more than you can imagine.

Thank you!

Launching a Novel, Then and Now

Last week my new novel, A DANGEROUS FICTION, was published by Viking Books. Exactly ten years ago, Simon & Schuster came out with HINDSIGHT. The contrast in these experiences, from this writer’s perspective, is astonishing.

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I’m not talking about the difference between the publishers. Each book launch is a unique experience, depending on the team members. I’m talking about the difference ten years has made to the publishing scene. HINDSIGHT came out before the explosive spread of social media.  Facebook, Goodreads and Twitter didn’t exist. Ebooks didn’t exist. Amazon was just an online purveyor of print books. Writers didn’t blog; few even had websites. There was no way for readers to contact writers except through letters sent via their publishers; nor could writers reach out directly to readers. The only time I ever met my readers was at personal appearances, book signings and the like. The only reviews were newspaper and magazine reviews, which took weeks, even months to appear. Once the book was published, it was totally out of the writer’s hands. Consequently, the period immediately following a book’s publication was a curiously barren one, empty-nesthood for writers. There was nothing to do but sit and wait for print reviews to trickle in, or not.

What a difference ten years has made! The first reviews of A DANGEROUS FICTION came out before pub date—not just in PW, Library Journal and Booklist, which review for the trade, but also on popular blogs and sites like Goodreads. On pub date there was an avalanche of dammed-up reviews, followed throughout the week by a steady stream as more people read the book and blogged about it.  Dozens of readers contacted me directly through email, twitter, and comments on my blog. Others posted reader reviews on Goodreads and Amazon. The feedback was immediate—and, I will add, deeply encouraging. I can’t share all the reviews in full here, (much as my ego would love that!) for copyright reasons and also because really, who but a mother would want to read every word of every review of mine? Instead I have taken brief excerpts from all the reviews I’ve seen so far and compiled them here to share with you. If you’ve seen any others, do let me know. Many thanks to the authors of these reviews for spreading the word.

I know writers who claim they never read their reviews, and I’m sure some of them are telling the truth.  I’m not of that camp. If someone has taken the time to read my book, think about it and write a review, I want to hear what they have to say.

So here are the reviews, along with a few pictures from the events surrounding the book launch. Speaking of which, I have a reading  in NYC at the Mysterious Bookshop, 58 Warren St. NY Wed. Aug. 7 at 6 PM. Do come if you’re in the area. You don’t want me reading to empty chairs and answering my own questions, do you?

A Dangerous Fiction launched!

“Required Reading: A glamorous New York literary agent has a lot to fear — and not just from really bad novels. In Rogan’s thriller, uber-agent Jo Donovan finds members of her uptown inner circle brutally murdered shortly after she rejects a manuscript. But things may get worse: She is certain the detective sent by the NYPD is not New York’s finest. In fact, he’s her ex-boyfriend. You might want to lock your door.” —New York Post

“Rogan does a masterful job of juggling the mounting suspense with a full-bodied portrait of New York literary life and Jo’s complex backstory as the widow of a major novelist in the Norman Mailer/Philip Roth mold. The fresh setting, the tricky plot, and the strong characterizations make “A Dangerous Fiction” one of the outstanding mysteries of 2013.” —- CT News http://blog.ctnews.com/meyers/2013/07/29/a-dangerous-fiction-stalking-murder-in-manhattan/

“VERDICT: This literary mystery veers back and forth between insider-gossip tone …and genuine terror at warp speed, fulfilling many of the requirements for a perfect beach read.” —Library Journal http://reviews.libraryjournal.com/2013/05/books/genre-fiction/mystery/mystery-reviews-may-1-2013/

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“You won’t get much argument from anyone (including writers) that writers are crazy — but the writer stalking New York literary agent Jo Donovan seems especially bent on harm….Rogan does give readers a lot of insider publishing tidbits and provides a very likeable and believable protagonist in Jo.” —Cleveland Plain Dealer http://www.cleveland.com/books/index.ssf/2013/07/karin_slaughter_mike_lawson_an.html

“Boasting an exciting pace, well-constructed scenes, and inside information about the publishing word, this engaging mystery will attract readers of P. D. James’ similar Original Sin (1995).”—Booklist

“Someone in the New York publishing world is targeting literary agent Jo Donovan, the appealing, empathetic narrator of this clever mystery from Rogan (Suspicion), herself a former book editor and agent. “ —Publishers Weekly http://www.publishersweekly.com/978-0-670-02650-0

“If you love a tautly-spun web of deceit and revenge, put A Dangerous Fiction by Barbara Rogan at the top of your summer reading list….Rogan’s book takes you by surprise as she deftly reveals the publishing world, sprinkles around red herrings, and makes you question the secrets you may have forgotten from your own past.”– Dolce Dolce http://www.dolcedolce.com/?tag=a-dangerous-fiction-by-barbara-rogan-review

“Barbara Rogan (Hindsight; Suspicion) provides a fascinating glimpse into the New York publishing world…Fast-paced and witty, full of deftly drawn characters, Rogan’s literary mystery introduces a tough but compassionate heroine and an entertaining new series.” —Shelf Awareness:  http://www.shelf-awareness.com/readers-issue.html?issue=218

2013-07-29_19-44-03_747“I read a lot of great books, but this one is outstanding! I resented every moment I had to be away from it—and I read it from cover to cover today….A Dangerous Fiction will get my vote for best mystery novel next year.”—Meritorious Mysteries, http://mysteryheel.blogspot.com/

“We love this new series from Barbara Rogan—how can you go wrong with a literary agent turned PI? Jo Donovan is one of the most successful literary agents in New York City, and she’s being stalked by one of her clients. When her stalker starts to harass her other clients, Jo finally turns to the police—where an ex-lover is now an NYPD detective. This is one you won’t want to put down.”—Shelf Pleasure http://www.shelfpleasure.com/news-new-releases-7-23-11/

“This story had me turning pages at a fast and furious pace. I finished last night and could hardly wait to start spreading the good word for A Dangerous Fiction… If you’re searching for a smart and snappy summer read, this is the one to watch for, folks.” — http://livingreadgirl.blogspot.com/2013/07/barbara-rogan-opens-page-to-dangerous.html

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“I loved getting behind the scenes of the publishing world, from the agency’s monthly ‘slush-pile’ meeting where submitted manuscripts are waded through (and mostly discarded), to glittering book launch parties.” —Crime Fiction Lover http://www.crimefictionlover.com/2013/07/a-dangerous-fiction/

“It’s cliched to say ‘I couldn’t put it down!’, but that’s how I felt about A Dangerous Fiction. Rogan brings an insider’s keen view, pulling the reader into the New York publishing milieu with all of its jealousies, intrigue, excitement and larger-than-life personalities. At the heart of the story is a woman’s need to uncover the truths about her own life, even as she’s the target of malevolent foes she can’t identify. Danger, suspense, romance and the deep bonds of friendship–A Dangerous Fiction has it all.”  —Darlene Marshall http://darlenemarshall.blogspot.com/2013/07/review-dangerous-fiction.html

“A Dangerous Fiction is a witty and intense mystery full of twists and turns and a few omg moments. …One minute I was laughing and the next I was crying….I recommend this book to everyone, but especially those of you who are avid readers, writers, or interested in the publishing industry.”—It’s a Book Life http://itisabooklife.blogspot.com/2013/08/review-dangerous-fiction-by-barbara.html

“Sometimes, but not often, you open a book, read the first few pages, and know without a doubt that you will thoroughly enjoy a book. A Dangerous Fiction by Barbara Rogan was just that sort of book.” —The Picky Girl http://www.thepickygirl.com/?p=3134

“There is behind-the-scenes quality to the book that is fun and informative.  The thriller aspect of the novel had me jumping at noises in my house…This is a good, solid mystery with great characters and I hope there is a sequel in the works.”  —Shari’s Book Notes http://sharisbooknotes.blogspot.com/2013/08/a-dangerous-fiction-by-barbara-rogan.html

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“Smashing new thriller…Every aspect of A Dangerous Fiction works together and works so wonderfully well. Rogan’s experience as a literary agent provides a fascinating look at how the business works….marvelously realized….Just make certain you have time set aside when you start A Dangerous Fiction because this fast-paced novel is the kind you don’t want to put down until the last page is read.”— Lynne’s Book Notes http://lynne-booknotes.blogspot.com/

“Readers who take this one to the beach should find themselves engaged, entertained, and enlightened.”—Reviewing the Evidence, http://www.reviewingtheevidence.com/review.html?id=9753

“I have never read a novel from cover to cover at one sitting in my life…until last night.”—Donna Rubino blogspot  http://www.donnarubino.com/recent-reads-2/#comment-42

 

If you’ve read A DANGEROUS FICTION and you’re waiting for the next Jo Donovan story, be assured there’s one on the way. In the meantime, you might enjoy one of my other books. Five of them have been reissued as ebooks and paperbacks, including SUSPICION, a mystery and a ghost story combined, and CAFE NEVO, my family’s favorite and a book that earned praise from Alan Sillitoe, Alice Hoffman and Madeleine L’Engle.

T Minus Two and Counting!

Most of my posts on In Cold Ink focus on writing and publishing, with lots of advice and not a few opinions drawn from my own checkered history as a former agent and editor. Today, though, I’m wearing my writer’s hat. In two days, A DANGEROUS FICTION (my first new novel in nine years!)  is coming out with Viking Books. I need to share some news about that. If you’re allergic to anything resembling self-promotion, turn away now; I won’t hold it against you. But if you’re interested in learning about this huge event in my life, then read on, McDuff!

DangerousFictionHC_jacket2Viking has done a beautiful job packaging the book. I couldn’t have imagined a more perfect cover or one that better captures the spirit of the story. The pre-publication reviews have been wonderful. From Library Journal: “This literary mystery veers back and forth between insider-gossip tone…and genuine terror at warp speed, fulfilling many of the requirements for a perfect beach read.” From Booklist: “Boasting an exciting pace, well-constructed scenes, and inside information about the publishing world, this engaging mystery will attract readers of P. D. James’ similar Original Sin.” Publishers Weekly loved “literary agent Jo Donovan, the appealing, empathetic narrator of this clever mystery from Rogan (Suspicion), herself a former book editor and agent.” PW also interviewed me.

I’ll be doing a few readings and signings in the New York vicinity. I love meeting readers. It’s one of the best part of the whole book-writing enterprise, especially for slow writers like me who spend years at a time locked in our caves.  I hope you’ll come out and say hi if you’re going to be in the area.

Monday, July 29, 7PM:

Barnes & Noble

Old Country Rd., Carle Place, NY

 

Wednesday, Aug. 7 , 6-8 PM

The Mysterious Bookshop,  58 Warren St. New York NY

 

Saturday, Aug. 17 (Aug.. 18 raindate) 3-5 PN

Berken residence, 60 Bayview Dr. East, Sag Harbor, NY

For those of you outside the New York area, I have a special offer. If your bookclub chooses A DANGEROUS FICTION or any of my other novels, for that matter, I’ll drop in on your meeting via Skype or phone. Of course, visiting that way means I’ll miss the refreshments, but one can’t have everything. Contact me to make arrangements,

Right about now I imagine you’re saying to yourself, “I’d love to help Barbara launch her book successfully, but her fancy New York publisher seems to have things well in hand; and besides, what could I possibly do to help?” (If you’re not asking yourself that question, why is that, exactly?) But in fact, there’s a great deal you can do to help, not just me, but your favorite authors whoever they may be. Here are a few things readers can do:

1. Buy their books. Doesn’t matter what format. Writers live and die by their sales.

2. Write a review and post it on Amazon and your favorite social media sites. Tell your friends, too. Word of mouth sells books. It always did, but the internet is a huge multiplier of that process. I know writing reviews takes time, that precious commodity, but it’s one of the most helpful things you can do for a writer. Reviews needn’t be long, literary masterpieces. Just think of what you’d say to a friend who asked about the book, and write that.

Writers read those reviews, btw, and they can be wonderfully encouraging. I found this new review posted for “Rowing in Eden” from a reader named “Kheseygirl,” which I quote here in its entirety: “I love, love, love Barbara Rogan’s writing. I hope her new book, due this summer, tips that balance for her in getting the kind of widespread readership her writing so deserves.” Thanks, Kheseygirl, whoever you are. You totally made my day!

3. Books make great gifts. Not only are you doing something nice for the recipient, you’re supporting your favorite writer.

4. Look for other books by the author. I’ve got five other books that were re-issued this year as paperbacks and ebooks, and if you liked A DANGEROUS FICTION, I’m pretty sure you’ll like them too.

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I have a major surprise that I’ll be sharing in just a couple of days, so if you haven’t already, you might want to subscribe to the blog via a link on the right. Thanks for reading!

A DANGEROUS FICTION giveaway

I’m excited to announce that Viking is giving away 20 galleys of A DANGEROUS FICTION, the first book in a series of mysteries featuring literary agent Jo Donovan.  Only three weeks to pub date, but you could be among the first to read! Sign up here on Goodreads for your chance to win a free copy.

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Today Penguin and Random House completed their merger, so I guess I’m now a Random House author. The combined company with all their imprints will account for about 25% of all books published in the U.S. Pretty exciting!  It’s just a shame, as my friend Darlene Marshall pointed out, that they didn’t name the new company Random Penguin.

Good luck on the draw! Let me know if you win a copy.

A DANGEROUS FICTION GIVEAWAY

I owe you all a proper blog post, and will have one soon, but in the meantime I had to share this bit of news with you. Viking is doing a  giveaway of A DANGEROUS FICTION ARC’s.  There are 100 going out to readers who enter a Viking sweepstakes. You don’t have much time, though. Tomorrow, May 22, is the deadline, so get thee to the signup page!

Batting three for three on the pre-publication reviews, by the way.  Publishers Weekly’s just came out, and it starts like this — “Someone in the New York publishing world is targeting literary agent Jo Donovan, the appealing, empathetic narrator of this clever mystery from Rogan (Suspicion), herself a former book editor and agent.”  Library Journal wrote, “This literary mystery veers back and forth between insider-gossip tone…and genuine terror at warp speed, fulfilling many of the requirements for a perfect beach read.”  And this from Booklist: “Boasting an exciting pace, well-constructed scenes, and inside information about the publishing world, this engaging mystery will attract readers of P. D. James’ similar Original Sin.” P.D. James, eat your heart out!

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Anyway, folks, you can’t beat free. Here’s the link again. Good luck, and let me know if you win a copy!

Behind the Curtains: What Publishers Really Do

An awful lot of what publishers do for books, they do behind the scenes and prior to publication. Viking/Penguin  is going to publish A DANGEROUS FICTION in late July, and they are gearing up in all sorts of ways. I thought readers might be interested in a glimpse behind the curtain.

Editing: packaging is important, but you’ve got to deliver the goods. Good editing makes any book better and good books shine. Shortly after its acquisition by my delightful editor Tara Singh, A DANGEROUS FICTION underwent a series of first-class edits and emerged the better for it.

Cover: Positioning a book starts with a cover that conveys the message and ambience of the work. Because the cover is also a marketing tool, it exemplifies the approach of the publishers’ marketing plan. If the author and publisher are not on the same page, this is where the fissure usually appears first.

Viking’s cover, by London-based French artist Malika Favre was the most perfect face I could imagine for the book I wrote. If the tone of the book could be converted into a picture, that picture would be this cover. At this point in the process, I am feeling the love.

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Blurbs: Many months before publication, copies of the manuscript were sent to writers who expressed a willingness to read and possibly write blurbs for the book. For me, this marked the first time this book had been read by anyone outside my agent, editors, and immediate family. One by one, reactions began to come in. I’m very grateful to the writers who took time from their own work to read A DANGEROUS FICTION, and I’m proud to share their comments with you now.

“A terrific read! A thriller with a psychological heart of mystery, a double-ended love story, and a fascinating look at the world of high-stakes publishing.”-Diana Gabaldon, New York Times bestselling author of Outlander and An Echo in the Bone

“Clearly, the most dangerous fictions are the ones we tell ourselves.” JA Jance, author of DEADLY STAKES and many other bestsellers

A Dangerous Fiction reads like a tell-all, inviting readers into the sleek, hallowed inner circle of literary Manhattan, then blowing that world apart with harrowing intrigue and a gripping mystery. Finally, as a bonus, Rogan offers a surprisingly sweet redemptive thread with which to stitch it all back together. A Dangerous Fiction blends deft prose with a pitch-perfect voice, and Barbara Rogan is a storyteller at the top of her game.”-Vicki Pettersson, author of Cheat the Grave and The Scent of Shadows

“Barbara Rogan knows the world of writers, agents, and editors, and in A Dangerous Fiction she offers a vivid inside look at both the glittering successes and the failures that breed feuds and obsession. As a stalker resorts to murder to destroy literary agent Jo Donovan’s life, readers will cast suspicious glances at everybody from a disgruntled former employee to a rejected writer to Jo’s most trusted friends. A Dangerous Fiction is great entertainment!”–Sandra Parshall, Agatha Award-winning author of the Rachel Goddard mysteries

“The backstabbing and cutthroat competition we imagine going on behind the scenes in publishing make it the perfect setting for murder, and Barbara Rogan has done it justice in A Dangerous Fiction. I loved every wickedly delicious page.”-Hallie Ephron, author of There Was an Old Woman

“Barbara Rogan’s A Dangerous Fiction positively drips with intrigue and delicious suspense.  I couldn’t put it down—and you won’t want to, either.”—Lorraine  Bartlett, author of the Victoria Square Mysteries.

“Rogan brings an insider’s keen view, pulling the reader into the New York publishing milieu with all of its jealousies, intrigue, excitement and larger-than-life personalities. At the heart of the story is a woman’s need to uncover the truths about her own life, even as she’s the target of malevolent foes she can’t identify. Danger, suspense, romance and the deep bonds of friendship–A Dangerous Fiction has it all. I couldn’t put it down!”-Darlene Marshall, author of Castaway Dreams

 

DickensI received a few other blurbs as well, from some Very Illustrious Writers, but for some reason my editor doesn’t want me to post them along with what she insists on calling “the real blurbs.” But you can read them anyway, right here.

Review Copies: Five months before publication, bound galleys are already out to long-lead reviewers. In a few months, the prepublication reviews – PW, Library Journal, Kirkus – will appear. I’m not thinking about that. Not a bit. Never read reviews. And if you believe that, I have a bridge that may interest you…

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Sales and Marketing: I believe that the books are being sold into bookstores nationwide by the Viking’s terrific sales force even as I write this; so, being a somewhat superstitious person, I will say no more.

Online Marketing: Viking’s online marketing mavens have worked with me to help me improve my websites and FB author page, and to ease me onto Twitter, where I am known as @RoganBarbara–do look me up and say hi!   They’re patiently training an old dog new tricks, and I’m relieved to say they employ purely positive training techniques; not a whip in sight, no authors hurt in the production of this book.

Bookstore appearances, Book and Author Luncheons, conferences, etc.: These are already being scheduled, starting in July, for the New York area. I’m infinitely corruptible and shamefully approachable. If you have any offers, please direct them to Ben Petrone, Associate Director of Publicity at Viking.

The Readers’ Guide to A DANGEROUS FICTION has just gone live for use by book clubs and library reading groups. I think it’s terrific; it even taught me a few things about the book I didn’t know. Do have a look. I’m open to participating by phone or Skype in book club discussions of A DANGEROUS FICTION; just contact me at Barbara Rogan at Gmail dot COM.

So much of what publishers do is invisible and goes uncredited. I’d like to take this opportunity for a shout-out to the dedicated folks at Viking for their hard work and support. And next time someone asks, “What do publishers really do for writers?”, point them here.

 

A DANGEROUS FICTION is now available for pre-order;  and most vendors are offering early buyers  a 35% discount on the hardcover edition. While you’re waiting for that to arrive, my last three books, SUSPICION, HINDSIGHT, and ROWING IN EDEN,  have been reissued in ebook and paperback.

 

Breaking Up Is Hard To Do: On Series and Stand-Alone Novels

 

Writing novels is like having a series of intense love affairs that never end in marriage; therefore, I am well acquainted with breakups. I don’t mean characters breaking up with each other, but rather characters leaving me at the end of each book. No matter how often it happens, it’s always a jolt. For a year or two, we’ve been inseparable, me living through them, them drawing their very breath from me. As the story advances, the relationship intensifies to the point that I feel as if I’m living two lives, my own and my protagonist’s. Transitions from one life to the other are neither effortless nor seamless. I find it easier to enter into the story then to leave it. The characters’ problems seep into my dreams, and even in my waking life I sometimes see through their eyes.

And then suddenly it’s over: the story is finished. It will be a long goodbye: there are edits to come, months to go before our final parting. But once that last page is written, it’s the beginning of the end.

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Sometimes partings come before the end of the book. Characters die. When they do, I go through a period of mourning that mimics the real thing. I don’t mind saying that I have wept for fictional characters. It comes with the territory. As Robert Frost said, “No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader.”

But when the book ends, I lose them all. The comfort is that they do not die but go out into the world, rather like adult children leaving home to fend and speak for themselves. It’s painful, but one grows used to it; and their departure leaves room for other characters to grow.

What happens, then, when the adult children come home?

I’ve never written a sequel. All my books have been stand-alones, with their own the cast of characters and settings. But my latest novel (A Dangerous Fiction, coming out with Viking in July 2013) is a departure: the pilot book of a series. That wasn’t my intention when I started  A Dangerous Fiction. I thought I was writing another stand-alone novel, this one a mystery about a New York literary agent named Jo Donovan who is stalked by a frustrated writer. I grew very fond of Jo. She’s probably the most complicated, flawed protagonist I’ve ever created; but she has qualities I particularly admire, including courage, loyalty, and resilience. The idea of a series came originally from my editor at Viking; but my reaction to her suggestion – a virtual tsunami of plot ideas for Jo – was a sure sign that the idea had been brewing just under the surface of my mind.

DangerousFictionHC_jacket2 I was happy at the prospect of continuing with Jo, and quite sure her story didn’t end where the book did. But I was nervous, too. Could I, I wondered, resurrect Jo and her friends after I’d set them free? I don’t jump from one book to the next. I wish I could, but my brain needs recharging when I finish a novel. Would Jo still be there when I came back to her?

Now that I’m immersed in the new book, I’m happy to report that she did. She’s a bit older and a bit wiser, but not too much wiser. The reason she came back, I think, is that I left her with so many unresolved issues, jagged spurs to the imagination.

It strikes me that this is true of all the great series characters, who change and grow from book to book: characters who respond to the experiences they undergo. They’ve all got something eating them that all the therapy in the world won’t resolve. Walter Mosley’s Easy Rollins comes out of the segregated South with a chip on his shoulder that never goes away; neither does his attraction to dangerous women. Mma Ramotswe, Alexander McCall Smith’s avatar of good sense and clear vision, is haunted by a violent marriage in her past. Thomas Harris’s Clarice Starling hears lambs crying in the night and always will. These characters evolve in response to the events of their stories, but they never shed their essential, unresolved selves.

Does this make sense? How do you feel, as readers and/or writers, about series characters? What draws you to them, and what turns you off?

 

A Dangerous Fiction is available for preorder in all the major online bookstores. Right now there’s a 30% discount on the hardcover edition at Amazon and B&N. Go on – you know you want to read it.

Book Jackets

Yesterday I saw Viking’s jacket for A DANGEROUS FICTION, and I am over the moon. I think it’s stunning visually, and it perfectly captures both the book and its protagonist in a single image. Kudos to Viking’s wonderful team: my editor, Tara Singh, in-house designer, Alison Forner, and the artist Malika Favre, whose website is a small marvel. The book won’t be out until July 2013, but it feels very real now. Here is the cover:

What do you think? Would you pick it up if you saw it in a bookstore?

In a way, I’m like my grandmother Pauline. Every time Pauline was presented with a new grandchild or great-grandchild, she would exclaim that this is the most beautiful baby ever born. I’ve loved nearly all the jackets to my books. But I really do think this one is the most beautiful of all.

In publishing, cover art is the purview of marketing, which means that publishers, not writers, have the final say. Agents write cover approval into contracts, but vetoing a cover is a big deal and can lead to postponement of publication, an even bigger deal. So that right is rarely exercised.

Fortunately for me, I had some wonderful artists and designers for my covers. Having little or no visual imagination myself, I was delighted to have professional help; the jackets usually came as very pleasant surprises. The only one I ever found for myself was this painting by Israeli artist, which graces the cover of my novel CAFÉ NEVO.

 

Only once did I have a problem with the cover art for a novel, and in fact that was sort of a proxy dispute over the marketing of the book. I saw SAVING GRACE as a novel about corruption and the intersection of politics and family. My publisher saw it as a “women’s fiction.” Here are the covers, hard and soft, that  they came up with.

 

Not bad looking, especially the paperback, but the main problem was that they didn’t fit my concept of the book. They looked girly to me, an impression solidified by a letter that I got from one male reader, who said that he enjoyed the book greatly but had to take the jacket off before reading it on the subway. Men, we can sigh, but they are what they are and I’ve always wanted to attract readers of both sexes.

Viking’s cover for A DANGEROUS FICTION may also skew to women readers, though maybe not; I’d love to hear your thoughts on that point. But apart from being a thing of beauty in itself, this cover suits the book perfectly, and that makes me very happy.

Have you ever thought about what attracts you to a book jacket? If you didn’t already know the writer, what makes you stop and pick up a book?

 

Digging Up Blurbs

I was looking for a book in an airport recently, just in case the three paperbacks and the hundred or so novels stored in my Kindle failed to suffice, when I came upon a novel by a writer I’d never heard of before: Witches on the Road Tonight, by Sheri Holman. The book looked interesting, and the first page passed the acid test, but what pushed me over the edge was a glowing blurb by Jane Smiley, whose work I love. I bought the book and was amply rewarded.

I remembered this incident when my editor at Viking asked if I had any suggestions for writers who might give us blurbs for my upcoming novel, A DANGEROUS FICTION. As it happened, I did know a few writers who I thought might be willing to read, which they graciously agreed to do.

But why stop there? I thought. I made a list of writers whose work I admired. Most of them I didn’t dare approach, knowing that famous and bestselling writers are besieged with such requests. The writers who remained on the list would, I knew, be difficult to reach. But with the help of my cousin the medium, I was able to make contact, and I’m pleased to report that they were all happy to oblige.

Their responses after reading went beyond anything I could have hoped for. I’m delighted to share their blurbs with you now.

 

 

“This is a brave book, with heart and guts and kidneys. This book charges straight up the hill, bayonetting all who stand in its path.” “Ernest Hemingway

“I wish I’d written this book.” Jane Austen

“A book is a book is a book, but not all books smell this sweet.” Gertrude Stein

“At last I have found my Dulcinea!” Cervantes

“Kid’s got a mouth on her. I like it.” Dashiell Hammett

 

“It is a far, far better book than I have read before, and nearly as good as any I have written.” Charles Dickens

 

 

“Such stuff as dreams are made of.” William Shakespeare

“I can’t wait for her next.” Homer
Many thanks to my esteemed colleagues, may they rest in peace.

 

A DANGEROUS FICTION is now available on Amazon, B&N, iTunes, Books-A-Million, and other bookstores; also available as an audio book.

Interview with Viking Editor Tara Singh

Today I have a huge treat for you: an interview with Ms. Tara Singh, an editor with Viking/Penguin who, I’m delighted to say, is now my editor, having acquired my latest novel for publication in 2013. If you’ve ever wondered what editors are really looking for, what motivates them and how they choose their books, read on. Tara’s intelligence and passion for her work shine through her words.

Tara would like to point out that the opinions expressed below are her own and don’t represent Viking/Penguin.

And so, with no further ado, meet Tara Singh!

 

Tara, would you tell us a little about yourself, your interests, and how you achieved what many people would consider a dream job? What were the steps along the way?

I grew up outside of Chicago, the middle child to an Indian, Sikh father and an Italian/German, Catholic mother. They always stressed that education was the most important thing an individual could get, but they also envisioned my using that education in a very traditional way, i.e. to become a doctor or a lawyer. After a brief stint as an intern at a legal aid society during college, I quickly realized that career wasn’t for me. I thought long and hard about what I loved enough to actually build my life around. The obvious answer was books. I was actually first drawn to being  a literary agent, which I thought was the perfect job.

I interned at the Curtis Brown, Ltd. in New York the summer between my junior and senior years in college. After my senior year, I knew I wanted more life experience and so I moved to Edinburgh, Scotland where I was a bartender and tour guide. Before moving though, I contacted several publishing professionals through my college’s career network to discuss this step and whether it would take me “off course”. I was advised to keep my toe in the literary world and so I found an internship at Jenny Brown Associates, a literary agency in Edinburgh.

I returned to New York a year later, and year wiser. An internship at Sanford J. Greenburger Associates quickly turned into a full-time job, but after a year I couldn’t stop wondering what happened to our books after we sold them. I mean, what happened really. So I began looking for, and was lucky enough to land an editorial job working for Kathryn Court, President & Publisher of Penguin Books, and an excellent mentor. From my first week on the job, she had me edit behind her on books until I began acquiring my own. The rest is history.

What  drew you to publishing? (I’m guessing it’s not the big bucks.)

As I said, books, I decided, were what I wanted to build my life around. I must have read the Anne of Green Gables series five times throughout my childhood and I still try to reread them every five years or so. Anne Shirley, a fictional character, may have been one of the biggest influences on my young life. I know it may sound trite, but I believe that books change people’s lives, even if only for the short while they are reading them. Books can be an escape and a refuge and I believe in the mission of Penguin and of other publishers: to publish the best books that we can, to entertain and to educate.

What do you like best about your job?

My absolute favorite part of my job is that moment, when reading a submission, that I realize that I have something good. And then, the moment after I’ve finished that submission and it delivered. It feels like a gift. A close second are the people. Publishing attracts intelligent and interesting people and editorial is by necessity a social job. Consequently I have been lucky enough to meet many fascinating people, many of whom have become friends.

What do you find most frustrating?

 

The work can sometimes feel never ending. You have to keep reading or else you might miss the next big thing. You have to keep editing because you have to get out your books for the next list, and then the next list, and then the next list. The cyclical nature of publishing can be a comfort because the type of work that you do doesn’t necessarily change that much, but it can also make it feel as though you are constantly racing ahead.

What qualities does a good editor need?

A good editor must be decisive, discerning and a fast reader. He or she must be able to articulate what it is that he loves about a book and to get other people excited about it. Even if you are the best line-by-line editor in the world, it won’t necessarily do you much good unless you can convince sales and marketing and the big bosses that your book is unique and exciting and worth the time and energy that would otherwise be spent on other books.

Have you ever had a writer disagree fundamentally with your edit, or agree with it but be unable to execute? How would you deal with such situations?

I’ve never had a writer disagree fundamentally with my edit. I have, however, had writers disagree with some of my specific situations. When that happens I like to have a conversation with the author to discuss my reasons for suggesting the edit and her reasons for rejecting the edit. Depending on each of our reasons I will either concede the point because it is very important to the author or we will find a compromise. Rarely have I had an author take all of my edits wholesale; there is a lot of give and take.

In the rare cases when a writer really can’t execute what he or she has promised or needs to do, then a book contract can be cancelled. But that is very rare and I think is likely more common with non-fiction, which is bought based on just a proposal. This is why editors dislike when agents submit only partial manuscripts. It is impossible to know, no matter how promising the partial manuscript is, whether or not it will deliver in the end. This is also why editors prefer for the option language in a contract to provide for an entire manuscript. It is very difficult to acquire a book without reading it first!

The submissions you receive come through agents who think they might interest you. What portion of those submissions will result in an offer?

Figure that an editor receives between five and ten submissions a week, that’s somewhere between 250 and 500 submissions a year (not counting a couple of weeks for holidays) and most editors, I would think have between nine and twelve books a year, so that’s between one out of thirty or so submissions and one out of fifty or so submissions.

What makes a novel stand out for you?

A novel in which the author has created dynamic, three-dimensional characters and then makes them interact in interesting and often unexpected ways. Many of the novels that are turned down have great premises, but the characters are flat on the page, which really turns a reader off. I think it’s the characters more than anything that make a novel relatable.

What makes you stop reading?

Typos. If there are multiple typos within the first few pages of a submission, I am much less inclined to read further. Also rants. Thankfully material that comes from agent is usually devoid of these two things, but sometimes you would be surprised. Also as an editor I’m often reading the unagented manuscript of a relative’s friend or the friend of a friend and those are the first things that will make me put it down.

Are you ever swayed by cupcakes?

While I love cupcakes, no, they’ve never changed my mind about whether or not to take on a book. Unfortunately, when acquiring a book there is more at stake than cupcakes. That said, if an author sent me cupcakes after I had acquired his/her book that might make me want to work even harder for him/her. I think that authors may sometimes forget that their editor is also their number one advocate in the house and that we are on the same team. Being nice and cooperative can go a long way towards influencing your editor to go the extra mile for you.

How important to you in taking on a new fiction writer is the writer’s “platform?

A platform is always enormously helpful. If a writer has a platform, it also usually means that he or she has been honing his craft for years and submitting short stories places, networking with other writers and is often therefore producing better work. That isn’t always the case, but it is true enough that when reading the bio on a submission I will take it more seriously if the author has been published in a few small places and/or otherwise proven that he is working on his craft.

Are there particular genres or subgenres that you currently seek out or avoid?

I wouldn’t say that I am ever avoiding certain genres. If a book is good, I will always want to publish it. If it has an excellent plot and incredible characters, I’ll find a way to make the genre work. I do sometimes look for certain types of books. As a young editor I am trying to acquire across a broad range of genres rather than limiting myself. Right now I am really looking for some good narrative or prescriptive nonfiction.

If a writer self-published previous work and didn’t sell thousands of copies, would that factor into your decision about a new novel that you liked? What sort of sales figures would impress you?

If the new novel was really good, it wouldn’t matter that much to me. I think being self-published and not selling a lot of books matters less, actually, than being published by a publisher, particularly one of the big six, and then not selling a lot of books. I think if a self-published book had sold twenty thousand copies I would be impressed.

What are the most important things writers can do to help themselves get published?

I think the most important thing a writer can do is to write a really good book. This may not be a very helpful answer, but it really is the most important thing. Have others read your work, go to writers workshops, put it away and come back to it if you need to, but make it good.

Beyond that, I do think that publishers are paying much more attention to whether or not an author has an online presence. Is he or she active on facebook? Does he or she have thousands of twitter followers? That said, most writers won’t have that and I think that if you spend your time worrying about creating an amazing online presence rather than writing a really good book, you’d be spending your time poorly. Without a good book, the great online presence isn’t going to get you anywhere in terms of getting published. If an editor is on the fence about a book, however, and the author has five thousand twitter followers, that could really make a difference. Along the lines of getting a platform, I would also encourage writers to try and get published in literary journals and to get their writing chops, if they can.

Thanks, Tara!

 

So now, dear readers, you’ve heard it from the horse’s mouth. And I hope you’ve noticed that the horse in question is charming, modest and as great a book lover as anyone reading these pages. Next time some self-publishing zealot characterizes mainstream publishers as evil vampires intent on sucking the ink out of writers, send them over here for a corrective.  In fact, I’d be pleased if you’d share this interview with all sorts of writers. Tara says she speaks only for herself, but in my experience she represents precisely the sort of person drawn to this industry.

Questions and comments welcome. Maybe Tara herself will jump in to respond to some—who knows? At worst you get me.

 Coming up soon: interviews with bestselling author Diana Gabaldon and leading literary agent Gail Hochman.  Sign up for email notification or the RSS feed so as not to miss these.