Just a little under two years ago I embarked on my lifelong dream of being a genuine, full time author. To finally get to this point I had spent thousands of hours writing copy for everything from hotel chains to life insurance. Over the twenty five years that I toiled in the corporate trenches I wrote hundreds of thousands of words and got paid a lot of money for doing essentially what I loved.
But there was always this itch to write a book. Finally, four years ago, I achieved this and saw the publication of two travel guides — Toronto and New York City — which I was senior writer. These were turned into successful iPhone apps and eventually morphed into Tripilator.com a leading app for all things travel. We now feature numerous cities and continue to add content on a weekly basis.
It was a real trip (to use my hippie lingo) to see books that I had written on the shelves of bookstores around the country. I felt an enormous sense of pride at what our team had achieved.
And still . . .
I yearned to tell my own stories and eventually have my name above the title.
I have always loved mysteries since my earliest days reading the Hardy Boys. Outgrowing Frank and Joe I discovered Sherlock Holmes and Edgar Allen Poe, and then Ian Fleming and Donald Hamilton and John D. MacDonald and Ross MacDonald and Lawrence Sanders.
Today mystery is still my favorite genre. So it was natural to try my hand at writing one. The result after a year’s work was DARK SUNSET a mystery set on Lake Michigan’s Sunset Coast. I circulated it to a number of friends and acquaintances for their input and comments. While I had some things to fix the general consensus was good. Everyone who read it really liked it. I got comments back like “haunting”, “vivid” and “terrific”.
I spent the next four months working with Amy Mark my editor preparing the final manuscript for publication. Today, it’s not enough to merely write a book you have to build a platform to promote it. The sad truth for new authors is that you can’t depend on your publisher to promote your work. You have to do the job yourself.
Fortunately, we are in an age of social media. I started building buzz for the book by creating a website called Sunset Michigan which is the fictitious town where the story is set. I really enjoyed the process of creating the website content and allowed myself to think wildly out of the box — heaping absurdity upon absurdity when writing about the everyday happenings in Sunset. These included a feature on the on-going struggle between local Star Trek and Star Wars fans, the annual Wolverine Fry, the strange story of the downfall of The Happy Train, and how the ferryboat came to be named after Charles Manson.
The site took on a life of its own and continues to serve as my foundation for all the marketing efforts for the book. I also participated in the Suspense/Thriller Writer’s Group on Facebook. This allowed me to start promoting the book months in advance. Facebook also features both my SUNSET MICHIGAN and DARK SUNSET pages. Finally as the book neared publication I set up an Author’s site on Amazon to feature all my books in one place.
I decided early in the process that I wanted to create a teaser trailer for the book. There were several versions — one for pre-release and the other for release. The trailer has a simple elegance that creates just the right amount of intrigue and menace. It got DARK SUNSET a lot of attention.
Finally, I was blessed with a fantastic cover by Lesley Stodart. It perfectly reflects the tone and mood of the book. A great cover makes the job of parting people from their hard-earned cash so much easier.
The book has been out for just over a month and has been selling well beyond my expectations.
Two years ago DARK SUNSET was still locked inside my head and now it is between two covers. And that is really, really cool.
I have completed the sequel BLOODY SUNSET which will be published next fall. I also wrote a third book HAIR TRIGGER which is a lighthearted romp through Detroit in search of the proverbial white whale. It will be published in April. Currently, I am writing the third Sunset book FOGGY SUNSET which will be published next year.
I started out to scratch an itch and ended up causing a rash.
Funny how that happens.