This post was originally published on acclaimed indie novelist Suzanne Jenkins’ author website ( http://suzannejenkins.net/ ) on March 16, 2016. Suzanne has very kindly permitted us to re-post it here on All Things Crime Blog.
Note from Suzanne: My reading time is limited because of my own writing schedule, but I know I must continue to read! It’s paramount as a writer to keep words dangling in front of my eyes at all times. If a book doesn’t catch me right away, I hate to admit, I’m one of those who won’t continue reading. But I continue buying. My TBR pile is about a year behind.
I waited for Cicero’s Dead to be published last year and grabbed it as soon as it came out, putting it in line to read. Finally, last weekend I earmarked hours to sit with it, savoring every word. I couldn’t put it down. I did my own work quickly, looking forward to digging in with Nick and his cartel of interesting characters. You can read my review here. The main thing that appealed to me about this work is it’s ability to transport me. I was there with Nick.
Did you watch Southland? It was probably the best cops series and it hooked me. There was something about the light, maybe because they filmed in the late afternoon with low sun illuminating, the Spanish architecture and the palm trees in the worst neighborhood…making it just beautiful. That’s they way this book made me feel.
Meet Patrick Moore, author of Cicero’s Dead.
A few words about myself and then we’ll delve into the making and selling of my first novel, Cicero’s Dead. First, although I’ve lived in California (currently L.A.) for more decades than I care to remember, I’m originally from the Heartland. I came of age in the tumultuous sixties, barely survived the hedonistic seventies; worked like a dog and got a damned good education in the eighties (I hold an M.A. in English and America Literature); taught school and worked in Silicon Valley in the nineties; and trumpets fanfare moved to L.A. in 2003 and went to work as a P.I. for the legendary Jack Snow, a private eye and Federal sentencing consultant.
Before moving to L.A., I felt like I’d already spent half my life on the streets, but once I was in harness with Crazy Jack, the streets were right back at me. L.A. produces every conceivable type of criminal (they come in all shapes, sizes, races, ethnicities, genders, personalities, degrees of underhandedness, degrees of righteousness, etc.) and over the last 13 years, I’ve defended hundreds of them.
The U.S. is a nation of cops. We have cops at every level: local cops, county sheriffs, D.A.s, federal prosecutors (known as AUSAs); FBI, DEA, Secret Service, IRS, ICE, etc. Cops commit crimes at more or less the same rate as the rest of the criminal population which means I’ve had the opportunity to defend plenty of cops who were fighting for their freedom (if a cop, or anyone else in this dark and bloody land, can ever truly be free).
What I’ve learned is that not only do cops and regular criminals commit enough crimes to keep those such as I employed; they also tell lies at about the same rate. By “lies” I mean untruths, half-truths, fibs, prevarications and outright whopper. Therefore, as the man in the middle, my job is to, sift through this writhing tissue of subterfuge and figure out how to get my clients shorter sentences. Because, make no mistake, most of these dudes and ladies, do end up in the slammer. The question is for how long?
Working in this milieu, part of my job was to write high-quality legal briefs. I became, in effect, a professional investigator and true crime writer, writing persuasive legal documents in the King’s (Queen’s?) English. From there, it was a natural progression to delve into crime writing. I read a couple of successful crime writers, Dennis Lehane and James Lee Burke, and went to works. Six years later, after countless edits, re-writes, permutations, commutations and resuscitations Cicero’s Dead was published by my courageous publisher and editor Max Myers of U.S. Indie Books. Max has been selling screenplays to Hollywood for many years and is the award winning author of Boysie Blake: Problem Solver, a suspense thriller set in Los Angeles.
Just to give you a flavor of Cicero’s Dead, here a couple of review snippets:
“Cicero’s dead under mysterious circumstances, and his wife has supposedly committed suicide. Their son Richard is missing and their distraught daughter Jade hires private detective Nick Crane to find her brother and unravel the troubling series of deaths. So Nick Crane goes to work. The pages turn quickly as he clashes with drug dealers, biker gangs, high powered lawyers and a psychotic murderer. At the same time, he must confront maybe his toughest adversary of all, temptation. There are so many twists and turns, and never a dull moment or a wasted page. Crane is brilliant as he uncovers the truth.” – Sanford Perliss, criminal defense lawyer.
“Jade wants to find her brother. Her dad, Cicero Lamont, has died mysteriously. She needs help. She calls LA’s newest hardboiled detective Nick Crane. Crane uncovers motive and opportunity like a surgeon wielding a Glock. His colorful sidekicks add accuracy and flavor to this hard-edge thriller. Prepare for lean, direct storytelling about tough, cynical characters that dance from LA to San Francisco. Author Patrick H. Moore, a seasoned private investigator and crime writer, crafts an elegant first novel, soon to be followed by another Nick Crane thriller. Five stars. It pays homage to the classics and turns up the heat on what you expect from a hardboiled who-done-it.” – Peter Prasad, author, Gut-Check Green.
Before publishing Cicero’s Dead in 2014, for two years I ran All Things Crime Blog, a true crime and crime fiction blog. I was blessed to have numerous talented writers writing for the Blog and I wrote a daily post. I built a Facebook following and a twitter following. In this process, I was instructed by Michael Sellers, an experienced blogger, chaplain and the author of John Carter and the Gods of Hollywood. I’ll never forget his words of advice. “You have to build your following brick by brick.”
I followed Chaplain Sellers’ advice to the “T” and in time the Blog became quite popular. It was a lot of work and a very tumultuous time because unlike crime fiction fans, who are largely a congenial lot, true crime fans love to get down and dirty at the drop of a hat. My ears are still burning from some of the cyber-attacks.
The purpose of the Blog was to use it a stepping-stone to selling books when I published Cicero’s Dead. You know what they say about “the best-laid plans” and I was to discover that it would generate, at most, meager book sales. It was incredibly helpful nonetheless because I met a lot of great people, many of whom were crime fiction writers. Thus, old Patrick H., a loner by inclination, found himself interacting in a group of readers and writers for the first time since he’d graduated from college 25 years ago.
Cicero’s Dead was published in November of 2014 and everything was hunky-dory, or was it? Yeah, it looked like we had a pretty decent book, but we still faced a major roadblock—how in the name of everything holy were we going to sell this rather unholy book?
Sixteen months later we have sold a lot of downloads. I don’t want to say how many but it’s a very respectable number. Close to half a million NORM pages of CICERO have been read by Amazon Premium customers. On good days, 5 or 10 Amazon premium readers read the whole damned thing on their kindles. So the book has done all right for a first indie novel.
The vast majority of the reader/reviewers are American women of all ages. Many of these highly literate ladies are voracious readers. For the most part, these women approve of CICERO and give it high rankings. But there are that thorny and persistent group of reviewers (male and female) who hate it and blast it with a “1” or a “2”.
In closing, what I want to share here are the simple steps that led to the book doing tolerably well. Please keep in mind that there is undoubtedly a strong element of luck in any book’s success. We authors are legion but some of us are luckier than others (as far as sales). I strongly believe that luck plays a key role in any book’s success.
But you will not get lucky unless you take certain steps. Here’s what we did:
My publisher, Max Myers of usIndieBooks entered CICERO in three or four contests. This costs money. CICERO was a top three Finalist in its category in the 2015 Beverly Hills Books Awards and a Finalist in the 2015 Readers Favorite Book Awards. A good showing in these contests probably does not generate many sales directly but is undoubtedly helpful in the long run. That sticker affixed to your book cover certainly can’t hurt.
Max Myers arranged for editorial reviews. This also cost money. God help you if your editorial reviews are not good. Fortunately, CICERO did fine on this account. I think having a few editorial reviews is a good idea. It looks good on your Amazon page or wherever you are promoting your book.
Reader Reviews: There’s little doubt that strong Reader Reviews are of utmost importance. Here I was lucky because (that little five letter word again) I have a big extended family, many of whom are readers, and I know numerous lawyers and criminal defense people who will gladly read a noir crime novel, especially if it takes place in and around L.A. Getting your first 20 Reader Reviews is like getting hired at that job you’d long coveted or seducing that delightful subject of your desire. Without those 20 strong Reviews, it will be very difficult, if not impossible, for a first time author to sell books. Authors should definitely plan ahead in determining how they’re going to obtain those first precious reviews.
Once Cicero’s Dead had 20 Reader Reviews, at the advice of my friend and fellow crime novelist John Nardizzi, a Boston PI and the author of the well-received San Francisco crime novel, Telegraph Hill, I did an inexpensive promotion on Ereader News Today. They are one of the older sites that do this. Not a giant like BookBub, they are nevertheless an effective promotional tool and offer a one-day promotion to their loyal subscribers for less than $50.
Bingo! Cicero’s Dead sold 156 electronic downloads on the day of the promotion. After that, there were steady sales for a few weeks but then things started to slow down and it was time for:
The Amazon KDP Select Giveaway. As a first-time author I opted for KDP Select. Michael Sellers had told me that 80 per cent of all indie book sales stem from Amazon, and that the advantage of going with them exclusively is you can take advantage of the Giveaway. By all reports, it’s not as useful as it once was, but it’s FREE and available. Cicero’s Dead was free on KDP Select for three days in June of 2015. We gave away about 3,700 downloads, a modest figure but in this case enough to trigger steady sales in the aftermath of the Giveaway. For seven months, from June through December of last year, it sold steadily.
Truthfully, I could hardly believe it. For whatever reason, Lady Luck graciously decided to ride in my car for a while. I won’t resort to the cliché of saying I feel humbled, but I do feel extremely grateful. We ran a second KDP Select Giveaway in March of this year.
The reason that, among other things, I’ve focused on the process by which an indie novelist may be lucky enough to sell books is because I want to provide my thimbleful of wisdom in the hope that it might help other worthy authors succeed in this challenging and at times demoralizing arena. I feel very grateful for the modicum of success I’ve enjoyed.
I want to thank Suzanne Jenkins for graciously asking me to write something for her Blog and I hope that readers of this overly long post will not want to tar and feather me, and that a few may even wish to turn the pages, electronically or otherwise, of Cicero’s Dead.