Today’s guest blog is written by Christopher Valen, author of the award-winning John Santana mystery series. The sixth novel in the series, The Darkness Hunter, will be released in September 2015. Christopher hails from the Twin Cities area of Minnesota. You can learn more about him and his books at www.christophervalen.com.
By Christopher Valen
When I completed White Tombs, the first book in the John Santana mystery series in 2007, I did what many writers do. I mailed query letters and sample chapters to publishers––and waited. Although some expressed interest in the novel, no one offered a contract. And so, left with the choice of leaving the manuscript in a desk drawer or taking a chance, I formed Conquill Press and decided to self-publish the book in 2008.
White Tombs garnered positive reviews, including one from Library Journal, and won two national small press awards. However, because I had no distributor, White Tombs was considered a POD book and was not warehoused in Barnes & Noble, a significant disadvantage if I wanted to do signings and events.
In 2009 I wrote The Black Minute, the second book in the series, and was offered a two-book contract by a Midwest publisher. The book was well-received and reviewed by Booklist and others, won a national award, and was a finalist for the Midwest Independent Publishers Association Mystery of the Year. I now had national distribution but was making little money. There had to be a better way.
Around that time, I met author Jenifer LeClair. A small east-coast press had published her first novel in the Windjammer Mystery Series, Rigged For Murder. The book received positive reviews and sold well, but she found herself in the same dilemma as I was in. Frustrated with the lack of control we had over our books, and by the small amount of money we were making, we decided we could do better on our own. I was able to re-acquire my rights for The Black Minute, Jenifer her rights for Rigged For Murder. In 2010 we signed a contract with a national distributor, began hiring our own editors and cover designers, and re-launched our books under the Conquill Press banner.
Over the course of the next four years, I published three more John Santana novels. The Darkness Hunter, the sixth in the series, will be released in September of 2015. Jenifer’s fourth book featuring Homicide Detective Brie Beaumont, Apparition Island, will be released in March of 2015. Conquill Press has grown from two to five authors and now includes thriller writers Brian Lutterman and his Pen Wilkinson series, and bestselling authors Steve Thayer and Chuck Logan.
We refer to Conquill Press as a “hybrid” publishing model. Each author funds their individual novels, marketing, and travel, but each collects the money from their print and e-book sales. This allows us to fund our future books, while keeping our rights and profits. We believe strongly in print books, but we also see the value of e-books, particularly for international distribution through Amazon.
If you’re a writer struggling with publication and/or are frustrated with your current publisher, this model might work for you. Feel free to email me with questions at www.christophervalen.com
Thanks to Lynn for giving me this opportunity to blog about my experiences and our press.