This will be my last summary of the Sleuthfest 2017 panels I attended. This one was held Saturday evening. Oline H. Cogdill interviewed Reed Farrel Coleman, Jane Cleland, Jess Lourey, and S.J. Rozan. I’m not going to give all of the questions and responses, just the highlights, and I apologize if I misquote anyone.
Breaking into Publishing: How did you get started?
- Jess Lourey had 423 rejections.
- S.J. Rozan started with short stories published in magazines and Ellery Queen, acquired Steve Axelrod as an agent and went on to novels.
- Jane Cleland started by writing corporate books. That led her to fiction. She wrote what she liked to read.
- Reed Farrel Coleman started as a poet and was published as a poet. He was un-agented when he started writing fiction and had 43 rejections…and then a yes.
Do you feel you’ve changed as a writer?
- Jess said her first master thesis, which was published, was way over-written. She’d love to steal it and rewrite it.
- Reed hopes he gets incrementally better with each book he writes. In his opinion, all writing is beneficial.
- Jane feels she now knows more about the craft of writing.
- S.J. hopes every book she writes is better. Her advice: don’t take shortcuts. If she had the chance she would handle her earlier books differently.
How do you know when to end a series?
- S.J. said there’s always the question of when to end or go on. She’s taken some breaks from writing her series. 9/11 emotionally necessitated a break, so she wrote about vampires. But then she got an idea for another Lydia and Bill book, so she wrote it. She’ll stop when she doesn’t have a good idea.
- Reed has written the Moe Prager series. He’s published nine books in that series, but he never intended for it to go on forever. For one thing, Moe ages. He might do a short story featuring Moe, but he doesn’t see another novel coming. The time to stop is when you’ve said all you have to say with that character.
What do you think about publishing nowadays?
- Jess feels readers are drawn to genre fiction because of the times.
- Reed said look at the bestsellers list. Most are mystery or thrillers.
- Jane feels genre books and the market are strong.
- S.J. thinks genre market strong. Publishing tradition still happening, but there has been a small press explosion. Which is good. It gives readers and writers more options. Problem is, most writers can’t make a living with what small presses can pay.
- Oline said she’s seeing better and better stories and a lot of good small publishers that are paying advances.
Can a writer make a living writing?
- Reed feels a writer should try to get published traditionally, don’t be lazy. He feels a lot of the self-pub books need better covers and editing, but they are improving.
- Jane said if you want to succeed commercially, you need to know your readers and give them what they want.
- On the other hand, Reed said write for yourself.
- Oline warned not to write for trends.
- Jess said self-publishing is not easy. Hybred writers are the trend (both traditionally published and self-published.)
- S.J. said write for self, but once you have readers, do listen to their reactions. Then you can pick up if something isn’t working.
Would you stop writing?
- Reed: only if he ran out of ideas.
- Jess: Can’t not write. Writing isn’t easy, but she has to do it.
- Jane: No inclination to stop writing. On the other hand, if she won the lotto…
- S.J. There’s one book she can’t afford to write, so if she won the lottery, she would do that one. She said writing is who she is.
- Reed agreed. He loses who he is when he stops writing.
Finally, their advice to other writers
- Reed: Best way to improve craft is to write, write, write.
- Jane: Convert dialogue tags to action tags.
- S.J. Be specific. Don’t just TELL the story, make it real. Use the five senses.