In this column, I’m asking subscribers to share their knowledge about writing, publishing, and marketing their books. I’m calling it “Ten Questions.” Thank you, Janice J. Richardson, for letting readers know about your fun mystery series.–Marylee MacDonald
Janice J. Richardson’s Author Tip: “Start with fingers on keyboard. Ready, set…go! Don’t agonize over the plot, wording, cover etc. Just type. Don’t wait for the ‘right moment’.”
Funeral homes are supposed to be quiet …
Jennifer Spencer inherits her uncle’s funeral home. Her move to the Niagara Region into the apartment above the Home went well, but in the first week alone, someone breaks into the funeral home. Then, Jennifer finds cash in a casket, a lot of cash. Certain it has something to do with the break-in, she’s unable to convince the police and winds up on their list of suspects. But Jennifer has families to serve and funerals to arrange; that is her number-one priority. Someone sinister and dangerous wants the cash back; that’s their number-one priority and Jennifer Spencer, funeral director, is in the way.
MM: A book begins as an idea in the writer’s imagination. Eventually, this grain of sand turns into a pearl. What was the grain of sand that fired your imagination?
JR: One night, unable to sleep and reminiscing about my days as a funeral director, the idea for Casket Cache took flight. It is now an Amazon bestseller, something I never dreamed would happen.
MM: How did you approach turning this idea into a manuscript, and eventually a book? Did you take classes, read books, or just plunge in?
JR: Fell in, head first. No classes, no clue really. I just wrote and wrote and wrote. I read about publishing, getting a publisher, how to get an editor, do a cover, what to write, what not to write etc. and realized my first task would be to find an editor. How lucky I was to find mine. Five books later, the question is—have I figured it out yet? Keeping up with rapid technological change is a challenge. Writing, however, is a constant, readers want to be entertained.
MM: Authors today have many options when it comes to publication. Did you work with an agent, find a publisher through other means, or self-publish your book?
JR: Self-publishing was the most viable option for me since one needs an agent to be published with the Big 5. Independent/hybrid publishing is not inexpensive either. In the end, there is no right or wrong, or better or worse. We are all published on the same sites.
MM: What is the biggest single lesson you learned during the writing process?
JR: Insecurity is part of being an author.
MM: What would you advise others who are still at the idea stage?
JR: Start with fingers on keyboard. Ready, set…go! Don’t agonize over the plot, wording, cover etc. Just type. Don’t wait for the “right moment”. Moments are fleeting, they fade away.
MM: Were there any writing tools you’d recommend? Did you use apps like Grammarly, Scrivener, or another outliner to help you structure your book?
JR: Grammarly and Open Office were the only tools I had at the time, since I had no budget. If I had waited until I had a budget, the books would never have been written. Now I would consider Scrivener. I would purchase Scrivener for Dummies first though.
MM: Was it hard to decide on a cover, or did you or your publisher hire a professional designer?
JR: The covers were my own work. The Making of Funeral Director cover photo I took years ago when digital cameras first came out. I took a photo of a sunset on a northern Canadian lake.
The series’ covers were meant to have a professional photographer. My cover model had a six-hour drive to Niagara Falls, and we were to meet the photographer there. The photographer cancelled at the last minute.
Necessity is the mother of invention, I borrowed my twin’s phone and took the pictures myself. My current WIP (work in progress), should I complete it, will have a professional cover photo and my editor will do the titles/blurb.
MM: Who is your ideal reader? Who would particularly enjoy your book/s?
JR: What author wouldn’t like to say ‘everyone!’. However, my ideal reader is curious, since the series is written to educate and entertain. Readers who enjoy mysteries or gentle reads qualify.
The memoir appeals to students thinking of entering funeral service and individuals who are curious about what happens when someone they love dies and how a funeral director takes care of them.
MM: How do you connect with readers? Do you like to do live events, such as book fairs or library talks, or have you found readers through social media, Goodreads, or Amazon?
JR: Attending library events that feature authors and presenting seminars on self-publishing is my favorite way of connecting face to face. I live in a small town near Niagara Falls. There is one bookstore, and they have been most generous with book signings. Facebook events, thanks to bloggers who sponsor them, are a fun way to meet readers and make new friends. Twitter, where my cat photos get posted, is an easy way to meet and follow authors and readers. Social media is the best marketing tool for someone like me, since I don’t drive.
MM: What has been your greatest reward in undertaking this publishing journey? (This doesn’t have to be a financial reward.)
JR: I am not being cliched when I say this – it’s humbling to hear from readers who were touched and helped by my work. Making new author friends and reader friends runs a close second.
A Spencer Funeral Home Niagara Cozy Mystery series:
Casket Cache Amazon: ebook $0.00 print $14.00 USD
Winter’s Mourning Amazon: ebook $2.89; paperback $12.16 USD
Grave Mistake Amazon: ebook: $2.87; paperback $14.00 USD
First Call Amazon: ebook: $2.99; paperback $14.00 USD