I was pleased when my latest book, BRIGHT MORNING STAR, was accepted for publication by Oak Tree Press, but I didn't have the feeling of overwhelming joy that I did in 1998, when Pocket Books, then a division of Simon and Schuster, agreed to publish my first novel, THE SERPENT CLUB. I imagine it's the same feeling that comes over parents when they have their fourth or fifth child -- they're happy, of course, but the level of excitement just isn't the same. (For the record, I have one kid.)
While I understood that the nature of publishing has shifted radically in the last 17 years, I hadn't experienced that shift in a real way. My first three books were printed by traditional publishers, who have their time-honored ways of doing things or, more frequently, not doing things. Oak Tree is an independent -- a scrappy outfit based in California that does not have much of a budget but that does have, God bless it, much more of a willingness to say "yes" to writers than the old-line outfits do.
Oak Tree's acceptance of BRIGHT MORNING STAR meant that a project I'd spent years on would finally have a chance to find an audience. But I now realize it meant something else: My real work had just begun.
No writer in the world believes that his or her work is marketed properly by the publisher. I bet Dan Brown sits around at night muttering that his books would have sold a few million more copies if only Random House had tried harder. But going the independent route means this: When it comes to publicity, you have to do most of the heavy lifting yourself. (For the record, Oak Tree has been upfront about this, and has offered guidance on how to go about it.)
For the writer, this means getting a Web site going and creating events on Facebook and arranging signings and readings and posting on Facebook and emailing local media and hanging around on Goodreads and tweeting. That's just for starters. I'm sure I'm forgetting a lot of things.
It has been a learning experience and, as my wife likes to say (quoting her late grandmother), "All education is costly." On the other hand, I'm a lot smarter about the process now.
This process can create a danger for the writer: You get so hung up on the marketing process that you almost forget what the book is about. So let's talk about BRIGHT MORNING STAR. It's is a historical novel set in early 20th century America. The protagonist, Emma Pierce, is a young journalist in New York who is determined to learn the truth about war crimes committed by U.S, troops during the nasty guerrilla war in the Philippines that followed the Spanish-American War. She focuses on the case of a soldier who has been court-martialed for atrocities -- a young man she knew quite well in her small hometown, and with whom she was once in love.
I've had the idea for the book for many years, and I'm grateful to Oak Tree for publishing it.
And here's the author bio:
Tom Coffey's first two novels, THE SERPENT CLUB (1999) and MIAMI TWILIGHT (2001), were published by Pocket Books, and his third book, BLOOD ALLEY (2008), was printed by Toby Press. THE SERPENT CLUB and BLOOD ALLEY both received starred reviews from Publishers Weekly. A longtime journalist, Tom has worked as a reporter and editor at some of the leading newspapers in the country, including The Miami Herald, The Los Angeles Herald-Examiner and New York Newsday. Since 1997, he has been a staff editor in the Sports Department at The New York Times, and he has been a member of Mystery Writers of America since 1999. Tom lives in Lower Manhattan with his wife and teenage daughter, who is also his tech adviser.