Writing mystery novels is the greatest gig in the world, according to award-winning author Kris Neri who spoke to the Sedona Welcomers on Feb. 25.
“That’s because you get to have things turn out the way you want them to,” Neri said.
The author of 60 short stories published in magazines including Blue Murder, Murderous Intent Mystery and Woman’s World, she’s twice won the Derringer Award for best short story and twice been nominated for the Pushcart Prize.
In addition, she is the first and only small press author honored with the Agatha, Anthony and Macavity Award nominations for her first novel, “Revenge of the Gypsy Queen,” debuting heroine Tracy Eaton.
That book and its sequel, “Dem Bones’ Revenge,” both won the Samantha Award for Best Mystery Series from Hutton Book Reviews.
Neri spoke to the Welcomers on two topics: What it’s like to go on a book tour and the economics of self-publishing.
“When you’re a best-selling author, you’re met at the airport by a driver in a limousine and taken to a five-star hotel,” Neri said. “That’s not the way it is for the average writer who drives her own car and stays with friends whenever possible.”
Traveling alone is not this mystery writer’s cup of tea, claiming that she’s directionally dysfunctional and gets lonely to boot.
What she does enjoy is traveling with a group.
“With others, you can do what you wouldn’t do alone,” Neri said.
On her latest book signing tour, she was accompanied by five other female writers, all of them crammed into a six-seat mini-van with the luggage strapped on top.
Combining shopping forays with work engagements, all of them sallied forth wearing purple Stetsons, except Neri, who substituted a purple crown, prompting a bystander to say, “She must be their queen.”
That sort of fun and camaraderie is the greatest compensation of touring with a group, making book signings a blast whether the audience is comprised of one or 100.
As a successful writer, Neri has a publisher; however, as co-owner of the Well Red Coyote Bookstore, she’s acquainted with many people who self-publish their memoirs, a practice that’s gained popularity in recent years.
“Before you begin you need to ask yourself two questions: Why are you doing this and what do you want to accomplish,” she said. “It’s a wonderful heirloom to pass on to your family, and many people regret they don’t have the memoirs of their grandparents.”
However, she warned, it is rare for memoirs to become best-sellers, a fact to remember before ordering 3,000 copies in a fit of optimism.
With thousands of book printing companies, there are many different fee structures — some charging more up front and less per book and others the reverse — less up front and more per book.
“The costs they’ll quote you are all over the place. You could spend as little as a few hundred dollars, but it’s more likely it will cost you several thousand. Before you order any quantity, you have to think like a publisher and develop marketing strategies for your book,” Neri said. “You also need to be careful about choosing your printer — some of them are less than honest.”
For those who find themselves with extra copies on their hands, there are other options, like holding book parties at a friend’s home, selling the excess books at church, asking friends to buy them, and hawking them to bookstores out of the trunk of the car.
“We have at least one person every day, asking us to take their books,” Neri said.
With space at a premium, most bookstores take on very few new authors and some charge a $250-300 fee just to consider whether or not to accept a self-published book.
Even if would-be authors can’t sell their books, there are other satisfactions.
“Think of it as a labor of love that you’re sharing with your friends and family,” Neri said.