Author pursues new trend in publishing
By: Tammy Rollie
| Posted: Wednesday, Feb 27, 2013 12:13 pm
Murder is scary in any small town, but when the victim is your ex-husband things can get quite interesting.
Catherine Spencer has chosen her former hometown of Turner Valley as the setting for her novel “Road Kill” which tells the story of a woman walking her dog who discovers the body of her actor ex-husband, who she hasn’t seen in years. She also includes Calgary and Longview in the story, but all under different names.
“People will recognize the references to Longview and Turner Valley, but I’ve changed the places and names,” she said. “It’s so much easier, then you don’t have people being as critical. It gives you more poetic license if it’s imaginary.”
The Calgary woman self-published her mystery e-book last fall, which will be the first in a series she is writing about a female amateur detective named Anna Nolan. She is working on the second book “Town Haunts,” which explores witchcraft and the spiritual world.
Writing a detective series isn’t the hard part for Spencer. What she didn’t expect was how difficult it is for Canadian mystery writers to get their work published compared to the American market.
“Ask the average Canadian to name an American mystery writer and I don’t think that anyone would have a problem,” she said. “There is so many of them when you look at the size of the American market compared to the Canadian one.”
Spencer said she hopes e-publishing her books might give her career a boost.
“One thing I heard was in 2011 or 2012 for the first time electronic books outsold paperback books,” she said. “This is a trend. The royalties are so much better.”
Spencer said she likes setting her own price and having complete control of her books.
“Right now I’ve got my books priced at 99 cents and I get 35 per cent royalty,” she said. “If you go higher than that it bumps up to 70 per cent.”
There are disadvantages to publishing e-books as well, said Spencer.
“It’s difficult to launch an e-book because you don’t have anything there to sign copies,” she said.
Spencer’s hope is her book will do well enough electronically it will gain the attention of readers and eventually a publisher.
“If I’ve got one that’s doing well people will want to read what else I’ve written,” she said. “I hope one day to be published by a regular publisher, but maintain control over e-books and have a long time career as a writer and write in other genres.”
Spencer sent her manuscript to four small Canadian publishers that handle mystery books and is keeping her fingers crossed she’ll get a bite.
“Sales for ‘Road Kill’ have not been that terrific,” she said. “I’ve had good reviews on Amazon and Smashwords with four out of five star ratings. ‘Road Kill’ is getting good reviews from people but it’s just not broken through.”
“Road Kill” is one of three books Spencer published last fall with California-based self-publishing and distribution platform Smashwords. The others are romance novels “Good Intentions” and “The Affairs of Harriet Walters, Spinster” under the name C.M. Spencer.
“I sit down with a general idea and start writing,” she said. “Sometimes a story will take off in a direction I haven’t anticipated. I find it easy to write.”
“The Affairs of Harriet Walters, Spinster” is currently seeing the most success, Spencer said.
“It’s dramatically outselling ‘Road Kill,’” she said. “I sold 120 copies in January.”
Spencer began writing the books while living in Turner Valley, but moved to Calgary a year ago as she found the commute to her job at Mount Royal University too difficult.
Spencer has four of her short stories published in literary and mystery magazines and looks forward to a future of writing novels.
“I’m hoping that I will always write,” she said. “I’m not hoping to make a self-supporting income out of it, but I would like to increase sales and get some profit out of it.”
Spencer said she hopes to see progression for Canadian writers after experiencing firsthand the challenge of getting her books published.
“I don’t think that either Canadians or Americans associate Canada with genre writing,” she said. “Not that there aren’t lots of Canadian authors writing fiction, but I would bet that the majority are being published by small Canadian companies who don’t have the bucks that the big American publishers have to advertise and to promote their authors with the major book retailers.”
Spencer entered “Road Kill” into The Arthur Ellis Awards for Excellence in Canadian Crime Writing through the Crime Writers of Canada.
“I don’t hold a lot of hope for a self-published e-book against traditionally published writers with a mystery series, but it’s up there,” she said.
To purchase Spencer’s book go to http://www.amazon.com/Road-Kill-ebook/dp/B009V5Y754 or https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/247294 or visit her blog at http://cmspencer.blogspot.ca/