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Author Publishing Quizz – Joanne Sydney Lessner

Author Publishing Quizz - Joanne Sydney LessnerAuthor Publishing Quizz – Joanne Sydney Lessner

BIO:  Joanne Sydney Lessner is the author of Pandora’s Bottle, a novel inspired by the true story of the world’s most expensive bottle of wine (Flint Mine Press), which was selected as one of Paperback Dolls’ top five books of 2010. The Temporary Detective (Dulcet Press, 2012) introduces Isobel Spice, aspiring actress and resourceful office temp turned amateur sleuth. The second book in the series, Bad Publicity, will be out in March 2013. Joanne is a regular contributor to Opera Newsand a graduate of Yale University.

Your book The Temporary Detective was made available to the public in April, 2012. How well has it been received by the public so far?

It’s been pretty popular! Most people who’ve read it have said they’re looking forward to more books in the series, which, of course, I’m working on. I’ve even had a few reviews from readers who liked the book, but didn’t love it, and still want to read the next one. It also seems to appeal to a wide range of people. I’m pleasantly surprised by how many men have enjoyed it, even though my sleuth, Isobel Spice, is a young woman trying to break into show business. My secondary point of view character is her temp agent, James, who’s a guy struggling to stay sober, so perhaps that’s part of the appeal.
Your book falls under the main mystery genre. Do you tag it with other genres? What do you see as the pros and cons of writing mystery fiction on the publishing scene?
I also tag it with humor, and lately I’ve been tagging it with romance, because so many of my reader reviews have been picking up on that element of the story. And after reading a recent article in The New York Times about the emergence of the “new adult” genre, I’ve started tagging it that way on Twitter. Amazon doesn’t seem to have a corresponding category, and I don’t want to risk teens reading it. At first glance, it looks like it could be for younger readers, but it’s actually pretty racy! So I was thrilled to learn about this new category. Since my heroine is right out of college, that’s a great target audience for me. I think self-publishing is an excellent outlet for mystery and other genre writers. Committed readers in those genres want to devour as many books as they can, and because they tend to be quick reads, and not necessarily the books you want to hold on to forever and display on your shelf, e-books are a perfect medium. The downside is that there are so many mystery writers out there, and readers still have to know your books exist. But it’s a hungry audience, so it’s a good place to be.
Publishers rejected you at the last stage of the  submission process, could you elaborate on that?

As my tags indicate, my book is a little bit of a hybrid. First and foremost, it is an amateur sleuth mystery. But the back story of Isobel trying to break into show business, which will continue through the series, is very important to me—and I believe it’s what makes the book different. The publishers who read it were confused by the additional elements (there’s also a hint of romance between Isobel and James).  I can understand why it would be confusing for them marketing-wise. It’s been a challenge for me, too! But at the same time, I knew I wasn’t going to change the book. I also knew that readers would mind far less than publishers that it isn’t a pure genre mystery.

Who edited your book and how did you select him/her?
Having never written a mystery before, it was really important to me to find an editor with experience in the genre. I wanted to make sure that I was playing fair with the reader, hiding my clues in plain sight, and that the puzzle was both elusive and logical. I Googled “freelance mystery editor” and came across a site called BloodRedPencil.com. I queried a few editors there. They were all too busy to take me on, but more than one recommended a woman named Jodie Renner. I also pulled a list of freelance resources from mystery writer and blogger Elizabeth S. Craig, and Jodie’s name was there as well. It seemed like all roads were leading to her! She was great. She helped me clarify a lot of the mystery elements, and she caught me in several logic flaws! It was a good match.
 Who formatted your book? In how many formats is your book available?
I did! (Pats self on back.) Right now it’s available on Kindle and in paperback. I also have it in .epub format, since when I first published, I had it on BN.com too. But I’ve been doing KDP Select, so it’s not available for any other e-reader formats right now.
 What problems did you run into?
One reason I decided to do the e-book formatting myself is that my teenage son is a programmer, and I knew he could help me with the html if I got stuck. I also found an excellent online primer, courtesy of Guido Henkel, that walks you through it step-by-step. Between Guido’s site and my son (who in the end didn’t even help all that much) it was pretty smooth sailing. For the paperback, I used CreateSpace’s template, and there I did run into some minor problems. The font I picked didn’t look so great when I ordered my proof, and there was some weirdness with Word where it would randomly change my page count. I spent a lot of time on CreateSpace’s forums, and got a lot of help there. In the end, I’m thrilled with the look of the paperback, inside and out. I hired a professional cover designer who not only gave me a gorgeous cover, but who worked with me to define a look for the whole series. The best part is that now I have templates for the next book, both e-book and paperback.
Is there any marketing technique you used that had an immediate impact on your sales figures?
The biggest impact I’ve gotten has been from using the KDP Select free promo days—but not overusing them. You’re allowed five every three months, but I’ve only ever used two, and I spaced them about six months apart. I plan a month in advance so I can get the info to the sites with the biggest reach, because they get inundated with free book submissions and have the longest lead time. There are several websites that round up all the places that promote free e-books, and you really have to be assiduous about contacting as many of them as you can manage. I’ve been very lucky—the two promos I’ve run have done incredibly well for me. I’ve had downloads in the tens of thousands during the free days, and then sales/borrows in the thousands in the month following. It does dwindle back down after a while, but so far it’s the only thing I’ve done that’s really made a difference and why I’m sticking with KDP Select for the time being.

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