Friday, November 4, 2016

Publishing and Its Vagaries by Susan Oleksiw

About a year ago those of us who publish with Five Star learned that things were changing. I thought this meant the end of the Anita Ray series, and wasn’t sure if I could continue it with another publisher. To my surprise, I sold the two books in the series to Harlequin, for their worldwide mystery club. The Wrath of Shiva came out in mass market paperback on November 1.

The Anita Ray series is an object lesson in the vagaries and subjectivity of publishing. When I began writing the series, I struggled with defining the lead character, Anita, and her setting, Hotel Delite. I wanted the mix of Indian and non-Indian people because even in villages I encountered variety and extremes in population. Anita emerged in a short story I sold to Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine. “A Murder Made in India” appeared in October 2003.

I had trouble selling the first book, wrote another, and after a while sent that to Tekno/Five Star. Then came the fireworks. Marty Greenberg, co-founder with Ed Gorman, had medical problems, and his wife, Roz, took over. She bought the manuscript. Then he died and she fought for control of the company.

Through changes in editors, Five Star took three more Anita Ray mss. Harlequin bought the first, Under the Eye of Kali, for their worldwide mystery line but turned down the second one. I kept writing, and then as editors changed again and again at Harlequin, I decided to try another Anita Ray. I sent in the third book in the series, For the Love of Parvati. The editor inquired politely, “It looks like there’s another one in the series before this. Can we see that one too?” I sent in The Wrath of Shiva. Yes, the one turned down earlier. The editor bought both titles.

I don’t yet have a pub date for the third book, but I look forward to another gorgeous cover. And in a few months, I hope to interest Harlequin in the fourth Anita Ray, When Krishna Calls.

The point of all this is to remind myself and other writers that there is no order or sense or logic to publishing. Editors make subjective decisions every day over every manuscript even when they think they’re being rational and logical and calculating the odds on sales. Whenever I think about this I could feel better or worse, but mostly I feel the door is still open. I don’t know what will happen to the Anita Ray series, but I know there is still opportunity out there.

The fourth Anita Ray story, When Krishna Calls, has drawn a few four and five star reviews and seems to be doing well. It is the only book I've written that has not received a review or mention in the big reviewers: PW, Kirkus, or Library Journal. Despite that, readers and librarians manage to find it.

You can find the Anita Ray books here  and the lovely new paperback of The Wrath of Shiva here.


Jacqueline Seewald said...


Congrats on your sales to Harlequin! Frankly, I was very pleased that they also published four of my Five Star/Gale novels. They did a great job. The first three of my Kim Reynolds series also originally published through Tekno Books and Five Star all had Harlequin reprint paperback editions. No complaints!

Pamela S Thibodeaux said...

Great post, Susan.

All we can do is keep on, keeping on.
Good luck and God's blessings

Susan Oleksiw said...

Jacquie, thanks for adding your support. I think Harlequin does a great job and I've enjoyed working with them. It's a simple process.

Pam, thanks for your support. Yes, we just keep on going.

Irene Bennett Brown said...

A most heartening post. We do need to keep the faith and see that our books continue to "live".
For example, my historical novel, The Plainswoman, was originally published as a mass market paperback by Ballantine in 1994. The book was a finalist for a Western Writers of America Spur Award. Five Star some years later brought it out in hardcover and a large print edition. Books in Motion produced an audio version which, along with a trade paper edition, is still available. A couple of times the novel had a brush with fairly serious film consideration, but that hasn't yet happened. We authors need to keep the faith, despite the craziness of publishing.

Jan Christensen said...

Susan, you've shown us how persistence is key in this business. Congratulations for all your success, obviously well-earned!

Susan Oleksiw said...

Irene, congratulations on your ongoing success with your historical novel. I hope that film offer materializes in the near future.

Jan, yes, the key is persistence. Thank you for the compliment too.

Thank you both for commenting.

Christina said...

This is so true - no rhyme or reason to subjective publishing decisions! This is a heartening post. I have fingers crossed for your for book 4!

Earl Staggs said...

Susan, to paraphrase Somerset Maugham's famous quote, "There are three sure ways to get your book published. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are." Congratulations on your persistence and best wishes for continued success.

Mary F. Schoenecker Writes said...

My sincere congratulations, Susan. You have done so well despite the vagaries! I, too, sold four of my novels to Five Star and was happy to hear of your success.

Susan Oleksiw said...

Thanks, Christina and Earl and Mary. No one believes how crazy this business is until we tell our stories, and then we see how crazy it is. Thanks for your support and for commenting.