DEBORAH CROMBIE: Terry Ambrose is a frequent commenter and a good friend here on JRW, so it's our treat to have him on the front side of the blog today! In his latest novel, CON GAME, an investment broker who is running a pump-and-dump stock scam is found dead in his downtown L.A. condo the morning after Roxy Tanner cons him out of $2.6 million. A man Skip Cosgrove once helped put behind bars is back for revenge. The would-be killer has disappeared somewhere deep in the Oceanside drug world and vowed to return, but when?
With the cops closing in on Roxy, a killer on the hunt for Skip, and neither sure they can trust the other, the last thing they need is a complication. Or is it?
Of course they do, but you have to read the book to find out just what that complication is! CON GAME is a cracking, fast-paced read, and here's Terry to tell us how he decided which route to take in publishing his sixth novel.
TERRY AMBROSE: I’ve been writing for more than twenty-five years. It all started when things became overwhelming at work and I needed an outlet. Quite frankly, that first book was terrible. Bad dialogue. Cardboardcharacters. Predictable plot. Did I mention bad dialogue? Well, you get the idea. The thing is, when I had completed my very first Great American Novel, I realized that even though the book stunk, I felt better.
With my epiphany that writing could help keep me sane in hand, I began trudging along the writer’s path. I did the usual stuff—found a critique group, read writing resources, and hired an editor when I’d completed the next book. This was more than twenty years ago, so there was no Amazon or CreateSpace and e-books were still quite the novelty.
Over the years, I’ve learned a few things about myself. I always thought I could handle the rejection letters (yes, that’s how long ago it was!) from agents. I never adopted the “rejected and proud of it” mantra, so I found myself growing weary of the ups and downs and would eventually move on to the next project to start the cycle over again.
About three years ago, a friend of mine in San Diego Sisters in Crime told me he was going to try self publishing through Amazon. As he put it, he had no idea whether anyone would even want to read his book, but was determined to try. He started out by testing the waters with this increasingly popular Amazon program—free Kindle books. Andrew E. Kaufman rode that wave right to the top. In retrospect, that was probably my biggest “My Bad” moment. I had a book ready to go, but didn’t enter the market because I was still holding out for the traditional model.
When my chance to go with a small press came around about a year later, I decided it was time to stop standing on the sidelines and make a move. Right or wrong, I’d written six novels (let’s make that five—the first really should get a pass). I decided to self publish “Photo Finish,” the first in my McKenna Mystery series, a few months before “License to Lie” would come out from the small press.
I went from the unpublished category to having two books in the market within the span of a few months. Everyone knows that indie authors make far more per book than traditionally published authors. However, other lesser-known differences soon became apparent. For instance, as an indie author, I knew almost immediately how many books I’d sold. The publisher, however, had no such reports. I also discovered that each publishing alternative gave me access to promotion opportunities that might not be available to the other.
Was one method better than the other? While many would disagree with me, I don’t consider either inherently better, just different. For those who have the expertise or want to maintain total control, the indie route is great. For those who don’t want to be bothered with finding, selecting and paying for services related to getting that masterpiece to market—traditional is the way to go.
After watching the sales for “License to Lie” languish for a year despite some great blurbs, excellent reviews, and my best efforts to raise the profile of the book, I saw that it was going nowhere. In short order, the sequel, “Con Game,” would be on the market and if the series was going to do anything other than take up virtual shelf space on Amazon, I needed to do a full reboot.
I bought back my rights for “License to Lie” to publish it independently. This allowed me to reformat the book, change the metadata, and position it within a smaller sub genre so it might appear as a bigger fish in a smaller pond. We’ll see what happens going forward, but “License to Lie” is on a Kindle Countdown deal from May 4-10.
I’m not saying I’d never go back to a traditional publisher. Quite the contrary, I still view each publishing avenue as having distinct advantages and disadvantages and the right contract with the right publisher is still my dream. However, I’m now much smarter about the risks and rewards of each opportunity and will hopefully make the right business decision when it’s time. Rather than looking back and playing the what-if game, I’d much rather look forward and ask that same question. Of course, if foresight were as good as hindsight, what a wonderful world this would be.
Let’s talk about those opportunities that come along in life. Is there one you missed that you particularly regret? Or, what about the time you made the right choice and later asked how you got so lucky?
Terry Ambrose started his business career as a skip tracer and bill collector. He’s been writing mysteries and suspense novels for more than 25 years, but only recently became serious about publishing. His debut mystery, “Photo Finish,” was a 2013 San Diego Book Awards Finalist. In addition to writing fiction, Terry also writes about real-life scams and cons, profiles authors, and does book reviews as part of the featured content at terryambrose.com.