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A Sovereign of Suspense (Part Three)

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! I hope yesterday was filled with good turkey and great friends. This week I conclude my interview with best-selling writer of crime fiction Sue Coletta, who discusses the pros and cons of various publishing options, as well as the importance of networking. Her advice is invaluable for any new author just starting to dip a toe into the publishing pool! Here’s what she had to say:

You use a publishing house. Did you self-publish when you first started, or did you choose to publish through an agent from the get-go? What are the pros and cons of using a publisher?

For me, the traditional model was far more appealing than self-publishing. I now have three publishers, not counting the houses who publish the various anthologies that include my short stories. Of course, they all want me to write their book first! It's not easy to keep everyone happy, but I have different goals for each series (Mayhem, Grafton County, Kindle World Crossovers).


  • The publisher pays for content and copy editing, proof-readers, book covers, and bringing the book to market

  • You have the benefit of working with a team of professionals who all want you to succeed

  • You learn the business side of publishing

  • You still need to do the lion's share of marketing your books, but some publishers split the cost

  • Publishers provide support with how to widen your audience

  • Publishers keep you updated on what's happening in the publishing world from a perspective you wouldn't get elsewhere

  • You immediately gain credibility as a writer

  • With a publisher you're eligible for notable awards like the Edgar (self-published books aren't)

  • It's easier to get speaking engagements and do book signings (some venues won't allow self-published authors to do book signings)


  • You have no control over the price of your books

  • You have no control over when the book releases in various formats, although some publishers ask for your input

  • The publisher takes a royalty (as they should)

  • You no longer own some rights to your work, but you can buy them back if you leave before the contract ends

  • Not having full control is why some writers find self-publishing more desirable

Choose the path that's right for you. In my humble opinion, the hybrid model gives you the best of both worlds.

You have a tremendous fan-base, but you also have developed a fantastic network of fellow crime writers. Is networking with other writers key? What advice do you have for the new author who is just beginning to explore a particular genre?

Networking with other writers is key. The writing community is filled with the most amazing, supportive, funny, caring professionals at all levels in their career, from published authors to writers just beginning their journey. I can't imagine doing this job without fellow writers by my side.

Make sure you're passionate about the genre you intend to write in, but also consider its popularity. I'm all for writing the books you want to read. However, if you limit your audience to, say, elderly women who love to knit, yet cringe at the first mention of any type of conflict, you'll drastically reduce the book's potential. Conversely, be aware romance and crime are the top two bestselling genres. Therefore, they're over-saturated with books. Be prepared to compete with household names like James Patterson and Nora Roberts. Also, never chase a trend. By the time you finish writing the book the trend could pass.

Lastly Sue, if there was one thing about getting your first book to publication you’d do differently, what would it be? What’s your #1 piece of advice a writer looking to get their first novel published?

Hmm ... tough question. I don't think I'd do anything differently, because each misstep, each mistake, helped shape me into the writer I am today. We need to scrape our knees during our journey. Don't be afraid to fall. It's how we learn and grow as writers. This business can be soul-crushing, especially in our early years. It humbles us throughout our career. By celebrating each and every small victory along the path to success, it keeps us moving forward in a positive and rewarding way.

The best advice I can give a new writer is to study story structure. It's the magic bullet of storytelling. Hone your craft and don't rush the process. You'll get there when you're ready. Most importantly, don't measure your success with someone else's ruler!


Sue’s biography speaks volumes about her commitment to networking in her genre. Check out her presence at any of the following: Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, and International Thriller Writers. Sue's the communications manager for Forensic Science and the Serial Killer Project, and co-hosts the radio show "Partners in Crime" on Writestream Radio Network. As a way to help fellow crime writers, Sue created a team of crime experts (detectives, coroners, police captains, etc.) and founded #ACrimeChat on Twitter (see details at She's also a proud member of The Kill Zone, an award-winning writing blog.

Sue's short stories and flash fiction have appeared in Out of the Gutter Flash Fiction Offensive magazine and numerous anthologies, and her forensic articles have been featured in InSinC Quarterly.

In 2017, Feedspot awarded her Murder Blog as one of the Top 50 Crime Blogs on the net!

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