Book Publishing Secrets: A Conversation with Joseph Spencer

We’re talking to authors from all walks of life about their experiences in publishing their book.  Some have smooth paths, some rocky, but they all share a common goal – to see their name on the cover of their creation.  It’s interesting to read what path they decided to take to get there and my guest today is here to tell everyone what he/she did in order to make it all happen so that other writers will learn a little something from the experience.

Today we are talking to Joseph Spencer, author of the occult crime thriller, Grim.

As a boy, Joseph immersed himself in the deductive logic of Sherlock Holmes, the heroic crime fighting of Batman and Spider-Man, and a taste for the tragic with dramas from poets like Shakespeare and Homer.

Before Joseph took to spinning his own tales, he pursued a career in print sports journalism, graduating summa cum laude from Southern Illinois University-Carbondale. He covered such events as NASCAR’s Subway 500 race in Martinsville, the NBA Draft Camp in Chicago, the Junior College World Series, and Minor League Baseball’s Midwest League All-Star Game during a ten-year career throughout the Midwest. Now, he works as an emergency telecommunications specialist with an Illinois police department. The combination of years of writing experience with a background working with law enforcement professionals gave rise to his writing aspirations.

Joseph was married Dr. Amy (Waggoner) Spencer, an accomplished veterinary doctor, on March 14, 2012. He received word his debut novel was accepted by his publisher, Damnation Books, the next day. Joseph and Amy look forward to their honeymoon in Paris in September 2012. Murphy, a 15-year-old orange tabby, is perhaps the most vocal member of the family. The Spencer family enjoys reading Charlaine Harris, George R.R. Martin, Mary Janice Davidson, and most paranormal stories. The Spencers also enjoy quoting movie lines from “The Princess Bride”, “Rain Man”, “Bridesmaids”, and “Office Space”.

Visit his website at www.JosephSpencer.com.

Thank you for your time in answering our questions, Joseph.  Let’s begin by having you explain to us why you decided to write a book?

I worked for ten years as a print journalist for regional daily newspapers before switching careers to work in public safety at a 9-1-1 emergency call center. Though I find my new job challenging and rewarding, I missed writing and figuring out ways to tell a story. I thought writing crime fiction would be a nice blend of both of my professions.

Is this your first book?

Grim is my first fiction writing project outside of experiences I had in grade school. I’ve never had creative writing lessons, and most of my college education focused on news reporting and media.  I’m planning to expand the storyline of Grim into a series, Sons of Darkness. Wrage, the next installment of the series, will be out June 1, 2013.

Can you tell us a little about your publishing journey?

At first, I assumed you had to have an agent to represent you in order to get published, so I bought an evaluation from www.agentresearch.com. They were thorough and did good work, but all of the agents rejected me. After checking into matters more closely, I found that you could submit manuscripts without an agent. I had Stephen King’s first editor, Michael Garrett, do edits for me, and then I submitted to independent horror trade presses I found on www.darkmarkets.com. Damnation Books accepted my manuscript soon after on March 15, 2012, a day after my wedding.

What lessons do you feel you learned about the publishing industry?

I had no idea how difficult the whole process is. It’s about much more than writing a book. You’ve got to devote a lot of time to marketing, appearances, setting up interviews online, social networking online, creating promotional giveaway material and doing as much as you can to get people who don’t know you interested in giving you a shot. I’ve had some great feedback from readers, and that’s a thrill for me.

If you had the chance to change something regarding how you got published, what would you change?

I feared the whole publishing process at first. I did some preliminary bids for editing with companies in New York, and I couldn’t afford to spend thousands of dollars. I was rejected a lot after I first started. The one thing I would change is my hesitancy. I didn’t give myself a chance at first, and I let my finished manuscript sit for about a year because I was too afraid that people would tell me that my writing wasn’t any good.

Did you credit any person or organization with helping you get published?

I want to credit Michael Garrett and Avril Dannenbaum, who edited Grim, Damnation Books owner Kim Richards for giving me a chance and Dawne Dominique for creating a terrifying cover.  I also want to thank my wife, Amy, and my mother, Diane Andrews, for their support.

What’s the best advice you can give to aspiring authors?

Write every day. It’s too easy to fall out of the habit of writing if you spend too much time away from it. The hardest thing to do some nights is to get started. There are many distractions that can derail you from making your writing dreams happen if you don’t remain disciplined.

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