Saturday, July 17, 2021

TRYING SOMETHING NEW WITH SOMETHING OLD: Guest Post by Kathy Lynn Emerson aka Kaitlyn Dunnett

Kathy Lynn Emerson (aka Kaitlyn Dunnett):

Trying Something New With Something Old

I never seriously considered self-publishing until Covid-19 hit. Suddenly, as a person in her seventies, I had to face the fact that I was in the "high risk" category. That made me think about the body of work I'd leave behind if I was one of the victims of the pandemic. Not the sixty-three (sixty-four with Murder, She Edited in August) traditionally published books under various names in several genres. They're out there if anyone wants to read them and, thanks to the e-book revolution, are likely to stay available after I'm gone. No, my concern was for the other novels I've written over the course of a forty-year career, the ones no one but me seemed to love, the ones editors, even those who liked my writing, didn't think were commercial enough to be worth publishing.

There were also two nonfiction projects I hoped would survive me. One was the biography I wrote of my grandfather way back in 1980. Using his diaries and memoirs and writing on a manual typewriter, I put together The Life of a Plodder (his title) and made Xerox copies for family members. I also sent one to the local historical society, since Grampa's story included a lot of local history (and local gossip) from the 1880s to the 1960s. After computers replaced typewriters and webpages became part of every professional writer's life, I revised and updated this manuscript and made it available online, but it wasn't until 2020 that it occurred to me that an e-book would be a better way to make sure the contents stay available for any local history buffs or genealogists who might be interested. 

The Life of a Plodder would probably have been my only self-published book if I hadn't discovered how easy the process of producing e-books and print-on-demand paperbacks has become. By the end of 2020, I'd also self-published six books I wrote for children ages eight to twelve (four reissues and two originals) and my A Who's Who of Tudor Women, the other nonfiction project. This behemoth is only available as an e-book because in a print edition it would be nearly 1800 pages in length. Like The Life of a Plodder, that material was originally online at one of my websites, growing larger every time I researched a new historical mystery and discovered more potential entries among the real Englishwomen of the sixteenth century. 

By the time those books had been launched into the world, my immediate demise was looking much less likely. I hadn't done much by way of promotion, since my focus had been on revising, proofing, and formatting. I soon discovered that getting the word out is easier said than done, especially when I'm not someone who is particularly good at tooting my own horn. That's when serendipity came into play. 

For nearly ten years, I've blogged twice a week at MaineCrimeWriters.com. In Blog #250, I broached the idea of collecting some of them into a book. It didn't take much encouragement from readers to convince me that I should go ahead with that plan, and before long I'd selected 115 blogs and started sorting them into subject areas. I didn't have far to look for a title. I used the same one I attached to my very first Maine Crime Writers post: I Kill People for a Living. The subtitle is A Collection of Essays by a Writer of Cozy Mysteries. The blogs, with editing (my own and that done by a professional editor) are now essays. 

As I had for the other self-published books, I hired a cover designer, although I provided the photographs he used. The result preserves more of my work for posterity (that legacy thing again) but it also helps with self-promotion. You see, many of the essays relate to writing, often using my own books as examples. With luck, people who read them will be inspired to delve into my backlist. 

Or they can just enjoy my take on such diverse topics as oddities in my home state of Maine, climbing my family tree, strange fan mail, technophobia, and (of course) living with cats. 

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Kathy Lynn Emerson won the Agatha Award and was an Anthony and Macavity finalist for best mystery nonfiction of 2008 for How to Write Killer Historical Mysteries and was the Malice Domestic Guest of Honor in 2014. As Kaitlyn Dunnett, she writes the "Deadly Edits" cozy mystery series (Murder, She Edited). Her websites are www.KathyLynnEmerson.com and www.KaitlynDunnett.com.

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