New Orleans Crime Author Confronts Next Frontier: Publishing

After an author has crossed the desert and finished his book, then what?

The author must climb the mountain of publishing opportunities.

After a five year journey that included some major droughts, I finished my debut novel The Accidental Vigilante. I was thrilled. But not finished.

When I began this project I was determined to win a contract with a traditional publisher. To that end, in September I sent out query letters to a handful of agents and began what might be called the waiting game.

I was warned by other authors that agents are very busy and might take up to six weeks to respond to a mere letter, if they respond at all. 

Fortunately, one agent with ties to New Orleans took an interest. She liked the first couple chapters and so requested the full manuscript of about 77,000 words. Good deal. Progress.

Well, yes, except now a second waiting game begins: understandably, she will need time to read my novel, and there is no promise that she will decide to represent it.

And even if she does, then we begin a third waiting game: shopping the book to the very traditional publishers I have always wanted to engage.


A pow wow with other crime writers gave me some new ideas.  They too went through the sequence of waiting games. In some cases, they found an agent to work with and contracted with a publisher.

Then they tired of the waiting game. After finishing a new book they were eager to share it with readers who enjoyed previous titles. They hated the wait.  They wanted more control.

I’m beginning to feel the same way. The urge to share a new story is intense. After all, in some cases, the author has spent years imagining and writing the book, experiencing the high of writing an exciting chapter, and the low of having to discard a portion of writing that just isn’t working.

The author wants to announce his achievement and send it into the vast and exciting world of readers who seek a new story, a new favorite writer.

Fortunately, indie publishing has come a long way in recent years. An author has many platforms to choose from when considering a launch for a new book.

My colleagues champion publishers like Amber Quill and Five Star, while others suggests CreateSpace. And that’s just the beginning of the list. The choices are plentiful.

And part of the lure is the success of a book like The Martian, by Andy Weir. Granted, Sci-Fi is not the genre I’ve chosen to explore, but to see a book go from digital self-published obscurity to bestseller to major film starring Matt Damon is a wonder to behold.

Yes, I know, there will always be those publishing events that send the world reeling. They are rare and so we can’t all expect that kind of reaction to our work.

Even so, the fact that new authors continue to break through simply by doing the hard work and sharing their books is invigorating and encouraging.

Not sure yet which direction I’ll go. But what an exciting time to be a writer.


Robert Sterling Hecker

Author of The Accidental Vigilante