While I tend to think we're all moving along a path that we need to travel on, and there's a reason for the things we do, I broke a lot of rules and ignored some very good advice in getting my book published--but then again, maybe if I didn't do that I would never have written my third book, Small Crimes, which both The Washington Post and NPR picked as one of the best crime novels of 2008.
In my heart I knew my first book was a strong book and would appeal to the same noir readers who were reading Jim Thompson. This was not only the first book I wrote but the first piece of fiction I wrote for publication. When I started sending it out in 1992 to editors and agents, I had a good amount of interest but I kept getting the same response--that my book was too different to be a first novel, that I needed to write something more formulaic for a first book. For a little bit of background this book was a mix of very dark psychotic noir and deconstruction of the hardboiled PI genre where I had my PI turn out to have far more serious problems than the clients hiring him. What I ended up doing was storing this book away, and 2001 making my first serious misstep with this by self-publishing it with the title In His Shadow. Now self-publishing it didn't cost me anything due to a program Mystery Writers of America had with iUniverse, but it was still a mistake. First novels are treated specially by the industry, both with reviews and awards, and I threw this away by self-publishing my first novel. I didn't go into it thinking that I would sell any copies, more that I would generate enough good reviews to sell a second novel, and although I did get a lot of strong quotes from some very good writers, it was still mostly a miserable experience, especially when newspaper reviewers from a few major papers gave the book a read, liked it, but couldn't review it for their papers since it was self-published. But this did lead to a good Italian publisher, Meridiano Zero, publishing it, and later a small US press also publishing it with the title Fast Lane. And while I was proved right about noir readers liking the book--at least from emails and web reviews the book received, I would've been much better served waiting for Small Crimes to be my first published novel and publishing Fast Lane after I was established.