Thursday, February 23, 2012

My Own Private Rulebook


by Chris F. Holm

One thing I've discovered in my writing life is I'm no good at predicting whether or not an opportunity is gonna prove worthwhile. But I've also learned I don't have to be. Over time, I've developed a few simple rules to guide me. They've helped me immensely; mayhap they'll do the same for you.

On Online Networking
The best networking advice I've ever read came courtesy of novelist Sandra Ruttan, who said, "The first rule of networking is STOP TRYING TO NETWORK!" Fact is, publishing is full of interesting folks who love the stuff you love. So stop trying so hard. Just make friends. Congratulate folks on their successes. Champion work you love. Believe me, you'll get it back in spades, and wind up with relationships you'll cherish, not just a glorified mailing list.

On Short Stories

Write. Submit. Repeat. Shorts are the best possible advertisement for your work. Market-wise, don't be afraid to aim too high; my first acceptance came from Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, a long shot that paid off. But don't discount the little guys, either; I got a Spinetingler Award and a Derringer nomination for stories published in online 'zines, and when a buddy asked if I'd contribute a story to a new magazine he was starting up called Needle, I had no idea that story would wind up in THE BEST AMERICAN MYSTERY STORIES 2011. Oh, and agents read short stories. Just ask internationally acclaimed author Stuart Neville, whose agent contacted him out of the blue after reading a story of his in Thuglit.

On the Value of Free

Don't be afraid to give your work away. Use your best judgment, of course, and always aim for paying markets, but plenty of reputable short fiction markets don't pay. That one I wrote for Needle, I did for nothing. Funny thing is, the check for BEST AMERICAN was for more than I'd been paid for all my other shorts combined.

On Stepping Outside One's Comfort Zone
Most writers are uncomfortable in the limelight. It's an occupational hazard. But don't let that hold you back. If ever someone asks you to participate in something – be it an interview, a panel, or, say, a blog post on writing advice to be read by loads of thriller writers– and your only objection to saying yes is it's outside your comfort zone, SAY YES ANYWAYS. In my case, doing so put me on a panel at Bouchercon alongside pulp badass Christa Faust; a terrifying experience, sure, but one of the most thrilling and memorable moments of my life. And if I said one not-stupid thing, I might've even sold a book or two.

On Writing Advice
Writing advice (this writing advice included) is only as good as the work it does for you. There are a thousand ways to do this job, and none of them is the One True Path. So when it comes to advice, keep what works and toss what doesn't, regardless of the source.


Chris F. Holm was born in Syracuse, New York, the grandson of a cop who passed along his passion for crime fiction. He wrote his first story at the age of six. It got him sent to the principal’s office. Since then, his work has fared better, appearing in such publications as Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, and THE BEST AMERICAN MYSTERY STORIES 2011. He’s been an Anthony Award nominee, a Derringer Award finalist, and a Spinetingler Award winner. DEAD HARVEST is his first novel.

To learn more about Chris and DEAD HARVEST, please visit his website.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Publishing and Private Equity have a lot in common

by Martin Bodenham

I am the CEO of a London-based private equity business. With a full-time day job, writing my debut novel took many months of working late into the night. Finally, last year, I managed to finish the first draft. Then, after months of polishing the manuscript, I began the search for a publisher willing to take on my shiny new financial thriller. I bought a copy of The Writer’s Handbook and researched the market.

image001 (2)What happened? Well, I approached one UK publisher and one in the US. I figured it was better to start small and build from there; sort of learn from the early rejections. However, within twenty four hours of receiving my email submission, I received a request for the full manuscript from the US publisher. Two days later, they issued a contract for the book! When I shared this experience with some of my writing friends, they wanted to know what my secret was. Of course, I didn’t know what the norm was until they told me they had spent months/years sending out submission after submission, and in many cases hearing nothing back.

In private equity, a firm will receive hundreds of investment inquiries a year. Typically, only one or two in a hundred will be financed. The rest of the business plans gather dust until they are sent for shredding. I gather the published hit rate for first time novels is even lower than this. As a reader of investment submissions, I would say three things make the difference and motivate me to take the investment deal further: thegenevaconnection-510 (1)money, market and management. With the benefit of hindsight, I now realize, automatically, I went about my search for a publisher with these same three factors in mind. Here’s what I did:

I spelled out in my submission why I thought there was a gap in the market and why I believed there would be a receptive and growing audience for my financial thrillers. I kept it short and related my message to the current financial crisis, giving my book a contemporary impression. This meant the publisher could judge whether or not there was money to be made by taking on my book.

I stressed how I was reasonably well known in the private equity community and how this community was likely to include many buyers of my book. The publisher could see immediately how I would be able to market my book to an existing platform of warm, relevant contacts. Then, I described how the legal thriller genre was crowded compared to books set in the world of finance, and yet money and financial distress are frequent subjects today in news reports and TV documentaries. I was confident there was a market for my novel after many beta readers said it made the world of finance appear exciting and dangerous.

In my submission pack, I included a short bio, concentrating on my background in the financial markets. This enabled the publisher quickly to understand that I knew my subject matter well and that the financial background to the book had credibility.
It wasn’t rocket science. Actually, all I had done was to approach the submission process from the recipient’s perspective and not my own.

I like lists, so I have listed below those key factors which I believe must be included in a publisher submission:
  • Point out how the publisher will make money. You may be wrong, but at least it shows you recognize they are in business to sell books.
  • Highlight a gap/niche in the market which is addressed by your book.
  • Relate that gap to current news/trends to give your writing an up-to-the-minute feel.
  • Stress in your bio only those factors that are relevant to the subject matter of your novel.
  • Finally, don’t give them a reason to say no. Avoid giving them superfluous information, keep it business-like, don’t send them a photo, follow their stated submission format, and don’t pester them for a quick answer.
martin_bodenham_photo_lrgGood luck with your future submissions!
Martin Bodenham is the author of THE GENEVA CONNECTION. Details can be found on:

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Phone a Friend


By: Daniel Palmer

So, you’re ready to write your book. You’ve got a killer idea, a “what if” question that will make any agent take notice. You know the story you’re going to tell. You’ve got a great sense for the pacing. You know your protagonist, and, of course, your villain. You’re all set to start writing when—BANG, BAM, BOOM—you hit a wall. What happened? Why can’t you write? What is this wall? Let’s call it the wall of information and the bricks comprising this structure are your missing facts and the rich details needed to teleport your readers into another world.

This exact scenario happened to me with the writing of HELPLESS. HELPLESS tells the story of a former Navy SEAL turned high school soccer coach who becomes the victim of a ruthless online reputation attack. I wrote what I knew in that the novel focuses on the hidden perils of everyday technology. But I also wrote a Navy SEAL protagonist and I’m not a Navy SEAL (not even close).

Why? I needed my hero to do something more than just dribble a soccer ball around the bad guys for 400 pages.

I also decided that my protagonist would be embroiled in a sexting scandal and pursued by an attractive FBI agent tasked with bringing him to justice. Only I didn’t know the first thing about the FBI. Who investigates crimes involving images? What do they do? How do they do it?

Naturally, I turned to Google.

Now, the Internet is great. Honestly, I don’t know how authors conducted their research before its invention (thank you Mr. Gore). But I needed to get inside the head of a Navy SEAL warrior and a doggedly determined FBI agent. So what did I do? Well, I picked up the phone. I talked to people. I asked people I knew if they knew people. I networked like I was hunting for a job.

And the results?

Daniel PalmerI was put in contact with a woman from the FBI’s Innocent Image National Initiative, who not only read my book cover to cover, but also fixed all my procedural inaccuracies. I was later introduced to Commander William C. (Bud) Taylor II, a former Navy SEAL trainer, who met with me in a coffee shop to talk about all things Navy SEAL. I would give Bud a scenario and he would tell me what a SEAL do. I discovered that people enjoy talking about their work and they’ll tell you all sorts of things that no Google search ever could.

So what’s my advice? Don’t be afraid to write about people and topics you know nothing about, as long as you don’t mind picking up the phone.

Question for ITW Debut Authors: How do you obtain your research?

Daniel Palmer is the author of HELPLESS(Kensingston Books, Jan 2012) and DELIRIOUS (Kensington Books, Jan 2011). He is also an occasional short story writer, with The Dead Club in the ITW anthology, First Thrills, and Disfigured, found in Thriller: Stories to Keep You Up At Night.  (Trivia Note: Daniels father is New York Times best-selling novelist Michael Palmer.) Learn more about Daniel at

Thursday, February 2, 2012

February 2012 Debut Authors

Happy February and Happy Thrilling Thursday. The first of every month we will feature members of our Debut Authors Program. We are excited to announce that three members have books being released in February 2012.

Chris F. Holm DEAD HARVEST (Angry Robot Books, February 2012) I had the great opportunity to interview Chris for “THE BIG THRILL.” Check it our here.
DEAD HARVEST is the story of Sam Thornton, a young man who collects souls. The souls of the damned, to be precise. Once taken himself, he’s now doomed to ferry souls to hell for all eternity, in service of a debt he can never repay. But when he’s dispatched to retrieve the soul of a girl he believes is innocent of the horrific crime for which she’s been damned, Sam does something no Collector has ever done before: he refuses.

James Renner THE MAN FROM PRIMROSE LANE (FSG Macmillan, February 2012)

In West Akron, there lived a reclusive elderly man who always wore mittens, even in July. He had no friends and no family; all over town, he was known only as the Man from Primrose Lane. And on a summer day in 2008, someone murdered him.
Four years later, David Neff is a broken man. The bestselling author of a true-crime book about an Ohio serial killer, Neff went into exile after his wife’s inexplicable suicide. That is, until an unexpected visit from an old friend introduces him to the strange mystery of “the man with a thousand mittens.” Soon Neff finds himself drawn back into a world he thought he had left behind forever. But the closer he gets to uncovering the true identity of the Man from Primrose Lane, the more he begins to understand the dangerous power of his own obsessions and how they may be connected to the deaths of both his beloved wife and the old hermit.

Anthony Franze THE LAST JUSTICE (Sterling & Ross, February 2012) Anthony is also featured on THE BIG THRILL this month. Click here to read his interview.

CHAOS ERUPTS at the U.S. Supreme Court when an assassin guns down six justices as they are hearing a case.Solicitor General Jefferson McKenna, the government's top lawyer in the Supreme Court, is appointed to the multiagency commission investigating the murders. As Congress draws battle lines over who will replace the slain justices, the commission follows clue after clue, each one pointing to an unlikely suspect: McKenna himself.In a desperate bid to prove his innocence, McKenna, on the run with his deputy, Kate Porter, must track down a disgraced law clerk with ties to hidden Saudi assets. But their search leads to unexpected alliances, unearthing dark secrets and corruption at the highest levels -- and the people with clues to the riddle keep turning up dead. From the marble halls of the high court to the inner corridors of the West Wing, from the D.C. housing projects to the desolate back roads of a New York Indian reservation, McKenna and Porter are on a collision course with a shadowy enemy who will stop at nothing to keep the truth buried.From its explosive first page to its haunting conclusion, THE LAST JUSTICE explores the politics of law, the bounds of friendship and love, and the frightening price of unbridled ambition.

Patrice Lyle Lethally Blonde (Leap Books, February 2012)

Morgan Skully is the world's only blonde demon girl, and she's got a brand new, very unusual afterschool job. Spying for the Devil. She'd much rather use her cloak-and-dagger skills to spy on hottie-licious Derek with her friends, but the Devil won't take no for an answer. Luckily for Morgan, her new boss is kinda hot. Her assignment is simple: find out who at Pitchfork Prep is funneling secrets to the Siberian Werewolf Council. If she succeeds, pedicures and platinum highlights are just the beginning. But if she fails…there's more on the line than killer shoes.

Kira Peikoff LIVING PROOF (Tor, February 2012.) Kira is also a contributing editor to “THE BIG THRILL.”

Trent Rowe, an agent for the New York City bureau of the U.S. Department of Embryo Preservation, investigates a suspiciously popular Manhattan fertility clinic run by a suspected “radical,” Dr. Arianna Drake, the daughter of a known opponent of the DEP. Trent’s superiors hope that a shutdown of the clinic “for ethical transgressions” will shore up the DEP’s imploding political support. Trent, initially a believer in the DEP cause, eventually finds himself caught in an ethical dilemma he could never have envisioned, torn between irreconcilable goals.

Alumnae Class of 2011

Daniel Palmer HELPLESS (Kensington 2012)

Nine years after he left Shilo, New Hampshire, former Navy Seal Tom Hawkins has returned to raise his teenage daughter, Jill, following the murder of his ex-wife, Kelly. Despite Tom's efforts to stay close to Jill by coaching her high school soccer team, Kelly's bitterness fractured their relationship. But life in Shilo is gradually shaping up into something approaching normal. Normal doesn't last long. Shilo's police sergeant makes it clear that Tom is his chief suspect in Kelly's death. Then an anonymous blog post alleges that Coach Hawkins is sleeping with one of his players. Internet rumors escalate, and incriminating evidence surfaces on Tom's own computer and mobile phone. To prove his innocence, Tom must unravel a tangle of lies about his past. For deep amid the secrets he's been keeping - from a troubled tour of duty to the reason for his ex-wife's death - is the truth that someone will gladly kill to protect...