Posted On October 24, 2012 by Print This Post

Long Journey to a Small Press with Debut Author Susan Boyer

The road to publication is well-traveled, rife with potholes and detours, and yet the journey is different for every author. 

Today, I’m happy to introduce debut author, Susan Boyer. Susan talks about her publishing journey and reveals why she chose a small press. Susan is also giving away a copy of her book, LOWCOUNTRY BOIL, to one lucky commenter!

Welcome to the RU, Susan!

The first thing I need to tell you is that my knowledge of publishing is limited to my own experience, and I don’t have much. But I will happily share that experience in hopes that it’s of help to someone. 

In February of this year, I was a very frustrated writer. I’d played by all the rules. I polished my manuscript until my characters begged me to leave them alone. I’d queried agents—forty-nine of them to be exact—until I found one who loved my manuscript enough to offer me representation. My agent was on a second round of submissions.  The rejections were virtually all a mix of “not right for our list,” “love a, b, and c about this project, but we don’t have a place for it in our list at this time,” and “I’m just not passionate enough about this project to make it a must-have for our list.” It was all about their lists. This was not something I could fix. 

I spent a lot of time mulling over my situation. I remembered the day I first saw Darci Chan’s self-published novel, The Mill River Recluse, on the USA Today bestseller list. According to a Wall Street Journal article, the book, priced at 99 cents, had earned $130,000 as of December, 2011. The Mill River Recluse had not fit a publisher’s list, either.

I weighed the pros and cons of self/independent publishing. My self-published friends spoke of the freedom they enjoyed and this aspect appealed to me. I confess, I’m a bit rebellious, and the notion of writing with the goal of fitting neatly into someone’s list chafed. And the alternative, continuing to write what I wanted in the hopes that somewhere down the line it would fit someone’s list seemed foolish. It was like trying to hit the bulls-eye on one of several moving targets.

My agent still had a few submissions outstanding when I left for Sleuthfest in early March. While there, I spoke to two editors who wanted to see the full manuscript, and followed up with another who was considering it. These were reputable, mid-sized, independent publishers.

One only accepted exclusive submissions, so I’d have to have my agent pull the outstanding submissions before he could submit to them. Another had a list so full they were looking at eighteen months after signing a contract to publication. The third also had an eighteen-month time frame, but had the additional not-right-for-me policy of not considering a second book until six months into the royalty period on the first book. This meant there would likely be two years between books. 

I came home from Sleuthfest with a clear vision of the three things most important to me. 

  1. I wanted to get my first novel into the hands of readers sooner rather than later.
  2. I wanted the second and subsequent novels out in roughly six-month intervals so that I could build an audience for my work.
  3. I wanted to be in print, but I wanted simultaneous e-book publication at a price-point that would be attractive to readers who preferred that format. 

I also knew at this point that, while some aspects of independent publishing were very attractive to me, I could not manage all the technical aspects myself without taking my eye off the ball relative to the two things I had to focus on: writing strong stories and publicity. 

Knowing what I wanted gave me clarity. The best fit for me was a small press. Generally speaking, small presses are more nimble than their larger counterparts. Larissa Reinhart wrote a post on small presses in August that outlines all the things one should consider in looking at small presses, as they are not all created equal.

Because the founder of Henery Press was a fellow member of Sisters in Crime, I knew a bit about her—that she was a successful entrepreneur in another business. She’d also been doing freelance covers and editing for a while. She had savvy business sense and a skill set that made this new press seem viable. And their niche was mysteries and romance, which are the genres I write. 

I think Stephanie Laurens’s keynote address at the RWA National Convention holds a lot of truth. If you weren’t there and haven’t read it, here’s a link: To briefly restate what I took away from her speech, authors have more choices than ever before. While not very long ago there was only one route from author to reader, now there are several viable routes. An author need only decide which one is the best fit for her.

For me, that was the key—figuring out which path best fit my goals. I could not be happier with the results. I signed my contract in late March. My debut novel, Lowcountry Boil, was published September 18th. At every step of the process, Henery Press has exceeded my expectations.

The next book in the series will be out in early May, and could have been out earlier but for my own failure to accurately estimate how much time would be invested in certain aspects of publicity.

We learn as we go.

Thanks so much for your time! 


What three things relative to publication are most important to you? Is the prestige of publishing with a Big Six (or Seven) house worth whatever it takes? How have the recent (and ongoing) industry changes impacted your goals?


Private Investigator Liz Talbot is a modern Southern belle: she blesses hearts and takes names. She carries her Sig 9 in her Kate Spade handbag, and her golden retriever, Rhett, rides shotgun in her hybrid Escape.

When her grandmother is murdered, Liz high-tails it back to her South Carolina island home to find the killer. She’s fit to be tied when her police-chief brother shuts her out of the investigation, so she opens her own. Then her long-dead best friend pops in and things really get complicated.

When more folks start turning up dead in this small seaside town, Liz must use more than just her wits and charm to keep her family safe, chase down clues from the hereafter, and catch a psychopath before he catches her.

For a chance to win a copy of Susan’s book (print or e-book format), leave a comment!     


On Friday, October 26th, Trish Milburn presents: Setting as Character.


Bio: Susan M. Boyer has been making up stories her whole life. She tags along with her husband on business trips whenever she can because hotels are great places to write: fresh coffee all day and cookies at 4 p.m. They have a home in Greenville, SC, which they occasionally visit. Susan’s short fiction has appeared in moonShine Review, Spinetingler Magazine, Relief Journal, The Petigru Review, and Catfish Stew. Her debut novel, Lowcountry Boil, is a 2012 Daphne du Maurier Award for Excellence in Mystery/Suspense recipient and a RWA Golden Heart® finalist.

Susan also contributes to several blogs: Golden Heart® Firebirds, Mysteristas, Get Lost in a Story, and Little Read Hens. To learn more about Susan, visit her website or connect with her via Facebook and Twitter.

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34 Responses to “Long Journey to a Small Press with Debut Author Susan Boyer”

  1. Wow! What a journey! But you have been able to find a path that has brought you success! That is wonderful. Thank you for sharing with us. This is a great story!

    Posted by Amelia | October 24, 2012, 7:36 am
  2. Amelia, thank you so much. It has been a long and winding road, but I’m very happy with where it took me. And I’m very happy that as writers, we all have so many more choices than we used to have.

    Posted by Susan M. Boyer | October 24, 2012, 8:06 am
  3. Hi Susan, I love that you published with such clear goals and intent! I doubt many people in any industry do that. We’re so lucky we don’t have to do this alone and that there’s so much info out there for us. 🙂 Congrats on finding the best fit for you.

    Posted by Kat Cantrell | October 24, 2012, 8:30 am
    • Kat, I did a lot of reading online and listened to what dozens of people had to say in forming my goals. A lot of what I paid attention to were things others were happy or unhappy with. Indeed, we are so lucky we don’t have to do this alone.

      Thank you so much!

      Posted by Susan M. Boyer | October 24, 2012, 9:16 am
  4. Great post, Susan! I had no idea how long you had been trying to submit. I think it’s helpful for you to share that information with other authors trying to submit. Thanks for giving your story.

    I loved LOWCOUNTRY BOIL and it’s a mystery to me why it wasn’t picked up. So glad you got Liz’s #2 written & ready for May!

    Posted by Larissa Reinhart | October 24, 2012, 8:37 am
  5. Morning Susan!

    Gotta love a girl who carries a Sig in her Kate Spade handbag…..=) Sounds like an awesome story.

    I’m glad you prioritized yourself and came up with the best plan for YOU. Best of luck!


    Posted by Carrie Spencer | October 24, 2012, 8:54 am
  6. This looks like a book to put on my list. I think that the clear goals to publishing is key for me right now too.
    Thanks for the clarity and inspiration.

    Posted by Judy Hudson | October 24, 2012, 9:27 am
  7. Hi Susan,

    I agree the important thing is try to get published, regardless of the house. Books on Amazon look good to editors and agents.

    Mary Jo

    Posted by Mary Jo Burke | October 24, 2012, 9:33 am
    • Hi Mary Jo! I have heard of authors, as I’m sure you have, who have turned a small press deal or a self/independently published book into a deal with a larger publisher, or perhaps a contract with their dream agent. So, it can be a step on the path.

      Other authors are very happy with an independent press or self/independently publishing for the duration of their careers.

      I’m thrilled we all have the opportunity to decide which path is best for us.

      Thanks so much for joining the conversation!

      Posted by Susan M. Boyer | October 24, 2012, 9:47 am
  8. Susan,

    Thank you for blogging with us today.

    Great points about knowing your limitations and what you wanted…i.e. a book release every six months.

    Did having an agent help you with your decision process on choosing a publisher?

    Posted by Jennifer Tanner | October 24, 2012, 12:39 pm
    • Hi Jen! Thank you do much for having me!

      This is a hard question. In my case, my agent was super nice when I told him what I wanted to do. He looked over the contract for me, and we parted ways amicably. In some cases, I know agents are willing to work with small presses, and there are things they can help with beyond the initial sale. In my case, the particular agent was willing to release the one book and keep our agency agreement intact, but he really wasn’t interested in being agent of record on this deal.

      Posted by Anonymous | October 24, 2012, 2:56 pm
  9. What a succinct and intelligent post. Every author should approach her/his career this way. With so many roads to Oz, as they say, one must figure out which road is the right one. Than goodness we don’t all have to get on that same slow-moving expressway anymore.

    Congrats on your debut! Much deserved and I keep seeing rave reviews for this book. Maybe some day when I’m not buried under new words and edits, I’ll get to read it. LOL!

    Posted by Terri Osburn | October 24, 2012, 12:40 pm
  10. Great post, Susan. I’m happy you’re with Henery and I love Lowcountry Boil. Liz Talbot has become one of my favorite heroines. Congrats on all your success.

    Posted by Terri L. Austin | October 24, 2012, 1:07 pm
    • Terri, one of the very best things about Henery Press is the friends I’ve made as a result. I love the team spirit in the Hen House! I’m so happy you like Liz! She and I are both big Rose Strickland fans. 🙂

      I’m now riding down the road, responding to comments on an iPad.. At first I couldn’t get it to work, and I was using my iPhone. All of this info to explain why my last two responses are anonymous. The screen was so small on the iPhone I didn’t see that I needed to login again. So sorry! (Sugar is driving.)

      Posted by Susan M. Boyer | October 24, 2012, 3:15 pm
  11. Susan, thanks for this post. Thanks for sharing the thought process you went through as you searched for the right path through the publishing woods. I am tickled every time I see your cover on my iPad–I can’t wait to read your book (and will, soon, now that I can come up for air from my writing). You are, as always, an inspiration.

    Posted by Colette Auclair | October 24, 2012, 1:55 pm
  12. Thank you for a thoughtful and enlightening view of small publishers and their niche. I’m probably looking at self publication given the non niche I write in … will write in … think I write in? But this is delightful and informative a the same time. I like the emphasis on figuring out what the author wants to do and what he/she might need a publisher to do. Again, thanks.

    Posted by Sallie Loftin | October 24, 2012, 3:05 pm
  13. When I was first pursuing publication, my goal was to publish with Harlequin. Now, six books in, the quicker turn-arounds and increased author involvement in titles and covers that can be found with small press publishers really appeals to me.

    Congratulations on achieving your goals!

    Posted by Wendy S. Marcus | October 24, 2012, 3:24 pm
  14. Great post, Susan. I’ve been watching your journey with great interest. It seems like you’ve found a very compatible partner in Henery, and you’re right, there are so many factors in making the publishing decision these days. It’s no longer a case of “bigger is better,” if indeed it ever was. I’m still contemplating choices myself…

    Looking forward to reading Lowcountry Boil very soon! All the Firebird buzz is so very positive. Cheering for you over here!

    Posted by Talia Quinn Daniels | October 24, 2012, 4:06 pm
  15. What a great post, Susan!

    I love to read about how other authors found their books a home. I came to HP in a similar, roundabout fashion, and could not be more thrilled with the team or my fellow hens!

    And yay for Liz#2! I missed that you’d finished it and I can’t wait to read it! 🙂

    Posted by LynDee Walker | October 24, 2012, 4:52 pm
  16. I love your book blurb – I definitely want to read it! I know a lot of authors who are quite happy with small presses. Thanks for spelling out your reasons for going in this direction – it makes a lot of sense!

    Posted by Becke Martin Davis | October 24, 2012, 5:46 pm
    • Becke, thank you so much! I’m so happy you want to read Lowcountry Boil! Fingers crossed you like it!

      I know many writers who are happy with small presses as well. I spoke to an agent at Nationals, just to see what she had to say about things. (This was months after I’d signed with Henery.)

      She asked me if I was happy with my publisher, and I said, “Very.”

      She looked a little grim and said, “So many authors are not.”

      I mention this not to suggest that any path is better than the other, only that there are happy authors and unhappy authors on all paths.

      In my humble, newbie opinion, the two most important things for an author are finding the right path for her based on her priorities, and then researching the alternatives–talking to other authors with a given publisher.

      Posted by Susan M. Boyer | October 25, 2012, 8:49 am
  17. Susan,

    We enjoyed having you today. Best of luck with book number two! Thanks to everyone for stopping in and commenting!

    Posted by Jennifer Tanner | October 25, 2012, 12:13 am
  18. Ok now what I want to know is who would you have be the actress for Liz

    Posted by kim brown | November 12, 2012, 5:46 pm
    • Ha! Kim, I’ve thought about this a time or two. But I have a visual picture of Liz in my head, and she looks like Liz. It’s hard for me to visualize her as someone else.

      If I could genetically combine Reese Witherspoon (from her role as Melanie Smooter in Sweet Home Alabama) with Kyra Sedgewick and Piper Perabo (Covert Affairs) I think the result would look and sound like Liz to me. 🙂

      Posted by Susan M. Boyer | November 12, 2012, 6:03 pm

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