Publishing Persistence

I recently had a high time reading Susan Breen’s mystery novel Maggie Dove, the first in her Maggie Dove series. Susan (as some of you know) is a Gotham teacher extraordinaire, as well as a wonderful writer.

The books have an interesting history that illustrates Susan’s persistence. The first two books in the series were published as e-books by Penguin Random House, but the imprint folded. Rather than let Maggie fade away, Susan is self-publishing the series, reprinting the first and second books (Maggie Dove and Maggie Dove’s Detective Agency) and this November releasing a brand new one (Maggie Dove and the Lost Brides), each available now in e-book and paperback.

The protagonist, Maggie Dove, is a sixtyish Sunday School teacher who resides in a village on the Hudson River (a bit like Susan) and has been living a kind of half-life ever since the deaths of her husband and daughter many years ago.

She dislikes her neighbor who wants to poison her precious oak tree—and then finds him dead beneath that very tree. When one of her former students is accused of the crime, Maggie sets out to find the true culprit, in the vein of Miss Marple or Nancy Drew. In the subsequent books, she makes herself into a full-fledged professional detective.

So far, I’ve only read the first book and I love it for brilliantly capturing the personalities in a small town and with such sly humor. (When Maggie finds the dead body, she calls the police but gets the digits mixed up and calls the pizza parlor where they know her and help out.)

It’s seldom easy for an author (who’s not a superstar) to sell books, and even harder if you’re self-publishing; the author must head up (or be) the marketing department. Some self-published authors go it alone, but Susan hired a marketing consultant to help guide her books, allowing Susan more time for writing and teaching.

Just navigating Amazon is a complex job for an author, but they are also doing ads on Amazon and Facebook, as well as Goodreads Giveaways. And Susan is making herself very visible through conferences, blog tours, and “cozy” mystery sites.

The Maggie Dove series falls into the mystery category of “cozy,” which tend to have a lighter touch than most crime stories. And yet…Susan balances the light with a depth and darkness that make her mysteries feel like, well, real life, albeit enhanced for maximum entertainment.

You can read the opening of the first Maggie Dove novel here and the opening of the recently released third book a bit later in this newsletter. I think you’ll find Maggie Dove as lovably persistent as Susan Breen.

Alex Steele
President, Gotham Writers Workshop

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