I moved to Santa Fe, NM when I retired in 2018. The first new friends I made in New Mexico were retired teachers and writers. They invited me to join the New Mexico Book Association (NMBA) when I told them that “I had a book in my head.” I would not have been able to write and publish my book without the support of this established writers’ group.
When the COVID lockdown began in 2020, I was fortunate to have these contacts in place. The group quickly moved to on-line programming. I think I participated in every workshop and discussion that NMBA provided over the next two plus years. It was an invaluable learning experience.
I also joined some other writing groups that aligned with my target readers, for example the Mountains and Plains Independent Booksellers and the Independent Book Publishers Association. Both organizations offer book selling events, continuing education opportunities and networking.
So, my first recommendation is to find a writer’s group either where you live or on-line.
When I started writing my “true crime memoir” I began by writing summaries of each character’s role in the story without regard to where the information would be placed in the book. After I had the summaries of each of the characters, I had to make some decisions. For example, should I utilize their real names? And was my book going to be non-fiction or fiction?
Next, I spent a lot of time doing research. I filed a Freedom of Information (FOIA) request in October 2020 to gain access to the investigation notes. I spent a lot of time learning about the process prior to making the initial request.
I made a lot of phone calls to people that I knew could help me with my story but may not want to help me. Sometimes they were forthcoming, but not always.
I learned how to overcome the fear of rejection and carry on.
Although, I had always been a writer through my work, I had never written a novel. In my previous work I utilized the APA or American Psychological Association style book, and occasionally, the Modern Language Association manual (MLA).
The preferred style for novels is the Chicago Manual of Style, so I had to learn a new way of organizing my writing. In addition, writing rules and styles have changed over time. Commas, prepositions, and capitalization rules are different than how I learned them in grade school or utilized them in my work.
I had met Mary Neighbour through my writer’s group. She worked as a “book shepherd” to help me along the way. She eventually arranged for an editor for me, formatted my book and helped me apply for copyright protection, a barcode, and an ISBN number. She also helped me with my questions on self-publishing and secured an editor.
I knew I needed some help, and I was fortunate to find someone who was available on-line whenever I had a question.
When it was time to make the publishing decisions, I chose Ingram Spark as my publisher and Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) as my distribution resource because they provided the most options with the amount of control I wanted.
Amazon became my initial distributor, until my book was listed in the Ingram Directory where bookstores and libraries could order the book. I also learned to make distribution decisions and coordinate in-person bookstore events with independent bookstores. I knew that I didn’t want to be mailing books
to customers every day, so I had to find a simple way manage fulfillment.
When it was time to price my book, I visited local bookstores and websites to see what similar books were selling for. Ingram Spark also had a great system of trying different prices to see what my royalties would be at each different price. I found that very helpful.
I already knew that I wasn’t good at self-promotion, so I hired a Santa Fe-based company to develop my website and execute the promotion of my book. Angulo Marketing also manages my Facebook and Instagram sites and arrange for book reviews. (The same company designed my book cover.) Now that my book has launched, they add interviews and reviews to my website as they occur. Usually, I write the copy and the agency adds it to my website or sends notices to my contact list. It is a good collaboration.
I learned that sometimes I had to spend some money to make some money. To sell books I had to invest in some promotional activities, and it has been working well.
Another decision that I made along the way was to decide to include photos and newspaper stories in the book. I decided to include some of my personal photos and the letters to the editor that appeared during 1986.
It was also important to describe the environment – life in a small town and the lack of technology in 1986. There was no AFIS, CODIS or DNA at the time of my friend’s murder, so the lack of resources contributed to the status of the murder investigation, which is still unsolved after 36 years.
Some readers have let me know that my book is different than other unsolved murder stories that they have read, because it is so personal. I think that’s a good result.
When people ask me if I think my book will help to solve the crime, I say “no”, but I hope it will be the catalyst or the prompt that helps someone remember something so that it can be solved. Currently, the story of my friend’s murder remains “open and inactive”
Author bio: Connie Nelson called North Dakota home to for most of her career in marketing and communications. After retiring in 2018 and moving to Santa Fe, New Mexico, she became active in local writing and publishing circles, which led to writing her first book, Cavalier—The Story of an Unsolved Murder in a Small Town, a firsthand account of a traumatic 1986 incident.
Nearly 35 years later, the COVID pandemic provided the time to research and participate in online workshops to hone her writing and publishing skills, so as the world stood still for a couple of years, Connie utilized her downtime to write this story resulting in an intimate and oftentimes startling portrait of America's flawed justice system, and how it affects everyday people.
Instagram @connielnelson.author #Cavalierbook