Sunday, October 19, 2014

Mystery Author of the Month: Marja McGraw


Sometimes we take a leap of faith and hope for the best. That’s what I did.

I write two series: The Sandi Webster Mysteries and The Bogey Man Mysteries. At one time I had two publishers, one for each series, and it was a frustrating time for me. Not that either publisher did anything wrong, but I felt so limited.

I’ve been through self-publishing with a company who charged a fee, switched to two traditional publishers, and now I’m self-publishing my books myself. I’m my own boss. Don’t get me wrong, it’s been a difficult path to follow.

I’ve spent copious amounts of time trying to put my name “out there” – to make it recognizable. People remember the surname Evanovich, so maybe if I played my cards right they’d remember the first name of Marja (with a hard “j”) and the surname McGraw (no relation to Tim). I have a weekly blog, a website that I’ve tried to make fun, and I join in on conversations on a number of groups on the Internet. I do guest blogs such as this one on the sites of others. I’ve done many library presentations, book signings at bookstores, and any event I could sink my teeth into from Arts & Crafts shows to Christmas festivals. I’m always surprised when I realize that people remember me. You mean to tell me I’ve done something right? Sometimes I have to laugh at myself.

In the end I realized that the publishers weren’t doing as much as I’d like. Of course, they can’t. They’ve got other authors who need their attention as much as me. After long and arduous thought, I realized I needed to try things my way.

And I did. My name has become recognizable to an extent I hadn’t expected.

I cancelled all of the contracts for all of my books and re-released them myself. Of course, this limited the number of places where my books are available – at least the ebook version of the books.

Was I really limiting myself? In some ways, yes. However, book sales are up quite a bit from what they were with a traditional publisher. One of the reasons is very important to me. I can price the books the way I want to, and in this economy that’s important. I wanted my books to be affordable. They are.

I promote the books at every possible moment. I have some promotional items I can hand out no matter where I am like pens with Marja McGraw Mysteries and my website address on them. I have letter openers with the same message. I created Thank You business cards which have proved invaluable.

I’ve had a number of people email to ask me for advice about self-publishing. I can’t offer advice. I can only pass on how it’s worked out for me.

My first book in the Sandi Webster series has recently been released in Audio Book format. I did that myself, too. Narrators auditioned and I was able to choose one who did a terrific job of being Sandi.

My best advice? Get your name “out there” before you try self-publishing. After that put out the best possible book you can. It should be as error-free as possible and entertaining. It should be what you look for in the books of others.

Am I glad I self-published? Yes! I’ve had to learn a lot about formatting, book covers and promotion, but yes, yes, yes. I’m glad I took that leap of faith. I’d do it again in a heartbeat.

Would I recommend it to everyone else? No. What’s right for me might not be the “E” ticket for others. You have to go with your gut feeling and put in a lot of hard work.

Whichever course you take, I wish you the best.

Please leave a comment and I’ll randomly choose two people to whom I’ll “gift” a copy of the audio book. A Well-Kept Family Secret involves Old Los Angeles and murder. Surprised? I doubt it. There’s even a little humor in the story.


Pat, thank you so much for inviting me to post today. I hope this gives others some food for thought.


Marja McGraw worked in both civil and criminal law for fifteen years, state transportation for another seventeen years, and most recently for a city building department.  She has lived and worked in California, Nevada, Oregon, Alaska and Arizona.
Marja wrote a weekly column for a small town newspaper in Northern Nevada, and conducted a Writers’ Support Group in Northern Arizona. A past member of Sisters in Crime (SinC), she was also the Editor for the SinC-Internet Newsletter for a year and a half.

She has appeared on KOLO-TV in Reno, Nevada, and KLBC in Laughlin, Nevada, and various radio talk shows.

Marja says that each of her mysteries contains a little humor, a little romance and A Little Murder! Books include both the Sandi Webster Mysteries and The Bogey Man Mysteries.

She and her husband now live in Arizona, where life is good.

You can read more about Marja's books here:

Link to Amazon: http://tinyurl.com/m8s6uux

Link to website:  http://www.marjamcgraw.com/

22 comments:

  1. I want to welcome my good friend and fellow author, Marja McGraw!

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    1. Thank you for inviting me, Pat. I love your blog site!

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  2. I think your sagest piece of advice was to get your name out there before you self-publish. I do some self-publishing and also work with several small publishers. In September I made more money for a self-pubbed work than I made the rest of the year from my other sources. There's a lesson there. Hooray for your courage, a fine example for the rest of us.

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    1. Thank you, Lesley. I try. : ) Who knew our names could be so important? It's surprising how much of a difference there is between self-pubbing and using a traditional publisher. A few years ago we wouldn't have seen these kinds of results.

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  3. Marja,
    I've just put up my mystery, Murder the Tey Way, myself for many of the reasons you state. I've had to publicize the books out with small presses, anyway. May as well have full control and make more money via self-pubbing.

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    1. It's actually fun to be our own bosses, Marilyn. If we make a mistake, there's no one to blame except ourselves. If we do well, then we know hard work has paid off.

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  4. If you three authors are getting good results with self-pubbing, then maybe I should give it a try. I might do it with a stand-alone novel, just to test the waters.

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    1. Evelyn, That might be a good way to try it. Be prepared for some major promoting though. : )

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  5. Continued success, Marja! You're doing great.

    Madeline

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    1. Thank you, Madeline! I'm trying. : )

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  6. Thank you, Madeline! And success to you, too. Can't wait for your next book.

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  7. Loved getting your insights on this important topic! A friend just downloaded the audio version of A Well-Kept Family Secret for me. Can't wait to start listening.

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    1. Uh oh. You just won the audio version on another blog. Guess I'll have to find a runner up. Thank you so much, and I hope you enjoy it.

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    1. I think there are several of us, Helen. Thank you for checking it out!

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  9. Hi Marja,
    Yes, I was doubtful at first about self-publishing, but it really does have it's advantages. I make my own deadlines and I like it that way!

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    1. Hmm. I put up a reply and it didn't show up. Anyway, it's great being our own boss, isn't it? I won't work for everyone, but I'm glad I tried it.

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  10. I couldn't agree more, Marja. After ten publishers and a lot of frustration, I decided to self publish as well, starting with reprints of my previously published books. I'd love to win an audio copy of your latest book, primarily because I'm a fan of your work, and I was born and reared in Los Angeles.

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    1. You're in the contest, Jean. I've enjoyed your books and it looks like maybe we both did the right thing for our careers. Keep up the good work.

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  11. Super article. You are well known among discerning readers. Glad you are self publishing makes a lot easier to encourage folks to get on your reading path.

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    1. Thank you, Jake. You've encouraged me and sometimes that's what we need.

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