First Book Friday: Mark Terry

Mark Terry is a little different from the other authors I’ve featured here on First Book Friday.  For one thing, he writes thrillers, not SF/F.  But I like him anyway.  For another, Mark is the only one who’s tossed me around like a rag doll — he’s a black belt in Sanchin-Ryu, and we’ve worked out together a time or two.  (He’s not in my local class, but we see each other at regional events.)

Mark has been blogging about writing and publishing, and recently did a four-part blog series about book contracts.  Check out his blog here.  But first, read on for Mark’s bumpy publishing journey.


I wonder if anyone has a “typical” first-book experience. Mine is, to say the least, weird. So much so I’m not even sure what to call my first book.

After a lot of effort and rejection, I finally sent a manuscript out back around 2000 or so, maybe a couple years earlier, to an up-and-coming independent publisher called Write Way Publishing. Write Way focused on mysteries, published in hardcover as well as trade paperback, and had several authors who had been nominated for major mystery awards like the Edgar and the Anthony. The manuscript was called BLOOD SECRETS and featured a forensic toxicologist. The publisher offered a ridiculous no-advance, 4-year publication window contract and was pretty much a total bitch during the so-called “negotiations.” I signed. Then she moved the pub date up, then did it again. I was now about 18 months or so out from publication.

Websites were just starting to be big, so I came up with the marketing idea to write a novella, a prequel to BLOOD SECRETS, called NAME YOUR POISON. It would have 12 chapters and I would serialize it a chapter per month leading up to the publication of BLOOD SECRETS. I wrote it. A friend of mine was teaching website design at the high school level, the kids designed some sites, I chose one, and off we went, one chapter at a time. This happily coincided with Stephen King’s serialized web-based publication of THE PLANT (which has a rather strange publication history itself), so I was getting some traffic and media attention and even the occasional review, thanks to riding on Mr. King’s coattails.

And then Write Way Publishing, right around month six, declared bankruptcy, released the rights to me (thankfully) and I was no longer going to be a published novelist. I was not happy, although to be fair, WWP released the rights to me. Other authors were not so lucky and found the rights to their novels tied up in bankruptcy court for a couple years.

Right around that same time, POD publisher company iUniverse came onto the scene and offered a deal to active members (of which I was one) that was hard to pass up. For a six-month period iUniverse would publish any members’ book for free! I quickly wrote another prequel called CATFISH GURU, also featuring forensic toxicologist Dr. Theo MacGreggor. They came up with excellent artwork, which is not always the case with iUniverse, and a collection of mystery novellas titled CATFISH GURU was published.

So I suppose that is my first published book. I don’t always view it that way, although I find that the writing and the stories hold up reasonably well. The next book, DIRTY DEEDS, had a far more traditional publishing history. It sold to the first independent publisher it was shown to, High Country Publishers, and was published about a year later. I since then became a full-time freelance writer, acquired an agent (several over the years, actually), have published nine books both traditionally and self-published, (and collaborated on a nonfiction book) and from time to time the whole publishing process proceeds smoothly and as expected…

No, wait. I’m lying. It never proceeds smoothly. But that’s what I’ve come to expect, so… There’s the story about being dropped mid-contract along with a whole bushel-full of authors. There’s the story about the small press that offered a contract, then disappeared off the face of the earth, their website replaced by one advertising a pet crematorium… At the moment anyway, I’m quite pleased with Oceanview Publishing, which published THE FALLEN  [Amazon | B&N | Mysterious Galaxy] and has THE VALLEY OF SHADOWS scheduled for June 2011. Let’s hope it continues smoothly.