My longest-running series is the Presley Thurman mystery series with 16 books over 12 years. It’s the one nearest and dearest to my heart and the biggest one I have. It’s also it the worst-performing sales wise which, as a professional author, is kind of important.
I published my first book, Stilettos & Scoundrels, a Presley Thurman Mystery, back in 2009 after years of dreaming of being a published writer. It was the beginning of the self-publishing movement due to Amazon. This platform gave me the confidence to pursue my dreams. It also allowed me to publish despite my complete lack of knowledge of all things writing and self-publishing.
When I wrote my first Presley book, it was meant to be a romance or maybe a romantic comedy. I wasn’t entirely sure, but I never intended it to be a mystery. Since I’m not much of an outliner, although I try to complete at least a rough outline these days as I have genuinely learned my lessons being a pantser, I had an idea of how the story was going to progress, I didn’t have a solid plan. And we’ve all heard that quote:
“Failing to plan is planning to fail,” – Benjamin Franklin.
While I didn’t fail at writing my book, I finished it, and that was a massive success in my eyes (still is); I failed at writing what I thought I was going to write. I’m not saying that failing to write what I intended was bad; it’s taking me on many great journeys; it just wasn’t what I expected.
Believe it or not, it took a while after the first dead body to pop up for me to realize that what I was writing wasn’t a romance at all; it was a mystery.
And now I know you’re probably thinking I am nuts. How could I not know this? After all, I was the one killing people. But I’ll tell you a secret. Heck, maybe you already know, but most of us authors are a little crazy.
After I published Stilettos & Scoundrels and realized that marketing my book was actually the more challenging aspect of being an author, I had to find the right genre fit for my book. The cozy mystery seemed to be the closest. I knew I would never write anything too graphic in terms of killing and crimes, or sex for that matter, and it wasn’t a traditional police procedural book, so cozy mystery was where I stuck it. It seemed to fit. Sort of.
Being so inexperienced, I didn’t realize that just sticking your book somewhere it might fit wasn’t really the best way to position a book to sell. The truly interesting thing is, is that it sold at first. Because back in 2009-2013, there wasn’t a ton of competition, and even though my books weren’t written to market, the covers weren’t good, and the editing wasn’t great either. They still sold. Ebooks were a newer thing, and until the end of 2014, selling books wasn’t all that hard.
Then once it stopped being easy, it became really hard. That’s when I realized my books had major issues, and if I wanted to keep making a living, I needed to do something.
I finally realized that readers have a certain expectation when they read genre fiction, and when they don’t get what they expect, it’s not always a good thing. As an avid reader myself, you would think I would have known that, but it didn’t occur to me for a long time.
Since I didn’t intend to write a cozy mystery when I started writing, I made a lot of mistakes in that book that didn’t conform to the cozy genre. I had some cursing (I admit I cuss like a sailor), maybe too much wine (what can I say I like wine), and too much romance (after all, it was SUPPOSED to be a romance).
I made the same mistakes with the books that followed that first book too. Even AFTER I realize I was making mistakes, which was around book 9, yet I still wrote 6 more. I didn’t want to stop writing Presley Thurman books, even though they never lived up to their potential (in my opinion), and I received negative reviews.
I then started a couple more series that were much more aligned to the cozy expectation, and they sold very well, which frankly made me mad. I didn’t like either of the series, yet I loved the Presley series, and yes, Presley wasn’t selling squat.
In 2020 I took a hard look at what books were making me money and which weren’t. While I love writing and creating stories that entertain people, I still have to pay my mortgage, and I can’t just write for fun. The solution I came to is that I needed to retire Presley. She was taking a lot of effort without the return.
But I didn’t want to give up on Presley. After this many years, I’m kind of attached to her. So, contrary to what most experts would say to do, and that is just move forward with new series, I decided I would redo the entire series with massive rewrites to make it more aligned to the cozy mystery expectations and more how I would write it now if it were a brand new series with everything I have learned in the last 10 years.
For those of you who have read the old Presley Thurman mystery series, you will see a lot of remaining elements, and the basic storylines remain. However, I have tweaked, added, and eliminated certain aspects to make it more of a traditional cozy but with the Presley Thurman character that I love so much.
I hope you will take the chance on me and check them out. You can sign up for my newsletter and get a free copy of Promotions & Poisons, a Presley Thurman mystery prequel short story below!