Tuesday, January 22, 2008

I'm Bursting With the News

When I was a child, my mother belonged to the "Book of the Month Club," and we had a library in our own home. The first "big" book I read was "Jonathon Livingston Seagull," but it wasn't long before I developed my mother's passion for horror and true crime.
We came from the state that produced the setting for "In Cold Blood," but the first true crime novel I remember reading was "Helter Skelter." I followed that up with Capote's book that started the genre.
When I began my freelance career, the only thing that would draw me to a full time newspaper staff position was covering cops and courts.
It's always been my dream to write a true crime novel.
This year, I will get that chance. I've been in negotiation for over a month with Trails Books to write a true crime anthology of murders in Kansas.
This week, the deal was accepted by both parties and was signed and sealed. Hopefully, the final signed contract, along with my advance, will be delivered soon as well.
The book, "Blood on the Prairie: Shocking Kansas Murders," (due September '09), will include the BTK case and while I have to have the final outline approved by the editor, most likely the Richard Grissom, John Robinson and Lizabeth Wilson - a case that made me so incredibly sad as a child because I empathized with this little girl walking home from the neighborhood pool and suddenly vanishing. I even wrote about it in my diary and kept newspaper clippings on the case.
Of course, the book wouldn't be complete without the Clutter family murders, the case that inspired Capote to write "In Cold Blood," but I've already confirmed with my publisher they don't expect a Pulitzer. :)
How did I find the publisher?
Well, although I had written a book proposal several suggesting a round up of notorious cases on both sides of the state line in Kansas City, I was no longer shopping that proposal, after several agents and small regional publishers told me they didn't think such a book would sell.
Trails Books, however, published a book called "Got Murder?" a book on killings in Wisconsin - which includes the stories of Ed Gein, Jeffrey Dahmer and the hatchet murders of Frank Lloyd Wright's lover. The book is considered successful for the small, Madison based publisher and is currently enjoying a second printing.
With BTK in the news and the Clutter murders still one of the most infamous cases in history, the Trails decided that Kansas would be a good place to look at next.
They posted for a writer on the jobs board of ASJA, an organization of which I'm a member and a collegue who knows my interest and experience in investigative crime reporting contacted me.
Unfortunately, my book proposal from years ago is still in a file cabinet at the back of a storage locker 300 miles away in KC, but I drew from my memory and an evening of Internet research and put another, shorter proposal together. The editor contacted me that very evening and the publisher and I began negotiations within a week. The holidays slowed the process down, but we finally reached an agreement and I signed the contract last week.
The one tip I can give to people is that if you don't have an agent and are negotiating a book contract on your own, make sure you either know what you're doing, or enlist help. I asked another colleague with contract experience to help me and he found several points I wouldn't have caught in the contract that could have left me either legally vulnerable or with less than I ended up with (you can only get what you want if you ask).
Also, conduct a lot of research on your prospective publisher.
The other lesson is to use networking to your full advantage. My business background taught me to do this early on in my freelance career and it has helped me time and time again.
Now, wish me luck. I have a lot of research and work to do - my writer's studio will be a welcome work place to get it accomplished.


Blogger Life's Beautiful Path said...

Congratulations Kerri. Remember Ann Rule's true crime books made her famous, so upward you go. Mary

7:38 AM CST  
Blogger Suzanne Lieurance said...

How exciting. Congratulations, Kerri!

Have fun with it!

Suzanne Lieurance
The Working Writer's Coach

9:13 AM CST  
Blogger Ronda said...

I'm so happy and proud for you! Ask me about a recent Kansas murder. The murderer has a close connection with one of my oldest friends....Do you know?

9:23 AM CST  
Blogger Babette said...

What fantastic news. Congratulations and good luck as you move forward on your book...I am very impressed.

5:32 AM CST  
Blogger Lori said...

Fantastic news, Kerri! You must be bursting with excitement! I'm living vicariously through you. :))

8:03 AM CST  
Blogger Peggy Treiber & Jeremy Hess said...

Kerri, this is super news. You go, girl!

6:52 AM CST  
Blogger Peggy Treiber & Jeremy Hess said...

Kerri, this is super news. You go, girl!

6:54 AM CST  
Blogger Peggy Treiber & Jeremy Hess said...

Kerry, this is super news. You go, girl.

6:55 AM CST  
Blogger Peggy Treiber & Jeremy Hess said...

Kerri, this is super news. You go, girl!

6:56 AM CST  
Blogger Peggy Treiber & Jeremy Hess said...

ok, ok ... it kept giving me a blank space so i kept repeating what i wrote, sure i'd done something wrong. that will teach me to try to post stuff. guess i'm learning. slowly. :-)

6:57 AM CST  

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