Bits 'n' Pieces: Substitute teacher's e-book success is no mystery

By Susan Parrish, Columbian education reporter

Published:

 
photo“No Substitute for Murder” sold more than 8,000 downloads in one month.

A Vancouver author’s mystery about a high school substitute teacher who solves murder investigations while dealing with hormonal students — and the antics of her 10-pound dog named Cheese Puff — has become an electronic book best-seller.

Carolyn J. Rose, 64, has a dozen published books to her credit, but it’s her recent foray in e-publishing that has seen “No Substitute for Murder” sell more than 8,000 downloads in one month. It has risen to No. 10 on the Nook mysteries best-sellers list and to No. 49 among all Nook books sold.

Rose, a former television news writer, producer and assignment editor, is a part-time substitute teacher at Hudson’s Bay High School.

Her current book is her fourth available in electronic format.

Last spring when the manuscript for “An Uncertain Refuge” was rejected by her publisher, she decided to publish it herself as an e-book. That proved to be a brilliant business decision.

She paid a specialist to digitally package and format her book. Then she set the price at 99 cents.

“I’m an unknown writer and I wanted to attract impulse buyers and new readers,” Rose said.

A year later, she has sold more than 12,000 downloads of that title on Kindle and Nook combined.

Encouraged by sales, last fall Rose offered “A Place of Forgetting” and “No Substitute for Murder” as e-books priced at 99 cents each. Sales for those two titles have surpassed 12,000 downloads each.

With e-books priced at 99 cents, Rose makes about 34 cents per book. That’s not much for the hours of research, writing and revising she puts into each book. But she is selling many more copies than she has sold as traditional bound books. Her books also are available as traditional printed books.

Rose says she is more interested in introducing her books to a new audience than making money.

“If I’m chasing the money, I’m chasing the wrong thing,” she said.

Team approach

Rose has written five of her dozen books with her husband, Mike Nettleton. The husband-wife team taught a novel-writing boot camp class at Clark College for 10 years. They have passed that baton to another local writer in order to spend more time writing.

What’s next for Rose? She’s the founder of the monthly Vancouver Writers’ Mixer at Cover to Cover Books and continues to be involved in mentoring writers. She also accepts opportunities to guest blog for various mystery writers. And there’s the substitute teaching gig at Hudson’s Bay, too.

Late this spring, “Through a Yellow Wood” — the sequel to “Hemlock Lake” — will be released in both e-book and paperback. In the fall, “Uncertain Refuge,” another sequel, will be released in both formats as well. And she and Nettleton are releasing an updated title, “Drum Warrior.” Next winter she plans to write another mystery featuring the crime-solving substitute teacher.

“Readers have been asking for that sequel,” Rose said. “Some also have requested that I include a storyline with a romance — not for the substitute teacher, but for Cheese Puff, the dog.”

For more information about books by Rose and Nettleton, visit http://deadlyduomysteries.com.

Bits ’n’ Pieces appears Fridays and Saturdays. If you have a story you’d like to share, email bits@columbian.com.