Bits 'n' Pieces: Author, teacher achieves e-success

By Stover E. Harger III, Columbian neighborhood news coordinator

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Mystery author Carolyn J. Rose's writing career didn't take off until she started to do it her way.

Rose, who spent 27 years in the TV news industry and substitute teaches at Hudson's Bay High School, made the jump away from traditional print publishing with her 2010 mystery "Hemlock Lake." That novel didn't get much attention in hardcover when released through Five Star Publishing, but the opposite occurred when she started selling it online as an e-book. The company hadn't secured electronic rights in a time when the digital format was just taking off, so she was able to release it online herself, though she did have to give Five Star a cut.

"The hardcover sold for about $26, and hardly any sold," she said. "But the e-books started to make money."

When it came time to pitch her publisher for another book, she said she was turned down due to a lack of print sales.

"They said they weren't interested. I was like, 'Oh, OK, I'll put it up myself,'" she said.

Her next book ended up selling thousands. And she did it on her own.

Now four years later, Rose estimates she has sold as many as 80,000 copies of her e-books, some on Amazon for 99 cents, an extremely low price point she uses to encourage sales and build her audience. Amazon takes a cut of about two-thirds from sales of the 99-cent novels. She makes 70 cents each on the books she sells for $2.99.

Her latest novel, "No Substitute for Maturity," the third in her "Subbing isn't for Sissies" mystery series following the often-dangerous adventures of substitute teacher Barbara Reed, was released in January. The first in the trilogy, 2012's "No Substitute for Murder," sold so well — accounting for about half of the sales for all her books combined — that for a few weeks, it even rose near the top of the Barnes & Noble digital sales chart for mysteries.

The murder mystery didn't make her rich, but did pay for a tremendous vacation for her and husband, Mike Nettleton.

"I made enough money to take a trip to England for two weeks," she said.

Though, for her, it's not about money, it's about being an engaged member of the local writing community and entertaining readers. The income is just a nice bonus.

When she started self-publishing e-books a few years ago, she said the market wasn't nearly as crowded as it is now, which makes it more difficult these days to be noticed in a sea of words.

"It's so simple now, which is probably why there are bazillions of books," she said. "Now there are 3 million titles on Kindle and 3 million titles on Nook. The competition is fierce."Learn more about her work at www.deadlyduomysteries.com


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