Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Guest Post by Tom Schreck

Tom and I collaborated on a short story featuring my Chicago cop Jack Daniels and his boxer-slash-social worker Duffy Dombrowski. His latest Duffy novel, The Vegas Knock-Out, is being released today by Thomas & Mercer.

Risk and the Mystery Writer by Tom Schreck

I started following this blog seven years ago while working on my first manuscript. When Joe did his cross-country tour visiting over 500 bookstores to promote his third Jack Daniels book he posted that if anyone wanted to take him to dinner on his way through to let him know.

I did and we hit it off. He asked me to send him my manuscript because he wanted to read it, and he did and got right back to me and wrote my very first blurb.

Right there, I knew Joe was not a bullshitter.

I like, thousands of others, have followed this blog for years to stay on the cutting edge of marketing, publishing, and other career stuff. Along the way Joe and I even teamed up and wrote Planter's Punch, where Jack and Duffy meet up to solve a crime. It was a ton of fun.

Since then Joe has, of course, gone on to huge success in many ways.

I just signed with Thomas & Mercer, (Joe was nice enough to write an introductory email for me) and The Vegas Knockout gets released today while Getting Dunn gets released July 31. Before that my series was with Midnight Ink for two books, Echelon for one book, and I self published a collection of short stories.

I’ve tried to do the things that Joe does with one exception—and it’s a big exception. I don’t take the level of risk Joe does. I could say we have different temperaments, are in different places in life or, more simply put, that Joe is nuts. I could also add Joe is lucky or Joe came along at the right time. The last two never feel right because I have an idea about how hard he works.

Joe worked as a waiter and wrote all day long when he wasn’t working. He had nine unpublished manuscripts. I work a full time job, teach at night, judge professional boxing a dozen times a year and do freelance magazine stuff pretty consistently.

My “regular jobs” limit my writing time. I admit I like the consistent safety of regular paychecks. There’s something else that comes with this, though. My “regular jobs” give me the convenient excuse of never totally going for it. I can set mystery writing to the side and say “Well, of course I don’t have Konrath’s success, he has all day to do this shit!” My other jobs are safe and I don’t worry about my mortgage but I don’t have Joe’s glory…or, now, his checking account.

Joe suggested I self publish my latest two but also said if I wasn’t going to do that that the folks at T&M were wonderful and he’d give me a referral. The T&M people ARE wonderful. Self-publishing has risk to it and it was a risk I chose not to take. To do it right with covers, editing etc I figured I would’ve laid out a few grand and I didn’t want to do that. I have the money mind you (after all I work a bunch of jobs, remember) I didn’t want to risk it.

So, I’m kind of Joe Konrath lite.

I don’t roll the dice too much and so my novel career doesn’t keep me up too much at night. Sometimes I wonder what life could be like if I put aside the 9-5 office grind and the 6-9 twice a week teaching gig, skipped magazine writing, and just wrote what I liked.

I’m good for a little more than a book a year, writing in between other things, which is actually a pretty fair pace. I think Joe does a book in a month.

I’m more polite than Joe. I speak my mind less than him and I’m less likely to enter a hotel bar in a bathrobe at a Bouchercon. Probably all has something to do with risk.

There’s also another intangible and again, it’s an important one—talent. Even if I took the chances Joe did there’s far from any guarantee I would have the same success.

Finding that out would involve taking some risks.

And that’s something I have to take a closer look at it.


Real soon.

Tom Schreck writes the Duffy Dombrowski Mysteries and his newest release THE VEGAS KNOCKOUT, is now available. Visit  www.tomschreck.com and “like” his fan page on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/DuffyDombrowski for a chance to win a Kindle Fire.

Joe sez: First of all, go and buy The Vegas Knockout. Shreck writes with the kind of easy-going style as Robert B Parker or early Robert Crais (more contemporary comparisons would be Jeff Shelby, Jude Hardin, Harry Hunsicker.) Tight and fun, with some action and some laughs at the heart of the mystery.

 I think Tom brings up an interesting point about risk-taking that's worth exploring. I tend to seek out creative people, and my close circle of friends all tend to be artists of some sort. But my writing peers, the ones I seem to talk with most often, have another commonality.


Both Ann Voss Peterson and Blake Crouch began to self-publish full time with no guarantee they'd make it. Barry Eisler turned down a half a million dollar deal to go it alone. These are gutsy people who took big chances. With Blake and Barry, it paid of big time. With Ann, it's paying off at a steadier pace.   

They all should be commended for taking a shot. It ain't easy. They fought self-doubt, worry, and fear, and they went for it anyway.

I started this blog seven years ago, and I've long preached that is important to take chances, to experiment, to try new things. I'm also a believer in going all-in. This isn't a Newbie's Guide to Leading a Balanced and Happy Life. It's A Newbie's Guide to Publishing. If you want to get lucky, you have to gamble first.

Gambling in this case means devoting time and effort to something that may never pay off. It means devoting your energy to something beyond what the world says you should be doing. 

This isn't simply following your dream. It's chasing after it, full speed, until you catch it.

We're all, to a certain degree, risk-averse. It's scary to fail. Failure can mean a loss of time and money. It can mean bad feelings and disappointing others. 

But if you aren't failing, you aren't trying hard enough. You aren't taking enough chances.

A lot of people dislike me. They dislike my tone and attitude. They dislike my opinions. They dislike my writing.  They dislike my blog.

I. Don't. Care.

We could all benefit from caring less about the opinions of strangers. Especially since, let's face it, there are so many pinheads in the world.

That's a learned behavior, as we all grow up seeking approval. 

Taking risks can also be learned.

It'll be difficult, because it is unnatural and uncomfortable. It requires unlearning many of the coping mechanisms you've learned. It requires failure, and in many cases ridicule, monetary loss, and depression.

But no one ever became successful without taking chances. If you think about it, many of the important things in your life--the things that you're proudest of and that define you--are all about taking risks. Things as ordinary as asking or agreeing to a date that ends up in a long term relationship. Going to that job interview. Making an offer on that house. 

Self-publishing that novel.

Risks are risky. True. But they can also be rewarding.

So what chances have you taken today?