Want To Write a Novel? Talk to Eric James Miller
Sunday, August 11, 2013
After a journey of some six years and 117,000 words, Eric James Miller’s second novel, “For Rent: Dangerous Paradise” will be available “any day now” on Amazon.com.
The road to publication hasn’t been easy. Sitting with a writing pad or at a computer and creating the novel’s world, researching intricate details, adding and eliminating characters, rewriting, emailing, calling, negotiating….Miller knows the joys and frustrations of fiction writing…and publishing. Earlier this month, the final draft of his book was approved and forwarded to the publisher. Miller now enters the third phase of the modern creative process: marketing.
On Thursday of this week, Miller will present his own case study about the birth of a new novel at the Las Vegas Writers Group. In October, at a Las Vegas writing conference, “Fiction Writing in the Digital Age”, Miller has been asked to talk about how a male writer develops a major female character. A female journalism student is at the center of his story.
Miller is a native of the Washington, D.C. area. He graduated from Macalester College in St. Paul, MN with a degree in English and Business. He’s lived in Germany, France, the East Coast, the Midwest and the Western U.S. While pursuing his love of writing, he’s held jobs in finance, IT and software development. He’s had writing jobs, too, most notably as a grant writer, newsletter editor, ghost writer and journalist. He and his wife, Laura, live in the Green Valley Ranch section of Henderson, NV. Miller lists his hobbies as Pennsylvania Dutch baker, Tuscan cook and Chilean wine maker.
With a business and personal life that had him criss-crossing the U.S. multiple times, Miller’s first novel was a comic road story, “The Metaphysics of Nudity”. The book was published in 1996 by a small publishing house and optioned for a film, but the film never got made.
For 15 years while working in California, Miller lived in an apartment complex in Venice Beach. He was always curious about the people and the stories behind each apartment door. That curiosity gave him an idea for a second novel, a murder mystery. The Millers moved to Nevada in 2006. Two years later, using the apartment idea, Miller started writing “For Rent: Dangerous Paradise” while opting for part-time rather than full-time work.
Knowing no one in the Las Vegas valley, Miller attended meetings of a number of local writers groups. He also joined a critique group with three other local writers who met weekly to offer each other critiques of their work. Miller’s approach was to develop an outline first and then write the narrative in a three-act structure. “The first draft of this story was great fun to write, but was way too long,” he said. “The process of rewriting to eliminate characters while keeping the thread of the story in tact was grueling,” he conceded.
In the end, Miller’s finished novel was submitted to an international publisher of electronic books. Writers Exchange E-Publishing accepted his book, agreeing to format the book for electronic distribution in exchange for sharing royalties. “Such deals are becoming increasingly common in the brave new world of publishing,” Miller explains, “and many agents and publishing houses are adapting their business models to prosper in the e-reader marketplace.” Miller says his contract with the e publisher allows him to make separate arrangements for hard cover publishing which he chose to do through Amazon’s author-friendly “Create Space”. The soft cover version is available from the Create Space website and will be available on order in bookstores by the end of September. Electronic versions for the Kindle, Nook and other e-readers are available at Writers Exchange. Print and Kindle versions are also available on Amazon.com.
How is the publishing world different today than it was in 1996 when Miller’s first book was published?
“Guy Kawasaki wrote a great book last year called, ‘APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur’,” says Miller. “Gone are the days when Edgar Allan Poe can sit in a dark, isolated room for years, hand over a manuscript to an agent or publisher and let them do the rest. Authors today have to take responsibility for their own success and can’t rely on anyone to care about their book more than they do. Today’s authors have to write, find a publisher or publishing option that fits them and play a key role in the marketing.”
Miller’s own journey included not liking the publisher’s proposed cover design and hiring his own graphic artist to design a cover. Miller found the graphic design firm online, and says that online writing communities such as Delvewriting.com, GoodReads.com and PublishersWeekly.com, among others, help authors find editors, cover designers, critique groups, marketing tips and valuable career advice.
Networking with other writers and publishers is particularly important when it comes to promoting books, says Miller. “You need to learn the ropes. The Las Vegas conference in October is an excellent opportunity over two days to meet with agents, industry experts and editors. I’ll be one of the presenters in October, but I’ll personally also be paying close attention to everyone else speaking at the conference.”
Miller has plans for a second and third novel in his For Rent Mystery series. The second mystery will be set in Las Vegas; the third one in New York City.