Welcome to diary entry number two. It’s less than three months until Hollywood Homicide is released on August 8, and it’s starting to feel more and more real each day. I just turned in my line edits and this past month has seen a bunch of Debut Author firsts for me.
I had my first ever Goodreads giveaway!
My publisher, Midnight Ink, gave away 10 advance copies of my book earlier this month and 781 people entered. I know this because I checked the entry page every day, sometimes twice a day. For other debut authors panicking that no one wants even a free copy of your book, apparently you get a lot of entries in the wee hours of the last day.
On the surface, you’d think one shouldn’t be excited to give away copies of your book, but giveaways are a great way to get early reviews and support. Goodreads is especially cool because when someone enters the giveaway, they have the option of adding the book to their “to be read” list. The number of people who have Hollywood Homicide on their “to be read” shelf almost doubled post-Giveaway. And when the book is released, Goodreads will send them a reminder that it’s available for purchase.
I had my first book signing!
Last month at Malice Domestic, Midnight Ink hosted a signing for five of its authors. I didn’t realize I would be signing until the day before, which is probably a good thing because I would have obsessed over it endlessly (see above paragraph on my Goodreads giveaway). It was a lot of fun but definitely had its own unique challenges that I never thought of as a reader.
- What to use? Sharpies are the writing instrument of choice among the author set. As you see from the picture that Marla Cooper took above, I had not one but two! Instead of opting for plain old black, I chose colorful ones to match my cover.
- How to sign? I don’t use a pen name (yes, my parents actually put that E at the end of Kelly. It stands for my dad Ernie. He initially wanted to name me Ernesta, and if I was named Ernesta, I would definitely need a pen name). I’ve read that you shouldn’t use your real signature to sign books. The idea being you don’t want to encourage any potential identity thieves by giving them access to how you sign your checks and such. You’re supposed to have an “author signature.” I created one but, of course, I spent a lot of time afraid I was going to forget to use it. I didn’t!
- Where to sign? My book has an amazing cover page design that I absolutely love. There’s this thick black bar right above my name that highlights the name of my series. It looks great but it doesn’t give me a big area to write anything more than my signature. So I had to get creative since I wanted to write personal messages to people. Marla and Cynthia Kuhn—two of my fellow Chicks on the Case—even humored me by helping me figure out where to sign! This is what we came up with—and yes I did indeed do a practice run in my advance copy of my book.
My first major review!
Last Wednesday, my publicist sent me an email that just had “Kirkus Reviews” in the subject line. I immediately starting hyperventilating. It was my first time. I wanted them to be gentle. I didn’t realize that authors can get an early peek at their reviews. Of course, I couldn’t tell anyone about it until it was officially out. So I had to keep it quiet for five days when all I wanted to do was scream from the rooftops that Kirkus thought that “Veteran TV writer Garrett uses her Cold Case experience to inform her debut, which sets up more than one charming character and isn’t afraid to go cynical on all things LA.” Eek!
So, as I said, it’s definitely been an exciting month.
Before I go, I wanted to share a bit more about my cover experience. KJ did a brilliant job explaining the importance of covers in her second entry. Because covers are so important, your publisher will do everything to make sure it’s right and fits the tone of your work even if it means changing it late in the game. I actually know two people who had their covers finalized and out in the world, only to have it changed because of feedback from one of the major book retailers. Like I said, it’s that important.
All publishing companies have different processes when it comes to when they do things. For example, my friend with St. Martin’s Press got her line edits before she got her cover mockup. At Midnight Ink, it was the opposite. The cover was the first thing they focused on. As I mentioned last month, my final cover was actually idea number five.
It’s interesting how things come together. Amateur detective and cozy novels—mine included—tend to have illustrated covers, and for good reason. It conveys a sense of lightness that matches the lighter tone of these types of books. The initial ideas were more in line with what you see in a lot of cozies, where the covers focus more on the hook or location than the main character. It’s rare to see a main character and if you do, you might see some leg, maybe a side profile. But you hardly ever see the full face.
When we were discussing initial concept, I had suggested an illustrator on Instagram I love. This illustrator is amazing at drawing black women and especially adept at creating full faces that look directly at you. Because the illustrator is so good at it, my editor and the design team thought it would almost be a waste to have her just draw a leg coming out of limo (that’s also the roundabout reason why my title changed but that’s a story for another diary entry).
The irony is that it didn’t work out with that illustrator. They did keep the initial concept though. We ended up going with another amazing artist of color named Richard Meril, who is also amazing at capturing the nuances of a face. Midnight Ink’s concept was my main character, Dayna, out investigating at night. My editor even emailed me asking what Dayna would wear. Of course, I immediately sent her a Word document complete with pictures and a detailed description that included:
“If Day was sleuthing at night, I’d definitely see her rocking all-black—except for her hot pink leopard print stilettos, of course. She’d probably have on a super cute blazer, a simple black t-shirt or tank underneath, a simple thick choker style necklace and fitted/skinny black jeans.”
And I have to say, they nailed it. Hopefully, you agree!
Dayna is actually standing at a real-life LA location. Recognize it? Comment below! I’d also love to know what real life person you think she looks like. Otherwise, that’s it from me until next month. I plan to talk about writing processes and agents in future posts, but please let me know if there’s anything in particular you would like me to discuss in my next entry.
You can comment or hit me up on any of my social media:
Kellye Garrett spent 8 years working in Hollywood, including a stint writing for the CBS drama Cold Case. People were always surprised to learn what she did for a living—probably because she seemed way too happy to be brainstorming ways to murder people. A former magazine editor, Kellye holds a B.S. in magazine writing from Florida A&M and an MFA in screenwriting from USC’s famed film school. Having moved back to her native New Jersey, she spends her mornings commuting to Manhattan for her job at a leading media company—while still happily brainstorming ways to commit murder. Her first novel, Hollywood Homicide, will be released by Midnight Ink in August 2017. You can pre-order it by clicking here: (Link to: https://www.amazon.com/Hollywood-Homicide-Detective-Day-Mystery/dp/0738752614/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8)
About Hollywood Homicide:
ACTRESS DAYNA ANDERSON TAKES ON THE DEADLIEST ROLE OF HER LIFE: HOMICIDE DETECTIVE
Dayna Anderson doesn’t set out to solve a murder. All the semi-famous, mega-broke black actress wants is to help her parents keep their house. After witnessing a deadly hit-and-run, she figures pursuing the fifteen-grand reward isn’t the craziest thing a Hollywood actress has done for some cash.
But what starts as simply trying to remember a speeding car soon blossoms into a full-on investigation. As Dayna digs deeper into the victim’s life, she wants more than just reward money. She’s determined to find the poor woman’s killer too. When she connects the accident to a notorious Hollywood crime spree, Dayna chases down leads at paparazzi hot spots, celeb homes and movie premieres. She loves every second—until someone tries to kill her.
And there are no second takes in real life.