How It Happened by S.W. Lauden

Everything I know about publishing, I learned from rock and roll.

Well, maybe not everything—I don’t lug as much gear around these days, and bookstores smell a lot better than clubs, but still—rock and roll!

I actually met my current publisher through another publisher I was interested in, Colleen Dunn Bates of Prospect Park Books. Talented LA author Naomi Hirahara connected Bates and me at the 2014 Bouchercon conference in Long Beach. Crime and mystery authors really are some of the kindest and most supportive people out there.

Bates agreed to read an early version of my first novel after a few follow up emails and a face-to-face meeting over coffee. She liked my writing but, alas, the book wasn’t right for Prospect Park. At the end of her thoughtful rejection she suggested I submit it to Tyson Cornell at Rare Bird Books, which I immediately did upon her introduction.

Bates couldn’t have been more right.

Although we’d never met, Cornell and I had both been part of the Hollywood music scene. So we hit it off pretty fast — trading tour stories, discussing our favorite bands and comparing the music industry with the publishing industry. I knew I’d found the right home for my novel about a disgraced cop who was also an aging punk musician.

Since then, Rare Bird has published all three books in my Greg Salem trilogy—Bad Citizen Corporation (2015), Grizzly Season (2016) and Hang Time on Jan. 16 of this year. It’s been amazing to watch this series come to life with the support of Rare Bird.

Lucky? Serendipitous? Maybe. What I didn’t mention before were the many rejections I’d gotten from publishers and agents the previous year . Every single one felt like a kick in the teeth, but when I looked in the bathroom mirror the next morning my teeth were still there. More yellow than white, but there nonetheless.

If my time trolling the Hollywood clubs for a record deal taught me anything, it’s that you have to put yourself out there — and stand up when you inevitably get knocked down. Back then my band mates and I hit the clubs several nights a week to support fellow musicians, promote upcoming shows, and network with record label reps (Pro tip: The one’s with an expense account and an open tab at the bar were always the best).

When I turned my attention from rocking to writing a decade later — after starting a family, getting a steady job and going to bed at a more sensible hour — I fell back into familiar patterns. This time around I joined author organizations like International Thriller Writers, Sisters in Crime and Mystery Writers of America, attended the conferences I could afford, supported authors at local bookstore and library events, and most importantly, kept writing. 

Might be my dark musical roots showing again, but experience has taught me that this kind of hustle is necessary for almost any artistic pursuit. It’s necessary when you’re trying to find an agent or publisher, and crucial when you’re out promoting a book. Doesn’t mean that you have to be obnoxious about it, but you do have to get out there.

Keep in mind that everybody’s hustle is different, and that’s okay. Figure out what you’re good at, aside from writing awesome books, and put your skills and experience to work. The next rejection you get might just turn into an introduction to the exact right publisher for you and your books.

S.W. Lauden is the Anthony Award-nominated author of the Tommy & Shayna novella, CROSSWISE, and the sequel, CROSSED BONES. His Greg Salem punk rock P.I. series includes BAD CITIZEN CORPORATION, GRIZZLY SEASON and HANG TIME. He is also the co-host of the Writer Types crime and mystery podcast. Steve lives in Los Angeles. For more information, click

To learn more about HANG TIME, click on the cover below:



  1. Jenny Milchman

    This is one fantastic quote: “Keep in mind that everybody’s hustle is different, and that’s okay. Figure out what you’re good at”

    Congrats on the twisted road leading to just the right place.

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