Choose your own adventure

By Bill Castanier

Local thriller author makes it big by e-publishing

More than half a million readers can’t be wrong. That’s the number of e-books sold by Holt thriller writer Rick Murcer.

Murcer said he doesn’t know what propelled his first book, “Caribbean Moon,” about a Lansing police officer and a cruise ship serial killer, to both The New York Times and USA Today combined print and e-book best sellers lists.

“At one point in July 2011, the book sold 9,700 (copies) in one day,” Murcer said. “It just exploded.”

Murcer, 58, held numerous customer service jobs in the mortgage service business and credit collection industry before he launched his career as a writer. He said after he received no good responses from traditional publishers, he decided to take the e-book path to publication.

In a time span of less than 20 months, he published five serial killer thrillers featuring fictional Lansing police officer Manny Williams. In the first book, Williams encounters a serial killer on a Caribbean cruise. He said the difference between his books and traditional thrillers is that his protagonist is a family man and has what Murcer describes as “a moral character and moral fiber.”

“He loves his wife and is spiritual, but not a Boy Scout,” Murcer said. He said that the advent of e-books and self publishing allowed him to circumvent the traditional publishing process, and he´s not alone — more than 400,000 books were self published last year, according to Publishers Weekly magazine. Murcer also knew that the traditional path didn’t fit his personality.

“I couldn’t wait 20 months to see a book published,” he said. “I wrote out of desperation. My goal was to make money.”

You do the math: 575,000 books ranging in price from 99 cents to $3.99; it looks as if Murcer has achieved his goal. He said that since his success, over 20 publishers have contacted him to sign a contract, which he hasn’t ruled out yet, but there´s a catch.

“Some of those contracts are close to servitude” he said. “All they all wanted were the rights.”

Jenny Milchman, 44, followed the more traditional process to publication, including 13 years of toil and finding an agent before getting a publishing contract with Ballentine Random House. She’s now on a seven-month, 45-state tour to promote her debut book, “Cover of Snow” thriller set in the Adirondacks. She will engage with Murcer in a friendly debate of the pros and cons of publishing Friday at Schuler Books & Music in Okemos.

The New Jersey author said in reality her debut book is her eighth novel in 11 years, but the first published. Milchman parlays her profession as a psychotherapist into a thriller which featuring what she calls “an ordinary family in extraordinary circumstances.”

Murcer and Milchman may have taken decidedly different paths to publication, but both are showing remarkable results for first-time authors.

Writing & Publishing a Book Today
A Conversation between a Self-Published and Traditionally Published Author, with Rick Murcer and Jenny Milchman
Schuler Books & Music
1982 Grand River Ave., Okemos
7 p.m. March 9