IndieView: L.J. Sellers, author of, The Sex Club

Cover for The Sex Club, by author L.J. Sellers

One of the things I notice as I trawl the web seeking to expand my knowledge of this business, and make no mistake you have to treat indie publishing like a business if you want to succeed, is that there are tons of people telling you to split your time between writing and marketing. And this is true. What they don’t say is you also have to split your time with learning. Learning is at least important as the other two, the three legs of a three legged stool. Without one of those legs you’re not going to have anything to sit on.

And that was my motivation for starting these Indieviews. An opportunity to learn and by posting them giving you that same opportunity. Some of these Indieviews will be from ‘newbies’, why not, we can learn from them too, even if it is just to not make the same mistakes. The majority, however, will be from people like L.J., people who are carefully plotting a new course in how authors interact with readers and sell books. Enjoy!

“I was doing all the work to sell my novels and my publisher was making the money. The only reason I thought I needed a publisher in the first place was for the stamp of legitimacy. I decided that making a living was more important than being traditionally published. Going indie was a great move for me. My books are selling really well, and I’m starting to make a living.” L.J. Sellers 27 November 2010

The Back Flap

When a bomb explodes at a birth-control clinic and a young client turns up dead, Detective Jackson is assigned both cases. But are they connected? Kera, the clinic nurse who discovers that the girl’s Bible group is really a sexual free-for-all, thinks they are. But confidentiality keeps her from telling the police, so she digs for the truth on her own and becomes the bomber’s new target. Soon another girl is murdered. Can Jackson uncover the killer’s shocking identity in time to stop the slaughter?

About the Book

What is the book about?

The Sex Club is a provocative mystery/thriller that readers say they can’t put down. The tag line is: A dead girl, a ticking bomb, a Bible study that’s not what it appears to be, and a detective who won’t give up.

Foremost, the story is a murder mystery. The victims are young teenagers who are engaged in unsafe sexual activity. The main characters are a Planned Parenthood nurse and a homicide detective who are each investigating the same group of people. Their stories overlap and come together in an explosive ending.

When I wrote this novel, I didn’t know it would become the first book in a series. It was simply a story I was compelled to tell. But I needed a homicide investigator as the protagonist, and I knew he would have the potential to become a series character. So I created a detective I liked well enough to bring back in future books…if readers wanted more. And they did. I’ve written three more Jackson stories: Secrets to Die For, Thrilled to Death, and Passions of the Dead. Mystery Scene magazine has given rave reviews to all.

When did you start writing the book and how long did it take?

I wrote this story six years ago (during a more conservative government and political climate). I was laid off my magazine job soon after I started the novel, so I was able to complete the first draft in a few months. Then I wrote another draft after I landed an agent for it. So I worked on the book, off and on, for a year and a half.

Where did you get the idea from?

The plot of The Sex Club sprang from a news story that stuck in my mind about a group of sexually active young teenagers, combined with my fears about the effects of abstinence-only sex education. Being a crime writer, I asked the What If? question and threw in a murder or two. Most of my novels are based on real crimes, combined with social issues I feel strongly about.

Were there any parts of the book where you struggled?

I struggled with writing the sexual conversations between teenagers. So it’s a good thing I didn’t try to write any actual sex scenes. I also struggled with getting inside the head of the antagonist and seeing the world from her perspective. I wanted to make her complex and human instead of one dimensional, and it was challenging.

What came easily?

After interviewing several detectives, it was surprisingly easy for me to channel a male investigator, who struggles to be realistic about the people he deals with, while not becoming bitter or judgmental. The research also made it easy to get the details of the investigative process correct. For the follow-up Jackson stories, I continued to interview law enforcement personnel, including a crime scene technician, a medical examiner, and a SWAT leader. I love this aspect of my work.

Are your characters entirely fictitious or have you borrowed from real world people you know?

Some of my characters are completely fictitious, and others are composites based loosely on someone I know, but modified to fit the story or simply my view of the character. Detective Jackson, for example, is a combination of two detectives I interviewed, with some of my husband thrown in. For example, as a hobby, Jackson restores old cars and is building a trike (a three-wheeled motorcycle), which is something my husband does, so I know a little about it. Because I have so many personalities (:)), most of my main female characters have a little bit of me in them.

We all know how important it is for writers to read. Are there any particular authors that have influenced how you write and, if so, how have they influenced you?

As young person, I read Rex Stout, John MacDonald, and Ross McDonald, and I fell in love with crime fiction and private investigators. Eventually, I read Lawrence Sanders, John Sandford, and Michael Connelly and came to love police procedurals. I wrote several suspense stories before I decided to try writing a police procedural, which I’m happy writing in as my main genre.

Do you have a target reader?

The majority of my readers are women between the ages of 30 and 70, in others words, people like me. So I write stories that I would love to read and try not to worry about crafting my stories to fit a particular audience. To be clear, I have plenty of male fans too, but the simple statistics indicate that women read more than men. I do try to create covers that will appeal to both genders.

About Writing

Do you have a writing process? If so can you please describe it?

I do extensive plotting before I start writing the story, so I know all the broad strokes, who the killer is, and roughly how the story will end. I keep adding to the outline as I write and as ideas come to me. The outline is just a guideline, and I make changes as I go along if I get better ideas. I also create timelines because my stories take place in about a week and I want to be realistic about what can happen in the course of a day. I also have character files and note/problem files that I work with as I craft the story. At fifty pages, I stop and clean up what I have, then send it out to three or four beta readers for feedback. I do very little editing in the first draft. The idea is to get the story down as it comes to me. In the next draft, I add detail, do fact checking, and parse words.

Did you hire a professional editor?

Of course! I’ve worked as a magazine and fiction editor, but no one can thoroughly edit their own work. I not only pay to have it edited, I also pay again for a final proofreading. Even that doesn’t find all the mistakes. Editing suspense fiction is more challenging than almost any other type of editing, because editors and proofreaders get caught up in the story too.

About Publishing

Did you submit your work to Agents?

I had an agent for this story, but she failed to sell it, even though editors at major houses said they loved the novel and one said she read it in one sitting. Eventually, I connected with a small publisher on my own. At this point, I no longer waste my time querying agents. Although if I could find an agent who would represent my work to foreign publishers, I might be interested.

What made you decide to go Indie? Was it a particular event or a gradual process?

I decided to go indie this year when I realized I would never make any money with my small publisher. I was doing all the work to sell my novels and my publisher was making the money. The only reason I thought I needed a publisher in the first place was for the stamp of legitimacy. I decided that making a living was more important than being traditionally published. Going indie was a great move for me. My books are selling really well, and I’m starting to make a living.

Did you get your book cover professionally done or did it you do it yourself?

I work with a graphic artist. I find the cover image, send it to my designer, and she does the rest. I feel very fortunate to know this designer and I’m very happy with my covers.

Do you have a marketing plan for the book or are you just winging it?

Marketing is an ongoing process. When this book first came out, I did a lot of research and crafted a very detailed marketing plan. I still use that plan as a blueprint, but I make modifications for every new book and I seize new opportunities as they come up.

Any advice that you would like to give to other newbies considering becoming Indie authors?

Treat self-publishing like a business. Create a production schedule and a marketing plan. Set business goals. Most important, hire professionals for editing, cover design, and e-book formatting. The time you spend getting good enough to do these things for yourself is not cost effective. That’s why businesses outsource certain things to other companies that already have the expertise.

About You

What would you like readers to know about you?

I grew up southern Oregon, then moved to Eugene to get a journalism degree at the University of Oregon. I’ve been here since and my stories are set here. Like all creative types, I worked as a food server when I was young, but I’ve spent most of my career working for magazines, newspapers, and educational publishers. I also perform standup comedy sometimes, and I’m an adrenaline seeker, who occasionally does things like jump out of an airplane or go parasailing.

What are you working on now?

I’m writing a fifth Detective Jackson story, and I’ve outlined a futuristic thriller that I’m very excited to get started on. My books are finally selling well enough that next year, I’ll give up most of my freelance business and write full time.

End of Interview

This links you to L.J. Sellers Amazon author page from where you can check out her six books.

6 responses to “IndieView: L.J. Sellers, author of, The Sex Club

  1. Great insights! Thanks for sharing, LJ.

    Cheers
    Vicki

  2. Hey, Simon, how about an IndieView interview with you? I’m serious. You’re about to launch your debut novel. I’d be interested to hear about your journey thus far.

    Cheers
    Vicki

    • That’s a good idea. I’ll do that. Next Sunday 5 December. The date the book starts, except in the book it’s 99 years from that day.

      Thanks for that suggestion much appreciated.

  3. Thanks for hosting me. It was great to have an opportunity to talk about the novel that launched my career. No matter how many books I write, I suspect The Sex Club will always be my favorite.
    L.J.

  4. Another great interview, Simon!

    LJ – I’ve been told that The Sex Club is an Indie mystery to keep my eyes on for success and it looks like I was given good information! I think we all struggle with that need for the “stamp of legitimacy,” but I know for me, finding readers was FAR more important. I didn’t write for agents or publishers. I write my stories for readers. Thank you for sharing your own experience and advice. I had my first novel professionally edited, and have struggled with the choice to spend that money on my second novel or not. After reading this interview, I’ve decided that it really is money well-spent. So thank you. And good luck to you going forward!

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