Matthew Peters writes page-turning fiction, and he’s the author of a new novel, The Brothers’ Keepers. Early reviewers have compared The Brothers’ Keepers to Dan Brown’s De Vinci Code, but Matthew Peters’s novel is actually better written. It’s the kind of novel that a few years back, might have been snapped up by an agent and found wide distribution in a bookstore. Instead, the author has gone with the publisher, Melange Press, LLC. That press is an example of a print-on-demand publisher, covered here in a previous blog post.
The Brothers’ Keepers is a page-turning, literary thriller. Author Matthew Peters shares his experience with independent publishers and with launching his new book.
Marylee: Matt, congratulations on your new book! When I went over to Amazon I noticed you’d already gotten a large number of glowing reviews. Getting reviews is one of the big challenges for new writers. How did you manage that?
Matt: Thank you so much, Marylee, for the opportunity to be interviewed and for your kind remarks concerning The Brothers’ Keepers. Yes, I’m very grateful for the positive reviews the book has received. I think the best way to get reviews is to send advance copies to people interested in reading and reviewing it. A good source to use it The Book Review Directory, which can be found here: https://bookreviewdirectory.com/
Matthew Peters on Book Promos
Marylee: You’re in the middle of a blog tour as well. Did you do that for your previous book, Conversations Among Ruins? Do you think blog tours can help new writers find an audience?
Matt: Yes, I did a blog tour for my previous book, Conversations Among Ruins. I hired a company to arrange that and, unfortunately, my experience was not very positive. The tour didn’t seem to help increase exposure or sales of the book. The one I’m currently doing for The Brothers’ Keepers I arranged with the help of another person. I would definitely recommend that you save yourself some money and arrange your own blog tour.
Marylee: When you launched your first novel, you had a bookstore reading in North Carolina. I was jealous because, in Phoenix, our wonderful indie bookstore, Changing Hands, charges quite a lot of money for a reading, and you have to arrange them months in advance. Can you talk about bookstores and local publicity and just how you’re going about that?
Matt: For Conversations Among Ruins I hired a local publicist who arranged for my book launch at a local bookstore and another engagement at a nearby location. In the future, however, I will rely on my own efforts to schedule readings at bookstores and other forms of local publicity. Again, I recommend you save some money and make such arrangements yourself.
Marylee:The Brothers’ Keepers promises to be the start of a series. Can you talk about what you envision for this series?
Matt: Yes, The Brothers’ Keepers is the start of what I hope to be many Nicholas Branson novels. Branson is a Jesuit religious historian, a bit of a maverick, who has yet to take vows for the priesthood. The series will follow Branson as he searches for the historical reality concerning the origins of Christianity. Eventually, I envision Branson exploring the origins of other faiths as well, with a particular emphasis on the commonalities they share rather than the differences that divide.
Marylee: What do you think readers will like about your main character and the mystery he’s caught up in?
Matt: I hope readers will like Branson’s rigorous independent thinking as well as his desire for the historical reality of his faith. He is also quite brave and much smarter than I am! At the same time, he has personal demons to battle, which makes him vulnerable in ways many of us are. I also hope readers enjoy the female protagonist, Jessica Jones, a smart, beautiful, snarky character who helps Branson come to grips with his mission and, just as importantly, himself.
Independent Presses and Unknown Writers
Marylee: Can you talk a little about independent presses and why you’ve chosen to publish with them, rather to find an agent to sell your book to one of the big New York houses?
Matt: I queried agents for The Brothers’ Keepers a while back and received many requests for partials and fulls. Truthfully, I don’t think the manuscript was in its best possible shape when I started querying agents, and I look back upon that experience with some regret.
Lesson learned: make sure your manuscript is in Mary Poppins shape before querying–that is, practically perfect in every way.
But the problem with agents and the big New York houses is that very few are willing to take on an unknown writer. It’s the dreaded Catch-22 when it comes to publishing: a good agent will rarely take you on if you haven’t already been published by a major house, but getting published by a major house takes an agent. The exception is if you have some sort of personal connection, which, unfortunately, most of us don’t.
One of the great things about independent presses is that they are willing to take more chances with unknown writers, and if you can find a solid, reputable one, such as Melange, you can see your book in e-format and in print and make it available to readers. You have to be careful, though, when it comes to independent presses, because not all are equal. You need to do your homework. Unless you are knowingly and intentionally doing so, you should never have to pay someone to publish your book.
Marylee: Did you ever consider self-publishing? How would that have been different from being published by ATTMP or Melange?
Matt: I did consider self-publishing. However, I wanted to focus on writing rather than the mechanics of publishing. For me self-publishing would have involved paying for cover design, formatting, and additional editing. Publishing with a reputable small press allowed me the freedom from such concerns.
Marylee: What kind of support do you get from your publisher, apart from them publishing your book? Do they do any marketing on your behalf?
Matt: In addition to providing superb editing, cover art, and formatting, Melange is willing to work with the author when it comes to pricing and promotions. Not all small presses do that.
I don’t feel as if there’s any real way to sell books when you’re not allowed to lower the price or offer sales.
Also, with regard to the thriller genre to which The Brothers’ Keepers belongs, Melange is a publisher recognized by International Thriller Writers, which represents professional thriller-writers from around the world, and includes Lee Child, Steve Berry, R. L. Stine, and James Patterson among its members.
Marylee: I hope you don’t mind me mentioning that this book is, in fact, a “relaunch,” but this edition has a different cover and a different publisher. Can you talk a bit about why you chose to do a relaunch?
Matt: I chose to do a relaunch because I wasn’t happy with my previous publisher, which I found wanting in courtesy and professionalism. Working with Melange, however, has been a great experience. They have very exacting standards when it comes to getting your book ready for publication, and are very prompt, thorough, and, above all, courteous in their response to inquiries.
Marylee: What kinds of readers will enjoy this book?
Matt: I think readers who enjoy religious thrillers along the lines of Dan Brown will enjoy The Brothers’ Keepers, as well as those who enjoy mysteries, especially ones with a historical basis.
Marylee: It’s a brave thing to put your book out there in the world. I’m sure every single reader of my blog will understand that years of effort have gone into the creation of The Brothers’ Keepers. How can we support you?
Matt: Thank you for saying that, Marylee. Years of effort have gone into The Brothers’ Keepers and the next book in the series, The One Called John, which is due out in September 2017 from Melange. I think the best way to support me is to check out the book and, even better, to leave a review. The review doesn’t have to be long; in fact, people are more likely to read the shorter reviews. But every review helps, and it allows authors to know if they’re doing a good job in offering readers a quality product.
Also, if you enjoyed the book, please tell others about it and share it on social media.
Beyond helping me, I think we should all show support for authors who truly spend years writing, researching, and trying to perfect their craft. In this day and age, quality often gets sacrificed on the altar of quantity, which, in my opinion, is a shame. Writing a quality book takes time, and the more people recognize that and demand high quality in the books they read, the better for the authors who take their commitment to providing a quality product very seriously.
Marylee MacDonald is the author of MONTPELIER TOMORROW, a novel, and BONDS OF LOVE & BLOOD, a short story collection. Her books and stories have won the Barry Hannah Prize, the Jeanne M. Leiby Memorial Chapbook Award, a Readers' Favorites Gold Medal for Drama, the American Literary Review Fiction Prize, and many other awards. She holds an M.A. in Creative Writing from San Francisco State. She has been a Writing Fellow at Arizona State University and has taught workshops on literary editing.