Publishing and its Vagaries

by Susan Oleksiw

susan-oAbout a year ago those of us who publish with Five Star learned that things were changing. I thought this meant the end of the Anita Ray series, and wasn’t sure if I could continue it with another publisher. To my surprise, I sold the two books in the series to Harlequin, for their worldwide mystery club. The Wrath of Shiva came out in mass market paperback on November 1.

The Anita Ray series is an object lesson in the vagaries and subjectivity of publishing. When I began writing the series, I struggled with defining the lead character, Anita, and her setting, Hotel Delite. I wanted the mix of Indian and non-Indian people because even in villages I encountered variety and extremes in population. Anita emerged in a short story I sold to Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine. “A Murder Made in India” appeared in October 2003.

I had trouble selling the first book, wrote another, and after a while sent that to Tekno/Five Star. Then came the fireworks. Marty Greenberg, co-founder with Ed Gorman, had medical problems, and his wife, Roz, took over. She bought the manuscript. Then he died and she fought for control of the company.

Through changes in editors, Five Star took three more Anita Ray mss. Harlequin bought the first, Under the Eye of Kali, for their worldwide mystery line but turned down the second one. I kept writing, and then as editors changed again and again at Harlequin, I decided to try another Anita Ray. I sent in the third book in the series, For the Love of Parvati. The editor inquired politely, “It looks like there’s another one in the series before this. Can we see that one too?” I sent in The Wrath of Shiva. Yes, the one turned down earlier. The editor bought both titles.

I don’t yet have a pub date for the third book, but I look forward to another gorgeous cover. And in a few months, I hope to interest Harlequin in the fourth Anita Ray, When Krishna Calls.

The point of all this is to remind myself and other writers that there is no order or sense or logic to publishing. Editors make subjective decisions every day over every manuscript even when they think they’re being rational and logical and calculating the odds on sales. Whenever I think about this I could feel better or worse, but mostly I feel the door is still open. I don’t know what will happen to the Anita Ray series, but I know there is still opportunity out there.

The fourth Anita Ray story, When Krishna Calls, has drawn a few four and five star reviews and seems to be doing well. It is the only book I’ve written that has not received a review or mention in the big reviewers: PW, Kirkus, or Library Journal. Despite that, readers and librarians manage to find it.


Susan Oleksiw writes the Anita Ray series featuring an Indian-American photographer living in her aunt’s tourist hotel in South India (When Krishna Calls, August 2016). She also writes the Mellingham series featuring Chief of Police Joe Silva (Come About for Murder, 2016). Her stories have appeared in Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine and anthologies.

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I'm a novelist, short story writer, and I currently serve as CEO for L. Cooper Press, a service for writers. Thomson-Gale bought one of my novels, With Full Malice, for their 5 Star Mystery line, then Harlequin WorldWide Mysteries bought the mass market paperback rights. I lead a novel critique group in Redlands, CA, so if you're in the area and writing a novel, join us: When I can't attend, Amy Fletcher leads the group. You can always contact me through my websites:

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Posted in Events, Guest Blogger, My Blog, The Publishing Process
6 comments on “Publishing and its Vagaries
  1. I want to thank Brenda for inviting me to post this short piece here. Whenever a writer begins the publishing journey we have all kinds of assumptions. I certainly did. But experience is a great teacher, and writing and publishing turn out to offer many paths. The writing career is never linear, and never what one expects. I hope this description of my experience with the Anita Ray series is helpful to other writers who are wondering about where they are going.

    • Brenda Hill says:

      Thanks to you, Susan, and I’m sure my readers will get a better idea of the joys and heartbreaks of the commercial publishing world. Like several, my path to publishing has been up and down, great excitement and self-pitying crying jags. But like you, I pulled myself up and got back to work to try again – and again.

      Thanks for sharing, and best of luck!

  2. Hi Susan,
    Our Five Star novels used to receive a lot of noteworthy reviews. However, now that the line has been canceled it’s my opinion that our books are mainly ignored. It’s unfortunate and there are exceptions, but publishing is a tough business.

  3. Jacquie, you’re absolutely right about our books now being ignored. My current Anita Ray mystery, WHEN KRISHNA CALLS, is the first of my books not to get a review in PW or Kirkus. I was very disappointed, but that’s the way it is. Time to learn and move on.

  4. Becky Murphree says:

    I like to join the writing class

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