Mark Gimenez is a trained lawyer and bestselling hybrid author of legal drama novels—as well as a children’s book. His work has received critical acclaim around the world. Translated into 15 foreign languages, his novels have been bestsellers in the U.K., Ireland, Australia, India, and South Africa. Little, Brown U.K. publishes his latest book, The Absence of Guilt, overseas in October. The e-book version has already been released in the United States.
Can you describe your start as an author? Did you go the self-publishing route, or did you find a traditional publisher?
I took the traditional route with my first book. The Color of Law was published in 2005 by Doubleday in the U.S. and Canada and by Little, Brown U.K. overseas. It took a year to write, six months to find a literary agent, and three days to sell the book. The Color of Law hit bestseller lists in the U.S and U.K. I have now written nine mysteries/thrillers and one children's book.
What prompted you to go the Indie route later?
My first and second books were traditionally published, but the third, The Abduction, did not sell as well in the U.S., although it did very well overseas. Traditional publishers here weren’t as interested in my books after that. That was in 2007, when the first Kindle came out. So I went indie here and grew with e-books.
You trained as a lawyer, so why did you decide to switch to writing? Do you still practice?
I did a bit of creative writing in college and loved it, and the professor suggested I give writing school a shot. But poor kids from Galveston, Texas, don’t become writers. So off to Notre Dame Law School I went, but the writing bug had bitten me. After law school, I worked with a large Dallas law firm and didn’t look up for 10 years. One day my son came home from school with To Kill a Mockingbird. He asked if an innocent black man could still get convicted just because of the color of his skin. That was a light-bulb moment. I started scratching out a story about a big-firm lawyer who is appointed by the federal judge to defend a heroin-addicted black prostitute accused of murdering the son of a powerful U.S. senator. That was The Color of Law.
I still represent several longtime clients who are much more than law clients to me.
How different are the rules of the game today than when you first started?
Back in 2005, there were no e-books. There were print and audiobooks, period. And there were essentially six publishers. Your book was either published by one of them or it wasn't.
Eleven years later, there are no rules. No one controls what the world reads. Anyone can write and publish a book; perhaps some should not, but readers now make that decision, not a few publishers. Writers have more freedom, and readers have more options. That's a good thing.
How do you market your work?
I personally reply to every reader's email, and I get a lot of emails. I send out an email update to readers several times a year and promote my e-books on BookBub and The Books Machine to attract new readers. I maintain a Facebook author page and a website to communicate with readers. I do call-ins to book clubs. I write the best books I can write. And I have readers who love my books and tell their friends, which, in the end, is the best marketing of all.
Do you feel there's still a stigma associated with self-publishing these days, or do you see that as largely having been erased?
Readers just want good books to read. And different books. The majors often publish books like Hollywood makes movies: the same stories over and over. Indi e writers offer something new and different. The fact that a writer is rejected by the majors does not mean he or she cannot write. They might just be too different. And that can be a very good thing.
What is your most profitable platform for selling books?
Overseas, it’s Little, Brown U.K. selling print editions; all my books have been bestsellers abroad. Here at home, it’s e-books. I price my books from $4.99 to $9.99 and sell 20,000 e-books in the U.S. and Canada each month; 60 percent of my sales are on Amazon, and 40 percent are divided almost equally between Kobo, Nook, and Apple.
Poornima Apte is a Boston-area freelance writer and editor with a passion for books.