Friday Feature: author Elaine Viets

Can you give us a little bit of information about your publishing history?

I write two series for the Penguin Group. My eighth Dead-End Job mystery, “Killer Cuts,” is published in May and got a good review in Publishers Weekly. For that book, Helen Hawthorne works in a high-end beauty salon. I’ve also written four Josie Marcus, Mystery Shopper books. The latest in that one is “Murder with All the Trimmings.”

When in the process of writing your book did you begin to look for a publisher?

After it was finished. A lot of writers are told they only need three chapters and an outline, but that’s old school advice. Too many took the money and never finished the book. Now, it’s a three-stage process. New writers have to finish the whole book, and then look for an agent, who looks for a publisher. I’d recommend an AAR agent. That’s the Association of Authors Representatives (http://www.aar‑

AAR agents follow a code of ethics. There are a lot of rip-offs out there, including agents who tell writers they have talent but need a book doctor – who will only cost around $500. A real book doctor costs $3000 to $5000 and up and is usually a retired New York editor. For $500, you may get, if you’re lucky, a copyedit. The so-called the agent shares the fee with the alleged book doctor.

What has been the best part about being published?

Holding my new book. I take time to admire the cover, the type and other handsome features. I pray it doesn’t fall open on a typo.

What do you wish you had known when you first started out as a writer for publication?

Writing is a business as well as an art. We need to write well, but we also need to know things like “sell-through” and “stripping.” Professional organizations are important. I belong to Mystery Writers of America and Sisters in Crime. I also wish I’d attended the genre conventions the year before my first book was out. For mysteries, my favorites are Malice Domestic, Sleuthfest, and Bouchercon.

Has it been a bumpy ride to becoming a published author or has it been pretty well smooth sailing?

It’s been a roller coaster ride. My first series was published by the sixth major New York house that read it. I had a three-book contract and then a contract for more. I was on top of the world, until Random House killed off that division. That same year, my husband had cancer, we lost our money in a stock market crash, and we were audited by the IRS. To pay the mortgage, I wound up working in a bookstore, shelving more successful authors.

That experience became the basis of my Dead-End Job series, which NAL, a division of Penguin, bought in 2003. The first book in that series, “Shop Till You Drop,” is now in its twelfth printing. “Murder Between the Covers,” which is set at a bookstore, was the second book in the series. The eighth Dead-End Job book, “Killer Cuts,” will be published in May, 2009.

How important do you think self-promotion is and in what ways have you been promoting your book offline and online?

Promotion is important, online and off. I blog for The Lipstick Chronicles with five other women writers, including Nancy Martin, Sarah Strohmeyer, Michele Martinez, Kathy Sweeney, Lisa Daily and Harley Jane Kozak. Our back bloggers come to many of our signings. (

I’m also with the Femmes Fatales, which includes Charlaine Harris, Donna Andrews, Kris Neri, Toni L.P. Kelner, Hank Phillippi Ryan, Mary Saums, and Dana Cameron.

We’re thrilled that Charlaine has seven books on the New York Times bestseller list. She’s one of those rare people who deserves her success.

When “Killer Cuts,” my latest Dead-End Job novel is published in May, the launch will be at the Malice Domestic Convention, May 1 to 3, in Arlington, Va. Then I’ll go to the Festival of Mystery in Oakmont, Pa. This is an event no mystery writer – or reader – should miss. After that, I have signings from Washington DC to Fort Worth to St. Louis. The details are on my Web site at

Where can readers find a copy of your book?

Most chain and independent bookstores carry my mysteries. I have links to several sources at If you’d like a free signed bookplate, please email me at


Killer Cuts: A Dead-End Job Mystery Elaine Viets. NAL/Obsidian, $22.95 (272p) ISBN 978-0-451-22686-0

Near the start of Viets’s hair-raising eighth Dead-End Job mystery (after 2008’s Clubbed to Death), Helen Hawthorne, who’s working at Miguel Angel’s high-end beauty salon in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., assists Miguel in fluffing and buffing Honey, the pregnant fiancée of Kingman “King” Oden, a notorious gossip blogger and cable TV star. After the couple exchange “I dos” at King’s Hendin Island waterfront palace, someone shoves a drunken King into his pool, where he drowns. Miguel becomes a top suspect in King’s murder after heroin’s found in the hairstylist’s makeup case. To help clear Miguel, Helen investigates other suspects, including Honey and the victim’s two ex-wives. Meanwhile, Helen must cope with anonymous threats in her mail as well as plan her wedding to her PI boyfriend. Viets keeps the action popping until the cliff-hanging ending, as Helen ignores signs that her best-laid plans have a black hole connected to the past she’s been running from for years. (May)

About Suzanne

Suzanne Woods Fisher writes bestselling, award winning fiction and non-fiction books about the Old Order Amish for Revell Books. Her interest in the Plain People began with her Old Order German Baptist grandfather, raised in Franklin County, Pennsylvania. Suzanne's app, Amish Wisdom, delivers a daily Amish proverb to your phone or iPad. She writes a bi-monthly column for Christian Post and Cooking & Such magazine. She lives with her family in California and raises puppies for Guide Dogs for the Blind. To Suzanne's way of thinking, you can't take life too seriously when a puppy is running through your house with someone's underwear in its mouth.