As a university professor for 36 years, I was expected to publish, so I wrote four scholarly books and many articles and reviews. The first scholarly book, my doctoral dissertation, came out in 1972. Writing fiction began in earnest in 1998 as I prepared for retirement (in 1999). I completed the first novel in 2000 and have written 10 mainly historical novels and historical mysteries. One exception, published in 2014, is Anselm: a Metamorphoses, roughly classified as a metaphysical fantasy. The present novel returns to my scholarly specialization, the French Renaissance.
My early efforts at writing fiction were still tinged with scholarly turns of phrase. I engaged an editor, Gerald W. Mills, a talented editor who taught creative writing and who took me in hand. He edited three of my early books and guided my writing style into the twenty-first century. However, I had a rude awakening when I tried to place my early efforts with an agent or a publisher. I was rejected 243 times by agents. My historical novel about the 16th-century figure, Louise Labé—both poet and knight in armor—was published in French in Lyon, France, before any books in English came out. I was accepted by Twilight Times Books without the benefit of an agent thanks to Gerald Mills, who represented one of my books, The Storks of La Caridad, to them, along with one of his own books. We were both accepted, and I have stayed loyal to that publisher ever since.
Like most authors, I suspect, marketing is the most difficult aspect of writing. Naturally, we all passionately hope that readers will find us, read us, and become fans. I am best at personal appearances where I lecture, answer questions, and then sell books. I do have a website, am on Facebook, LinkedIn, Goodreads, and other on-line book sites. Still, personal contact works best for me. I also find that having an open house to present a new book works well, also if the book has a special aspect, such as incorporating native wild foods that a missionary eats or prepares, or a musical emphasis where the hero meets the teen-age Beethoven. Then, the book will sell well at conferences or meetings featuring organic foods and gardening, or after a concert in a local church. I have had fair but limited luck with signings in book stores. I organized my own book tour for the first mystery I wrote and had everything from an empty room to an enthusiastic crowd that subsequently became a fan club. Nowadays, electronic media rule, and we all have to accept that with grace, adjust to it and use it to our advantage.