Kim Fay started writing fiction at age 10 and pitched her work for 35 years before landing a publisher for her debut novel, Edgar award finalist The Map of Lost Memories, published by Random House in 2012 in print, eBook and audio versions.
Intrigued by Asia, she got a job teaching English as a second language in Vietnam, where she stayed for four years. Working for a travel magazine covering Asia, she wrote travel guides about several Asian countries. And started a novel.
“I worked on Lost Memories for 12 years,” Kim said. “My key takeaway is that you shouldn’t be afraid to put your book out there, wherever it is.”
A case of insomnia set her on the path to publication, in 2007.
“I was in London for my sister’s wedding,” she said. “I was on the Internet reading The New York Times. An article popped up about Amazon announcing its first annual fiction contest. I had my hard drive with me with my novel on it.” Even though the ending was still a mess, she thought, “What do I have to lose?”
She submitted the first chapter and got an email a few months later informing her that her entry was among the top 100. “The contest was getting a lot of press, and agents were scrolling through,” she said. One was a new agent, Alexandra Machinist of Janklow & Nesbit, who had recently returned from a trip to Cambodia, the setting for Kim’s book. Alexandra contacted Kim to ask for the full manuscript. “I signed with her then finished the book three years later.” During those three years, Alexandra built a solid reputation for herself and sold the book to Random House.
“I don’t know how the book got nominated for an Edgar,” Kim said. “My agent, editor, publisher and I didn’t submit it.”
She credits luck, blessings and perseverance for landing her publishing contract. “Getting published is really hard, and authors need to take advantage of every opportunity they have to get their work out there.”
Advice to Aspiring Authors
- Enter appropriate contests. With these, you get exposure you might not be able to get for yourself. For example, Minotaur Books (an imprint of St. Martin’s Press) and Mystery Writers of America sponsor the annual First Crime Novel Competition, with the winner automatically entered into the Edgar competition. Amazon offers their Breakthrough Novel Award, where Kim’s agent found her. Here’s one list of potential contests.
- Join appropriate writer’s groups. Kim joined the Los Angeles chapters of Mystery Writers of America and Sisters in Crime. “I’ve never met a more supportive group of writers in my life,” she said.
- Attend appropriate conferences. There are many opportunities, and you could spend all your time and money attending conferences. Kim suggests limiting your annual attendance to the two or three that will reap the greatest rewards for where you are in your journey, whether it’s pitching to agents, learning the craft or networking with other writers. Many agents find new clients at conferences.
- Find an appropriate writer’s group. “I couldn’t write without my writers group,” Kim said. “They keep you on track. The members know you and know when you’re on the right path and when you’re going off the path.” Kim’s group helps each other write query letters and synopses because it’s difficult to write these for yourself.
- Get yourself online. First and foremost, have a website, even if it’s only two pages. Facebook is a great place to tell friends and family what you’re doing, and Kim loves the way Twitter has helped her connect with a variety of people with similar interests.
- Keep educating yourself on the craft. Kim is currently reading Writing and Selling Your Mystery Novel by Hallie Ephron. “I never really knew my characters the way I’m going to now,” she said about the book.
- Connect. Kim suggests finding people online and join THEIR conversation. For example, agent Donald Maass maintains a blog for writers called Writer Unboxed. “Why not start following and commenting on his blog? You would get yourself known to someone who could be important to your career.”
Finding Joy in Everyday Life
“I find the most joy when I tune out the junk and focus on the simple,” Kim said. “That can be planting flowers on my balcony, having a cup of tea, stopping to read a food magazine. Those are the things that feed me more than any of the big things I could go out and do. I remind myself when everything gets carried away to get back into the now in the simplest of ways. Life is good.”