Publishing World Wisdom Carl Vonderau

We're joined today by another fellow Blackbird Writer, Carl Vonderau, who is sharing his wisdom on what he wishes he could tell his prepublished self as well as what he always does to make book launches successful. 


Carl Vonderau is an award-winning author of crime fiction. As a child growing up in Cleveland, he loved to write. His ghost stories scared the bejesus out of other kids. But it took a long time to become a full-time author. He left Cleveland to study at Stanford, then spent more than thirty years as a banker in the U.S., Latin America, and North Africa. Those international settings were sources of inspiration for his books. His first novel, Murderabilia won a Left Coast Crime award for Best Debut and a San Diego Book award for Best Mystery. His second novel, Saving Myles, won the American BookFest award for Best Mystery/Suspense. Working with nonprofits is also important to Carl. He is the president of Partners in Crime, the San Diego chapter of Sisters in Crime, an organization that supports authors and fans of crime writing. He also volunteers with San Diego Social Venture Partners to mentor other nonprofits. Carl lives with his wife in San Diego. His two grown sons live close by and wonder how he knows so much about serial killers and banking crimes.


What do you wish you could tell your pre-published self?

Oh boy, there would be so much. The first thing is to make sure the book is in the best shape possible. Most beginning writers send out their manuscripts before they are ready. Critique groups can really help when you are crafting a scene. But it is difficult for the participants to remember the whole book when you are only presenting 10 pages at a time. What you need is a developmental editor. This person looks at the big picture. Do the premise and inciting incident work? How about the characters and their arcs? Does the structure make sense? What loose ends need to be tied up? What needs to be added or subtracted? Beta readers can help you do this to some extent, but not like a professional book editor. You also need a line editor to correct spelling, wrong word usage, or awkward prose. We all need help with this.

The next challenge is getting an agent and a publisher. Sending blind queries never worked for me. I believe in presenting pages to agents and editors at writers’ conferences. I think speed dating with them can also be effective. Speed dating is when authors get five minutes with agents or acquisition editors at a writers conference. For instance, The International Thriller Writer’s Conference has a speed dating event with about 60 agents and editors. Authors line up to talk with them. But how do you distill your masterpiece down to a single paragraph, and then a single sentence that they will remember? I took a course at Algonquian Writers to learn that. The sentence I crafted won me an agent.

So what do you do after you have that agent and publishing contract? First, get involved with social media. When I published Murderabilia, I knew nothing about web pages, blogs, or newsletters. I understood what a brand was but had no idea what my own brand was. So I had to get a website, learn what Facebook, Instagram etc. were, and start to post. It took me a long time and I still have a ways to go.

Should you get a marketing firm to help you with this? That answer varies. One firm helped me a fair amount on social media, and another was a waste of money. In any case you the author have to provide the content, and you have to post regularly. You will learn that you can express interesting opinions on more things than you think you can.

How about the writing community? I would tell my younger self to go to as many writers’ conferences as I could. I would also join organizations like Sisters in Crime or Mystery Writers of America. That is where you form friendships with other writers and hopefully get a chance to present your work. The more you help the community, the more the community will help you.

What do you recommend authors do to make book launches successful?

The first is to get advanced readers before the publication date. For my second book, Saving Myles, I offered free copies to Goodreads readers. Eight thousand people wanted them, and I gave out 50 copies. That got me a lot of Goodreads reviews before the book came out.

Secondly, get a launch team of people who are enthusiastic about  your writing. Preferably readers. They will read Advanced Reader Copies of your book, write advanced reviews, and sell you to the people who they know. A team of about 10 to 15 people is good. You offer them free books and maybe something else to participate. These are your ambassadors, and you need to feed them exclusive insights and inside information.

Finally, there is the launch venue. You want somewhere that will attract readers. I got a great bookstore for Saving Myles—Warwicks. That gave me another challenge. If you only get five people there, the bookstore will not have you back for the next book. If you get a hundred, they will be great fans. I worked through my newsletter, Facebook, Instagram, my launch team, and individual emails to all the people that I knew. I was gobsmacked that 75 showed up. And they ran out of books!



When the FBI can't help, an unassuming banker takes matters into his own hands to bring his son home.
Wade, a respected banker in La Jolla, CA, and his estranged wife, Fiona, make the unbearable decision to send their teenage son, Myles, away to an expensive treatment center after a streak of harmful behavior. After a year of treatment, Myles comes home, seemingly rehabilitated. But soon, he sneaks off to Tijuana to buy drugs— and is kidnapped. When the ransom call comes, Fiona is frantic and accepts help from Andre, the Quebecois whose charity Fiona runs. Wade is wary of Andre' s reputation and the bank he owns, but seeing no other way to secure a kidnap negotiator or the ransom, he swallows his doubts to get his son home. In order to get the ransom money, Wade makes a deal with Andre— he' ll work for Andre' s bank in exchange for the cash. But as Wade races to rescue Myles before his kidnappers lose their patience, he realizes he' s wrapped up in more crime than just a kidnapping— he' s now indebted to a cartel.




No one was supposed to know that banker William McNary is a serial killer's son. Until one night... the phone rang.

William MacNary’s father stamped his picturesque post-murder photos onto the nation’s horrified consciousness.
He was eight years old when his father went to prison. Since then, William has carefully built a life as a family man and private banker for the very wealthy. He tries to forget that his father murdered, dismembered, and photographed thirteen women. Those exquisitely composed black and white photos of severed hands, heads and feet won him the moniker, The Preying Hands, and launched the “murderabilia” art market. William has not spoken to his father for thirty-one years. No one at his tony bank knows whose son he is. His secret remains safe until he receives an anonymous call from someone claiming to be his brother... and his wife’s colleague is murdered and displayed in the style of The Preying Hands. All the evidence points to William.



Glad to learn more about Carl and his books. All very impressive.

Add new comment

To prevent automated spam submissions leave this field empty.
Your email will not be displayed to the public.

Filtered HTML

  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.