This isn’t your typical self-publishing story. Marshall Karp was not only a successful, published author when he went the indie route, but he had written several books with James Patterson, a longtime friend and colleague.
Karp’s path toward becoming a novelist was rather circuitous and included a stint in Hollywood. In his early 20s, the New York native began to work in advertising, which allowed him to “actually be a writer and make a living.” But as his career progressed Karp found that he was doing less writing and more supervising of other employees. At around age 40, he realized he wasn't writing and needed to make some changes. He began working on a play called Squabbles. After gaining some interest from network executives, Karp moved from New York to Los Angeles and began writing for television. Somewhere along the way, the idea for a series of detective novels was born. Karp began to envision a future for himself that did not involve Hollywood. “I wanted to be in Woodstock writing murder mysteries at 60 years old.”
Karp wrote The Rabbit Factory, the first novel to feature LAPD detectives Mike Lomax and Terry Biggs, in 2006, and published it with California-based publisher MacAdam/Cage. He admits that, going from writing for television to writing novels was a bit of a transition. Early critiques of his drafts noted that his prose was somewhat lacking in description. However, whether writing for screen or page, Karp believes in the importance of character: “Characters provide a predictable emotional experience.” Focusing on creating characters that his readers would want to come back to, he was able to hit his stride. He followed The Rabbit Factory with Blood Thirsty, Flipping Out, and Cut, Paste, Kill. In 2011, Karp also began coauthoring books with Patterson, whom he had known for more than 25 years. Their first book together was Kill Me If You Can, followed by NYPD Red, which launched a series.
Karp says he is drawn to writing about murder because of the emotional intensity as well as the gallows humor that is an inevitable part of the detective’s profession. “The darker the business, the more humor” there is, he believes. And the series is chock full of it, with detective Biggs even aspiring to quit homicide hunting to become a screenwriter and comedian. Karp added that he likes the murder mystery genre for another reason: “There’s a little homicidal madness in everyone,” he said.
As Karp continued to work with Patterson, he took a break from writing the Lomax and Biggs series, but it was never far from his thoughts. “Working with Jim was a dream job, but I missed the characters I created for Lomax and Biggs and so did the fans. They kept annoying the crap out of me,” he said. Rather than publish the new book with one of his previous publishers, Karp made the decision to self-publish. The reason? "In a word, marketing," explained Karp. "A publisher might have helped me get Terminal on bookstore shelves, but the real trick is moving it off those shelves. I’ve learned from experience that big publishing houses don’t have the time, the manpower, or the money to market every book they produce. The best part about self-publishing is that I get to be in charge of the marketing."
Since Karp's fans were already awaiting the title, this more direct approach to publishing and reaching those readers made sense:
“If I self-publish, I can give readers the book they want, write the book I want, and price it so they can afford it.” Karp went through Amazon and used its self-publishing White Glove Program, which is available exclusively to agented authors, which Karp is (he’s represented by Mel Berger at William Morris Endeavor). “Amazon has totally stepped up to the plate with a major planned promotion for Terminal in January,” he said, noting that he had even created a book trailer for Terminal.
Though other authors looking to self-publish may not have the resume Karp has, he believes strongly that going the self-publishing route “breaks down barriers” for authors. Another barrier he’s trying to break down with the release of Terminal, is getting more self-published books into libraries. Having his own enduring love for libraries, he long recognizes how invaluable they are for readers – including longtime fans of Lomax and Biggs. “I’m hoping we can crack that code,” Karp said, "one librarian at a time."