The Times They Are a’Changing

By Lois Winston

I don’t like change. I much prefer the security and comfort of habit. I’m not the kind of person who climbs a mountain just because it’s there. I need a reason to step out of my comfort zone, lace up my hiking boots, and ascend into the unknown. When I’m confronted with the need to change, I first spend time soul-searching and deliberating.

Unfortunately, the publishing industry has been fraught with change for quite some time now. Gone are the days when an author had a home for life, and the people she worked with at the publishing house became like a second family to her. These days there’s a lot of divorce going on in publishing. More and more authors are being dropped because their sales aren’t strong enough. Or authors decide for various reasons that they need to leave their publishers. Both situations are very scary for the author. No matter which party institutes the divorce proceedings, fear of the unknown can overwhelm an author.

Twelve years ago, I realized I needed to institute a change in my life. I didn’t want to, but after several long months of soul-searching, I knew it was time to climb the mountain. I laced up those hiking boots and walked away from two new publishing contracts—one for additional books in my Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery series and one for a new series, the Empty Nest Mysteries.

Was I terrified? You bet! Being published by a traditional publishing house is the Holy Grail to all aspiring authors. Or it used to be. Times have changed. Self-publishing, now often referred to as indie publishing, no longer has the stigma it once did because authors are in control, not questionable vanity presses.

Rather than sign with one of the small publishers interested in continuing my series, I went indie. I continued writing the Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mysteries, adding a series of three connected mini-mysteries. I also published the Empty Nest Mysteries and several standalone mystery novellas. I reissued my backlist and published some unsold romances and romantic suspense novels.

Would I regret my decision? After all, not only had I given up the “legitimacy” of traditional publishing, but I’d also given up some decent advance money. There were nights I tossed and turned, wondering if I’d made the biggest mistake of my life by going indie, especially when I didn’t see the huge numbers of sales that other indie authors claimed to have.

Was it because I didn’t write super-sexy books with shirtless studs? Or was there some other reason? My traditionally published books had received stellar reviews, including starred reviews from Publishers Weeklyand Booklist for my mystery series. I’d also won quite a few awards for my fiction. Why weren’t my indie books selling better?

One mantra I kept repeating was something I’d heard from other authors: It’s not a sprint; it’s a marathon. It was hard to convince myself since I seemed to be limping along, not sprinting. But eventually I saw that they were right. It took some time, but since publishing my first indie book, I’ve seen steady growth in sales. Can I support myself on what I’m making? Heck, no! But then again, I couldn’t support myself on what I made from traditional publishing.

However, as time has passed, I’ve become more comfortable with my decision. There’s much to be said about having total control over your writing career. What I’ve also discovered is that readers don’t really care who publishes you. Authors might constantly ask other authors, “Who’s your publisher?” but readers are only interested in good books. They don’t know PRH from Level Best. Mention “the Big Five,” and they’ll most likely think you’re talking about a college basketball conference.

Meanwhile, Sorry, Knot Sorry, the thirteenth book in my Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery Series, is currently on preorder and releases June 4th. For those of you familiar with Anastasia, I hope you enjoy her latest adventure. For those of you who haven’t gotten to know her yet, I hope you will.

Sorry, Knot Sorry

An Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery, Book 13

Magazine crafts editor Anastasia Pollack may finally be able to pay off the remaining debt she found herself saddled with when her duplicitous first husband dropped dead in a Las Vegas casino. But as Anastasia has discovered, nothing in her life is ever straightforward. Strings are always attached. Thanks to the success of an unauthorized true crime podcast, a television production company wants to option her life—warts and all—as a reluctant amateur sleuth.

Is such exposure worth a clean financial slate? Anastasia isn’t sure, but at the same time, rumors are flying about layoffs at the office. Whether she wants national exposure or not, Anastasia may be forced to sign on the dotted line to keep from standing in the unemployment line. But the dead bodies keep coming, and they’re not in the script.

Craft tips included.

Buy Links (preorder now. Available June 4th)




Apple Books

Paperback and Hardcover editions available after June 4th.


USA Today and Amazon bestselling and award-winning author Lois Winston writes mystery, romance, romantic suspense, chick lit, women’s fiction, children’s chapter books, and nonfiction. Kirkus Reviews dubbed her critically acclaimed Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery series, “North Jersey’s more mature answer to Stephanie Plum.” In addition, Lois is a former literary agent and an award-winning craft and needlework designer who often draws much of her source material for both her characters and plots from her experiences in the crafts industry. Learn more about Lois and her books at her website where can also sign up for her newsletter and find links to her other social media:

How Cozy!

First, a happy piece of news!

The Body Next Door has just won GOLD in the 2024 American Legacy Book Awards. I am honored and happy for the recognition, the fifth one for this, my second book in the Samantha Newman Mystery Series. I’m also amazed and amused. Here’s why:

Flashback to 2014:

I’d helped someone else write a successful thriller, and just finished the first book that was all mine. I wrote it as a thriller as well: fast-moving and tense, bad guys revealed from the beginning, there’s a bomb, and good people might die.

But the publisher who loved it marketed The Body Business as a Romantic Suspense novel, not a thriller.

Then I wrote a sequel, The Body Next Door.  When it was released in 2016 (the recent American Legacy prize is for backlisted books), many readers and reviewers called it a Cozy. The first prize it won back then was a Chanticleer Mystery & Mayhem award, which, as I later discovered, is given for cozies like Agatha Christie classics. I was pleased, but confused.

So, what makes my book a cozy?

Cozies are very popular entertainment, but when I studied the genre more than a decade ago, I encountered a slew of rabid rule-keepers that strictly defined what made a book a cozy and, especially, what must never happen in one: graphic sex, cursing, and bloody violence. Not wanting to incur the wrath of the cozy police in the form of angry reviews, I laid low.

While there’s no graphic sex in my books, the bad guys in the first book do some pretty unsavory things. Also, cozies are usually set in small towns, while my series is set in a big metropolitan area. It’s common for a cozy protagonist to own a cat or other sentient pet (Samantha has none) and to manage a small business, preferably a cozy store or restaurant. Neither element is present in my books.

And yet, to my amazement and amusement, The Body Next Door has won a Best Cozy award again. Now I’m wondering if the series should be described as Cozy.

The rules seem to have loosened in recent years. Are cozy readers more forgiving?

Which brings me to Book 3, The Body in the News, which was recently released. It follows the continuing saga of Samantha Newman, who must solve yet another murder while still struggling to find her true calling. The story features the main characters and settings from the beginning of the series and adds a few colorful new ones, too.

I’m still wary of calling the book anything except a Romantic Mystery. Full of suspense, with interesting characters and a dollop of humor, whichever way someone wants to classify my books is just fine with me, as long as they have been entertained.

Do you look for certain genres to enjoy, or are you an omivourous reader?

Please comment below!

Gay Yellen is a former magazine editor and national journalism award winner. She was the contributing book editor for Five Minutes to Midnight (Delacorte), an international thriller and New York Times Notable. Her award-winning Samantha Newman Mystery Series includes The Body Business, The Body Next Door, and The Body in the News.

Gay loves to connect with book clubs and community groups in person and online. Contact her through her website,