Thanks for Sharing

Yesterday morning when I opened my eyes, I wondered, “What will the blog be about this week?” Then, while drinking my first cup of coffee, I opened my email and found the following blog comment from someone named Amy Conner:

JA Jance! Where have you been all of my adult life????????? One of my residents (who is in his late 90s) introduced me to you this past Christmas. Almost 5 months later, I am now on my last JP Beaumont book!!! I haven’t read like this since I was a teenager! We scour the thrift stores for your books since some of them are hard to find in the libraries. My siblings loved looking for them for my stocking at Christmas. Thank you so much for the hours of pleasure you have brought me with my puppy sitting right next to me. I can’t wait to finish this last book and then head on to a new series from you!!

The answer to Amy’s question is this: For the last forty years I’ve had my nose to the grindstone and shoulder to the wheel, writing one book after another. I’m not the least bit offended that she scours thrift shops for missing titles. Secondhand bookstores continue to be an important part of the book business. Actually, early on in my career, I visited a St. Vincent de Paul shop where all paperbacks were sold for a quarter each. Mine were priced at a dollar. Seeing the difference in price made me feel like a star.

When my agent was negotiating the sale of my first book, Until Proven Guilty, we had a choice to make. One avenue was to go with a hardback contract where the initial print run would most likely be 5000 copies with a projected sell through of half that. The other option was to go with a paperback house where the initial print run would be around 30,000.

In the early eighties, my daughter was a Brownie who earned her way to Girl Scout Camp three years in a row by selling 1000 boxes of cookies a year. The first year by the last day of selling, we were down to only two kinds of cookies—the short breads of lemon creams. During the process of earning my CLU designation in the life insurance business, I had learned about the law of large numbers, and it turns out a thousand boxes of bookies was a large enough number for a valid study. We analyzed the sales history. Thin Mints were clearly the hands-down favorite, so for the next two years, we ordered 500 boxes of those with smaller numbers for the other varieties with Lemon Creams coming in dead last. And for the next two years, on the last day of the sale, we still had a complete selection.

Suddenly I was a fan of the law of large numbers and applied that to the book biz. The possibility of having 15,000 paperback readers seemed like a better bet than having 2500 hardback readers, so we went with the offer from Avon Books, and I stuck with them for years. When Avon was sold to HarperCollins, I went along for the ride, and I’ve been with them ever since—with the exception of the Ali Reynolds books which are published under the auspices of Simon and Schuster.

I started out my writing career with a number of two-book contracts with tiny advances from a paperback house. Initially I wrote two books a year for Avon, and the low advances meant I was working for far less than minimum wage. Fortunately for me and my kids, Bill had come into our lives and was happy to be our blended-family’s primary breadwinner. A couple of years into the process, some of the old hands in Seattle’s literary world took Bill and me to the publishing business’s woodshed, as it were, where they told us that original paperback mysteries had a ninety-day shelf life and what I needed to do was ditch those low-priced two-book contracts from Avon and go with another house that would pay “real” advance money.

Bill and I talked it over. We decided it made sense to stay where I was and gradually up the value of those initial advances, and that’s exactly what I did. Those small advances were paid off in relatively short order. At this point I receive more in royalties from those original paperbacks every six months than I was paid in those initial advances.

The guys who were passing out sage advice back then decided to take it themselves. They took their book contracts off to other houses where they received larger initial advances, but a funny thing happened after that. Their earlier books, their backlist titles, disappeared. With no new books on the horizon, their original publishers had no real interest in keeping their backlists in print. I’m happy to report that thirty-seven years later, Until Proven Guilty is still in print in paperback, e-book, and audio editions. According to my calculations, that’s approximately 148 ninety-day shelf lives later. I call that a win-win!

In case you’re wondering about how that happened—here’s the secret. My devoted fans have a tendency to tell other people about my books, just like that ninety-year old guy who told Amy about me last Christmas and turned her into a fan. For years people have told me that reading my books is like eating Fritos because you can’t read just one, That’s certainly turned out to be the case with Amy, and I’m hoping the next time she sees that resident of hers in person, she’ll tell him I said thank you.

54 thoughts on “Thanks for Sharing

  1. I’ve been a fan since reading my first Ali Reynolds book. I lived in Sierra Vista, AZ in 1971. I was especially excited to meet you several years ago when you were on a book tour in Fort Worth, TX. I finally printed out a list of your books, so I can keep track of which ones I’ve read. Now I listen to audio books, borrowed from my local library. And I look forward to your blog. Thank you so much.

  2. Word of mouth is a great thing. I heard about you back in the late 1980’s from my neighbor across the street. He met you at a cocktail get together in Seattle when he was visiting family and told me about this neat author he had met. I’m still reading your books, although I have joined the delights of e-books rather than dead tree. I can carry a lot more around with me that way. Please keep on writing!

  3. Not only are you a great author who writes fantastic stories that keeps readers enthralled from start to finish, you’re a down to earth human being who shares herself in such a way that one can take it and maybe apply it to their own life.

    I started “reading” you when I began to work at a postal facility where we weren’t allowed to talk on the workroom floor, but we could listen to our portable radios, cassette recorders full of books on tape, and all the future methods of sound that have evolved over the years. JP Beaumont was such great company for me in those early career days, and Joanna and Ali followed along right behind him as the years progressed towards retirement.

    Thank you.

  4. I too am a fan because my next door neighbor told me about you and JP Beaumont! I have since read all of your books, and look forward to many more.

  5. I have been reading your books for so long I thought I’d read them all. Some of them twice. I love the detail, the humor, the conversation exchanges that you write. Now I am reading one that I missed along the way and is so good.
    It’s ‘Unfinished Business’. I love giving my books to others. Thank you, for writing Good Books!!!!!

  6. You’re so right–excited, pleased people tell other people. My sister told me about you a few years ago–wanted your books for Christmas–and after I’d read a few of her copies, I realized that you had become my favourite author. So now, of course, I tell my friends, and they start reading JAJ.

  7. I have all your books. Some hard cover, some paperback. I would never dream of giving any of them away. They are great to reread. Keep writing.???

  8. Egads! I suddenly feel a bit guilty for no longer having paperbacks to pass forward. My Kindle reader changed all that. This device has been my reading friend for well over a decade.

  9. I started reading your books years ago with a thrift store paperback of JP Beaumont – not the first one! I read several and then discovered you had a “new” series with a female sheriff. Now I was hooked! I prefer hardbacks so I preorder now and devour your books -all of them- as they are published. I do search for the early paperbacks in thrift stores. I am an evangelist for your books and enjoy telling friends about JP and Ali and especially Joanna. When some of my literary snob friends say “I don’t read mysteries, they are always badly written with stock characters.” I just hand them one of yours and say “Try this, then tell me that again.” Without gail they come back telling how good the characterization and the setting and story are! And You have new fans!
    Now I am waiting for them to come out in large print!
    Becky Haase
    PS. I even turned my mother who “only read romances” into a JAJance fan.

  10. Your novels are like margaritas at Habanero’s in Tubac while viewing the mountains: can’t stop at just one.

  11. There is absolutely nothing better tha”word-0f-mouth! That goes for any product or service and certainly your books You sure have a record to be proud of. As your other fans have said, I feel like I am personal friends with all of your characters.
    Janice Molina

  12. My Husband was a rookie with SPD (same as JP) when he was given a dog eared copy of Until Proven Guilty. The word in the department at that time was it must have been written by a fellow officer because “he” was so accurate. A few books in the word was out that the J stood for Judy, 30+ years later he is retired and we read all of your books, though JP is still his favorite.

  13. Once I discovered you, I went to Powells and bought every copy they had and I’ve never stopped. Ali Reynolds is my favorite because she’s closer to my age (and I love B) I’m in the process of rereading the first J.P. Beaumont book and loving it just as much as the first time! I introduced you to my neighbor who went to a book signing in Vancouver WA and her picture with you is nicely framed on her wall!
    Cheers,
    Jackie Olsen

  14. My friend Joyce first introduced me to your books. She lived in Tucson at the time. This was pre Ali Reynolds. Then Joyce had a major stroke and moved to Scottsdale where her son lived. Now she was less than 5 miles from The Poisoned Pen. So quite a few times, I timed my visits to match your book signings. Good times. Now I am “rereading” your books on Audio. That is an interest that I refer during all the down time of the last two years, knitting while listening to audio books. Very relaxing. So I bought your books either in paperback or hardback or e books and now am buying them again in audio.

  15. I love all your books but JP Beaumont is my absolute favorite. He seems so real to me and his stories are fantastic. Thank you for putting in all those years of hard work. I read your books over and over.

  16. I’m a huge fan of your books ? for over 20years and I have hard cover signed books and read the paper backs too. I also reread them. Thanks for great ? reading!!

  17. I have read them all, most of them more than once, many more than twice. I am heavily invested in getting my daughter interested now. Thanks for years of great enjoyment.

  18. Thanks for writing such great books ?! I’m a huge fan and have been to several readings and gave signed books and read all the paper backs I can get my hands on,yes I do reread too! Thanks again!

  19. I don’t know how I discovered you, but the first book I read was a Joanna Brady – and I was hooked! Scoured used books stores for previous books on your list. From there it was whatever book you’d recently written that had been released to paperback. Love them all, but Joanna and Ali are my favorites. Thank you for so much reading pleasure!

  20. Boy I hear you on the Law of Large Numbers.
    I run a small gift shop in a state park. This income buys important supplies for the park.
    Analyzing those numbers, not “get one of each” has helped our success.

  21. I’ve been sitting here thinking about why I often feel so refreshed after reading your blog stories.They’re actually kind of an autobiography of sorts. They are like you, I’d bet. No big fat lies for aggrandizement. Just regular life stories to keep in touch. Sure, it probably helps keep us fans interested, but it IS interesting!

    Your blog stories remind me to reflect on my own family stories. They might be teaching younger people a thing or two. Plus they make me laugh, cry, and think just a little deeper.

    Thanks for the entertainment!

  22. I read a couple of your books back in the 80s, and they really made an impression on me. I loved them because they took place in Seattle and I could visualize so vividly everywhere everything was happening. But then I had 3 babies in a row and didn’t have time to read, moved out of state and lost touch with your books.
    But many years later, actually just a few years ago, I saw you at a book talk at the Retired Seattle Teacher’s Association luncheon and was thrilled to meet you. And then, even more recently, we were connected again through a mutual friend of ours. So I decided to start reading you from the beginning. I’m on book 8 now!
    It’s kind of like binging on a Netflix series. Each book is like a new episode in the Beaumont series. I love the progression of the characters through time.
    I’m so glad that you are so prolific! And, as was mentioned earlier, you are so down to earth an genuine. Thank you for being you Judy!

  23. I am one of (those) readers.
    years ago, after my first taste of J.A. I went on line and down loaded all of your works (in order). and I have read them all.
    Now I find re-reading them is very satisfying.
    and I look forward to notices of new stuff coming out.
    From time to time I go back and check the lists to make sure I haven’t let one slip by.

  24. So true. An attorney I was working with at the time (a man) put me on to your books. He brought me the first Beaumont book and I was hooked. Then I told my girlfriend and she has read them all. Word of mouth really works because I would never have known.

  25. I enjoy reading your blogs. I have been reading your books a long time but am a more recent blog reader.

  26. Dear Judy, Having become snowbirds to Tucson and Apache Junction in Ariona and living all our lives in Des Moines, Wa., Karen became enamored of an author who set her stories in both places. She bought and devoured the early paperbacks and was hooked even after you switched to more expensive hardback offerings. I always preordered your next book and gave it to her on Mother’s Day or at Christmas or on her birthday. Frankly, I think if you had written them on papyrus, she’d join an archeological society and find a way to read them. And our garage cupboards are full of all the Beaumonta and Ali Reynolds she’s saved. She was delighted to actually meet you once at the Kent Library and again at Wesley Gardens. Karen is 78 years old and struggling with short-term memory loss, but when she puts one of your books down, she can still recall your plotline in pretty good detail. We need to downsize our home , but she won’t let me donate your books anywhere. Perhaps in the not-too-distant future she can read them all over again as if they are brand new works of yours. Having been an AP Literature teacher for forty years, I just love it when she reads. She is calm and totally absorbed for hours on end. The worlds you create are a long way away from MSNBC, whose news and commentaries depress her terribly. I know that one of these days, Judy, you too will run out of gas for the arduous task of writing, but please know that already you have brightened the days of so many people with your work. — Steve LeQuire

  27. J. A. Jance books are like that old pair of comfy jeans or shoes. I have them all and when I need comfort I pull one off the shelf and sit down for a good read. Usually find something I missed the first 3 or 4 times.

  28. You are ever so right. I tell all my friends to read J.A. Jance and C.J. Box. Sometimes I buy then a book for Christmas just to get them hooked!

    • You will not be disappointed! I read it years ago- Recently I reread it, and found that it is still as eye-opening about human nature, good and evil, today, as it was when it was first published- Timelessness is the mark of a Classic-

  29. For me, not only the distinct characters in each of your four series, but also the distinct geographical locations in each, make every time I read a book (and reread one) feel like I’ve left physically left NYC and landed in Bisbee, Tucson, Sedona, or Seattle, where I stay for a while, soaking up the local atmosphere, along with the ever-evolving personalities, relationships, and life-events, as our friends confront unexpected dangers posed by new, and sometimes old, villains- Important as location is to the stories, Beau can travel around, remaining himself as a free-standing cop in Arizona, and aboard a cruise ship off Alaska, and Joanna and Ali move around the State- I love it when the characters from
    different series join forces!

  30. A lot of the comments this time mention re-reading. For me, enjoying the book the second time round is one of the tests of a keeper. Since I just finished a binge re-read of 9 Jance books I’ve been reflecting on WHY I enjoy these books so much. One reason is that the characters grow, learn, and change. It appears to hold true across many series of books I’ve encountered and continued to read.

    The friend who recommended your books made a second recommendation on the same day. I tried both authors, but dropped the other one when, after 15 or so books, the protagonist had not learned a thing and kept getting into the same scrapes and jams. I got tired of reading the same joke after a while.

    In contrast, going back and devouring the book where B. Simpson first appears, knowing the future, allowed me to enjoy once again Ali’s discovery of her kindred spirit. It felt like it does when I tell a story from my own past, a happy walk down memory lane. It also whetted my appetite to learn what’s going to happen to them in the future. I can think of several other series that I happily continue reading for similar reasons.

    You can’t stop writing, because how else can all your readers learn along with your characters!

    • I agree. That’s one of the reasons I keep reading the Jance books. The characters change and grow just as we all do. I don’t know if the author you don’t name is who I think it is. If it is, I made it to book 16 before I quit. The characters were too static. She just kept writing the same book over and over. Just changed the details around a little.

  31. I had many of the recent books then I went to your presentation in Oro Valley at SCOV and found out how many I had missed….I have now started at the beginning of each series (thanks to Amazon) and reading from the beginning of each series. I love them all and yes, they are like snacks – I can’t put them down and read about 2 a week.
    Keep writing I just love finding out about how Brady and Beaumont stared on their adventures.
    Many many thanks.

  32. Another secondhand bookstore fan – I was in my absolute favorite, Pro Libris in Bangor, ME, and discovered a bunch of JAJ works that I had read so long ago as to have forgotten some bits; it was a lovely way to start a holiday with sure-thing good reads along!

    ceci

  33. My sister, Marianne Livingstone, has every one of your books….all signed. She finally convinced me to read a couple of your books while recovering from my first knee replacement surgery. I’ve been totally hooked ever since and have read every book in each series….and anxiously await each new book. You are a fabulous writer….and a joy to see at book signings. I hope Bill is doing well!

  34. I was in a variety store and looking at the book section. Your books had a sticker them that said local author. I bought them both, plus an Earl Emerson–another local author. I have been hooked since then and I have most of them in paperback.

  35. I used to get your books used at Bookman’s and Mostly Books in Tucson, but now I buy them new! God bless you, Judy! Keep writing and I’ll keep buying and reading!

  36. These comments have been especially wonderful. I loved learning about how each of the commentators remembered who had first recommended my work. As I said at the beginning of the blog. Thank you all SO MUCH for sharing.

  37. Many years ago I was picking up some books at the bookstore in the local outlet mall. (Remember when bookstores could be found in any mall?) When the clerk saw what I was buying she suggested I pick up J A Jance. Always open to trying a new author, I added a couple of her books to my purchase and had a new favorite author by the time I finished the first one. I seldom purchase books by any of the authors I was buying that day but pick up the new J A Jance as soon as it shows up at Costco.

  38. I truly understand the need to read ALL your books and I not only have read them once, i read them over again! I have all your books on my IPad and when it recently was shattered in a fall i was very upset that I might lose access to all of them. But my sweet husband just bought me a new IPad and i am happily reading Beaumont in order
    For about the third time!

  39. I discovered you at my local library on the new releases shelf, I was, what’s this a detective in Seattle!!
    I live in Richmond, BC, Canada and my husband and I love to go to Seattle.
    I knew all the areas in books, so fun.
    I buy the paperbacks at the bookstore, second hand store and drug store.
    Thank you so much for the great reading!

  40. Same thing happened to me….my 80 year old neighbor introduced me to your books a few years ago and I’ve been shown to find most of them although I’m missing a few!I in turned introduced you to my father in law and he’s hooked too! I’ve also gotten my niece in to your books so yes, we all love you and your books and will continue to recommend you to our
    friends. J P Beaumont is my favorite although I read Brady and Ali Reynolds and The Walker books!! Keep on writing, you have a lot of fans here in Delaware!! Love ya JA!!!
    Sincerely,
    Rose Osterstrom

  41. I’ve been an avid reader all of my life, but I “discovered” my first Jance book in a used paperback bookstore, and I’m so thankful I did! I’ve since read everything you’ve written, and some of the books 2 and 3 times! You are one of my “go to” authors when I’m between books, or not sure what I’m in the mood for–I know for sure I’ll enjoy re-reading one of your books. You are one of the few authors I keep on my personal bookshelves. 🙂

  42. Between second hand bookstores and “Friends of the Library” book sales, I was able to flesh out my library of all your books. For the pandemic, I decided to read/reread all your series in order. I started with Joanna, then Ali, and the entire Walker family novels. For all these series my constant companion was our mini daschshund Xander. We lost him to a heart attack in July after 12 years together.
    I saved the best for last — Beaumont. I picked up Nothing to Lose at Costco in March when I was sidelined with a broken arm. The day after I finished it, I ended up in a conversation with a friend who had been to Homer recently. Someone asked her where she had eaten, and she could not remember the name of the steakhouse. I popped up with the info from the book and looked like an expert despite never having been to Homer. Thanks.

    • I am rereading all the comments from last Friday’s Blog- Reading yours, Gretchen, reminded me that in 2021 my husband and I lost our beloved Dutch-breed Bunny Mervyn, who looked like he was wearing a little tuxedo- (The Dutch rabbits are all two-toned, mostly black and white) We also lost a dear friend, “Mother Rhoda”, one of the first women ordained as a Priest in the Anglican/Episcopal Church- She and Mervyn loved each other, and it comforts us to think of them together for eternity- (We have since adopted two rescue-bunnies, Tony and Lily, who are now blissfully bonded to each other)
      During the 2021 of loss, after years of reading JaJance, I finally “met” Judy via email- What a treasure in my life she has turned out to be! I am sure we can all think of artists of all kinds whose work we adore, only to find out that the actor, or painter, or author is a perfectly despicable character in real life!
      Just the opposite with JaJance- She lives up to her artistry- That is to say, she is just as real, as interesting, as warm-hearted, and even at times as surprising as her novels-
      I started out by relating to your loss of precious Xander- One of the comforting things about Judy is the way she understands and loves both children and animals-

  43. Just goes to show how important intelligent and well-thought out choices are in determining the success of a person’s life/career. You truly have had an amazing career and still going strong! So proud of you! And to think you grew up in a small copper town like Bisbee which was followed by Pima Hall!

  44. Your books occupy an entire shelf in my small in-house library! More than any other author. Now I’m trying to find the missing ones. Thank you for many enjoyable hours! I use my Kindle to read, but there’s nothing quite like a book in my hands.

  45. In the 60’s I got a degree in English. I wanted “to write” but never liked any of my characters or plots. I wrote and published a bit of poetry but that was it. I found you on a shelf in the city library at a point where I had time at lunch to walk the one block there. Last night my husband and I were talking about the novels I was required to read in college and how I greatly preferred Shakespeare and Dostoevsky because they wrote real people and told a good story. I love your writing and marvel at your energy! I have had multiple authors I’ve followed but you are my favorite- because you write real people and tell great stories! Thank you sincerely.

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