Secrets of Successful Authors: Featuring Mary Coley

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I met Mary Coley years ago at one of William Bernhardt’s week-long Writing Workshops. We clicked immediately. Mary is a vivacious writer who’s passionate about her books. She has several published mysteries and was kind enough to answer my questions despite being in the middle of recovery from carpal tunnel surgery (a writer’s worst nightmare). Thank you Mary!

What makes your books and writing unique?

My books are unique because they are set in Oklahoma and feature a mystery as well as local history. I prefer to write in first person past tense but that doesn’t mean I won’t ever try another style. Another thing I like to include in my stories is some sort of  cause or issue. In my first book, it was Osage Native American tragedy. In the second book, it was human trafficking and the disappearance of a young person. In the third book, it was history related to Osage Hills State Park and the CCC program that built the park but the issue was acceptance of gay people.

How did you find your writing niche?

I would not say I found my niche it’s just what I like to write. I’ve always Heard the saying write what you know but I also think you must write what you like. I like mysteries, I like history and I like causes.

How do you balance writing, speaking, online platform, other work, church or community service, and family? How do you organize your time?

Balancing time is always difficult. I try to set times each day for writing, marketing and editing. I always seem to have several things going on at once. But family always tops any work. I am still a wife, a mom and a grandma and those always comes first. Sometimes my writing time is neglected. Plus I need social time with friends and the organizations I belong to. I am lucky that I’m not paying bills with my writing income.

Why do you think readers buy your books?

I think it’s because they like the same things I do: mystery and history and a little romance and local settings. I think I appeal mostly to Oklahoma people, or those who are interested in this region of the country.

What helps your business succeed despite competition?

The same thing applies related to competition. Writing and reading are so subjective. Some people are never going to like what you write. So if people like it, you have a leg up on other writers that are writing other types of books.

How do you find new readers?

Finding new readers is the most difficult part of being a writer. You have to use social media, pay for advertising, take time to do book fairs and events. It’s very time-consuming and all of it takes away from writing. It can also be expensive.

What have been some keys to your success? What have been your biggest barriers?

Keys to success and biggest barriers: you want people to like what you write but it’s so subjective that not everyone will care for your style. Also writing, editing, and marketing take a great deal of time and energy. There’s only so many hours in the day.


Ravine by Mary ColeyIn 2009, Mary Coley‘s first non-fiction educational book for children was published by  Capstone Press, Environmentalism: How You Can Make A Difference. Meanwhile, she also did a lot of journaling, writing about nature, and crafting short stories, women’s fiction and mysteries.

In 2013, she published two e-books, both short story anthologies. (See more on my book page.) Her first mystery, Cobwebs, was published in November 2013, the second, Ant Dens, in November 2014 and the third, Beehives, in December 2015. Her latest novel, The Ravine, was published by Wild Rose Press in May 2016.