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Frederick makes self-publishing a success – Novelist sells book at HyVee

By Staff | Jan 23, 2008

For quite some time now, Midwestern writers and editors have decried the New York publishing establishment’s attempts to ignore regional writers.

Michael Frederick, a Sioux Falls, S.D., writer, has set out to change that.

The Sioux City native now has 1 million readers. You won’t find his work in places like Borders or Barnes and Noble, though. To buy one of Frederick’s novels, you’ll have to go to your closest Hy-Vee.

Somewhere past the bread and canned soup aisles, you’ll find such Frederick titles as Ledges, a mystery based in Ledges State Park near Boone. The Midwestern-venued mystery has sold over 200,000 copies, making it one of Frederick’s most popular titles.

“I call it a small-town farm thriller,” Frederick said last week in an interview from his home in Sioux Falls. The story takes place on a farm in the 1960s and depicts a family in jeopardy.

A teenage boy and his sister move with their mother to a farm near Ledges State Park after she marries a farmer. The children uncover a mystery that the stepfather would just as soon be kept a secret.

As a self-published author, Frederick can tackle topics that might not fit the neatly pigeonholed categories of genre fiction. And he does so with zest.

“I’m known as the world’s most popular independent novelist by my librarians,” Frederick acknowledged.

Many of Frederick’s books are about dysfunctional families that get caught up in unusual circumstances.

Other works include a Sioux City-based novel Autumn Letters: A Coming of Age Story which has sold over 100,000 copies since it was published June 2004. Blue River, his ninth novel, was published last October and is staged in the Council Bluffs area. Another title is his fourth, Places, with scenes around the Omaha area with much of the action in the novel taking place in the Southwest.

With nine titles on the shelf, Frederick is now working on his 10th novel which takes place in Sioux Falls. He plans for two titles in 2009.

One obvious question is how he got started.

Well, for Frederick, college didn’t really turn his literary key. He kept writing, though.

His novels average 300 pages. He likes to write rough drafts with a pencil before doing his first edited copy on computer. He generally has a pretty good idea of what his beginnings and endings are when he starts. “I don’t think about why I’m going to write,” Frederick said. “I just let it come out of me. It’s always that terrible middle you have to fill in.”

While some of his stories can be somewhat dark, he said he avoids the macabre. His inspiration come from the southern writer Thomas Wolfe and D.H. Lawrence, both writers who embraced such topics as emotions, nature, and relationships. He tries not to read contemporary authors so he can avoid any undue influence, but he does like to read Dean Koontz.

“I like those metaphysical dramas — families in jeopardy,” Frederick said.

Since he’s self-published, Frederick spends an average of five hours a day five days a week selling his books to libraries and Hy-Vee stores. Since they’re independent, they can make their own buying decisions.

The trade-sized paperbacks seem to have filled a market niche for folks who are looking for a regional author than can spin a good yarn.

Ledges, Autumn Letters, Places, and Blue River are all currently available at the Estherville Hy-Vee.

Contact Michael Tidemann at (712) 362-2622 or mtidemann@esthervilledailynews.com and visit our photo sharing Web site at cu.esthervilledailynews.com