by Barb, enjoying summer in Maine, as the temperatures go down into the 50s at night–perfect sleeping weather as my mother would have said
I’m celebrating a few days early, but Clammed Up, the first book in the Maine Clambake Mystery series, has its tenth anniversary on September 3rd. (When I’ll be in Paris. Also, September 3, 2023 is the 50th anniversary of my husband and me meeting for the first time, when a friend of a friend brought him to my West Philadelphia apartment. Who’d have thought we’d be here now?)
Little did I know when I wrote it how important Clammed Up would be and what a workhorse it would be.
Actually, it’s a good thing I didn’t know how important it would be, because if I had known, I likely would have freaked out and been paralyzed. As a reader, I’m perfectly willing to excuse a weak first-in-series book, especially if I’ve been entranced by a later book and gone back to read in order. (I’m similarly willing to give the first episode of a television series a pass if there’s a lot of set up and go on to try the second episode.) However, lots and lots of people read in order, and for them, Clammed Up is the gateway to the Maine Clambake Mystery series.
As for being the workhorse, Clammed Up is still in print, in its seventh printing, if the copyright page is to be believed. It had sold 85,640 ebook and mass market paperback copies as of December, 30, 2022, the date of my last royalty statement. (I don’t have a count on audiobooks and large print. The accounting for those is done differently.) Not big numbers for a bestselling author, but good for a mid-lister like me. (I think. In this business no one tells you anything.) It still sells along at between 40 and 150 paperbacks a month, at least this year (according to Bookscan).
Clammed Up was a nominated for an Agatha Award for Best Contemporary Novel for 2013, for the RT Book Reviews, Reviewer’s Choice Best Book Award for 2013–Amateur Sleuth, and was a finalist for the Maine Literary Award for Crime Fiction. The book has a respectable 4.3 rating on Amazon with 2709 reviews, and a lower 3.92 rating with a higher 4480 reviews on Goodreads, but I actually think that is good. It means the book reached people beyond the core cozy audience–and for some of them, it wasn’t their cup of tea.
Here’s what some nice people said about Clammed Up. (Some are old friends now but back then I barely knew most of them.)
I can see this series on the bookshelves for years to come.Dru’s Book Musings
Clammed Up certainly deserves its nomination for the Agatha, and I will be making my reservation for another clambake with Julia and her family.Carstairs Considers
Clammed Up is a terrific start to what promises to be a top-notch series, with a cast of characters I look forward to knowing better.Suspense Magazine
Ms. Ross has written such a gorgeously cohesive novel that I wanted to celebrate it as a paragon of cozy cooking mysteries as well as a fine piece of fiction on its own.Criminal Element
It’s always exciting to catch the first book of a new mystery series and realize it’s the start of years of enjoyment ahead.Kingdom Books
When I look back at Clammed Up today, it is very much a first-in-series book. I was finding my way, getting to know my main character Julia Snowden, her strengths and foibles, and the world of Busman’s Harbor, Maine. I recently read an interview with an actor who has been playing the same character in a TV series for ten years. He said that when he went into the first episodes, he’d done plenty of prep on the character and his backstory and so on. But now that he’s portrayed the character reacting to all the situations he’s been in during the series, it feels like he has actual lived experience as this character. That’s very much the way I feel about Julia. Now that I’ve seen how she acts in so many different situations, I know her so much better.
Clammed Up has made the career I’ve had as a traditionally-published author possible. It’s led me to eleven additional novels and six novellas about the Maine Clambake characters. And, it has led me to all of you. I will be forever grateful.
Readers: How do you feel about first-in-series books? Is it one chance for you, or will you give a series with possibilities a second try?