David Carnoy: Read an Interview With the Author of KNIFE MUSIC and THE BIG EXIT

I’m very excited to share a recent interview I did with author David Carnoy, whose novel, THE BIG EXIT, came out in October 2012. Read on to learn more about him and how get published. (Feel free to check out all the blog’s author interviews.)

David Carnoy is an executive editor at CNET and is interviewed regularly on television as a tech expert, appearing on CNN, CNBC, MSNBC, and other media outlets. He is the author of the acclaimed thrillers Knife Music and The Big Exit. Library Journal called The Big Exit “twisty and dark, this addictive thriller showcases Carnoy’s ability to surprise the reader.” Publishers Weekly said of the book: “Carnoy follows his 2010 debut, with a thriller set in California’s Silicon Valley that has it all: a convoluted but convincing plot, a likable protagonist facing terrible odds, and a meaty supporting cast working for and against him.” David lives in New York City with his wife and children.

(Definitions of unusual literary terms & jargon you need to know.)





What is the book’s genre/category?


(Look here for a growing list of mystery agents.)

Please describe what the story/book is about in one sentence.

A Sinatra impersonator with a troubled past is accused of murdering the Silicon Valley entrepreneur who married his ex-fiancée.

Where do you write from?

New York City — but I grew up in California. That said, I did write about 50 pages of The Big Exit in a walk-in closet of a Club Med in Florida while we were on Christmas vacation (my wife and kids were asleep in the other room). I wrote from 4 AM – 9 AM. The hazards of having to hit a deadline.

Briefly, what led up to this book? 

I had written a debut novel called Knife Music. I had originally self-published that book in 2008. It did well and was picked up by a traditional publisher (Overlook) – they took the book off the market and then brought it out again in 2010.

Overlook gave me a two-book contract with an option for a third. The publisher encouraged me to have some characters continue from my first novel, so while The Big Exit isn’t a sequel per se, a few characters, including the lead detective, Hank Madden, appeared in Knife Music.

What was the time frame for writing this book? 

I was supposed to finish The Big Exit on May 31, 2011. I ended up finishing six months late – on December 31st (my contract was amended).  It took my about two years to write – much shorter than my first novel. It helps to have a deadline, especially when you have full-time job (I work at CNET, the big tech website, which is owned by CBS).

(Writer’s Digest asked literary agents for their best pieces of advice. Here are their responses.)

How did you find your agent?

My literary agent is John Silbersack at Trident Media. For my first novel, Knife Music, I hired a “book doctor,” a former editor named Jerry Gross, the father of a college classmate.

When the book was ready to be submitted to agents, Jerry called several agents asking them to take a look. I ended up with three agents interested. John, who’s a former editor himself, asked me to make some changes to make the book more salable (I had to kill off one of the main characters). I thought it was good advice. After I did a rewrite, he took on the book.

Side note: Even with a big agent like John (and Trident), Knife Music was originally rejected by close to 20 publishers. Neither of my books are cookie-cutter thrillers. They’re a bit off-beat (fresh/different would be the positive spin), which publishers can have a hard time grappling with. Only after I self-published and got some publicity (for having some success) was Knife Music sold to a traditional publisher (I had an agent before I self-published, however). Overlook is a smaller, independent publisher that’s distributed by Penguin. They had a No. 1 bestseller with True Grit recently.


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What were your 1-2 biggest learning experience(s) or surprise(s) throughout the publishing process?

I was a little bit surprised by how publishers are dealing with e-book pricing. As an “unknown” author, it’s very difficult to sell e-books for over $9.99 (it’s hard even at $9.99).

I know a lot about the e-book industry because I cover it as part of my day job. So I’ve been very vocal about offering affordable pricing for the digital versions of my books and to his credit, Peter Mayer, the founder of Overlook and former head of Penguin for many years, has listened to me. The Big Exit is priced at $7.99. Knife Music has sold close to 50,000 copies digitally because it was priced affordably (it’s now $3.99, which has helped spur sales of The Big Exit).

My advice to “newbie” authors is to try to be as hands-on as possible without being a pest. It’s a fine line. But the fact is publishing companies are spread very thin these days and it’s easy for things to fall through the cracks. You can’t just sit back and expect everything to turn out right. Only a few authors can do that. Most of them are above my pay grade.

Looking back, what did you do right that helped you break in?

Unfortunately, a lot of the old clichés apply: Dogged determination, perseverance, etc. I also happened to have a good understanding about how the publishing industry was changing. I was a little ahead of the curve there.  Being a tech editor helped me in that regard.

On that note, what would you have done differently if you could do it again?

You always feel like you could write faster and be more disciplined. I should have another couple of books in the can.

Did you have a platform in place?  On this topic, what are you doing the build a writer platform and gain readership?

I built a platform through my day job as a gadget guru, which has helped me achieve rock-star status with a very small segment of the population, most of it male. I’ve worked at CNET for 12 years – it has a huge audience. So I’m first and foremost a tech pundit. I’ve done some articles about the publishing industry as well as self-publishing, so I get a lot of people asking me for advice about how to publish their books. So you could say I have something of a split brand at this point.

It’s a bit of a challenge.  I’m not sure I’m taken as seriously as a fiction writer because of my day job. But the fact is I was a fiction writer long before I became a tech writer (I have a Masters from Columbia in Creative Writing, not Journalism).

As Kurt Vonnegut might say, so it goes.

(Look here for a growing list of fiction agents.)



Favorite movie?

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid … with an honorable mention for The Big Lebowski.

Something personal about your readers may be surprised to know?

I’m into extreme gardening.

What’s next?

I’ve done two novels that take place in Silicon Valley, where I grew up.  Look for Novel 3 to head to New York City.


Other writing/publishing articles & links for you:



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