First Snow: 2016

We weren’t supposed to get much and the morning started with a whisp of a dusting but then it started snowing thick, wet fluffy flakes and didn’t stop for most of the afternoon. It wasn’t very cold and I loved it. The kids, of course, were delighted as well. Except Natalie who seemed angry she couldn’t go out and play with the big kids.



My First Royalty Statement (Spoiler Alert: I Earned Out)

I’m kind of a nerd for spreadsheets in general, but I received one this past week that was the best spreadsheet ever: my first royalty statement. I’d been thinking about this one for a while and it had less to do with the money aspect and more to do with the sales aspect of it. It’s probably not healthy, but I needed some kind of tangible proof that what I had done, that the effort everyone involved in this book put forth, had been worth it. And it was.

I suspected this was the case and all along Jason told me he was happy with how things were going, but it wasn’t until I saw it in black and white on that spreadsheet that I could breathe a sigh of relief. The phrase “royalty due” was not only an indicator that a check was on the way, it was validation that enough people had bought my book – my baby, the thing I put my heart and soul into – to earn out the advance and then some.

Sure, it was a modest advance, but more than most new publishers are paying and regardless of advance amount, the sales number was pretty respectable. I immediately could name off five well-respected first novels from bigger and more established publishers that sold fewer copies in their lifetime than MURDER BOY sold in it’s first three months. This isn’t to brag, it’s to say thank you to everyone who helped me along the way and help make sure that when luck and fate turned their charmed eyes toward me, there was a book there ready to exploit that good luck and karma. Jason may have paid a modest advance, but he gave me and this book a level of effort commensurate with a six figure book deal.

The even better news is there is still more opportunity out there to capitalize on for the next book. MURDER BOY achieved respectable sales numbers with absolutely no trade reviews, no early Barnes and Noble shelf space, and a release date that was moved around a bit due to the gobsmacking good luck of being able to sign at two of the best indie mystery book stores in the business. There’s a chance we can do even better with the next book. And this is just the sort of inspiration I needed at just the right time.

For a while the thought of doubling my promo efforts for the next book and doubling my street efforts exhausted and depressed me because I had no way of gauging how much more I needed or how effective my initial efforts had been. This statement showed me that what I had done worked and that I likely had room to grow for the next book. That’s some huge motivation right there. Now I have a new first quarter number I’m aiming for with RIOT LOAD and I can’t wait until next year when I’m writing a new post detailing how that turned out.

A final note of interest on this whole thing is the oddity of selling way more print copies than ebook copies. Since MURDER BOY had been originally slotted as a digital original and I made the bulk of my name on various digital platforms, I expected it to be the other way around. I hesitate to draw any larger industry conclusions from that, but in my world I think it means people wanted to support me with a physical object they could have signed or give away or prop up a table leg with.

So thanks again to Jason Pinter for a great cover, one of the best cover copy lines ever, and a keen editorial eye, thanks to everyone at Murder by the Book and Poisoned Pen for letting me crash their parties, and thanks to the authors who took the time to put their reputations on the line and blurb the book and, mostly, thank you to everyone who bought a copy for themselves or a friend. I love you all.

I Said Something In Milwaukee That Wasn’t True

Photo Credit: John Thomas Bychowski
A couple of things of note: First, I spent the weekend in Milwaukee for the every lovely Murder and Mayhem conference. It was awesome and is very much my favorite conference. Second, I started a new book last week that I am very excited about.

Now, when I was on that panel above, I said something that is sort of true but not really and I want to clarify. The moderator (Kate Malmon is one of the best moderators ever, FYI. She and Katrina Holm should moderate every panel all the time) asked me what part I hated about the writing process and I said all of it. I said I hated writing but I hated not writing even more. Glib? Yes. True?  Yes…ish. I really do hate the act of writing. I hate the frustration and the mental work it takes and I hate being distracted and feeling guilty and all of that.

So why do I do it? It’s not just because I feel worse when I’m not writing. I think a better analogy is one I heard someone give about golf. Most of golf is awful, but golfers play for that one great moment, that one great shot that makes it all worthwhile. That’s why I write. I slog through the miserable parts for those rare moments when the words come easy or I nail a piece of dialogue or turn a cool phrase or (even more rarely) solve a plot problem in an inventive way.

That’s the part of writing I like. And with the new manuscript I think there’s going to be way more opportunity for failure than normal because I’m going out of my comfort zone. I writing a bigger book with bigger ideas and a bigger canvass and bigger stakes. But I think there’s also the opportunity for more of those exciting moments. I’ve been writing first person category crime books for so long that I had become numb to most of the cool moments because they were so easy. I’m expecting as I fail more with this book I’ll also appreciate the smaller victories more. Hopefully.

But ultimately the reason I do all of this is because I want to. I want to be good and I want to get better. I want to be worthy of the effort I’ve put into it and worthy of the investment of support and time and money I’m asking of those involved in the process.

Beer, Books, Auctions, And Mayhem

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You all know I’m going to be at Murder and Mayhem in Milwaukee this weekend, right?  I’ll be arriving Friday afternoon in time for a meet the authors happy hour from 5pm – 7pm at the Great Lakes Distillery and then on Saturday I’ll be on a fab panel with Johnny Shaw, Tasha Alexander, Alex Grecian, Cara Brookins, and moderated by the fabulous Kate Malmon.

This is huge for me. For those who may not know, the Murder and Mayhem conference plays a huge role in the success story of MURDER BOY. I had been stuck on the book forever and had no idea how to end it. But after half a day of inspiring panels and inspiring conversation with the best people in the world, I bought a cheap stick pen and a cheap notebook and escaped to the Arby’s across the street and finally cracked that sucker. So to come back two years as a panelist with MURDER BOY published and available for sale is HUGE and I thank everyone involved for the opportunity.

I’ve also got a pretty cool prize pack in the silent auction to benefit Erin Mitchell (feel free to donate to that fund apart from the auction as well). In addition to a signed copy of MURDER BOY, I’ve put up a bound manuscript of RIOT LOAD. This is my celebration draft, the one I printed off right after I finished the book and danced around the house with and photographed for social media. This is the only copy of this manuscript that will ever be printed and it’s the first manuscript of mine that has been printed completely since my third unpublished novel. So, rare indeed.

Looking forward to seeing you all there.

For more information about the event and the auction, check out the MMM website or Facebook page.

Kameron Hurley: Five Things Every Writer Should Know About Book Marketing


There is a lot of marketing advice for writers out there of varying helpfulness but very little of it is vetted and analyzed by actual marketing professionals. The exception to that is Kameron Hurley. A novelist as well as a professional marketing writer, Kameron is a loud and passionate advocate for writers to work smarter and harder to market their work. She has also been a great champion for writers to keep their day jobs for stability and to maximize creative freedom. I’ve benefited greatly from her advice and jumped at the chance to have her drop by here and share her experiences with readers outside of her traditional science fiction and fantasy audience. Today she visits at the end of her massive blog tour in support of her newest novel Empire Ascendant. Go buy many copies and tell your friends. Welcome, Kameron.

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I find it rather appropriate that the last post I’m writing for the blog tour I’ve been doing the last three weeks… four weeks?… for my latest epic fantasy release, Empire Ascendant, is about book marketing. Bryon suggested I swing by and do a quick and dirty “5 things” post, and how could I refuse?

So, without further ado, here are the top five things I think every writer should know about book marketing:

1. Getting the word out about your book won’t make you a bestseller, but it will help keep you in contracts. I hear folks deride all of the efforts that authors and publishers put forth into the gaping maw of the widget machine, insisting that bestsellers aren’t made via marketing. There’s some truth to the “magic” component of the bestseller. Who guessed The Girl on the Train could sell 2.5 million copies in two months? But what book tours and blog stops and interviews and video chats and podcast appearances and all the rest (compressed into the 3-6 weeks around your release date) can do is help you get noticed in an ever-rushing stream of new authors and new titles. The reality is that the world is full of noise, and speaking up and speaking out can make the difference between you selling a few hundred copies and a few thousand copies. That may not sound like much, but if your advance is $5,000 it can make a difference in whether or not you pick up another contract.

2. Don’t do stuff you don’t like. I don’t like doing readings. I’ll do a signing, or a Q&A, but standing up there reading from my work makes me feel like a trained monkey trying to weasel people out of peanuts. In truth, because public appearances of all sorts take a lot out of me, I try to limit them to three or four a year. This goes against a lot of perceived wisdom, though: in-person relationships that you forge with fans and booksellers at events are actually one of the most effective ways to sell books. And not just books, either: there’s a reason that even in this digital age, companies still cling to their human sales people. Humans like to do business with people they like. That’s a truism I see here in advertising all the time. If clients do not like you, they are not likely to do business with you, no matter how much logic you bring to the table. Yet I recognize that the price I have to pay for endless public appearances is just too high for the possible payoff. My sanity, and my ability to write books, gets severely impacting if I don’t watch myself.

3. Double down on what you’re good at and reward true fans. What I do enjoy is writing blog posts, making swag for fans, doing giveaways, and working out the next fun deal for folks who subscribe to my mailing list. This taps into my crafty side and also has some logic backing it up. No matter what industry you’re in, 80% of your business generally comes from just 20% of your customers. My core fan base right now is about 500-1000 people, which may not seem like a lot until you realize that they not only buy every book at least twice (and many have bought my work in various collections three times or more), but they gift it to others, recommend it to friends, and ask their local libraries to order copies, too. Suddenly the net effect of those folks grows wider and wider, like ripples on a lake. I try to reward those fans with fun extras whenever I can via my mailing list or in-person swag. Mailing list swag also tips me off when I meet new fans, too. When I’m asked to sign a book that already has a book plate on it that I only sent to mailing list subscribers, I know I’m not speaking to a casual reader, but a super fan.

4. Spend big money at your own peril. There are certain business expenses that one can understand: paying to have a website refreshed, printing out a hundred bookplates, going to a local convention. But paying a PR firm the entirety of your advance and hoping they’ll perform miracles is probably a bad investment. Having worked in advertising, I can tell you that unless you’re willing to pay thousands of dollars for publicity, there’s very little anyone can do for you aside from write and send out press releases and maybe pitch some stories to local newspapers, all things you could do yourself for a far better per-hour rate. I heard one anecdotal story of an author who spent $100,000 on publicity and sold 20,000 copies of their novel. And that was a generous story. I’ve heard far more stories about people who spent $10,000 or $20,000 and sold just 1,500 copies. This is a tough business. The truth is that spending a lot of money on marketing isn’t going to guarantee a success. Ask any publisher. What one is more likely to see is a publisher spending money on a book that has already gained traction through word of mouth, giving it an additional boost, or supporting work that’s already a known quantity. You must be willing to put in your own three week or six week push around the novel’s release in the most cost effective and fun way that works for you. Though it’s wonderful if your publisher supports you, you can’t rely on anyone else to do the lion’s share but you. I wish that wasn’t true. I wish it with every publisher I work with. But no one will love your book more than you. No one can champion it like you can. People don’t buy books they don’t know about. You have to be willing to reach out to them.

5. Know when to talk about your book, and when to write your book. I cancelled five additional blog posts during this tour because of deadline collisions. At the end of the day I had to ask myself if those five posts were more important to my career than a story in a possible anthology and the deadline for my next book. The reality was that here in week three or four of the tour, with strong first week sales and copyedits for another book bearing down on me, they were not worth further pushing back or cancelling deadlines associated with creating new work. At some point you must know when to put a book to bed and get back to work. At the end of the day, it’s still true that authors have very little control over how their work is received. All you can do is give it everything you have for the time you have allotted for it, and get back to work.

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Kameron Hurley is the author of The Worldbreaker Saga and the God’s War Trilogy. Hurley has won the Hugo Award, Kitschy Award, and Sydney J. Bounds Award for Best Newcomer; she has also been a finalist for the Arthur C. Clarke Award, Nebula Award, the Locus Award, BFS Award, the Gemmell Morningstar Award and the BSFA Award for Best Novel. Her short fiction has appeared in Popular Science Magazine, Lightspeed Magazine, Year’s Best SF, The Lowest Heaven, and Meeting Infinity. Her nonfiction has been featured in The Atlantic, Locus Magazine, and the upcoming collection The Geek Feminist Revolution.

Kameron Hurley: Website l Twitter
Empire Ascendant: Indiebound l Amazon l BN


View From The Hotel: Raleigh Bouchercon Edition


I’ve been back home from Bouchercon for about six hours now and it feels good. Even though I jumped right off the plane into the planning for Natalie’s first birthday party, I was ready to be home. I normally get into Bouchercon Thursday afternoon or evening and that works best. This year I came in Wednesday night and that was too much. But I had lots of business to do as a writer and as an editor so on that front it was worth it.

This was my first Bouchercon as a published novelist and my book was included in the book bags and was represented robustly in the book room. My panel was great and I had quite few people come get their books signed from me afterward. During the day I met with a few freelance editing clients and also met with my own publisher to plot what sort of things I’d like to work on for future books. That conversation was creatively exciting but was also one of those great writer dreams that I’m still amazed keep coming true.

Next week it’s back to the real world and back to edits on RIOT LOAD and finishing up the planning for these potential next novels. This is what I’ve wanted to do since I was a kid and I hope I don’t ever take it for granted.


RIOT LOAD Is Done, Man

Well look what I got finished just in time to leave for Bouchercon guilt-free

Well look at what I finished just in time to leave for Bouchercon guilt-free. I’m really happy with how this book turned out and it’s super special because it’s the first book I’ve written under contract. I started it on March 1, 2014 and finished just about an hour ago. There were some process things that made this whole thing take longer than necessary that I need to fix before I write the next one, but man, it feels good to be done.

Now I’ve got to change my clothes, take a shower, and finish packing before my flight leaves in…three hours.

It’s Bouchercon Week: Here’s Where You Can Find Me


Provided I get this blasted book finished so I can face my publisher in person, I will be leaving Wednesday evening for Raleigh and the World Mystery Convention. While there, I will mostly be hanging out in the bar, working on backed up editing projects, and trying to look like a professional once in a while. I’ve heard there will be copies of MURDER BOY in the book bags so I’ll be casually hanging around the hotel as well waiting to be mobbed for autographs. I will also be attending the Noir at the Bar on Thursday evening. In addition to all of this off the record fun, I have some official appearances scheduled as well:

Panel: “What’s In A Location? Location As Character”
Panelists: Bryon Quertermous, Christine Carbo Glenn Meganck (J.R. Ripley) James W Ziskin, Sean Doolittle
Thursday, 10/8/15
1pm – 2pm
Marriott: State C

Event: “Meet the New Authors (&Publisher)” Breakfast
I’ll be appearing at this with fellow Polis Authors Patti Abbott, Rob Hart, and Richard Goodfellow
Saturday, 10/10/15
7am – 9am
Marriott: State CD

I will be taking over the official Bouchercon Twitter and Facebook feeds as well the following times:

Thursday, October 8th from 4:00PM – 6:00PM
Friday, October 9th from 10:00AM12:00PM

Looking forward to seeing all of you. Except you. You know who you are.

P.S. That photo is from my bio page on the official Bouchercon app which is awesome and you should immediately download.

Meet The New Desktop


Earlier this year the desktop computer I bought last year crapped out and stopped recognizing the monitor. I didn’t have time to deal with it and wasn’t going to make the mistake of buying another cheap computer again so I packed the whole thing up and threw it in the basement for three months.

Since then we’ve been using a combination of my Macbook, the iPad, our phones, and the kids’ new tablets to amuse ourselves and get work done. But lately that hasn’t been working as well. Becky is getting more involved with Spenser and Holly’s scouting groups, the kids are needing to do more computer homework, and, frankly, I like writing and editing on a laptop sometimes, but it’s uncomfortable after too long and I get too easily distracted when I’m on the couch in front of the TV.  So we decided it was time for another desktop.

To prep ourselves, I brought the old one back up from the basement and set it up again. We thought we dodged a bullet when it started right up and recognized the monitor and everything seemed to be working great. But it was sloooooooooooow. I don’t know if it had always been that slow (I suspect it was, it was a REALLY crappy computer I got for $150) but after dealing with my latop and my day job computer for so long, it was intolerable. I tried to reformat the hard drive to fix it, but that only made it worse. So I started looking around for another desktop.

We were lucky that we didn’t have to pay an insane amount of money this time to get a decent machine because I found the one I wanted in the computer showcase store at the university where I work for a substantial employee discount. It’s just a slight step down from the monster rig I have on my desk at the day job and I love it. I already had the monitor, the speakers, the keyboard, and the mouse so this is what’s new:

HP ProDesk 600 G1
3.3GHz Intel Core i5-4590 Processor with Turbo Boost up to 3.6Ghz Max Turbo
500GB 7200 RPM 3.5 HDD
8GB DDR3-1600 (1x8GB) RAM
Windows 8.1 64bit Operating System
Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 4600
SuperMulti DVD Writer

So far Windows 8.1 isn’t quite as awful as it’s immediate predecessor, but I’m still thinking of doing the free upgrade to Windows 10 when I have the time. And now that I’ve had fun with setting it up, time to get to work on it and finish the last bits of RIOT LOAD.

Me At 39


This has been a pretty great year all around. My first novel was published to grand fanfare and people seem to be enjoying it, my family is healthy and awesome, my freelance editing business is humming along nicely with a slate of clients that provide a level of excitement and fulfillment I never got as an in-house editor, and I have a new day job that provides the comforting blanket of stability AND makes me happy as well as covering the tab when one of us needs oh, say, emergency hernia surgery.

Mentally I’m feeling great but physically I’m certainly starting to show signs of wear and tear. In addition to the aforementioned hernia surgery, I spent the early part of the year combating allergies and viruses that I’m sure my body would have fought off better had I been in better shape. So that’s always an ongoing focus. Next year is 40, which used to seem more epic but now still seems young. I’m happy where I am in life as I approach 40 and look forward to what life has in store for me as I round the greens toward the back end.

I’m swamped with meetings at work today and I have more work to do on RIOT LOAD and some editing projects I’m in the middle of to work on as well so no time for relaxing or reflecting too much and I suppose that’s a good thing. Tonight when I get home from a late meeting we’ll have Chinese food and birthday cake which makes the kids happy and really, isn’t that what everything is about these days?