As we wind down the sorta-kinda blog tour for Murder Boy, we have this guest post I did today over at the Word Nerds about writing dorks and sissies in crime fiction instead of tough guys. Go check it out. Thanks!
Chuck Wendig has a great post today talking about the various forms of self promotion for writers and which he thinks offers the most effective results. Go read it now.
I listed in the comments some of the things that have worked for me. I realized I had forgotten some after I posted the comment so I thought I’d post them here as well.
Guest Posts: I’m at a low enough level recognition-wise that these work well for me at places that not only have a large audience, but a broad audience. I’d rather post at a site with 500 reader who have never heard of me than one with 10,000 readers who already know who I am. This holds true for blog tours as well. I had a lot of success with a targeted approach instead of draining all of my energy writing for a ton of places that had smaller audiences than my own site.
Conventions: I really recommend going to conventions at least 10 years before your first novel is published. This is how I did it and because of that (and not being an asshole…mostly) I was able to cultivate a supportive community for the eventually release of my book as well as getting to know big name authors and reviewers when they were just starting out. Three of the blurbs I had for my first novel are from NY Times bestsellers, but I’ve known them all for at least a decade or more which helped with the process immensely.
Swag: I found postcards worked well. They’re cheap, easy to mail and work great for spreading the word around town about your book. I was against bookmarks until an influential bookseller told me to get them. She said if authors leave behind bookmarks after a signing the bookstore will put them in comparable titles to cross promote. I though that was pretty smart and the booksellers I visited all shared the same philosophy.
Bookstore Tours: This is another one where having 10 years of conference connections under my belt helped. I’m also lucky to be writing in a field (crime fiction) that still has a robust network of specialty bookstores. I did three (with one more still to come) in-store events at large indie mystery bookstores where 1) I had a decent chunk of family and friends in town to support me and/or 2) I signed with two other authors who were far more charming and well-known than myself. In addition to selling books, which these visits did, posting about them on FB and Twitter and my website gave me an excuse to talk about my book without blatantly talking about my book which was nice.
Free Books: Given a lot away, seen decent results, especially in garnering Goodreads and Amazon reviews.
Personal Website: I gave my site a massive overhaul leading up to the publication of Murder Boy and made sure to include a robust media section to make it easier for publications to write about me, I had a good summary of the book and reviews and blurbs to help validate my book with readers, I posted a nice long chunk from the beginning of the book to entice people to try it, and I posted new content regularly (much of it not about writing or the book) to keep people coming back.
Newsletter: I love Chuck’s idea of setting up the blog subscription as a de facto newsletter. I know it’s important to have some sort of means of distributing my content that I own rather than just relying on social media, but I couldn’t think of anything to add to a newsletter that I don’t write about on my website. So you’ll now see that I set up a subscription link over there on the sidebar. That way people who want to guarantee they get my posts and don’t want to have to rely on Twitter or Facebook to know when I’ve posted something new have an option. Go subscribe. Now. There’s a cookie in it for you.
I’ve tried to keep this site free of most of my bitterness about the end of my publishing career, but I’m feeling a bit sad seeing the photos of Edgar Awards Week so pardon a bit of indulgence. Last year’s Edgars were the high point for me. It was the coming out party for Exhibit A and my career as an editor. We’d just been approved by the Mystery Writers of America as a legit publisher and we had an awesome slate of new books in the pipeline. Everywhere I went people were excited about ExA and what we were going to do and how much an imprint like ours was needed.
Two short months later it all came crashing down. I’m happy with how my career has turned out since then, but I’m still pouring a splash of my Diet Pepsi on the curb today for what could have been.
I wrote this as part of my blog tour for Murder Boy. It was originally intended for a different site, but I thought it worked best here instead. I hope you enjoy it.
I think a lot about my legacy. Probably too much. And for the longest time I linked my legacy to my writing. I was called out once for mentioning something writing related as my biggest achievement in the same year my first kid was born. I hope I’ve learned my lesson as I’ve gotten older and had more kids, but I still feel the selfishness of my writing legacy creeping into my thoughts of my parenting legacy. I worked a lot of this out in the writing of my first novel and I’m working through the parenting part of it specifically right now in the sequel and feel good that I’m going in the right direction. In that spirit, to help celebrate the publication of that first novel, instead of writing another post about my writing process, or my writing influences, or my writing goals, I’d like to talk about my poor youngest child who has about as much photo documentation of her life as Bigfoot or pre-surgery celebrities.
It started off all exciting with our first kid. I took pictures of everything with him from baby bumps to the ooey gooey of birth and beyond. We have pictures of all his birthday parties and every major milestone in his life. And the blogging. I wrote about every detail of his life and my struggles with parenting and marriage with kids and all of that. Between social media photos and my blog you can go back and get a pretty accurate impression of our life with our first kid. Thinks got sketchier with the next one. She came so fast, just barely a year after the first one, and aside from a few pics from the hospital and some where she’s photo bombing pictures of our oldest, there’s not much else. But I still wrote about her and then, once her and my son were about four and started doing more things worth photographing (and, let’s be honest, started wearing clothes more on a regular basis) the pictures resumed but the blogging drifted off. We were experiencing all of the same trials and joys we had with the first kid, but I was much less inclined to write about them and was more in survival mode.
By the time we get to our third kid, born six months ago, you see a lot of baby pictures but if you just read through the blog text for the last two years you’d be convinced we didn’t have kids anymore. Even the photos are drying up. I know I need to be better about this, but wrangling three kids into a photo is HARD and we’re usually too busy yelling at the other two to stop running in the house or stabbing each other with homemade swords to take pictures of just the baby. And as for writing about the kids now, it’s kind of why I got out of journalism. There are only so many stories you can write about people buying shovels for a blizzard before you want to scoop your brain out with a spork. How many times can I write about kids not sleeping through the night or going for months at a time only eating brown food before it gets old?
But these kids are my legacy. I respect my child-free friends and often envy their lives, but regardless of the wisdom or reason for my having kids, I have them so I might as well make sure they’re as prepared to be good citizens as they can be. My books will be gone soon enough, but if I screw up my kids they can do damage that will affect generations. I’ve read enough Bible stories and seen enough Jerry Springer episodes to know this is true. And I do not take this legacy lightly. I think about parenting a lot, but don’t write as much about it because I don’t want as much random input from other people. Parenting is a unique thing and I’ve received far more horrible parenting advice than useful bits. I also try to refrain from giving parenting advice for the same reason. The best thing parents can do for other parents is treat every child as if it were your own. Don’t judge, empathize. Don’t give advice, give support. And most importantly, buy my new book.
I’ve been amazed and humbled by the great reception this book has been getting online and at my events. People who haven’t been able to attend the events though have been asking me about getting signed copies so I wanted to drop a note here about that.
If you’re in the Scottsdale, AZ or Houston, TX areas, the best thing to do is contact Poisoned Pen or Murder by the Book where I left lots of signed stock after my events there. For those in the Flint, MI area the Genesee Valley Barnes & Noble has signed copies for you.
If you live anywhere else or would like a personalized copy you’ll want to contact my local indie store Aunt Agatha’s. They’ll take your order and send me an email to come in and sign the book when I get a chance and then they’ll mail it to you.
Thanks again for the support!
So it’s lunchtime and you’re on a break at work thinking about what to do tonight and wondering if any of those options will involve cake. YES. My book launch party at Aunt Agatha’s. I realize this may sound like false modesty or self-deprecation, but it’s not. I had another nightmare last night that nobody showed up at my event tonight. So please help me alleviate those fears and come have cake with me and my big extended family tonight at 7pm.
I know I’ve bragged here about how successful my other events have been so far, but this one really freaks me out. First, this is the first one I’ve doing all on my own. When I was in AZ and TX I had two other writers on the ticket with me and when I signed at Barnes and Noble this weekend I had the backing of Educator Appreciation Week to entice visitors to take a chance on me. But this event is all me. And I’m pretty sure Aunt Agatha’s ordered the most copies of any of the other stores which makes me even more nervous. And on top of all of that, this event was supposed to be the first event right on publication day so it would have that new book and new event glow to it. But due to some very awesome circumstances, the book was published two weeks sooner and now I’m afraid everyone will be all Murder Boy-d out and sick of me by now.
Luckily I only have to obsess about this for another 6.5 hours before the verdict will be sealed and I can finally move on.
UPDATE: The event was a great success. Lots of people showed up and more importantly lots of people bought books. Thanks to everyone who came out. I did leave some signed stock behind so contact the store if you’d like to get a copy. Also, look at this cool cake they presented me with:
That fine looking group of folks showed up early in the morning yesterday to hear me talk about myself and Murder Boy. I was the kick off speaker for Barnes & Noble Educator Appreciation Week and they are all educators. Apparently they enjoyed my talk because every single one of them bought a copy of Murder Boy after my talk. They liked that I didn’t stand behind a podium and read from my book for an hour. I was surprised I sold that many copies but the lady who organized it must have had bad experiences with authors in the past because she didn’t expect me to sell ANY copies.
After this group broke up I took a break to get a great Flint cheesy double at Halo Burger then came back at 1pm to sell books to the general public. At this point I had about half of the books left that I started with. I knew some family and high school friends would be showing up throughout the day but I was absolutely floored that I sold every single copy within 45 minutes. I actually had to leave the store because people kept coming up to me asking for copies of the book. That one time I met Loren Estleman he told me to always have more copies of the book than you think you’ll need. He was right. I could have sold 20 more without a sweat. But they invited me back for next year so I’ll be sure to bring more books. They’ll also be ordering more soon for me to come in and sign to have on hand.
Now we move on to the big Official Book Launch Party on Tuesday at Aunt Agatha’s. This one I’m really nervous about because that store ordered A LOT of books and I want to sell them all. I’m terrified of being embarrassed by nobody showing up and nobody buying any books. So if you’re within driving distance of Ann Arbor, PLEASE come out on Tuesday April 14 at 7pm!
Today is another double dose of guest post goodness from me. First, we have this piece I did for Shelf Pleasure on my disappointment in myself by not going far enough to create great female characters. As I put together this sorta blog tour for Murder Boy I wanted a few of these pieces to tackle substantial, maybe even controversial topics. This is one of those pieces and I’m quite proud of it.
I also took up residence at The Rap Sheet to talk about how my desire to be the next great PI writer stopped me from working on Murder Boy and nearly paralyzed my writing permanently. It was a hard piece to write and I hope you all enjoy it.
As I’ve worked my way through the promotion gauntlet for Murder Boy, I realize I have no interest in begging for sales, I don’t think it helps and I just can’t bring myself to do it. But I will beg for reviews, specifically Amazon reviews.
Corey Doctorow has said that the biggest danger for writers these days isn’t piracy, it’s obscurity. The BEST way for a writer to battle obscurity is to have a lot of Amazon.com reviews. So if you’ve read Murder Boy please please please go leave a short review. Even if you didn’t like it. Thanks.
Goodreads is important for authors. Having lots of reviews and lots of readers add your book to their shelves makes a huge difference in new readers finding (and ultimately buying) a book. So in an effort to wrangle the power of Goodreads, my publisher and I are having some fun over there for the next few days.
Starting today, Polis Books will be giving away three signed and personalized copies of Murder Boy that will include a cool swag pack as well. And to get people over to Goodreads to enter, I will be doing an Ask Me Anything Q&A. While the purpose is to promote Murder Boy, questions can be about anything. Writing, reading, parenting, cooking, guitar, or anything else. Come on by. It’ll be fun.
I had a bit of a panic attack last week on Wednesday. It was the day after the official publication day for Murder Boy and the rush of excitement from that first day had worn off and I realized I had absolutely no idea how to get people to buy copies of my book. I was paralyzed by the duality of wanting to do something, anything I could, and realizing there was nothing I could do to guarantee sales. I eventually calmed myself down, read a few pieces on this subject from folks far smarter than I am, and realized all I can really do is talk about the book when the opportunity presents itself, let folks know where they can buy it, and then work really hard to write another book that is even better than the first one.
But in that moment, I had a moment of sympathy and understanding for everyone I’ve mocked based on desperate sales tactics. I was so close to doing some horribly crass things I would have immediately regretted, but that sense of helplessness is substantial and I suspect I’ll deal with it several more times along this publishing journey. So I ask that everyone has patience with me. I’ll try to keep the right balance, but if I get out of line please let me know (kindly and on the DL preferably) and maybe let’s have a little more empathy with the other authors who come off like flaming twits but are really just trying to sell enough books for their kids to be proud of them.