Thursday, June 26, 2014

Witness Impulse

by Nancy Allen

I’m a Witness Impulse author. I still get a surge of pride each time I say so. Witness released my debut novel, The Code of the Hills, as an e-book on April 15 of this year, and the paperback release followed on May 20; so at this point, I’ve had some time to espouse my association with the HarperCollins imprint. But “the new” hasn’t worn off yet (as we say in the Ozarks); and it’s still hard to believe my good fortune. When I signed with Witness, I landed in a fabulous environment.

My novel is a legal thriller set in the Missouri Ozarks, following the struggles of a young prosecutor as she fights to convict a man charged with the crime of incest. It was my first novel, and I wanted what all authors want: to see it published, to hold it in my hands, and to have my story reach as wide an audience as possible. Witness made all of my hopes for the book a reality.

My literary agent, Jill Marr with the Sandra Dijkstra Literary
Agency (a veritable angel with wings—but that’s another story), submitted it to Trish Daly, an editor at HarperCollins who was part of Witness, HC’s new mystery and suspense imprint. Trish loved the book, and had a feel for the characters and the setting, and an understanding of the themes, that blew me away. When Trish and I went to work on editorial changes, it was a pleasure, the most satisfying artistic collaboration you can imagine. We shared a vision.

Witness also provides publicity and marketing support. My publicist is Andrea Hackett; she sent out press releases, arranged national radio interviews, and set up a blog tour. But I wanted to be a part of the process; and as a team effort, we obtained book reviews in major Midwestern publications, local TV, a spot on NPR Morning Edition, and a piece in the Village Voice. Our marketing director will be doing retail promotions for The Code of the Hills this summer. All of this assistance has been golden; Witness has empowered me and my novel in ways I could never have achieved if I was going at it on my own.

In a recent visit to New York, I had the chance to meet these women face to face: my editor Trish, my publicist Andrea, the Marketing Magnate, Dana Trombley, and our editorial manager, Emily Krump. And though it was a bit daunting for a gray-haired hillbilly like me to encounter all that big-city flash and dash, they were just as nice as pie, and made me feel like one of the family. So: If I had it to do all over again, would I pick Witness Impulse as the home for my debut novel—my baby? Oh hell yeah. In a New York minute.

To uncover the truth, she'll have to break the code of the hills … In the Missouri Ozarks, some things aren't talked about … even abuse. But prosecutor Elsie Arnold is determined to change that. When she is assigned to prosecute a high-profile incest case in which a father is accused of abusing his three young daughters, Elsie is ready to become the Ozarks' avenging angel. But as Elsie sinks her teeth into the case, everything begins to turn sour. The star witness goes missing; the girls refuse to talk about their father, who terrorizes the courtroom from the moment he enters; and Elsie begins to suspect that their tough-as-nails mother has ulterior motives. To make matters worse, Elsie receives gruesome threats from local extremists, warning her to mind her own business. While Elsie swears not to let a sex offender walk, she realizes the odds—and maybe the town—are against her, and her life begins to crumble. But amidst all of the conflict, the safety of three young girls hangs in the balance ... A powerful debut, with the haunting atmosphere of Winter's Bone and the page-turning suspense of Alafair Burke's thrillers. 

Nancy Allen practiced law for 15 years as Assistant Missouri Attorney General and Assistant Prosecutor in her native Ozarks. She’s tried over 30 jury cases, including murder and sexual offenses, and is now a law instructor at Missouri State University. The Code of the Hills is her first novel.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Unveiling the Mystery of Marketing

By Pamela Crane

Been there, done that. I’ve been on all sides of the publishing coin—worked as an in-house editor for traditional houses, edited for self-published authors, self-published my own book, and traditionally published a book. So for you fellow writers, I know how grueling and frustrating the publishing industry can be!

If you can write a book in a week and hit the NYT best seller’s list the first week your book hits shelves, then this article isn’t for you. This message is for the feast-or-famine writers, the ones trying to make a living writing but can’t figure out what’s holding them back. Over the course of my editing and writing career, I’ve learned a few things and am here to share some insights based on my publishing venture with my psychological thriller The Admirer’s Secret.

My biggest word of advice is to consider your book an investment. You gotta give some to get some…I’m using that dirty word here: Money. I can imagine you flinching as I say that, but the worst thing that can cripple your book is poor editing and a mediocre cover. I’m an editor and even I paid another editor to edit The Admirer’s Secret. As the author, you’re too close to your work to do it justice. So do yourself a favor and save up the cash before you plan to publish and do it right, because the goal is to earn back what you’ve spent and then some. You can’t do that if critics spread the word about the low quality of your book. Set a budget for what you can spend and pay out to get a beautiful, quality book.

Assuming you have a good story, quality edit, and eye-catching cover, how do you spread the word? It’s the publishing world’s greatest mystery, like discovering the Ark of the Covenant. I remember when one publisher I worked for bought several thousand of their own books to manipulate sales needed to hit Publisher’s Weekly best-seller status. But not all of us can afford to spend $40,000 on our own books! So here’s some affordable ideas that have worked to sell The Admirer’s Secret:
  1. Get reviews. I don’t care how embarrassing it is to beg for reviews—do it! And do it about 6 months before your book release.
  2. Try Amazon’s KDP for three months. The gist is that you make your book exclusive to Amazon for 90 days and you get 5 “Free Days” where you give the book away for free to help boost your rankings. Spread out those free days over 3 months—2 free days one month, 2 another month, and 1 the third month. Publicize the hell out of those free days on your Facebook groups so that you get plenty of downloads. I hit #9 in my genre in actual income-producing sales after my first free day, so I can tell you it works.
  3. Give BookBub a shot. It costs money, but they give your book coverage with their huge following.
  4. Consider a book blog tour. While I didn’t see a significant number of sales from my blog tours, it got my name all over the Internet. A small price to pay to get exposure.
  5. Autographed book giveaways are always a treat for fans. Goodreads hosts drawings for free print copies, and you’re sure to win a few new fans this way.
  6. Enter contests for Indie publishing, such as Foreword Reviews Book of the Year Award and Los Angeles Book Festival Award (among countless others you can find online). The submission cost is minimal considering what winning an award could do for your book.
Before your eyes start to glaze over, I want to emphasize the biggest sales factor: Keep writing, keep publishing. Books sell books, and the cross-marketing gives you twice the chance of sales. I know it’s hard to justify writing and spending money on another book if one isn’t selling well, but remember—this is an investment. Keep investing and eventually you’ll see results.

Pamela Crane is a North Carolinian writer of the psychological thriller The Admirer’s Secret and wannabe psychologist, though most people just think she needs to see one. She’s a member of the ITW, ACFW, and EFA, and has been involved in the ECPA, Christy Awards, and Romance Writers of America. Along with delving into people’s minds—or being the subject of their research—she enjoys being a mom and riding her proud Arabian horse, when he lets her. She has a passion for adventure, and her hopes are to keep earning enough from her writing to travel the world in search of some good story material. Visit her at or follow her on Facebook at .

The Admirer’s Secret :
Westfield, New York—both home and prison to Haley Montgomery, a woman crippled by the death that hovers over her. After the loss of her father and best friend, Haley grapples with the loneliness of her small-town existence. But when her solitary life is upended by the man of her fantasies—the handsome, charming Marc Vincetti—her dreams quickly twist into a nightmare. A secret admirer’s eerie love letters threaten to uncover Haley’s dark past, unraveling a haunting childhood secret that consumes her. Soon the quest for the letters’ source sends her on a dangerous personal journey that could cost her life. As the layers of her troubled existence peel away, everything Haley thought she knew about love, and herself, testifies to the brokenness that lurks within the human psyche. A “masterfully written, raw psychological suspense novel.”

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Three Not-So-Thrilling Debut Surprises

by Robert Rotstein

Writing my debut novel? Exhilarating. It’s what I’d wanted to do for years. Navigating the byzantine world of the publishing business? Not exhilarating, but I’ve practiced entertainment law for some time, so those arcane agency and publishing contracts weren’t all that daunting. Trolling for blurbs? Scary, but eventually some generous, talented authors said yes.
Only when my book was actually launched into that vast sea of published print did I discover that I’d harbored some misconceptions.

Surprise No. 1: Not everyone you know is going to want to buy your book, even your friends. Because I’ve always loved books and admired authors, I assumed that everyone else does, too—or at least that they’d admire me for writing one. Not necessarily. There are the nonreaders—more and more lately—who simply aren’t so impressed with your accomplishment. Others think they’re doing you a favor by reading your novel—not buying it, reading it. I heard this more than once (and I’m not talking family or close friends): “You wrote a book? Cool. Send me a copy.” Depending on my mood, I’d either smile or say, “It’s available at Barnes & Noble and on Amazon.” Then there was the friend, an aspiring writer himself, who graciously bought my book, but later reported, “I’ve lent my copy to five friends, and they all loved it.” “How nice,” I replied, while clenching my jaw and thinking, Why didn’t you tell them it’s available at Barnes & Noble and on Amazon?

Surprise No. 2: Posting on social media doesn’t automatically mean massive sales. My social-media-savvy son warned me. Maybe it was an age thing, but I’d hoped that all my Facebook friends would share my release date, that they’d tell their friends, and they’d tell their friends, and … Corrupt Practices goes viral. Nope. Many Facebook friends and Twitter followers are also authors, hawking their own books. And those friends and followers who aren’t writers didn’t necessarily buy my book (see Surprise No. 1).

Surprise No. 3: You might not draw big crowds at your book signings. You will if you’re the next Lee Child or Gillian Flynn, but most of us aren’t. Bookstores expect you to bring your own crowd. My first reading was well attended, but not by strangers—kind of a second Bar Mitzvah (“Friends and family, today I am an author.”) Another reading/signing took place on a Sunday afternoon so sweltering that the city streets were empty. At the tiny bookstore were my then wife, my son, my sister, my niece, and my eighty-eighty-year-old mother. In answer to my question about their most successful events, the bookstore manager said, “Michael Connelly. Lines out the door and down the block.”

I asked for it.

I drank wine, bought books, and read to my family. Strangely, it was relaxed, serene, all about the words and not about impressing an audience—ultimately, my most gratifying appearance. That wonderful day was a reminder of why I became a writer in the first place.

Attorney Parker Stern, still crippled by courtroom stage fright, takes on a dicey case for an elusive video-game designer known only as “Poniard.” In Poniard's blockbuster online video game, Abduction!, a real-life movie mogul is charged with murdering a beautiful actress who disappeared in the 1980s. The mogul—William "the Conqueror" Bishop—has sued for libel. Now it's up to Parker to defend Poniard in the suit. When key potential witnesses die prematurely, Parker begins to feel as if he's merely a character in a violent video game himself.

Robert Rotstein is a writer and attorney who’s represented many celebrities and all the major motion picture studios. He’s the author of Reckless Disregard (Seventh Street Books, June 3, 2014), about Parker Stern, an L.A.-based attorney, who takes on a dangerous case for a mysterious video game designer against a powerful movie mogul. Reckless Disregard has received starred reviews from Kirkus and Booklist. His debut novel, Corrupt Practices (Seventh Street Books), was published in 2013. Visit Robert at

Thursday, June 5, 2014

June Debut Releases

It's the first Thursday in June, which means debut releases. Please take a look and let’s celebrate their success!

Kym Brunner - Wanted: Dead or In Love (Merit Press)  June 15, 2014

Impulsive high school senior Monroe Baker is on probation for a recent crime, but strives to stay out of trouble by working as a flapper at her father's Roaring 20's dinner show theater. When she cuts herself on one of the spent bullets from her father's gangster memorabilia collection, she unwittingly awakens Bonnie Parker's spirit, who begins speaking to Monroe from inside her head.

Later that evening, Monroe shows the slugs to Jack, a boy she meets at a party. He unknowingly becomes infected by Clyde, who soon commits a crime using Jack's body. The teens learn that they have less than twenty-four hours to ditch the criminals or they'll share their bodies with the deadly outlaws indefinitely. 

Dennis Hetzel (with Rick Robinson) - Killing The Curse (Headline Books)  May 8, 2014

The Chicago Cubs haven’t won a World Series for more than 100 years or even played in one since 1945. Now they’re positioned to win the Series for the first time since 1908 – if only curses and bad luck don’t haunt them as usual. That’s what happens when a swarm of gnats helps the Boston Red Sox tie the Series at three games each. To kill the curse, the Cubs must win Game 7 in Chicago. 

No one wants the Cubs to win more than Luke Murphy, President of the United States and lifelong fan. Leading the chorus of disbelievers is Murphy’s boyhood friend, Bob Walters, a sports radio talk-show host with a beautiful daughter and a big ego who built ratings by being “the man Cub fans love to hate."

The Cubs have someone else on their side—a brilliant, crazed fan who will do anything to make sure they win. Anything. It starts with an attack on the father of Boston’s best pitcher and grows into an escalating threat that could destroy Murphy’s career, expose childhood secrets, and kill hundreds of innocent people.

Everything comes to a head as Game Seven unfolds---a game the Cubs must win no matter what. 

Graeme Shimmin - A Kill in the Morning (Bantam Press) 19 Jun 2014

I don't like killing, but I'm good at it. Murder isn't so bad from a distance, just shapes popping up in my scope. Close-up work though - a garrotte around a target's neck or a knife in their heart - it's not for me. Too much empathy, that's my problem. Usually. But not today. Today is different...

The year is 1955 and something is very wrong with the world. It is fourteen years since Churchill died and the Second World War ended. In occupied Europe, Britain fights a cold war against a nuclear-armed Nazi Germany.

In Berlin the Gestapo is on the trail of a beautiful young resistance fighter, and the head of the SS is plotting to dispose of an ailing Adolf Hitler and restart the war against Britain and her empire. Meanwhile, in a secret bunker hidden deep beneath the German countryside, scientists are experimenting with a force far beyond their understanding.

Into this arena steps a nameless British assassin, on the run from a sinister cabal within his own government, and planning a private war against the Nazis. And now the fate of the world rests on a single kill in the morning...

Tom Wither - The Inheritor (Turner Publishing Company)  May 16, 2014

America’s Most Deadly Enemy is still loose . . . and he’s ready to move.

On the eve of the takedown of the world’s leading terrorist, his protégé eluded U.S. forces . . . and now he’s racing across four countries in a scenario that could happen tomorrow.

Following his dead mentor’s desire to reestablish the Islamic Caliphate, Aziz Abdul Muhammad, hand-picked by bin Laden himself, masterminds a series of attacks on the U.S. energy infrastructure that will reignite the war against the West. As his initial series of attacks creates mass panic, leaving the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states in terrified darkness, the manhunt is on.

In a unique special operations force, veteran intelligence officer David Cain, along with Air Force Sergeant Emily Thompson and rookie FBI Agent Dave Johnson, leads the U.S. effort to find Aziz and his operations expert. From Camp Delta in Guantanamo Bay to Chicago and the outskirts of Tehran, the force must halt Al Qaeda’s attempt to rise from the ashes of its former self—and stop the Inheritor before the rest of his terrifying plan unfolds.

Erica Wright - The Red Chameleon (Pegasus)  June 8, 2014

As a private investigator, Kathleen Stone relies on her ability to blend into the background. With a little help from the best wigmaker on the Atlantic seaboard, Kathleen Stone can take on a variety of personas, from a posh real estate agent to a petulant teenage boy. She was once a valuable undercover cop for the New York Police Department, but since her early retirement following a botched case, she has gone a little soft. These days, with the assistance of a street-smart drag queen, she mostly catches cheating spouses in flagrante. When one husband ends up not so much adulterous as dead, Kat must tune up her rusty skills to catch a killer.

She begins investigating the upper echelons of New York, a city that can swing from glamorous to lethal in an instant. She soon finds herself stepping on the toes of her former best friend, Detective Ellis Dekker, as well as a sadistic kingpin she hoped to never see again. Not only do memories of Salvatore Magrelli’s knife-friendly tendencies give her the heebie-jeebies, but his connection to the case makes Kat a possible suspect, too. She needs to move fast . . . if she is to avoid becoming the next victim.