Showing posts with label Debut Year. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Debut Year. Show all posts

Thursday, December 12, 2013

To Promote or Not To Promote...Is That Even a Question?

The question I get asked most often by emerging writers is whether it's really necessary to...X.

"X" can be any number of things. Tweet. Blog. Appear at bookstores. Maintain a website. Have a GoodReads or Facebook or Shelfari presence, and what is this Pinterest thing anyway?

Because we writers are stumbling around in search of an answer to this question: How do we become successful authors? And this one: How do we reach readers?

As the great William Goldman says, "Nobody knows."

But I don't think this wisdom means that we should just throw up our hands. And while there's not exactly a roadmap for figuring out what you should do once you've reached that land called Publication, I have accumulated a few thoughts during the long road to my own. Getting a book written well enough to be published is one of the harder things any of us will accomplish in our lives. But then what?

First I need to back up and tell you a little about myself. It took me three agents, eight novels, fifteen almost-offers, and eleven years on submission before I sold my debut novel. This finally happened through a confluence of events that still feels mystical to me. And the dream of being a published author was such a long, long, long time in coming that, once it happened, I did the only logical thing.

I hired an independent publicity firm, rented out our house, withdrew the kids from school, and asked my husband if he would accompany me on a book tour that would cover 44 states and 40,000 miles. Not exactly in that order, but you get the point. The whole family's life would be subsumed by this dream, at least for the next seven months.

Since my book came out, we have visited over 200 bookstores, as well as libraries, book clubs and almost every place where people come together over books. I've been the inaugural author at a brand new mystery bookstore in Madison, WI and the newbie who drew the smallest audience at a bookstore that holds near-daily events. I stood up in Oxford, MS with a rockabilly band behind me and spoke for precisely fourteen minutes--we were being recorded live--to a house crowd of three hundred. I've done Sit & Sign's where only one person showed up, but that one person drove three hours to see me, and thus will always have a place in the Annals of my Becoming an Author, not to mention in my heart. And there have been events that hit almost every point between these extremes.

So, is this the point of my blog post? Is there a roadmap after all, a literal one that shows our route, or a message: change your whole life in service of The Book?

I'm hoping that writers will take something else from this description of what I've done. That it's not necessary to do any one thing as an author. Neither Tweet nor Tour.

Instead, figure out ways you will find joy in your book being out there, and in your great love of books in general. Things that will help you celebrate this shining accomplishment while connecting with those who want to share it.

To my mind, it doesn't matter what you do, it just matters that in today's increasingly crowded content space, you find something that allows your own voice to stand out.

Say you're an introvert and the idea of meeting crowds of people face-to-face sounds as draining as a bathtub. Online social media might be a great outlet for you. Or perhaps you have an author platform, such as being a doctor who writes medical thrillers, or a biotech expert who wrote a book about GMOs. Maybe you can find a listserv or organization that will appreciate hearing your wisdom. One good thing about having 1.4 million blogs out there is that one of them is sure to be interested in your topic. There are more reviewers today than back when a daily paper landed on the curb at every house in the United States. The net gives like-minded readers and writers ways to find each other virtually and face-to-face. There are more riches than we can ever spend, but that also means that there is more than enough to go around. It's just a matter of finding it.

Some will find Twitter the perfect medium for self-expression while for others the idea of boiling something meaningful down to 140 characters will be anathema. Some will love blogging, others will start a charitable cause connected to their book. Some might come give workshops at great writers' organizations, such as the one that's featuring this post.

Some might even take to the road for seven months.

And when you do--whatever you do--please come find me. I'll be one of the connections that you make.

Jenny Milchman is a suspense writer whose debut novel, Cover of Snow, was released by Ballantine in January 2013, and whose follow-up, Ruin Falls, will appear in April 2014. After making her home on the road for seven months, she has come to settle in upstate New York. For now. 

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Assuming an identity

I don’t belong here. 

Everywhere I go, there’s a little devil on my shoulder that says: you don’t belong here. It’s been there for as long as I can remember. It is gentle but firm. It says, you don’t quite fit in. Or, you’re not really welcome. At work it says: you’re not smart enough, how did you get this job? At the gym it says: you’re not man enough, and everyone is staring at you. At a party: you’re not cool enough, and what the hell are you wearing? At the beach: you look like a pale piece of spaghetti in swimming trunks. At family gatherings, who let you in? 

I’m actually thinking it wouldn’t be a bad idea to expressly stipulate in my will and testament that the phrase “I don’t belong here” be inscribed on my tombstone. The feeling is such an integral part of who I am that I can’t help but think it’s embedded in my genetic profile — innate and codified in every living cell in my body. 

I know that sounds a little crazy, but I do have proof: my mother.

My mother, Blaize Clement, was the well-loved author of the popular Dixie Hemingway Mystery Series published by St. Martin’s/Minotaur. Her first full-length mystery, Curiosity Killed the Cat Sitter, appeared in bookstores in January of 2005. It was an instant favorite among readers and critics alike. Every year there followed another installment in the series, with more and more loyal readers, more rave reviews, and more glowing letters from fans. Everywhere Blaize went, she impressed people with her confidence and poise, but only her best friends knew that there was a side of her that felt like a perpetual outsider, always observing from a distance, never quite fitting in. It was this funny mix of characteristics that I think made her a keen observer of life and an excellent writer. She died of cancer in July of 2011, so we’ll never know to what literary heights she might have flown had she been given more time, but I’m pretty sure that no matter what, she would always have felt like the odd man out. Like a pretender. Like she didn’t belong. 

Which brings me to here and now. Shortly before my mother passed away, her friend and editor at St. Martin’s Press, Marcia Markland, called with a question: would I be interested in continuing the Dixie Hemingway mysteries? I was mortified. My mother was ecstatic. Dixie lives on. Now, a little more than a year later, here I am with an agent, a publishing contract, and a new book out in July of 2013, writing about what it’s been like to step blindly into the world of mystery-writing and pick up where my mother left off. It’s been an amazing, humbling, and life-changing ride, but do you see how I might feel like I don’t belong here? 

People most often want to know if it’s been hard to recreate my mother’s voice and style. Usually I say it’s been as easy as pie, but in all honesty that’s only partly true. I hear my mother’s voice all day long. I hear the cadence of her conversation, her mild southern accent, her slightly irreverent humor, her stubbornness, her wit, her laugh. She poured herself into her books and, most notably, into the character of Dixie Hemingway, and since the books are written entirely from Dixie’s point of view all I have to do is transcribe that voice down on paper and my work is mostly done. The difficulty has been that I feel like a trespasser in the world my mother created, a cat-burglar in the House of Dixie, snooping about and touching things that aren’t mine. I know how fiercely and passionately my mother loved Dixie and her family of characters, but I also know that I can’t do them justice if I don’t make them fully mine.

Last month, I was lucky enough to attend Bouchercon, the annual conference for fans, authors, agents, booksellers and publishers of mystery fiction. For most of the first day, I beat a straight path through the hallways. I brooked the crowds with purpose. I walked from ballroom to conference room and back again without lingering too long, lest anyone think I didn’t know what I was doing. I even wore my black-framed nerd glasses so I’d look like a real writer. Turns out, I was wasting my time. I can’t imagine a more generous and supportive group of people. Everyone I met went out of their way to make me feel welcome, from writers to fans, bloggers to bookstore owners, and publicists to librarians. I made friends I’m sure I’ll have for the rest of my life. And whenever I worked up enough courage to admit that I felt like I didn’t quite fit in, I always got the same response: “Oh yeah. Me too.”

John Clement spends his time between New York City and Sarasota, Florida. The next book in the Dixie Hemingway Series, The Cat Sitter's Cradle, will be out in July, 2013.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

February 2012 Debut Authors

Happy February and Happy Thrilling Thursday. The first of every month we will feature members of our Debut Authors Program. We are excited to announce that three members have books being released in February 2012.

Chris F. Holm DEAD HARVEST (Angry Robot Books, February 2012) I had the great opportunity to interview Chris for “THE BIG THRILL.” Check it our here.
DEAD HARVEST is the story of Sam Thornton, a young man who collects souls. The souls of the damned, to be precise. Once taken himself, he’s now doomed to ferry souls to hell for all eternity, in service of a debt he can never repay. But when he’s dispatched to retrieve the soul of a girl he believes is innocent of the horrific crime for which she’s been damned, Sam does something no Collector has ever done before: he refuses.

James Renner THE MAN FROM PRIMROSE LANE (FSG Macmillan, February 2012)

In West Akron, there lived a reclusive elderly man who always wore mittens, even in July. He had no friends and no family; all over town, he was known only as the Man from Primrose Lane. And on a summer day in 2008, someone murdered him.
Four years later, David Neff is a broken man. The bestselling author of a true-crime book about an Ohio serial killer, Neff went into exile after his wife’s inexplicable suicide. That is, until an unexpected visit from an old friend introduces him to the strange mystery of “the man with a thousand mittens.” Soon Neff finds himself drawn back into a world he thought he had left behind forever. But the closer he gets to uncovering the true identity of the Man from Primrose Lane, the more he begins to understand the dangerous power of his own obsessions and how they may be connected to the deaths of both his beloved wife and the old hermit.

Anthony Franze THE LAST JUSTICE (Sterling & Ross, February 2012) Anthony is also featured on THE BIG THRILL this month. Click here to read his interview.

CHAOS ERUPTS at the U.S. Supreme Court when an assassin guns down six justices as they are hearing a case.Solicitor General Jefferson McKenna, the government's top lawyer in the Supreme Court, is appointed to the multiagency commission investigating the murders. As Congress draws battle lines over who will replace the slain justices, the commission follows clue after clue, each one pointing to an unlikely suspect: McKenna himself.In a desperate bid to prove his innocence, McKenna, on the run with his deputy, Kate Porter, must track down a disgraced law clerk with ties to hidden Saudi assets. But their search leads to unexpected alliances, unearthing dark secrets and corruption at the highest levels -- and the people with clues to the riddle keep turning up dead. From the marble halls of the high court to the inner corridors of the West Wing, from the D.C. housing projects to the desolate back roads of a New York Indian reservation, McKenna and Porter are on a collision course with a shadowy enemy who will stop at nothing to keep the truth buried.From its explosive first page to its haunting conclusion, THE LAST JUSTICE explores the politics of law, the bounds of friendship and love, and the frightening price of unbridled ambition.

Patrice Lyle Lethally Blonde (Leap Books, February 2012)

Morgan Skully is the world's only blonde demon girl, and she's got a brand new, very unusual afterschool job. Spying for the Devil. She'd much rather use her cloak-and-dagger skills to spy on hottie-licious Derek with her friends, but the Devil won't take no for an answer. Luckily for Morgan, her new boss is kinda hot. Her assignment is simple: find out who at Pitchfork Prep is funneling secrets to the Siberian Werewolf Council. If she succeeds, pedicures and platinum highlights are just the beginning. But if she fails…there's more on the line than killer shoes.

Kira Peikoff LIVING PROOF (Tor, February 2012.) Kira is also a contributing editor to “THE BIG THRILL.”

Trent Rowe, an agent for the New York City bureau of the U.S. Department of Embryo Preservation, investigates a suspiciously popular Manhattan fertility clinic run by a suspected “radical,” Dr. Arianna Drake, the daughter of a known opponent of the DEP. Trent’s superiors hope that a shutdown of the clinic “for ethical transgressions” will shore up the DEP’s imploding political support. Trent, initially a believer in the DEP cause, eventually finds himself caught in an ethical dilemma he could never have envisioned, torn between irreconcilable goals.

Alumnae Class of 2011

Daniel Palmer HELPLESS (Kensington 2012)

Nine years after he left Shilo, New Hampshire, former Navy Seal Tom Hawkins has returned to raise his teenage daughter, Jill, following the murder of his ex-wife, Kelly. Despite Tom's efforts to stay close to Jill by coaching her high school soccer team, Kelly's bitterness fractured their relationship. But life in Shilo is gradually shaping up into something approaching normal. Normal doesn't last long. Shilo's police sergeant makes it clear that Tom is his chief suspect in Kelly's death. Then an anonymous blog post alleges that Coach Hawkins is sleeping with one of his players. Internet rumors escalate, and incriminating evidence surfaces on Tom's own computer and mobile phone. To prove his innocence, Tom must unravel a tangle of lies about his past. For deep amid the secrets he's been keeping - from a troubled tour of duty to the reason for his ex-wife's death - is the truth that someone will gladly kill to protect...

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Things I Learned as a Debut Author by Brad Parks

Carla Buckley asked me to write something for this blog, and if I learned nothing else from being a debut author, it’s this: Do whatever Carla tells you to do.

Yeah, I learned other stuff during my debut year, too. And since I’m technically only a debut author for one more day – I’m writing this on Jan. 31, and my second book, EYES OF THE INNOCENT, comes out Feb. 1 – I’d better get to it. So there’s no time for pretty, flowing prose. Instead, I’m going with a list…


1. When it comes to promotion, figure out what you enjoy, do it well, and forget everything else.

In my mind, this is the one

absolutely golden rule to debut author book promotion. And it’s not just my conclusion – even smart people like Hilary Davidson have discovered the same thing. Look, you can drive yourself

absolutely batty thinking you should be doing everything for your book. But you can’t. You only have so many resources, so much time, so much sanity. So you might as

well do what you like. If your idea of a hot day in hell is driving four hours, standing in front of ten strangers talking about yourself, reading out loud and answering their

random questions, then, for the love of God, do not do bookstore events. You’ll be miserable and, worse, the audience will know you hate it. It won’t be fun for anyone. If, on the other hand, you’re like

me – an extrovert and a certified attention whore who enjoys public speaking – then maybe bookstore events are more your speed.

The same goes for other aspects of promotion. Take SWAG (Stuff We All Get), also known as giveaways. I’m one of the rare human beings who can admit he doesn’t have very

good taste (it’s why my clothes are so boring). Trying to put together gift baggies or making lipsticks with my book cover on them would not only be painful for me, I’d be

bad at it. On the other hand, I sort of like designing postcards on my ancient Macintosh (still using PageMaker!), and because I do the design myself – and get

them printed at relatively low cost by – it’s a pretty cost-effective way (at 28 cents per stamp) to get the word out. I could go on, but you get the point: Do what you like and you’ll do it well, which is important, because well-done

promotion always works better than poorly done.

2. There’s no place for fear in the publishing world.

I sort of decided early on that when it came to this whole book thing, I was going to be unabashedly me, for good or for ill. Granted, there are drawbacks to that. I’m, uh, a little high-energy. My enthusiasm can be annoying. I’m full of myself. I offend people without meaning to. I don’t dance very well. But here’s the thing about this whole game: You don’t need everyone to like you, you just need a few people to like you a lot. Even if 90 percent of the book-buying public comes to think you’re a moron, it only takes 10 percent of them (or less) really digging your act to put you on the bestseller list between now and the end of time. So you might as well be fearless in being you. What are the practical applications of this philosophy? For me, it was something like serenading Brad Meltzer at the ITW Debut Breakfast last year (for a video reenactment, go here: Now, was that a risky move? Absolutely. It could have backfired horrifically. I’m sure I could have easily talked myself out of it for at least half a dozen very good reason. But, going with my plan to just be me, I just sort of went with it. And I think most folks got a kick out of it. (If nothing else, they remember it – I’m still asked about it constantly, as recently as this interview last week Now, am I saying go out and serenade Brad Meltzer? Of course not. But next time you find your own version of the Brad Meltzer serenade, don’t talk yourself out of it. Believe in yourself and take a risk.

3. Local sells.

It sells with the media. It sells with bookstores. It sells with strangers. Everyone likes a local author. And in a ridiculously crowded literary marketplace, being local makes you stand out. So find a place to be a local. Maybe it’s where you live. Maybe it’s where your book is set. Maybe it’s where you grew up. (Hell, I try to claim “local” status in all three places). Then, once you’ve found your local, hammer it. Flood the media – from the newspapers to the hyperlocal blogs to the supermarket giveaways. Flood the bookstores. Make yourself visible in every way possible. Every marketing study I’ve ever seen shows that you need to make multiple impressions in order to influence a sale. Unless you have a publisher giving you an enormous marketing budget and major co-op – in which case, why the hell are you reading MY drivel? – it makes sense to concentrate your limited resources and try to create that buzz that comes when people feel like they’re seeing your name pop up everywhere. The flip side of that, and I saw it in some of my fellow debut authors, is that they’d spread themselves too thin, going out to California and then Texas and then somewhere else – all the while ignoring the library in the town next door. Sure, you can make the big trip somewhere if your budget allows. But your time and energy will pay more dividends if properly focused.

3a. As a corollary to “start local,” If you do a signing in your hometown, don’t hang out drinking with your old high school friends until way too late and then go to a two-day conference that starts early in the morning. You’ll get sick as hell.

Granted, this one might be specific to me. Okay, moving on…

4. Don’t forget the libraries.

Or maybe it’s: forget libraries at your peril. It blows my mind when I hear authors griping about libraries because, They just buy one lousy copy of your book and then let forty people read it. That costs me thirty nine sales! This, I will tell you, is utterly wrong-headed, especially for a debut author. I have come to firmly believe that libraries are the keys to the kingdom for an unknown writer. Because, fact is, most readers are hesitant to plunk down $24.99 on someone they’ve never heard of. They will, however, check you out of the library. And if they like you? Some of them will actually go ahead and buy your book; and some more of them will make a note to buy your next one, because you’re no long an unknown quantity to them. Whenever I get reader e-mail, I always ask how they heard about me. A very large percentage say the same thing: That they discovered me in the library but plan to buy me from now on.

5. Conferences are not only fun, they pay dividends long-term that are not always immediately apparent.

Typical debut author experience: Shell out hundreds of dollars for airfare, hotel and vittles to attend (name conference here); appear on panel populated by your agent, two unpublished writers, and a trio of chirping crickets; go to bookseller room and sit there in anguished embarrassment, selling three books while two stalls down Jeffrey Deaver needs the local police department to do crowd control on his line; retreat to bar to calculate that it cost you $294 each to sell those books and… oops, make it $296 because you just ordered another drink. Yep, happens to all of us. But I’m here to say, let it happen to you. In more ways than I can list, I have seen value to attending conferences like Bouchercon and Thrillerfest and immersing myself in the mystery/thriller community. Part of it is in what it does for my soul. I’ve met lots of great friends (yes, even Carla!), who have become invaluable as confidantes and sounding boards in navigating (and surviving) the rugged world of publishing. That, and I tend to have a blast at them (I have young children, so I don’t get out much otherwise). But if you need to be more mercenary about it, apply the lesson I learned as a young newspaper reporter: The more you attention to a community, the more the community pays attention to you. So many of my promotional opportunities – whether it’s guest blog opportunities, radio or video interviews or bookstore gigs – have come from contacts I made at conferences.

6. Keep lists of what you did the first time. It’ll make life easier for the next book.

Lists of the blogs you did, lists of the bookstores you did, lists of the librarians you met, lists of reviews you got… it’s all good. Put it on a spreadsheet, keep it in a diary, make a folder for each category – whatever works for your brain style. You’ll be glad to not have to reinvent the wheel when No. 2 comes around (says the guy who didn’t learn this lesson the first time and is only now starting to make lists).

7. When it comes to blogging, quality over quantity.

It’s true the Internet is absolutely overwhelmed with content, which can make blogging feel like whispering into the face of a hurricane. But it’s also true the Internet is absolutely starved for good content. So don’t measure your blog based on how many you do, but by how well you do them. If you write something that manages to catch people’s fancy, trust me, it’ll be worth the effort. I learned this with my post “Ten Things Crime Fiction Writers Can Learn From Paris Hilton.” ( It was a throw-away post done at the end of my blog tour and – lo and behold – it became a mini-sensation. Janet Reid picked it up on her blog ( It got recycled by blog aggregators. My website is still getting hits off it to this day.

And now I’m… holy crow, I’m 1,700 words into this post! Okay, enough from me. Have a great debut year. And if you do end up singing to Brad Meltzer? Be sure he knows it wasn’t my idea.

For more information, please visit Brad's website

Welcome to The Thrill Begins blog!

You've entered the lair of ITW's debut authors. Please check out our websites, read our blogs, and share your thoughts. Starting January 2011, you'll find new content every week on Thrilling Thursdays.

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