Thursday, August 30, 2012


by H. W. “Buzz” Bernard

The most pressing question I had upon the release of my debut novel, Eyewall, was: How am I gonna promote the darn thing? Fortunately, my publisher, BelleBooks, had an answer.

 “We’re going to give it away.”

“You’re what?”

“We’re going to give it away.”

Holy crap, I thought. I spend 10 years and buckets-full of blood, sweat and tears to get something traditionally published and now it’s gonna be a freebie!

“Uh, that’s a little counterintuitive,” I told them.

“Trust us. You’ll see.”

Yeah, check’s in the mail. It was obvious to me that these people had gone down the rabbit hole. I took matters into my own hands, signing up for a “virtual” (blog) tour, creating a new Website, and developing a Facebook page for Eyewall. Well, you know how this turned out, don’t you? The giveaway for Eyewall on Amazon jumpstarted sales and, more importantly, reviews. The novel shot up immediately to number one on Amazon’s Kindle free list, then peaked at number eight on the paid list after it came off the freebie shelf. But the key here is the reviews Eyewall received, most of them glowing. It’s word-of-mouth that propels the commercial success of a book. And there’s nothing like giving something away to get people to give it a whirl. Or in the case of Eyewall, to take a ride into the eye of a Cat 5 hurricane.

A little sidebar here. BelleBooks, at the time of the giveaway, had been hemming and hawing over accepting my second novel, Plague. I had a contract in-hand two days after Eyewall hit number one on the freebie list. Ah, yes. The Doctrine of Unintended Consequences in action, in a positive way. Later in the year, Eyewall, on the strength of Amazon’s Daily Deal, in which a featured eBook sells for $1.99, rocketed to number one on the paid list.

It’s obvious to me now that BelleBooks was on top of the game. They knew precisely how to leverage the market in the world of eBooks and digital marketing giants. Lesson learned: Listen to the folks who’ve been around the (publishing) block a few times.

So, you ask, what fruit did my marketing efforts bear? The upgraded Website was a bit pricey, but it’s important that I--and you, as an author--have a professional, polished Web presence. It shouldn’t look like something built by your 10-year-old grandson. Looking back, the virtual tour did virtually nothing to nudge sales up, at least not when compared to the great freebie caper. The Facebook page didn’t cost anything, but now that I’ve got additional novels in the pipeline, I’m abandoning the Eyewall page in favor of an author page. For Plague, I’m updating my Website again, not purchasing any pre-publication marketing packages, and avoiding book signings. The in-store event that turned out best for me was the launch party for Plague.

H. W. “Buzz” Bernard is vice president of the Southeastern Writers Association. Besides being a member of International Thriller Writers, he belongs to the Atlanta Writers Club and Willamette Writers. His debut novel, Eyewall, was a number one best seller on Kindle. His second novel, Plague, comes out this month in trade paperback and eBook formats. He and his wife Christina live in Roswell, Georgia, along with their fuzzy Shih-Tzu, Stormy.

PLAGUE A brilliant but psychopathic microbiologist-turned-terrorist is about to unleash weaponized Ebola, the Black Death of the 21st century, on a major American city. Only one man has enough information to stop what could turn into a global plague. But he’s wounded, wanted for murder, and is being hunted by a German hit-woman. He doesn’t stand a chance.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Thrillerfest 2012: View from a Debut


by Carter Wilson

Holy hell, what a cool conference!

This was my third trip to Thrillerfest and my first as a debut author. On my two prior jaunts, I clung to every word at each panel, then clung to the wall and my drink at each reception. I couldn’t simply go up and talk to these well known authors, could I? The publishing industry is a foreign world to me, having been rooted in the hotel and consulting business for twenty years. In prior years I met few people but learned much from the panels. I quietly collected information, garnered insights, but was intimated by a camaraderie of the erudite.

This year, however, I came to ITW as a debut author, having published my novel FINAL CROSSING (Vantage Point Books) in JuneBook Cover. I will say that it’s been a long road for me (as it is for most authors). FINAL CROSSING was my fifth novel but the first to sell. This made the experience at Thrillerfest this year all the more sweet for me—the hard work had finally paid off (at least in terms of satisfaction if not gobs of cash). This year at Thrillerfest, I met two dozen other debuts like me, and was able to compare and contrast experiences.  Most importantly, I now had people to drink with.

I also shared with my fellow debuts the experience of the Debut Author Breakfast, which is somewhat surreal. A few hundred people came to an amazing morning feast as the debuts were honored for our foray into the world of publishing.  Douglas Preston (Douglas Preston!) introduced each one of us personally to the crowd, which, I will add, is the last time I use the truth in my bio. My fellow debuts had such fascinating backgrounds. Mine seemed lacking, to be put it mildly. Hospitality consultant? From here on out, I am a former CIA agent/astronaut/biohazard weapon scientist-gone-rogue. So there.

After this year's conference, I am also committed to becoming involved with Thrillerfest for next year and beyond.  One thing I would love to see more focus on are those authors not-yet published. Twice I attended Thrillerfest as a "hopeful", and I was impressed by how many unpublished writers continue to attend the conference to connect with agents, publishers, and to learn more about the industry. Agentfest is an amazing event, but I would love to see more panels focused on those who are trying to understand more about what it takes to break into the industry.  Even a session or two would be enough.

Overall, however, Thrillerfest is worth every dollar. The networking, collective knowledge of attendees, and sheer coolness of the event make it the premier conference for aspiring and published thriller writers. Plan on seeing me there next year!
Thriller-writer Carter Wilson was born in New Mexico and grew up in Los Angeles before attending school at Cornell University. He has journeyed the globe both for work and pleasure, and his travels to Jerusalem were the inspiration behind FINAL CROSSING, which was released in June 2012 by Vantage Point Books. Carter is represented by Pamela Ahearn of the Ahearn Agency and is a member of the International Thriller Writer's organization. He currently lives in a spooky Victorian house in Colorado with his two children. Carter is currently at work on his second novel. Visit him at
FINAL CROSSING (June 2012, Vantage Point) is the story of a senatorial chief of staff who teams up with a beautiful psychic criminologist to hunt down a serial killer who thinks God has commissioned him to start the Final Judgment

Thursday, August 16, 2012

How your First Readers Help Establish your Brand

When we debut authors finally see our books in print, on the shelves, and in readers' hands, we find out important things about our stories. They no longer belong to us. They belong to our readers.

Now that I’m into editing the third novel in my series, I have become quite careful about giving my readers what they have stated that they loved the most about my books. It helps me determine what content I should cut out and what type of content I should give more of, and most importantly what I need to do to keep them wanting more books.

Today on The Thrill Begins, multi-award winning suspense author Lynn Emery shares how the reaction from her first novel changed the direction of how she wrote. Her quick discovery and acknowledgment that her readers had tapped into something important about her books, something that neither she nor her publisher had realized, made her a success once she adjusted her stories to satisfy her readers.

Setting as Character for my Books

 by Lynn Emery

My first book, Night Magic, was published in 1995. The book grew out of a writing exercise we did at my local RWA chapter meeting. The topic was description. The objective was to write a scene showing a character arriving or leaving somewhere. Our assignment was to bring the setting alive. We were to set the mood by describing the surroundings and the character’s reaction to that setting. I wrote a short scene showing Karen, my main character returning to her small hometown. I described her driving past Louisiana bayous and the lush green growth of the countryside. between_dusk_and_dawn600x900

After the book was published more than a few readers wrote to me and mentioned Louisiana as though my home state was a major secondary character. As a new writer I realized they were right. From then on I made sure that Louisiana became a leading character in the next eleven books I sold. It paid off.

Here are a few things to consider if you plan to make setting a character in your next novel:
  1. A distinctive setting becomes a character when the culture, landscape and even climate contribute to the story so strongly. In other words, the reader becomes just as interested in the setting as the people and the plot within it. 
  2. A setting can be a culture, sub-culture, or a profession. It’s not just limited to geography.
  3. Bring your setting alive so much so that your readers experience it as a living thing. Take the exercise I had to do in RWA. Describe where you are as if it was a person or a pet.
  4. Use settings to deepen the characterization of the story people. When we think of character development the region where the main character lives helps to shape the way that person thinks, the choices that person makes, their dialogue, and the way they react.
BETWEEN DUSK and DAWN: LaShaun Rousselle is as famous, and infamous, as her ancestors for being a psychic and voodoo expert. After a bad girl life she’s finally settled down in her small hometown of Beau Chene, Louisiana. She’s content to have a few true friends, and a new love with Deputy Chase Broussard,the chief criminal investigator with the Vermillion Parish Sheriff Department.LaShaun is determined to live simply and quietly, no more trouble. But trouble arrives on her doorstep in the unlikely form of two middle-aged ladies bearing unsettling suspicions about weird happenings in the parish.. Are the legends about loup garou real? LaShaun and Chase are going to find out and stop a serial killer, human or not.

Image of Lynn EmeryLynn is the author of fifteen romantic suspense and mystery novels. A native of Louisiana, most of her books are set in her home state. NIGHT MAGIC was recognized for Excellence in Romance Fiction by Romantic Times Magazine. Her novel AFTER ALL was adapted for a television movie by Black Entertainment Television (BET) in 2000. Lynn has been nominated several times for awards, and in 2006 won three Emma Awards for Kiss Lonely Goodbye as part of the Romance Slam Jam conference. Her latest novels is BETWEEN DUSK and DAWN. For more information visit

Thursday, August 9, 2012


I had the pleasure of meeting Alexandra Sokoloff at one of her week-long classes and found she’s as delightful a person as she is a writer and teacher. I’m happy to welcome her as our guest for today’s blog. She will share her progression as an author—as she reinvests herself and her career in the rapidly evolving world of publishing.

Alex is the Thriller Award-winning author of the crime and supernatural thrillers THE HARROWING, THE PRICE, THE UNSEEN, BOOK OF SHADOWS, THE SPACE BETWEEN and the brand new crime thriller HUNTRESS MOON, and a co-author of the paranormal KEEPERS series, with Heather Graham and Harley Jane Kozak. She is a Bram Stoker and Anthony Award nominee. The New York Times Book Review called her a "daughter of Mary Shelley," and describe her novels as "some of the most original and freshly unnerving work in the genre."

As a screenwriter, Alex has sold original scripts and adapted novels for numerous Hollywood studios. In non-fiction, she is the author of SCREENWRITING TRICKS FOR AUTHORS (AND SCREENWRITERS!), and WRITING LOVE, workbooks based on her internationally acclaimed blog and workshops.


By Alexandra Sokoloff
Last night I was on my way home from a “Noir at the Bar” reading here in L.A., and my favorite radio station was playing alive recording of a Sting concert I’d actually been in the audience for, years ago. I always love that multidimensional feeling; it was like being in a time machine taking me back to a night I remember very well, because I’d just sold my first screenplay that month, a huge kick-start to what turned into an eleven-year screenwriting career. Now, when you’re outside the film business, a break like that feels like shattering some enormous, impenetrable glass dome atop the mythical business they call “the movies” that you’ve been circling for years, trying to figure out the entry point.  A feeling I’m fairly confident you debut authors are experiencing yourselves, lately!

And it was a great synchronicity, being transported back to that time and that feeling... because I’ve just now broken into e publishing with the launch of my new direct-to-e thriller Huntress Moon and am feeling the same kind of exhilaration of shattering a barrier to a whole new and exciting level of my career.  It reminded me how life is a spiral like that. You come back to the exact same points of life, but hopefully you’re constantly moving UP the spiral, taking all your knowledge of that pivotal threshold with you and ascending to a both a higher and a deeper level.

It also reminded me that as writers, we are constantly reinventing ourselves. I would say “having to reinvent ourselves” but that sounds scary and ominous. Oh well, okay, let’s be real. We are constantly HAVING to reinvent ourselves.

I started out as a theater person, from the time I was a kid, really, but after college I quickly switched my ambitions and focus to screenwriting, because I was aware of the practical need to, you know, eat.  Knowing nothing about the film business, I moved to L.A. just figuring I would figure it out. And the fact is, I did pretty much just that – I got the classic entry level job into movies, a script reader for various production companies, learned the business and the craft of film writing by reading and reporting on hundreds of scripts in a very short amount of time, wrote my own script with a writing partner, got an agent by using what I’d learned as a script reader, and sold the script to Fox in a bidding war.

Now, the trouble with being a screenwriter, and with Hollywood in general, is that you get caught up in the fact that you’ve MADE IT in a profession that all the naysayers (you know the ones I mean) always told you you would never MAKE IT in, and you’re making great money for doing what you love and the people you’re working with are wildly talented and interesting, and it’s all so exciting and non-stop that it becomes very hard to see when things are not quite working out the way you envisioned.  Screenwriters have very little power over their work; the potential movies you work on are very very seldom made, and most of them don’t look like any movie you would want your name on anyway once the script has been through the process very aptly named “development hell.”
Cut to ten years later and I had become so creatively miserable, without really knowing it, that it was affecting every other area of my life. And when a movie I’d written that I was truly passionate about fell through when we lost our director to another movie, I snapped. I just wasn’t going to go through that whole thing again.

And that’s how I wrote my first novel, THE HARROWING.  And all the naysayers started up again, a lot of them inside my own head. “You’ll never make a living in publishing. At least in screenwriting you’re writing AND getting paid...”  (insert any profession, you know the drill....) But I knew I had to do something else, so I did, and the book got written, and it got sold, and suddenly a whole other glass dome had been shattered and I was on the rollercoaster of a whole new career, to mix a couple of metaphors. And I was lucky to make the shift when I did, because changes in the film industry have made a screenwriting career exponentially more difficult and creatively frustrating than it was when I started in the business.

But now I had to learn a whole different business and figure out a whole different way of making a living at writing.(NOT making a living was not an option – I’ve been writing professionally for so long I have no other marketable job skills). And publishing is a different way of making a living.

When you start out as an author – well, when I started out as an author, in 2006, people advised that we put our entire first book advance back into promotion. Because that’s how important the lift-off factor is in traditional publishing. I was a total newbie, and got completely obsessed with trying everything there was to try in marketing, all the things I imagine you all have been doing or preparing to do with varying degrees of terror: website, Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest, blog, grog, blog tours, book tours – oh right, and writing that second book. (If you want a bloodcurdling glimpse into how it was, I’ve blogged about it here: Marketing =Madness).

Well, I made a good launch with THE HARROWING- nominations for Stoker and Anthony Awards, significant recognition as a new and interesting female horror writer... but nothing like the brass ring, bestseller status. But I wrote more good books and got more recognition and also figured out how to create multiple income streams in my writing life –like teaching my very popular "Screenwriting Tricks for Authors" workshop, that I started on my blog and developed into an e workbook Screenwriting Tricks (doing the workshops for free at conferences until I was in demand, and then starting to pick and choose my venues and going only where people would pay me, which also turned into self-perpetuating and well-paying promotion, as well as a personally rewarding avocation).

I’m a big believer in diversifying your writing career in the same way that you diversify a financial portfolio; the money is erratic in a writing career, often cyclical, and it’s a huge mistake to think you’ll earn the same income every year – I’ve seen way too many talented screenwriters and authors crash and burn by making that assumption. Invest wisely when you have the money and always keep a cushion for the lean years, because believe me, there are going to be lean years.

But still, I wasn’t published for long before I started getting that uncomfortable feeling again.  This time it didn’t take as long for me to figure out that I had to try something different – again. (Watching the publishing industry starting to crumble before my eyes with the rise of e readers and self-publishing was a pretty good clue...)

I truly believe we are in the midst of the biggest revolution since the invention of the printing press. E books, ereaders – it is ALL good news for us as writers, because we have so many more choices now. Look, I know it’s hard enough to just get through the day doing the writing you have to do and the promotion you have to do on top of that. You may be just learning the ropes of traditional publishing and here I am suggesting that you add learning the ropes of e publishing, to boot. Don’t panic! Do what you need to do on this wonderful cusp of your brand new career. But if do you find you’re not making enough of a living with your traditionally published book(s), or are getting a nagging feeling that your publisher is not getting enough of your books out there to be bought and read in the first place, or Barnes & Noble goes bankrupt or something, there is a whole other miraculous option for you now.

In a time of diminishing publisher advances and massive bookstore closures, I and many of my traditionally published author friends who started out in publishing at the same time as I did have recently had the surreal experience of making more money in the first few weeks of an e publishing book launch as we ever got for a traditional advance. We can put a book out as soon as we finish it, rather than waiting a year and a half to two years for the publishing process to grind through its cycle.  Given the choice between a traditional publishing deal for HUNTRESS MOON and the tens of thousands of new readers that I was able to reach in just three days of a free Amazon promotion, plus having the full force of the Amazon marketing machine behind the book (which is now an Amazon bestseller that is outselling a staggering number of high-profile traditionally published books that have a Big Six publisher behind them)...
Well, it’s a no-brainer to me.

I guess what I’m trying to say to you is: Be aware. Be aware if a small voice in your head or your gut or wherever those small voices come from tells you that you need to do something different. Be aware of the incredible sea changes taking place in publishing because of the e publishing revolution, and the incredible opportunities that are there for you.  Be aware that you can always, always reinvent yourself.

We’re writers. We make things up. 

Including ourselves.

I wish everyone the absolute best of luck and am very happy to answer any and all questions!

- Alex
Twitter @alexsokoloff

From Thriller Award-winning author Alexandra Sokoloff - Book 1 in the riveting new Huntress FBI series about a driven FBI agent on the hunt for that most rare of all killers: a female serial.

FBI Special Agent Matthew Roarke is closing in on a bust of a major criminal organization in San Francisco when he witnesses an undercover member of his team killed right in front of him on a busy street, an accident Roarke can’t believe is coincidental. His suspicions put him on the trail of a mysterious young woman who appears to have been present at each scene of a years-long string of “accidents” and murders, and who may well be that most rare of killers: a female serial.

Roarke’s hunt for her takes him across three states...while in a small coastal town, a young father and his five-year old son, both wounded from a recent divorce, encounter a lost and compelling young woman on the beach and strike up an unlikely friendship without realizing how deadly she may be.

As Roarke uncovers the shocking truth of her background, he realizes she is on a mission of her own, and must race to capture her before more blood is shed.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

ITW Debut Authors in The News

The summer is a huge month for suspense authors. Most publishers crank out their summer thrillers, book and comic book festivals take over the city, and we celebrate ThrillerFest. This week we’re sharing what some of our 2012 debuts have been up to.
The Library Journal featured some of our great debut authors last month in “International Thriller Writers Debut Authors Breakfast: 21 Thrillers To Shiver Your Bones” Some of the 21 featured were: Nancy Bilyeau’s The Crown, Anthony J.Franze’s The Last Justice, and ,Carter Wilson’s Final Crossing (who apparently shared his novel to the attendants via poem. )Click the link to read more.
At this year’s Thriller Fest. Paul McEuen won the Thriller Award for First novel for SPIRAL(The Dial Press.) The entry form for the 2013 Thriller Awards is available here.Congrats, Paul!
Some of our favorite mentors participated in the LOVE is MURDER anthology edited by Sandra Brown. This summer BookTrib hosted a thirty day blog tour. Click here for to read all the great posts and meet the authors who participated in this great anthology. Here.