Thursday, August 27, 2015

To Market, To Market To Buy a Fat…Book

by Jenny Milchman

Some days we are confronted with so much marketing, on our own list of To Do’s, as well as from
writers we follow and friend, that one wonders how Mother Goose’s nursery rhyme would’ve gone in this age of BSP (that’s blatant self-promotion in case you’ve been lucky enough to escape it).

The other day, I went to the trouble of reading all 74 direct messages I’d been sent on Twitter. At least half of them mirrored this exact formula: Hi! Thanks for following me. Please Like my page [link] Why? Does Liking a page really accomplish anything? For that matter, does amassing Twitter followers or Facebook friends accomplish anything? And if that kind of marketing doesn’t work, does any sort?

I had a thirteen year journey to publication, and once I arrived at the starting line, I did the next logical thing. Rented out our house, traded in two cars for an SUV that could handle Denver in February, pulled the kids out of first and third grades to “car school” them in the backseat, and hit the road with my husband, touring the bookstores, libraries, and book clubs of this great country. All told, over the course of three releases in two and a half years, we’ve spent 13 months on the road.

Book tours may or may not make dollars and cents, but they sure make dollars and sense. You might not sell enough books to cover your costs at any given event. But there will be connections, interactions, and moments in time that make each and every one worth doing. Their ripple effect can cause a bookseller to keep my book in stock months and months after it’s no longer new. Sometimes at a low turnout event, one of the few people in the audience winds up being a reviewer for a major paper. This is relation building, not marketing.

And yet, the question comes up again and again. So is this what it takes to launch a career? Get off our devices and out into the bricks and mortar? Should we emphasize the face-to-face if the virtual world is too cluttered and clogged? Or does that not work either? Maybe nothing works.

I think we first have to decide what “working” means. Phenom books and one hit wonders aside, most of us hope to build a lasting career as authors. That doesn’t mean buying 10,000 Twitter followers, it means organic growth. We want to find people who truly enjoy our work, and we hope that one day there will be enough of them to reach Malcom Gladwell’s tipping point.

On the road I am cultivating connections with people one by one by one. I feel like I’m doing some things right because my publisher, who thought I was nuts on the first “world’s longest book tour,” helped set up a portion of this one. Events are growing in size and energy. I’ve started getting RTs and Shares that feel like people really care about what I’m doing out here, rather than just auto-clicking. I don’t necessarily recommend that you take a seven month book tour—although seven days might be worth looking into—but I do have 5 Top Tips that will help make your marketing a little more wholesome and from-the-heart…something of which even Mother Goose might approve.
  • Figure out ways not to blast people, even though they’ll take more work. For example, most people list their locations on FB and Twitter. If you want to invite followers and friends to an in-person event, figure out the ones who are likely to come without having to buy a plane ticket.
  • Experiment with different platforms and approaches until you know what you love to do, then do that. If Twitter confounds you, stop Tweeting. If you love putting together a newsletter, ask permission of your subscribe list, and make the content fun and interesting.
  • Take the focus off yourself. Here’s a wager: You will sell more books by being genuinely interested in and supportive of others’ work. Even if you don’t, you’ll feel better about how you spend your days.
  • Start the connecting right at the outset, with the type of promo you do. Join or launch a blog with a group of regular contributors whose content is linked; you’ll all support each other’s posts. Do paired author events. Organize panels for libraries or writers organizations.
Jenny Milchman is a novelist from New York State, who lived for thirteen months on the road with her family on what Shelf Awareness called “the world’s longest book tour.” Jenny’s debut novel, Cover of Snow, won the Mary Higgins Clark award, was praised by the New York Times, AP, and many other publications, and chosen as an Indie Next and Target Pick. Ruin Falls, published the Top Ten of 2014 by Suspense Magazine. Jenny’s third novel, As Night Falls, also an Indie Next Pick, was one of this summer’s, PureWow’s Top 30. Jenny speaks nationwide about the publishing industry and the importance of sticking to a dream. She is Vice President of Author Programming for International Thriller Writers, and the founder of Take Your Child to a Bookstore Day, which is celebrated in all 50 states and 6 foreign countries. Jenny teaches writing and publishing for New York Writers Workshop.

Sandy Tremont is looking forward to a quiet evening with her family when two escaped convicts stumble upon her remote wilderness home. Or did they just happen to find her house? If she wants to save the people she loves most, Sandy will have to face the one truth she has always kept from them. 

Jenny is giving away a hardcover copy of As Night Falls to someone who writes a comment to this blog. (Sorry international readers, the winner must have an address within the United States.) Jenny will contact the winner by September 2nd, and will post the winner's name in the comment section of this blog. Good luck, all.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

The Lessons of A Debut Author from 2007…

By Anderson Harp

The path is never easy.

I recently read a story of a writer who spent some time with Harper Lee. In a moment of frustration, Lee said that she had wished she never had written that book. So even those on top of Everest have doubt about the process.

The journey is writing and the task is getting it out there. As a member of the 2007 ITW Debut Author class, I can add a few comments that might give a different perspective.

I am guilty of having enjoyed reading since I read “In Cold Blood” shortly after it came out in 1966. I had to sneak the book out as I was much younger than appropriate for the brutality but I couldn’t put it down. Nor could I put down “The Stranger”. A good book sucks you into the vortex.

So I risked all by writing that first sentence. And then for months and years I traveled under the concept that “the only way to know if this really does work is if I finish that last sentence”.

Perhaps you have an agent. Like the guard of the palace of the Wizard of Oz, he is the gatekeeper. But the Wizard, I have learned is your editor. It is your editor that must defend you at all costs. He or she is the one that goes to the meetings at the publisher where he motivates publicity and social media. He is the one that stays on top of the cover artwork. And when things move slowly, he is the one that keeps you believing. Lesson number one. Learn as much as you can from your editor.
And what about an alternative goal?

It is interesting how the general public asks one question: New York Times bestseller?

Perhaps it should also be what one can do with this adventure? I wanted to talk about the art of story telling. I have taught classes on the subject and spoken often. Instead of asking the ITW to help me, I asked what could I do for the ITW. I created Operation Thriller as I thought there existed a splendid idea – take the authors to the military. The USO tours covered thousands of troops for several years. We got to talk about writing and may have ignited the interest of writing in a few as well. Perhaps you have an idea that can broaden the scope of the ITW?

Also, invest in fellow author relationships. I read the books of those I have asked for a quote. I had a friend whose father wrote one of the most successful books in America over the last several decades. My friend said that his father would have several fellow authors to his house and they would sit out on the front porch and talk about writing. It remains fruitful to go to writing seminars if you don’t have a big enough porch. Likewise, stay in touch with your friends and fellow authors from the ITW or other writing institutions. I email fellow debut authors on a fairly regular basis with ideas and thoughts.

Recently, I learned another lesson. A friend asked for a quote, I read his book and put something up. Naturally, while on the site I checked out my books and saw one review that was two stars. I was curious about the reviewer and noticed her track of other reviews. Next to my name was another author with “H” in the name that she had also given a two star review to. Yes, it was Harper Lee. So, like politics, not everyone will be happy and take reviews as another lesson.

So, what do you want out of this? Live for the enjoyment of writing and perhaps use your success to help others.

Sorry if this sounds like the teachings of a Zen master.

Anderson Harp is the author of the thrillers Retribution, Born of War (Kensington) and A Northern Thunder (Bancroft). He served in the Marines, taught artic survival, mountaineering, and was stationed around the globe. He was the Officer in Charge of the Marine’s Crisis Action Team during the invasion of Afghanistan. He created the USO’s Operation Thriller and did two USO tours in the Persian Gulf visiting the troops. His writing has also appeared in The Huffington Post, CNN Larry King Live, NewsMax and The Big Thrill. He received a MFA in Literary Fiction from Queens University of Charlotte. Like Clancy and Ludlum, Harp loves the challenge of creating a fast paced espionage page-turner! He can be followed at .

The free world is just one American grown jihadist away from unequaled madness. Special operative William Parker must stop Al Shabaab from acquiring the anti-ship missile of all missiles - the Carrier Killer – a weapon able to sink the heart of the U.S. fleet. Time is running out. He must destroy the enemy or deal with the horrific consequences. Terrifyingly plausible, unrelenting, Anderson Harp’sBORN OF WAR takes off at warp speed and catapults into a heart-pounding thrill ride--then weaves a perilous intelligence operation, hi-tech military technology, and apocalyptic consequence in the finest Ludlum tradition.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

A Few Things I Know

by Stacy Allen

I don't know everything, but I know a few things...        

It has been eight months since my debut novel, EXPEDITION INDIGO, launched. So much has happened since it released, it feels like eight years. I had a launch party, I have guest-blogged several places, I have met with book clubs, I have been on panels, and taught workshops, and guest-hosted on Facebook and Twitter parties, and had book signings. It has been a busy, busy, busy eight months. I am hoping some of my experience, and some of my advice, can help you in your journey to publication, or even in your journey as a writer, if you are already published. Here are some points to ponder:

1. Consider your book from every angle before you plan raffle baskets, SWAG, or promo materials. In my case, my protagonist is an Academic - an archaeologist, who leaves her comfort zone of Boston College to help salvage a shipwreck off the coast of Italy. I created themed raffle baskets: Beach, Italy, Travel, SCUBA, Archaeology, Survival Gear. You get the idea. I also made a decision to only have SWAG that was useful, and relevant. If you want some links to reasonable SWAG or some ideas, please email me and I will happily share my information.

 2. Make a list of questions you think (or hope) will come up during a reading/signing or an interview. Record yourself and see how your answers sound. Listen to yourself and try to capture the salient points of what you want the listener to take away and remember from speaking with you. I do not talk about subplots when I am being interviewed, as a general rule, unless I am asked a direct question about one. The subplots aren't on your jacket copy, so keep your discussion interesting and relevant, and vague enough to make the listener interested and intrigued. Write 3 salient points you want to make and put them on an index card, so if you get flustered or caught off guard, you can steer yourself back on track. What do you want people to remember about you, your character, or your book?

 3. Be grateful, and be kind. I know that sounds basic, but you would be surprised at how often I have seen a person who can't stop talking about his/her work, with no interest in the other panelists or what they have to say. It seems like a gigantic and scary universe to a hopeful writer looking for a place at the table, but this business is small. Tiny. Some of the nicest people I know are in this universe. We care about each other. We help one another. We promote one another. We respect one another. The writer who is arrogant, discourteous, or talks smack about others will find it to be a lonely place. Everybody knows everybody.

4. Never stop learning your craft. Work at it. Every single time you can, be the best you can be.

Stacy Allen is the author of EXPEDITION INDIGO , the first in a series, which debuted August 2014, and features Dr. Riley Cooper, a SCUBA-diving archaeologist. Her passion for adventure has taken her to over 60 countries. She is the current VP of Southeast Chapter of Mystery Writers of America. She has been a member of International Thriller Writers for five years. She is an Advanced Open Water Diver, married and lives in the Atlanta area. Ms. Allen is represented by Jill Marr of the Sandra Dijkstra Literary Agency.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Debut Benefits

Normally we reserve the first Thursday of every month for debut releases. A funny thing happened in the post-Thrillerfest ebb. There are no new releases this month. 

Our team here at The Thrill Begins is busy processing the new applications -- requests to join the Debut Author program are investigated by our membership group -- so I'm sure we'll have lots of striking covers to entice you next month. 

In order to become a member of the Debut Author program, an active ITW Author member must meets the following qualifications:

  • Is their first novel published in any format, anywhere.
  • Is their first work of fiction published by a publisher or press with recognized status. Self-published works released prior to the debut novel preclude membership, as do novellas of any length (whether self-published or traditionally published), since the purpose of the debut program is to aide and support those going through the publication process for the very first time. Short stories released in an anthology or collection may not preclude membership; please mention these at the time that you apply so that they can be reviewed.
  • The novel has or will be published after the most recent ThrillerFest. For instance, the last ThrillerFest was held July 7-11, 2015 and therefore an author who applied for the Debut Authors Program and whose first novel was released before July 7, 2015 was eligible for the Program. Conversely, an author whose book was released before the year’s ThrillerFest (any time before July 7, 2015) but who did not apply to the Debut Program until after July 11, 2015 is not eligible for the Program.
The benefits to the Debut Authors are many--some tangible, some nebulous but perhaps longer lasting. They include:

  • The opportunity to receive media coverage concerning Debut Author events.  examples include a profile and The Big ThrillLibrary Journal, and Suspense Magazineran stories.
  • Membership in the Debut Authors Discussion Forum and Mentor Forum.
Discussion Forum is a private forum where debut authors share experiences, give one another advice, post notices about upcoming events, and build relationships. The Forum also has archived resources, including a Debut Survival Guide, advice on getting blurbs, and much more.

The Mentor Forum features established ITW members who appear in the Forum to answer 
questions. Recent events have included a two-hour Skype session with Lee Child, as well as monthly on-line forums with David Morrell, Douglas Preston, Gayle Lynds, Harlan Coben, Lisa Gardner, and other bestselling thriller writers.  Read about one of those events here.

  • Social media support, including inclusion on The Big Thrill’s Debut Author page, the opportunity to post on our blog, The Thrill Begins, and social media guidance and advice from Debut members. 
  • A growing network and community, both with writers at just your stage, and with many of the greats in the business, which will provide support, resources, and opportunities at every stage of a career.
For me, working with the Debut Author Program been a wonderful opportunity to interact with so many authors as they prepare for their debut release. While I didn't make it to Thrillerfest--that pesky day job--I've met many of the debut authors at other conferences. The publishing world, especially the mystery/thriller/suspense world, can be a wonderful community. I'm delighted to be part of ITW, especially a program that reaches out to offer new members a hand.   

I hope everyone had a fabulous time at Thrillerfest or wherever your summer has taken you. I look forward to sharing the latest releases next month--on the First Thursday page.