Saturday, December 29, 2012

What Does 2012 Mean To You?

 Oh, 2012 has been a bad year. I’m not sorry to see it go. Maybe I’m not being fair—a lot of new things happened to me in 2012, lots of great book business, got to meet lots of wonderful people. I also went back to having a day job at a great place getting to continue working in my chosen field, and that’s a blessing. But it was all overshadowed at the end with a really bad thing that happened that I can’t talk about publicly (sorry, legal issues and all) so if I’ve seemed on Twitter or Facebook that I’ve been in a melancholy mood, that’s why. Sh*t happens and we deal with it and, hopefully, move on.

I wanted to do a timeline of the highlights of 2012 using a nifty tool but time constraints force me to improvise: memory, my 2012 datebook and a Word document. I encourage you (challenge you?) to do the same thing and give 2012 a good summing up before sending it into the history books. Hey, we survived the Mayan apocalypse, so it couldn’t be all bad.
  • I did 29 book events in 2012, starting with meeting a DC book club in someone’s living room on January 10th up to appearing at Lady Jane’s Salon in NYC on December 3rd. Looking back over all those events, I have to say each one was special so even if I don’t call them out by name here, thanks to all the organizers for having me (Southern Kentucky, where I got to hang out with JT Ellison, Will Lavender, and Silas House! Hampton Roads, where I got to meet so many fine writers and catch up with Rick Mofina!)
  • I did my first RT Booklovers Convention in 2012! I liked it so much I’ll be back in 2013 (and you can join me. Read all about it here.) I also presented at Thrillerfest, after attending the International Thriller Writer’s annual conference many times as an unpublished writer. It was quite a, er, thrill.
  • I also attended my first RWA annual conference. As Kristina McMorris promised me, it was really quite an experience! Thanks to Rebecca Coleman for presenting with me, and to my publisher Gallery for providing copies of The Taker in all the goody bags!!
  • In February, I went to Milan for the launch of The Taker in Italy! That was an experience never to be duplicated. Three days of interviews with the Italian press, photographers, TV, radio, wow. A dream come true. Thank you, Longanesi, my Italian publishers.
  • In April, I signed at Nora RobertsTurn The Page bookstore in Boonsboro, Maryland and I got a glimpse at what it was like to be a really big-name author as Nora was publishing her 200th book. Thanks to Nora and everyone at TTP for letting me be a part of that amazing time. And I met the amazing Alethea Kontis here—bonus—and Leigh Duncan, who might be one of the nicest people I’ve met yet in publishing.
  • My second book, The Reckoning, was published on June 19th. It would go on to be nominated for the Reviewer’s Choice award at RT Book Reviews for best paranormal romance and was a semifinalist at Goodreads for best paranormal fantasy in 2012.
  • In November I got to attend my first private writer’s retreat and hang out with a dozen wonderful women who happen to be amazing writers. I think part of the deal is that we’re not supposed to name everyone who was there, but I think I can say thanks to Melissa Marr for bringing me into this secret society and for introducing me to the amazing Holly Black. If you follow me on Twitter, you already know that I have declared that I have a girl crush on her.

I couldn’t do anything of this without the help of good friends, writers like Rebecca, Allison Leotta, Ellen Crosby and all the DC area writers (we are a supportive group); Washington Romance Writers, MWA Mid-Atlantic chapter, Sisters in Crime Chesapeake chapter, the Historical Novel Society DC area chapter and all the local writing groups; and of course thanks to Eileen, Terry, Katie, Lelia and everyone at One More Page bookstore in Arlington, Virginia who are a blessing not only to me but to every writer in Northern Virginia.

I guess I have more to be happy and thankful for than I remembered! Enough about me: what about you? What happened to you in 2012? What will you never forget, what do you hope to never remember? Before time swallows all these memories, what would you like to declare to the universe?

Saturday, December 1, 2012

The Horrible Truth About Book Tours

One of the things about being an intelligence analyst is that you get sort of hard-wired to tell the truth, which I’m finding out (now that I’m living more in the real world) is a huge disadvantage. Because most people lie. They lie big, they tell white lies, they fudge, they embellish, they lie a little around the edges but the bottom line is, very few people will tell you the absolute truth. Especially in the book business.

You may have noticed that I have the tendency to tell the truth. It’s not a good practice in the book business, I warn you. You’re bound to hurt someone’s feelings or put your publisher’s nose out of joint. But—since I can’t help myself—I’m back with another installment of truth, this time having to do with book tours. There are some new things happening in regard to book tours. Interesting virtual book event tools are popping up because—in case you haven’t heard this yet—live book events are dying.

I don’t mean to hurt my bookseller friends but they already know this is happening. Whether it’s because people are too busy, have too many options in their lives, or because traffic sucks and people are tired of fighting traffic, it’s really hard to get a decent turnout at a book event unless you’re Stephen King or the latest overhyped media star.

That’s not to say an in-store event never works. Some stores put a huge effort into their live events (though, even so, it’s very hard to get people to turn out for an unknown author). Authors are pressed to ruthlessly work their networks to get family, friends and coworkers to support them. But after the first one or two events, it’s hard to get even the stalwarts out to see you for the third or fourth time.

For authors, book tours aren’t about making a profit by selling books at an event. Oh, maybe that was the case for a big-name author where you could count on selling at least a hundred copies. For the average author—especially the debut author—the in-store event was about name recognition. It was about getting your name out there. There are hundreds of thousands of books published every year, and clerks in bookstores as well as the reading public only learn about a handful of them. So getting to speak at a store meant the owners and employees were a little more likely to recognize your name. Your name might show up in newspaper event calendars. It might be on a poster in the store, seen by people who had no intention of coming back for the event itself. Suffering through a poorly attended event was worth it, if only for the exposure.

Some bookstores hate putting on a poorly attended event, of course. A poorly attended event looks bad, it costs them money because effort = time = money.  I don’t blame them, I completely see it from their point of view and god bless the stores who continue to do it anyway. Other stores continue to want authors to come in because with an event there’s still the possibility of bringing in more customers, or new ones.

But increasingly, book stores are not interested in in-store events—unless it’s for a ginormously famous author, or offers something new, a twist (I’ll get to that—how to hold a different kind of event—in a future post).

Some people are trying to look for alternatives to the tradition book tour, events that will help get your name and new book’s title in front of people who haven’t heard of you yet.

There are blog tours, but they’re really a different kettle of fish, something like half-review, half-live event (and, if they interview you, half-Q&A, but that makes three halves.) No, here I’m talking alternatives to the live reading with Q&A period.

One of these new platforms is Shindig. It’s kind of a live event, only done with your web camera over the Internet. Think of an auditorium where you can see the speaker at the podium, and the speaker can see the heads of the people in the audience (if they choose to enable their webcam).  It’s being used for all kinds of events, not just book-related ones.

Author Guild has just launched BookTalkNation. It’s a live event hosted in a store in which an author is interviewed—usually by another author—and viewers can watch from the comfort of their own home, with the option to phone in questions if they wish. It just launched, with events running through early December. You can check it out here.

Of course, you can arrange your own interview, tape it, and put it up on YouTube, and send the link to your fans (via your mailing list, or on your Facebook page, via Twitter, etc.) The trick here is getting it seen outside the circle of people who already follow you.

Okay, I’m going to leave you with a couple links on this subject:

Some tips from uber-publicist Lauren Cerand on making an event less sucky.

Shane James give the low-down on what it’s like to be on book tour when you’re not a famous author.