Thursday, May 28, 2015

What Works in Book Marketing, and What Doesn't?

My publisher has asked me for suggestions on how they can best market the next book in the Sebastian St. Cyr series. I've come up with a few ideas, but I thought I'd ask what you think works.

Time was, publishers pushed their authors to be active on Facebook. But now that Facebook only shows an author's post to 3-10% of the people who follow her, even publishers are admitting it's really not very effective. (I'll swallow the rant I'd like to insert here.)

I usually make a book video for my books, even though I doubt anyone has ever watched one and bought the book because of it. I make them because they're fun and because they make my publisher happy because it looks like I'm doing something to promote my book. Which is a really stupid reason to do something, but the truth is, I suspect a LOT of what authors do falls into that category.

I have asked them to drop the price on What Angels Fear and run a Book Bub Ad right before the next book's release. They don't seem too enthused, but I plan to keep pushing the idea.

I just had the book tour for Who Buries the Dead, so that isn't in the cards again, at least not this soon. I did a virtual blog tour last March, but I'm not sure how much good that did and it took a lot of time to write all those posts. Who saw them? Did anyone try the books because of them? Who knows?

I am in the process of revamping my website, but that is more because after eight years I'm tired of looking at it myself, and because Google is being a pain (swallowing another rant here; if you don't have a special page for mobile devises, your site's ranking is now knocked way down on a Google search).

So, any suggestions? What makes you decide to buy a book--other than having someone whose tastes you respect say, "I read a great book you should try!" What have you seen authors/publishers do to promote a book that actually worked?


Wednesday, May 13, 2015

On Proctorizing

I am a notoriously picky reader.  I have such a reputation for abandoning books half-read that my writers' group has coined a word for the act of giving up on a book without finishing it: they call it "proctorizing." As in, "This book was so boring, I finally proctorized it."

I haven't always been this way. Time was, once I started a book, I'd plow through to the end largely I suspect because the idea of NOT finishing it--of judging it--never occurred to me. But once I started writing, I carried the habit of scrutinizing word choice and pacing, characterization and plot structure from my own work to the books I was reading. I grew impatient. My To Be Read pile was growing, my time for reading shrinking. I started proctorizing. Sometimes I would proctorize half a dozen books in a row--books by very successful NYT bestselling authors I won't name because this is a small business and saying nasty things about other authors can come back to bite you in the ass. The list of authors I enjoy is short. My editor once actually snapped at me for this, because editors like to ask their writers' favorite authors for quotes.

Then, about a year ago, I decided I needed to break this proctorizing habit. And so, when an author started losing me, I didn't allow myself to put the book down but would plow through determinedly to the end. As a result, I read a string of books by popular authors whose works I'd never been able to finish. And you know what? At the end of each one, I found myself thinking, "Well, that was a waste of time."

A couple of weeks ago, I gave myself permission to abandon my short-lived resolution and go back to proctorizing. Life is too short, and my TBR pile too high (piles, actually; that's a photo of one, above). Ironically, I then stumbled upon a book I thoroughly enjoyed--The Two Minute Rule, by Robert Crais. For years, one of the members of my writers' group has been singing Crais's praises, but while I'd added a couple of his books to my TBR pile, I'd never been able to bring myself to try one largely because this friend (sorry, Sphinx Ink!) also absolutely loves a certain other bestselling author whose popularity mystifies me. Crais does not have the literary inclinations of James Lee Burke or Martin Cruz Smith (my two favorite mystery/thriller writers); he's a Hollywood screenwriter, after all. But I found this particular book brilliantly plotted and emotionally satisfying. So I tried one of Crais's Elvis Cole books and found it, again, masterfully plotted, gripping, and frankly fun. So I've looked up his backlist and I'm dizzy with delight at the thought of all those books I now have to read.

So, what about you? Do you proctorize books?

Friday, May 08, 2015


I've spent the past I-don't-know-how-many weeks rereading the entire Sebastian St. Cyr series and taking copious notes. And I'm FINALLY finished.

It was quite an experience, alternately fun, insightful, and (when I found mistakes) horrifying. The most hilarious error I discovered was one place where instead of "Mayfair" there was "Mayflower." Seriously! Apart from being a weird mindslip in the first place, how did that slide past my dozen or so rereadings, my editor, the copyeditor, and whatever minions are supposed to read the galleys after I go over them? Oh, oh, oh.

At any rate, the fat notebook you see in the photo above is the result of the last weeks' labors, all 100-plus pages of it. I even drew a family tree for Sebastian that stretches back 200 years (no,you can't see it!).

I'm now starting back to work on Where the Dead Lie. And one other thing I did last week was approve the new cover for #11, When Falcons Fall, due out in March of 2016. It's by the same illustrator as the last several books, and we have a new model who looks much more like my own personal vision of Sebastian. It'll be interesting to see if y'all agree. I've asked for permission to reveal the cover, so hopefully that will be coming through soon. Stay tuned.