There is no doubt that Fortuna plays a part in publishing, or as Roman dramatist Plautus observed, "Things unhoped for happen oftener than things we desire".
I believe this applies to the marketing part of a writer's life. We can blog ourselves blue-faced, tweet until our fingers are sore, Facebook into a frenzy, run contests and giveaways, take out ads and go in for booksignings, and many other agonies besides, but sometimes we are blessed with spontaneous publicity for our work -- which is to say, publicity that just happens without any effort on our behalf.
Publicity that in any case could never have been arranged deliberately.
And often it is far-ranging.
Robin Burcell, author of THE BONE CHAMBER, offered "cop tips for chicks" as a public service providing advice on staying safe in the Christmas season and addressing related matters such as protecting yourself from burglars who do their festive shopping by breaking into your car or home. The tips were totally unrelated to her book and she tweeted them to her normal Twitter list and Facebook friends. Eventually a TV news station in Wisconsin picked them up via Twitter, and when Robin was in the area they asked her to appear on their morning news talk show. While the news piece was about the tips, they showed her book on the programme and linked her website to theirs for that particular show.
Larry Karp, author of the Music Box Mystery series, the Ragtime Hist-Myst trilogy, FIRST, DO NO HARM (a medical-ethics standalone), and the upcoming A PERILOUS CONCEPTION, has an extraordinary story to tell.
The chairwoman of the San Marino (CA) One Book/One City Committee happened to see THE RAGTIME KID, the first book in his Ragtime trilogy, displayed on a shelf in the Crowell Public Library. She was drawn in by what Larry describes as the lovely Poisoned Pen Press cover art, read the dust jacket summaries, became interested enough to read the book, and then contacted Larry to ask whether he would be willing to appear at and highlight their 2011 One Book/One City event, which would focus on THE RAGTIME KID.
And that was with no promotional effort whatsoever by Larry.
My story is a more modest one.
It unfolded in April 2000, not long after the publication of our historical mystery ONE FOR SORROW, the first novel about our protagonist.
A gentleman who read the book wrote to our publisher, who forwarded his letter to us so we could pass along its request to be put in touch with one of the people listed on the book's acknowledgement page. We were happy to oblige. And thus by an almost unbelievable chain of events, two old friends regained contact after losing touch with each other many years before.
We never found out where the reader saw the book or why he picked it up, but as it happened this particular dedicatee belonged to a genealogical and historical society whose secretary were so struck by the remarkable chance that had brought the friends together again that he related the story on their website.
There must be many such stories of spontaneous publicity floating about in the mystery world. Since we cannot control them, we must just enjoy them -- so let's hear them!