Wednesday, May 25, 2011

How to Succeed in Writing Without Really Marketing

I know, this probably seems like a strange title for a post
on a blog called Murder Must Advertise.

But with all the discussion today of how many lines are too
many on a sig (and I am guilty of adding them one-by-one myself), and wondering
if it could possibly be in good taste to mention your novel at
great-great-great Uncle Freddy’s memorial service—after all, the book does
have a dead body in it—I thought I’d offer six pointers that nobody will ever

1)     Have a website. Note: this tip says
nothing about telling everyone you have a website. But you have to have
one. For one thing, people will go looking for you once you have a book out,
and Googling your name is the first thing they’ll do. For another, your
publisher will want you to have one, and if you’re independently published, the
many resources indie authors have at their disposal—yellow pages, forums,
review sites—will want a link available. And finally, building yourself a snazzy
website is something you can do while you’re not marketing!

2)     Join a writers organization. MWA or SinC or ITW for mystery and suspense. There
are groups for romance, speculative fiction, and fantasy. If you don’t write in
a specific genre, join ASJA. This may be
splitting a hair, but I would call this networking, not marketing. Networking
is all about building connections and a sense of community. If down the road,
one of the writers you meet invites you to be on a panel…or to guest on her
blog…well, you can meet new readers and sell books, all while telling yourself
you didn’t even have to market to do it.

3)     Join a listserv or two. Like this one.
Here you can learn about conferences and get out to them. Most of all, you can
participate in the threads, and offer any wisdom or advice you may have. When
people post about their various events, go to them if they are nearby. If your
book is relevant to the conversation, by all means mention it. But it won’t
even matter whether you do. How many times have I gone looking to the List to
find authors who write on a particular subject because I needed them for a
panel? If you become an active participant on a listserv, people will come
looking for you.

4)     Blog. But don’t blog about yourself and
your work, or at least not primarily about those things. Instead, try another
approach. Is there some element of your book that will specifically interest
people? Say you write mysteries that concern horse racing, as author Sasscer Hill does. There is a whole subset of the world that loves horses. You can blog about them without ever
once mentioning that you have a book. Your blog will do the work for you—if you
offer content that people appreciate, they will go looking for more work
by you. And what will they find? Mysteries set in a world they already love and
trust you to depict. This can work for books that involve maps, cooking, or a
specific region. Books that involve almost anything.

5)     Blog approach #2. Another way to blog
without constantly trying to come up with something new to say about your own
book—“And on page 316, I once had to cut a comma…”—is to offer a platform to
fellow authors. Emerging writer Karyne Corum is doing this splendidly with her
website, Jerseywise Fiction. Karyne gives NJ writers the chance to talk about how setting influences their writing and process and work. Are these writers talking about their books? Of
course. But they’re being asked to—by Karyne. And that makes a heckuva

6)     Get to know independent booksellers. As
many as you can. (Caution: This one will cost some money.) Start with your
local store or stores, then widen your driving radius. Then begin identifying
bookstores anytime you travel or go out of town. Spend time in these stores.
Say hello to whomever is at the register, ask the owner’s name. Attend author
events and always—always—support the people who appear. Sooner or later, you’ll
be the author appearing, and you won’t have to set up a thing. The bookstore
owner will know you and wonder why you haven’t yet come in to talk about your
own book. Come to think of it, you don’t have to spend a lot of extra money to
make use of this tip. Simply buy books any time a holiday or gift-giving
occasion is coming up. By frequenting bookstores, you are helping to keep healthy
an industry that gives health to authors. This isn’t marketing, it’s writers

I have the sense that this post could go on and on, but
hopefully these six tips will keep you busy for some time to come—busy not

Good luck! I bet I’ll hear about your book before too long.

Jenny Milchman teaches writing and publishing for New York
Writers Workshop. Last year she founded Take Your Child to a Bookstore Day, a
holiday that went viral, enlisting 80 booksellers in 30 states, England, and
two Canadian provinces. She co-hosts the series Writing Matters, which draws
authors and publishing professionals from both coasts to standing-room-only
events held at a local bookstore. Jenny features Edgar winners, international
bestsellers, and independent authors in the Made It Moments forum on her blog,
Suspense Your Disbelief. Her short fiction has been published in a collection
called "Lunch Reads I" from Istoria Books that reached #19 on the
Amazon bestseller list of mystery anthologies.

Her first novel, a literary mystery called COVER OF SNOW set in a small
Adirondack town, is forthcoming from Ballantine.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Spontaneous Publicity by Mary Reed

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!

Friday, May 20, 2011

Establishing a Platform with Social Media by JP Farris

I write with the philosophy “Hook ‘em fast, hold ‘emlong.”  Basically that means to “hook‘em”  with the first few paragraphs and“hold ‘em” for the duration of the novel – between 280 to 350 pages, althoughsome novels are considerably longer.  

I don’t know how many times I let readers read the first fewchapters of The Banshee and the Archangel.  If after the first couple of pages they aredrawn in to the point the rest of the world disappears I know I’ve done myjob.  They ask me when it’s going to hitthe bookstore shelves so they can read the whole thing.  I smile and say in the near future, but whenI sent my 10th query out and received another rejection letter itwas like the rug was pulled out from underneath my feet.  It was more than disheartening.  I believed in my work.  A few choice mystery readers believed in mywork.  So why – after the 10threjection – couldn’t I find an agent or a publisher?

Your voice has to find the right ears and your manuscriptthe right reader who will accept it with enthusiasm.  But how does one go about doing that?  The solution is the same as when you go outand promote a book.  You have to promoteyourself as well.

“How do I do that?” you may ask.  Sometimes the simplest and most economicalway to promote yourself and your work is by word of mouth.  Or in this digital age by social media.  Social media may have begun as an avenue forpeople to meet and chat with each other online, but it was quickly picked up bybusiness minded consumers.

Establish a social platform. Networking is of paramount importance. If you don’t have a Facebook account, get one.  If you don’t have a Twitter account then goto the Twitter website and sign-up. Network with other professionals by signing-up for a LinkedInaccount.  Establish yourself online withyour own blog; and you can post your work at sites like for publicdiscussion and critique.  (You canestablish a portfolio for free with five examples of your work, any more than fiverequires a paid account.)

In retrospect – establish your persona online and develop aplatform.  Don’t be afraid to putyourself and your work out there.  Andabove all, never stop believing in your work, because if you don’t whowill?  Never give up.  Continue to push forward and eventually yourwork will find a home and an audience.

Monday, May 16, 2011


Many people get the two events confused—they are different.

Some things to remember for both: Wear comfortable clothes
and shoes. Bring along a sweater or jacket because the meeting rooms are often
freezing. Always carry a bottle of water to keep yourself hydrated. Tuck some
easy to eat snacks into your bag. Bring some kind of tote bag in case you
aren’t given one so you have a place to carry your notebook, pens, business
cards, etc. Get enough rest.

A writers’ conference is intended to help writers learn more
about the craft of writing and all that goes along with it. Some of these
conferences may focus totally on writing mysteries.

No matter how many writers’ conferences I attend, I always
learn something new.

A writer or aspiring writer should pick the type of writing
conference that offers the topics he or she is most interested in. And it goes
without saying, that taking notes at the conference will help you to remember
what you heard.

Be friendly. Introduce yourself to others, especially
someone who is all alone. Have business cards you can hand out. This is good
advice for a mystery convention too.

Mystery cons are for anyone who loves the mystery
genre—readers and writers. Though some famous writers who attend may sell lots
of books, the mid-list authors and those from small presses probably won’t sell
many at all. If you are one of the latter, you may have to bring your own books
and ask an onsite bookstore to sell them for you. However, that shouldn’t be
your reason for coming to a mystery con, if it is you’ll probably be

Be sure to schedule your traveling so that you arrive early
enough to be rested when the activities begin. I always try to arrive the day
before for this reason and also if you’re flying, you never know what delays
you might experience.

A mystery con is one place where everyone you meet shares
the same interest that you do—mysteries. You should have no problem striking up
a conversation with anyone—and like I mentioned before pick someone who looks
lonely. You may make a lifelong friend. Over the years I’ve made many friends
this way and some have become fans of my books too.

At a mystery con you’ll have the opportunity to meet your
favorite authors. Don’t be afraid to tell them how much you like their books,
they’ll love you for it. Just don’t interrupt them while they’re in the middle
of a conversation or try to get an autograph while they’re using the bathroom.

Look over the program carefully and pick the sessions that
most interest you. (Of course often the two things you most want to see are on
at the same time, but there’ll be plenty of engaging topics throughout the

If you are on a panel yourself, do some homework ahead of
time and read about your fellow panelists and their work. Don’t monopolize the
conversations. Answer the questions asked and then let the next person have a
turn. If you’re a moderator, try to read each panelist’s latest book so that
you can ask relevant questions. If a panelist does try to hog the whole talk,
speak up and ask the next person how they feel about whatever the question was.
If you are the moderator some conferences don’t want you to do anymore than
mention your own book and only focus on the other panelists. Other conferences
expect you to join in on the discussion and they’ll usually tell you which it

In either case, don’t stress about being on a panel. Think
of it was a conversation between you and the other panelists.

The most popular panels are those with “famous” or
well-known authors on them. I’ve attended many, many mystery cons and sometimes
the panels with the lesser known writers are the most fun.

No matter what, you’ve invested a lot to money in attending
the conference or convention so enjoy yourself. I’ve gone to many of these
events over the years and I always like to take some time to do a little sight
seeing. I’ve been to many cities I’d have never seen if it hadn’t been for
attending a mystery convention being held there. If the con is scheduling
sight-seeing events, plan them into your schedule.

And my final bit of advice is relax and have fun.

Marilyn Meredith
aka F. M. Meredith
Rocky Bluff P.D. series, Angel Lost
Invisible Path, Deputy Tempe Crabtree series

Friday, May 13, 2011

Murder Must Advertise Blog

Welcome, this is another new function of Murder Must Advertise. We'll have blogs from various MMA members about things they are doing to improve their sales.

We'll allow posts on blog book tours and more.

I'm looking forward to another great feature of the website.