Archive for August, 2015


August 28, 2015

Like most authors, I read as much as I write. My day usually begins with about an hour of reading. I read fiction, nonfiction, and biographies—just about everything. Sometimes a book slips through my awareness like DEFENDING JACOB by William Landay, which I just finished even though it came out several years ago. It’s a great read with an unusual plot twist at the end that sort of rocked my world. If you like suspense, it’s a great read.

I’ll make my point early here so no one misses what I mean. This is a good book that somehow slipped through the cracks. I don’t think it was ever on the bestseller list, although it should have been. I know how books get on the bestseller list and it really doesn’t mean a thing. It really means that bookstores purchased a large quantity of books. It does Not mean that the book is so great that everyone is flocking to the store to buy and read it. I’ve had people tell me “I only read the books on the Bestseller’s List.” Boy, are they missing the boat. Many books on the list are lousy. Some are from authors that have been on there before, but they were rushed to finish the latest book and it stinks worse than a dog that’s encountered a skunk. Like the Oscars many of the awarded books on the list stink but the book before was wonderful and only a few folks noticed.

As a rule I’ll try to finish reading a book even if I find it terrible. Once in a while I don’t read a book totally because I disagree with it’s philosophy or it is just that bad, but usually I finish to give the author a chance to redeem themselves.

I’ll stop “dragging a dead horse” here by saying that you are really missing a huge amount of fine writing if you don’t get out there and explore the possibilities. Read the books your librarian recommends and enjoy a wide scope of books. It will make you a better writer and sometimes you get to giggle at the terrible mistakes a best-selling author



August 21, 2015

Never, in my wildest dreams would I have written the above title a few months ago. I’d like to recount a really great PR experience from the last few months and then tell you about some really bad PR experiences.

Since April a wonderful person has entered my life. I really thought she would disappear after a few weeks—I was wrong. Her name is Jenni and she showed up in a “chipper” email in May. She explained her position and went to work. She sent me loads of flyers, posters, bookmarkers, and small stickers which said “autographed copy”. She may be located in South Carolina, but she’s as close as my email box. I’ve come to think of my writing life in terms of “before Jenni” and “after Jenni.” “After Jenni” I’ve had reviews, speaking engagements, and book signings that I tried (and failed) to get on my own. So I can now say Jenni is the reason for many of my successful signings. She’s
Wonder Girl in my eyes.

“Before Jenni” was another era. Yes, I had other PR people and paid a couple of them to do work for me with a minimum or no success. So paying for this service has no effect. I actually traveled to another state and begged my PR person to get me a book signing or at least contact the town’s bookstores and have me come in and sign stock. She did nothing. She didn’t do anything for me except make my life more difficult—change my blog, join Twitter, make a Facebook page for the book and join several online book groups all of which have accomplished nothing I can see or judge. I’ve concluded the money I paid was a waste of resources.

My take on all this is—don’t pay for Publicity professionals unless you have lots of money and don’t need to pay off your car or your house. If you have a medium to large publisher cooperate with your assigned PR person and do was much work as possible—set up local appearances and talk to local bookstore owners yourself, and be available when the PR person tries to set something up for you. Success is a two-way street. You need to take the initiative, but also work with the people trying to help you succeed.


August 14, 2015

Occasionally this blog hasn’t been the most positive piece out there, although I hope it has always been instructive. This one should be more positive than some. I’m sure you’ve all read the horror stories of book signings. I’ve experienced a few of those events—I sat in the boiling hot sun or the freezing weather, nobody came, or worse so many people came I didn’t have enough books OR even worse the publisher didn’t bother to send any books and I was left smiling and trying to explain. Now I’d like to give you the story of the nearly perfect book signing and this is a bow to some of the experts in the field.

We’ll start with the publisher and publishing house. You’ve heard me grumble about editors from hell and the editor assigned to this project was a second cousin to some of those editors, but then along came Jenni. Jenni is my PR person and frankly I think she practices walking on water in her spare time. I haven’t seen her photo so I’m not sure if she has wings, but she should. From time to time, I get a cheerful e-mail from Jenni explaining what is coming up. They go something like this, “Your book signing at Costco is ——- (date) at —-p.m.” Costco, Costco? I didn’t even know Costco did author signings. Then later, “I’m going to get you a Tattered Cover signing.” At that point I emailed her back stating that if she got me a Tattered Cover signing I was going to consider her a miracle worker. Tattered Cover signings are difficult to get. Two weeks later the email came back “Your Tattered Cover signing is on August 11.”

Having now experience book signing Nirvana, I now know why Tattered Cover signings are so coveted. Of Course there’s the obvious reason; you are joining the ranks of Jimmy Carter and Hillary Clinton. The second reason is you are treated like a celebrity even though your last name isn’t Clinton or Carter.

I called to see if the store needed anything from me. A cheerful voice informed me they were good and I was speaking to my host for the evening, Erica. After checking to see if I needed any AV materials, she said goodbye. Erica chilled my bottled water, made sure there were enough chairs, and politely held on to beginning until folks came in from a downpour of rain. She’s a jewel.

August 11th was by far the best book signing of my over 30+ years of writing and I’m deeply grateful for a wonderful event. It does happen!


August 7, 2015

As I mentioned previously, many bookstores aren’t hosting author signing any more.  For a store owner book signings are work-intensive and not very profitable.  If you are fortunate to get an author signing, do the happy dance and become the best most cooperative guest ever.

Here are a few tips:

  1. Call the store several days before your signing. Ask if they need anything from you-photo, posters, book seals, or other material you can provide.
  2. Show up at least a half hour before your signing. This time will give you a chance to
  3. Be a good guest. Be pleasant and helpful.  A million things can go wrong so if something does, smile and go on, don’t be crabby or nasty.
  4. Allow your fans to get to know you. If they want to take photos, let them.  If you have the time and opportunity personalize the book for them..
  5. Be as accessible as possible. A bestselling true crime author was once a keynote speaker at our writing conference, she signed books at the sales table, in the hallway, and even when one of the attendees sidled up to her in the restaurant. She gain a whole new audience with her actions.
  6. Another bestselling author showed up at a different conference to keynote, her assistant announced she would not be signing books and that absolutely no photos should be taken. Not only was she not invited back, but none of her other books were bestsellers.  She alienated her audience.
  7. Remember every book you sign, every person you speak with will remember you and come away with good feelings about you. That person will probably buy your next book and the one after that.  You’ve made a friend for life.

If you have the opportunity to have a signing, make the most of it.  I have one next Tuesday and I’ll try to be the best guest possible.