Wednesday, June 28, 2006
For information, visit www.JAKonrath.com and click on the banner.
The tour begins June 29, at Thrillerfest in Phoenix. I'll return from Arizona on July 3, and hit the road July 4th, to return sometime in September.
Here's a rough schedule:
July 5 -- Indianapolis, Indiana
July 6 -- Cincinnati, Ohio
July 7-8 -- Charleston, West Virginia
July 9-10 -- Atlanta, Georgia
July 11 -- Nashville, Tennessee
July 12 -- Peoria, Illinois
July 13-14 -- Madison, Wisconsin
July 15 -- Fort Wayne, Indiana & Toledo, Ohio
July 16 -- Cleveland, Ohio
July 17 -- Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
July 18-19 -- Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
July 20-24 -- New York, New York
July 25-26 -- Connecticut & Rhode ISland
July 27-28 -- Boston, Massachusetts
July 29 -- Albany, New York
July 30-31 -- New Jersey
August 1 -- Delaware, Washington DC
August 2 -- Maryland
August 3 -- Richmond, Virginia
August 4 -- Raleigh, North Carolina
August 5 -- Columbia, South Carolina
August 6 -- Savannah, Georgia
August 7-- Jacksonville, Florida
August 8 -- Daytona Beach, Florida
August 9 -- Orlando, Florida
August 10 -- Tampa Florida
August 11-12 -- Miami, Florida
August 13-14 -- San Diego, California
August 15 -- San Bernadino, California
August 16-17 -- Los Angeles, California.
August 18-19 -- San Francisco, California
August 20 -- Sacremento, California
August 21 - 31 -- Chicago, Illinois & suburbs.
Sept 1 -- Milwaukee, Wisconsin
You can download my full itinerary HERE.
If you are a writer, a fan, or just a helpful person who lives in or near one of the above locations, and want to buy a weary traveler a burger, or a beer, or let him spend the night in your spare bedroom or on your sofa, email me.
In return you'll get free books and characters named after you in my upcoming novels. You'll also get great conversation, something to talk about for years to come, and my eternal thanks.
Beginning tomorrow, I will have daily updates about the tour on this blog, to let people know where I've been, where I'm heading, and how everything is going.
Please help spread the word throughout the blogosphere and the Internet! I hope to see many of you on the road!
Sunday, June 25, 2006
Your book has made it into the stores! Congratulations!
Your publisher/distributor/sales reps have done their jobs---now it’s time to do yours.
Four out of five books don’t earn back their advance. Half of all books are returned, remaindered, or destroyed. You can accept this as a fact of the business, or you can take the wheel of your career and do something to improve your odds.
Autographed books sell better than their unsigned counterparts. Customers regard authors as celebrities, and a signed book is a value-added purchase.
But how likely is it that your publisher will set up a signing at every bookstore in America? Especially when each store carries just three copies of your magnum opus?
The answer: The Drive-By Signing. You drive up, you go in, you sign the stock, you get out.
For my thriller novels Whiskey Sour and Bloody Mary, I’ve done over 400 drive-by signings in the past 18 months, leaving my signature on several thousand books, meeting thousands of people.
Sound impossible? It’s actually pretty easy to do, once you know the routine.
1. Find the stores.
Go to www.bookweb.org, www.booksense.com, www.bn.com, www.waldenbooks.com, www.american-stores.us/book, www.borders.com, www.booksamillion.com, and search for stores by city and zip code. Or go to the public library and look through the phone books. Try to list all the stores within 50 miles of your home, or within 25 miles of the town you’re visiting.
2. Call the stores you intend to drop in on.
You need to find out if the store still exists, what time they close, and if they carry your books.
DO NOT tell them you're the author. Why? All that does is complicate things. They'll say you have to speak to a manager, or an events coordinator, or they'll say you aren't allowed to come in unless it has been cleared by your publisher, or they'll say that they don't do signings, or they'll set the books aside and then no one will be able to find them when you come in, or you'll set everything up and when you get there no one will know who the heck you are, or... you get the point. Bookstores and publishers have a set of rules about author signings.
You want to bypass those rules. So call and see if they have copies, and ask how many. I wouldn't drive 20 miles to sign three paperbacks, but for three hardcovers I would.
Call a day or two before you plan on dropping by---calling ten days before may result in your books being gone by then.
3. Map out your route.
Use city maps, or Internet sites such as www.mapquest.com, www.maps.yahoo.com, www.maps.google.com. Plot a course going location to location. A GPS navigation unit is heaven sent for touring authors, and saves a lot of time and effort.
Many Barnes & Noble and Borders stores often have locations just a few miles from one another.
Shopping malls often have a Waldenbooks or B. Dalton.
Independent booksellers are generally happier to see you, and more eager to sell your books. Fit as many of these into the drop-in tour as possible.
4. When you get to a store, find your own books.
Booksellers are busy, and you want to be low maintenance and take up very little of their time.
Take your books to the Information Desk, or to a counter, and say your spiel to an employee. Mine is:
"Hi! This is me. (Smiling, pointing to my name on cover.) I'm an author. Great to meet you. (Shake hand.) Thanks for carrying my books! Do you mind if I sign them?"
Start signing when you get the 'yes.' You’ll always get a ‘yes’ (though once I was asked for ID, which I provided.)
Then ask them if they like your genre, and tell them about your books.
While talking to the employee, give them something---a card, a bookmark, or in my case, a drink coaster with my book cover on it, and SIGN THE ITEM. Signing it will hopefully prevent them from throwing the item away, on the off chance that one day you'll be famous and they can sell it on eBay.
Also, ask them if they can check to see if there are any more in the store that you couldn't find. Be patient---if the store is busy, let them take care of customers before you. That gives you a chance to pitch to customers as well.
When the books are signed, ask if they have stickers that say "Autographed Copy". If they do, help them sticker the books. If they don't, use your own stickers, which you took from the last store you signed at.
Barnes & Noble have square green stickers. Borders and Waldenbooks have red triangles. Sometimes Waldenbooks have blue rectangles, and Borders have brown rectangles. Don't get confused.
After the books are signed and stickered, ask the employees to read them.
"You’ll enjoy this, I promise."
A bookstore employee who meets you and reads you is one that will forever sell you.
Often they'll make a display for you. Don't suggest a display yourself--let them suggest it. This appeal for help is important--it shows you're not a snooty author, but a regular person who needs them.
I also tell employees that whoever sells 20 copies or more will be mentioned in the acknowledgements for my next book, and give them my personal email so they can contact me.
5. Meet as many employees in the store that you can.
Thank them profusely for selling your book, and for the great job they're doing. Take their business cards, and add them to your email newsletter list.
But don’t overstay your welcome. They’re there to work, and so are you.
6. If you're at an independent bookstore, never leave without buying something.
If you want them to support you, you should support them.
7. Keep a log of where you visited, who you met, and how many copies you signed.
Share this info with your agent and publisher. You don't have to give them the full list, but an email saying, "I was just in Arizona for the weekend and signed stock at 21 bookstores" will impress them.
8. Return to stores a few months later.
Often they’ll have new stock and new employees. Many stores automatically buy more copies after a book sells. I’ve visited some stores five or six times, and I always meet new people and sign more books.
Obviously, your local bookstores are the ones you’ll visit the most. But whenever you leave town on business, or for vacation, check to see what bookstores are in the area before you go.
Final Words: If you’re planning on touring, you’ll get the most bang for your buck with large cities. A major metropolis like Chicago or Manhattan has over 100 bookstores. Even smaller cities like Phoenix, Denver, Houston, or Indianapolis have a few dozen stores, which is well worth your time.
When planning a drive-by tour, sooner is better. If you wait six months after your book comes out, you may discover your books are no longer there.
If you don’t have time to tour, try to visit every bookstore in your area, and set aside time during business trips and on vacation to hit a few stores in the area. The more places you visit, the more it will help your career.
Contrary to popular belief, signed books can be returned or destroyed. But it’s less likely they will be, especially if you were nice to the staff.
In today’s market, even bestselling writers must do their own publicity, or else they won’t be writers for very long. Drive-by signings are only one weapon in your publicity arsenal. But if done correctly, they can be the most powerful weapon you have.
How to Make a Disastrous Booksigning Event a Success
No aspect of a writer’s job offers more opportunity for euphoria (and anxiety) than a booksigning. But how do these events really go down?
The Fantasy. Your escort picks us up at the airport and drives you to the largest bookstore in the state. She tells you they’ve advertised the event in the three local papers and on the radio. When you arrive, there are a hundred fans already waiting. You meet the excited staff and sit behind a table stocked with a huge pile of books, under a giant color poster of your cover. You read a chapter aloud, receive thunderous applause, and then do a quick Q & A before signing for a solid 90 minutes, people waiting patiently in an endless line to tell you how much they love you.
The Reality. You arrive at the bookstore ten minutes early. There’s no crowd of fans---there’s not even one. No posters, no signs, no table full of books. The employees look at you like you’ve grown a second nose when you say you’re the author and there to sign. Finally you convince someone to help you and they unearth a box of your books and set up a small table for you in the rear of the store, near the washrooms. You sit there for two hours, each second an eternity. People try hard to avoid eye-contact when they pass. Some approach you and ask where The DaVinci Code is. One will always come over and say, “So you’re an author? I’ve got a lot of ideas. How about I tell them to you, you write them, and we’ll split the millions?” No one buys a book. It’s debasing, humiliating, discouraging, and you vow to never do this again.
The Plan. But it doesn’t have to be that way. With proper preparation, and a little bit of self-confidence, you can do very well at bookstore signings even if your last name isn’t Clancy. Here’s how.
A Month Before the Event. Book the signing yourself by calling or dropping by the bookstore and speaking to a manager or an event coordinator.
Often the store is not very receptive---author events don’t ever go well. Convince them that yours will, because you have a different way of doing things.
If you’re with a small publisher, your books may be difficult or impossible to order. Offer to bring the books in yourself and give the bookseller the standard 40% discount.
If you’re with a large publisher, they might refuse to pay the store co-op money (publishers pay stores to host events, often between fifty and several hundred dollars.)
If that’s the case, the store won’t be allowed to host a signing. Tell them you don’t want to do an official signing, but rather a drop-in just to sign stock. Then make sure they have at least twenty copies available.
Two weeks before the event. Advertising is up to you. Make a flyer featuring the date and time of the signing, your book cover, and a few blurbs. Send the bookstore 100 copies.
List the event on your website and in your newsletter, with an address and a phone number for the bookstore.
If you haven’t already, make a large (2 ’x 3’) poster of your book cover and a sign that says “AUTHOR EVENT TODAY.” Often your publisher will do this for you; just ask when you receive the cover art. Or you can have one made from a digital file at any copy shop, like Fed-Ex Kinkos.
Three days before the event. Call the store and make sure they have copies of your book in. If they don’t, remind them that you can bring copies of your own.
Most authors get discounted copies from their publisher. Instead, I suggest you buddy up with a local independent bookstore owner, and ask if she can sell you copies at her 40% discount. That way, they count toward your royalties.
How do you become friends with a local indie? Make them your base of operations, and have anyone who wants a signed copy go through them. Also, use them for your initial booklaunch party---they’ll be happy to help you out after that.
Day of the event. Make sure you have the essentials; 100 business cards with your website on them, flyers that feature some blurbs and reviews, some mints (so your breath stays fresh), some bottled water (hydration is important), and a nametag that says “AUTHOR.”
Dress. Business casual or better. Shaved, bathed, combed, made up and smelling nice.
Upon arrival. Get there fifteen minutes early to set up. Your first order of business is to introduce yourself to EVERY employee in the bookstore. Shake their hands. Give them a signed business card. Briefly tell them what your book is about, and let them know you’ll be there for a few hours.
Bring pizza or donuts for the staff. Employees are used to bigshot authors snubbing them. Be a bigshot author who appreciates them, and they’ll champion your books for life.
Set up. Sometimes the bookstore has already set up a table for you. Try to get one at the front of the store. If not, no problem---you can work around it.
Put your flyers and some business cards on the table, and hang your poster in a prominent place. Make sure your books are arranged in an attractive manner.
An employee might offer you a chair. Kindly tell them you don’t need one—you’ll be on your feet for the whole event.
Ready, Set, Go! If you’re lucky, some people may have come to see you. Usually this isn’t the case. You're a new, unknown author. All of your friends and family have already bought your book. Even if the event has had heavy advertising and publicity, would you go to see an author you’ve never heard of before?
Neither will anyone else.
The only way you'll move your wares is through determination, personality, and fearlessness.
Put on your smile, stick out your hand, and get ready to greet EVERY PERSON that comes into the bookstore.
Does that terrify you? It shouldn’t. People are excited to meet authors. You’re a minor celebrity. Everyone likes to meet celebrities.
Don’t worry about being rebuffed or ignored. You’ve dealt with rejection before. You’re a writer, and rejection is part of the business.
The Approach. People will be preoccupied when they walk into a bookstore. Some are on a mission to buy the new Harry Potter, or latest issue of Guns and Ammo. Some are there to browse genres other than the one you’re writing in.
But all people, no matter their reason for being there, will respond when you introduce yourself and offer to shake hands.
I use one of two lines:
"Are you a mystery fan? I’m a mystery writer." or "Hi, I’m an author. Do you like thrillers?"
It’s extremely rare that a person will ignore an outstretched hand---it’s only happened to me three times, and I’ve shaken thousands of hands.
The Pitch. If I get a yes to one of the above questions, I launch into my pitch.
"My name is JA Konrath. I write a mystery series about a Chicago cop named Jack Daniels. Jack is short for Jacqueline, and she's in her forties, divorced, has a train wreck for a personal life, but she’s great at her job. She chases serial killers."
If they still seem interested at this point (about 1 out of 5) I continue:
"The book is actually very funny, similar to Janet Evanovich or Dave Barry. But it also has a darker side, kind of like James Patterson or Hannibal Lecter/Silence of the Lambs. So it goes from laugh out loud funny, to pretty scary--you'll want to turn on the lights and make sure the doors and windows are locked when you're reading."
It's important to maintain eye contact and keep smiling. Then finish your pitch.
"Whiskey Sour is the first book in a new series. The second is Bloody Mary. They’ve won several wards and appeared on some bestseller lists. I'd love to sign a copy or two for you-- and if you like, I can make it out to EBay."
Relax and Be Casual. No one likes high pressure sales. Selling isn’t about forcing people to buy something they don’t want. It’s about finding the people who are looking for your product.
And yes, books are products. Publishing is a business. Take off the artist hat, and put on the salesperson hat. If you’re shy, or have low self esteem, take a public speaking class. The better you can talk to people, the further you’ll go in this career.
The Hand Off. While doing the spiel I’ll hand them the book itself. That connection is important. Holding something implies ownership, and you want them to look at the cover, read the jacket, and begin to think of this book as theirs.
Adjustments. I tailor the pitch depending on the person's interest. Often I ask questions. Sometimes I answer questions. I adjust the pitch to the individual (if a customer likes romances, I play up the romantic end. If they like thrillers, I downplay the comedy, etc.)
The Rejection. Most people won’t be interested, even after hearing your wonderful pitch. That doesn’t mean you should move along yet.
Hand them a flyer to look at, or autograph a business card or bookmark, and ask them to pass it along to anyone they know who is a fan of your kind of books.
Thank them for their time, and mention it was great meeting them. Also let them know that you’ll be around for a while, if they decide they want something signed.
Often people come back. Sometimes while you’re there. Sometimes days later.
The Acceptance. If they buy a copy, be genuinely grateful. I once did a signing with an author who grumbled, “I hate signing books” in front of the person he was autographing it for. The fan’s jaw hit the floor. I don’t recommend that approach.
Thank the customer for giving you a try, and ask them who they’d like the book personalized to. ALWAYS ask for them to spell the name, even if it’s “Kim,” (I had a Kymm once.)
Then thank them again, shake hands again, and give them the biggest smile you can give.
Enlisting the Staff. Large chain stores will often make announcements. Ask if they can announce you every half hour, or if you can make the announcements yourself.
“Today we have local author J.A. Konrath---that’s me---signing books from the Jack Daniels series. I encourage everyone of come over to front of the store and say hello. Autographed books make a great gift, for family, friends, or yourself.”
If the staff really likes you (and if you brought them pizza, they will) ask if they can pass out flyers, or walk around holding copies of your book and directing patrons to your table.
Does it Work? Typically, 1 out of 5 people I pitch to will buy the book. And I pitch to several dozen an hour--depending on how busy the store is.
I did an event last Saturday, and sold 40 hardcover books in 6 hours. The week before I did 40 books in 8 hours (store wasn't as crowded). Week before, 60 books in 8 hours. My record is 120 in ten hours.
It isn't easy getting a stranger to part with $22. Sometimes there are stretches when I approach 30 people and can't sell a single book. It's disheartening, depressing, and just plain awful.
Other times, I'll sell five books in three minutes--one person buys it and others will wander over to check out what's going on.
To date, using this method I’ve handsold over 2000 books.
Time to Leave. How long you stay is up to you. I think four hours is minimum, and if the store is really busy I’ll stay for six or more.
When you’re finally ready to go, you should once again thank the booksellers--they watched you bust your butt and are on your side.
If you didn't sell every copy, ask to sign the remaining stock, and affix stickers that say "signed by the author."
If the store doesn’t have stickers, use the ones you borrowed from the last place you signed at---the employees shouldn’t mind if you ask to take some extras, and you should always keep a supply of stickers on you from various chain stores.
If you brought your own books, don’t ask to be paid upfront---that’s bad business. Leave your contact information and let them know they can mail a check.
Most importantly, ask to come back in a month or two. I visit some local stores five times a year. Signed books really do well during the holidays.
Staying Positive. Every time I come into a bookstore and see that big stack of my books, I get a little sick inside. There's no way I'll sell all of those, I think. No one will come in to the store. People will ignore me. My pitch is crummy and won’t work. The staff is laughing behind my back. I’m a writer, not a salesperson.
Then I remind myself that the Great Wall of China was built one brick at a time, and that's how I'll sell my books--one at a time.
Each book you handsell is a book that never would have sold without your efforts.
Each person you meet is likely to talk about you to others.
Each reader who becomes a fan will become a fan for life and remember the time they shook your hand.
Each bookstore you visit will have employees who will handsell you for weeks, months, and even years after you’ve gone.
In my acknowledgements page on my latest book, I have a list of a dozen booksellers that I thank, because they’ve each handsold at least twenty copies of my first novel.
In the next book, I’ll be thanking over fifty booksellers. One particular bookseller has helped me sell over 300 hardcovers at one location. I named a character after him in my third book.
Your Goal. There’s no reason a booksigning has to be a stressful, unpleasant experience. In reality it is one of the cheapest, most-effective ways to build your career.
It’s your name on the book’s cover, and it’s your job to sell it. Sales is just like writing---the more you do, the better you become, the more success you achieve.Now go get ‘em, tiger!
Six Keys to a Successful Bookstore Pitch
1. Introduce yourself with a smile.
2. Explain the book’s premise, setting, and lead character in just a few seconds.
3. Compare your books to well known books the reader will recognize (It’s like a chick-lit version of Silence of the Lambs…)
4. Ask the customer a question. (Who do you like to read? What book did you come in for?)
5. Offer to sign and personalize a copy for them.
6. Thank them, whether they buy a copy or not.
Signing Survival Kit
· Snacks for Bookstore Employees
· 3 Good Pens
· 100 Business Cards
· 50 Flyers
· Poster of Book Cover
· Sign saying “Author Signing Today”
· Mints (gum annoys people)
· Bottled water
· Extra “Autographed Copy” stickers
· A Big Smile and a Good Attitude
How to Survive a Book Tour
You just found out your publisher is sending you on a tour. You’re surprised, excited, grateful… and terrified. You’ve heard other others complain about how grueling and disappointing tours are, even with all-expenses paid.
So what can you expect? How can you make sure your experience is a good one for you, the bookstores, and your publisher?
I just went on my very first tour---eight cities in eleven days---to promote my new hardcover thriller BLOODY MARY, and the paperback release of the first book in the Lt. Jack Daniels series, WHISKEY SOUR. I signed 933 books at 105 bookstores in Colorado, Arizona, California, Oregon, and Washington.
Here are 15 things I learned while on the road.
TOUR TIP #1: Use a GPS.
Your publisher will set up official signings for you, and possibly some publicity opportunities such as radio and TV interviews, library talks, and speeches.
Sometimes they provide escorts—those folks who pick you up at the airport and drive you around.
A cheaper, and better, alternative is a GPS Tracker. GPS stands for Global Positioning Satellite. Navman, Nextell, Magellon, and Garmin are some of the big names. These units are mini-computers that attach to the window of your car. You program in addresses, then they visually and verbally direct you to your destination. The best models have millions of addresses pre-programmed into their memory, tell you when you’ll reach your destination, and offer alternative routes if traffic is bad.
A GPS takes a lot of the stress out of being on tour. They can be added to your rental car, or purchased for a few hundred dollars. If you’re an author, you need one as much as you need a website and a cell phone.
TOUR TIP #2: Always allow yourself more time than you think you need to get to a destination.
Sometimes traffic is bad. Sometimes you stay at a store longer than expected. Sometimes you have car trouble.
For scheduled events, always plan on getting there 45 minutes early. If you’re going to be late, phone them as soon as you know. But try not to be late.
TOUR TIP #3: At an official signing, work the room before you begin.
Introduce yourself to the bookstore employees, and bring gifts (I give them a signed bottle of Jack Daniels). Thank them for having you. Praise their store.
Then give each person who showed up a handshake and warm welcome.
Bestselling thriller author Barry Eisler is a master at this---he always arrives early and talks to each member of the audience before he begins. It takes a few extra minutes, but you’ll have the crowd on your side before you begin, and customers and fans love the personal touch.
Be upbeat and show you’re happy to be there, even if you get a small crowd. If no one shows up at all, hang out with the booksellers and talk shop---your positive attitude will be remembered.
TOUR TIP #4: Rehearse your presentation, but pay attention to your response.
At an event, you’ll be asked to speak, or read, or answer questions, or all of the above. Be sure you have something prepared for all possible scenarios.
Monologues are boring and can be done in an empty room. Storytelling is an active, dynamic thing that requires the audience to participate. If they aren't involved, get them involved by making eye contact, asking questions, and smiling. Watch out for speech hesitations (ummm and uhhhh), get to the point quickly, and don’t drone on too long.
If you’re afraid to speak in public, get over it. If you’re unsure of how you present yourself, have a friend videotape you, and watch the recording later.
TOUR TIP #5: Publicly acknowledge your people.
If you have friends or family in the audience, big fans who traveled a long distance to see you, or published authors in the room, thank them by name when you do your presentation.
Also thank the bookstore and the employees again.
Most people love to be mentioned—though some are easily embarrassed. Ask beforehand if it’s okay you say their name in front of the crowd.
TOUR TIP #6: When reading, be brief (no more than ten minutes), and if appropriate, be funny.
Practice until you're smooth and confident. Use inflection and different tones for the characters. Smile while you read---it comes through in your voice.
Also, make sure the passage you’ve picked to read won't offend anyone. Avoid graphic language, sex, or violence---unless you’re reading at a horror convention.
Glance up at your audience often to gauge their reaction and draw them further into your words---people pay closer attention if they see you’re looking at them.
Not good at reading? Get good at it, or don’t do it at all. A poor reader hurts more than helps her cause.
TOUR TIP #7: When signing, always ask who they'd like the book inscribed to, and how to spell their name.
I've met Aymee, Jym, Marscha, Debbera, and Chuk, to misname a few.
Have a few witty phrases that you can use when needed. Since my books are named after drinks, I often write “Don’t Read and Drive!” or “Enjoy in Moderation!”
Take your time when signing to avoid mistakes---those books get returned and destroyed.
TOUR TIP #8: Don't leave without signing everything.
Even if no one comes to your signing, ask to sign all the stock and any posters. Also ask if they have stickers that say “Autographed Copy” to put on the books.
If they don’t have stickers, supply your own. Each time you visit a chain store and sign, ask to take a few extra stickers, so you have some for the next store that can’t find theirs.
TOUR TIP #9: When signing at an independent store, always buy something before you leave.
Support the folks who support you. If there are no books on your want-list, ask for recommendations from the employees.
If you’re signing with another author, or several authors, buy their books. We’re all in the same boat, and need to help one another.
This business is all about building contacts and relationships, and generosity goes a long way.
TOUR TIP #10: Do drive-by signings.
Even if your schedule is packed, you’ll have some extra time to stop by other local bookstores. Signing stock and introducing yourself to bookstore employees is always a smart idea when you’re in a new town. It builds word of mouth and good will. Award-winning mystery author Julia Spencer-Fleming calls it a force multiplier; the more people you get on your side, the better.
Your publisher will appreciate the extra effort you’re making. I had eight scheduled signings, but I signed at 97 extra bookstores during the tour. Everyone at my publishing house was in awe---which can’t hurt when you’re negotiating your next contract.
When you do drop-ins, always have something to give the bookstore employees.
I give them an autographed coaster with my book title, WHISKEY SOUR, on the front. Signed things get kept, and you’ll be remembered.
TOUR TIP #11: When planning your drive-by itinerary, phone first.
Some stores close early. Some stores change locations. Some stores don’t carry your books.
Use the local phonebooks, Mapquest.com, and your good old GPS to help plot your course. If there’s a Borders, there’s often a Barnes & Noble nearby. Most malls have a bookstore. Genre stores can be found through Internet searches, or through writers organizations like RWA, MWA, HWA, and SFWA.
Call to make sure they’re open and they stock your titles.
TOUR TIP #12: At drive-by signings, get in and get out.
Save time by finding your books on the shelf and bringing them to the Information Desk to sign them. Ask the staff to check if there are more copies. Sometimes there are others in the stockroom, or on end caps that you didn’t see.
After you’ve done signing your books and talking to the staff, get out of there. Lingering makes you look bad, and besides, you have more bookstores you have to visit.
TOUR TIP #13: Pay for as much as you can on your own.
Your publisher is sending you to work, not on a vacation. They pay for transportation and lodging. Pay-per-view movies, the beer in the honor bar, and room service are not options if you ever want to be toured again.
If your publisher gives you an expense account, use it wisely. No alcohol, dinner for friends, or theater tickets.
Show your publisher you’re a pro who wants to save them money, and they’ll reward you with more locations on your next tour.
TOUR TIP #14: Be good to yourself.
After visiting ten stores a day for a week straight, everything began to blur. I couldn’t remember what store I was in, where I parked, or what my books were about.
When that happens, take a little break. Sit down. Eat something. Call home. Hearing friendly voices helps you clear your head.
It’s important to dress well, look fresh, and stay healthy. This might be the only time people have a chance to meet you. Make a good impression.
I take a bottle of water with me everywhere to stay hydrated (dry mouth is common on tour), and always try to get at least six hours of sleep per night.
TOUR TIP #15: Let your publisher know how things are going.
They’ll be following your tour, calling stores after your events, and checking to make sure you arrived at the hotels. But they won’t ask you how you’re doing.
Communicate with your publicist through email or phone calls, letting her know how everything is going. Stay upbeat and positive, even though you’ll be exhausted. If something unusual happens, let them know about it from you, rather than hear about it from someone else.
Remember to thank your publisher for all they are doing for you. Not many authors get toured, and this is a tremendous show of support. Be grateful.
Final words: Publishers don’t make money off of book tours, even with bestselling authors. Tours simply cost too much money.
While selling books is important, the main reason for touring is to have the author meet the readers and the booksellers. Building good word-of-mouth, establishing a brand, and making contacts in the business is why you’re on the road.
If you stay focused on the big picture, your tour will be a huge success even if you don’t sell a single book.
Friday, June 23, 2006
I'm a staunch believer in freedom of speech, and the information superhighway is quickly becoming the preferred way to communicate. Unlike telephones, the exchange can be permanent, and unlike newspapers or books, it allows for instantaneous self-expression, followed by instantaneous reaction and response.
Never before in the history of the world have people been able to express themselves so easily and quickly.
Perhaps too quickly.
An unforeseen phenomenon sprung shortly after the first chat rooms and message boards appeared. A specific type of person who used the Internet not as an open means of intelligent discourse, but to call people names, cause trouble, and refuse to listen to reason or apologize for their behavior.
We call these people trolls.
Trolls enjoy causing trouble. They like the attention they receive from being insulting, demeaning, and provocative. The name troll comes from the fishing lexicon--to troll means to cast out your lure and wait to see what bites.
Unlike real life, where calling someone a nasty name, or pointing a finger and shouting untrue accusations might get you into big trouble (and perhaps even force you to defend your words) the Internet is the perfect venue for cowards such as trolls.
In short, there is no accountability. A troll can make wild claims, attack people and organizations, and do it from the safety of their own home, never having to personally confront the people they condemn, or take responsibility for the harm they've caused.
Let's use a hypothetical example. Let's say someone used a blog to level some serious accusations against, oh, let's call it a group of writers. In this person's perception, this writing group has done something really bad, something really unforgivable, such as nominate writers for some awards.
Wait, that's not really unforgivable, is it? Well, what if we make all the nominees... MEN.
I know, I know---what a despicable assortment of scoundrels this writing group must be. But try to bear with me for a moment.
At first glance, you might look at this nomination list and think, "Well, this writing group must be excluding women."
While this conclusion might not be particularly well thought out, it is a legitimate perception.
Now, if you're a staunch support of women's rights (as we all should be), you'll be angry that no women are represented on this ballot. So angry, in fact, that you decide to use the Internet to vent your anger.
So you do what any smart person would do. You go to the organization's web site, looking for information about how this could have happened. You contact the co-presidents and board members, demanding an explanation. You speak to the judges to seek the reasons why there are no women on...
Oh, wait. I take that back. What you do is write a blog entry calling the organization bigots, sexist, and stupid, without any hard facts to back up this belief.
But we can chalk that up to passion, right? After all, sexism exists in the world, and it is an important issue, and if it has teeth and eats sheep it has to be a wolf, right?
But what if the organization comes forward, and politely points out that they are not, indeed, a wolf? They are a teddy bear. And they didn't kill your sheep. They're actually very sensitive to the needs your wooly friends. And they have proof, facts, and evidence to back this up.
That's when you be a woman and admit to your mistake, right?
Or do you cling to your original, erroneous perception, show no remorse for the people you've insulted and the harm you've caused, and continue to stick to your prejudices?
What would you do?
The funny thing is, the Internet is partially responsible for this situation. If I were to pick a random person, say, bestselling author David Morrell, and call him a bigot to his face, chances are he'd get mighty angry and demand to know why I said such a thing. I might have to use things like facts and logic to back up my rudeness. I might even have to defend my position and my original argument.
But not on the Internet. Because on the Internet, any coward can say whatever they want to say, without accountability. They can hurl insults without having to look into the face of the person, or people, they are insulting.
When these people can't even respond or defend themselves, such as judges who have signed non-disclosure agreements, it must feel particularly self-righteous and liberating, because you don't have to face them, and you don't even have to read their objections.
That's how you know the true troll from people who have simply made honest mistakes. The trolls never admit they are wrong.
I wonder how libel laws apply to blogs? I wonder if an organization can prove damages if some motormouth makes untrue accusations? I wonder if big writing organizations with big coffers ever hire big lawyers?
Hypothetically, of course.
On a completely unrelated topic, I've heard there have been some accusations against (coincidentally enough) a writing organization called ITW. Co-President Gayle Lynds has issued a statement, which I'm happy to repeat here:
My name is Gayle Lynds, and I'm co-founder and co-president of ITW, with David Morrell. I've been following with interest the queries that have arisen about the nominees for the first ITW Thriller awards. As an individual --- not representing ITW, its board, or its officers --- perhaps I can shed some light on the subject.
I was as surprised as anyone by the results of the ITW Thriller nominations. But then, ITW deliberately built a firewall around the award judges, so none of us knew the outcome in advance. At the same time, no panel of judges knew the results of any other panel's deliberations.
Let me tell you a little about the firewall: Any author or person speaking on behalf of an author who tried to influence any of ITW's judges would have had that author's books disqualified for two years. This was so that the judges could work in private and in secret. All board members as well as the chair of the Awards Committee --- James Rollins --- were ineligible to be considered for the awards. Again, this was to protect the judges and to avoid any accusations of favoritism toward ITW's leaders. This information is available in ITW's bylaws at http://www.thrillerwriters.org/bylaws.html.
In short, ITW's board worked very hard to make certain the awards were as fair and as impartial as possible, and so did the judges, as you will see.
Since this was ITW's first year, the judges faced the monumental task of creating systems that would be the foundation for all future awards. Because of the boxes of books that arrived on their doorsteps to be read, several had to delay their own deadlines and make sacrifices within their families in order to fulfill their very serious responsibility to judge well. This sort of selflessness is to be lauded.
I personally am proud of every book and film script that was nominated. All are excellent works from the thriller field.
Now about the accusations I've read recently about sexism in the awards....
If you go to http://www.thrillerwriters.org/awardslist.html you'll see a list of all submitted books. Only 29% were written by women. For the Thriller Best Novel, only 17%.
At the bottom of http://www.thrillerwriters.org/awards.html, you'll see a note to authors: "If your book is not on the list, please contact your publisher to remind them to submit your book as quickly as possible."
So what happened?
The chair and judging panels showed their concern that they be able to consider every thriller published in 2005 in several ways. The chair and several chief judges contacted all publishers --- both publicists and editors in each house --- to alert them that ITW was in the process of judging its first awards and to ask them to submit all thrillers.
I stress that not just one person was contacted in each house, but several, to ensure that the house understood that ITW really wanted each and every book in all of the subcategories of thrillers, from adventure to medical, romantic to espionage, legal to historical, and every other permutation. No one should be left out of the race.
Still, books were not always submitted. The judges worked closely with the chair, alerting him when they saw new books coming out. At the same time, he was on the watch, too. He went back time and again to publishers.
When it became apparent that few novels by female authors were being submitted, he redoubled his efforts, often contacting a house four times on behalf of novels that were clearly thrillers written by women.
At the same time notices were sent to ITW members reminding them to check the website to make certain their 2005 novels had been submitted.
In the end, the responsibility for having books submitted rests on the shoulders of the publishers. That's their job. At the same time, authors had the option of submitting copies of their books themselves.
As an author (not as a woman who has spent her life battling sexism), I could complain that no women were nominated. At the same time, I could also complain that no people of color were. I'm not sure whether any Muslims or religions other than Christian or Jewish were nominated, but I think they weren't either. There also might be a preponderance of nominees from one section of the United States, which could be taken as a prejudice favoring that area.
As long as awards are given in whatever field, there are always going to be those who say, "I wish it were otherwise. And because it isn't, it's prejudice."
The only time there's really an institutional problem, at least in my mind, is when there is a history of one group of people being disenfranchised.
Since this is ITW's first year, the organization can have no track record of institutional prejudice. ITW has worked diligently to avoid prejudice. The judges by their actions have indicated they have also been diligent in trying to create a level playing field.
My hat is off to ITW's judges, who worked very hard and read many fine books. All are excellent authors in their own rights, too. They did a sincere and worthy job, and they deserve not only our respect but our appreciation.
By the way, the awards chair for next year is a woman. She is not a person of color. Her religious background is unknown to me. I'm not even certain where she lives. She is a fine author and a wonderful human. Her name will be announced at ThrillerFest.
Anyone who would like to attend ThrillerFest --- it's going to be a blast --- should visit www.thrillerfest.com. You can learn there at the Awards Banquet who the winners for the Thrillers are. ThrillerFest begins next week. As I said, all of the nominees are excellent. I congratulate them on creating superb works.
Tuesday, June 20, 2006
Or not. New York Times Bestsellardom can happen without any effort on your part. Conversely, every effort on your part may not lead to bestsellerdom.
Let's start with what I know:
There are a limited number of NYT reporting stores. Some are bookstores. Some are chains like Wal-Mart, Costco, and Sam's Club. To debut on the list, you have to have a certain "magic" number of preorders, but not always.
This magic number changes, depending on the competition. You can theoretically get on the list by only selling a few thousand books your first week, provided no one is selling better than that.
The NYT collects data from reporting stores by using a survey. The survey lists the top predictions of the NYT, based on orders and units shipped, and the employee at the store writes in how many they sold next to the pre-printed title. If a title is selling well, but isn't pre-printed on the survey, it can be written in.
Since non-traditional outlets (supermarkets, convenience stores) actually sell more books than bookstores, having your book available through the major chains is essential to make the list. If Wal-Mart commits to buying 80,000 copies your your hardcover, chances are good you'll be pre-printed on the survey, which guarantees a spot on the list.
There is a self-fulfilling prophecy in effect. Rather than demand driving quantity, quantity (with marketing, promotion, and advertising behind it) can indeed drive demand. In short, books shipped indeed become books sold, even without customer pre-orders. The NYT assumes this, so a book can debut on the list even though a single copy hasn't been officially sold, and authors can know where their book will debut on the list weeks before it hits the stores.
Then, once a book is on the bestseller list, it will sell better because it was on the bestseller list, which can leader to a higher spot on the list next week as more people become aware of the book.
It's a flawed system that doesn't rely on actual copies sold, but I've noticed that NYT bestsellers all appear to have some commonalities.
- There are a lot of copies in print. For fiction, my sources have told me that a minimum first hardcover printing of 80k, and a minimum paperback printing of 250k, are the starting points. There's a lot of leeway, but these are solid numbers, that if spread out through the reporting stores (including non-traditional outlets) will give you a shot at the list.
- The titles are high profile. This means publisher coop is in play, and the books are prominently displayed in the store. Up front, near the register, in the window, in an individual dump box or cardboard cameo, on end caps. Books that face out sell better. Books that are displayed in quantity sell better still.
- A backlist exists. While debuting on the NYT list with a first books is possible, in most cases the list is dominated by people who have been on it before. These authors were grown, over a period of books and years, until their audience was large enough to justify the large print runs necessary to get on the list. An in-print backlist is essential to growing an author for two reasons. First, because the more books that are available, the likelier the author is to be discovered and read. ARCS, libraries, remainders, and used book sales are essential to this. Second, because a strong backlist is like found money for a publisher. They've already had the first printing, and have spent the marketing dollars. If a book goes into multiple printings, it shows the publisher the book has an audience, and is continuing to make money. This money can then be used for:
- A big advertising, marketing, and publicity campaign. While I contend that real estate (prominent coop placement) and number of copies in print are the most important precursors to bestsellerdom, an expensive marketing campaign, backed by a publicity tour, says to bookstores and supermarkets: the publisher is spending big money, the author is or will be famous, and there will be a demand for this book so we better order a lot of them. Then the self-fulfilling prophecy begins. There have been cases where a huge advance and ad campaign, with lots of author appearances on TV and radio, was enough to generate a bestseller. There have also been cases where this backfired, and everyone lost a lot of money.
- Word of mouth. This is still key. All the ads in the world won't help a book that people don't talk about or don't like. Recommendations still sell books. And once a reader becomes brand loyal, they usually are for life. Often, the word of mouth can begin within the publishing house itself, with employees getting excited about a new book. In house enthusiasm leads to a bigger push by the sales reps, a higher print run, and more promo dollars to back up that printing. A large foreign sale (or a large book club sale, as Tess Gerritsen points out in her latest blog) frees up some advertising dollars, because now there is less risk because money has already been earned on the book.
So can bestsellers be created? There are, all the time. But it's a lot like betting on horses. The ones who win are the ones who usually keeping winning, and longshots rarely come in. It's tough to get a publisher to bet on a longshot. They've all gotten burned before, and are wary of it happening again. So they play it safe, until the moment seems right.
Along with the self-fulfilling prophecy of "the more books that are printed, the more that will sell" there's also a catch 22 of "your publisher only prints as many as the last one sold."
Bookstores look at numbers. If a title sold poorly, the next title from that author won't have as many orders, dooming it to sell even less. You want your numbers to go up, but if your publisher prints a gazillion copies, hoping to make the NYT list, and the books doesn't sell, you're career is pretty much over.
That's why you've gotta work your butt off self-promoting.
Your efforts won't get you on the NYT list (unless you're a celebrity.) But they will help your sell-through, help you keep your backlist in print, help you build a brand and name-recognition, help you develop a fanbase, and most of all, make your publisher money. The more money they make, the more they realize the money they could make if you're a bestseller.
To recap, the essential elements of bestsellerdom are:
- A large print run, so you're pre-printed on the NYT survey
- Getting into non-traditional outlets like Wal-Mart
- Coop placement for displays
Almost as essential are:
- An in-print backlist and track record
- Advertising, marketing, and publicity
- Word of mouth
Of course, these aren't the only factors. A movie release could catapult a book onto the list. So could current events, or the stars aligning. No one truly knows. Of the current top 15 fiction bestsellers, 14 of them have been bestsellers previously, and the 15th, Sara Gruen, has had much critical acclaim for her earlier work, and her latest is a powerhouse. There are no newbies on the list.
And you'll notice Patricia Cornwell on the list again. If you check the Amazon reviews for her latest, At Risk, you'll witness a skewering akin to a public execution. Readers do not like her new book. But it's selling like crazy. I haven't read it, so I can't comment, but it does beg the question, "How important is quality?" and the even bigger question, "How important is negative word of mouth?" The answer, for both, seems to be "Not very." It hasn't hurt Cornwell's career in the least.
So what can you, the author, do to get on the list? The same things you've been doing all along. Write the best book you can, then promote it to the best of your ability, and hope for lightening to strike.
I'm fond of saying that getting lucky is hard work. I stand by this. The more you do, the greater your chance of success.
But if I'm not a bestseller by my tenth book, I'm shooting myself in the head.
Saturday, June 17, 2006
The street date is July 5. A street date for a book serves two purposes:
- It allows for an even playing field when booksellers begin to sell the book. Shipping con sometimes be delayed, which means one store might have copies a week or even two before other stores. With a street date, everyone (theoretically) begins to sell it at the same time, so no one can get a jump on anyone else.
- To make it on the bestseller lists, you need a lot of books sold in a short amount of time. If different booksellers begin to sell your book at staggered times, the initial launch is scattered, and not as dramatic. (you sell 5000 books over two weeks rather than two days)
That said, I'm not a big enough fish to warrant a hard street date (or at least to enforce a hard street date.) So I encourage everyone reading this to run out and buy as many copies of Rusty Nail as you can afford.
If you're a fan of thrillers, or even if you hate thrillers but find this blog helpful, put me in your karma debt and hop on over to your local bookseller and demand my book. I'd appreciate it, big time.
What is Rusty Nail about? Here's what the jacket says:
"Thrills, chills, and laugh-out-loud hilarity...Konrath expertly pours on both shivers and fun." --Tess Gerritsen, author of Vanish
Anthony, Macavity, and Gumshoe Finalist for Whiskey Sour
Front inside flap:
"Konrath creates the perfect blend of pulse-pounding thrills and side-splitting humor." - David Ellis, author of In the Company of Liars.
Lt. Jacqueline "Jack" Daniels of the Chicago Police Department is back, and once again she's up to her Armani in murder.
Someone is sending Jack snuff videos. The victims are people she knows, and they share a common trait--each was involved in one of Jack's previous cases. With her stalwart partner, Herb, hospitalized and unable to help, Jack follows a trail of death throughout the Midwest, on a collision course with the smartest and deadliest adversary she has ever known.
During the chase, Jack jeopardizes her career, her love life, and the lives of her closest friends. She also comes to a startling realization--serial killers have families, and blood runs thick.
Rusty Nail features more of the laugh-out-loud humor and crazy characters that saturated Whiskey Sour and Bloody Mary, without sacrificing the nail-biting thrills. This is Lt. Jack Daniels' third, and most exciting, adventure yet.
Back inside flap:
"Jack Daniels is a detective for the new millennium: sharply witty, deftly wry, and unabashedly clever." - James Rollins, author of Black Order.
(graphic of rocks glass and skull in rifle crosshairs)
A native of Chicago, J.A. Konrath is the author of the thrillers Whiskey Sour and Bloody Mary. If you'd like to see revealing photos of J.A., read free Jack Daniels short stories, and enter cool contests, visit www.JAKonrath.com
(graphics of Whiskey Sour and Bloody Mary)
Praise for Rusty Nail
"Tougher than Kay Scarpetta, smarter than Stephanie Plum, Jacqueline Daniels rocks." -- Alex Kava, author of A Necessary Evil
"A heady mixture of chills and chuckles. You'll drain this libation in a single sitting!" -- Julia Spencer-Fleming, author of To Darkness and to Death
"Finely honed characters and a plot blessed with more twists than a drunk on a bender, J.A. Konrath has stirred up another addictive suspense novel that will leave readers salivating for more--and more." -- Gayle Lynds, author of The Coil
"Rusty Nail is twisted and violent, creepy and clever, fast, frightening, and funny. This is not your granny's thriller." -- Anne Fraiser, author of Before I Wake
(graphic of rocks glass and skull)
Praise for J.A. Konrath's previous novels:
"Excellent smart-mouth thrills. My advice...take a long sip." -- Lee Child, author of One Shot
"Snappy dialogue. Powerful action. A fabulous character to spend time with." -- David Morrell, author of Creepers
"Tough, gritty, and surprisingly touching." -- M.J. Rose, author of The Delilah Complex
Covers are important. Some booksellers believe they are the single most important element when it comes to book sales. I agree. A good cover arouses interest and provokes sales. It is what makes a browser take a closer look.
A cover needs to do several things all at once:
- It has to be eye catching, to stand out among the other books.
- It has to portray the theme/tone/genre of the book.
- It has to establish a brand.
- It has to inform.
- It has to make the buying decision simple.
I have a lot of input on my covers. Not on the art, but on the text. The art is all my publisher's call, and I think they're doing a good job because they're meeting the first three requirements I just mentioned. My covers are bright, attractive, and convey both my genre and my brand.
Once the cover makes a customer pick up the book, the words are what will ultimately hook them.
I like having these things on my covers:
- Blurbs by bestselling authors. I solicit my own blurbs (one of the benefits of networking) and I try to get blurbers whose audience I share. On the previous two books, I had almost all men, so for Rusty Nail I went with mostly women. I'm banking on the fact that readers care more about what Tess Gerritsen says than what Publisher's Weekly says, so I don't use a lot of reviews.
The blubs pretty much reiterate the point I make in my jacket copy: the books are funny and scary. They also tell the reader that if they like Tess, Alex, Julia, Gayle, Anne, David, Jim, Lee, or MJ, it's a safe bet they'll like me too.
- Jacket copy. Because my series is still pretty new and relatively unknown, I can't assume a potential reader is aware of my first two novels. I want the ad copy to hint at the main conflict, emphasize the book has both thrills and laughs, and give a bit of info about the protagonist, but not reveal too much in the way of plot. This is the sizzle, not the steak. A scent, not a taste. If they want a taste, they can begin to read it.
- Bio. I like my bio to be super brief and to subtly lure folks to my website. A picture isn't going to help me sell books, so we don't use a picture, which frees up space for more blurbs.
- Series. I believe that readers are looking for long-term relationships with authors. A series is a good way to establish a commitment between writer and fan. I make sure my cover emphasizes that there are other Jack books, because it tells readers I won't just be a one night stand.
Though there's a lot of text on my covers, they aren't crammed full of it. The words are in a large, easy to read font, with plenty of graphics and negative space to break them up.
The goal of the cover is to give the customer something they recognize, even if you're a new author to them. People buy what is familiar and comfortable. They are brand loyal. If they have a good experience, they seek out the same experience again and again.
I like my covers, because I feel as if they're doing what they're supposed to. it will be interesting to see if the public feels the same way.
Thursday, June 15, 2006
Dear Mr. Konrath,
We are about to offer the hardcover edition of Whiskey Sour for remainder. We will be sending you twenty-five copies gratis. You may purchase up to one hundred additional copies at the courtesy price of $2.00 per copy, plus freight. Should you wish to purchase a larger quantity, we would be happy to discuss pricing and terms. Payment must be rendered by credit card at the time of purchase.
It's been two years since Whiskey Sour came out, and since just about everything is eventually remaindered, I can't feel too badly about the situation. In fact, there are several good things about it.
Before we get to that, let's explain what remaindering actually is.
After hardcovers are printed, they're warehoused. Warehouses are very large buildings with very many shelves which hold millions of books. Even though they're huge, shelf space is still limited, and therefore valuable.
A 20 copy carton of Whiskey Sour measures 10" x 11" x 16". By using a system known as math (it apparently is still being taught in schools) we can figure out that 2000 copies of Whiskey Sour would take up some serious space: 83 feet wide, and 91 feet high. That's a lot of unsold Whiskey Sours.
After the paperback is released (or after an undetermined length of time), hardcover orders dwindle down, and the book can no longer monetarily justify the space it occupies. It's time to be remaindered.
Remaindering is selling the books at a loss, to recoup printing and shipping costs. Authors get no royalty for remaindered books. They're sold in bulk to bookstores and discount outlets for about two bucks each, and then those outlets sell them for around $2.99 to $5.99.
The discount aisle in chain bookstores are all remainders. So are those strip mall stores (usually just called BOOKS) that have tables and tables stacked high with unorganized books. Borders also has a new concept called Borders Outlet which specifically sells remainders.
So what does this mean to you, the author? A few things. Let's start with the bad.
- You don't get paid for a remaindered book, even though it is sold.
- That edition of the book is no longer in print, and once it's gone, it's gone forever.
- A large number of remainders indicates the book didn't do as well as expected.
- Being in the bargain bin has a stigma that isn't pleasant.
But there are also some positive things about being remaindered that many authors don't consider.
- You get to buy copies of your book really cheap, but they have the potential to be very valuable later on--especially first book/first edition.
- People will discover your series on the remainder table.
- The more books you have in circulation, the likelier you are to be read.
- Any book you have on a shelf--remainder or otherwise--is an advertisment for your brand.
How many books should you buy? I've spoken to many authors, and they all have told me that they wish they bought more, with a few notable exceptions. The exceptions were the authors who bought every single copy of their remainders. This is a bad move for a few reasons:
- Where you gonna put them all, Einstein? Warehouse space costs money, remember?
- If you horde all the books for yourself, you're missing out on the opportunity to have readers discover you on the remainder table.
- How will you ever get rid of two thousand (or more) books? If you gave away a copy every single day, it would take you over five years to unload them all. If you're trying to sell them, to get your investment back, it will take you even longer, and every event you attend for the next ten years you'll be lugging around your books.
I've decided to buy the hundred copies, and let the rest hit the remainder shelves. I'll store these in my basement, and wait for the price to skyrocket years from now when I become a superstar (or I'll donate them to libraries as a tax write-off when my ship sinks--one of the two.)
Believe it or not, remaindering isn't the worst thing that can happen to a hardcover. Before we get to that, let's talk about shipping, and waste, and profit margin.
A $22 is sold to the bookstore for $13. If there's a distributor involved, they get a cut. That leaves $9. A $3 chunk of that gets paid to the author, and the book costs about $3 to print and ship (this number goes down depending on the size of print run, or goes up depending on the size of the book.) That leaves the publisher with a $3 profit per book... sort of.
Publishing isn't like other businesses, in that it allows returns. So if a book doesn't sell, the bookstore sends it back and gets a credit from the publisher to purchase other titles.
The book is returned to the warehouse where it is shipped again when it is ordered again--at the publisher's expense. Shipping is costly, and can be $1 per book or more.
A book can be shipped back and forth several times, and then it starts to get ripped and worn. When that happens, it can be sold at a discount as damaged, or it can be given a fresh new cover and shipped out again.
As a business model, this stinks. And the savvy among you will see that after the third back-and-forth, the publisher is no longer making a profit.
This can open up a discussion about why publishers print more copies than the market demands, but that's a blog entry for another day.
Even after a book is remaindered, and sold at a loss, it can sometimes be returned yet again. It's a wonder that publishers ever make money.
If that happens, and there are too many books left over after the remaindering, a book's final fate is assured---the pulping machine.
When I visited the Time Warner warehouse last year, a spoke to one of the higher-ups about the pulping machine. Entire pallettes of a Stuart Woods title were being dumped into this giant machine, and the guy proudly remarked, "It pays for itself in recycled paper."
I was horrified. Horrified at the huge waste of money to print and ship those titles. Horrified at the destruction of perfectly good books. Horrified at the matter-of-fact way he spoke about this, because the pulping machine worked 9 to 5 and was rarely turned off.
Suddenly, remaindering doesn't seem all that bad...
Monday, June 12, 2006
The problem with press releases when you're a fiction writer is: There's nothing press-worthy about writing a book.
Sure, you're excited about it. Hopefully your publisher is too. But why should the Podunk Times or Small World Weekly care?
To be considered newsworthy is difficult. Even newsworthy stuff needs to have a spin on it before it can reach the masses, or else it isn't interesting enough to warrant the time and/or space.
My new novel, while a helluva lot of fun to read, isn't really newsworthy. But a press release is still needed to help garner reviews and make media folks aware a new Konrath book is coming.
However, my upcoming Rusty Nail 500 Tour, is newsworthy. This has never been done before, and is a fresh approach to book publicity.
So this year I'm doing two press releases. Since it's the least interesting of the two, I'm posting a link to the Rusty Nail Press Release, which you can view as a pdf. Click HERE if you'd like to see what it looks like.
I had more fun with the Rusty Nail 500 press release. Here's the text for it:
Author Takes Book Tour to Great Lengths
In a day and age when multi-million dollar ad campaigns drive the bestseller lists, and many of the books sold in America are through outlets such as Wal-Mart and Costco, breaking out a midlist author is harder than ever.
One author has come up with a non-traditional way to spread the word. JA Konrath (author of the previous Lt. Jacqueline "Jack" Daniels thrillers Whiskey Sour and Bloody Mary) is hopping into a rental car and driving cross country, signing at 500 bookstores in two months.
Supported by his publisher, Hyperion Books, Konrath will average 8 bookstore drop-ins a day, where he'll sign stock, meet the booksellers, and pass out signed drink coasters featuring the cover of his latest novel, RUSTY NAIL.
"Hyperion sent me on a traditional tour last year, visiting ten cities in eleven days," says Konrath. "These were scheduled events, and I had decent fan turnouts. But the real success of the tour happened between signings, when I managed to visit an additional ninety-six stores during that time frame."
Konrath believes that meeting the people who sell his books is the only way to compete with the mega-bestselling authors and their huge marketing campaigns.
"Enormous print runs and large co-op budgets don't impress booksellers any more. But actually meeting bookstore owners, managers, and employees, is a grass roots approach that people seem to enjoy. I certainly do. I love meeting booksellers."
That love extends to print. Konrath has named five major characters in past and upcoming books after booksellers, and has thanked hundreds of them on his acknowledgements pages. Every single bookseller he meets on this current tour, which he's dubbed The Rusty Nail 500, will be similarly thanked.
The tour kicks off July 6th, and you'll be able to follow his daily progress on his website and blog at www.JAKonrath.com.
Writing press releases isn't rocket science, but it is much different than writing prose. I suppose having a background in news or advertising is helpful. I have neither, but the formula is pretty simple to pick up if you study it.
- What is happening and who is involved?
- Why is it relevant or important or newsworthy?
- Where and when is it occurring?
- How can we get more information?
Brevity is important, because media folks are busy. It's like breaking and entering; get in and get out fast.
Quotes or blurbs are good, because they add a human element and take some of the writing responsibility away from the media person, who is almost assuredly overworked and pressed for time.
In this day and age, the hook is almighty. You need to spin your press release to make it seem very relevant, or else it won't attract media attention. What makes your book different from the 40,000 other novels being published this year? Why are you newsworthy?Pictures aren't normally included in press releases, but in this case, my publisher is making this shot available to those who are interested: www.jakonrath.com/RustyNail500.pdf. I think it's a good indicator of the scope of what I'm attempting, and often pictures help to sell stories.
Should you write your own press releases? I can't answer that. Perhaps your publisher's copywriter is a genius at this stuff, and can do a much better job that you. Or perhaps your press releases are written by your publicist, who just graduated college and hasn't even read your book.
At the very least, you should have the opportunity to read your press releases before they get sent out. If this isn't offered to you, don't be afraid to ask. You also shouldn't be afraid to offer your services to tweak, or even write, the press release yourself. Chances are, whoever is writing your press releases is overworked and under a time crunch, and your assistance will probably be appreciated.
Wednesday, June 07, 2006
Writers should have two, or more, card designs.
The first should be a contact card, with your address and phone number(s), to give to media and people who need to get in touch.
The second (third, fourth, fifth...) should be a sales card. This has your book cover on the front, and the back can contain a blurb or two, your website URL (and possibly email address), and whatever little teaser or picture you can fit in the small space. This is the one I stick in books. Not only does it give the reader something portable to take to the bookstore with them (in order to remember the titles), but it also functions as a bookmark.
In the beginning, I made my own business cards on the computer using a program called Business Card Designer Plus. You upload your own jpg, add the various data, and print them on an inkjet or color laser printer.
The result is a so-so card. Single sided, not the highest quality cardstock. Not professional, but much cheaper than full color runs at Kinkos or Office Max.
When Bloody Mary came out, my publisher began to make business cards for me. These are always full color, double sided, slick and glossy.
I give cards to everyone, all the time. I drop them in books, my outgoing mail, on the table at restaurants, to people I meet outside the publishing biz---I basically am trying to give a card to every single person on the planet.
If business cards aren't something your publisher provides, and you don't want to go into debt buying ink cartridges, you should check out www.overnightprints.com.
You design your business card using Photoshop or any other picture editing program (I'm partial to Paintshop Pro 8) and then upload it to the URL.
Did I lose anybody when talking about the do-it-yourself option? If so, you might want to consider joining the 21st century.
For the first time in human history, amateur technology is on par with professional technology, and much more affordable.
You can take high rez pictures, design your own website, and make your own promo materials. When someone needs a headshot, or a book cover jpg, you can send these on your own, without having to go through your publisher. You can update your home page yourself. You can create business cards, chap books, and flyers without hiring experts.
Doing it yourself is faster, and cheaper. In my opinion, here's the least a writer needs to learn:
- A photo editing program. The ability to save, retouch, resize, and alter jpgs, gifs, pngs and other picture files. People request these all the time.
- A web design program. Your URL is your home. Learn how to take care of it.
- Some basic HTML knowledge. Even if you're able to use a web design program like Frontpage or Dreamweaver, you still need to know your hrefs from your img srcs.
Other things techno savvy authors can do:
- Learn Adobe Acrobat, for making pdf files. These can be used as website downloads and press releases, among other things.
- Use a mailing list organizer, for sending out newsletters.
- Use a GPS, for finding bookstores while touring.
- Use a digital camera.
- Use a laptop or some other way of accessing email on the road.
- Learn audio editing software for podcasting.
- Learn an ftp program, so you can upload and download large files.
- Understand the potential of MS Word or Wordperfect, for making documents beyond simple manuscripts.
Every so often, while discussing this stuff with my peers, a writer will ask me, "You do that yourself? Why don't you hire someone?"
I'm not against hiring pros. Pros are pros for a reason, and are often worth what they cost.
But I do believe that we should all learn as much as we can. The more you know, the better off you are.
Technology isn't going away. It's going to keep advancing. You should advance along with it.
Friday, June 02, 2006
I talk about the value and importance of newsletters on the Tips page of my website. But here's a quick course:
- Don't intentionally spam.
- Use a bulk emailer to organize addresses and opt-outs. I use www.ymlp.com.
- Focus on what you have to offer, not what you have to sell.
- Don't be boring. Be funny. Be informative. Be quick.
- Make sure the layout is okay. Many people don't accept HTML, so I stick to plain text.
- Don't send more than four newsletters out a year--it's annoying, and nothing you're doing in your career is that important.
Here's my latest newsletter, for those of you who haven't gotten a copy:
Straight Up-The Official Newsletter of Author J.A. Konrath #6
In this issue:
--Contests and Winners
--Thriller: An Anthology
--The "Rusty Nail 500" Bookstore Summer Tour (aka "Will JA Survive?")
--Freebies (read until the end for free stuff!)
You're on this mailing list because you love books. I love them, too. This email is my way of reaching out to you readers, librarians, bookstore employees, fellow authors, and giving you free stuff. If you want to be taken off this list, just reply with REMOVE in the header or opt out using the link at the bottom.
My third Lt. Jacqueline "Jack" Daniels thriller novel, RUSTY NAIL, is being released in hardcover and on audio this July. The first two novels in the series, WHISKEY SOUR and BLOODY MARY, are currently available in paperback, hardcover, and on audio. They'll make you laugh, and then scare your socks off. Please head to your favorite bookstore and buy fifteen copies for yourself and everyone you know.
Now let's get to the free stuff:
--CONTESTS AND WINNERS
Winning stuff is cool. Especially if you don't have to do a lot. Here are my current contests:
CONTEST #1 - THE GREAT JACK DANIELS BLOG EXPERIMENT.
Lots of people have blogs these days. I have one called A NEWBIE'S GUIDE TO PUBLISHING at http://jakonrath.blogspot.com.
If you have a blog, use it to write a review of WHISKEY SOUR or BLOODY MARY, send me the link, and I'll send you a free signed copy of RUSTY NAIL. How easy is that?
You can also write a review of RUSTY NAIL, and I'll send you a signed copy of something else. I'm easy that way.
CONTEST #2 - CALLING ALL WRITERS!
Can you write a crime story in 500 words or less? If so, send it my way. The best story wins a cash prize of $100, plus their name as a character in my next book. They'll also win a signed copy of RUSTY NAIL ("Violent thrills peppered with hilarious one-liners!" - Publishers Weekly).
Rules: Stories must be less than 500 words (not including title and author name) and involve a murder. It must be sent in the body of an email, with the header "500 Word Story Contest". One entry per person, the last day to submit is Oct 31, 2006, contest open to everyone except me, because that just wouldn't be very fair, would it?
CONTEST #3 - FOR BOOKSELLERS ONLY.
This one is simple. In the acknowledgements of RUSTY NAIL I thank close to a hundred booksellers by name, because they each sold twenty or more copies of my books.
If you sell twenty or more copies of my books, I'll happily thank you in the acknowledgements of DIRTY MARTINI, which is coming out June of 2007. Just send me an email and let me know how many you've sold. The bookseller who sells the most will have the villain in FUZZY NAVEL named after them.
Several characters in my books, including Steve Jensen, Holly Frakes, James Munchel, and Steve Jurczyk, are named after booksellers, and I want you to be next. Thanks for all of your hard work and effort! I love you folks! Booksellers rule!
CONTEST #4 - FOR LIBRARIANS ONLY.
I've had over a hundred entries so far, but I want more. Go to my website and click on the link that says FOR LIBRARIES. That will automatically enter you in the contest. In November, I'll put all the names in a hat and will pick a random library. This lucky library will win a free visit from me, where I'll do a talk, give you lots of free books, and also give everyone who shows up to see me a free book. If you want me to drop by and shower your library and your patrons with gifts, visit www.JAKonrath.com.
--THRILLER edited by James Patterson
This is the biggest anthology of all time, featuring an all-star line-up of bestselling authors including Lee Child, James Rollins, Katherine Neville, David Morrell, Michael Palmer, MJ Rose, F. Paul Wilson, Gregg Hurwitz, Steve Berry, and a slew of others. It also contains a Jack Daniels tie-in story called EPITAPH, written by me.
Visit www.thrillerbook.com for more info, then run out and buy copies for everyone you know.
--THE RUSTY NAIL 500 - WILL JA SURVIVE?
I'm dropping in 500 bookstores this summer, signing stock and passing out coasters and telling booksellers how much I love them. This is a driving tour, and I'll be visiting at least 25 different states during 70 days on the road.
If you're a bookstore employee, and want me to stop in and say hello, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I'll be able to tell you when I'll possibly be in your area.
If you've already contacted me, you'll be hearing from me very soon, as I'm finally beginning to set times and dates.
If you think I'm crazy and won't make it, keep an eye on my blog and website. I'll be posting daily updates about who I meet and where I visit, beginning July 3rd. Gambling on my success or failure will be encouraged. Meeting me somewhere on the road and buying me a beer will also be encouraged.
**If you've never read any Jack Daniels, here's your chance to try her out for only 49 cents!
Amazon.com has a new program where you can purchase short stories for pocket change.
My contribution, A FOUR PACK OF JACK, features four Jack Daniels tie-in stories, and you get all four for the super-low cost of super-sizing your French fries. You'll laugh. You'll cry. You'll freak out. And you just might learn something. But probably not.
Or if that URL is too long and unwieldy, go to www.JAKonrath.com and click on the link on my homepage.
**I edited an anthology called THESE GUNS FOR HIRE, which is debuting this year at Bouchercon in Madison. It's published by the gurus at Bleak House Books. THESE GUNS features 31 hit-man stories by some of the best writers in the biz, including:
David Morrell, William Kent Krueger, Raymond Benson, Ken Bruen, Jay Bonansinga, Jeff Strand, Libby Fischer Hellmann, Jeff Abbott, Jeremiah Healy, David Ellis, Sean Doolittle, Brian Wiprud, Michael A. Black, Lawrence Block, Reed Farrel Coleman, MJ Rose,Max Allan Collins, Ed Gorman, John Galligan, Victor Gischler, Julie A. Hyzy, Mitchell Graham, Rob Kantner, Benjamin Leroy, PJ Parrish, Monica J. O'Rourke, Marcus Sakey, Paul A. Toth, Robert W. Walker, Lisa Mannetti, and me.
It's an amazing anthology. Visit www.thesegunsforhire.com for a sneak peek.
**Bloody Mary won the Love is Murder People's Choice Award for Best Novel in a series. (www.loveismurder.net). I also won an Ellery Queen Reader's Choice Award for the Lt. Jack Daniels story WITH A TWIST. Speaking of EQMM, there's a Jack Daniels tie-in story in the recent June issue called SUFFER. Buy a bunch for those you love.
**I'm Toastmaster at the upcoming Backspace Writer's Conference (www.backspacewritersconference.com) being held July 21-22 in NYC. If you'd like to meet some famous authors, agents, and editors, this is the event to attend. It's almost full, so act fast.
**I recently visited Brilliance, my audio publisher, and was able to record a few tracks for RUSTY NAIL. The talented duo of Dick Hill and Susie Breck, who did such a great job reading WHISKEY SOUR and BLOODY MARY, again provide the voices for the latest, which is available on cassette, CD, and MP3. I had a chance to voice a character, and also read my story THE DEATH OF JACK DANIELS, which is exclusive to the audiobook.
Free stuff is cool. A few times a year I have a random drawing for free J.A. Konrath merchandise, and everyone on my mailing list is eligible. Two newsletter subscribers have been randomly picked to receive some cool gifts.
The lucky winners this time are: Val Stark and Shanna Arnold.
Congrats! Email me at email@example.com so I can send you signed copies of RUSTY NAIL. You'll also have characters named after you in FUZZY NAVEL, the fifth Jack Daniels book. Probably corpses. :)
Also, since I want to reward people who read this entire newsletter, the first ten people who email me will get a free advance reading copy of THESE GUNS FOR HIRE.
Remember: JA loves you. Do any other authors profess their love for you? Does Dan Brown? Does Patricia Cornwell? Nope. But I do. And I'm not just saying that to get you to buy my books. I love you for who you are.
You're special. Never forget that.
See you on the road this summer!