Sunday, May 25, 2008

Guest Blogger: Lorraine Bartlett

Ready, set--LAUNCH!

Charles has asked me to blog about the joys of launching a new series. In a word, it’s wonderful! (Okay, that was really two words. Ahem…)

I recently attended the Malice Domestic traditional mystery conference (some call it cozy) and I felt like a rock star. So many people had already bought the book (which, at that point had been out only three weeks) and wanted me to sign it. People asked me to have my picture taken with them. They wanted me to sign their author autograph books, programs, even conference tote bags. (Okay, I wasn’t the only one to sign those last three items, but I was surprised to be asked.) The two dealers that had the book sold out. I brought in more, and again--a sellout.

Since then I have visited bookstores in three states and everywhere I’ve been I’ve signed copies of the books. They really were in the bookstores. Even six weeks after launch, one chain bookstore still had the books on an endcap. “We keep them there as long as they keep selling well.”


Wow, all this is a little overwhelming. And to tell you the truth, it’s pretty unbelievable. But there’s a very good reason why this series has done well. In two words: Hard work. And in another two words: Good luck.

The hard word was writing the book. The good luck? Well, the cover is wonderful. Surely the artist must have read the book, she incorporated so much into her painting. If you blow up the picture on screen you can see lights on in the stores; bookshelves with books on them. The detail is phenomenal. The publisher was so pleased, they did what they call a “designed” cover. That is, instead of some white or yellow paper cover with just the title and author’s name, they did a version of the actual cover and sent them out to scads of review places.

The next stroke of good luck: a new publicist was assigned to me (and a bunch of others). She sent galleys of all the “first in a series” to all the big reviewers. I lucked out and got a coveted Publishers Weekly review. (“An engaging whodunit!”)

The book started appearing everywhere--early. In fact, my local Barnes & Nobel ordered the book in late February (for my April 5th signing) and they showed up the next day! So I was shocked on Launch Day to find that the book had been the #4 bestseller in March for the Mysterious Galaxy independent bookstore.

My book is set in a bookstore. To get the inside scoop on bookselling, I interviewed the Community Relations Manager of my local Barnes & Noble. I thanked her in the acknowledgments. When the book arrived at the store (early) her boss read the acknowledgements. Next thing you know, the CRM is being interviewed for B&N’s internal newsletter with a photo showing her holding the book.

Launch day came and I had a wonderful crowd. The store sold out of copies of the book. Boy, was the Community Relations Manager very pleased. (We talk about a return visit in time for Christmas!)

Unbeknownst to me, the book was made a lead title for Barnes & Noble.

After coming home from Malice Domestic, I got a note from my editor. The book had reached #8 on Barnes & Noble’s mystery best sellers list. Not only that, in less than a month from the official launch date, it had already gone for a second print run.

On May 1st I learned that the book had been the #1 bestselling paperback for April for (independent) Booklovers Mystery Bookshop.

Pretty heady stuff for an author whose first book tanked.

But there was a LOT of work going on before any of this apparent success happened. I’ve sent out over 2,000 bookmarks to interested readers, conferences, book clubs, etc. I’ve networked my butt off getting my name (er, rather my new pseudonym) known around the cozy mystery reader lists. I’ve guest blogged (and thank you so much for this opportunity), I regularly post on my own blog and on a blog called Writers Plot, and I’ve done library talks, visited bookclubs, etc. And now, whenever I travel, I’m looking for bookstores to make personal contact with booksellers in hopes they will remember me and hand sell the book.

And just this week I learned it had landed #3 in paperback for April on the Independent Mystery Booksellers Association’s best sellers list.


There’s been some kind of magic surrounding the book. And, like I said, hard work and some awfully good luck.

I hope you’ll look out for Murder is Binding, first in the Booktown Mystery series, by Lorna Barrett.

[Visit Lorraine/Lorna's website, and look for either/both women at a book store near you]


Vicki Delany said...

What a great start! Congratulations, Lorraine.

Charles benoit said...

Just remember who you promised could ride on your coattails.

Donis Casey said...

OMG, Lorraine, I shall be looking for you at my next conference in hopes you'll let me touch your head for luck. Of course, when it comes to success, luck is much to be desired, but talent and a lot of work have more to do with it, I think we all agree. (I wonder if talent rubs off, too?)

Debby (Deborah Turrell) Atkinson said...

Hi Lorraine,
Congratulations! Like Donis, I want to touch you for good luck. Remember our first Malice when we did that roundtable together? I was practically paralyzed with fear and it ended up being lots of fun. Wish I'd been there this year to see your success.

Rick Blechta said...


It's always wonderful when one of our number hits the jackpot. Congrats!

Anonymous said...

Sorry I didn't see all your comments last week. We had a family emergency and the whole week went to pot. (That'll take the head swelling down in a hurry, I can tell you.)

Thanks everyone!

telefonsex said...

Good Job! :)