Thursday, November 19, 2015


This year's Suit of Lights

Donis here, writing on a sunny Wednesday in Arizona. My latest Alafair Tucker novel, All Men Fear Me, finally had its official launch at the Poisoned Pen Bookstore in Scottsdale last Saturday, the 14th. As usual I spent a lot of time picking out my outfit, or as I call it, my "suit of lights". This has become something of a ritual for me when a new book comes out. Though I don't know why. I've seen many a Big Name Author show up at personal appearances dressed like s/he just rolled out of bed.

My launch, with Betty Webb, Jenn McKinlay, and Kate Carlisle, was a lot of fun and there was a big crowd in attendance, which is always very nice. The very next day I drove the 100 miles down to Tucson to do an event at Clues Unlimited Bookstore along with fellow PP author Jeffrey Siger. Clues is a small place but it was packed. So my first two official promotional events for this book were successful and pleasant and many books were sold. I posted some photos of both events on my own website if you'd like to indulge.

I have today off, but tomorrow I'm off for another several day of appearances and programs around the state. When I'm in the middle of the Big Push it's very difficult for me to keep to my accustomed writing schedule, and howsoever much I enjoy myself, it is unlikely that my events are going to make me a New York Times bestseller.

Which brings up the question of why we do it. We mid-listers seldom get paid for our appearances, so travel is expensive, disrupts your life, and eventually becomes incredibly tiring. Yet it is very helpful to meet readers face to face. I'm often surprised by readers' thoughts about my novels. They see things that I didn't see myself. Sometimes I'm shocked by a reader's interpretation, and sometimes amazed and flattered to find out how insightful I am without even knowing it!

Also, I can't overstate how important it is to develop relationships with librarians and bookstore owners. They are the ones who are going to recommend your books to readers, so we authors had better do our best to deliver a good product and a good program for them.

When I can, I try to arrange appearances with other authors. First of all, that could broaden your audience appeal. Most importantly, it is incredibly helpful to get to know your fellow writers. In my experience they are a bright, thoughtful, intelligent and kind bunch, and it is very helpful to hear that even authors who are much more well-known than you also suffer the same writing pains as you do.

I don't know of one veteran author who hasn't had the experience of schlepping miles to do an event and then one or two (or no) people show up. If that happens, remember that even if just one person shows, your should treat her like Oprah's niece. Word of mouth is as valuable as gold.

Still, it is easy to become disillusioned with public appearances since they are not what is going to give you that push into best-sellerdom. My advice is not to expect them to. The thing that is going to make you the next J.K. Rowling is a dash of luck and writing a fabulous book.

There is only one of those things you can do anything about.


Eileen Goudge said...

Good advice! I've experienced both of those. The events with good attendance...and the no-shows. Reminds of the story of the famous rock band who played a bar when they were up and coming and only 15 people showed up. They played like it was Madison Square Garden, and one of those 15 people was a record exec, as it turned out. You never know.

Jean Steffens said...

I liked your post. Great advice. I remember being at signings where one or two showed up. :-).

Frankie Y. Bailey said...

Love the Thanksgiving recipes. I'm going to try the greens and dumplings. Being Southern-born, I've often had the greens, but never combined with the dumplings. We usually make cornbread.

Donis Casey said...

Oh, you can't go wrong with the dumplings, Frankie, especially if you have a lot of pot liquor

Rick Blechta said...

Some really good thoughts here, Donis. Thanks!

I would like to add one more though, and very valuable it is, too:

ALWAYS act like a professional. No matter that you show up and they act like you weren't even expected (always carry emails from the store/library to gently they are mistaken) and make yourself a source of solutions, rather than problems. Nobody likes a complainer or prima donna. Make the best of any situation, be gracious, "kill them with kindness" (as a friend of mine is fond of saying) and you will be thought of after you leave as "one of the good guys". You may be seething inside, but trust me, this sort of attitude will pay big dividends down the road.

Charlotte Hinger said...

Rick, I couldn't agree more. I always advise new writers "if you don't have a sense of humor, rent one."

Donis--you mentioned being surprised when a reader mentions something (or someone) you thought was minor. One of my readers said she liked my books because she liked Sam to much. Not exactly a major player, but important. He's the sheriff.