« The pre-Passover Link Special | Main | Gotta get the weekend update -- the belated edition »

April 22, 2005


David Terrenoire

My first book is on the shelves now (Beneath A Panamanian Moon, pick up two - one for you and one for a friend) and though I'm old enough not to have illusions, and I'd been warned, I had no idea how hard it is to get your book out there once it's published. No idea. I also had to learn the hard way to start early, make a list of book editors and critics, contact book stores, solicit interviews, etc. The book came out in January and in two months I guess I worked an average of 4 - 5 hours a day promoting it. The only reason I'm not still working those hours is I've run out of things I know to do. I'm trying to get on convention panels now, but even that requires an outlay of cash I don't have. Bouchercon will run $1K and that's a big chunk of change for a freelance writer.

And just in case I'm giving anyone the wrong impression, I AM NOT COMPLAINING. I love what I do. I'm grateful to have a book deal. I've thoroughly enjoyed readings and book signings and all of the critics have been very generous, as have the local media (all but one). I signed up for this, I just didn't read all the fine print in the brochure.

Publishing is not for people who are easily discouraged.

Naomi Hirahara

Thanks for the link. I read the print version in Poets & Writers and found it an excellent essay.

BTW, LA NOIR is also in the works!

David J. Montgomery

There is no doubt that authors have their careers in their own hands, and if they don't work their asses off to promote their work, they'll never make it. Writing the book sometimes seems like the easy part.

David Terrenoire

Amen, David.

David J. Montgomery

Sarah, aren't you going to be in Baltimore Noir, in addition to Dublin? (Laura Lippman is editing that one.)


Yes, Sarah is a "Noir" slut.

Um, as am I.


And damn proud of it, too.

The following ones have set release dates:

CHICAGO NOIR, edited by Neal Pollack (September 2005):

SAN FRANCISCO NOIR, edited by Peter Miravelis (October 2005):

DC NOIR, edited by George Pelecanos (February 2006):

and DUBLIN NOIR, due out next March.

I think the second batch will include BALTIMORE, LA (edited by Denise Hamilton) MANHATTAN (edited by Larry Block) MIAMI (edited by Les Standiford) LONDON (edited by Cathi Unsworth) and TWIN CITIES (edited by Julie Schaper & Steve Horwitz)

And I want all of them.

Cornelia Read

If they ever do Berkeley, Boulder, Big Sur, Bronxville, Oyster Bay, Nepal, or Oahu, I'd like to sleaze my way in. Could pass on Syracuse, though. Been there, wrote that...

Jeanne Ketterer

I've got Jersey City and West Paterson ...


Christopher Gooch

It's interesting that you should bring up self-promotion. I've always thought that it's a necessary thing to make your book succeed, but I recently changed my mind.

In the book, _The Breakout Novel_, Donald Maas--the agent--makes it clear that self-promotion, though it may help, doesn't make bestsellers. Do you think that Dan Brown spent 40 hours a week doing self-promotion? Frankly, I doubt he spent any time at all on it.

Maas points out that no matter how hard you promote yourself, you'll fall flat on your face if your book sucks. So, just write a stellar book--one the public falls in love with--and don't worry about self-promotion.

But that's a tall order.

Cornelia Read

Maass, meanwhile, does a great deal of self-promotion for both his WRITING THE BREAKOUT NOVEL and his THE CAREER NOVELIST. In fact he recommends them to every author he turns down for representation by his agency, smack-dab in the middle of the rejection letter.

I think they're good books, but it's not like he never promotes them himself. And I bet Dan Brown did plenty of self-promotion for ANGELS & DEMONS and DIGITAL FORTRESS.

David J. Montgomery

"Don't worry about self-promotion."

That's terrible advice; a recipe for failure.

We're not talking about making a bestseller here -- that's a combination of too many factors out of the author's control. We're talking about achieving even a modest level of success.

No matter how good the book is -- and we're assuming already that the book is as good as the author can make it -- the chances of the book doing well are very slim. That's why it's the authors' responsibility to do everything they can to promote themselves and their work.

Writers don't have the luxury of just writing. Not if they want to make a living at it.

David Terrenoire

When I worked in advertising, I had the attitude that you write the best campaign you can, present it to the client, and the work would sell itself.

After seeing mediocre campaigns sold through a bit of flash and sizzle, I got the message. Even good ideas need promotion.

If you think the quality of the writing dictates whether a book will succeed or fail, you haven't read The Da Vinci Code.

Stuart MacBride

Congrats Sarah!

What I want to see now is DUNDEE NOIR, and PEEBLES NOIR... Maybe something FETTERCAIRN-ish?


David says: "If you think the quality of the writing dictates whether a book will succeed or fail, you haven't read The Da Vinci Code."

I read almost two thirds of it, hanging in there because I couldn't believe it was quite that bad and kept hoping for a miracle. It was obviously not even a "good read." That it succeeded in spite of that with millions of other people tells you something about readers and hype. The hype is what we need, but I don't know how self-promotion can achieve it.

Jim Winter

I want to see RUST BELT noir, stories by Estleman, Kantner, Les Roberts, Michael Koryta... Stories of the mean streets of the old industrial heartland gone to seed.

(Yes, I have selfish reasons for wanting this, not the least of which would be I've been to most of the cities this would cover.)

Karen Olson

A friend sent me to a relatively new author Web site to show me what I'll need to do to promote my book in the fall. It was overwhelming. This woman was sending out postcards, making bookmarks and handing out pens with her name and the book title inscribed on them to anyone and everyone. She was going to conventions and setting up talks everywhere. I'm surprised she hasn't ridden a horse naked through the center of town, trailing a banner with the name of her book on it from the horse's mane. I have no idea how this woman's book is doing, but I do know she doesn't have a day job and that makes all the difference in how far a writer can go with promotion. I'm going to have to fit it in with the day job, the family and writing the next book, like a lot of other writers. It's one bookmark at a time.

David J. Montgomery

Three things that I think are very important for authors to do for promotional purposes:

* Have a professional-looking website
* Attend author conferences
* Hold book signings (even if you have to set them up yourself)

The postcards, bookmarks, etc... they can't hurt, but they're not nearly as efficient.

Kevin Wignall

Hmm, it's only good grace to have an author website nowadays, and perhaps even arrogant not to. Does self-promotion work? Having been in the business five years, I have to say I think it only has a very limited impact. All the authors I've met or had contact with who are keen to talk up their own self-promoting activities inevitably have one thing in common - I've never heard of any of them. Equally, I'm afraid a good portion of publisher-promotion doesn't work either, and your time would be best spent scrutinizing the publisher's plans and asking tough questions about what they hope to achieve. If the answer is essentially nothing, you might as well sit back, hope the book becomes a "Ya-Ya Sisterhood/Tipping Point" success story, and get working on the next one. This may sound harsh, maybe even defeatist, but then this isn't summer camp.

David Terrenoire


You're right, of course. Most of us will never become household names. (But then, even the household names aren't household names. Ask your neighbor about Loren Estleman or even Donald Westlake.) But the strategy seems to be: you get decent sales regionally, which an author can influence, then broaden your reach region by region, book by book, conference by conference, bookstore by bookstore. That's where self-promotion really helps. You get bookstore employees excited about your work and you've got a committed sales force, right that at POS.

There is no overnight success. Even Grisham once sold A Time To Kill out of the trunk of his car. All we can do is do all we can do.

And write.


Where's the love for REDNECK NOIR?

David Terrenoire


You know we loves us some redneck noir.

Now, where's that drink you owe me?


Self promotion is neccessary and it is very hit and miss, but as mystery authors we have one resource that isn't available to most other authors: the idependant mystery bookstore. While bookmarks and pens and all that crap don't really matter, the best money spent on promotion is money spent meeting booksellers. These are the people who can hand sell your work and help you develop a following.

All of the major mystery superstars now (and even the modest stars) attribute most of their success to the independant mystery bookstores. These people have newsletters and awards and conferences and a devoted legion of followers. They cannot be ignored.

And yes, a website is a must, even a crappy one. I hate it when I here about an author in passing and then try and find out more information at their website and can't find one. On the other hand, two of my favorite new authors I found via their websites and random google searches.

Christopher Gooch

Actually, my point--and, I think, Maas'--was that self-promotion doesn't really take you anywhere. There are people who spend long hard hours self-promoting and don't get much in return; on the other hand, there are those who don't even do signings and their books jump to the top of the bestseller lists.

Anyway, it's funny that Maas self-promotes HIS book when he seemed kinda against doing so!

Michael Koryta

I like the Rust Belt Noir idea, Jim. Perhaps a picture of the Cuyahoga in flames on the cover?

Kevin Wignall

Like Christopher, I just don't buy it. There are only two things that will guarantee a worthwhile and sustained increase in sales - being featured on TV and having a successful screen adaptation of your work. Magazine and newspaper profiles, particularly in non-genre publications, will lift sales but only as part of a wider media interest. Reviews rarely make a difference (sure, a nice quote from Stasio will give you a spike, but that's all). Visiting stores and conferences probably costs you more per new reader than if you simply mailed them copies of your book. If you get pleasure out of "self-promotion", go for it, but don't really expect it to make a difference. If your publisher isn't promoting you hard enough and creating enough of a buzz, keep writing until you produce a book they feel they "can" do that for. That's what Dan Brown did (I haven't read it - I don't care how good or bad it is) - he kept WRITING, not promoting but WRITING, until he hit the magic formula.

M.J. Rose

Self promoting works for some authors and it fails for others. Some authors are good at it and some should never bother. You have to know what kind of writer you are, what you can do, and what you can't.

Doug Clegg, my friend, got his sales up from 20,000 copies per book to 100,000 copies per book by coming up with some ingenious on line promotions that exposed his work to new readers. Lisa Tucker, another author I know, took a huge chunk of her advance, hired a publicist and took herself on tour as a result her book took off and she got kudos and awards and sold over 75,000 copies of her first novel. On the other hand I know just as many authors who have done everything right for their books but nothing happened. I knew Dan Brown back before TDC and yes he did self promote and no, it didn't make him a bestseller.

But here's the thing. If you are going to look back and wonder if promoting your book would have helped, if you are going to regret that you didn't do some of the things you thought of, then you should do them.

But one thing we know. Not one thing sells a book and makes it take off. A million little things do. And if you can do some of those little things, and you want to, there's just no reason you shouldn't go them.


Most forms of self-promotion are useless because everyone is doing them. The books can't find their readers because there is nothing to set them apart from the ten thousand other books being promoted in the exact same manner.

We need to abandon the herd mentality and go for tailored, targeted marketing. What I see working are methods that make a unique, direct connection with the readers most likely to enjoy the work.

David Terrenoire

All this debate over what works and what doesn't reminds me of an ad industry quote attributed to a frustrated client:

"Ninety percent of my advertising budget is wasted. The problem is, I don't know which ninety percent."

The comments to this entry are closed.