Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Charitable Murder

Sometimes a writer will give a story away for free just to get some exposure. Of course, in winter a person could die from exposure, but for the past three years I’ve donated a new short story to the same series of anthologies. It’s great exposure but that’s not the reason for my generosity. It turns out to be an easy and rewarding way to support one of my favorite charities.

For the last three years, Wolfmont Press has published anthologies of short fiction involving crimes around the winter holiday season. Cover art and stories are donated, and all profits go to the Toys for Tots Foundation. To date, Wolfmont has raised more than $6,600 for this worthy cause.

This year’s book, "The Gift of Murder" contains 19 great stories featuring Christmas crime, Chanukah homicide, Kwanzaa killings, and some stories that combine all three! This is truly inspired short fiction from the likes of Agatha and Anthony award nominee Elizabeth Zelvin, Anthony Award winner Bill Crider, and Kris Neri (Agatha, Anthony and Macavity Award nominee.) For the Hannibal Jones completist, my Washington-based private eye is there too.

I have to say I enjoyed every story in the book and am humbled to be among such talented writers. I think the cause alone is enough of a reason to order your copy of "The Gift of Murder," but even in you hate kids you owe it to yourself to check out this truly great read! It would also make a great stocking stuffer for those friends who would love a sampler of some of the best crime writers out there.

So give the Gift of Murder this year – toys for the kids, joy for the readers!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Make the Selling Fun

Bouchercon is the party of the year for mystery fans, and it’s even more important for mystery writers. Aside from the amazing amount of fun to be had in Indianapolis this year, it will be the best possible opportunity for networking. Leading up to Bouchercon (October 15 – 18), I’ll talk a bit about how authors can work the convention to their benefit.

As much fun as writing is, marketing is also important if you’re going to give people outside your family a chance to read your work. In a hotel full of fans it’s wise to promote your books. In a hotel equally full of successful authors, publishers and agents, it’s also wise to pitch your unpublished manuscripts. In both cases you’re selling, and in both cases you’ve got to be persuasive. But Bouchercon is meant to be fun for attendees, so you don’t want to be so persuasive that it seems you're begging for the sale OR sucking up to industry pros. Here are some ideas to keep it fun while making your point.

People like what other people like, so testimonials can be very effective attention-getters. If people are saying good things about your book you should emphasize that. Not all testimonials are equal, so you want to ask writers you admire to read your book and offer their opinions. Check the scroll on my web site and you’ll see what I mean. Bouchercon is a great place to get those testimonials.

And that can lead to name dropping. I know your mother told you not to, but trust me, it’s allowed at events like this. If you have an impressive list of testimonials or blurbs be sure to list them. If you're not sure which ones to list and which to drop, ask somebody who isn’t a writer. Someone you don’t think is important might be a big deal to the general public.

Gather, and tell stories. WHO did you buy a drink for at 2 am in the hotel bar? Cool! Naturally if you have great success stories (that book signing when they ordered 70 copies and I stayed until they were all gone) you’ll want to share them. But fun stories, like that joke J.A. Konrath told or the time you were on a panel with Walter Mosely and David Morrell, should be shared both in public and on your web site. And if you don’t have any good stories yet, hang out in the hall, in the bar and in rooms after panels at Bouchercon.

Trust me, stories will happen.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Published by the firm of Dewy, Printem and Howe

Recently I've been trying to respond to some of the most frequently asked questions, on the theory that if one new author asked, a dozen more want to know the same thing. This one is fairly personal, but it is a question I often hear:

Hi, Austin--I took some time to look at your website, and was "intrigued" by your imprint. How did you do that?

I ask because I self-published my first novel with iUniverse. I'm not sure if I will do that again (self-publish) but it is in the back of my mind. I recently did an Amazon Kindle edition of that first novel to get it out there--and I'm an Echelon download author too.

Self publishing isn’t for everyone, but it it’s your choice there is a good reason for forming a publishing company and creating your own imprint.

iUniverse is probably the biggest Print-On-Demand publisher in the business. I was POD at first myself, with Infinity, but I soon learned that booksellers know who the POD companies are and would rather not do business with them. No matter how many books are in the warehouse and regardless of whether or not your books are fully returnable if they don’t sell, bookstore managers have it in their minds that POD books are trouble.

So my lovely wife Denise established her own publishing company – Intrigue Publishing - with one author – me. In Virginia it’s easy to be a business – just file for the privilege of paying sales taxes. For some reason booksellers like Borders are less skittish about small presses. They will order books from Intrigue Publishing, even though I get my books from Lightning Source and they are printed on demand. Lightning Source is owned by Ingram, the primary distributor on this side of the country, so stores can order easily.

Of course, I have a book with Echelon too, the Hannibal Jones novel Blood and Bone. Echelon has published more than 200 books, short stories, and novellas. They pay royalties and advances, and have international distribution with Ingram, Partners, Brodart, Follett, and others. Even gun-shy booksellers are happy to order from Echelon, and when they order Blood and Bone they often order a few copies of my other titles too.

The Intrigue Publishing imprint is an example of the principle of camouflage that I’m a big believer in. I guess I wouldn’t be much of a marketer if I didn’t at least mention that if you really want to know how I approach the marketing thing, you could always pick up a copy of my book, “Successfully Marketing Your Novel in the 21st Century.”

And one last point – when you name your company, pick something that store managers will take seriously. You may like Happy Leaf Press or Kitchen Table Publishing, but if your company sounds like a hobby, it’s harder to get bookstore managers to order.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Short and Sweet

Although I'm a novelist by nature I've written several short stories featuring Hannibal Jones and his friends. Some were special requests for anthologies, some were for Hannibal's own short-lived blog, and a few were written to help me get to know the character better.

The problem with short stories is that there are few places to sell them. You can count the magazines that carry short stories on your fingers these days. Just when I was trying to figure out what to do with these orphaned writings, Echelon Press came thru with the answer.

Echelon Press Shorts officially opened today. It's a publisher I can trust since they published Blood and Bone and accepted one of my short stories for their anthology "Heat of the Moment." Now Echelon has created a home for short fiction on line.

So what can readers look forward to from Echelon Press Shorts? This month, they have new releases scheduled for the first AND the fifteenth. There is a wonderful list of authors whose stories they are excited about and who they know you will enjoy reading. There are also authors waiting to meet you! Readers will enjoy new blog posts Monday through Friday by the most current authors. Read about their latest ventures, their characters, and get to know them. Both Echelon Press Shorts and the authors would love reader feedback, so feel free to leave comments.

During launch week, there will be new releases and posts from the authors of those stories. Readers will hear from Regan Black, Mark Vun Kannon, Mary Welk, and Michelle Sonnier. To celebrate, they are giving away *free* ebook downloads. Want to know how? Visit them today at http://echelonpressshorts.wordpress.com/