21 December 2012

Marketing at Christmas

by R.T. Lawton

Every author these days knows he has to market himself or develop a brand or have a platform or.....do something to help distinguish himself from the herd and his work from the rest of the slush pile. Presenters at conferences and experts in various publications tell writers they need to network, start a blog, find a niche, do their best writing, never quit, etc., etc. After a while, it all starts to sound like work on our end, and whereas I'm not averse to working up a good sweat from time to time, I also believe in stacking the cards (pun intended, as you'll soon see) in my favor. So, here's one of the things I do.

For 2005, "Dark Eyes" Mike photoshopped me in & then snuck himself in

Every year at Christmas time for several years now, I send Linda Landrigan, the editor of Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, a Christmas card. Now this is no ordinary off-the-rack card. No, this particular card is custom made by my Huey pilot buddy Mike who happened to mention early on in our friendship that he has a certain amount of artistic talent. Since I have flown with this guy into places you aren't supposed to take a helicopter, landed people for raids and parked on mesa tops about the size of a large table to make a quick pit stop (it's a long way down if you're looking that direction and hanging onto the door frame), when he tells me he can do something, I tend to believe him.

In any case, Mike agreed to make Christmas cards for me, and we ended up having a lot of fun with it. Each year's card is based on one of the short stories Linda bought from me and then published in her magazine that year.
2009 card for "Boudin Noir"

Naturally, the problem pops up that few of the stories are Christmas oriented, but we do the best we can. And, to perpetuate that particular year's story concept, each card is signed by characters in that story. For instance, if that year's selection was from a story in my 1660's Paris Underworld series, then one of us might sign as le orphan (Mike's wife Angie), another as King Jules (me), one as Remy the Chevalier (Mike) and another as Josette (my wife Kiti). It's all done in fun, but I'm sure it also keeps my stories in the minds of the editor and staff for a while. In fact, at one of the Bouchercons a few years back, Linda informed me that she was collecting these cards as part of the magazine's history. Whoa, that puts on a lot of pressure to really perform in the future. I have been told a couple of times that I was history, but this was a completely different type of footnote.

The 2004 card to the left is based on "In Bond," a "locked room" mystery in my Twin Brothers Bail Bond series in which pallets of In Bond wine is stolen from a locked and guarded warehouse.

So, that's one of the ways I try to stack the cards in my favor for this game of writing. Anybody out there got any moves of your own you'd care to share? Or, any suggestions you think would work for you, me or anyone else?

And, by the way, Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, Hanukkah, Joyeux Noel, Mutlu Noeller and several other season's greetings for which my keyboard doesn't have letters or symbols.


  1. Cleverly thought out and nicely executed, RT!

  2. Clever!
    And Merry Christmas to you.

  3. And a Joyeaux Noel to you, too!

  4. RT, I appologize for weighing in so late. Afraid I've been pin-balling around getting X-mas stuff lined up.

    Gotta say: I LOVE a talented chopper pilot! Didn't know how much, until I'd been flown around by Task Force, then got switched to some folks who flew for a leg division and couldn't seem to put us down in anything smaller than a Kansas wheat field. lol Your buddy sounds like a great guy! And, thanks for the tip,


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