Showing posts with label book signing. Show all posts
Showing posts with label book signing. Show all posts

19 January 2015

Creeping Crud From Lower Slobbia

Jan Grape
by Jan Grape

I've had crud before and dang if I haven't had it again. I know none of you want to hear my litany of complaints so I won't enumerate them. Suffice it to say my crud hasn't been the flu or even rotten enough to carry me off to a doctor, thank goodness. I just wish I owned stock in Aireborne, Zinc, Vitamin C and Slippery Elm tea and Allegra D and whatever brand of sinus medicine I can find that does NOT have Tylenol in it because I take a pain medicine that has Tylenol. I've learned you just don't want to add too much to your system.  I'm finally on the road to recovery and strangely enough everyone I speak with or read about on Facebook or run into at the grocery store or drug store have been fighting some form of the crud. Hope you've all been healthy.

I've managed to get quite a bit of reading done and one of the best new books was A SONG TO DIE FOR by Mike Blakely. You may not have heard of Mike before, but he's a local singer/songwriter/musician who also writes historical westerns. If you haven't read him, look for COMANCHE DAWN as that one blows me away. He's won Spur Awards from Western Writers of America for SUMMER OF PEARLS. He also won a spur for a song, "The Last of The White Buffalo," which was the first Spur ever given for a song.   A few years ago he did a book with Willie Nelson, titled A TALE OUT OF LUCK. Last year he did a book with Kenny Rogers, titled, WHAT ARE THE CHANCES.

A Song To Die For is the closest to a mystery as you can get from a western writer.. It's set in 1975 and features a guitarist/singer Creed Mason who is hoping to ride the wave of new Austin style music. His last hope is to team up with a washed-up legend named Luther Burnett. If you enjoy Music lore and a little romance and mob-killers from Las Vegas, give this one a try.

One thing I read about this week and it's been my stand-by for a few years, when you're asked to do a reading at an author event, please don't just read from your work.  I mean, you can and should read from your work but read a little, then stop. Talk a bit, about where that particular scene came from or the trouble you had with it until you finally realized a solution came from. Then you're ready to read a bit more. You don't want your listeners eyes to glaze over do you?

No matter how interesting your own writing sounds to you and I know you love every word you have written, but to just read can be way too boring. Another thing if you can...use a bit of acting expressions as you read. When you use a male voice (and you're a woman) lower your voice a bit. And if it's a female voice then speak a bit more in a feminine voice. If there's action going on, then make your voice sound excited. If it's a quiet and reflective scene, read it quietly but try your best to not read too many lines of quiet.

I think this is something I learned early on, maybe even before I read any of my own work. But a writer who came to my bookstore, Judy Jance (aka J.A. Jance) brought it home to me and to a couple other writers who attended the book signing. Ms Jance read a bit, then talked a bit, the read a little more. Everyone in the audience seemed to hang on every word. And she made everyone there want to read her book.


Book signing events can be a lot of fun or a real drag if you're at one of those big chain stores. If you've been asked to do a reading, try to make it as interesting as possible. If you're just sitting at the front of one of those big box stores, try to catch people's eye and engage them in conservation. A large number of writers are basically shy and have a hard time speaking in public. Most would rather just stay home and write. But you have to do something to help get your name out to the book buyers. If you are shy, try to imagine that you're an actor who has taken on a role of a writer. That you will act out this book signing event as a role you're playing and once it's over, you'll quietly go back to your office and write. It's not the easiest  thing if you are shy, but you do want to sell your books.

Okay, class, that's all for this time. Hope you're not suffering from the crud and if you are, that you're over it soon.

01 December 2014

Holiday Blues

Jan Grape
by Jan Grape


My good friend, Harlan Coben had an Op-Ed piece in the NY Times on Thursday and he graciously gave me permission to quote from it. I'll actually take advantage and use the whole article and  along the way make comments.

RIDGEWOOD, NJ - THANKSGIVING weekend in1990, I spent two hours at the loneliest place in the world for an obscure novelist  -- the book signing table at a Waldenbook in a suburban New Jersey mall.

[Have any of you had this experience?]

I sat at the table smiling like a game show host. Store patrons scurried past me, doing all they could to avoid eye contact. I kept smiling.

[If I had know Harlan back then, I would have advised him to try his best to speak to people as they walked by. It's not easy if you're shy, but you just have to push yourself. Think of yourself as an actor playing the part of a well-known author signing books.]

I straightened out my pile of free bookmarks for the umpteenth time, though so far none had been taken. I played with my pen. Authors at signings like this get good at playing with their pens. I pushed it to and fro. I curled my upper lip around the pen and made it into a makeshift mustache. I clipped it to my lower lip, in an almost masochistic way, and was able to click the pen open by moving my jaw and pressing it against my nose. You can't teach that skill, by the way. Practice. At one point, I took out a second pen, rolled up a spitball, and then let the two pens play hockey against each other. The Rollerball beat the Sharpie in overtime,

[Maybe offer to give each one walking by a free bookmark and sign it for them. One of my big show stoppers is to ask someone, "Do you read mysteries?" If they say yes, then I point to my book. If they say no, then I say, I'll bet you know someone who does. This will take care of your Christmas list or their birthday list or Father's, Mother's Day? You know, improvise your holiday.]

During the first hour of my signing, a grand total of four approached me. Two asked me where the bathroom was. The third explained his conspiracy theory linking the J.F.K. assassination with the decision by General Mills to add Crunch Berries to Cap'n Crunch breakfast cereal. The fourth asked me if we had a copy of the new Stephen King.

I kept smiling. Four copies of my brand-spanking-new-first novel -- Waldenbooks knew not to order too many -- stood limply on the shelf behind me. I missed the Barcalounger in my den. I longed for home and hearth, for stuffing my face with leftover turkey, for half-watching football games in which I had no rooting interest. Instead slow-baked under the fluorescent Waldenbook lights, the early Hipster booksellers glaring at me as though I was some kind of pedantic squatter. I had become the literary equivalent of a poster child -- "you could buy his book or you could turn the page."

Time didn't just pass slowly. It seemed to be moonwalking backward.

Then, with maybe 15 minutes left before I could scrape up the scraps of my dignity and head home., an old man shuffled toward me. He wiped his nose with I hoped was a beige hankie. His eyes were runny. Odds were this was going to be a where's-the-bathroom question, but this guy had all the makings of another conspiracy theorist.

The old man's gaze drifted over my shoulder, "What's that like?"

"Excuse me."

He gestured at the four books on the shelf behind me.

"Right," I said.

He shook his head in awe. "That's my dream, man. Seeing my book on a shelf in a bookstore." He lowered his gaze and met my eye. "So what's that like?"

I paused, letting the question sink in, but before I could reply, the old man lifted his eyes back to the bookshelf, smiled and shook his head again. "Lucky," he said, before turning and walking away.

He didn't buy a book. He didn't have to.
 [Harlan Coben is the NY Times best-selling author of   MISSING YOU, TELL NO ONE and the forthcoming title THE STRANGER]

And I know for a fact that Harlan doesn't sit unnoticed anymore at any book signing. When you feel alone at a book signing, think about what you MUST do to make it a fun experience. Bring along a bowl of chocolate kisses or some peppermint candy. Have some ball point pens made with your name and book title printed on them and hand those out when you catch someone's eye. You don't have to give out everyone of them but one every ten or fifteen minutes or so won't wreck your pocketbook.
Have some free bookmarks or postcards to give to everyone. You have to do more to promote yourself than just sit there like a bump on a log. Get creative. If you can't think of anything ask a friend or relative who is a craft person. You know...sell your book.

That's my best advice for the moment. See you next time.

[Harlan's article used with permission from Mr. Coben.]

25 October 2014

The HIGHS and Lows of being an Author

by Melodie Campbell

(This was the second half of my Mattress of Ceremonies (MC) address at the Bloody Words Mystery Conference Gala in Toronto this June.  Which was a blast and a half.  I even have a photo of me giving this address.  It actually looks like me, which will be explained below. The Spanish Flamenco outfit cannot be explained.)

We all know the highs.  Those delirious times when you win awards and/or get a royalty cheque that takes you and your family to Europe rather than McDonalds.

I’ve had a few highs this year, winning the Derringer Award and the Arthur Ellis Award in Canada.  And I’m exceedingly grateful for them.

Because - thing is - authors get a lot of lows.  It's not just the bad reviews and rejection slips.  For some reason, most of my lows seem to cluster around that scariest of all activities: the book signing.

Some people think the worst thing that can happen is nobody shows up.  Or when you’re on a panel of 4 authors, and only three people show up.

But that’s not the worst.

1.     Worse is when five people show up for your reading.  And they’re all pushing walkers. And half way through, when you’re right in the middle of reading a compelling scene, one of them interrupts, shouting, “When does the movie start?”

Sometimes, even large crowds don’t help.

2.     I did an event this year with two hundred people in the audience.  I was doing some of my standup schtick, and it went over really well.  Lots of applause, and I was really pumped.  I mean, two hundred people were applauding me and my books!  A bunch of hands shot up for questions.  I picked the first one and a sweet young thing popped up from her seat and asked in a voice filled with awe, “Do you actually know Linwood Barclay?”

3.    Another ego-crusher:  I was reading in front of another large crowd last year.  Same great attention, lots of applause.  I was revved.  Only one hand up this time, and she said, in a clearly disappointed voice:

“You don’t look anything like your protagonist.”

So I said, “Sweetheart, not only that, I don’t look anything like my author photo.”

4.     One of the best things about being a writer is getting together with other writers to whine about the industry.  I was at The Drake in Toronto this year with a bunch of other Canadian crime writers, Howard Shrier, Robbie Rotenberg, Dorothy McIntosh, Rob Brunet… who am I missing?

We were whooping it up in the bar, moaning about the book trade.  Someone bought a round.  And another.  And then I bought a round.  And soon, it became necessary to offload some of the product, so I went looking for a place to piddle.  You have to go upstairs in the Drake to find washrooms, so I gamely toddled up the stairs, realizing that I couldn’t actually see the steps.  I was probably not at my best. 

I made it to the landing at the top and scanned a door in front of me.  It had a big “W” on it. That seemed sort of familiar, but fuzzy, you know?  Then I saw the door to my left.  It had an “M” on it.  So I thought, ‘M for Melodie!’ and walked right in.

Howard, I think you had probably gone by then, but the guy at the urinal asked for my number.

Melodie Campbell writes funny books, like The Artful Goddaughter. You should probably buy it because she, like, writes about the mob.

04 August 2014

Outside the Box… umm… the Store

Jan Grapeby Jan Grape

When it comes time to set up a signing for your new book, your first book or your latest book. Why not try some creative thinking?

There's no set rule that you MUST do a signing in a bookstore.  Of course, I'm not saying to leave your favorite mystery bookstore or even your favorite big box bookstore. Just wanting you to think a little outside the box for extras.

When we owned Mysteries & More, I had several signings there for my anthologies and for my non-fiction edited books, The Art of Murder and Deadly Women. I enjoyed signing at my own store and I also signed in Houston at Murder by the Book. I signed at mystery bookstores in Dallas, San Diego, Kansas City, Scottsdale, Bethesda, St. Louis,  and New York City. I was determined to help my fellow writers and my fellow independent bookstore owners sell a few books even if I didn't have a novel published. I'd set up signings with other anthology authors, authors who did have a novel out, and my co-editors. Usually we did panels talking about writing. By having three or four authors, the crowd will grow larger because of each person's fan following.

I tried to come up with promotional items to give to customers and bookstore owners for myself and others. When we operated the store we got many, many promo items. There were writing pens and pencils, key chains, postcards, bookmarks, caps, t-shirts, coozies, little pins to wear that had the book covers on it.  I wrote a few weeks ago about the little rubber jar opener promoting Deadly Women that I came up with and it was a hit. Eileen Dreyer gave away a ball point pen that looked like an actual hypodermic syringe filled with medicine, which was the blue ink. Promotions are good ideas to give away but how about where you hold a signing?

My first book came out and I decided to have a launch party at the bowling center where I'd bowled in leagues for years. They had a party room and we sent out invitations and an awesome crowd showed up… about sixty people, I think.

The beauty salon where I had my hair done wanted to host a book signing party for me. I said, sure, why not? Three years later when my second book came out, we had moved into our RV full time and traveled in the summer, but came back to the Hill Country in the fall and winter. Once again, I did a signing at a bowling center where we now bowled.

When we still owned the bookstore, a writer friend, the late Nancy Bell, was the house mother of a sorority house at the University of Texas for ten years. When her first book came out, we had her launch party for her first book at the sorority house.

Another creative place I had a signing was at the SPA Yoga center where I go. I once also signed on the patio of a restaurant and inside the same restaurant when the next book came out.

I've signed four years at a music festival that a singer/songwriter hosted several years and always invited book writers along with the musicians he invited.

Guess you get the idea that you can do book signings almost anywhere. All you need is a willing host,  a rather busy location and someone to sell the books for you. If you don't have a local indie bookstore who will order books for you, last resort order them from your publisher yourself. But you usually don't get credit for books sold if you, the author buys from the publisher. Just think outside the box… uh store and sell those books.

Groaner of the day: How many mystery writers does it take to change a light bulb?
Two, —  one to screw it almost all the way and the other to give it a surprising twist at the end.

03 March 2014

Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire

by Fran Rizer

Some of the fiction writers I know claim that we are "licensed to lie."  Today I'm giving you the opportunity to tell when I'm fibbing and when I'm not.

Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to read the following accounts of four events that happened at my book signings and choose the one that did not happen.  Three of them are true.  The first person to correctly identify the false event will receive a copy of Callie's latest: A Corpse Under the Christmas Tree.

THE MINK COAT

At a book signing for Callie's Christmas book last November, I looked up and saw the retired secretary from a school where I taught over twenty-five years ago.  I immediately jumped up and hugged her before I saw that her son stood behind her with a garment bag.  I had lent the mink coat my mother-in-law gave me to the secretary.  I transferred schools and the years passed.  The secretary (now retired) said she saw an interview with me in Free Times that gave info about the signing so she wanted to buy the new book, have her copies of the others autographed, and return my coat. The owner of the book store said that's the first time ever that a fan brought an author a mink coat to a signing in that store.  The only problem is that I'm afraid if I wear it anywhere, the PETA people will get me!

WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?      

I decided to share this with you after reading Rob's column on February 19th about carrying the same characters into a new work. Recently, a Callie fan approached me at a signing and wanted to know why that same Free Times interview mentioned above said that I was working on something very different and would not be writing another Callie anytime soon, if ever.  This writer wanted to know if I would be okay with his writing a Callie following the Christmas story, using the same characters, setting, and hopefully voice.  I would, of course, have the option of Callicizing the voice where necessary and nixing anything that went against the established personalities and habits of the characters. Feeling a little like James Patterson (a very little), I said, "Yes."  

MY YOUNGEST FUTURE FAN



Same book signing:  My orthopedic surgeon's nurse showed up with a beautiful little girl.  Linda introduced the child as her ten-year-old grand-daughter Abigail who was visiting her and wanted to come with her to meet "a real author."  Abigail loves to read and likes to write stories.  To make a long story short, Linda bought Abigail a Callie book with the stipulation that they give it to Abigail's mother to determine when she will be allowed to read it.  The next time I saw Linda at the doctor's office, she told me that Abigail took a picture of her with me to "Show and Tell." The youngest readers before Abigail have been thirteen-year-olds. 

SOMEONE ELSE' S STORY

A red-haired woman approached me at a book-signing a year ago.  I expected her to ask me to autograph a Callie book.  Instead, she asked me to write a book for her.  I went into my usual spiel that she would do a better job of putting her story on paper than I would, but we agreed to meet in the coffee shop after the signing.  Writers are frequently approached to write or co-write someone else's story.  Most of the time, we decline politely, but there was something about this woman that made me hesitate to dismiss her so quickly

Upon a Midnight is Julie Bates's story, and it's like nothing I've written before.  Julie and I wound up together many days as I made notes and recordings, and since then I've spent countless nights alone with my computer, scaring myself as I wrote Julie's story from her point of view.  It's scheduled for release in about twelve months. 


Okay, dear readers, cast your vote for the false anecdote in the comments section.  I'll notify the winner how to send me a mailing address for your prize.


Until we meet again, take care of… you!