Thursday, April 30, 2009

My Blog Book Tour Starts Tomorrow!

I will spend the day today getting the word out about my virtual book tour in cyberspace. During the month of May, I will visit sixteen blogs, be interviewed twice on Internet radio shows, and visit the Barnes & Noble online mystery book club to promote the May 15 release of the second book in my Claire Hanover gift basket designer mystery series, To Hell in a Handbasket.

I’ll discuss the book
, give behind-the-scenes glimpses of how it was written and my life as an author, and answer your questions about my blog posts. You may even get a chance to chat with my protagonist, Claire Hanover, and other characters from the book!

Every time you comment on one of my guest blog posts, or comment here on my blog during the tour, you will be entered into a drawing for an autographed set of both books in the Claire Hanover gift basket designer mystery series:
A Real Basket Case and To Hell in a Handbasket. Good luck!

If you are interested in ordering an autographed copy of To Hell in a Handbasket during the tour, go to the website for Black Cat Books and click on the "Contact Us" menu option. Either call the phone number listed or fill out the form with your contact information and in the message box, say you want an autographed copy of To Hell in a Handbasket. If you need an autographed copy of the first book in the series, A Real Basket Case, I'm sure they'll fill that order, too.

You'll find the schedule on My Website. Please join in the fun!

Friday, April 24, 2009

Sitting on Both Sides of the Pitching Table

Today was my first full day at the Pikes Peak Writers Conference. It was a day that was devoted to pitching. In the morning, I was a private pitch coach to two writers who had donated $ to PPW for a half hour session with an experienced pitcher and author. With both writers, I helped them hone their pitches about their manuscripts so they could better express what their stories were about to the agent or editor they hope to impress tomorrow in a one-on-one pitch appointment. Mainly we worked on clarity, how to give a clear, specific picture of what genre the book was in, what the main character's goal and motivation was, what conflicts or obstacles the main character had to overcome to reach that goal, and what was learned in the process.

In the afternoon, I was a "secret agent" in two speed-dating-like Pitch Practice sessions. Writers queued up in front of 6-8 experienced pitchers/pitchees. At the signal, the first one in each queue sat down in front of their "secret agent to deliver a 3-minute pitch. Then we "secret agents" had 2 minutes to critique the pitches we heard. Then the signal was given to switch, and a new person sat down in front of each "secret agent" to deliver his/her pitch. I heard 10 pitches in each 50 minute session (that's 20 total!), and most of the writers got to practice on at least 3-4 "secret agents." The purpose was to give novice pitchers a chance to rehearse those lines, get rid of some of those nerves, and receive some feedback before facing real agents and editors the next day. One thing I repeatedly said is to tell the agent/editor 4 things in your first sentence: 1) your name, 2) your manuscript title, 3) the genre, and 4) the word count.

I certainly have a better appreciation for those agents and editors who have to sit through fast 5-8 minute pitches at writing conferences for hours on end. The process really requires you to pay close attention to what's being said and to think on your feet to come up with some useful feedback! It was mentally exhausting, and I only hope that I was able to give some useful advice to the writers who practiced on me.

Then, my literary agent, who is attending the conference, and I ganged up on an editor during the staff-faculty mixer to deliver our own pitch for the first book in my new proposed mystery series. So, after being on the other side of the table most of the day, I was back on the side I was used to in my writing career--pitching my manuscript to an editor. But this time, I had the help of my agent. The pitch was successful. The editor asked my agent to send the manuscript. I hope all of the writers who practiced on me experience similar successes tomorrow--requests for full or partial manuscript submittals.

Last but not least came pitching at the bar at the end of the evening. A PPW friend who I know has writing talent said she was interested in pitching to my agent, so I brought her over and introduced her to my agent, then stood back and let her deliver her pitch. It was well done and thorough, and she was asked to send a partial. Success again!

With all of that pitching out of the way, I'm looking forward to manning the registration desk and listening to workshops and keynote speakers for the next two days. And, of course, there's all the networking that goes on, catching up with old friends and meeting new ones.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Planning a Book Tour

I've been busy this week planning my two-week book signing tour for the May release of my second mystery book, To Hell in a Handbasket, through the northwest US in June. I've arranged signings, or hope to finalize them soon, in the following locations:

6/6: Fort Collins, CO and Cheyenne, WY
6/8: Spokane, WA
6/9 or 10: Seattle, WA
6/11: Portland or Salem, OR
6/16 or 17: Bend, OR
6/18: Twin Falls, ID
6/19: Salt Lake City, UT
6/20: Grand Junction, CO

Why the gap in the middle? It's the real reason for the whole trip, for my husband and me to watch our daughter graduate from the University of Oregon on June 13th and to spend time with her, her boyfriend, and his family. We'll be staying with relatives in Seattle and Bend, so that's why we have a leisurely two days in each of those locations. I'll be blogging on May 1st about how to plan a book tour on the cheap, using this trip and the 2007 one I did back east for the release of my first book, A Real Basket Case, at: Hey There's a Dead Guy in the Living Room.

Today, I want to talk about contacting bookstores and arranging events. I'd forgotten how much time this takes! First is the process of figuring out which store in each city I should contact first. I'll often use recommendations from other mystery authors for this, or I look at stores' event schedules to see if they host mystery authors and/or have a mystery book club.

I usually start with an email to the bookstore owner, community relations manager, or whoever arranges events. The email briefly describes both books and the series and requests a signing event on the date when I'll be in town. Usually, I get no reply from these emails. However, I feel that they put my information in front of the event scheduler's eyes, so when I call later, my name is familiar. I follow up the email in a few days with a phone call, and sometimes there's some phone tag before I catch the event scheduler in person. Then, I run through a short spiel identifying myself, my books and mentioning my good Kirkus reviews and my Best First Novel Agatha Award nomination to get their attention. Lastly, I ask if they might be interested in hosting me for a signing on the date when I'll be in their city.

If the store is booked up on the date that I'll be in town, I ask for recommendations for other bookstores in the area that host events, fold that into my existing information about stores in that city and start anew with choice #2.

If the store has the date available, what follows is a process of determining how they can get copies of my books. If it's an independent bookstore, this involves an explanation of Five Star's distribution policy and sending them a copy of the order policy and contact information. If it's a Barnes & Noble, it involves searching for my titles in their computer database to be sure they can order them. Then we discuss the best time window for the signing given traffic patterns at the store and pick a 2-hour window. If the event scheduler is not the store manager, they often have to get approval from the store manager, which involves follow-up phone calls and/or e-mails.

After the event is finalized, I try to obtain local radio/newspaper/etc. media contacts from the event scheduler and discuss promotion opportunities in their area. I ask if a mystery book club meets at the store and might want to join me for a meal or drinks before/after the event. All of this involves even more effort and time! However, just scheduling the event is not enough to make it a success. Partnering with the store to promote the event through different means is needed to bring in as many interested customers as possible. Maybe that will be a subject for another blog post.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Analyzing my Blog

I visited Joanna Campbell Slan's blog today at Joanna's 4-1-09 post and read how she analyzed all the blogs she participates in with the Blog Typeanalyzer (Blog Typeanalyzer) which uses concepts from the Myers-Briggs personality test to analyze the writing style in a blog. The concept is that the writing style reflects the persona used by the blogger in writing the posts.

My blog type came up as:

"ESTP - The Doers

The active and playful type. They are especially attuned to people and things around them and often full of energy, talking, joking and engaging in physical out-door activities.

The Doers are happiest with action-filled work which craves their full attention and focus. They might be very impulsive and more keen on starting something new than following it through. They might have a problem with sitting still or remaining inactive for any period of time."

It's probably a fairly good assessment of me, too. I'm happiest when I have a super-long to-do list, like now when I'm planning a virtual tour in May and an actual road tour in June for the release of my second mystery, To Hell in a Handbasket. I do stay physically active, though. However, one thing didn't fit. I am a closure seeker, and when I start something, I follow it through to the end.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Goodreads Giveaway

As part of my promotion for the May release of the second in my Claire Hanover gift basket designer mystery series, To Hell in a Handbasket, I'm giving away two copies on the Goodreads social networking site. If you are a Goodreads member and would like to enter the contest, go to: Goodreads Giveaway. I'm gratified that over 150 members have already entered the contest!

Monday, April 06, 2009

Visiting a local blog

I'm hanging out at Anita Miller's blog today and will be available to answer questions and comments about me, my books, and the Pikes Peak Writers conference. Anita is the book columnist for the Colorado Springs Gazette newspaper, who included a review of my book, To Hell in a Handbasket, in her column yesterday. Please stop by and chat at her blog today: Anita's Blog.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

A mention in the Colorado Springs Gazette

Today, Anita Miller, the book columnist for the Colorado Springs Gazette newspaper, gives a mini-review for my second mystery novel, To Hell in a Handbasket, in her column about the upcoming Pikes Peak Writers Conference. The column is titled "Writers conference a boon to local authors" and you can read it at: Beth in Gazette.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Mountain of Authors

Last Saturday, March 28th, I participated in the Pikes Peak Library District's third annual Mountain of Authors program at the East Library. The event started early for local authors participating in the Author Showcase. We checked in sometime between 9 and 11 am, set up our book sale table displays, had our photos taken, and socialized with the other authors. After a catered box lunch at 11:30 am, the doors opened to the public at 12:30 pm. The 100 or so chairs in the room quickly filled, and library staff scrambled to set up additional chairs.

The publishers panel kicked off at 1pm, moderated by Kirk Farber, a library staffer whose first novel, Postcards From a Dead Girl, will be published by Harper Perennial in early 2010. Covering self-publishing, small presses, and large presses, the speakers were Lisa Gilman from About Books, Doris Baker from Filter Press, and Mick Silva from WaterBrook, Multnomah Publishing Group. They did an outstanding job of covering the huge topic of how to get published and the pros and cons of each approach in a brief hour. Right after the panel, there was a rush of interest at the Pikes Peak Writers table. All the handouts that President Ron Heimbecher brought about the group and our April conference vanished in a few minutes.

The second panel, Words & Pictures, kicked off at 2:30 pm with Todd Caudle, a photographer who publishes his own calendars and photo books, Maria Faulconer, a children's picture book author (and good friend), and Michael Hague, a well-known illustrator (who produces the Imagination Celebration posters each year) and recent graphic novel author. Moderated by Karin Huxman, a romance and children's picture book author herself, the panel discussed the collaboration between authors and illustrators and the differences in publishing and promoting illustrations and photographs as compared to words. This entertaining group produced quite a few laughs from the attentive audience.

After a break, we local authors whose tables ringed the room had a chance to stand up and give a brief pitch about the books we were offering for sale before the start of the Author Showcase Booksigning. Since my second mystery novel, To Hell in a Handbasket, won't be released until May, I was there again this year with my first novel, A Real Basket Case. I was gratified that I was still able to sell a few copies to locals who hadn't bought one yet in the two years that it's been out.

I stayed after the signing to hear Beverly Lewis, the keynote speaker, at 6 pm. I have met her at local author events and admire her gracious demeanor as well as her amazing writing ability to crank out 80 published adult and children's books since 1993. Her talk about her research of the Amish culture of Lancaster County, PA, for her various Amish series books was fascinating and had the audience riveted.

I have served as an author consultant, representing Pikes Peak Writers, to the planning committee for this event for the past two years, and I was heartened to see that this year's event was just as successful as last year's. I also met the new chair of the planning committee, Kevin Hudgens, a reference librarian who, it turns out, went to high school and college with my daughter. I'm looking forward to working with him in the future. Small world!