Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Today's Mystery Author Guest: Terry Shames


As promised yesterday, fellow mystery author Terry Shames is visiting my blog today. To read her bio and see her photo, please page down to yesterday's post. Also, Terry is running a contest for a free autographed copy of her book, A Killing at Cotton Hill, the cover art for which appears above. Terry will select the winner tomorrow evening from among those who leave a comment today or tomorrow and announce the name in a comment on this post.

In the book, the chief of police of Jarrett Creek, Texas, doubles as the town drunk. So when Dora Lee Parjeter is murdered, her old friend and former police chief Samuel Craddock steps in to investigate. He discovers that a lot of people may have wanted Dora Lee dead—the conniving rascals on a neighboring farm, her estranged daughter and her surly live-in grandson. And then there’s the stranger Dora Lee claimed was spying on her. During the course of the investigation the human foibles of the small-town residents—their pettiness and generosity, their secret vices and true virtues—are revealed. As RT Book Reviews said, “Shames’ novel is an amazing read. The poetic, literary quality of the writing draws you in.”

Sounds like a great cozy mystery read to me! Below is Terry's guest post about the promotion treadmill. It should resonate with a lot of writers and I hope it will generate some interesting comments.

The Promotion Treadmill

 Today I’m leaving for Italy. No, France. No, I’m off to spend a few days in the wine country. The Bahamas…

No, I’m not going anywhere. Because my debut novel, A Killing at Cotton Hill, comes out next week and I’m caught on this treadmill called promotion and sales. I’m fulfilling the last leg in a promise made to myself years ago, to be a published author. The fact that it’s more work than I ever imagined it would be is partly because the publishing business has changed so much. Publishers used to not only publish the book (editing, designing, and printing) but also made sure that potential readers heard about the book and that it was available in bookstores. It’s now up to authors to do that last part.

Another thing that makes promotion more work now is the explosion of social media. I’m on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Goodreads and I exchange dozens of plain old emails every day. I reply to FB posts, comment on blogs, peek at Goodreads reviews, etc. I blog and read blogs and belong to websites that host mystery authors. I read and write articles and….

I realized recently that I’ve lost sight of something important. I was cleaning off my desk and under a pile of accumulated notes to myself about promoting my novel, I found a list of things no author should forget. At the top of the list was, “Writing comes first.” And I smiled. Because I had forgotten that.

Recently a writing friend who is trying to find an agent emailed me and said she wanted to know why when someone got a publishing contract, he or she suddenly disappeared from the real world. “Everyone always says they are so busy,” she said. “What is it, exactly, that you are doing?”

So I wrote a “day in the life” for her. In one sense, it was funny. I saw that I’m chasing my tail. I’m working really hard to make sure my book isn’t a one-time wonder; working to make sure people know it’s out there; and that it’s gotten good reviews. I’m proud of it and I want people to read it. So I’m scattering myself all over the map.

I’m incredibly lucky to have a publisher who assigned me a hard-working, energetic publicist. She has done so much more for me than I ever hoped for. She has set up interviews and reviews and book-signings. No, the publisher doesn’t pay for me to travel to the signings, but at least my publicist sets them up for me. And I’m still buried under the work of selling the book. I don’t mean this as complaining. But I’m bewildered. I don’t even have a day job, and yet I’m snowed under. How does someone do all this if they have to go to work all day?

So when I uncovered the message about writing coming first, I said, “Enough.” I’ve worked hard to get my name out there, to master the ins and outs of social media. I’ve gathered my lists, learned how to write and send announcements, planned my launch events, and gotten a good start on readings. But now it’s time to do the most important promotion activity of all: Write another book.

This doesn’t mean that I will abandon promoting and selling my first, dear debut novel. I actually love speaking in public, enjoy writing blogs and articles, and am thrilled to read at bookstores and libraries. But what I mean by “enough” is that I will stop chasing every possible outlet for promotion. There’s always one more reviewer that I haven’t heard of, one more mystery site, one more influential person to discover. But for now, I’ll stick to the ones I know about. I’ll set up more book signings, and say yes to promo offers that come my way. But I won’t beat the bushes looking for that elusive “one more opportunity” that might push me to a few more sales.

It’s time to step off the treadmill and get back to what I love the most—the activity that got me here in the first place. Writing another book.


Excellent point, Terry! Now I'd like to hear from my blog readers. How much author promotion is enough or too much? Who has a comment or question for Terry Shames? Good luck in the contest!

48 comments:

Barb Goffman said...

That's an excellent review from RT. Congratulations, Terry. As to exactly how much promotion is just the right amount, who knows? Wouldn't it be nice if someone did?

Mary E. Trimble said...

I've had many of these same frustrations. While on our 2-week vacation, I didn't do Facebook or other social media at all--it was kind of nice. But, like you, I do enjoy speaking and getting out there with my books.

Eastbay Linda said...

Good for you, Terry. Priorities. You'll never get to the "end" anyway.

Bette Golden Lamb said...

Getting lost in the marketing whirl will only kill your literary instincts. I fight this problem, like you, constantly.
Good piece on the despair of today's writers.

Terry Shames said...

Glad to see I'm not alone in this. And thanks for the article you sent, Linda. Not matter how much you learn about promotion, there's always more to learn!

Elise M Stone said...

"I’m working really hard to make sure my book isn’t a one-time wonder; "

I think the easiest way to make sure it is a one-time wonder is to not write the next book.This insanity of running an author ragged with promotional activities has to stop.

In the self-publishing world, the conventional wisdom is that it doesn't pay to do any promotion until you have three books in a series available. In the traditional published world, you have that six week window when your book is on the shelves to make an impression.

I'm more of the tortoise than the hare. Yes, I've done some promotional efforts, but I'm in no hurry. I'd rather people are reading my books ten years from now than to make a big splash and be forgotten in a couple of months.

Hank Phillippi Ryan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

You are SO wise! Your book is fabulous...there's nothing more important than giving your fans (like me!) another one!

xoo

rojo13864 said...

I love Author's Promotions..If there is one thing I know,it's if a author doesn't value their work enough to promote it..I won't be reading it!

I love stumbling over new authors work! So many times I've found a author that really becomes my favorite.

Thank you so much! Blessings & Joy to you!

Terry Shames said...

Elise, I agree about the running ragged. If someone had told me that, though, I would have pooh-poohed it because I have a lot of energy. I think I had to go through the experience to realize that next time around I have to choose wisely. Will I? Hmmm, that's a topic for another blog!

Terry Shames said...

Thank you, Hank! My next one THE LAST DEATH OF JACK HARBIN, is coming out in January, 2014!

Merit Clark said...

Terry, I am overwhelmed by marketing and glad (?) to hear that I'm not alone! I unfortunately do still have a day job. I've found I can stay employed and write, or stay employed and do promotion, but there's no way to do all three well at the same time. Not to mention also have a life!

Fran Stewart said...

I've relied on word of mouth for the most part to spread the word about the six novels (so far) in my Biscuit McKee mystery series. But I just signed a contract with Berkley Press for a brand new series, so will have to jump into the trad world. My agent is supportive, though. He says I have a built-in fan base, and that's a good place to start.

Don't know what I'd do if I were starting over again today. I'm not much of a social media person. Guess I'll have to learn fast!

Sandra de Helen said...

Terry, I'm so glad to hear you repeat "writing comes first." I think most of us authors forget that when we are caught up in promoting our books. It sounds to me as if you've gone above and beyond. I wish you all the best on continuing sales of the debut novel, and tons of sales for this new one, which of course will create more sales of your backlist. See you on the SinC listserve!

Helen Ginger said...

Not only does it seem like Terry has done a good job of promoting her work, she's also made a good decision. At some point, you have to get back to writing.

Terry Shames said...

Merit, that's where you've gone wrong--having a life!

Fran, congratulations on the new series. I love Biscuit McKee and look forward to the your next endeavor. Don't let social media eat you up!

Sandra, thanks for the good wishes.



Patricia Smith Wood said...
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Patricia Smith Wood said...

What a wonderful explanation for 'what writers do all day' and why we never have enough time! I've been following your adventures publishing KILLING AT COTTON HILL and I so excited for you! I can't wait to get my hands on a copy. The teaser pages I read only made me want more. Congratulations, Terry! It couldn't happy to a nicer lady!

Marilyn Levinson said...

Terry,
All the promotion we authors are supposed to do is daunting. And we often don't know what works and what doesn't. Good luck with your new book. It sounds like a great read.

Terry Shames said...

Patricia, I appreciate your support. I've met so many wonderful people in the crime writing field. You'd think we would all be sinister characters!

Marilyn, I wish someone could quantify what works!

Beth Groundwater said...

Great comments, folks! Keep them coming through tomorrow. Terry will post the name of the winner in her contest tomorrow evening. Good luck to you all! (Says the author who is still busy promoting her June release--but I see the light at the end of the tunnel.)

Terry Shames said...

And a big thank you to Beth for hosting me. I've loved the comments and look forward to more tomorrow.

Beth, you give me hope, since I know promotion will continue long past my launch date next week. I think I'm just settling into the saddle.

ceblain said...

Hi Terry: What an excellent review; I totally enjoyed reading it. I agrees that priorities are hard to keep straight; we don't always even realize what the best ones are not being included in our very hectic schedules. It is hard to do. I know how much time it takes to check and send e-mail each day, and being an author you must have a hundred times more. All the other social media takes lots of time too. Just don't be too hard on yourself for whatever way you are doing things. Getting back to writing is great, but I guess you also need time for the other aspects of that career too. You are an intelligent and hard working woman and you will find your happy medium in time, your own time, and it will work out great. With your talent it just has to be all that it can be. Keep up the enthusiasm that I can hear in your writing and I will be looking forward to putting your book on my reading list. Winning a copy would give me a head start with your series but I will make sure to order it soon if that is not what comes about. Your interview was so good and I just had to mention it again.
Take care of yourself. You need time for you too!!!

Sincerely,
Cynthia

Yetta said...

The very idea of ptting myself out there to promote a book frightens me. It seems a life-gobbling experience.

Susan McDuffie said...

Congratulations on your release! Hope the book does very well. I am right there with you on the publicity merry-go-round--it's overwhelming. It's nice to know I'm not the only one feeling that way. Thank you for sharing your experiences.

Jody A Kessler said...

I'm currently running on the marketing treadmill as well, and it is a fun and exhausting job. Finding a healthy balance between writing, promotion, and a life away from the computer is so challenging! I think I may be going to hide in a cave very soon. Jody

Terry Shames said...

Good morning to everyone. Please bear with me if it takes a while to read and reply to new posts. I'm getting new refrigerator this very minute!

Lisa Richardson said...

Good morning! I can't wait to read A KILLING AT COTTON HILL! Love the cover too. I am working on organizing my library at home now that all the kiddoes have moved out, and I will have to add this one to my list! keizerfire@aol.com

Doc Ock said...
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Dawn Robinson said...

Terrific piece, Terry! I love the way you are navigating the new, and staying connected with the tried and true--writing!
Congrats on the debut, looking forward to book #2.

H. S. Stavropoulos said...

Terry, I'm exhausted reading this because I do work full-time. Can't imagine how I could do the whirlwind of promotion.

Write another book - because I can't wait to read it!!

Terry Shames said...

Ha! Talking about "real life," I had an opportunity to reacquaint myself with some old friends (and some new, furry friends), moving from the old to the new refrigerator.

But now I've had a chance to catch up on replies to my post. I love the comments. Thanks to Cynthia for reminding me to take care of myself--which doesn't always take precedence, as I'm sure you know.

Susan and Jodie, we should all take a trip to the beach together!

Yetta and Helen, yes it's overwhelming, but a lot of fun, too.

And to my dear Dawn, I miss you and am impatient for you to start traveling this road.

Sue Ellen Snape said...

Good piece, Terry. While I'm still standing on the edge (dipping a toe in the water), from all I've read and observed, the writing comes first. Promo works when the writer connects with his/her audience. How you do that varies with the individual, and first and last, the writing.

Carole Price said...

That could have been me writing your blog. I do email/social media in the morning, yet it continues to encroach on the rest of the day. Maybe I should stick a note that says "WRITE" to my laptop as a reminder why I'm doing all this networking stuff.

Terry Shames said...

Carole, if that worked I'd be a lot farther along on my next novel. I'm going to have to scotch tape it to my forehead!

Margaret Lucke said...

Writing comes first. Thanks, Terry, for the valuable and timely reminder. It's so easy to let that essential work slide while doing all of the other things that come into an author's job description. Best of luck with "A Killing in Cotton" and with the next book, too!

Kathleen L. Asay said...

Good comments, Terry. I hope you can stick to your plan. Right now, I'd like to have your problem. I don't know where to Start promoting.

Terry Shames said...

Peggy, I need reminding myself.

And Kathleen, it's that old "one foot in front of the other," thingie. I'm sure there are a million things I could do, but really you just fling yourself out there and hope for the best.

Dru said...

Author's promotion is how I find new-to-me authors.

Debra H. Goldstein said...

Terry,
What a great piece! You nailed it on the head about having to remember that writing is key to being a writer ---though promotion helps :) sustain the dream. Good luck with everything with your new book! Debra

Terry Shames said...

Thank you Debra. Getting down to the wire here. Dru, I think it's a great way to find new authors.

Beth Groundwater said...

Thanks so much for your great responses to Terry's post, everyone! I was away this afternoon seeing The Lone Ranger moving (great!), then had guests for dinner, so I'm just now checking back in. I loved reading all your comments!

Terry Shames said...

I'm happy to announce that since there were so many comments, I decided to give away two books. The winners are Susan McDuffie and Helen Ginger.

Please email me at Tmshames@pacbell.net with your information.

And thanks everyone for your great comments.

Karen Casey Fitzjerrell said...

Writing? Promoting? It's all a balancing act. I wish were not so!

Norma Huss said...

Just saw your post, so I'm late. I'm always late - boo busy writing? Well, too busy anyway. Beth, I agree, the promotion is unending for the author, and often seemingly useless. Or, one doesn't know what will click with readers. And, as a reader as well as a writer, I should have that figured out, right?

Terry Shames said...

Norma, I saw your post this evening. Regarding thing you should have it figured it out....if you figure it out, let me know. I think you will be in great demand!

Lee Lofland said...

Terry, the book is wonderful. I'm a fan!

Terry Shames said...

Lee, I just saw this. Thanks. Coming from you, that's a real treat.