Tuesday, July 26, 2005
I tell you, I question the wisdom of sleeping on my brother's couch vs. a bed in a 5 star hotel. Though I didn't get to enjoy the facilities at any of the hotels, they sure had nice beds.
My brother has a lumpy couch. Plus he's got one of those hairless Japanese dogs that heats up to about 120 degrees and likes to sleep on people's heads. Not the best night of sleep I've had on tour.
I woke up early, took the dog off my face, and began the drive-bys:
Borders in Tukwila, signed 3 hardcovers and 8 paperbacks.
Barnes & Noble in Tukwila, signed 4 hardcovers and 5 paperbacks.
Waldenbooks in Tukwila, signed 3 hardcoveras and 5 paperbacks.
Borders in Tacoma, signed 4 hardcovers and 15 papebacks, sold 1.
Waldenbooks in Tacoma, signed 2 hardcovers and 5 paperbacks, sold 2.
Whoddunit Books in Olympia, signed 1 paperback, but chatted witht he owner and she'll order many more.
B. Dalton in Olympia, signed 2 paperbacks.
Barnes & Noble in Olympia, signed 2 hardcovers and 10 paperbacks, sold 1.
Barnes & Noble in Lakewood, signed 4 hardcovers and 9 paperbacks.
FINAL TOUR TOTALS---I signed a total of 933 books at 105 bookstores, and passed out 775 signed coasters. I shook hands with over 300 booksellers and hundreds of customers and fans.
FINAL THOUGHTS---After hitting the 100th store, there was no ticker tape parade or round of applause. All I felt was tired, and somewhat overwhelmed. There are over 5000 bookstores in the US, and I'd only visited less than 2% of them. Does that make a difference? Will all of this hard work impact my numbers significantly?
Rather than be satisfied with a job well done, I can only think of the work left to do. I take the red-eye home tomorrow morning, but instead of going home I have an event in Wisconsin that night. Then, a day to play catch up (I'm judging a Writer's Digest contest) and then off to Michigan for a week for more drive-bys during my family vacation.
But I'm happy I hit my goal of 100, and I believe I've impressed my publisher, which is a good thing.
While the publisher sponsored part of the tour has ended, I'll continue touring for the rest of the year, doing events and drive-bys, getting my name out there.
But for the time being, I think I'll have a beer...
That never got fully straightened out, even though I had plenty of time, because the valet had apparently parked my car in Amsterdam--that's about how long it took to find.
Since I was driving to Seattle, and had a noon signing, I didn't find any of this amusing.
When I finally did get my car back, I broke the land speed record for Chevy Malibus (almost 83mph) and made it to the Seattle Mystery Bookshop with twenty minutes to spare.
There was a big crowd---all there for Jasper Fforde, who was signing with me. I pitched my books to the folks waiting in Jasper's long line and managed to sell quite a few. I also had some actual fans come to see me, which is always nice.
Jasper was a pleasant enough guy, English, polite and quick with the quip. I bought a copy of his latest book. He didn't return the favor.
TOUR TIP #17---When doing a signing with another author, buy their book. This not only supports the bookseller, but your fellow authors.
I wound up signing 30 books, then sticking around and handselling the remainder of my paperbacks before hitting the drive-by trail:
Barnes & Noble on Pine, signed 4 hardcovers, 2 paperbacks.
Borders on 4th, signed 3 hardcovers---they couldn't find my paperbacks (stripped?)
B. Dalton in Factoria Square didn't have any books at all. I introduced myself to the employees and made sure they ordered some (should have phoned first.)
Waldenbooks on Pine, closed a few months ago (phone first.)
Borders in Bellevue, closed last month (dammit dummy, start phoning first!)
Barnes & Noble in Bellevue, 4 hardcovers, 4 paperbacks.
Borders in Redmond, 5 hardcovers, 5 paperbacks.
Barnes & Noble in Woodinville, 4 hardcovers, 3 paperbacks.
Barnes & Noble in Federal Way, signed 3 hardcovers, 4 paperbacks.
Borders in Federal Way, signed 2 hardcovers, 3 paperbacks.
Since my brother lives in Seattle, I decided to stay with him and save the publisher some cash.
TOUR TIP # 18---Try to alleviate some of the publisher's touring expense when you can. I pay for my own food, extra gas, and never charge anything to the hotel rooms.
Apparently, I alleviated more cost than I thought. My publicist emailed, worried because i hadn't checked into the Heathman last night. This told me three things:
1. Your publisher is always watching you while you're touring.
2. My publisher seems to actually care about me.
3. The Heathman is run by a group of trained chimps.
TOUR STATS: I've signed 853 books at 96 bookstores, and have signed and handed out 700 coasters.
The GPS unit I purchased, a Garmin c330, is far superior to the rentalunits I've had. This thing comes prelaoded with 5 million business addresses, and every map in the US. So when I'm driving, I can type in "Borders" and it lists them all within a hundred miles. This is much easier.
Next tour I'll do a lot more driving, hitting stores along the way, and much less air travel, which is expensive, exhausting, and a time waster. Had I driven this entire tour, it would have taken perhaps three more days, but I would have been able to visit 50 more stores. A much better bang for the buck.
Only four more stores to reach the exhaulted 100. We'll see what happens...
Monday, July 25, 2005
I got up early to catch my flight to Oregon, only to watch it be delayed for an hour.
TOU TIP #16---Don't fly if you can avoid it. My next tour will be more driving, less flying. Then I'll have more time to visit stores, and spend less time in airports being delayed.
That said, I got to Portland within an hour of my event at Murder by the Book, and had to hustle to make it in time.
I had an hour of solo, plus another hour with two other mystery writers, the talented Ron Lovell and the remarkable Shirley Tallman. Shirley impressed me so much with her wit, candor, and experience, that I plunked down the money for her historical mystery The Russian Hill Murders even though I've never bought a period book before in my life. If, like me, you thought historicals were slow-moving and sans action, think again---this one is a race car.
The event was well attended, and the owner, Carolyn Lane, was a great host who kept things moving at a good pace.
After signing twenty books, I got a lesson on Oregon hospitality. Barbara Tom, who works at MBTB, took pity on me when I lamented my lack of a GPS unit (the rental car compnay didn't have any) and offered to drive me to a nearby Best Buy so I could purchase one.
For all she knew, I might have been a violent maniac. But still offered to give me a lift since the store was closing in twenty minutes and I didn't know the area.
Turns out, Barb was the violent maniac. A believer in karma, Barb must have been a New Yourk cabbie in a former life, because she drove like the car was on fire. We made it to the store in time, I plunked down some big bucks for a GPS, and then Barb topped her kindness by showing my where the local Powell's bookstore was, so I could do a drive-by.
Thanks again, Barb. You're good people.
I managed only four drive-bys, which meant I had time to relax and enjoy the lovely Heathman Hotel, right?
Wrong. I got back to my room and rather than unwind, I was up until the wee hours trying to figure out my new GPS toy and programming it for my car trip to Seattle the next day.
Powell's Portland Airport, signed 3 paperbacks.
Powell's on Hawthorne, signed 1 hardcover, 2 paperbacks.
Powell's on Burnside, signed 2 hardcovers, 2 paperbacks.
Borders on 3rd street--closed ten minutes before I got there.
TOUR SO FAR: I've signed 770 books at 87 bookstores. I have two days in Washington. We'll see what kind of damage I can do there.
FUN FACT ABOUT PORTLAND-- Portland has 37,000 acres of green parks, and they all close at 7PM.
COLLECTION UPDATE--With the Heathman, I've now acquired 28 little bottles of shampoo and conditioner, 12 bottles of hand cream, 32 bars of soap, two sets of ear plugs, two eye masks, seven chocolate candies, three sewing kits, and a complimetary bottle of spring water.
Plus seven hairdryers, six coffee makers, 19 towels, five robes, three clock radios, a lamp, and a framed Warhol litho.
And don't even get me started on the mini-bars. I totaled up the cost of all the goodies in the room, and they're worth over seventeen thousand dollars.
Hotels are cool.
Sunday, July 24, 2005
B. Dalton in 1 Embarcadero Center signed 2 hardcovers, 2 paperbacks, sold 2.
Borders on Winston signed 4 hardcovers, 6 paperbacks.
Waldenbooks in 4 Embaracdero Center, signed 3 hardcovers, 6 paperbacks. (They were closed, due to flooding, but let me in to sign. Hundreds of books were ruined by water damage, but mine were okay. Perhaps they should have a liquidation sale...)
Waldenbooks on Portal, signed 2 hardcovers, 5 paperbacks.
Stacey's on Market, signed 2 hardcovers, 2 paperbacks.
Cody's on Stockton--dropped by, but they weren't open.
Books Inc on Market, signed 1 paperback.
Barnes & Noble in Berkley, signed 4 hardcovers, 4 paperbacks.
Cody's on Telegraph, signed 2 hardcoversd, 4 paperbacks.
Moe's in Berkley, signed 4 paperbacks.
Cody's on 4th, signed 2 hardcovers, 2 paperbacks, sold 1.
Borders on Shellmound, signed 3 hardcovers, five paperbacks, sold 1.
Waldenbooks on 14th street---closed ten minutes before I got there, dammit.
Barnes & Noble on Bay, signed 4 hardcvoers, 6 paperbacks, sold 1.
Barnes & Noble on Boradway, signed 4 hardcovers, 6 paperbacks.
I also dropped by the 10th Annual Books by the Bay Festival and met authors Leslie Glass and Rhys Bowen--both very classy ladies (you must buy their books). I also met Dylan Schaffer, who beat me out for the Gumshoe Award and is also up against me for the Macavity. Great guy (and a great writer, buy his books). I wouldn't have found him if it wasn't for the savvy Susan Tunis (thanks, Susan!)
I spent a few minutes at the M is for Mystery booth and handsold 3 hardcovers and 3 paperbacks, and then I schmoozed other indie booksellers, including folks from Cody's, Stacey's, and the Alexander Book Company.
TOUR STATS: To date, I've signed roughly 740 books at 83 bookstores, and passed out 550 signed Whiskey Sour coasters to booksellers, fans, and customers. Each person who gets a coaster gets to hear my pitch.
Lee Goldberg asked if this is worth it, to which I whole-heartedly respond: I don't know.
I do know I've met some great people who will continue to sell my books after I've left. I know I've spread a lot of good will, got the word out there, and will be remembered. I know that it beats sitting at home and hoping my books sell on their own.
But is the result with the time, effort, and money put in?
Time will tell...
FUN FACT ABOUT SAN FRANCISCO: The hit song by the Village People, San Fransisco, was about San Francisco.
Saturday, July 23, 2005
I got there right on time, so naturally my flight was delayed for an hour.
After boarding, the plane did the runway shuffle for another 90 minutes. Upon completing our fifth circle of the airport, awaiting take-off clearance, the little girl sitting next to me turned to her mother and said, "Maybe the plane hasn't learned how to fly yet."
From hotel to hotel, the trip took nine hours. Next time I'll drive.
Of course, my publisher put me up in another nice hotel--The Hotel Monoco. Not quite as posh as Le Meridien of Beverly Hills where I stayed yesterday, but I'd be a fool to complain. I just wish I had time to enjoy these hotels...
The drive-by report:
Bookstore at LAX, signed three paperbacks.
Bookstore at San Francisco airport, signed and sold one paperback.
Borders on 3rd, signed 2 hardcovers, 5 paperbacks.
Barnes & Noble on Taylore, signed 2 hardcovers, 3 paperbacks.
Borders on Post, signed 5 hardcovers, 7 paperbacks.
San Francisco Mystery Bookstore, signed 3 hardcovers, 6 paperbacks.
A Clean Well Lighted Place for Books, signed 1 hardcover, 3 paperbacks.
My event was at M is for Mystery in San Mateo. I'd never been there before, but I met the lovely Ed Kaufman last year at the cocktail party Hyperion threw for Whiskey Sour's release.
Great store. And Ed's a great guy.
A handful of people showed up, and we formed a circle with our chairs and I spoke for an hour about my books, and publishing in general. The majority of them were writers, which makes me believe that my website and my blog are being read.
It also makes me proud to be a part of this business. I try to help writers, and in turn they come to my signings and help me by buying my books.
After signing a stack of 25 hardcovers and a few paperbacks, I promised Ed I'd drop by his booth at the 10th Annual Books by the Bay Festival tomorrow. Then the writers (Tammy Durston, Susan Tunis, and Ronald Cree) took me out for beer and food.
Ronald Cree just sold his first novel, a YA mystery called Desert Blood 10pm/9C and he's got the right attitude for the task ahead---work your butt off and make money for your publisher. I think he'll do fine. It's coming out in February and he's already planning for publicity and touring. Corner him at Bouchercon and say hello.
And as promised, here are more self-promoters that I admire:
David Ellis. Dave didn't tour for his latest book. Instead, he wrote 200 letters to reviewers and sent them out along with ARCs. It took a lot of work and research, but it paid off. Reviewers are flooded with books sent by publishers, but a major release sent by the author, complete with a personal, signed letter, got Dave noticed. In The Company of Liars had more reviews, and as a result higher sales, than his previous three novels. And the reviewers will remember him for his next novel.
Of course, it didn't hurt that the book (written entirely in reverse chronological order) is fabulous.
Dave has also revamped his website, and it's full of information and a lot of fun to surf.
PJ Parrish. Kristy and Kelly Montee write the Louis Kincaid series under the name PJ Parrish, and they do a lot of self-promotion. They tour. They attend conventions. They help run Sleuthfest, which is Florida's biggest mystery conference. And now, they also blog.
Drop by http://pjparrish.blogspot.com.
TOUR UPDATE-- I've visited 70 stores so far. Will I break 100 with only 4 days left in the tour?
You can check my progress in tomorrow's episode...
Friday, July 22, 2005
Though I spent about 10 hours in the car, I only managed to visit 8 bookstores:
Borders Orange County, signed 1 hardcover, 6 paperbacks.
Barnes & Noble in Irvine, signed 3 hardcovers, 2 paperbacks.
Barnes & Noble #2 in Irvine, signed 4 hardcovers, 8 paperbacks.
Borders in Beverly Hills, signed 1 hardcover and 3 paperbacks.
Borders in Westwood, signed 2 hardcovers and 3 paperbacks.
Barnes & Noble in Westwood, signed 4 hardcovers (couldn't find the paperbacks... I fear they were stripped)
Barnes & Noble at Farmer's Market, signed 4 hardcovers, 6 paperbacks.
There were plenty of other stores I could have visited, but just didn't have the time.
My event tonight was at the Mysterious Bookshop in Westwood, and at 7:00pm I was greated by my throng of fan.
No typo there. One guy showed up (thanks, Stephen Blackmoore!)
That didn't discourage me, because, hey, one guy showed up. Steve's a writer too, and we talked shop for a while. He discovered me through my blog, which was a nice thing to hear---it's nice to know that my words are getting through to you folks. Or, at the very least, getting through to Steve.
Happily, the bookstore had a stack or pre-orders for me to sign, as well as a big pile of stock, which always makes me happy. It was great meeting the managers, Bobby and Linda. They're good people.
Then I signed the infamous Jail Register, a massive book that they've been keeping since the year 2000. Every author that comes in signs their name and vital stats, and everyone tries to be clever.
I saw a lot of famous names, which was cool.
I also saw many more names that I didn't recognize at all, which was very uncool.
I know quite a few folks in the writing community, but about 75% of those names were alien to me.
Hundreds of unknown writers. How many never wrote a second book? How many lost their publisher? How many are chugging along at book #7 and still midlist?
Five years from now, will I be one of the reconizable names, or one of the forgotten hundreds?
Scary, sobering stuff...
As I promised, I wanted to share with my blog readers (hi, Steve!) some names of other authors who also kick-butt on the self-promtion front, to prove that I'm not the only grunt in the trenches.
Barry Eisler has been touring for a solid month, driving coast to coast and visiting dozens of stores. He's also fitting in an occasional TV and radio gig. Barry is very savvy when it comes to promotion, and is a wealth of information and ideas when it comes to that subject. Most importantly, it's working for him. His driving tour is costing his publisher less than the flying/escort standard, but he's able to get more done.
Is it working? He's got a movie option, a Barry Award nomination (no relation), a second printing on his latest book, and he's an IMBA bestseller.
Julia Spencer-Fleming may actually be doing more than I do on the self-promotion front. Assisted by her marketing-genius husband Ross, Julia does drive-bys like crazy. She calls them 'force mulitpliers' (great term) and believes they've helped double the sales of her latest book at the chains. She also does massive mailing campaigns, and networks like crazy.
Is it working? She's an IMBA bestseller, is currently nominated for a Barry Award, and appeared on the Amazon top 25 for her latest book.
I'll list more authors tomorrow. Now. Must. Sleep...
FUN FACT ABOUT LOS ANGELES: The traffic sucks.
Thursday, July 21, 2005
Got into San Diego around noon, picked up the rental car, checked into the slum that is the Westgate Hotel, and started the drive-bys.
Baja Books, signed 3 paperbacks.
B. Dalton on Horton, signed 2 hardcovers, 3 paperbacks.
Barnes & Noble on Hazard, signed 4 hardcovers, 6 paperbacks.
Barnes & Noble on Grossmont, signed 4 hardcovers, 8 paperbacks, sold 1.
Bookstar on Rosecrans, signed 2 hardcovers, 2 paperbacks.
Borders on Camino del Rio, signed 2 hardcovers, 6 paperbacks, sold 1.
Borders on 6th, signed 2 hardcvoers, 6 paperbacks.
Waldenbooks on Friars, signed 6 hardcovers, 6 paperbacks.
Then I got stuck in some serious rush hour traffic, and it took 90 minutes to get to my signing that night, at Mysterious Galaxy.
Huge crowd. The store was packed.
Unfortunately, they were all there to see Jeff Shelby. Jeff's novel KILLER SWELL (great debut, go buy it right now) just came out, and he'd apparently invited everyone he'd ever known since Kindergardem to the event.
Jeff's a great guy, and funny (much like his books), so we talked to the crowd for an hour and got some big laughs.
Then came an exercise in humility---sitting next to the guy who has a line of fifty people waiting for autographs, when you only have a line of three.
If you're a writer, get used to it. It will happen many times in your career.
The staff at Mysterious Galaxy was great, I signed over 50 books, and afterward went out to dinner with writer Douglas Gibbs and his wife, and writer Mario Avecedo.
Got home at 11PM, so tired I couldn't even blog. Had a fitful seven hours of sleep, and right after I finish typing this I'm off to LA for drive-bys (do they have drive-bys in LA?) and an event at The Mysterious Bookshop tonight at 7pm.
Hope to see some of you there!
FUN FACT ABOUT SAN DIEGO--It's in California.
TOUR RESULTS SO FAR: 54 bookstores visited. I'm on track to break 100. Place your bets...
Wednesday, July 20, 2005
Got up at 6AM and mapped out the drive-bys.
Speaking of drive-bys, here's the Definitive Guide for Doing Drive-By Signings.
1. Find the stores. Go to www.bookweb.org, www.bn.com, www.waldenbooks.com, www.borders.com, www.booksamillion.com, and search for stores by city and zip code. Or go to the public library and look through the phones books. Try to list all the stores within 20 miles of the city you're visiting.
2. Call the stores you intend to drop in on and ask someone if they carry your books. DO NOT tell them you're the author. Why? All that does is complicate things. Trust me on this. They'll tell you you have to speak to a manager, or an events coordinator, or they'll tell you you aren't allowed to come in unless it has been cleared by your publisher, or they'll tell you that they don't do signings, or they'll set the books aside and then no one will be able to find them when you come in, or you'll set everything up and when you get there no one will know who the hell you are, or... you get the point.
The truth is, bookstores and publishers have a set of rules about author signings.
You want to ignore those rules. So call and and see if they have copies, and ask how many. I wouldn't drive 20 miles to sign three paperbacks, but for three hardcovers I would.
Call a day or two before you plan on dropping by---calling ten days before may result in your books being gone by then.
3. Map out your route. www.mapquest.com, www.maps.yahoo.com, www.maps.google.com. Plot a course going point to point. A GPS navigation unit saves a lot of time and effort.
I've noticed that Barnes & Noble and Borders stores often have locations just a few miles from one another. If there's one, there may be another.
Independant booksellers are genrally happier to see you, and more eager to sell your stuff. Fit as many of these into the drop-in tour as possible.
4. When you get to a store, find your books. Booksellers are busy, and you want to be low maintenance and take up very little of their time.
On this tour, my books are eaither on the new release table, the 20% off table, or in the mystery section. Sometimes there will be extra copies on the floor, or stacked behind other books on the shelf. Look around.
5. Take your books to the Information Desk, or to a counter, and say your spiel to an employee. Mine is:
"Hi! This is me. (Smiling, pointing to my name on cover.) I'm an author. Great to meet you. (Shake hand.) Thanks for carrying my books! Do you mind if I sign them?"
Start signing when you get the 'yes.'
Then ask them if they like your genre, and tell them about your books. For the pitch I use, check out my website at www.jakonrath.com/tips6.html --- it's the same pitch I use to sell to customers.
While talking to the employee, give them something---a card, a bookmark, or in my case, a drink coaster with my book cover on it, and SIGN THE ITEM. Signing it will hopefully prevent them from throwing the item away, on the off chance that one day you'll be famous and they can sell it on eBay.
Also, ask them if they can check to see if there are any more in the store that you couldn't find. Be patient---if the store is busy, let them take care of customers before you. That gives you a chance to pitch to customers as well.
When the books are signed, ask if they have stickers that say "Autographed Copy". If they do, help them sticker the books. If they don't, use your own stickers, that you took from the last store you signed at.
Barnes & Noble have square green stickers. Borders and Wladenbooks have red triangles. Sometimes Waldenbooks has blue rectangles, and Borders has brown rectangles. Don't get confused.
After the books are signed and stickered, ask the employees to sell them.
"Please get rid of these for me... my kids need to eat."
Often they'll make a display for you. Don't suggest a display yourself--let them suggest it. This appeal for help is important--it shows you're not a snooty author, but a regular person who needs help.
I also tell employess that whoever sells 20 copies or more will be mentioned in the acknowledgements for my next book.
6. Meet as many employees in the store that you can, passing out signed cards. Thank them profusely for selling your book, and for the great job they're doing. Take their business cards, and add them to your email newsletter list.
7. If you're at an independant bookstore, never leave without buying something. If you want them to support you, you should support them.
8. Keep a log of where you visited and how many copies you signed. Share this info with your agent and publisher. You don't have to give them the full list, but an email saying, "I was just in Arizona for the weekend and signed stock at 21 bookstores" will impress them.
So now you know as much as I know. And how was my day? I'm glad you asked.
After planning my route, I hit the road.
Waldenbooks in Mesa, signed 5 hardcovers, 5 paperbacks.
Borders in Mesa, signed 3 hardcovers, 6 paperbacks.
Borders in Tempe, signed 3 hardcovers, 5 paperbacks.
Changing Hands Bookstore in Tempe, signed 7 hardcovers, 1 paperback.
Borders in Chandler, signed 2 hardcovers, 4 paperbacks.
Barnes & Noble in Chandler, signed 3 hardcovers, 2 paperbacks.
Barnes & Noble in Phoenix, signed 3 hardvoers, 6 paperbacks, sold 2.
Waldenbooks on Southern, signed 8 hardcovers.
Borders on 74th, signed 6 hardcovers, 6 paperbacks.
Barnes & Noble in Gilbert, signed 2 hardcovers, 2 paperbacks.
SCARY STUFF--The computer at B&N in Gilbert said there were 4 copies of Whiskey Sour in the store. We could only find two. Turns out they stripped and returned the other two that morning.
Whiskey Sour came out in paper on June 24. So in less than a month, they were destroyed. Ouch!
I did a talk and a signing with the talented and charming Louise Ure (Forcing Amaryllis---which everyone should read) at The Poisoned Pen. We had a nice crowd, and Louise is 100% pro, even though her book has been out for less than a month. It was a pleasure sharing the spotlight with her.
Some friends came to the event, including fellow scribe Stacey Cochran and some folks I knew back when I was a waiter. Naturally, we went out afterwards for beer. Beer became tequila prarie fire shots, but I had to wuss out early (2AM) because I have to catch a plane in a few hours.
Tomorrow (er... later today) I'll be in San Diego, and I'll also blog about some fellow authors who are kicking major tail on the self-promotion front. You think I'm the only one pushing myself to the limit? Think again...
Tuesday, July 19, 2005
FUN FACT ABOUT PHOENIX: It's really hot.
National Car Rental gave me a GPS, but a different kind than I was using in Colorado (that was a Nextel, this is a Navman.)
I'm no techneophyte, but the Navman made no sense at all. I was twenty miles away from the car rental place when I realized the problem wasn't me---it was my unit (insert genital joke here.)
Basically, the GPS was stuck in demo mode, and the little triangle I thought was me was actually a simulation, going down roads that I wasn't on, making turns that I didn't make.
So I'm stuck in the desert with a bum GPS, with no idea of how to get back to the car rental place, because, hey, no GPS.
I did eventaully make it back, and the National rep wasn't sympathetic at all to my plight (I spent twelve years in the service industry, and this girl was a waste of carbon.) I wrangled a new GPS, got it working, and finally made it to my hotel by 2pm.
Time to start the drive-bys.
Barnes & Noble in Phoenix on Camelback, signed 3 hardcovers, 4 paperbacks.
Barnes & Noble in Phoenix on Metro, signed 4 hardcovers, 5 paperbacks, sold 1.
Waldenbooks in Phoenix on Metro, signed 3 hardcovers, 5 paperbacks, sold 1.
Waldenbooks in Phoenix on Bell, signed 4 hardcovers, 11 paperbacks, sold 1.
Borders in Phoenix in Fashion Park, signed 3 hardcovers, 6 paperbacks.
Borders in Phoenix on Cactus, signed 3 hardcovers, 6 paperbacks, 2 CDs.
Borders in Glendale on Bell, signed 3 hardcovers, 2 paperbacks.
Borders in Scottsdale on Mayo, signed 1 hardcover, 7 paperbacks.
Barnes & Noble in Scottsdale on Indian Bend, signed 4 hardcover, 9 paperbacks.
Brentano's in Scottsdale on Cameback, signed 10 hardcovers, 10 paperbacks, and was told that a women came in ten minutes before I did and bought both books. Sorry I was late lady, but the store was in a mall, and as I mentioned before, fate rolls the dice and chooses to make me park as far away as humanly possible from the store location. And the malls in Arizona are even larger than the malls in Colorado. I swear, in one mall I walked at least 70 miles. I grew a beard in the time it took to go from Sears to JC Penny.
So ten signings today, for a total of 35 in three days. Someone call the Guinness people.
Better yet, some give me a pint of Guinness.
I have ten more tomorrow, which should be easy, since I have all day. I'm doing an event at 7pm at Poisoned Pen in Scottsdale, which should be fun.
Once again, my publisher has put me up at a nice hotel. And once again, I haven't had time to enjoy it. Speaking of publishers...
TOUR TIP #16---Let your publisher and agent know how the tour is going. Be upbeat and positive. My publicist told everyone at Hyperion how I was doing, which can't hurt their opinion of me. When you make an effort, don't make it in silence.
As for the recent comments pertaining to my sanity, I don't think working hard at something I love is crazy. Getting published is a tremendous opportunity, and the best way to acknowledge such a gift is to work hard to prove it wasn't all just luck.
Which is why I've given up sleep, and tattooed my publisher's name on my forehead. In reverse, so I can read it when I look into the mirror.
Sunday, July 17, 2005
Got up at 8AM, then plotted my route for drive-bys. I wanted to visit 18 stores. I figured I could do two stores an hour---15 minutes of schmoozing, then 15 minutes of travel time.
It took longer than I figured, and I got behind schedule. When I do a drive-by, I always find my books myself and bring them up to the Information Desk.
"This is me," I'll say, smiling and pointing at my book cover. "I'm J.A. Konrath. Can I sign these for you guys?"
I always get a yes. Sometimes they ask questions. Sometimes they're busy. But I still try to pitch the books and hand out signed coasters to as many employees as possible. They are my word-of-mouth army, and I need to stick in their heads.
Sometimes it takes time to find staff, or sometimes they call for managers, and my 15 minute time frame becomes half an hour. I also often wind up talking to customers, passing out signed coasters, and pitching my books to patrons.
Plus, since I hit most of the local stores yesterday, the stores today were farther apart, sometimes by 25 miles. There were several mall stores, and it seemed I always parked ten miles away from where the store was, every time. So I didn't get as much done as I wanted to.
Here are the stats:
Barnes & Noble in Denver, signed 4 hardcovers, 9 paperbacks, sold 1.
Waldenbooks in Denver, signed 4 hardcovers, 2 paperbacks.
Borders in Lakewood, signed 3 hardcovers, 3 paperbacks, sold 1.
Barnes & Noble in Lakewood, signed 4 hardcovers, six paperbacks, sold 2.
Borders in Englewood, signed 3 hardcovers, 2 paperbacks, sold 1.
Borders in Littleton, signed 2 hardcovers, 5 paperbacks.
Waldenbooks in Littleton, signed 4 hardcovers, 6 paperbacks.
Barnes & Noble in Greenwood Village, signed 4 hardcovers, 5 paperbacks.
Barnes & Noble in Lonetree, signed 5 hardcovers and 5 paperbacks.
Borders in Aurora, signed 5 hardcovers and 8 paperbacks.
Barnes and Noble in Aurora, signed 4 hardcovers and 2 paperbacks.
Waldenbooks in Aurora, signed 2 hardcovers and 6 paperbacks.
Barnes & Noble in Westminster, signed 4 hardcovers, 4 paperbacks.
Barnes & Noble in Thornton, signed 4 hardcovers, 7 paperbacks.
Borders in Northglen, signed 4 hardcovers, 4 paperbacks.
So that's 15 stores today, and 9 yesterday, for a total of 24 signing in Colorado in two days.
Will it make a difference? I dunno. I met a lot of booksellers and fans today, and signed over a hundred coasters and plenty of books.
Several employees placed my signed books in a front-of-store display, which should help.
Plus Waldenbooks had them at 20% off, which is good news.
Other good news---today in the Chicago Sun-Times, I got a tremendous review from David Montgomery. I love that guy. In the New York Times Book Review, you can find an ad for my books that my publisher placed. Plus the latest issue of The Strand Magazine is on the newsstands, featuring an even bigger ad from my publisher, plus an original Harry McGlade story by me called TAKEN TO THE CLEANERS. Pick it up. It's funny.
So what am I learning on tour so far? Here are more tips.
TOUR TIP #12--Always allow yourself more time than you think you need. Sometimes traffic is bad, or you get lost. Sometimes you stay at a store longer than expected. Visiting two stores an hour was an unrealistic goal. Give yourself wiggle room.
TOUR TIP #13--Save time by finding your books on the shelf and bringing them to the Information Desk to sign them, but ALWAYS ask the staff to check if there are more copies. Several times today, the store had more than I'd found. And it goes without saying that you want to sign everything...
TOUR TIP #14--Stay attached to reality. By my ninth store today, I completely forgot where I was. So I took a little break and called home. Hearing friendly voices helped to take my mind away from the repetition, and made me fresh for the next set of signings.
TOUR TIP #15--Be good to yourself. I ate when hungry, drank plenty of water, and made sure I had some sleep the night before. I couldn't imagine doing this without enough sleep or nourishment---or even worse, hungover. A healthy tour is a productive tour.
FUN FACT ABOUT COLORADO: It has mountains.
THINGS I WOULD HAVE DONE DIFFERENTLY--Spent more time introducting myself to the audience at High Crimes, visited the stores that closed early first, and eaten someplace other than that burrito stand.
THINGS I NEED TO DO--Plan my attack for Arizona. I'm leaving tomorrow at 6AM, which means I have to pack tonight, plot an itinerary for drive-bys, and contact my wife to have her send me more coasters and give-away magazines--I didn't bring nearly enough.
That's all for now. See you in the desert...
Got into Denver yesterday after a flight delay, and picked up my rental car at the airport, along with a GPS Navigation System.
The GPS is the coolest thing ever invented. It's a cell phone, and you call Dispatch and give them an address, and then the speaker phone tells you when to turn left and right, along with showing arrows on the display. Finding stuff in a strange city has never been easier, and since I'm going to visit 30 bookstores in two days in Colorado, the GPS is a godsend.
TOUR TIP #1: Use a GPS.
My publisher booked me into the Brown Palace Hotel. I was skeptical (Wasn't I good enough for the Gold Palace or the Silver Palace?), but once I arrived I changed my tune.
This is a seriously beautiful hotel. See for yourself at www.brownpalace.com.
Since most bookstores were having Harry Potter parties, I refrained from drive-by signings that night. Instead I plotted a course of action for the next day, prepared my give-away items, and got a full night of sleep.
I woke up this morning at 7AM, shaved and showered, and had a decent breakfast with plenty of water.
Then I set my GPS coordinates and began.
First stop, a Barnes & Noble in Denver. I do my standard drive-by. It consists of:
1. Finding all of my books in the store and bringing them to the Information desk.
2. Introducing myself to the employee at the desk, and signing the copies.
3. Handing the employee a signed WHISKEY SOUR coaster, and explaining what my books are about.
4. Tracking down all the other employees in the store, giving them signed coasters and the book talk.
Simple enough. Takes about fifteen minutes. They had 3 hardcovers and 9 paperbacks.
Next stop, another Barnes & Noble, in Littleton. Drive-by signing. 2 hardcovers, 6 paperbacks.
Next stop, a reading and signing at Murder by the Book in Denver at noon. Besides my stack of coasters, I have some copies of Ellery Queen as give-aways, and airline bottles of Jack Daniels signed in silver marker. The Owner, Lauri Ver Schure, gets a warm greeting and a bottle of Jack.
TOUR TIP #2: Always have something to give the owner and employees.
MBTB is a very cool store, with extensive signed and OOP books, and I browse while waiting for people to arrive. About ten do, and I greet them all before beginning my presentation. I also give away freebies to fans I've met before, or heard from online.
TOUR TIP #3: Give each person in the room a handshake and warm welcome---and more if you know them.
Lauri brings out a large cake, decorated like the cover of BLOODY MARY, which is lovely. We all have cake, then I do my thing.
My thing consists of a Q & A with myself, asking myself things that I'm often asked. It's funny, informative, and I tailor it to audience reaction.
This audience is very receptive, laughing in all the right places, maintaining a high level of interest. By the end of the talk it's hard to tell who is happy, me or them.
TOUR TIP #4: Rehearse your presentation, but pay attention to your response. Monologues are boring and can be done in an empty room. Storytelling is an active, dynamic thing that requires the audience to participate. If they aren't involved, get them involved by changing tactics.
An author friend of mine, Jim Hansen, came by to see me. I signaled him out and talked a little about his book, NIGHT LAWS, which is a damn good debut.
TOUR TIP #5: Give props to your peeps. If you have published friends in the audience, let the crowd know. Publicity is hard, and writers should help each other.
After the talk, I did a reading, which was met with a positive response.
TOUR TIP #6: When reading, be brief (no more than ten minutes), and if possible, funny. Practice until you're good enough, and make sure the passage you read won't offend anyone (or gross them out).
I signed books after the reading.
TOUR TIP #7: Always ask who they'd like the book inscribed to, and how to spell their name. Trust me on this one. I've met Aymee, Jym, Marscha, Debbera, and Chuk, to misname a few.
When the last person left, I hung around and signed the rest of the stock.
TOUR TIP #8: Don't leave without signing everything.
Then I did some more browsing and bought some books. In this instance, I bought a $50 first edition of Silence of the Lambs.
TOUR TIP #9: When signing at an indie store, always buy something before you leave. Support the folks who support you.
I was there two hours total. Ten books sold, fifteen signed. Plus, they let me keep the rest of the cake (Lemon poppy seed...mmm.)
After the event, Jim Hansen took me out to lunch (Thanks Jim! Everyone buy NIGHT LAWS this January! www.jimhansenbooks.com). Then it was off to HIGH CRIMES in Boulder.
HIGH CRIMES is another awesome store, run by the the wonderful Cynthia Nye.
This was another reading event, and I got there still hyped-up from the good time I had at MBTB. Because of that, I didn't spend time introducing myself to everyone. Instead, I went right into the Joe Konrath Comedy Hour.
Not smart. Rather than get the audience to like me before starting my talk, I went for the big laughs right away and they didn't go over well. Sensing that I was losing the crowd, I reeled in the humor and tried to be more informative and sedate.
That worked better, but trying to win an audience over from an initial bad impression is harder than entertaining a group of people who love you before you begin. Next time, I'll do more schmoozing beforehand and start the ball rolling slowly.
The reading went better than the Q & A, and some folks stuck around to buy books. I then stayed for a while and sold some books to people who came in after my event. I also bought some books that Cynthia recommended, said my thank yous, and got on the road. Ten books sold, twelve signed.
Drive-by at Borders in Boulder. 2 hardcovers, 6 paperbacks. Sold a paperback while I was there.
Drive-by at Barnes & Noble in Boulder. 2 hardcovers, 4 paperbacks.
Drive-by at Borders in Broomfield. 3 hardcovers, 6 paperbacks. Sold a paperback while I was there.
Drive-by at Waldenbooks in Westminster. 2 hardcover, 5 paperbacks.
Drive-by at Waldenbboks in Arvada---they're closed.
TOUR TIP #10--When planning your drive-by itinerary, check closing times, because some stores close at 8pm.
Drive-by Tattered Cover in Denver. 3 hardcovers, 5 paperbacks, and something cool. In the mystery section is a woman and her daughter, and when they see me grabbing copies of Whiskey Sour, they get excited because they've read it. Naturally I introduce myself, and wind up signing a copy of Bloody Mary for them, and talking for a while.
Meeting fans is always cool.
Back to the hotel, and I'm exhausted. I figure I'll order room service and a massage and put it on my publisher's tab.
TOUR TIP #11: Pay for as much as you can on your own. Your publisher is sending you to work, not on a vacation. Hyperion is paying for transportation and lodging. Everything else I'm paying for.
I walk into the lobby with half a BLOODY MARY cake, wondering what I should do with it. As luck would have it, four ladies were having some drinks in the lobby. Still in author mode (which means I'm fearless and will approach anyone) I ask them if they want some cake.
"Hell yeah we want cake!"
One thing led to another, and soon the cake was gone and we were all on our way to Barnes & Noble up the street so I could sign copies of my books for them. Great people. They're from Memphis, here for a convention. If everyone from Memphis is this friendly and fun, I may move there.
After booksigning, we hit an Irish pub and have beer and onion rings, and then it's 1AM and I'm beat.
Back to my luxury suite, where the maid has turned down the bed and left chocolates on the pillow. Very cool.
Sleep becons, but I want to blog this so I have a record of how things are going. Partly because I want to rember this. Partly to show my publisher, so they know I'm trying my best to sell some books.
I did two signings and seven drive-bys today. Not too bad. Tomorrow I have 19 drive-bys to do. I should have enough time, if I get up early.
Time for bed. I have 11 more days of this tour...
Thursday, July 14, 2005
But I'm a total virgin when it comes to going on tour.
My publisher, Hyperion, has set it all up and is paying for everything. I'm scheduled to appear in nine cities from July 12-27.
I have no idea what to expect. I'm bringing my laptop along, so I'll use this blog to proved daily updates.
If any authors reading this have been on a publisher tour before, I'd love to hear your comments and advice---even if it's negative.
If anyone lives in the towns that I'm visiting, please stop by one of my signings with a busload of your friends, and I'll return the favor someday.
Here's where I'll be:
MURDER BY THE BOOK
1574 South Pearl Street
Denver, CO 80210
948 Pearl Street
Boulder, CO 80302
E 7100 Main Street
Scottsdale, AZ 85251
7051 Clairmont Mesa Boulevard
San Diego, CA 92111
1036 C Broxton Avenue
Westwood, CA 90024
M IS FOR MYSTERY
86 East Third Avenue
San Mateo, CA 94401
MURDER BY THE BOOK
3210 Southeast Hawthorne Boulevard
Portland, OR 97214
SEATTLE MYSTERY BOOKSHOP
Seattle, WA 98104
BOOKS & COMPANY
1039 Summit Ave.
Oconomowoc, WI 53066
Bridge Street Books
407 Bridge Street
Charlevoix MI 49720
Hope to see some of you on the road. It goes without saying that after an event, we grab a beer.
I wonder if Hyperion is giving me a beer budget?
Sunday, July 10, 2005
Amazon is supplied by the distributor Ingram, and Ingram can be called to get weekly sales updates. (For those who want to drive themselves crazy like I am, the automated number is 615-213-6803---you can punch in the ISBN of any book and see how it is selling.)
Two questions for you folks, and I'd really like to hear from you even if you've never replied to a blog before. I know I have lurkers; please delurk and post--it's easy, fun, and good for you.
Question #1. Do you buy books on Amazon, and if so, how often vs. other places you buy from?
Question #2. Do user reviews on Amazon influence your decision to buy or not buy?
Thanks so much!
Thursday, July 07, 2005
I agree, to a point. A homepage should have information about your writing and your books. But if that's all it does---advertise your products---then you won't get many hits, or generate much buzz. TiVo allows us to eliminate commercials... why would anyone intentionally go looking for them?
Which is why I suggest you have more on your site than four blurbs and a link to Amazon (which indy bookstores hate to begin with.)
But this blog entry isn't about how to make your site sticky (I go into detail on how to do that here.) Instead, I want to talk about how people can find your site on the world wide web. You've raised your shingle, now how do you get the traffic?
1. Search engines. NEVER pay to submit to search engines--the big ones allow you to submit your URL for free, and no one uses the little ones i.e. "submit your site to 700,000 engines for $29.95." When was the last time you used searchbunny.com to surf the web? Stick to Google, Yahoo, AOL, Hotbot, MSN, Altavista, Lycos, Overture, Dogpile, and Excite... but only if they don't charge. Don't pay per click... you think Stephen King does that?
My website is listed on all major engines, and I never paid a cent. They found me.
Make sure you have decent Meta tags on all of your pages, for the spiders to crawl (if you don't know what I'm talking about, pick up a book on web design.)
2. Publications. Your website address should be printed on all of your books, and included with bios for short stories, articles, and interviews. Every time your name appears in print, your URL should as well.
3. Business cards. Have two types made up; one with all of your personal info (phone, email, address) and one with just your website. I also put my URL on flyers, bookmarks, and even on my personal checks.
Give business cards to everyone you meet. I put them in bills I mail out, and drop them in check presenters when I go out to eat. Your motto: Everyone gets a card.
4. Email. Your email has a signature tag--put your URL in there. If you have more than one email account, make sure they each list your URL.
5. Newsgroups and List Servs. Google News and Yahoo have thousands of online groups discussing books. Join and post, making sure you always add your URL. The bigger online mouth you have, the more opportunities to pass around your link.
6. Blogs. I've been posting messages on other people's blogs, and I'm surprised how many people click through to my website.
As with newsgroups and list servs, contribute to the conversation. A non sequitur that does nothing but direct people to your website is spam. But say something smart or funny, and people will check out your website automatically.
7. Links. Trade links with as many folks as you can. Email websites and ask if they'd like to reciprocate, and swap business cards with author friends you meet at conventions. The more links coming in the better... all roads lead to Rome.
8. Google Adwords. I have some friends that swear by this. I haven't tried it yet, but you can find out about it here.
9. Print ads. Every time you, or your publisher, places an ad, it should have your URL on there.
10. Newsletters. If you have a print or email newsletter (and you should... collect names at signings and conventions and through your site), you should always have your homepage listed.
11. Amazon. For all the hoopla about Amazon, they don't seem to sell that many books. For example, I sold about 15,000 copies of Whiskey Sour in hardcover. About 2000 were through Amazon.
Still, you can focus some effort there. Amazon has many paid programs for writers and publishers to ensure better placement for your book. I've never done that, but I indulge in some of their free services; book reviews and lists.
I review books with the name "J.A. Konrath, author of Bloody Mary." People who click on my name are directed to my URL.
Amazon also lets you compile Favorites Lists. I've made a few lists of mega-bestsellers which also include my books. Hopefully people who like James Patterson or John Sandford will read the lists looking for similar authors, and then discover me.
12. Other. My publisher and Bookreporter.com are holding a contest for the release of Bloody Mary. You can enter the contest here. While I'm thrilled they're promoting my book, a quick read of the page shows that they forgot to ad my URL.
I hadn't known they were running this contest, or I would have commented on adding my web address. I could ask them to add it now, but I'd come off sounding like an ungrateful ass... "Sure, it's a nice contest, and I appreciate you being behind my books and all, but where's my website information?"
So that's a missed opportunity. An opportunity that hasn't been missed comes from buzzketeer M.J. Rose, who is linking 500 blogs to her vidlit page http://www.vidlit.com/mj/ to raise money for Reading is Fundemental.
Vidlits are visual commercials for books, kind of like movie trailers.
I think M.J. is a pioneer in new marketing ideas, but that doesn't mean her ideas work (lots of pioneers died in the woods.)
I love her, and she's certainly becoming known in the writing community, but so far her efforts haven't made her a bestseller.
Nor have mine, for that matter.
What do you folks think? Does her Vidlit make you want to buy her book? Did it make you click through to her website?
I know I'll be watching her Amazon numbers to see if they shoot up. She's currently at 42,000 rank on Amazon, and her promotion begins today.
Wednesday, July 06, 2005
Here's what she forwarded:
Our contest with BookReporter.com went live on Friday, July 1 and we've had a great response so far! To be eligible, readers must respond to an excerpt of BLOODY MARY online and also say their favorite cocktail.
Grand prize winner will receive a travel bar kit, a signed copy of BLOODY MARY and a copy of WHISKEY SOUR. 10 runners up will receive signed copies of BLOODY MARY.
View the details here: http://www.bookreporter.com/community/contests/0507_konrath.asp
Contest is currently advertised on the Book Reporter homepage and in their newsletter.
This came completely out of nowhere, and I'm pretty pleased.
Since I'd like to encourage my publisher to keep supporting me in this fashion, I ask everyone who reads this to click on the link and enter the free contest, even if you already have a copy of Bloody Mary---you can always donate it to the library, or make a buck on eBay.
I've already entered six times...
Sunday, July 03, 2005
Do you remember being unpublished? The struggles? The hopes and dreams? The lottery-win feeling when you finally broke through?
Hold onto that feeling. Don't let it go. And beware:
A sense of entitlement.
Jealousy and envy of those who have more.
A feeling of superiority over those who have less.
Worry over the future, when you're lucky to be here in the present.
Getting bogged down in the details.
Focusing on the negative.
Also, remember to give back.
This is becoming harder the busier I become, but I'm still trying to help others get to where I'm at. To this end I teach writing at a local community college, I read manuscripts that people send me, I recommend writers to my agent, I hold writing contests, I buy other authors' books, I write reviews, I give blurbs, I always answer questions, I offer advice in person, in email, and on my blog and website, and most of all, I try to be patient and understanding with those who know less about this profession than I do, and gracious and thankful to those who know more than I do and share that knowledge.
The further you get into this business, the more idealism you lose. The same can probably be said of life.
One way to hold onto that idealism is to never forget where you came from.
Friday, July 01, 2005
Some folks have been hinting at the fact that my last few blog entries have been of the negative variety.
So to make up for that, this post will focus on the positive aspects of the publishing business:
- I spent 7 hours in a bookstore in Chicago yesterday, and sold 55 hardcovers.
- Hyperion is placing ads for my books in Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine, Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, The Strand, Crimespree, The New York Times Book Review, and the Bouchercon program.
- The anthology COLD FLESH was released yesterday, featuring my undead story THE BAG.
- Copies of Whiskey Sour and Bloody Mary have found their way into most bookstores, and in large numbers.
- Bloody Mary has received decent reviews from Publisher's Weekly, Booklist, and Kirkus.
- Though Whiskey Sour is now available in paperback, the hardcovers haven't been remaindered yet.
- My publisher is touring me this month, where I'll be doing signings in Denver, Boulder, Phoenix, San Diego, L.A., San Mateo, San Francisco, Portland, Seattle, and a few other places.
- Whiskey Sour has been nominated for the Gumshoe, the Anthony, and the Macavity Award, and won the Love is Murder People's Choice Award.
- JAKonrath.com is averaging 300 hits a day.
- I just did a fun interview on Paul Guyot's blog, which can be read here:
(I'm very happy to have been embraced by the blogging community, all fifteen of you. )
- The audio of Bloody Mary comes out this week, and it kicks ass.
- I get about five emails a day from fans. Different fans, not the same five over and over again.
- Harriet Klausner gave me four stars on Amazon.
- I've almost finished the outline for the fourth book in the series, Dirty Martini.
- I'm living my dream, and I'm grateful as hell for that.