Sunday, December 21, 2014

Happy Holidays!

So have a good end of the year, and join us on January 5, 2015, when Meredith ushers in the New Year for Criminal Minds!

Friday, December 19, 2014

What If They Gave a Signing and Nobody Came?

We all have tales to tell from book events. What is your best experience and what is your worst?

by Paul D. Marks

Since I pretty much answered this question some time ago when we were asked about best and worst convention experiences...because it amounts to the same thing as book events, I’m going to give a short response to the “worst” experience here.  And just quickly mention that the best – and worst – was winning the Shamus, from the Private Eye Writers of America, at last year’s (2013) Shamus Awards. (If interested in that whole story and to see why it’s both best and worst, see What is your best experience at a mystery convention?  Your worst? posted on Criminal Minds, I believe, on 4/11/14). But after my brief other worst experience below, I have some reflections on the past year.

The other worst: though one that didn’t actually happen...’cause I was too chicken to try. Some of you might remember the old expression “What if they gave a war and nobody came?” Well, when White Heat came out I adamantly did not want to do signings in bookstores because I thought...“What if I gave a signing and nobody came.”

Vampires and zombies don’t scare me, though when I was a kid I did pull the blankets over my neck so if Dracula happened to fly in my window he couldn’t bite me (as if the blankets would stop him).  But one hears horror stories of writers going to signings and nobody showing up.  And I figured that’s what would happen to me as an unknown.  So I did most of my promotion via the web or going to mass signings like the LA Times Festival of Books with Sisters in Crime, etc.  And, all in all, it worked out pretty good.

 *          *          *

And now, since this is the last official post of the year, I thought I’d reflect a bit before signing off.

As some of you may know, my mom died in September.  I don’t have anything particularly profound to say about it, but I thought I’d offer some end-of-the-year thoughts about that and some other things.

It’s hard losing a parent or anyone who’s close to you. And I was pretty close to my mom.  I might not have seen her a lot, though I did see her, but we talked on the phone frequently.  Sometimes we didn’t have much to say to each other because we talked so much. But I guess she liked to hear my voice—her words, not mine. There was a time years ago when I didn’t want to talk to her so frequently and told her we shouldn’t talk more than once a week or even less than that. But then I realized she wouldn’t be here forever, so I gave in and we talked several times a week. She would ask me about the stuff I was bidding on on eBay (I collect toys, Beatles stuff and other “junk”), or about our animals (most of the time 2 dogs and 2 cats, but now down to 1 dog and 2 cats) or other things. Usually nothing of heavy import. And I don’t regret all those conversations at all. I guess you could say I was “stocking up” for that time—now—when she wouldn’t be here anymore.

Her last year was not a good one. She had breast cancer that spread throughout her body. She was in a lot of pain, but still thought she’d beat it. She’d beaten it before. But I guess none of us can stave death off forever unless you’re a better chess player than he is.

There was a time when she was younger that she had wanted to be a writer. And maybe that’s where I got the bug from. I tried to encourage her to write throughout the years, but she never did. But she did read to me as a child, and not just children’s books. Two pieces that I very distinctly remember her reading me as a young child were Percy Bysshe Shelley’s “Ozymandius,” and Edwin Arlington Robinson’s “Richard Cory.” Two of my favorite poems to this day. (Simon and Garfunkel doing their version of Richard Cory: ):

We had our share of disagreements, even full blown arguments about one thing or another.  She didn’t always agree with my choices as a teenager or an adult, but she always stood by me, no matter what. Of course, I didn’t always agree with her choices either.  But if you can’t disagree with someone and still have a relationship, then maybe you don’t really have a relationship.  The closest human beings can be is when we can accept the other person and accept their differences.

            L to R: My wife Amy and my mom. My mom’s high school pic. Somewhere in the 80s/90s, I’m  guessing.  And her and I at a book signing a couple of years ago:

And she truly loved and accepted my wife, Amy, and that always made me very happy. On the other hand, I don’t think she loved our last house as much as we did—too modern.  But did love our current house and would comment on that all the time.

I suppose I could reflect on this for pages, but I’ll wind it down. So summing up the year, like most years, 2014 had some good and some bad. Some frustrating luck with projects falling through, not happening and one big media project biting the dust. So it’s been tough. But like Gene Autry says in “Tumbling Tumbleweeds” “I know when night has gone that a new world's born at dawn.” And the New Year is coming and hopefully a clean slate with it.

So Happy Holidays and a Good New Year to Everyone!  And look for the holiday greeting from the Criminal Minds going up this Sunday.

Gene Autry: Tumbling Tumbleweeds:

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Dorothy and Celine

The worst book-related event ever?

It might be the time I was invited to give the address at the Dorothy L Sayers Society's annual meeting. Everything went wrong.

I left behind the phone number of the woman picking me up at the airport and had no way to get in touch with her.  This resulted in her wasting about an hour searching for me when she had a million other things to do.

Then I got lost when I went to pick up the books I had sent ahead. Another hour of very busy people worrying about where I was and whether I'd ever come back.

So there was only time for us to go to the nearest chain pub for lunch. The huge screen tellys showing football and the screaming babies and cackling teenage mums were my fault too.

And on top of that I was just . . . not what they were expecting. Dandy Gilver is posh and conservative and a very DLS Soc kind of gal. I'm incredibly not. I stood up in an unserious dress and upsetting footwear, with my highly visible roots (follicular and social), and I committed all kinds of faux pas - talking about Dorothy's son (the DLS Soc doesn't talk about Dorothy's son), talking about Dorothy's anti-Semitism (guess whether that comes up much), not talking about Dorothy's theology and religious writings . . .

Oh well. 

I might not have been to finishing school but at least I had the manners to leave the after-party early so they could all get into what a let-down I'd been.  Meantime, I spent a sick-making night in the most tobacco-drenched hotel room ever. Paris included.

I still love Dorothy.

And as for the best book-related event? I'm humbled and amazed by having so many to choose from. But the moment that's standing out in my memory right now is the Sisters in Crime breakfast at Bouchercon, Long Beach, when I took over the presidency and was handed the official seal.

photo by Molly Weston

Wednesday, December 17, 2014


by Clare O'Donohue

Q: We all have tales to tell from book events. What is your best experience and what is your worst?

The hardest part of being an author, for me, isn't writing the book - it's standing in front of a crowd of people (or a crowd of empty chairs) and trying to sell it. I'm not shy, as anyone who knows me can attest, but I'm not a huge fan of being the center of attention.

And sometimes this isn't a problem, because very few people show up. I had one event where there was no one, and another where two people wandered into the store looking to enjoy a few minutes of air conditioning.

But, I have had some nice ones. One book launch near my home was posted in my high school alumni newsletter and the bookstore was crowded with Mother McAuley grads, turning it into a mini-reunion. That was fun. For my Someday Quilts series, I go to a quilt convention in Houston and sit at a booth - 50,000 people go to that convention so I sell a lot of books, hang out with some very fun authors, and when I'm taking a break from selling, I get to shop for fabric. Win, win.

But probably the best experience was at a small book signing I did at I Love A Mystery bookstore in Mission, Kansas. I was there to talk about my third Someday Quilts book when someone asked me about my day job as a TV producer. I explained what I did, and that led to more questions, and soon it was all we were talking about. I had no idea people thought what I did was so interesting. As I left the store, I realized I had the makings of another series. Kate Conway was born in that shop at that event - proving you never know where inspiration will strike.

The worse events aren't just the "no one showed up" ones, though they do, in fact, suck. It's when it's really awful. The worst one for me was probably my first book event, a wholesale book conference  across all genres. My first book wasn't even on the shelves yet and I was already at a nice hotel, hobnobbing with authors and book buyers, paid for by my publisher. What could be better?

Shortly after I arrived, I went to an afternoon reception and sat at a table, looking to make new friends. The people sitting there were all authors (of a different genre), and they seemed friendly enough. But once the authors at the table saw my book, they pretty much mocked it, and me, for having such a dull cover, a dull title, and pretty much being a dull person. Then they rolled their eyes when I answered a question about how long it took to write my book (6 months). Apparently they wrote first drafts during elevator rides. No matter what I said, I was made to feel stupid and na├»ve. It was torture, and as soon as I could, I went back to my room and called home, hoping there was some horrible crisis that might allow me to make a quick exit. But no. I was stuck for the whole weekend.

That evening there was a cocktail party for mystery writers. I steeled myself for another awful experience and went downstairs to the reception. I saw a display table of books and went over to see the titles (and basically to look busy in a room full of strangers). An author spotted me, introduced herself, and when she found out I was new, took me around the room introducing me to others. Soon, I had new friends, who were offering encouragement, helpful advice, and a steady stream of drinks. When I relayed my earlier experience, and said I couldn't believe how different this group was from the earlier one, one man chimed in, "We're mystery writers. You're home now."

And I was.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

The First Kiss...and The Last Word

Question of the Week: We all have tales to tell from book events. What is your best experience and what is your worst?

My answer:

Nothing beats the first time. The first kiss, the first cigarette...the first book launch.

I'm with one of those rare publishers who actually pays for, organizes and hosts their author's book launches. (ECW Press, Toronto.) All I had to do was show up—which was nerve-wracking enough in itself, so thank goodness I wasn't also in charge of those delicious-looking sushi and cheese platters that my stomach was flipping too hard to allow me to take a bite from.

My large, supportive family treated my first launch as importantly as a wedding. My uncle Jack flew in from Texas to be there, my mom invited every friend she had, most of whom came. My friends were amazing. Staff and customers from the pool hall where I used to work showed up. My writing teacher from Humber College came. My high school English teacher even stopped by at the end.

This is no easy industry to forge a career in (as the months to follow would prove) but with a sendoff like that, I felt like my career had officially and emphatically launched.

* * *

The worst a city I won't name, I was on a panel with four authors I won't name, and the moderator (who I absolutely won't name) had a clear favorite book among the panelists' latest releases.

(You guessed right if you thought it wasn't mine.)

The moderator spoke glowingly about this one book she'd loved. She gave it maybe 50% of the panel's air time, and most of her questions were for that book's author. When she spoke about the rest of our books, she sneered and did not glow. Her opinion about the rest of our collective worth would have been clear to a three-year-old.

A particular highlight was when I was giving what I thought was an interesting answer to a question thrown my way, and the moderator cut me off with a snide comment about how highly immature she finds my protagonist, Clare. Which is a compelling discussion point, not untrue at all, and in fact one of the things I like most about writing Clare. But the moderator was not raising this as a discussion point. My mouth opened to form my response, but I was too late—she'd moved on to attack another panelist.

In retrospect, it was so bad that it was funny. And secretly, I hope to be on another panel, somewhere, someday, with this same person moderating. But I'll arm myself with witty comebacks before I get on stage.

Next time, I want the last word.

Monday, December 15, 2014

It's All Good

"We all have tales to tell from book events. What is your best experience and what is your worst?"

- from Susan

No one forgets her debut book launch event. There’s nothing like it. Before you finished your first draft, when going to a bookstore reading was exciting because you were in the same room with Sara Paretsky or Lee Child, you hardly dared dream you’d be behind the same microphone some day. When you landed an agent, it was like Christmas, and when your book sold to a publisher, the circus might as well have just come to town. And then, your publisher or agent said, “So, let’s get you booked somewhere for your launch,” and you were sure the fantasy was about to come crashing down.

Until the bookstore said, “Sure, we’d love to have you. Send us your bio and a JPEG of your book cover,” and you realized you had arrived. Oh, maybe not arrived to stardom or best seller lists, or being optioned to the movies, but arrived to the moment when the bookstore rep introduced you with flattering words, and you stepped to the podium, and a little voice inside you said, “Sue Grafton stood here…”

My friends, friendly acquaintances, neighbors, and my doctor’s assistant filled the chairs at my local bookstore, and bought every copy of Murder in the Abstract the store had in stock, and then some. They laughed at the right moments, asked good questions, and didn’t seem to want to leave. We drank sparkling stuff and ate chocolates, and had a great time. I’ve done that twice so far, and hope to do it again. Collectively, celebrating a new book with people I care about and – to my surprise – readers I don’t know but who enjoy my books – is the best.

I only had one experience of the kind that makes other writers cringe in sympathy, but it was more funny than awful. I write mysteries, but was invited, most kindly, to join four romance authors for an event about 60 miles from home at a large chain bookstore. The events staffer was charming, kept up a steady chatter of encouragement as we set up. He put out a lot of chairs. As the hour approached, we checked our watches surreptitiously because there was no one – no one – taking a chair. Our moderator gamely began five minutes after the hour and we all smiled cheerfully and started answering our own questions. A woman slid into a chair in the back and we beamed in her direction, but she had already adjusted her worn and tattered cost and gone to sleep. Another five minute passed and a man took the chair that was farthest from her and from us. Who knew, maybe he was a secret romance reader? No, he pulled out his cell phone and proceeded to have an animated conversation in Chinese with someone. I was pretty sure they weren’t talking about our topic of the moment: Where do you get your ideas?

These women writers were pros and we wound up having a good conversation among ourselves, carried through the upstairs of the store by the microphones clipped onto our shirts. “Worst”? Well, yes, certainly, in that there was nothing to feed our egos or our book sales. But we had each other and for the umpteenth time I was reminded how wonderful the writing community is. We packed up at the end of the hour, laughed as we exchanged hugs and good wishes, and went back to our desks to keep writing.


Friday, December 12, 2014

Why Crime?

By Art Taylor

Two weeks back in my last post here, I gave a tongue-in-cheek response to the question of whether my characters reflect my values. That post was scheduled for the day after Thanksgiving, and I figured between the post-feast, tryptophan-induced coma, the manic frenzy of Black Friday and Small Business Saturday, and the big traffic of post-holiday drives home, most everyone was going to miss whatever I had to say anyway. (To my credit, I offered a little more than what Alan had the day before. A selfie, Alan? Really?)

But this week's question—"Why do you write crime instead of another form of fiction?"—sent me thinking once more about that previous question and about the fuller response I might've given if I wasn't post-tryptophaned and shopping-frenzied myself. And then yesterday, lots of talk was bubbling up online about the BuzzFeed column "51 of The Most Beautiful Sentences in Literature"—with folks on social media offering their own contenders for that same honor. Picking my own two sentences got me thinking as well....

The passage I picked was from Chekhov's "The Lady with the Dog"—undeniably one of the great short stories of all time.
He had two lives: one, open, seen and known by all who cared to know, full of relative truth and of relative falsehood, exactly like the lives of his friends and acquaintances; and another life running its course in secret. And through some strange, perhaps accidental, conjunction of circumstances, everything that was essential, of interest and of value to him, everything in which he was sincere and did not deceive himself, everything that made the kernel of his life, was hidden from other people.
As soon as I cut and pasted that passage on Facebook, I realized that it wasn't a great fit for the list, which seemed primarily to rely on lyrical language and unexpected turns of phrase as much as sharp bursts of insight. Chekhov is a tremendously fine writer—to say the least!—but the passage here is ultimately driven more by philosophical insight than by poetic language. It's a striking revelation, a stinging truth, but not necessarily a beautiful set of sentences. And yet....

In my own writing, I'm often drawn to exploring moral dilemmas, and this Chekhov passage may stand at the center of such dilemmas: who we are on the surface versus who we are at the core; what our secret selves might think and do when the conflict between the two is forced; what the outcome might be of that secret self being revealed.

Crime fiction isn't alone in being able to force the collision of the surface self and the secret self, but to me, crime fiction offers the kinds of urgency, the kinds of dilemmas and drama, that make such a collision most gripping—often with life and death stakes as opposed to inward-looking, more existential musings. If my stories don't often reflect my own values in terms of how people should act or how justice should be served, then they do try to explore how the most deeply held or most deeply hidden values and passions and fears and doubts and insecurities and more drive me and others—and at the core of it, I hope my stories glance toward the question of what I (or any person) might do if pushed into certain corners, muscled into some pretty tough choices, forced to bring that deeply held, deeply hidden self up to the surface. (On a not-unrelated point: As a tip of the hat to Chekhov, I actually wrote a story inspired by "The Lady with the Dog" and testing some different moral dimensions of the story; "An Internal Complaint" was published in the June 2007 issue of Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine.)

It's been said that the difference between genre fiction and literary fiction hinges on where the action resides. In the former (whether crime fiction, science fiction, or romance), the action takes place at the level of the plot. In literary fiction, on the other hand, the action can be found at the level of the sentence—in the language itself. (And again, I think this idea ultimately drives the BuzzFeed list I mentioned above.) I understand this distinction, but I don't entirely agree with it. The best genre fiction can indeed succeed both with a gripping plot and with gripping, insightful language, and likewise, the best literary fiction isn't diminished by telling a good story, whether it leans toward what we think of as genre writing or not.

Why do I write what I write? As Meredith and R.J. said earlier this week, the easiest answer might be that I write what I like to read—but the reasons behind both of those impulses might be hinted at somewhere in the nebulous intersections of everything I've been writing about, trying to write about, here.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Who Loves Ya, Baby? Redux.

by Alan

Why do you write crime instead of another form of fiction,
like science fiction, romance or general fiction?

(About a year ago, we answered a similar question, so I thought you’d enjoy this “classic” post (okay, a rerun). But if you haven’t read this post before, it’s new to you, and judging by the zero comments I got last year, it will probably be new to you!)

Because we’re talking crime here, I think it’s appropriate to use, uh, bullet points.

  • Justice – I have a well-developed sense of right and wrong, but in the real world, justice doesn’t always prevail. In my world, justice does prevail, often with extreme prejudice.
  • High stakes, high drama – Often, crime is about life and death. For the victims, for the perpetrators, for those suffering the fallout of crime. Writing about characters facing these types of situations makes for compelling drama. kojak
  • Anything goes – criminals do some nasty, nasty things, so as a writer, I don’t feel constrained in any way about what I can write about. I can be as nasty as I want!
  • Fascination – As a kid, my TV diet consisted of all those great cop/detective shows of the 70’s—Mannix, The Rockford Files, The FBI, Adam-12,  Barnaby Jones, Ironside, McMillan & Wife, Banacek, Columbo, Streets of San Francisco, Cannon, Baretta, Starsky & Hutch, Kojak, McCloud, Harry O, Shaft, Cool Million, and for some reason, Police Woman and Charlie’s Angels. For me, it’s not so much “write what you know,” but “write what you’ve watched a million times.”
  • Inside knowledge – It would be a shame to waste the 15 years I spent at Leavenworth.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

I write what I like to read.

By R.J Harlick

"Why do you write crime instead of another form of fiction, like science fiction, romance or general fiction?"

Because I like to kill people… pen, that is. Not really, though often when people ask me what I do for a living, I will reply that I kill people, which either grabs their attention or has them making a hasty retreat until I say, “by pen”.

But to answer the question on a more serious note, I write mysteries because I love to read them. I grew up devouring the books of Nancy Drew, Hercule Poirot, Miss Marple, Sherlock Holms, Lord Peter Wimsey and the like. Even today, I still read more crime fiction than any other type. So when it came time to decide what kind of fiction I should write, it was a no brainer, mystery, of course.

I enjoy reading mysteries because of the puzzle. I like to test my wits to see if I can guess whodunit before he or she is revealed. So the more complicated the plot the better for me.  As a result I like to write mysteries that are also complicated with several subplots going on at the same time.

I also like to travel and have discovered that mystery books provide the perfect way to travel without leaving the comfort of my armchair. I’ve travelled to so many fascinating parts of the world and often will select a mystery book because of its location. Since there are so many fabulous wild places in Canada, I decided that I would give readers the Canadian wilderness experience with my Meg Harris mystery series

To tell the truth the killing part doesn’t so much intrigue me as the motivations behind murder. So I tend to enjoy those mysteries that explore the psychology behind committing the ultimate crime. I’m not talking about psychopaths, but ordinary people, like you or me, and what has happened in their lives to force them into murder. Needless to say, this is an area I like to explore in my own crime writing.

Lastly I read mysteries to learn something new. Not only does crime fiction take me to another place, but often it introduces me to different cultures and societies and the issues facing them in their daily lives.  This is one of the reasons for my choosing to have an underlying Native theme in my series. I wanted to bring their traditional ways alive to my readers and the issues facing them today.

My apologies for the delay in posting this today.  I’m afraid I got caught up in the revisions to my latest Meg Harris mystery, A Cold White Fear, and lost track of time.

Monday, December 8, 2014

A Life of Crime (Fiction)

Why do you write crime instead of another form of fiction, like science fiction, romance or general fiction?

We've all been there. Maybe it's a cocktail party where you're awkwardly trying to balance a beverage and a small plate, and to make small talk without spilling anything. The person asks what you do. You say, "I'm a writer," and hope that they can't see how much you are longing to leave this crowded space and return to the quiet of your computer. "What do you write?" they ask, unless they say that they never have time to read anymore. You tell them and wait. Sometimes they say, "I love mysteries!" and you spend an enjoyable few minutes trading your favorite writer's names. Maybe they even ask for the names of your books so they can read your books. It's all lovely.

But occasionally the person gives you a strange look, or a moue of distaste. "I mostly read non-fiction," they say. Or Pulitzer Prize winning books. Or science fiction. And then you find yourself defending your genre, despite the fact that you very likely read all those other kind of books, too. And like them.

So why do we do it? Why do we write about crime?

It's not an easy question to answer for me. Sure, I have a flippant response or two I can reel off. But the answer is more complicated for me. I always knew I wanted to be a writer. I took a detour into documentary film and feature films. I wrote screenplays. I tried writing other genres (including literary fiction) but never finished the books. But I had always enjoyed reading mysteries. When I went to write my first mystery novel everything seemed to click for me. It felt right. It got published. I did it again. And again. And I continued to read the genre.

So why crime? Well, I decided years ago to write the kind of books I enjoy reading. And I've never regretted it.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Blog, Tweet, Meet and Greet

There are many different ways for promoting a new book. Which do you feel is the most effective?

by Paul D. Marks

It’s always hard coming at the end of the week.  Other people might have hit points that I hit, though I generally write my articles before our week even begins.  But great minds think alike and all of that ;)

I was going to start off by saying it’s a new world we’re living in with the internet and all.  But it’s not so new anymore, especially as things move more and more quickly all the time.  That said, the internet has opened up a whole new wealth of ways to promote your book. And whether you’re with a major publisher, mid-size or indie publisher you will most likely be the one promoting your book or at least doing 93% of it.

The major publishers push the big authors—you know, the ones who don’t really need it, like Stephen King, Anne Rice, Sue Grafton and John Grisham.  But you and your little book, whether you’re pubb’d by a major, a small publisher or an indie, and who could really use a push, well you’re on your own for the most part. But you can do it. It just takes time, effort and a little money. But not nearly as much money as ad campaigns used to take when your only outlets were print, radio and TV.

The internet gives us: Twitter. Facebook. Goodreads and other similar sites.

There’s also a ton of bloggers who review books or interview authors. Ads in things like E Reader News or Kindle Nation Daily or Kindle Review or the very expensive and choosy Book Bub. Even Facebook ads.

And, of course, there’s the old standbys: word of mouth and personal appearances at bookstores, libraries, reader groups, conventions (like Bouchercon, Malice, Left Coast), etc.

If you’ve got money you can hire a publicist. But, just like with anything or anyone else, some might be good, others not so good. And just because they work for a big company or have a fancy office doesn’t necessarily mean they’re better. When I was working in Hollywood my then-writing partner and I got William Morris as agents (have I told this one before?). We thought it was the best day of our lives.  Celebrated. Flying high. But it turned out to be the worst experience as we were the little fish in the big pond. (But I’ll leave the details for another time.) But the best agent I had was working out of his converted garage when I met him. And he hustled for me. And got me work.  And he was eventually picked up as a VP by another large agency and took me with him. The point I’m making here is don’t let the trappings of a big publicist (or publisher for that matter) fool you into thinking you can sit back and do nothing or let things slide

And today there’s a lot you can do yourself.  So even if you can’t afford a publicist it’s not the end of the world. The advantage of a publicist is that they might have lists or contacts of people who might be interested in your book.  They might be able to talk someone into running a piece on you and your book.  But lists can be bought and with persistence you can get the word out.

The bottom line is write a good book, get the word out any way you can. And hope for good word of mouth because that’s still the gold standard of promotion.  And not necessarily easy to obtain.  But if you have a good book and you’re persistent that just might happen for you.

As to which is the most effective, as the expression goes, there’s more than one way to skin a cat.*
There’s not one way that’s best or most effective. The most effective thing is a combination of various methods working symbiotically with each other. Each thing mentioned above works with and pays off each other, but you have to find what works for you. (And any old excuse to put in a cute cat pic.)

*No cats were skinned in the making of this blog post.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

"There are many different ways for promoting a new book. Which do you feel is the most effective?"
by Catriona
Oh God, I knew tackling this topic on Thursday, having read three previous contributions, was going to give me a bad case of galloping inadequacy.
Group tour . . . (Does a family wedding count?) Newsletter . . . (Does mistakenly hitting reply-to-all count?) Be Louise Penny . . . I'll get right on that.
Just about the best thing a publisher has ever said to me was when Midnight Ink told me my first job in promoting the book was to write a great next book.  Writing a book is easier than corralling a street team any day.

It's not as though I do nothing - more that, like Clare said yesterday, I do what I enjoy and it seems weird calling it promotion.  Facebook feels like home now, Twitter like popping next door to borrow a cup of sugar, and Left Coast, Malice and Bouchercon are as fixed in the shape of a year as Christmas, New Year and my birthday. (And then there's Bloody Scotland.)
I also think it's a good idea to have an attractive and easily navigable website, with books in order, a press page and contact links.  Don't you Google every new writer you come across?  I know I want the first thing people find (before the Amazon One-Star Express rolls onscreen) to be what I put there. I had to take a deep breath before I ponied up to Bizango for mine (click here) but I've never regretted it.
What else? Giving books away is a big part of my promotional approach. Large print and audio to the library, prize draws on publication days or to celebrate good reviews, gifts to people who express an interest I can tell falls just short of buying one themselves . . . I think even if these books are discarded they'll be discarded to a thrift store and I first discovered Joyce Carol Oates in a thrift store (and have subsequently given her a decent chunk of my income).
I still can't and will never be able to, if I live to be a hundred, tell someone more than they've asked in the interests of promotion. A typical promo opportunity goes like this:
Potential fan: What do you do?
Catriona: I'm a writer.
PF: Oh? What do you write?
C: Mysteries.
PF: Oh, really?  I love mysteries!
C: Me too. Who do you read?
PF: [names some authors]
C: [names some more authors]
And the conversation is safely off of me. If the PF wants to steer it back I can't stop them.