Paul here. Today I’d like to welcome Connie di Marco, author, actress and super souper. As Connie di Marco she writes the Zodiac Mysteries from Midnight Ink, featuring San Francisco astrologer Julia Bonatti. Writing as Connie Archer, she’s also the author of the national bestselling Soup Lover’s Mysteries from Berkley Prime Crime. Her excerpts and recipes are featured in The Cozy Cookbook and The Mystery Writers of America Cookbook. She has appeared in numerous television and film roles under her professional name and lives in Los Angeles with her family and a constantly talking cat. She is a member of Mystery Writers of America, International Thriller Writers and Sisters in Crime. You can visit her at www.ConniediMarco.com or www.ConnieArcherMysteries.com.
And now I have to worry that she’ll get even with me (see her post below) and slip a Mickey into my soup. So before that can happen, take it away, Connie:
With thousands of new titles being published every day, what do you do to try to raise your new book above the fray and catch the eye of readers?
Oh, why do you have to ask this question??? I wish I could answer and offer some brilliant ideas! I have my friend Paul Marks to
blame thank for inviting me over today, and for that I’ll get even with him. I will.
See, I never even thought about being a writer, much less a marketer. I was busy doing all kinds of other things in life, but after years of being a devotée of mysteries and thrillers, and out of sheer creative frustration, I decided I would try to write a mystery and hopefully be traditionally published . . . someday . . . maybe. It wasn’t a burning obsession. Not really.
Little did I realize that actually getting published would be like falling into the front seat of a roller coaster just as it was about to take off. I had barely enough time to get a website up and running when my agent called and said, “Well, you know you’ll have to blog and do giveaways and maybe write some magazine articles . . .” I freaked.
I thought, I wrote a book! What else could I possibly have to say?
Luckily for me, my very first book, A Spoonful of Murder, was a blessed little thing and when a senior editor at my publishing house two months after its release said, “Your book is in its third printing!” wine glass in hand, I was smart enough to shut my mouth for once and just nod. I was about to ask, “Is that good?” (I guess it was. That editor seemed impressed.) That’s how little I knew about the business of selling books.
At the same time, everyone was warning me about the dreaded “sophomore effect,” so as time went on I figured I better get off my lazy (computer chair) and do something to keep sales up. That’s when I discovered I wasn’t too bad at running off at the mouth, er, blogging. So I did all the things that writers do – blog tours, interviews, library panels, book events, conferences, giveaways, you name it. But did I have a clue as to what was actually working, i.e., getting attention, selling books? Nope. And I still don’t know.
At least with my first series, the Soup Lover’s Mysteries, I had a brand – soup! On blog tours I gifted crockpots and soup bowls to lucky winners. I gave out bookmarks at polling tables on voting days, and . . . I thought this was truly inspired (maybe a little embarrassing), I went to Costco and Target and Walgreens, any place that sold books, and inserted my bookmarks into every mystery, cozy, thriller and cookbook I could find. I thought, Why not? I’m not stealing anything. It’s a gift. Right?
I haven’t as yet come up with any really unique ideas for my new series, the Zodiac Mysteries. Not
yet, but I hope inspiration will strike. I could offer a giveaway of an all-expense-paid trip to San Francisco where my astrologer protagonist solves city crimes, but it’s a wee bit out of my marketing budget. Maybe I could limit it to people who live between Oakland and Yountville?
The deeper question here is how do we catch and harness that lightning bolt of . . . What? Success? Fame? Where publishers are beating on our front door and offering more and more bucks?
When Anne Cleeves’ publisher released her first Vera book, pre-internet, it was overlooked and not even listed in the publisher’s catalogue. The series went nowhere. She kept writing. Fifteen years later, a producer in the UK found a Vera book in a charity shop and fell in love with Cleeves’ creation.
Harrison Ford was once asked how he had achieved success in his career. He replied that he must have had ‘cultural utility.’ That answer gave me pause for thought. Is it that simple? Is there a face, a book, an idea whose time has finally arrived? Something that sparks notice or notoriety? As writers, how do we catch that pipeline wave (I’m mixing metaphors here) or even recognize that it’s on its way? Or more importantly, do we even want to be concerned with such things? Because then we’re writing for the marketplace, not from our hearts.
We work in isolation, often oblivious to current trends. And everyone, even publishers are taken by surprise when a zeitgeist appears. Should we worry about that? Try to catch that wave? Or just write the best book we can and pour our heart and soul into it?
Five years later, I still ruminate over all those questions. But to be perfectly honest, after eight books, I’m a little tuckered out. I’m sick of marketing. I realize I hate Facebook. I don’t even know how to find the ‘pokes.’
Help Leslie Scaggs and Joy Meier celebrate their birthdays.
I don’t know them! Go away!!!
Do you know Harriet Walker, Ellen Gillis and LynDee Stephens?
Yes, I do tweet. Or as Stephen Colbert once famously said, “I have twotted.”
I hate LinkedIn even more, it nags you mercilessly.
Connie, people are looking at your LinkedIn profile.
Tell them to f&*$% . . .
So – do I have any bright ideas? Something that will sell tons of books? Nope. I wish I did because if there were some magic bullet, believe me I would use it. I’m back to square one. I guess the best and only thing we can all do is write the next book, and continue to Tweet, blog, post on FB, get to conferences, be interviewed and dust off our psyches and just keep on keepin’ on.
But the most important thing is to write the next book and make sure it’s a really good one! And who knows? Maybe that next one will get zapped by the lightning bolt of great success.
Thanks, Connie and good luck!
And now for the usual BSP:
Anthony Nominations close in about 2 weeks. Which is 2 weeks in which you can still read my story “Ghosts of Bunker Hill,” from the 12/16 Ellery Queen. And which was voted #1 in Ellery Queen’s Readers Poll for 2016. It’s available FREE on my website along with “Nature of the Beast,” published on David Cranmer’s Beat to a Pulp, and “Deserted Cities of the Heart,” published in Akashic’s St. Louis Noir. All from 2016 and all eligible. Click here to read them for free.