Friday, June 21, 2024

Railing Against the Algorithm Gods, by Josh Stallings


Q: Tell us about your ideal reader. For whom do you write and why don’t they ever leave reviews or tell you how you’re doing?

A: I never want to feel like I’m walking the same writing path twice. My ideal reader is someone who is flexible in their literary taste to join me on my journey. 

I have never been really good at following rules. Not because I see myself as a rebel or an iconoclast, but mostly because I’m not wired to remember illogical rules. My creative process as both a writer and a film editor is to stuff my head with facts and thoughts and feeling and research. Then I toss it all out the window and trust the good stuff will stick and the unnecessary will drift away. 

Side note: I see lately how connected my process is to my voice. I just looked at my latest WIP I have 37,000 words in my research file. I doubt I will reread any of my notes, but the act of writing them says to my brain, “Pay attention, I might need this info.” By not doggedly adhering to my original thoughts I allow myself to wander down side tracks chasing ideas that I’ve only seen from the corner of my eye. Some readers like my flow, others are irritated by it. But the fact is that flow is my voice regardless of the genre or sub genre I happen to be playing with at the time.

My ideal readers are curious, and willing to go into places that feel unfamiliar and even confusing, trusting the writer will get them home. I just described myself as a reader. So my ideal reader is me I guess. That is also who I write for. 

I write for me as a way of making sense of the world. A way of understanding myself and my life. I write because even at its most difficult it brings me joy. 

As for readers leaving reviews, it is not their responsibility to take any action just because they bought my book, or checked it out from the library. I understand it is about sales. They say that reader’s reviews matter to the algorithm gods at Amazon. That’s the A10 algorithm that replaced its predecessor A9. Okay I have zero idea what that means. I Googled algorithm to figure out how to spell it and found out how much I don’t know. 

Sales matter. If reader reviews convince the algorithm to put my book in front of more readers that is a good thing. Or maybe it’s not. I’m not just looking for readers, I’m looking for readers who will be predisposed to dig my books. 

How do you choose what to read next based on Amazon’s suggestions?

For me it is almost always a personal recommendation. I read Rachel Kushner’s THE FLAMETHROWERS because Charlie Huston said he thought it would be in my wheelhouse. He was correct, it ripped the lid off what I thought could be done with a novel. It felt familiar to how my brain works and yet also excitingly foreign.  

I’m reading Adam Rapp’s WOLF AT THE TABLE on a recommend from my agent Amy Moore-Benson, she said it reminded her of my work. And so far I love it. It is a hard book dealing with broken folks trying to make it through this life. It also has a technique I really dig. Every chapter jumps forward in time. Things have happened and you aren’t sure why or how. This builds suspense without needing a ticking time bomb. Adam Rapp’s command of withholding information and knowing when to tease it and when to deliver is masterful.

None of this is to say I don’t love hearing from readers, I really do. Writing is solitary by nature so when when someone tells me that my books have meant a lot to them, it helps fuel my inner writer. Novels like all art forms are conversations between the creator and the viewer. I was at a bookclub in Idyllwild where they discussed TRICKY, it took the “conversation” to a new level. 

My feeling on readers writing reviews? If it brings you joy, or if it helps you clarify your thoughts about a book, do it. If you love a book, shout about it. Or think of who you know that might love it as well, and tell them about it. We readers are a community that depends on each other to find our way through a massive stack of books to the ones that are right for us. 

There are no wrong answers. There are no books you shouldn’t read or write. In these tech driven days we are reminded, nobody knows nothin. And if they do, it will all change by tomorrow.

Here are some words that made me smile;

“I was going 145 miles an hour. Then 148. I was in an acute case of the present tense.” — The Flamethrowers: A Novel by Rachel Kushner



What I’m reading right now:


Thursday, June 20, 2024

"I write to tell you your book is tripe" by Catriona

Tell us about your ideal reader. For whom do you write and why don’t they ever leave reviews or tell you how you’re doing?

Three separate questions here. I'll answer them in reverse order. Why don't they ever leave reviews? They might. I wouldn't know. I don't read them. I mean, I read reader reviews as a reader. That's what they're for. But I don't read reader reviews of my own books, since I'm not planning on picking one up anytime soon. 

And I did recently advise a friend to start ignoring GoodReads reviews of her own new book, after she had a bruising encounter with an ill-informed opinion there (shocker!). 

Wait though, I'm being too grand here. (Grand might be the wrong term. Wurdz iz hard, after all. Just see that sentence two paragraphs back with all the "read", if you don't believe me.) I do sometimes catch a glimpse of the total number of reviews, if I find myself checking something about my own book on Amazon. So I find out that, yes indeed, reviews can be thin on the ground. Of course, when I catch that glimpse I also see the overall star-rating, so I'm not always sorry there aren't more. Sheesh!

But I don't read them. I've heard it called restraint, steel and even courage. Gimme a break! It's rampant, snivelling cowardice.

My cowardice doesn't protect me anyway. Because they do tell me how I'm doing. They email me. That can be lovely. My favourites down the years have been an elderly gentleman in . . . let's say Missouri; that's not far wrong - who got in touch to say that a bit of Scots I had used was a phrase he knew from his emigrant mother, that he hadn't encountered it since she died in the fifties, and that he had never seen it written down before. Another gem was someone telling me she was rereading Dandy Gilver from Book 1 to soothe herself during trying times. I think I sent her the one she was missing. How could you not?

More often though, the emails are from people who've taken the time to tell me that they didn't like my book and stopped reading on some early page. I write back congratulating them on their sensible use of reading time and hoping they've found something they prefer. (This is not polite. This is passive agression. I always hope it leaves them impotently seething.) The final cohort is people who've found a mistake and broken into a trot to get to the keyboard and let me know. 

Now, here's the thing. If you're reading a new hardback, I want to know about the typos. There's a good chance we can fix it before the paperback comes out. But if they're reading something five years old, I already know. And I think they know I already know. They're telling me nothing about my book. They're telling me a great deal about them, though. None of it good.

(There's someone I used to know in real life, who's still got my email address and only ever gets in touch if he finds something amiss in a book. Years go by and then up he pops again. Such a staggering lack of self-awareness, right?)

So is it Mr Missouri or Ms Ree Read I write for? Hmmmmmmmm. I don't think so. I think I write for the characters, to get them out of my head and put them where they belong: in a book. I might edit for Ideal Reader, but my editors know who that is. I haven't a clue.

I do know who my Ideal Reader isn't. And this storm of emotions is very fresh. As I type this blog entry, my mum is sitting in the same room as me, finishing DEEP BENEATH US and teaching me that if Ideal Reader exists for a corpse-strewn psycho-thriller about a deeply dysfunctional family, including a Medea-style mother, she is not it!

(She's finished it. She enjoyed it.)



Wednesday, June 19, 2024

My Kinda Page-Turner by Eric Beetner

 Tell us about your ideal reader. For whom do you write and why don’t they ever leave reviews or tell you how you’re doing?

One stark fact I’ve had to contend with is that my ideal reader is an endangered species now. We all know reading has trended downward for many, many years. There are still blockbusters, still loyal readers, still dedicated series fans, but younger generations have so many distractions competing for their attention, it’s an uphill battle to entice new readers.

Some genres do better with newer readers like fantasy and romance. The classic crime fiction fan who used to pick a .25 paperback off a spinner rack would probably really like most of my work. Trouble is, most of those readers are dead.

I’ve had conversations with other writers and it is generally agreed that someone like Elmore Leonard would have a very tough time getting published today. That type of criminal-forward, fairly dark, antihero style book isn’t what is topping the best seller lists anymore. Changes in reader tastes over time have eroded that base of hard-boiled crime action readers for sure. Yeah, those were my people. Domestic suspense, romantic suspense, psychological suspense have all become the more dominant choices for crime readers. 

Many of my books, especially early on, were tagged as Noir, which can be a kiss of death for a book in today’s market. But you can’t expect readers to want the same thing that was popular in the 1930s nearly a hundred years later. Times change and tastes change.

My own readership is small, but loyal. That puts me in mind of another phenomenon I see as a brick wall to new writers wanting to break in. The loyal readers. Whether a series or an author, there are so many established legacy authors and brands now that occupy most or all of a reader’s choices in a year, it’s tough to break through to someone who wants the newest Jack Reacher or VI Warshawski or Harry Bosch.

Now, with series continuing after an author’s death, it makes things even harder. Who thought a writer in 2024 would have to compete with a new novel from Agatha Christie or Robert Ludlum, Stuart Woods, Robert B. Parker or Tom Clancy. 

Then there are the Franchise authors like James Patterson who fill the shelves with so much content that readers are never left browsing a bookstore looking for a new find because their beloved series characters all have new titles every time they walk into a store.

So my ideal reader was probably one of those casual readers who want a fast-paced, simply-told story and want it to be on the shorter side, cinematic in its execution and unexpected in the plotting.

In other words – me.

We all really write for ourselves first, don’t we?

But as labels have perhaps been a barrier to potential readership, I love it when I get a nice note or meet someone who I wouldn’t think would be a fan of my work. Maybe it was too violent, maybe too fast-paced without a romantic subplot. Maybe I’m too mean to my main characters from time to time. But then I meet a reader who went all in on what I was trying to do and I’m surprised all over again.

Now, if I can convince that special reader to write a review, then that’s a bonus. But hey, one step at a time. I’m still trying to figure out how to get them to pick up a copy of the book first.

Currently sitting at 27 reviews. I'd love to get that higher. But I'm looking for readers first, reviewers second. I don't expect people to take on a part time job to go along with their pleasure reading.

Tuesday, June 18, 2024

wherefore art thou Ideal Reader

 Wherefore art thou Ideal Reader?

Tell us about your ideal reader. For whom do you write and why don’t they ever leave reviews or tell you how you’re doing?


I can’t answer why reviewers don’t leave reviews. I’m convinced that readers either think reviews don’t matter (THEY DO), or they feel that they can’t write one well. Which leaves me and my fellow authors at the mercy of those who do take the time to leave a few words, for which we are grateful. And then there are the trolls who find that one typo in 300 pages. Rather than their accepting that gremlins exist, they enjoy flogging us writers in public for crimes against language and civilization.


As for an Ideal Reader, I don’t know. I write to explore what I know and have experienced, and to learn what I don’t know about myself and the world around me. While I strive to tell a story and entertain readers, I write for myself. The reader eavesdrops on a private conversation in a public place, but if I had to imagine an Ideal Reader, he or she must:


·      Know history, geography, and culture(s); and

·      They have to think about what is said and not said on the page, meaning I don’t spoon-feed the reader. I don’t expect my readers to be passive.


I’m the author of three series. The Roma Series* bounces back and forth between the US and different parts of Italy, and the main character is Bianca, a driven and analytical forensic accountant with ‘issues.’ She is on the run from a clandestine US agency. The Company Files** is about the early days of the CIA. The Shane Cleary Mysteries series is set in 1970s Boston. All three series share the common theme of history. A crime is the pretense to every novel, but all my stories are about friendships, about love and trust.


The Company Files illustrates some of the serious blunders and growing pains of the intelligence agency. My Ideal Reader would wonder, if an agency could do ‘that’ then, imagine what it can do now. To me, the minds of Allen W. Dulles and Edward Bernays are far more sinister than Hannibal Lecter.


I love Italy, the language, and the country’s history. Unfortunately, for most Americans, their idea of what is ‘Italian’ is limited to the immigrant culture of southern Italy that came to the US between 1880 to 1920, so the Italy they encounter in my series might disorient them. What they’ll experience is based on a good knowledge of contemporary Italy and research.


There is the unfortunate stereotype that anything Italian must be mafia. In the six books that comprise my Roma Series, two of the books, a collection of five novellas in Five Before Rome and Turning to Stone, deal with the mafias, Sicilian and Neapolitan. The rest present variants of white-collar crime, be it money laundering, archaeological theft, or Big Pharma. In Threading the Needle, I introduce readers to the ‘Strategy of Tension,’ a concerted effort on the part of the US government and its allies to destabilize the only viable Communist party in western Europe through a series of assassinations and terrorist attacks. Postwar Italy was caught between the anvil that was the US and allies, and the hammer of the Soviet Union with its own brand of ‘Red Terrorism.’ My Ideal Reader would compare and contrast cultures, and how we deal with the darker side of international politics.  


Real events inspired the plots in the Shane Cleary Mysteries. The murder of a Harvard student in the Combat Zone (Hush Hush). Arson for-profit that entailed systemic corruption in Boston (Symphony Road). Figures in organized crime, while they populate the Shane novels, are tangential to the stories, but accurate to the era. Ditto for the Company Files because the CIA did work hand-in-glove with organized crime, when it suited the US government.


My Ideal Reader would question what he or she had been taught or told by their teachers and the media. In confronting a culture not their own, they interrogate their assumptions about geopolitics, about the ‘social contract’ between the individual and their government. As witnesses to history, they’ll see how far American society has come, and how far we have to go.


I use humor to offset some of the darkness, so my Ideal Reader must have a sense of humor. I happen to find humor the most difficult to write. There is romance in all three series. Violence occurs, often implied and never gratuitous. At every turn, my Reader will see that I respect diversity and don’t succumb to stereotypes. Women are prominent in each series, yet, for better or worse, they are true to societal norms, though they are fierce and independent. Queer characters are present in the Company Files and the Shane Cleary Mysteries.


My Ideal Readers would see that I confront thorny and relevant issues. In the Roma Series, readers don’t hear social issues discussed the way they are here in the US, but they’ll see a different face to the same problems. Immigrants and regional prejudices and stereotypes are issues in Italy. Northern Italy and southern Italy are two antagonists, each half distrustful of the other because of their histories. My reader would see that, despite that the Company Files series is set in the past sexuality, race, and antisemitism were alive and well. With Shane Cleary, a lot depends on the age of the reader. A reader in his fifties or sixties will see how cynical the 70s were because the idealism of the Sixties, whether it was the Kennedy brothers, Hippies, or activism on college campuses, died. They remember that Vietnam was our first defeat as a nation, and our role as the superpower was not secure. A younger reader may encounter history they never knew.


I’ve said numerous times in interviews that Americans don’t know their own history or it is highly selective, if not chauvinistic. My Ideal Reader is by default intellectually curious and takes a contrarian perspective to popular narratives. An Ideal Reader may agree with me that the real casualty to Cancel Culture is not the author’s failure to include DEI but the erasure of individual and collective histories.


*The Roma Series is out of print, rights reverted, but fate unknown.

**Level Best Books will reissue the Company Files


Monday, June 17, 2024

Whoo Hoo! Over Here!

 Q: Tell us about your ideal reader. For whom do you write and why don’t they ever leave reviews or tell you how you’re doing?


-from Susan


Interesting. Rhys Bowen and I were just talking about who we write for – who our ideal reader is and why. As you doubtless know, Rhys has about a million of them, people who love her multiple series and standalones and wait eagerly for the next one. She can hardly write fast enough, but she refuses to write a book so quickly that it doesn’t meet her own high standards, so wait they do. Willingly. Ready to buy, to write reviews, to stay with her on Facebook and Instagram, to fill the bookstores when she visits. I have none of that.


Rhys says you don’t have to write something just so people will like it, but you have to find the people who like what you write. She said I’m kind of sophisticated, like to travel, know something about art and culture (well, she didn’t say it quite like that, but I’m blushing a bit as it is) and my ideal reader would have some of those characteristics too. Bluntly, readers who are most comfortable sticking with what they already know, who want to guarantee that the book they pick up will wrap them in something familiar – just like the last book they read? – may find it uncomfortable to be asked to venture into, let’s say, a foreign country with food they don’t think they’d like, or art they don’t appreciate. I’m not knocking them; they are some other author’s ideal readers, and bless them for buying books. 


When I pivot to the fellow authors I read and enjoy, it’s a different cohort. I read lots of crime fiction, ranging from the lighthearted period series Her Royal Spyness (one of Rhys’s that I have enjoyed since the first one) to the atmosphere-rich Samuel Craddock police procedurals Terry Shames writes and the intense and offbeat thrillers several of my Minds colleagues write. I relish French author Fred Vargas’s peculiar crime stories set in Paris, Alexander Smith’s wonderful “first lady detective agency” series set admiringly in Botswana…I could go on. My ideal reader likes at least some of them also. The real problem for me is, how to I get the attention of their readers so they’ll give me a try? I haven’t found them and they haven’t found me. Maybe I need to spend big bucks on a book-specific p.r. person?


As to getting Amazon and Goodreads reviews, again, I’m not sure. I feel uncomfortable asking for reviews, although some fellow authors to it frankly, openly and without any qualms. I tuck a “If you like it, please review” note into the books I give away in contests, but not much happens. Maybe the recipients weren’t my audience and didn’t like the free book they got. 


This question is a good challenge, but I don’t seem to have any answers. If I give YOU a free book, will you review it?!


 Punk's assessment of my pathetic attempts at book promotion!)


Thursday, June 13, 2024

Social Media - Handle with Care. By Harini Nagendra

Here's the question we're answering this week on Minds: What’s your social media strategy? Do you try to promote a brand or a reputation?

Way back in ancient history, I first heard about this new platform called LinkedIn, from my sister. You have to get an account, she insisted. It's great for jobs and networking. Not for academics, I thought - but on her urging, I created an account, and then promptly forgot all about it - except for accepting the occasional invite.

Then in 2015, I was writing my first book, a non-fiction book on Bangalore. A friend pointed out that I really needed to open a twitter account and claim my space, so to speak. I created an account, and then forgot about that too - except when my book launched, and I posted a few promotional messages. After a while, I started to use twitter more regularly, but for my research. It was used by climate scientists regularly, and a great place to go to, to engage in conversations and encounter new ideas. That was before the great collapse happened of course.   

Then I started to write more regularly - and realized the utility of social media. I now use LinkedIn and twitter semi-regularly, as well as Instagram and Facebook. Because using four different platforms can suck up your time, I try and keep it simple - usually posting the same material on all four sites. I haven't done any fancy analysis, but I have noticed that my readership is quite different across these sites - what gets traction on one platform will sink unnoticed into the swarm of new posts on another. And I can't predict why. It baffles me. 

I find social media most useful for what is often called 'networking' - learning what's going on in the world of climate change or mystery writing - and importantly, to make new friends. Through Facebook, I learnt about and joined Mystery Writers of America - a chance meeting at a Mystery Writers of America connected me with James Ziskin and Catriona McPherson, which then - many months later - led me to this terrific group of Criminal Minds writers! Thanks to Facebook, I also connected with more writer friends who launched a Facebook group called the Cozy Crime Collective - with members in Ireland, Australia, the USA and other parts of the world. What fun - and there's no way that any of this would have happened without social media. 

Buuut... I'm very skeptical about the value of using social media to promote your own writing and drive sales. It's a great way to get more people to read, say, a newspaper op-ed that I write, or a blog post. And it's certainly gratifying for the ego (which can be very dangerous). If I post a pretty reel and get a ton of 'likes', does that translate into sales, though? Unlikely. In my experience, what's worked best is when a reader enjoys my book and shares it with their family and friends. To get more readers, a writer needs to get off that social media blackhole and use that time to stare at a blank screen - and hopefully, write another book.

So, what's my social media strategy? It's to prevent doomscrolling and stop these attention-hijacking platforms from taking over. I don't have social media apps on my phone - I only install the apps when I have a new book to promote. Otherwise, I use my computer to read and post, which imposes a certain discipline - that way, I'm not obsessively scrolling through my phone on the way to work, or before going to bed. I've tried that, and the people who design these things are way smarter than I am - they know how to grab your attention, and hold on to it.

I don't have a fixed schedule to post. I post when I have something to share. But I do love reading about what my friends and colleagues in the world of climate change and fiction writing are doing, and for me that's the best part of this. Connecting to different parts of the world while living in Bangalore... what could be better?

If you're still with me - Kings River Life is running a US-only giveaway for my latest book, A Nest of Vipers - to enter the contest, click here!

A Nest of Vipers By Harini Nagendra: Review/Giveaway | Kings River Life Magazine


The Social Contract from James W. Ziskin

What’s your social media strategy? Do you try to promote a brand or a reputation?

I don’t have an organized, well-thought-out social media strategy. That is to say I’m a pantser, not a plotter, when it comes to the Internet and my writing career. I know more or less where I want to go and what I’d like to achieve, but the windshield is foggy and the map is torn. I remember the old Thomas Guides maps of Los Angeles. The ones before there was GPS. Before even MapQuest, the Thomas Guide taught me how to get around LA. Google Maps doesn’t teach, it tells. Today we follow the directions without thinking, and that’s probably why we don’t know where we’re going. We’ve been seduced. It’s easier to do what we’re told.

So, to wring even more life out of this analogy, I don’t use anything like Google Maps to plan my social media strategy, I use what I’ve gleaned from Thomas Guides. I know how to get from Hollywood to Westwood, even if it’s not the most efficient route. And forget about avoiding traffic, accidents, and speed traps. I can’t see any of those when I set out on the Internet.

But I do try to arrive on time. Or in time. I hope my posts and promotions strike some kind of chord with readers.

Here are some bits of advice I tell myself regarding my social media posts. And I agree to follow my sage counsel. Let’s call it my “Social Contract.”

1. 🎶 Oh, Lord, please don’t let me be misunderstood 🎶
Be clear, Jim! Be brief. Not everyone appreciates long-winded theses in their Facebook feeds. And, while you’re at it, avoid controversy. Unless you want to argue with strangers and offend/lose friends.

2. 🎶  I can see clearly now 🎶

Good photos. Fun photos. Of yourself. No blurry photos! Your friends like to see you. You always seem to get more clicks when there’s a picture of you, even if you do have an ugly mug like me. 

And cats. Don’t forget to post pictures of cats.

3. 🎶  Don’t let the sun go down on me 🎶

Make sure you don’t fade away. Post something about your writing career—your successes—from time to time. Just to stay in the game. You don’t want readers to forget about you.

4. 🎶  You’re so vain 🎶

“But enough about ME. Tell me what YOU think of my book…” Jim, don’t be that guy who only promotes himself. Aim for a healthy balance. Yes, you’re on social media to further your writing career, but don’t make your online presence a late-night infomercial. Or a bad date with a blowhard. Talk about other things besides your writing. Entertain. Show that you’re an interesting person instead of telling people you’re a talented author. 

5. 🎶  Shower the people you love with love 🎶
Share the spotlight, Jim. Pay it backward and forward. Promote your writer friends. And writers you don’t know. Tell readers about other writers, the famous and the not-so-famous. Don’t hog the limelight of your own posts. Be generous.

6. 🎶  I can’t help falling in love with you 🎶
Okay, Jim, maybe “love” is too strong a word. But you want readers to like you. Find you interesting, compelling, entertaining. You want them to want you as a friend, invite you to their parties. So don’t be a dick online. You don’t necessarily score points for being nice, but you sure lose them quickly for being a jerk. Don’t mock others. Don’t rain on parades. You hate that movie? That song everyone’s talking about? Fine. Share your opinion with friends and wretched, like-minded people in your private life. Social media is public. And it doesn’t go away. Sure, you might be clever and make some people laugh, but you’ll alienate others. Don’t believe everyone will admire your wit, hoist you on their shoulders, and parade you around the room. A lot of folks will think you’re arrogant and clueless.

The above are strategies and practices I follow to cultivate an online identity. I’m not saying I fake who I am. But I try to be aware that readers like to be intrigued by you and, by extension, your writing. And if you’re a writer, you probably want to be entertaining and likable. Maybe like an old song.

Wednesday, June 12, 2024

Outreach online

What’s your social media strategy? Do you try to promote a brand or a reputation?

Although I participate, I’m no expert on social media. Since I got onboard, the idea’s been simple: to network and build relationships. On the personal side, these platforms keep me connected, and they’ve also allowed me to meet new friends, many who I’ve had a chance to get together with at a variety of writer events. 

On the business side, the idea is to gain attention and followers. For me, it means joining groups, chatting, commenting, posting images and clips of new books, upcoming events and so on. On Facebook, there are my personal and author’s pages, as well as various Writers’ groups I’ve joined. Business ads can be had and posts can be boosted. There’s also X which is good for real-time posts and ads can be bought here as well to help broaden the audience. Instagram’s another place to post images and videos. And Goodreads connects me with others who share the love of books. Aside from making connections, there are reviews and comments on just about everything that’s ever been published as well as letting me know about new releases. I like that it lets me keep track of the books I’ve read as well as the ones I want to put on my TBR pile. And it allows me to set up some giveaways of my own new releases.

Joining these sites is free, excerpt for the ads, post boosts, and giveaways, and they are all a great ways to drive attention to my website, here to the Criminal Minds site, and to my own blog site Off the Cuff.

And since we’re on the topic of promotion, I may as well tell you about my

next novel called Crooked. It’s published by ECW Press and launches on September 24th. 

Here’s the synopsis:

Notorious outlaws Alvin Karpis and Fred Barker meet the old-fashioned way: serving time in Kansas State Prison. After their release in 1931, the two reconnect and form the infamous Barker-Karpis Gang and begin a spree of robberies that leave a wake of terror in their path, including two dead cops. Now hunted in several states, the gang settles into hiding in St. Paul, Minnesota, where they thrive under the protection of a crooked police chief, who happily turns a blind eye to their activities — so long as they commit crimes outside of his jurisdiction. With increased security at banks, the Barker-Karpis Gang switches to kidnapping, catching the attention of J. Edgar Hoover and the FBI and landing them at the top of the most-wanted list.

The cover’s being finalized, and as yet there are no planned events around the launch, but once it’s all finalized, the info will be posted — you guessed it — at the various social media sites.

Tuesday, June 11, 2024



Terry here with this week's question: What’s your social media strategy? Do you try to promote a brand or a reputation? 

There used to be something called "platform." These days it's called your "brand." Which makes me think of cattle.
And "brand new." And "What brand of toothpaste do you use?" 

 Alas, if you're reading this for advice, you can stop here. In truth, I have no social media strategy. I can't think of my books in terms of "brand." When I try to do self-promotion on Facebook or X, I get all shy and tongue-tied. In person, I know I'm congenial and able to be myself. For some reason, on the social media page, I freeze. If I'm talking about politics or sports or my pets, or my pet peeves, I have no trouble spouting out whatever comes to mind and feeling relaxed about it. But if I'm talking about my books--the beloved fruits of my toil--I become stilted. 

 I envy those authors on social media who seem to have a light touch that somehow draws you into their orbit and makes you want to buy their books. I think of Meg Gardiner, Hank Phillipi Ryan, Rhys Bowen, Joe Clifford, Matt Coyle, Art name a very few. Each of them has their own style that sets them apart. From perky to gloomy, to stylish to avuncular, they seem to be able to breeze in and out of social media, even when touting their books. 

 When I have a new book out or a good review, I dutifully put it onto the Facebook or X page. Somehow when Cara Black says, "I'm so excited about my new..." it sounds like she really means it. But when I say I'm excited, it feels phony. Am I really excited? Or am I just going through the motions of pretending to be excited? I sometimes think about hiring someone to do my social media presence, but I always think I should be able to be authentic for myself. But what is authentic? To promote my Samuel Craddock books should I start a page about cattle? Or barbecue? Or older lawmen? To promote Jessie Madison, should I start posting about diving? Or going to exotic places?
I don't even know where to begin trying to wrestle social media into submission. I've read books on the subject, attended talks and panels, and tried to stay open to the idea of making my social media "work" for me. But so far, it continues to always feel awkward, like I'm trying to sell Tupperware to my friends. Maybe that's where I'm going wrong--thinking that everybody on social media is my friend. But then again...that's exactly what I think.

Sunday, June 9, 2024

Being Social

What’s your social media strategy? Do you try to promote a brand or a reputation?


My social media strategy is not all that sophisticated. I post book news on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter (X), and more recently, Threads. I have private and public addresses on both Facebook and Instagram, although most of what I post on all the sites concerns my books. I'm finding the longer social media carries on, the less likely I am to post anything about my personal life, even on my private accounts.

Another key part of my social media strategy is blogging not only on 7 Criminal Minds every other Monday, but also on my own website. I blog every Saturday but started taking summers off a few years ago, ending in April or May and beginning again in September. I talk about my writing week, events, media coverage and news. I'm amazed at how many people tell me they read it weekly!

As for promoting a brand, I had photos taken by a photographer and these are used widely. I suppose I've been branded as a local Ottawa crime fiction author who sets her stories in this end of the country. I'm also somewhere between cosy and really gritty -- writing more the 'medium-boiled' kind of mysteries.

My online reputation is probably low-key, upbeat and respectful. I respond to every interaction from readers who send messages to me, and I work at being approachable. I don't comment on politics or rant about issues on my public sites. My social media is all about writing, books and outreach to readers, other authors, librarians, booksellers and media.

For me, social media is all about spreading the word! You can follow me at any of the links below :-) 


Twitter (X) 7: brendaAchapman

Facebook & Instagram & Threads: BrendaChapmanAuthor