If you are interested in blogging or want to promote your book, please contact E. B. Davis at writerswhokill@gmail.com.

August Interviews

8/5 Lucy Burdette, The Key Lime Crime

8/12 Maggie Toussaint, All Done With It

8/19 Julie Mulhern, Killer Queen

8/26 Debra Goldstein, Three Treats Too Many

August Guest Bloggers

8/8 Leslie Wheeler

8/15 Jean Rabe

August Interviews

8/22 Kait Carson

8/29 WWK Authors--What We're Reading Now


Congratulations to our two Silver Falchion Finalists Connie Berry and Debra Goldstein!

Paula Gail Benson's "Cosway's Confidence" placed second and Debra Goldstein's "Wabbit's Carat" received Honorable Mention in the Bethlehem Writers Roundtable 2020 short story contest. Congratulations, Paula and Debra!

Susan Van Kirk's Three May Keep A Secret has been republished by Harlequinn's Worldwide Mystery. The WWK interview about the book can be accessed here. We're so glad another publisher picked up this series.

KM Rockwood's "Burning Desire," and Paula Gail Benson's "Living One's Own Truth," have been published in the anthology Heartbreaks & Half-truths. Congratulations to all of the WWK writers.

Please join Margaret S. Hamilton's Kings River Life podcast of her short story "Busted at the Book Sale" here. Congratulations, Margaret!

Look Margaret S. Hamilton's short stories in the new Mid-Century Murder by Darkhouse Books. Margaret's story is titled "4BR/3.5BA Contemporary."

Grace Topping's second novel in Laura Bishop staging series, Staging Wars, was released by Henery Press on April 28th. Look for the interview here from April 29th.

Annette Dashofy's 10th Zoe Chambers mystery, Til Death, will be released on June 16th. Look for the interview here on June 17.


Monday, June 27, 2016

How to Keep Your Favorite Writers and Books from Disappearing

Ever since mystery publishing had a major upheaval just a few months ago in which many writers of mystery series were dropped by their publishers and many long-time editors in the field were laid off, I’ve been thinking seriously about book sales. I’ve written and spoken a number of times about what an avid reader can do to support the authors s/he loves, and so I thought I’d compile all of those actions into a blog post for today.

As a reader of novels, I was often disappointed and horrified when authors that I loved disappeared or stopped writing series I loved and started writing another that I might not be as fond of.  After I became a published novelist and got to know many other published novelists, I discovered how these things happen and what I as a reader can do about them. A couple of examples—one writer’s books always get rave reviews in the big journals, usually starred reviews, she always earns out her advances, and every single book has been a finalist for some of the biggest awards, but her publisher, one of the Big Five, has dropped her. Why? Her books aren’t increasing in sales enough from book to book, even though they are increasing and are profitable to the publisher. She is looking at writing novels in a different genre now. Another writer had an award-winning series of witty, well-written private-eye novels. He was dropped because it was determined that private-eye novels wouldn’t be selling well soon (a prediction that turned out wrong). He couldn’t get a publisher then. So he had to take a woman’s name and start writing very successful cozies under that.

Often even famous writers are just a breath or two away from tumbling down the slopes in the fickle game of publishing, and success is even more volatile for midlist authors. There are dozens of other stories like these that I could tell. This is what’s happening to the authors you love who vanish and what may well happen to the authors you love now. Even selling enough to earn out their advances is not enough, if they are not increasing their sales drastically with each book. How can we help the authors we love to do that so we can keep reading the books we’re addicted to? Here’s a little list. (And incidentally, most of these tips will help your favorite authors who are indie published or hybrid authors, as well.)

Pre-orders— pre-orders have become more and more important to writers. Publishers often decide how big a print run and how much, if any, promotion they will give a book based on pre-orders. Bookstores base orders on that, too. So pre-orders can determine whether your book will be on the shelves in bookstores around the country or have to be special-ordered.  This can be critical for indie published authors since bookstores tend not to carry their books—and Amazon is making it more possible for them to set up pre-orders, as well.

Other things you can do to help are clicking "likes" and "tags" on Amazon. Reviews on Amazon and Goodreads count more toward sales than those longer ones on my blog or elsewhere, and don’t forget Barnes & Noble and Library Thing. Post your author’s book in your WantToRead file on Goodreads when you know the book is coming. Publishers tell us that is important, that other readers look at those and often decide whether to buy the book based on how many other people have listed it as something they want. But reviews on your blog or other review sites do help, as well as in-person book recommendations. I know I’m doing a lot more book recommendations now and not just waiting for folks to ask me.

As soon as I know a book is coming out by one of my favorite writers, I request my library system order that book—and my own pre-orders for those books are through local bookstores because that helps them decide whether or not to order in that book to have on the shelves. Ask your library to order the book, and then check it out. Library sales are important to most authors, and we love libraries. If you check out our books, the libraries will keep buying them and won’t sell us off for pennies at the Friends of the Library book sale. (Many libraries get rid of books that haven’t been checked out in more than a year, so even if you own a book, checking out from your local library helps keep your author alive there.)

When we order books from our local bookstore, we need to tell them what we like about that author and why s/he might be a good fit for the store. That not only can convince them to order the book, but also gives them something to tell people when they ask about it.

Talk up your author and book on Facebook and Twitter. I know for a fact that people have bought my books because of wonderful things some of my fans have posted on those two platforms about them. Word of mouth is still the best advertising.

If you’re in a book club or book discussion group or anything like that, suggest your author’s book for the group to read and discuss.

If you take one or more of these actions for your author, you have given great support and taken steps to make sure that s/he will be able to continue writing and publishing the books you love. Anything we can do to help others learn about the authors and books we love helps to keep them available to us, too.

Publishing is particularly volatile right now. Many of our favorite authors have lost not only their publishers, but even their agents. Check their websites and author pages to see if their series will be continued by another publisher or through their own efforts. If not and they’re having to start a new series, please give it a chance, even if you’re mad that their other series you loved is now gone. They loved it, too, but had no say about it being dropped. Don’t get angry with the author. If you liked their other series, you may well love this new one. At least, give it a chance.

The rocky state of publishing is causing authors to make serious adjustments and will require the same from dedicated readers, I’m afraid.


Kait said...

What great tips, Linda. This is a scary time for writers. The cancellation of so many well loved series has rocked the reading and the writing world. It's good to know that there is something we can do proactively.

saveourcoziesreadathon said...

Thank you for the great post. All the advice we have been trying to spread in one place :)

Jim Jackson said...

The publishers, for better or worse, are run by numbers people, Quality without sales does not cut it when compared to crap that sells well. Therefore, if you appreciate quality, you have to pay for it and encourage others to pay for it.

~ Jim

Margaret S. Hamilton said...

More things to incorporate into my reading and writing routine! Thank you for the insights.

Grace Topping said...

Thanks, Linda, for the suggestions. I have several writer friends who have had their series dropped. So sad. One decided to self publish the next book in her series. Others have lost heart and are evaluating their publishing futures.

Shari Randall said...

Deplorable situation. Instead of letting good books find their readers - giving books time to find their readers - the publishers are making it all a numbers game. As someone who is just about to turn my first cozy in to my publisher, I am more than a bit concerned about this situation. I feel like I'm going to step off a cliff!

dollycas aka Lori said...

Wonderful post!

KM Rockwood said...

There's no doubt that the publishing world is changing, and no way to know who it will benefit and who it will harm.

Self-publishing is becoming more and more respected. It is, of course, one way an author can continue to produce the work they he/she wants to. Then the question becomes how does an individual publicize and distribute the work, both before and after publication. It doesn't matter how good a book is, if readers don't find it, it will never either become a popular book or earn enough money to support the author.

In the world of popular music, similar phenomena are apparent. And so much content is distributed without the users paying for it that only those who can command the attention needed for concerts and other paying public appearances.

I hope we're not all going to go the way of poets. When was the last time you heard of a poet who was able to support him/herself on the poetry?

Linda Rodriguez said...

Kait, yes, it's a scary time, but publishing goes through scary times periodically. As readers, there's a lot we can do to support our favorite writers, and as writers, we often just have to reinvent ourselves and hope our readers will follow us on our new paths.

SaveOurCozies, you all are the kind of actively supporting readers that writers love.

Jim, you're absolutely right. Unfortunately, the spreadsheet guys have the final say in publishing any more, and it's just as hard for editors (who mostly love writers and books) as it is for us writers.

Linda Rodriguez said...

Margaret, thank you for being the kind of supportive reader you are.

Grace, it's tough. I know. All of us writers, even the ones who weren't dropped (this time), are having to re-evaluate our career paths and see if we can diversify. Fortunately, most of us are resilient.

Shari, don't get scared. Write good books. Do what you can to promote them. But keep in mind the need not to have all your eggs in one basket. And we all need to remember that some huge bestsellers now once had their series dropped in earlier publishing turmoils. There is life after the death of a series.

Linda Rodriguez said...

Thanks, Lori!

KM, glutton for punishment that I am, I'm a poet as well as a mystery novelist. LOL *sob* And you're right, we haven't talked about the plague of book piracy, which I know firsthand can have a deleterious effect on your book sales. And the big publishers know that but do little about it--except drop writers when their sales drop, often coincident with the pirates finding their books and putting them up. There are bulletin boards on some pirate sites where people sing the praises of certain of my books as they rob me of income and the sales that could keep those books being published. A real disconnect. But that's another post that I'll tackle soon.

Ellen Byerrum said...

Great thought-provoking article. Thanks for writing it.

Gloria Alden said...

Good information, Linda. I belong to two book clubs and pick author's books I've loved for each book club. I hadn't thought of posting it on Facebook, too. I tend not to go on Facebook often. As someone who self-publishes, and is quite happy doing it, I give my books to local libraries, and find I'm getting quite a following. No, it doesn't mean money in my pocket, but it does mean readers, and that's what is first on my list even more than money. I hadn't thought of taking a book out of a library even though I've already bought the book. Unfortunately, the only book store within easy driving distance is Books a Million, not a very good book store in my opinion although I did buy a book there recently.

Linda Rodriguez said...

Ellen, thank you for sharing it. The more readers who know about these things they can do, the better.

Gloria,yes, do check out favorite books from the library, even if you own them. Libraries get rid of books every year--and sometimes more often than that--in large quantities. If a book has been checked out by several people, the library will keep it, so if you want to see certain books stay available in the library for other people--or even yourself if something happens to your copy--check those books out. And don't forget to request that the library buy books you want to read. When you do these things, you're not only helping authors but helping libraries. They use the figures of checkouts and requests as part of their stats on library use. Since libraries are under attack right now, any use you make of them helps them justify their existence. Another soon-to-come blog.

Reine said...

Thank you, Linda. Your suggestions are excellent. I've recently started writing brief reviews on Amazon. In addition to the new books I buy, I like to review older books by current authors as well as new. Is that valuable? One author I used to read said if you don't review it right away not to bother.

Linda Rodriguez said...

Reine, that author was wrong. Yes, it's important to get reviews early on, but a review is ALWAYS helpful. xoxoxo

Reine said...

Thank you, Linda!

Joyce Tremel said...

Excellent post, Linda! Even though publishing is a scary place these days, we just have to keep on keeping on. If my series doesn't continue after book 3, I'll just write something else. It's what we do!

Linda Rodriguez said...

Joyce, that's the kind of resilience I was talking about in an earlier comment. It does make it tough for writers who depend on their writing to support them and their families.