Left Isis
Right Isis

May 9th, 2008

I met Canadian author Sharon Rowse at Bouchercon in Alaska last fall, before her first book, The Silk Train Murder was quite out. I liked her right away, so I got hold of the book when it hit the shelves, and enjoyed the heck out of it. So I asked Sharon if she’d do a guest blog for me, about the life of a newly-published author, and she graciously did. I think that you’ll hear a lot about Sharon in days to come, Dear Reader. Silk Train has gotten great reviews, and in fact is a finalist for the Aurthur Ellis Award as best first mystery. This Sunday, Sharon will be the very first guest blogger on www.typem4murder.blogspot.com. I have a link to Sharon’s own website on my “Links” page, above.

So without more adieu, here’s Sharon.

Donis was kind enough to ask me to write a guest blog, giving me carte blanche to write about anything relating to writing mysteries, but especially relating to promotion for newly published authors. Here goes:

So – the dream comes true. My first book’s been published – and in hardcover, yet. THE SILK TRAIN MURDER came out in January in the States and in February in Canada. (Sometimes I still can’t quite believe it.) Now what?

Well, there’s publicity. I thought I was prepared – the website was live, I had bookmarks. My publisher had done a great job – the cover was appealing and the book looked great. The publicist had sent review copies to a variety of media sources… and the rest was up to me.

I arranged some bookstore signings and readings – which went well – and a launch party (great fun!) I sent out postcards (not sure that worked.) I wandered into local bookstores, offering to sign copies. Some were excited to see me, others looked at me blankly, as if wondering where I’d come from. Note to self – talk to the manager ahead of time, rather than just showing up.

One of the best things I did, though, was signing up for first time for Left Coast Crime (this year in Denver, CO) and the Malice Domestic in Arlington, VA. LCC was in early March, Malice at the end of April – my first conferences as an actual published author. I arrived in Denver with great hopes and a bad case of nerves. First up was the new author breakfast – three minutes to pitch your book to a room full of mystery devotees.

Despite the early hour, I came away feeling charged up by the energy in the room. The whole conference went like that – it was a wonderful experience, talking with readers and my fellow writers. An entire weekend sharing a love of mystery. It was a nice size for a conference, small enough to really get to know people. For me, the LCC experience was about belonging.

I was so busy in the weeks leading up to Malice Domestic, I didn’t have time for nerves. The first morning was the New Author Go-Round – authors going from table to table, pitching their books and answering questions for 3 minutes, then moving on to the next table, and the next, and… I thoroughly enjoyed the interaction with so many readers. In the process I honed my pitch; the questions helped me focus on what readers were most interested in. By table 15 it went something like this:

“THE SILK TRAIN MURDER is an historical mystery set in Vancouver (BC) in 1899. The book opens with recovering gold-seeker John Lansdowne Granville taking a job guarding the silk trains that raced across the continent from Vancouver to New York. He finds a body on the docks, his friend is jailed for murder, and Granville has ten days to find the real killer and save his friend – with a lot of help from an emancipated young lady named Emily Turner.”

The following morning was the New Author Breakfast – here comes that pitch again – though this time as part of a 3 minute interview – plus a chance to talk with those at your table. Malice is a larger conference than LCC, and there’s a great sense of community – and continuity. People come year after year, and yet there’s a welcoming of new members to the community.

I’m realizing there’s no end to the publicity one could do – especially as a new author – except for those pesky time and money constraints. (My full-time job helps with one but severely limits the other!) It ends up being a balancing game – I’m slowly finding out what works best for my circumstances, which wouldn’t be the same for another author. Finding time and creative energy to write the next book – I’m working on the next book in the Granville/Emily series – adds another challenge. I’d encourage any new author to go to a conference or two, though. It’s well worth the investment of time and money.

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