Selling Your Novel to Readers – A Malice Domestic Report by Catherine Dilts



When I attended the traditional mystery convention Malice Domestic this May, I had to overcome my reluctance to push my book. I’m an introvert, with a wide streak of shy. Schmoozing with strangers is my idea of torture.

Many authors seem to thrive on social media and self-promotion. Not me. My career path never even veered close to sales. That alien territory is fraught with rejection. I will admit I have sold quite a few Girl Scout cookies in my day, but seriously, those Thin Mints sell themselves.

Before my book came out, I did some research on book promotion. I hoped to discover a magic formula for what worked and what didn’t. There is no formula. Whether your novel is traditionally published, like mine, or indie, the correct approach to selling that book is as individual as the author. All promotion involves time, effort, and a bit of luck.


Here are some helpful hints I picked up on my journey:

  1. Don’t wear heels if you’re a sneakers kind of person. Find what you’re comfortable with, and don’t force yourself to spend time on promotional 05-01-14_sign-blogefforts you really hate. In my case, with a demanding day job, time is very limited. I focus my energy on my website and blog, Goodreads, and a few carefully selected in-person events.
  2. Not everyone likes Thin Mints. Don’t take rejection of your book personally. Focus on selling to your audience. At a book event, a woman glanced at the cover of my murder mystery, and declared she never read anything negative. Ouch! I smiled and nodded as I considered creative ways to do away with rude people. In a fictional manner, of course. I’ve had plenty more people tell me they love mysteries. There’s a market!
  3. Readers want you to succeed. The most important thing I learned at Malice Domestic is that readers have voracious appetites for fiction, and are excited to make new discoveries.
  4. Can you make a career off one novel? Harper Lee did it with To Kill A Mockingbird. But I’ve seen more success among authors, in any genre, who keep the good stories coming.
  5. Don’t stop writing because you’re promoting your new release. Keep working on your next story!

Conferences are good places to gain exposure to potential readers. I went to Malice Domestic because the focus is on the traditional mystery, cozies, and amateur sleuth novels. The conference offered authors multiple opportunities to pitch their novels to readers of murder mysteries.

The first morning, I sat in on Malice-Go-Round, an intense session where authors circulate around the room giving two-minute pitches at dozens of tables. I congratulated myself for not signing up for the frenetic event. I would have been in a straight jacket by the end.

Then the woman sitting next to me leaned over and said, “I can go home now.”

I needed clarification. She explained that this was what she came for every year. She was kidding about leaving. She would stay the entire weekend, but Malice-Go-Round was the highlight. I noticed readers scribbling notes as authors gave their two-minute pitches. People were making purchasing decisions, some for libraries.

I did sign up for the New Author Breakfast. Dozens of authors gave timed pitches to the entire room. I was still a nervous wreck, but at least it was over quickly. A hint to new authors – try to sit near an exit for that last minute dash to the facilities for cases of nervous tummy. Just sayin’.

The panel was where I really hit my stride. The focus was on my novel and my writing process, not me. I wasn’t alone. Three other authors participated in a panel on the topic of regional settings. The audience was lively, and seemed eager to find a new series or author.

Lessons learned?

  • Find the promotional methods that work for you.
  • Focus on your audience.
  • Feed your readers’ appetites with new stories.


You might have to step out of your comfort zone to reach your readers. That doesn’t mean you need to tackle all forms of social media, public speaking, or other means of publicity. Genre-specific conventions like Malice Domestic are a great way to promote your novel to a receptive audience.



1)      Malice Domestic –

2)      Goodreads –

3)      For more one hit novel wonders –

4)      Stone Cold Dead – A Rock Shop Mystery : Amazon –

Tattered Cover independent bookstore – Barnes and Noble –




Catherine Dilts writes amateur sleuth mysteries set in the Colorado mountains. In her debut novel Stone Cold Dead – A Rock Shop Mystery, business is as dead as a dinosaur, but when Morgan Iverson finds the body of a Goth teen on a hiking trail, more than just the family rock shop could become extinct. Catherine works as an environmental scientist, and plays at heirloom vegetable gardening, camping, and fishing. Her short fiction appears in Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine. Visit her at

On the Road: Face-to-Face in a Virtual World by Jenny Milchman

Jenny_Milchman_WebWhen my second novel came out in April, I set out with my family on a 4 month/20,000 mile journey.


Maybe I should back up a bit. Like, all the way to our home in New Jersey.


Today a writer can feel like she needs to be everywhere at once. And I do mean everywhere—the internet gives us the power to be not just in everyone’s living room, but in their purses and back pockets on tablets and cell phones. Twitter, Facebook, blogs, Pinterest…where’s a writer to go?


I’d like to shine a light on a place that’s getting a little less emphasis these days. Perhaps because it’s only one place, or at least one place at a time. I’m talking about real time, live, physical sights (not websites) where writers connect with readers face-to-face.


Last year my first novel came out after a thirteen year struggle to publication. Since the only thing harder than breaking in as a debut is building a CoverOfSnowlong-lasting career as a writer, both my husband and I knew that we would have to give this thing our all. So we did the only logical thing. We rented out our house, traded in two cars for an SUV that could handle Denver in February, and withdrew our kids from first and third grades.


OK, maybe it wasn’t so logical. But once we’d done all of that, we then hit the road, car-schooling the kids, husband working from the front seat, while I visited nearly 500 bookstores, libraries, schools, and book clubs. All told, we covered seven months and 35,000 miles.


The question I get asked most often is whether it was worth it.


It’s a difficult question to answer because it comes down to what worth it means in terms of launching a writing career. Did we sell a lot of books at every stop? No, definitely not. But we knew from the outset that this was going to be less about selling books, and more about building relationships.


Booksellers receive hundreds or thousands of Advance Reading Copies. They can’t possibly read them all. By going to the bookstore, I added to the work my publisher’s reps were doing of putting a book by an unknown author on the radar. 60-70% of the reading public browse in bookstores. That’s a lot of potential fans. And no matter how an event went, I would hear from booksellers weeks and even months later about a copy they had just hand sold to a person they knew would enjoy it.


The other question I hear is, “But what if I don’t have 7 months? Or 7 weeks for that matter?” My answer to that is: Don’t worry. The power of the face-to-face can be mined in 7 days. Or in a weekend. What I love about doing events is that it’s additive, and you can start with one.


jenny at book signingPlan an event at your local bookstore, which won’t even require missing a day of work. Take a weekend road trip, making it a working vacation. Draw a radius around your hometown, and identify bookstores within it. If setting up the events seems difficult, consider working with an independent publicity firm. In this way I was able to get booked at some places that had established attendee lists, allowing me that rare author experience of walking into a crowded room.


You can also move beyond bookstores when planning events. Libraries, book clubs, and schools are all fairly ready options. But you can get more creative than that. Perhaps you write historical novels? Research genealogical societies that might like to host you. Or maybe you write cozies? Craft shops, cooking classes, and rescue clinics are all possible places to encounter potential readers. A little advance preparation can shine a light on both your work and a local business or charitable organization.


There is a power to meeting your readers face-to-face. I found that as much as I enjoy communing with people virtually, another sort of connection grows when that relationship is lifted to real time. I met people on the road whom I now consider friends. I can’t wait to meet them next time.


That’s right, I did say next time. Because with my second novel about to come out, we are set to hit the road all over again. And I hope to see you RuinFalls_Websomewhere along the way!


Jenny Milchman’s journey to publication took thirteen years, after which she hit the road for seven months with her family on what Shelf Awareness called “the world’s longest book tour”. Her debut novel, Cover of Snow, was chosen as an Indie Next and Target Pick, reviewed in the New York Times and San Francisco Journal of Books, won the Mary Higgins Clark award, and is nominated for a Barry. Jenny is also the founder of Take Your Child to a Bookstore Day and chair of International Thriller Writers’ Debut Authors Program. Jenny’s second novel, Ruin Falls, just came out and she and her family are back on the road. 



Do I Really Need a Website if I have a Facebook Page?

There are lots of opinions on this topic, but if I had to pick just one of the two, I’d still pick a website – with qualifications.

First, look at what they are. A Facebook page is a social media networking platform. It consists largely of a place to share news, announcements, photos, gossip, you name it – it’s out there. It can be as casual or as professional as you like. I strongly recommend that if you have a Facebook page, you create one for personal use and an author page for professional use and you try not to mingle the two together too much. Maybe that seems like overkill today, but the more people who read your books and follow your pages, the more important it becomes to keep your private information private. As much as we don’t like to think about it, there are people out there who are a little unbalanced and you don’t want to be sharing pictures of your grandkids with them.

A website, on the other hand, is a more “fixed” platform. I work with journalists every day and while they do look at your Facebook page, they also go straight for your website to see if you’ve posted press information there. As you probably know, journalists often work around the clock and on deadline. If they’re working on a story and can’t find the info they need, they’ll find it elsewhere. Your website is the first impression you’ll make on a lot of people. The good news is, there are no rewrites in real life, but you can work and rework the content on your website until it really shines.

In both instances, I come across pages that look professional and even more that don’t. As with any area of business, find out what you’re good at and staff your weakness. Your brand and your professional appearance are NOT the place to cut corners and save money. With all the freebies available today, it’s tempting and I know few writers are independently wealthy, but if every time someone checks you out online they find information that looks more DIY (do it yourself) than professional, that’s exactly how they’ll think of you.

We all want to know and do business with people who are on the road to success. Maybe you’re not there yet, but you need to look like you’re the person you want to be. An author who shows up in shorts and flip flops may be a fun person and a great writer, but the impression is probably someone who isn’t that serious about his or her professional appearance.

Take some time and do a search for author websites. Don’t just look at one, look at several and keep an objective eye. It’s best to look at authors you don’t know personally and visit a few pages on their sites.

  • What do you like?
  • What don’t you like?
  • Do you find any typos?
  • Is the information up to date?
  • Do you find information there that would be helpful if a journalist was writing up a quick article to announce an upcoming event?
  • Is there something missing?
  • What could be done to improve the site?

Once you’ve visited a few, go back and look at your own site. Do you think it gives the impression of you and your work that you want it to?

If you use Facebook and/or Twitter, visit some author pages there and see what kind of impression they make. Do they post things that would be of interest to their readers? Do they include a variety of photos and links that are in good taste?

Usually the best gauge of what any of your pages should be is what interests you, and what works for others. We all have different tastes and opinions, but if you’re drawn to particular posts and pages, chances are similar posts and pages will work for you.

Don’t hesitate to ask trusted friends for their thoughts, but also get input from others within the writing industry. Most of my family have no idea what works on webpages and FB for writers, but other writers should have some good ideas. Good luck with your project!

Tips for promoting a series by Vickie Britton

Tips for Promoting a Series


Promoting a series must be approached a bit differently from promoting a single title.  Because authors have more than one book to sell, they must make it tempting for the reader to sample the series and go on reading.


Naming a Series


Some series have a uniting name.  For example, our series set in Wyoming is called “The High Country Mystery Series.”  Giving the series a name helps to define the series and establish recognition. The concept of branding and name recognition helps sell books.  It is easier for people to ask, “Have you read ‘The High Country Mystery Series?’” than to remember numerous titles.


However, if an author or publisher chooses to name the series, then that name should be on all the book covers and also on promotional material.  Otherwise, sales may be lost if an interested reader “Googles” the series name and no title to order shows up on the search engine.  It also helps when promoting to mention not only the series name but to list the first three books in the series, whenever possible.


Offering a Free or 99c Short Story


Everyone likes a free gift.  A good way to draw new readers into a series is to offer a free short story or group of short stories that have the same lead character and setting as the series.  If readers sample and like the free short story, then they may be tempted to purchase one of the books.


A free short story can be offered on Smashwords by keeping it free permanently or by giving it a price and then offering a special discount code.  (We are currently offering the short story A Horse in the Corner  for free on Smashwords to introduce readers to our series character.


If rights aren’t obligated elsewhere, a free short story can also be posted on a blog or web page with links to ordering related books.


If the story is enrolled in KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) Select, it can be given a regular price and then and offered for free for five days every ninety-day enrollment period, or the price can be permanently set for 99c.  (If going this route, the story must be published exclusively with Amazon Kindle, and so this works best if all the books in the series are also available on Kindle or enrolled in KDP Select.)  We offer another short story related to our series, Loyalty for 99c on KDP.


The key to success is to make sure the free story reaches the same readership as the books.  Always provide links to the books if possible to make them easier for readers to find.  If readers can’t order a book quickly and easily, you might lose them.










Discounting the First Book


Series writers want to encourage readers to start with the first of their series and read through to the end.  For this reason some authors have luck discounting the first book in the series, then pricing the rest a little higher.  For example, many price the first eBook of a series at 99c or $1.99 either permanently or at limited time intervals and leave the rest at a higher price.  At times our publisher offer the first title in our Ardis Cole Mystery Series, The Curse of Senmut, for a lower price.  (If the book is enrolled in KDP Select, the Kindle Countdown is good for this kind of discounting.)  This helps interest new readers.


Good promotional tools for the single title work for the series as well.  Places to promote include Facebook, Goodreads, Twitter, and other social media.   When promoting one book in the series, (with the exception of Twitter as there isn’t room) list the next book in the series or the entire list if it is not too long.   All subsequent titles should be included at the back of each novel as well as a site where they can be ordered. This will help the buyer find the next book.


The key to success in marketing a series is to let readers know about the books, offer sales and discounted prices, and make it easy for them to find the next book in the series with a click of the mouse.


Vickie Britton and Loretta Jackson are authors of The High Country Mystery Series and the eight-book Ardis Cole series.


The Ardis Cole Series includes the titles The Curse of Senmut, Unmarked Grave, and The Crimson Masquerade.




Their fourth and latest book in the High Country Mystery series is

The Executioner’s Hood. 



About the Authors:


Loretta Jackson and Vickie Britton, sisters and co-authors, are drawn to out-of-the-way places, old mining towns, and vast rangelands where the legends and history of the past live on.  Inspired by the rugged mountains of Wyoming and Colorado, they find the lonely, high country region a perfect setting for their novels.


They are authors of the High Country Mystery Series:  Murder in Black and White, Whispers of the Stones, and Stealer of Horses, also of an anthology A Deal on a Handshake that also features Wyoming sheriff, Jeff McQuede.


They are authors of over forty novels, including the eight-book Ardis Cole Mystery Series, The Vanished Lady, and the Luck of the Draw Western Series: The Devil’s Game, The Fifth Ace, and The Wild Card, as well as the single Western title, Death comes in Pairs.


Both writers live in Kansas; Loretta in Junction City, Vickie in Hutchinson.

To read more about them visit their web page, Facebook page, or blog.

Author Web Page:


Writing Tips and Fiction:

Should your publicist get you fireworks or foundation? by PJ Nunn


Many authors come to me hoping I’ll get them some fireworks. It doesn’t seem to occur to most of them that I might be more help in developing their foundations. But I can establish my own foundation, you might say. I agree that most authors could develop their own foundation, but too many tend to skip over the process, meaning that the support for those long-awaited fireworks is unstable.

What if I convince a notable newspaper journalist that you’d be the perfect subject for a feature article, then he Googles you and finds a. no website, b. a minimal website with out of date photos and obvious lack of proofreading, or c. comments all over your Facebook page that would have been better left unsaid? Sound too simple? You might be surprised how often that happens, even with authors who have several books in print.

Fireworks are fun and festive and often beautiful, but we need to remember that the purpose of promotional fireworks is to draw attention to the author. To set off those fireworks too soon is similar to calling “hey look at me” before you’ve dressed or combed your hair. Not a good idea OR a very effective strategy. Fireworks often cause journalists to take a look at you and form a first impression. Since first impressions are very hard to overcome, it’s important that it’s a positive one.

Suppose you can only afford to buy one outfit today and you have two choices: an everyday business casual pant suit or a prom dress (ok, maybe not the best analogy but bear with me). The prom dress might be exciting and fun and more attention getting initially, but the business casual will definitely be appropriate for more events and will help establish a consistent, professional reputation. Anyone who wears business casual can trade it for prom attire occasionally when needed, but nobody should wear prom attire all the time.

Don’t get me wrong. I love doing the “fireworks” campaigns. But to do it right, I need to be sure the author has a strong foundation in place before we begin. How’s your foundation? Have you checked lately?

Everything You Need to Know About Promotion by Marilyn Meredith

Marilyn at the San Gabriel Writers Festival

Marilyn at the San Gabriel Writers Festival

April Fools!

Sorry, I just had to do it. I don’t often get to play April Fool’s jokes on anyone.

I wish I really could tell you everything you need to know about promotion, instead I’m going to share what I’m doing promotion-wise for my latest book. Perhaps I’ll mention an idea that you can use.

My latest book is #10 in the Rocky Bluff Police Department series, Murder in the Worst Degree. The most difficult thing (but one of the most fun) is planning a blog tour. Of course when you do it yourself, it means you must contact people who have blogs and in my case they should be people interested in mysteries, either readers or writers. The idea is to find bloggers who have different followers.

I also try to find a few who are also reviewers and send them either a PDF or an advanced reading copy, so they can put a review on their blog.

Once I get the bloggers and dates they’ve agreed on, I start writing the posts. Some have given me a subject, others an interview, and a few let me come up with something on my own. Then it’s up to me to come up with something interesting that will keep someone reading and may intrigue them enough to buy the book. I also like to send different photos of myself instead of the same one for each blog.

When the blog tour begins, then it’s up to me to promote each blog everyday on Facebook, my Facebook groups, Twitter, and all the listserves that I belong to. It’s important to check in several times a day and acknowledge those who have commented and answer any questions.

It also helps to have an ongoing contest to keep readers following along on the tour. The contest I’ve had on this and previous tours is for the person who comments on the most blogs to have his or her name used for a character in the next book. (I like doing this better than giving a copy of the book away, because after all, the whole idea of the tour is to encourage the followers to buy your book.)

Yes, a blog tour is a lot of work, but it’s certainly not as much work as doing a tour of book stores, nor is it as expensive. My first week of blog stops is at the bottom of this post.

Moving on to the in-person things I’ve planned, I attended Left Coast Crime in Monterey. Mystery conventions are always fun. I got to see people I haven’t seen for a long while, met some new folks, and handed out many business cards with the cover of Murder in the Worst Degree and pertinent information about the book.

In April, I’m giving a talk at our local library for Library Week, and I’m doing a book signing at a bookstore with the Central Coast Sisters in Crime, and a panel with this group at another library.

In May, I’ll be doing something special with the San Joaquin chapter of Sisters in Crime, and later that month, I’m having my official book launch at an Art Gallery. I will be talking about writing an ongoing series.

In June, I’ll be doing another presentation with some of the Central Coast Sisters in Crime in another library. (Do you see a pattern here? Libraries are great places to give presentations about writing and your books—and yes, most of them will allow you to have your books for sale.) Also belonging to more than one chapter of Sisters in Crime is helpful too. Since my Rocky Bluff P.D. series is set in a beach community, doing events with the CC Sisters in Crime works well.

The Public Safety Writers Association’s annual conference is in Las Vegas in July. This is a great place to learn all sorts of information about crimes and criminals, all branches of law enforcement and other public safety fields and how they work. There are panels and a book store.

August will find me at a book and craft fair. These are great places to sell books.

September and October I don’t have anything planned—as yet.

November I’ll be spending two days with my books at a holiday boutique being held in the local art gallery. And I’ll also be heading to Bouchercon and besides enjoying myself, doing much the same things I did at Left Coast Crime. (Both events were in California this year and since this is where I live, it was a great time to attend.)

Of course, I’ll be writing posts and hosting authors on my own blog  and using Facebook and Twitter.

If you’re interested in following my blog tour, here are the first eleven days:
March 31

A Day in the Life of Officer Stacey Milligan
April 1

Cop Culture Researched


April 2

Gordon Butler


April 3

Old Guys at McDonald’s


April 4

My Life as an Author


April 5

Mother Nature and Her Influence of my Writing


April 6

Short Excerpt and Review


April 7  Interview


April 8

Why My Characters Won’t Let Go


April 9



April 10

My Critique Group and What it Does for Me


Remember, the person who leaves a comment on the most blogs will have their name used for a character in my next book.


MurderintheWorstDegreeBlurb for Murder in the Worst Degree: The body that washes up on the beach leads Detectives Milligan and Zachary on a murder investigation that includes the victim’s family members, his housekeeper, three long-time friends, and a mystery woman.

Amazon link:

Bio: F. M. Meredith aka Marilyn Meredith is the author of over 35 published books. She enjoys writing about police officers and their families and how what happens on the job affects the family and vice versa. Having several members of her own family involved in law enforcement, as well as many friends, she’s witnessed some of this first-hand.


Getting publicity when you’re anti-social by Nancy Lynn Jarvis


As fiction writers, we often use what we know for our novels. We produce characters who are based on people and associates we know, although we likely make them do things the person who inspired them wouldn’t dream of doing. We get plot ideas and dialogue lines from eavesdropping in restaurants and waiting in line, especially now that so many people share the most intimate details of their lives in overly loud voices while on a cell phone. We use personal experiences in our stories and may even make our protagonist’s occupation one we’ve had…well maybe not every writer does that, but as a Realtor with stories to tell, I sure do.

Once we’ve produced our book and it’s time to start marketing it, we have other options besides relying on social media for promotion. Using what we know can work for publicity, too. Sure, it’s easier for non-fiction writers to do or for fiction writers who happen to have written a book about a “hot topic” to get the word out about their book, but all fiction writers have opportunities.

Start locally and use what you know. Contact local newspapers and tell them one of their readers has written a new book. Most will at least squeeze a mention of your book into their publication; many will give you an article complete with pictures.

Approach groups in your community and offer to be free entertainment for them. I’m not a member of the Kiwanis Club, Rotary, a retired school teacher group, a government worker organization, or a senior citizen group, but all have had me speak. All sorts of groups would all like to hear what a member of the community has accomplished. They will probably give you a meal and many of their members will buy your book, especially when you inscribe a copy as a gift for their favorite aunt. In this vein, don’t forget to look for retirement communities and even large mobile home communities for speaking engagements.

Sadly, my community has been losing bookstores. Fortunately I live in a tourist town and my books are set in that location. Some stores where tourists visit carry my books and sell more than our local bookstore. I suggested people would find it entertaining to read a story about where they are visiting to the store owners. (Turns out I was right.) Look for your community’s odd venues and ask to do a book signing; it’s a great excuse for more publicity in the local media for you and the venue hosting you and they don’t have to make an ongoing commitment to stock your book.

If your profession happens to be one that puts out a newsletter or regular publication, you can hit gold. When I was an active Realtor who began writing mysteries with an amateur sleuth/real estate agent protagonist, I looked up the editor of the (now online) book review section in The National Association of Realtors monthly magazine. I sent her a book, called her, and pitched how other Realtors would get a kick out of reading something that wasn’t a how-to book. She gave me a nice review and article that went to almost every Realtor in the country.

Even if your profession won’t help you, a membership could. Are there any Costco members here? I used the same approach to get my second book in The Costco Connection, another national monthly.

Don’t hesitate to cast your net wider. There’s a great free service called HARO (Help a Reporter Out) that media of all kind use. Members ask for opinions and help with projects they are working on in exchange for credit and publicity. I responded to a query about why people retired at 62 instead of waiting longer and wound up talking about writing books for

A HARO connection is also how my cat Fala, who happens to be the official spokescat for my books with her own official YouTube video,, is going to be in a piece for Ladies Home Journal (pets with funny names) and why I was interviewed for a Bloomberg News story about “love letters” buyers write to sellers and was able to use a couple of pages from one of my books to illustrate my point. My newest mystery, The Murder House, may have ghosts in it. That’s why I’ve been invited to a couple of ghost hunting sites to discuss the book.

Come on. You Write. You have creative minds. Use them to come up with connections and make your pitch. The worst thing that can happen is someone will say no. But think of what can happen when they say yes.


Nancy Lynn Jarvis thinks you should try something new every few years. Writing is her newest adventure and she’s been having so much fun doing it that she’s finally acknowledged she’ll never sell another house. She let her license lapse in May of 2013, after her Haunted house halloween pumpkinstwenty-fifth anniversary in real estate.

After earning a BA in behavioral science from San Jose State University, she worked in the advertising department of the San Jose Mercury News. A move to Santa Cruz meant a new job as a librarian and later a stint as the business manager for Shakespeare Santa Cruz at UCSC.

She invites you to take a peek into the real estate world through the stories that form the backdrop of her Regan McHenry mysteries. Real estate details and ideas come from Nancy’s own experiences. Check out The Murder House by Nancy Lynn Jarvis.

Bios made easy by Kris Bock

KrisBockcreditAE2012webKris Bock has lived in 10 states and one foreign country – Saudi Arabia, where she spent five idyllic years in an American camp as a child. She now lives in New Mexico with her husband and two ferrets. Kris enjoys hiking, rock climbing, good food, and of course books.

I discovered something while coordinating writing conferences:  Even published authors often do not know how to write a good bio. This should be the easiest thing in the world – if we can write at all, surely we can write about ourselves. And yet, whether through modesty, carelessness or overwriting, many author bios fail. The bio above contains specific details, some of which may even be interesting, but it doesn’t do its job.

What is the job? To sell yourself and your books. Keep that focus in mind and the rest will follow.

Content: List your books. You’d be surprised at how many authors skip this part. This is your chance to advertise! If you have lots of books, stick to the three or four that are most popular and currently in print, or first books in a series, or the books most relevant to the situation.

People are more likely to look for your book if they know it fits a genre they like. Titles aren’t always clear by themselves. Death in Russia could be a mystery, biography, history, historical fiction, or political analysis. Specify the genre.

List awards, but don’t get carried away. If each book has four or five minor awards mentioned, the reader bogs down in dull details. List the most prestigious, or combine them – “Ms. Inkslinger’s books have received 11 Readers’ Choice Awards from various states.”

Relevancy: In general, stick to writing-related information. If someone is considering buying your book or coming to hear you speak, they want to know your success as a writer or speaker. They’re probably not interested in the names of your pets. And since most children write or tell stories, the fact that you’ve been writing since age 7 isn’t terribly impressive.

If you do include personal data, put your professional information first. Don’t start with your hobbies or childhood, unless it directly relates to your book. (For example, you’re a nurse and you wrote a hospital drama.) This is also not the place to thank your parents or spouse for their support. Save that for your book dedications.


Style: Focus on the information. Humor and lively writing are fine, but don’t get so wrapped up in sounding “literary” that important facts get buried or forgotten. If you’re releasing your own PR, you can be as zany as you feel fits your author persona. If your bio will be one of many in a conference brochure, the designer probably wants some consistency of style. A touch of formality may be appropriate, since you’re trying to portray yourself as a professional. Pretend you’re someone else writing about you. Write in the third person. “Bard Wordsmith is an award-winning author….”

You may need different bios for different uses—playful on a book flap; professional for a newspaper article; focused on your teaching experience for a conference catalog; praising your writing success for a book signing.


Length: Unless you’re asked for a certain length of bio, keep it short and to the point. An editor may shorten your writing to save space, so put the most important information in the first sentence. This may include the topic of your presentation and/or the name of one book (the most recent, the most popular, or the one you’ll be presenting).

If your bio will stand alone, on an individual brochure or press release, you might use 100-200 words. If your bio will appear along with others, 50-100 words is plenty. Any more and some people will skip ahead. (You’ll also annoy the person designing the material, who may make arbitrary cuts). Include your website for people who want more information.

To get started, make a list of the facts that you want to share—the items that are most impressive and relevant to your career. Then write a simple, straightforward paragraph that includes them. As in all good writing, communication comes first.

$.99 SALE March 17-22: Whispers in the Dark, a romantic suspense novel featuring archaeology and intrigue among ancient Southwest ruins.

Kris Bock writes novels of suspense and romance involving outdoor adventures and Southwestern landscapes. In Counterfeits, stolen counterfeits500x800Rembrandt paintings bring danger to a small New Mexico town. What We Found features a young woman who stumbles on a murder victim, and Rattled follows a treasure hunt in the New Mexico desert. To learn more about her latest work, visit or visit her Amazon page.

Kris writes for children under the name Chris Eboch. Her novels for ages nine and up include The Eyes of Pharaoh, a mystery in ancient Egypt; The Genie’s Gift, an Arabian Nights-inspired fantasy; and The Well of Sacrifice, a Mayan adventure. Her book Advanced Plotting helps writers fine-tune their plots. Learn more at or her Amazon page, or check out her writing tips at her Write Like a Pro! blog.

Book promotion on ice! by Alina Adams


 by Alina Adams


My five Figure Skating Mystery novels were originally released as paperback originals by Berkley Prime Crime between 2003 and 2007. (The first one, “Murder on Ice,” was actually based on the 2002 Olympic Pairs judging scandal, only this time the judge accused of fixing the vote ended up a little… dead.)

A few years later, I got my rights back and re-released each title as an enhanced e-book, featuring video by The Ice Theatre of NY as part of the story. (Why merely read about skating, when you can actually watch it, too!

Then, in 2014, just in time for the Sochi Games, I bundled all of the books into “The Figure Skating Mystery Series (5 Books in 1) (”

Now all that was left was to promote it.

I knew that the upcoming Winter Olympic gave me an optimal, once every four years news window (yes, the National, European and World Championships happen every year – but people only care during the Olympics), and I did pitch myself as a figure skating expert to several print publications as well as radio outlets (even if they all managed to make mistakes in their profiles, but, hey, I turned that to my promotional advantage, too! Seriously, I have no shame.)

I also did some out of the box thinking.  To promote “The Figure Skating Mystery Series (5 Books in 1),” I partnered with Dick Button, announcers2-time Olympic Men’s Gold Medallist, and the voice of figure skating on ABC-TV for several decades. (I had worked as a Figure Skating researcher alongside Dick in the mid-1990s.  Before I had children and thus was free to jet all around the world.)

To promote his own book, “Push Dick’s Button” (, Dick did live Twitter commentary of the Men’s and Ladies’ Short and Long Programs from Sochi. I produced the coverage for him.  And, during the commercial breaks, I promoted my skating book series alongside his.

There is nothing that Dick Button doesn’t know about figure skating. (He remembered that Peggy Fleming’s 1968 Olympic dress was chartreuse, because the Games were being held in Grenoble, where the Chartreuse Mountains are. Also the liqueurs. The man is 84 years old!  He’s amazing!  You’ll never hear a negative word about him from me!)  And Dick Button has a great many fans all over the world, some of who joined Twitter specifically to read his no-holds-barred commentary.  And it was to these dedicated skating fans that I was able to introduce my book series.  If that’s not niche marketing, then I don’t know what is!

So how did my out of the box promotion ultimately work out?

Well, I sold three times as many books during the month of February on Amazon and B&N than I had in January.  And I made Amazon’s Ice Skating & Figure Skating Best-Sellers list for most of that time.  The highest I ever got, though, was #3.  The #1 spot was perennially occupied by… Dick Button.

Of course, I got even more good marketing news when the result of the Ladies’ event was contested and debated after a Russian dark horse upset the pre-competition favorite for the gold medal.  Just like I wrote about in “Murder on Ice”….twelve years ago.

I posted an excerpt from the book at my own blog ( with my (pretty reality based) guess about what was going on backstage after the results were handed down, and how the media plays a part in all sports “controversies.”

Looking for a sneak peek? Listen in on this conversation between my heroine, Bex Levy, a researcher for the 24/7 Sports Network, and Francis and Diana Howarth, Olympic Champion announcers more than happy to fan the flames of discontent….


Bex changed tacks, addressing Francis and Diana. “So let me get this straight. Just so I can put it down in the research notes for Sunday. You two claim that Erin lost last night because the panel was stacked against her.”

“Well, actually the panel wasn’t stacked against her. It was five to four, pro-West. She should have won, if only the Russians hadn’t gotten to the Italian judge and made her change her vote,” Diana patiently explained.

“So you’re saying that if the Italian judge voted with the West like she was supposed to, Erin Simpson would have won, no matter how she skated?”

“Erin Simpson skated beautifully last night. No mistakes. No falls.”

“But you’re saying that it doesn’t matter. That how the two women skated is irrelevant. You make it sound like all victory is dependent on the panel. That it’s preordained.”

“The results were certainly preordained last night. The Soviet bloc wanted Xenia to win, and win she did, even with that mediocre performance.”

“But, doesn’t that mean that all the times Erin beat Xenia at the Grand Prix this season, she only won because the panel was stacked in her favor?”

Diana and Francis looked at each other.

“Hmm,” Francis said, “I never thought of it that way.”

“And does that mean that when you two won your Olympic gold medal, it was only because the panel was stacked in your favor?”

“What an interesting point you’ve made, Bex,” Diana said.

And stood up to leave.

With Francis by her side, she was barely to the door, when Mark, the lucky cameramen assigned to shoot the ladies’ practice for the exhibition, burst into the room, breathing heavily. He’d run all the way from the arena to the hotel, lugging his heavy camera on his back, and now he could barely get the words out between his gasps.

“Did you hear?” he demanded. “Silvana Potenza! She’s dead! Murdered!”

Alina Adams is the NYT best-selling author of soap opera tie-ins, figure skating mysteries and romance novels. Visit her website at FSMysteryOmnibusCover

I Would Like to Thank the Academy… by Debra Borys

“Excuse me?” I asked my publisher.  “I must have heard you wrong.  You said 60, right, the book sold 60 copies the first month?  That’s Debra Boryspretty good for a first novel, isn’t it?”

“I said 6.  The book sold 6 total copies the first month.”

I started counting on my fingers. Mom. My two sisters. Eight members of my writers group. Ten regular attendees of the coffee house group I met with monthly who were all excited and congratulatory when I first told them I’d found a publisher. And that didn’t even factor in the numerous friends, acquaintances, cousins, and neighbors I’d been casually mentioning my release date to whenever I had a chance.  Six copies just did not compute.

A genius is never appreciated in her own environment.


I understood that an unknown author might not quickly pick up new fans, but I couldn’t imagine that everyone I knew hadn’t rushed online to buy a copy within days of hearing the news that the book was available.  After all, that was one of the most exciting days of my life. Perhaps, however, I was being unrealistic.  Not everyone would make it a priority to purchase immediately.  They had their own lives after all and their own priorities.

So I waited, optimistic and patient despite the warning signs.  One person surprised me by saying she just couldn’t get into it when I’d been sure it was exactly the type of book she’d love.  When my mother and I ran into friends of hers I hadn’t met, she’d proudly introduce me as simply “my oldest” rather than “my daughter, the author.”

The arrival of my yearly royalty statement the following January added the death knell to my expectations. No best seller list for me and my brilliant suspense novel. Despite the 4- and 5-star reviews, it was not yet time to quit the day job and buy a writer’s cottage along the Oregon coast. Even if every person I knew had gone out and bought a copy of the book, it was clear now that word of my Great American Novel had not spread far. My friends and family had not praised the work to everyone they knew, had possibly not even mentioned it once in passing to another human being.

The thing about friends and family and spouses is that both you and they have a handicap called Unconditional Love.  Normally a virtue, UL has a dark side. The people who best love me are so assured of my success it never occurs to them I might need their help to achieve it.  I am so confident they support me I expect them to know my expectations and hopes without my saying a word.


With my second book released and 10,000 words written on the third, I have learned a lot about writing and promoting.  Mainly that mixing the two often produces an oily sheen on the clear-flowing waters of creativity. Stirring promotional expectations into relationships muddies the waters even further.

Marketing is your responsibility and that of any professional whose job it is to do so: your publisher, your agent, publicists you hire, and writers organizations you join. It is not the concern of people who know you. Stop expecting them to promote the book.  Stop expecting them, even, to buy the book. Their job is to pick up the tab at lunch once in a while, send you birthday cards, and make you laugh when you just feel like crying.

However, when appropriate—if they ask, if the opportunity arises and the person seems open to it—don’t be afraid to suggest (key note here: suggest implies using a friendly, undemanding, and non-bitter tone) specific ways they can help you spread the word.

  • Attend my book signings
  • Share my Tweets, Pinups, Tumbles, and Facebook statuses
  • Mention my book to friends
  • Post a review
  • Buy copies of the book to give as presents
  • Comment occasionally on my blog posts, guest articles, and social media statuses
  • Paint the cover of my novel on the side of your house and rent one of those flashing neon arrows to point to it.

Okay, maybe not that last one.  Unless they really, really want to.  Regardless of how much they spread the word, or don’t, it is important for me to remember the one support they have always provided and still do: accept me as the weird, quirky, anti-social writer that I am so that I will continue to sit at the keyboard and put down one word after the other after the other.

For that at least, they deserve a mention in my Pulitzer prize acceptance speech.


Bend Me -Torn PaperBend Me, Shape Me is the second novel in the author’s Street Stories suspense series and was released in 2013 by New Libri Press

Snow Ramirez hasn’t trusted anyone in a very long time, not even herself. Memories of her childhood on Washington’s Yakama Reservation haunt her even on the streets of Chicago. When her squat mate Blitz slits his own throat in front of her, she knows it’s time to convince someone to trust her instincts. Normally she wouldn’t care. Who wasn’t crazy in one way or another in this messed up world?  Snow’s little brother Alley, though, there might still be time to save him. If only she can get reporter Jo Sullivan to believe her story before Snow loses her own mind.

Debra R. Borys released her first novel, Painted Black, in 2012.  The Street Stories series combines the gritty reality of homeless life on the Chicago streets with bizarre and quirky suspense plots.  Debra uses her personal experiences from years of volunteering with service agencies in both Chicago and Seattle to bring the characters and streets to life in these fast-paced, gripping tales. She currently works as a freelance writer and editor and is working on a third Street Stories novel.

More info can be found on her websites and or on Facebook and Twitter @debborys.