HOW TO: Throw a Successful Facebook Book Launch (even when you have the flu)

HOW TO:

 

Throw a Successful Facebook Book Launch (even when you have the flu.)

 

By

 

Pamela DuMond

 Dumond

 

I’m an Indie author and I don’t plan these events months in advance. I also do not schedule a book launch event for 12 hours or two days. The reason? Every time I receive one of these sorts of invites—I cringe.

 

‘But, Pamela,” you say. ‘There are 20 authors supporting this book launch and we all get to take an hour and explain how our books are important, the lead author’s new book is super important and then we field questions about our books etc. Why would you not want to click the ‘Yes-I’m-attending Button’ and support our auspicious event?”

 

Because a 12 to 24 hour book launch sounds… DAUNTING. I have a life. My readers have a life. Then guilt creeps in and I wonder if I should hit the ‘Maybe’ button, which basically translates to  ‘No— but I don’t want to hurt your feelings.’  Ack!

 

So, instead I pick a date and block out two to three hours and create a Facebook Event Page. I named it something festive like a — Cocktail Party.

 

I write a fun description based on my book.

 

Part-time Princess: Hold tight to your tiara! Stop by and have some fun with other readers, writers, artists, musicians and wacky folks. There’s plenty of royal bling to be given away. Enter a photo of Who-Looks-Best in the Tiara Contest (You can enter ahead of time.) Issue your Royal edict. Virtual snackies, cocktails, champagne will be served.

 

I invited people on my regular FB page when suddenly Facebook schooled me. I discovered that as of August, 2014, FB has capped the number of folks you can invite. So DON’T invite everyone. Only those you think might actually be interested.

 

I ask my author friends to participate and post links and descriptions of their new books. The more the merrier. It’s a ‘cocktail party.’ It’s not a mandatory college lecture. I start posting links and comments, images, etc. to my Event Page ahead of time. I included my book’s description and a link to my book on Amazon.

 

Consider the ‘THEME’ of your book and fashion a party around that. Part-time Princess has a ‘royal’ theme so I wrote up a couple of royal quizzes for folks to answer via multiple choice. These included questions about the movie The Princess Bride, notorious female royals in history and even trivia about Princess Grace of Monaco. I bought inexpensive princessy bling to award the winners of the various contests.

 

Michael James Canales of http://www.mjcimageworks.com created a Part-time Princess Royal name Generator for me.

 

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!

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.

THE DARK SIDE OF LOVE

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.

BUY MY BOOK

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 www.Debra-R-Borys.com and www.StreetStoriesSuspenseNovels.com or on Facebook http://www.facebook.com/deb.borys and Twitter @debborys.

Can Internet-only Promotion Really Work? by Velda Brotherton

newVeldaCan Internet-only Promotion Really Work?

By Velda Brotherton

It’s interesting to note how many writers do not use the Internet to promote their books. Is it enough to do personal appearances? How many of those can we afford to do nowadays with gas being so high and bookstores closing right and left? When my novels came out in 2012 and 2013 I could no longer handle physical appearances, so I made the tough decision to use the Internet to promote myself and my work. Occasionally I’ll do a book signing or conference appearance, but not often enough to make a spike in sales.

Just think of it. Sitting in an office and touching people all over the globe with information about your writing, your books, and your life as a writer. Yet it was a tough decision for several reasons. I like talking to readers and writers, and all I knew about my computer was writing and formatting manuscripts. So the first step was to devote time to learning what I’d have to know. Since I had a few manuscripts lying around, I could spend a full summer on that project.

First I submitted a couple of new manuscripts to small publishers, then went to work.

I had an Amazon Page, a website, and three blogs on Blogger. I belonged to a couple of organizations that had Yahoo groups online. I joined LinkedIn and Good Reads. Quickly I realized this was not enough to get my brand out there. It is more important to become known by your name than by an individual book. People know you and like you, then they’ll just naturally want to read your books.

So I added Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus and then Pinterest when it arrived on the scene. I’ve discovered it’s not enough to use these sites, but it’s important to learn the secrets of using them well, which I’m still in the process of doing. Take one at a time and conquer the ins and outs.

I promote online for two days out of my six-day writing week. Joining writing groups on Yahoo, Linked In and Google has afforded me the most information on promotion sites online. There writers share sites they have found, they offer to host bloggers, to review books, or share sites that perform those tasks. With good organization, you can post on these quickly and efficiently. Ask friends to repost, re-pin, and re-tweet to double, triple and go beyond with your posts. A blog is a must, and I moved those on Blogger to Word Press where I could get more pages for my books and other subject matter.

There are also what I call virtual book stores online. These are sites that will display your book cover(s), something about ThePurloinedSkullFC300(1)you and the book and a buy link. This gives readers the opportunity to browse specific books without getting lost in the millions of books on Amazon. Most of these are free or have a small minimal sign-up fee. Ask David is such a site, and it is exceptional. For a basic small one-time fee it will exhibit all your books and promote them. There are many genre-related promo sites. Google for them.

Don’t forget that when you post on Facebook, you aren’t limited to your own personal site. There are many group sites that will allow you to join and post information of your own, such as Incredible Indie Ebooks. If you belong to a writer’s group, it often has a Facebook page where members can post.

Beware: Don’t turn into a spammer. Post interesting information about all sorts of subjects, like something from one of your books or something you learned while researching for that book.

For instance while researching for my recent book, The Purloined Skull, the first of my series, A Twist of Poe Mysteries. I learned that Edgar Allan Poe did not receive any royalties for his re-published short story, The Purloined Letter, because at the time there were no International Royalty laws.

cover4When researching for Once There Were Sad Songs, my hero rode a Harley Motorcycle, so one day I was driving through Eureka Springs, Arkansas, and there was a motorcycle gathering for the weekend. Spotting a few guys with their bikes parked, I pulled over. They were eager to answer all my questions, and I had a great time visiting with them. Did you know that if you jump one of those heavy Harleys you’re liable to ruin the shocks or worse wreck it? But it is often done by guys with a death wish. So, in my book, my hero, a veteran with a death wish, jumps his bike off a bluff down onto the sandy shoreline of a creek and lives to tell about it.

There I told you about two of my books without spamming you, because I included something you might think interesting. Make yourself easy to find by posting everywhere possible.

Website: http://www.veldabrotherton.com

Blog: http://www.veldabrotherton.wordpress.com

FB: http://www.facebook.com/vebrotherton

Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/veldabrotherton

How about you? What can you add to share experiences in online promotion?

An interview with Joann Smith Ainsworth

JoAnn sittingJoAnn Smith Ainsworth experienced food ration books, Victory Gardens and black-out sirens as a child in WWII. These memories help her create vivid descriptions of time and place, which put you in the middle of the story as a participant in a fast-paced journey through paranormal realms as U.S. psychics hunt down Nazi spies.

Ms. Ainsworth lives in California. She has B.A. and M.A.T. degrees in English and has completed her M.B.A. studies. Her agent is Dawn Dowdle of Blue Ridge Literary Agency.

PJ: How long have you been writing?

JA: I started writing novels in 1998 when approaching retirement. I needed a way to supplement my Social Security. I had a Bachelors and Masters in English and my MBA studies. I decided that “author” was the way to go since, as long as you write a great story, no one cares how old you are.

Little did I know how difficult it is to create a novel. Just having a story in your head isn’t enough. You have to know how to present the action on paper—how to evoke images in the mind’s eye of your reader to bring the story alive.

It took me four years of online classes to learn the craft techniques to create today’s fast-paced, commercial novel. The result was my medieval romance, Matilda’s Song.

PJ: At what point did you reach a place where you felt successful as a writer?

JA: I felt successful as a writer (and switched to calling myself an author) when I completed my first manuscript. A first manuscript is no small feat.

PJ: Is the writing life what you expected when you started out? If not, how is it different?

JA: I didn’t realize that creating and selling today’s novel would be so difficult and so time consuming. Authors have to wait months and years to know if their submission resulted in a sale or a rejection. I have a file of rejection letters.

In the end I sold all five manuscripts to mid-level publishers and I’m under contract to an agent (Dawn Dowdle of Blue Ridge Literary Agency).

Your readers can follow my writing life by visiting Twitter @JoAnnAinsworth. To learn about my experiences during WWII and about writing a novel where the U.S. govt. recruits five psychics to locate Nazi spies on the East Coast, visit Facebook at JoAnn Smith Ainsworth Fan Page.

PJ: The general public seems to think authors are relatively wealthy. Without prying too much, has your writing income lived up to expectations?

JA: I met a few wealthy authors, but most of us need a day job. My day job is Social Security.

At about 90 cents a book, an author needs a large readership to make a comfortable level of income. For most of us, this is a slow climb with Word of Mouth being our best marketing tool for building a solid readership base.

PJ: Early on, so much focus is given to getting published. Now that you’re published, how has your focus changed?

JA: No change in my focus.

Each manuscript must be submitted to stand or fall on its own.

PJ: How long did it take you to get published the first time?

JA: Ten years almost to the month after I started writing novels.

My first sale to Samhain was Out of the Dark, a medieval romantic suspense novel with a sight-impaired heroine.

PJ: Would you do anything differently if you had it to do over again?

JA: I don’t think so. Everything was a learning experience. The setbacks made me a stronger author and a more targeted marketer.

PJ: Writing new material, rewriting, submitting new work, waiting, promoting published work…the list is large. How do you manage to divvy up your time to give adequate attention to all needed areas?

JA: I am disciplined to the point of being annoying about it. My mind separates tasks into categories. Stubborn determination will not let me slack off. Each category must be completed on schedule, if humanly possible.

PJ: What is the single most exciting thing that’s happened to you as a writer?

JA: The most exciting thing was opening the box of author copies and holding my first book in my hand.

PJ: What is the single most disappointing thing that happened to you as a writer?

JA: Finding that there is no “coasting” for an author. There is always something to do and these days the competition is greater. Each year, my books must be brought to the attention of readers despite the millions of other published novels in bookstores.

PJ: What’s the most memorable thing (good or bad) that’s happened to you while promoting your work?

JA: The most memorable is that what started as a business proposition turned into a passion.

I write stories of self-awareness and self fulfillment in historical settings. The heroine becomes empowered as she tackles each story challenge and transforms into an indomitable woman. Even if I never sell another manuscript, I will continue to write these stories for the rest of my life.

PJ: With more books being released each month now than ever before, what do you believe sets your work apart from the others?

JA: My historical settings are so detailed that readers become immersed in the time period. My novels have a moral tone:  good eventually triumphs over evil. My stories entertain, inspire and keep the reader in suspense.

PJ: What would you like to share with writers who haven’t reached the point of publication yet?

JA: Never give up and never believe you’re too old to succeed. Keep getting up every time you get knocked down.

My fifth novel will release when I am 75 years old. It’s been a fifteen year journey, but I have touched my dream.

PJ: What do you feel is your most effective tool for promoting your published work?

JA: I believe we authors are our most effective tool in promoting. What we write comes from our hearts. We want to share our experiences and hope these experiences will inspire readers.

PJ: What area of book promotion is the most challenging to you?

JA: PINTEREST. I can keep track of 90,000 words, but I’m not visual. It’s difficult for me to think in terms of interesting graphics.

PJ: Do you have a local independent bookseller you’d like to mention?

JA: Many of the booksellers where I had signings and was on panels went out of business during economic downturn. For my recent release, POLITE ENEMIES, an historical western romance, I have author event invitations from Books, Inc. in Alameda (an independent bookstore) and from Barnes & Noble in Antioch.

Give us a list of your published titles in chronological or series order:

MATILDA’S SONG (978-1-60504-195-7)MatildaSong200x300

OutDark72webOUT OF THE DARK (978-1-60504-277-0)

POLITE ENEMIES (Book 1) (ebook:  978-1-61160-636-2; paper:  978-1-61160-590-7Polite-Enemies-COVER21

THE FARMER AND THE WOOD NYMPH (Book 2) (ebook ISBN:  978-1-61160-660-7) release Dec. 2013

EXPECT TROUBLE (print ISBN:  978-1-61009-074-2) release April 2014

Share with us an elevator pitch (no more than 30 seconds) of your latest title, Polite Enemies:

IDA OSTERBACH survived range wars and the murder of her husband. She’s kept the farm going through sheer grit and determination. The last thing she has time for is romance.

 

JARED BUELL was never particularly charitable to farmers, even eye-catching ones like Ida. When an old nemesis comes to town and threatens both of them, he has no choice but to get involved.

 

Experience this action-packed romp through 1895 Wyoming where Ida and Jared find love when they least expect it.

PJ: Where can we buy it?

JA: Whiskey Creek Press, Amazon, Barnes & Noble Nook and from independent bookstores which used Ingram as a distributor.

PJ: What last thing would you like to share with us that nobody knows about you and your work?

JA: I awake each morning with energy and excitement because I have a new day to craft another novel.

Thank you for this opportunity to introduce myself and my writing to your readers.

Reaching to Friends and Strangers by Elaine Orr

Orr,Elaine2012,closeto5x7Elaine L. Orr has written fiction and nonfiction for many years.  She began writing plays and novellas and graduated to longer fiction by the mid-1990s. In Trouble_cover_2_from_whit_small-82x1282011, Elaine introduced the Jolie Gentil cozy mystery series. She grew up in Maryland and moved to the Midwest in 1994.

Reaching to Friends and Strangers

Writing a series take a certain amount of arrogance and some juggling skills. It is tempting to focus marketing on the newest book, but for a series audience to grow, the earlier books need to stay on reader radar.

Most of my marketing is for ebooks, though I use the paperbacks (including large print) as marketing tools with bookstores.

I have a three-pronged strategy. 1) Give friends a chance to help reach new readers. 2) Write articles and occasionally guest blog posts beyond the writing world. 3) Use social media (especially Twitter) to reach beyond my circles.

There are 360 people on my monthly update list. When I sent the first email I promised two things— recipients would not hear from me more than once a month, and I would never take offense if anyone asked to be taken off the update list.

Creating the email audience took a lot of time. There are some writing friends, but they already know what I’m doing. I drew on people from almost every job I’ve had, service organizations I belong to, my extended family, current and former neighbors, and friends from school. I did not choose everyone who is on my email contact list.

I’m always surprised at those who follow up with notes. Some I have not seen in person for more than a decade, others could be in a book club I joined recently. Some of them post information on new books on their Facebook pages. Finally, if all I say is “read my books,” it’s boring. I mention a personal item or a conference where I learned a lot.

As a lifetime nonfiction writer, I post articles on varied topics on nonwriting sites, such as Yahoo Voices. The first thing my brief bio on these sites says is that I write fiction. I post on my blog and sometimes others, but these posts are primarily read by other writers.

I have a Facebook fan page, web page, and Twitter account. I keep them up to date and allow only 15 minutes a day, unless I’m doing extensive updates to the web page. I also get marketing ideas from the Murder Must Advertise Yahoo Group.

Two things in the electronic world seem to make a difference.  I maintain a $3 per day Facebook ad, and vary the content. It draws people to my Facebook fan page and puts my name in front of people whether they click on the ad or not.  When the ad comes down, I sell fewer books.

Every day I send 10-20 tweets to various hash tags (#mustread, #mystery, etc.) and individuals who say they retweet. These are cut-and-paste tweets rather than individually typed. I mention a newer book and give a link or rotate through the series offering freebies via Smashwords, If this sounds repetitive, the tweets only are to the sender. Each one reaches a different audience, because most people only read tweets that appeared just before they signed on or while they are on Twitter.

This system works for me because it keeps my time on writing. I’d like to hear what works for you.

Twitter Analytics by Jeffrey Marks

JEFF1023Maybe it’s just me or my degree in math, but I’ve always found numbers to be very helpful.

When I look at my marketing efforts, I find numbers important because it helps to tell me what is working for me and what is not working. I don’t want to put any more time into a marketing campaign when it’s not getting me readers or Facebook likes or whatever goal you have.

Numbers tell me what works and what doesn’t, but they don’t explain to me why they work. That’s where analytics come in. They help you to make decisions about what is working. IF a campaign is working well, then you should pay more attention to it. If it’s not working, then you’ll need to work on fixing it.

Twitter, which has long been a major promotional tool for me, has recently started showing us analytics. The first tool is the ability to look at the make-up of your followers. Given that multiple studies have shown that more women read than men, you’ll want to have more women followers. Right now, mine is skewed slightly towards women, 51-49%. This gives me a hint that perhaps to reach more readers, I need to cultivate more women followers on Twitter.

For the United States, you’ll see the breakdown of followers by state. It’s no surprise that Ohio is a big category for me, since I live here. California and Texas are also big followers. For overseas, the analytic tools will break the followers down by country. If you write about a particular part of the United States or write about a foreign country, you’ll want to work on upping the number of followers in that area.

The other set of tools available (on the other screen) is a list of favorites , replies, and retweets for each tweet that you’ve sent. The analytics will help you with this as they have options to show you all of the tweets, the best, the better and the rest. Scan the list and look for the tweets that have the most of each category. What did you do for these tweets that you didn’t do for others? Did you include hashtags (most authors don’t include these) or mention people via using the @ and their user name? Was the tweet a reply to someone or a retweet?

The tools also tell you if the reach of the tweet was greater than normal. This usually occurs when someone retweets your tweet. Be sure to see who has the greatest reach. I’ve had 20 people who share many of the same followers retweet something and have it register less of an effect than one person who has followers not inside the same circle as me.

You can also see who clicks through on the URL you’ve hopefully embedded in the tweet. Many of my tweets don’t get any clicks, which means either it’s time to retire them or fix the message. Others consistently get more clicks which tells me I’m doing something good.

Most of this analytics shown by Twitter is relatively new. So take the time to fine tune your message to the public. Not all tweets were created equal.

About Jeffrey

Jeffrey Marks was born in Georgetown, Ohio, the boyhood home of Ulysses S. Grant. Although he moved with his family at an early age, the family frequently told stories about Grant and the people of the small farming community.

At the age of twelve, he was introduced to the works of Agatha Christie via her short story collection, The Underdog and Other Stories. He finished all her books by proofINTENTTOSELLthe age of sixteen and had begun to collect mystery first editions.

After stints on the high school and college newspapers, he began to freelance. After numerous author profiles, he chose to chronicle the short but full life of mystery writer Craig Rice.

That biography (which came out in April 2001 as Who Was That Lady?) encouraged him to write mystery fiction. The Ambush of My Name is the first mystery novel by Marks to be published although he has several mystery short story anthologies on the market. He followed up with Atomic Renaissance: Women Mystery Writers of the 1940s/1950s and Anthony Boucher: A Biobibliography.

His work has won a number of awards including the an Anthony in 2009 for his Anthony Boucher biography, Barnes and Noble Prize, and he has been nominated for an Edgar (MWA), an Agatha (Malice Domestic), a Maxwell award (DWAA), and an Anthony award (Bouchercon). Today, he writes from his home in Cincinnati, which he shares with his dogs.