When I’m not writing fiction, I also write a series of biographies and histories about mystery as well. This takes me to different parts of the country, talking to relatives of the subjects or looking at their papers in a library. While sitting in the library reading old letters may not sound as much fun as bumping off a few characters, research has its rewards. Research can also help promote your works and improve your sales too.
One of the first ways that I increase my promotions from the research is to donate a copy of the book to any library where I’ve done research. Most of the libraries request that you do this, but there’s no stiff penalty if you don’t. Packs of librarians do not show up at your door demanding payment.
However, if you decide to mail the book, in most cases the library publishes a newsletter that includes a list of books received. So you’ve created an audience for your book by announcing it to people who are involved with the library or have used the library’s resources before.
Another way to do benefit from research is to write articles related to the research you do. After finishing my biography of Erle Stanley Gardner, I wrote a piece on the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas – Austin for a biographers’ newsletter. Not only did it get my name out there, I was providing a service in telling other researchers about the resources at the HRC.
I’ve also written pieces for the Mystery Readers Journal, Mystery Scene and have been quoted as an expert on Gardner’s series work. Not only are people more inclined to look up the book after reading about my research, they’re also more likely to remember my name and perhaps locate other books by me. My Boucher biography allowed me to write a short piece on Boucher that’s been used many times in relationship to Bouchercon, where thousands of fans and writers see my name.
Even in writing fiction this is possible. Consider the things that you need to learn in order to write that novel. If you needed to learn about poisons, maybe you could write an article about untraceable poisons. Or if you had to learn about food trucks to add background to your novel, then you could pitch an article to a food truck newsletter.
I also talk about my experiences when I’m researching. I found fascinating information about Gardner at the HRC, which was stored in a paper grocery bag. That can serve as a lesson that the best information can come from the most unlikely sources. I’m currently writing a piece about how I found and was allowed to read the lie detector test results from Gardner’s work with Dr. Sam Sheppard (the murder case which inspired the TV series and movie The Fugitive. Go look it up now! – I’ll wait.) How exciting to find a piece of true crime history like that.
So when you’re using social media to promote your books, don’t forget the other outlets that are available to you for promoting your work. Writing articles can be a great way to build an audience and present yourself as an expert in the field, all while being paid for your pieces!
Jeffrey Marks is a long-time mystery fan and freelancer. After numerous mystery author profiles, he chose to chronicle the short but full life of mystery writer Craig Rice.
That biography (Who Was That Lady?) encouraged him to write mystery fiction. His works include Atomic Renaissance: Women Mystery Writers of the 1940s/1950s, and a biography of mystery author and critic Anthony Boucher entitled Anthony Boucher. It was nominated for an Agatha and fittingly, won an Anthony.
He is the author of Intent to Sell: Marketing the Genre Novel, the only how-to book for promoting genre fiction.
His work has won a number of awards including the Barnes and Noble Prize and he was nominated for a Maxwell award (DWAA), an Edgar (MWA), three Agathas (Malice Domestic), two Macavity awards, and three Anthony awards (Bouchercon). Today, he writes from his home in Cincinnati, which he shares with his spouse and two dogs.