Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Speed Dating For Writers

by Kathleen Ernst

I recently attended Malice Domestic, an annual celebration of the traditional mystery. Participating authors were invited to enter a drawing to earn a place on the roster for Malice-Go-Round. "It's like speed dating for authors," explained Barb Goffman, who organized the event.

I've been involved with Malice for years, but this is the first year my name came out of the hat. I teamed up with my writer-pal Molly MacRae. Convention attendees (i.e. readers) settled down at twenty banquet tables to be enlightened.

Teams of authors moved from table to table. Each author had two minutes to introduce readers to our newest titles, and thirty seconds to move to the next table.

That's me introducing readers to the latest Chloe mystery,
The Light Keeper's Legacy.  (Greg Puhl photo)
The next ninety minutes passed very quickly. At the end I was exhausted. Would I do it again? Heck, yes! I was very glad for the opportunity to make a personal, if brief, connection to so many avid mystery fans.

If you're considering participating in this or a similar event, here are a few observations:

If you have the opportunity, work with a friend. Molly and I quickly developed a rhythm that perfectly fit the allotted time. It also helped, I think, that our books have some common elements.

Me and Molly at Love Is Murder in Chicago Last Febraury,
 where we were each honored with LOVEY Awards.
(I participated in a similar event once where I was paired with a new author at each table. The organizer explained that the rotation was set up that way so no individual was "stuck" with a time-hog for the entire session. A fair point, but it made it impossible to ever settle into a routine.)

I asked several readers afterwards what worked best for them. Their suggestions were simple:  Be friendly. Make eye contact. Share why this book is important to you instead of simply summarizing the plot. Don't over-hype.

Since I'd just received my ARC of the next Chloe Ellefson mystery,
 I couldn't resist showing that too.  And my latest kids' mystery is on the table! (Greg Puhl photo)
The feedback on giveaways was mixed. A few authors walked in with baskets full of little gifties, which immediately instilled in me an inferiority complex. Like most, I passed out bookmarks. I appreciated it when people who weren't interested in my work simply passed them back to me before I left the table. Most of the readers I spoke with said they took everything home to sort through later.

One table was left empty so each author team would get a four-minute rest break part-way through. I assumed "part-way" meant "half-way," and so steered Molly to Table 1. What I didn't notice was that the rest table was the *last* table, so Molly and I didn't get a break at all. Not my best move ever, but hey, somebody had to take Table 1. And Molly's still speaking to me, so all ended OK.

Finally, I have to give a shout-out to Barb Goffman and her team. Malice-Go-Round worked like the proverbial well-oiled machine, thanks to their organization. (And Barb does this on top of organizing panels, too.)

Here are all the participating authors. (Greg Puhl photo)

I've already signed up for Malice 2014, and I'll toss my name into the Go-Round lottery again.   Hope to see you there!

(Until then, you can always visit me at - I have some great book giveaways going on!)


Beth Groundwater said...

Thanks for sharing your experience at Malice-Go-Round, Kathleen! Molly is a dear, so I'm sure you had a great pitching partner in her. Malice-Go-Round is indeed exhausting, but I think it's the best way at that conference to get your book in front of the most readers in the shortest amount of time. I'm sure you got some new readers as a result!

Barb Goffman said...

So glad you had a good time with Go Round, Kathleen! Looking forward to seeing you next spring. (Will you be at Bouchercon in the fall?)

Kathleen Ernst said...

Beth, I agree!

Barb - I'd hoped to attend Bouchercon, but the schedule just isn't going to allow it this year. But I'm already registered for Malice 2014!

Catriona McPherson said...

Isn't Malice-go-round a blast? (Or as I think of it M-go-Arrrrrgh). I went round with Sparkle Abbey which could have been really intimidating, except I just decided to believe that standing beside sparkles makes you sparkly. Barb - as you noted - is Da Man.