Friday, June 1, 2007

Don't Stop

Keith Raffel here. Sorry for the late-in-the-day posting. Just JetBlued back from New York City late last night.

In the city, booksellers from all over the country were streaming to Javits Center where BEA, Book Expo America, started yesterday. Hundreds of publishers are showing what they have on the way to the buyers for thousands of bookstores. Last year’s BEA was definitely one of the highlights of my life as a writer. One day I signed ARC’s (advanced reader copies) at the Mystery Writers of America’s booth. Margery Flax and team managed to recruit a queue of autograph seekers. Then the next day I did a general signing. The line was 50 people long! I kept asking people why they were waiting for Dot Dead, a book they hadn’t heard of by an author who was obscure. Not celebrity behavior I guess, but the experience was the zenith of my writer’s high.

Of course, after last year’s BEA, Dot Dead was published and started showing up in bookstores. In two months after publication I visited bookstores in Seattle, Portland, Southern California, Colorado, and the Bay Area. I had a great time being driven around Seattle by author and friend Ann Eisenberg as though I really was somebody. At High Crimes Mystery Bookstore in Boulder, the proprietors told me that when Joe Konrath was there, he went out into the street and recruited people for his talk. I wasn’t about to be one-upped and did the same; the result was a listing on the bestseller list of the local paper, the Daily Camera. Mary Nam, the anchor at KOMO-TV in Seattle, interviewed me live and when we were done, turned and gave me a look of utter amazement. “You’re good,” she said in a voice tinged with incredulity. Ann’s husband Matt congratulated me for getting some talk of sex in a one minute interview. Dr. Johnson once said, “The prospect of hanging concentrates the mind wonderfully.” And that’s what happened to me when I was on live TV or radio. (You can hear an interview here.) There were a couple of stops where just a person or two showed up, but those bad memories were pretty much wiped away by the culmination of the tour at my hometown store, Kepler’s, where 75 people, including some I hadn’t seen since high school, showed up.

So then my tour was over and everything stopped? Not hardly. This spring, I have:

• been the April Fools' Day guest reader at a meeting of Sisters in Crime LA,
• signed and signed 50 copies of Dot Dead at three different booths at the LA Times Festival of Books,
• arranged for a table at the local Borders where I hand sold 19 copies of Dot Dead,
• done a signing at the San Francisco Mystery Bookstore with Steve Hockensmith, Simon Wood, and fellow Inkster Tim Maleeny,
• presented to the mystery readers’ group at the Menlo Park Library,
• had the right to name characters in my next book, Two Graves, auctioned off by two charities,
• been the guest of honor at a fundraiser for a local private school (copies of Dot Dead came with the tickets),
• appeared as a featured writer during authors’ week at two high schools,
• showed up at Kepler’s book club night to be introduced and sign books,
• signed books at the re-opening of Bob and Bob,
• attended the sessions of five book groups, and
• been interviewed for an article in an upcoming issue of Gentry Magazine.

Oh, back to the beginning of this post. I was in New York this week the week of BEA to attend a Meet the Authors Night, sponsored by the Jewish Book Council. A hundred authors, including me, had two minutes to pitch ourselves as speakers to the volunteer staffs of Jewish book fairs around the country. One expects authors to be less than articulate when moving lips rather than writing words. Wrong. Of the 30 pitches I myself heard, at least two dozen discussed books that sounded terrific to me. Not much fiction was presented, though, and no other mysteries. I schmoozed with people from Maryland, Austin (including a fellow Palo Alto High grad), Indianapolis, D.C., Rockland County (NY), Richmond, Ann Arbor, Rochester (NY), Atlanta, and Detroit. If all goes well, I'll be on the road visiting some of them during their book fairs in November. The first time I met the classy and friendly Jewish mystery writer Rochelle Krich it was at one of fairs, and she recommended them highly to me.

I’m still learning about book promotion, and I’m nowhere near halfway up the learning curve. But one thing I have learned is that it never stops.

What are other authors doing after the initial post-publication round of bookstore visits and interviews?


Mark Terry said...

"...the proprietors told me that when Joe Konrath was there, he went out into the street and recruited people for his talk."

Knowing Joe, he probably knocked them unconscious with a sap and dragged their bodies into the store. God only knows what he did with them afterward. :)

I'm impressed by your energy (and your financial resources, but that's probably a different story). Good job.

Deb Baker said...

You're really hustling! Here's one fun thing I'm doing. Maggie Sefton (author of a wonderful knitting series) and I are touring in the Milwaukee area June 18-23 and have invited doll shops (this is for my doll collecting series more than the Yooper) and knitting shops to do presentations with us. The response has been enthusiastic. I'll let you know how it goes. Never toured with another author before.

Keith Raffel said...

Financial resources, Mark? Almost everything I listed was local and just took gas. I did fly to NYC but made reservations way in advance on JetBlue which is pretty cheap. I took the subway in from the airport and stayed with friends. If the book fairs invite me, they pay for the travel. I drove to LA and used mileage points for the hotel room.

Deb, give Maggie a big hug for me. She has more energy than a hydroelectric plant! Good luck.

Anonymous said...

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You can ask them for a free Courtesy Listing if you want.
Hope that helps,