Thursday, February 7, 2008

The Buddy System

by Sue Ann Jaffarian

With the release of my latest Odelia Grey novel, Thugs and Kisses, comes the inevitable marketing and promotion. This time, however, I’m tackling it a little differently. This time I’m not going it alone. I’m using the buddy system.

It started late last year when Tim Maleeny and I did a joint mailer to 5,000 folks, all hopefully unfamiliar with our work. Overall, we both feel this was a great success and gave us name recognition in markets beyond the mystery community.

Now I’m teaming up with another fellow author, Christa Faust. Christa’s new book, Money Shot, was just released by Hard Case Crime. She is the first woman to be published by Hard Case and her book features Angel Dare, a porn star, beaten, raped and left for dead in the trunk of a car. Not exactly the type of heroine you’d expect to be hooked up with my Odelia Grey, a pushing 50, plump paralegal. Yet, so far, our joint venture has been a success.

Last Saturday Christa and I had a combined launch party, followed by joint readings at the Los Angeles Sisters In Crime meeting on Sunday. Instead of doing a straight reading, we read from each other’s work. The results were fabulous and the audience loved it. Our books, though very different, have many of the same themes running through them and we are capitalizing on that, along with the fact that both of our covers feature naked women. Our tour is called the Naked Ladies Tour.

This coming Friday, we hit the road for Seattle and have several events scheduled. The cross reading was so successful, that we’re planning on doing it in Seattle at an author’s fair sponsored by Barnes and Noble. And we’re thinking of doing other short road trips together in the near future.

I’m also planning on teaming up in 2008 with Kathryn Lilley, a friend and fellow author, whose books also feature a plus size protagonist. In addition to some signings, Kathryn and I are placing joint ads in conference programs and magazines. Our tag line is: “Redefining the Shape of Mystery and Romance.”

Besides the obvious benefits of sharing expenses, teaming up with other authors has the bonus of introducing your work to the readers of the other author. But be warned, just because the other person is a mystery author, it doesn’t mean he/she is the right book buddy for you. It’s rather like dating. Someone may be fabulous, but might not be a match for you.

Tips for finding a good book buddy:

*He/She should have the same commitment level as you. If you are an energetic promoter of your work, you will find it frustrating to be teamed with someone who is low key or lacks the same drive.

*Discuss each project fully before going forward. Make sure you are both onboard with the cost, market targeted, time involved and time of event.

*Be willing to make some compromises. Not all promotions will match the two of you equally. Be willing to trade off a bit on benefits.

*If you are doing personal appearances together, talk over your topics, themes, etc. beforehand. Present a united front to the audience. Play off each other’s strengths, humor, personality.

*Take the time to know your book buddy’s work, so you can discuss it with confidence in a smooth dialogue.

*It is not necessary to choose an author whose book is similar to yours. The idea is to expand your readership, not market to the same people over and over. However, it’s best to stay within the same genre. People looking to buy a mystery may not care about your buddy’s kosher cookbook, and vice versa.

*More is not more. Limit the number of book buddies at an event or in an ad. I think 2 is best, with 3 doable. Any more and it’s a panel and loses its individual appeal.

If you haven’t already, consider teaming up with another author for your next book’s promotion. It’s not only beneficial, it’s a load of fun!


Mark Terry said...

I can see how it COULD work.

Unfortunately, like so many of my experiences with book publishing, mine aren't quite so rosy.

A few years back, for Dirty Deeds, I hired a publicist. She also had a client in my area and seemed intent on us doing joint signings and events. The reason for this was that the other client was phobic about driving and needed me to chauffeur her.

We were cordial to each other, but not overly friendly. She was a retired teacher who lived alone and had a very subdued personality. Her books were serious cozies and Dirty Deeds is kind of hard-edged, about Internet porn, identity theft and TV evangelism.

I just never felt it worked out very well. Unfortunately for me, I also felt like I was being used by both the other agent and the publicist, although I was too passive-aggressive to come right out and say it.

Moot point now, I guess.

Sue Ann Jaffarian said...

Mark, unfortunately you were used. As I said, you need to make sure you are a good fit with the other author before you team up. Though cozy and hard-boil can work together. Christa Faust writes hard core noir and I write soft-boiled mysteries, yet audiences have loved our combination and our readers have crossed over and bought the other books. But also, Christa and I are both very outgoing people and play well with and off each other.

G.M. Malliet said...

It all sounds like fun, Sue Ann.

& I like the idea of mixing the genres. That makes much more sense than reaching out to the same audience, repeatedly.