Monday, May 25, 2015

Seven Tips for a Successful Cover Reveal Contest

A cover reveal is supposedly the perfect opportunity to build excitement about your newest novel, but how do you get anyone other than your mother to care?  My past cover reveals (all two of them) got lots of likes and more than a few comments, but they felt anticlimactic to me.  I love my covers.  I want my readers to be as excited about them as I am.  But how?

On the flight  home from Malice, the answer came to me.  Host a cover reveal contest!

Now all I had to do was figure out how to do it.  In case any of you want to try one too, here are my key learnings:
Seven tips for a successful cover reveal contest:

Follow the rules.  My favorite social media marketing tool is Facebook, but Facebook is persnickety about contests.  There are rules, rules and more rules.  Follow them and all is golden.  Don’t?  You might get yourself banned to Facebook purgatory.  A place where your Facebook privileges are suspended or even revoked completely. Facebook rules, including those pertaining to contests, are at this page.

Have a single web page that summarizes the contest.  I write for multiple blogs, but I posted the first day of the contest on my personal blog.  This included the disclaimers and instructions for all days of the week-long contest.  That way even as the contest continued to plug along, I had a single place I could refer people. Even though I thought I was clear in every post, I had multiple entries that I needed to correct each day.

Make it a week-long event

In my case, there were 5 key elements in the cover I wanted to highlight, so I spread the contest out over 5 days, with a unique prize each day. The grand prize round two was days later.  Even my husband, who had seen the cover multiple times, started to wonder what the next “reveal” would be.  And the participants created stories about how the 5 elements might fit together—some of them surprisingly close to the truth!

Have a grand finale

The final reveal, of course is the grand finale, but shouldn’t there be a grand prize to go along with it?  In my case, I honored my fellow Agatha nominees for Best First Novel by giving a set of autographed copies of all 5 of the nominated books. 

Ask for a little help from your friends

In this case, my friends are my street team.  I had a special contest for a signed ARC of my book to street team members who shared the post.  That got me reach to readers I’d never otherwise find.

Be involved

I’ll admit, this contest took a lot more time than I thought it would.  Posting the contest was only the start.  I also had to check in on the posts several times a day, note who had shared each post and how many times, and reply to the relevant comments.  I also had to re-direct people who accidentally posted their answers on the wrong page.  I firmly believe that time spent interacting with my readers (and future readers) is time well spent.  I don’t recommend doing this, however, if you’re up against a deadline.  Make sure you leave plenty of time for contest administration.


What good is a contest if no one enters?  I advertised in several ways, all low cost and low time:

·        Posts on my personal and author Facebook pages.  I started a week before the contest, and posted daily throughout it.

·        Cheap Facebook post promotions.  I was hesitant to do this, in case my contest violated any of the oh-so-grumpily-enforced Facebook rules, but I put on my big girl pants and did it anyway. I paid between $2 and $5 a day to boost the day’s post.  Honestly, except for the final day, my organic  reach far exceeded my paid reach.

·        Posts in relevant Facebook groups.  I belong to 5 cozy mystery groups, and I posted to every one of them.  If you’re going to do that, be sure to follow the group rules.

·        Dedicated blog posts.  I dedicated the contest-week posts on Killer Hobbies and my Whole Life Yoga blog to the contest.

·         An author newsletter article with a link to the contest.

If I’d had more time and energy I would also have posted on Twitter and advertised in Goodreads groups.  Alas, that will have to wait for next year’s contest.

The results? 

Considering my author page only had less than 600 fans and I’m a newer author, I was pleased with the interaction.

·        Each day of the contest, my author page post was seen by 900 – 1200 people, 90% of that reach was organic.

·       The final reveal post has been seen by over 2300 people.  Four times the number of fans of the page it is posted on.  Considering I didn’t promote that post and Facebook’s organic reach is usually about 5%, that is notable.

·        Each day’s contest had 60 – 90 entries.

·        The final contest (which required following the contest for 5 days and e-mailing me personally) had 54 entries.

·        The “likes” on my Facebook author page grew by 70.  (Not a lot, but since I wasn’t targeting that, I thought over 10% growth in a week was interesting.)

·        Many of the contestants contacted me personally to say how much fun they’d had and to thank me for the contest.

Will I do it again?  You bet!  The fun I had alone was worth the costs of the prizes! Next year I plan to make it  even more exciting.

How about you?  Have you ever run a cover reveal contest?  If so, how did it go?  What ideas would you add to my list above?  And even more importantly, what do you think of my new cover?


          A Killer Retreat
Tracy Weber is the author of the award-winning Downward Dog Mysteries series featuring yoga teacher Kate Davidson and her feisty German shepherd, Bella. Tracy loves sharing her passion for yoga and animals in any form possible. Her first book, Murder Strikes a Pose won the Maxwell Award for Fiction was nominated for the Agatha award for Best First Novel. The second book in her series, A Killer Retreat, was released January, 2015 by Midnight Ink.
Tracy and her husband live in Seattle with their challenging yet amazing German shepherd Tasha. When she’s not writing, Tracy spends her time teaching yoga, walking Tasha, and sipping Blackthorn cider at her favorite ale house. 
Visit her at, friend her on Facebook at, or e-mail her at

Friday, May 15, 2015


Take a look at these FANTASTIC spring reads!

Bite the Biscuit
By: Linda O. Johnston 
A Barkery & Biscuits Mystery #1

"Kicking off a cozy new series, prolific Johnston blends mystery and romantic intrigue."—KIRKUS REVIEWS

Come to Harm
A Novel
By: Catriona McPherson

Starred Review "[McPherson is a] master of psychological thrillers."


Murder with a Twist
By: Tracy Kiely 
A Nic & Nigel Mystery #1

"Witty, droll, and hilariously spot on."—Hank Phillipi Ryan, Agatha, Anthony, 
Macavity, and Mary Higgins Clark Award-winning author

The Final Reveille
By: Amanda Flower 
A Living History Museum Mystery #1

“History and Civil War buffs will enjoy the historical details woven through the mystery, and Kelsey and the secondary characters are well drawn and sympathetic. This one will appeal to readers who enjoy contemporary cozies with a history frame.”—BOOKLIST

Monday, May 11, 2015

Ch-ch-ch Changes

by Shannon Baker
Chaos. *cue Maxwell Smart music* The next two weeks, more like three, will be so far from routine it’ll be like 21 days of Mondays. We’re getting an 8 week old puppy and moving to Tucson from Nebraska. Stopping long enough to inhale—something like 24 hours—then bopping up to Flagstaff so we can clean up a rental house to sell it. Then I fly out of Flagstaff up to Denver to do a presentation at the University of Colorado (I KNOW!!) drive my car to Tucson and we’re starting the good life.
The great news is that this marks the end of gainful employment for our household. Long days of leisure await us as we lounge by the pool, sipping mai tais and strumming on ukuleles. Ask any retired person and they’ll tell you all about their endless free time.

Right now, I’m dreaming of those big moving vans with strapping men who come and load boxes and furniture. You hand them your new address and a check and like magic, it all appears in your new home and you never had to get out of your negligee and kitten-heeled slippers. That’s not the way we do it. We have a pickup and a trailer and my whining, complaining, ever more feebleness dragging, hauling, and sometimes crying.
In the middle of all this, I’m struggling to tame my current manuscript and expecting my first editorial letter from a new editor on the novel I turned in a couple of months ago.
I’m packing boxes, stopping to read a chapter in one of four puppy books, driving toward completing draft 2 –which is the one where I take all the mess from a blind gallop to the finish line in the first draft and pat it into a real story with all those things like character motivation and rising tension, and where I throw out all the really great scenes that don’t add to the story but were probably some unconscious emotional therapy and are rich in subtlety and moral philosophy and read like poetry or the work of a literary master. (I can say that because no one will ever read them and you’ll have to take my word for their beauty.) Let’s see, where was I before I took that punctuational detour?
You might get an idea of my monkey brain. As my husband so eloquently puts it, I’m like a fart in a skillet. Forget about bitchy resting face, my current look, as I’m shoving my happy lamp into a box (why would I need a happy lamp in Tucson but now I’m to the point where everything goes into a box because it’s easier than the cull) is more like a prune swallowing battery acid because I’m working out the book while applying strapping tape.
Deep breath. It will all get done. It always does.
The good news is that when we get down to Tucson and settle ourselves, we’re opening up our doors. We’ll be offering writers retreats. This five bedroom house sits on the edge of the desert with nothing but sage and cactus for miles out our back door. Sunsets are staged every evening over Kitt Peak with perfect viewing from our back deck and are paired perfectly with a glass of wine or cocktail of your choice. It’s quiet and sunny, with a pool and spa surrounded by a tall and very private fence. You and your writers group or buddy or solo can come down and immerse yourself in your words. In Tucson. Where mid-winter temps require a light jacket.

I promise by then, I’ll be exuding nothing but serene, creative, happy vibes—you know, like usual for me.
Contact me if getting away from snow and cold and going deep into your writing sounds good. Summers are pretty great on the desert, too. The nights cool off and, did I mention the pool? Come on, you know you want to!   


Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Dying For The Malice In All Of Us

by Tj O'Connor Author of Dying to Know and Dying for the Past
Third time’s a charm …

Three years ago, I attended my first writer’s conference—Malice Domestic—and spent the entire three days scratching my head and trying to figure out where I belonged in this new world of cozy-mystery authors. When I came home, I said, “Nowhere.”

Of course I felt out of place. My debut novel, Dying to Know, was not yet out. I knew no one, and while I’ve never been one to stay shyly secluded somewhere, I still felt the odd-man-out. Perhaps it was that I didn’t consider myself a cozy writer. Perhaps it was that I was one of very few guys who had written a cozy (I did by accident), or perhaps it was simply that being surrounded by so many talented authors—most of which were ladies—was intimidating. I hadn’t been a rookie at anything for a couple decades and being one then scared the holy crap out of me. I’d say holy shit, but as a cozy writer, you sort of keep the colorful language to yourself … oops.

What a silly man I am.

This year, I was no longer a complete rookie. Book II, Dying for the Past, was out and I’d spent a good many weekends touring around talking about my book, signing, and begging for as many listeners as I could get. Malice this year wasn’t any different in that regard—I’m still begging for fans—but I began to feel a little at home with this crowd of amazing authors and fans. 

And damn, a few fans actually came up to me and asked, “Are you Tj O’Connor? I loved your book … would you sign …” Holy crap on a peanut butter sandwich. They loved Dying to Know and Dying for the Past. And, yes, you heard it right. I actually have a few fans! And, no, they’re not family, I didn’t pay them, and no one put them up to a joke. Fans. Real, breathing, reading fans. Who would think?

Malice was a terrific three days on the heels of an extraordinary guest speaking gig in Upstate New Jersey at the Children’s Special Hospital Charity, where I had the extraordinary pleasure of dining with my dear friends, Tom and Gale Sloan, and American Hero—Jerry Parr—the man who saved Ronald Reagan’s life—and his hugely successful and graceful wife, Carolyn, who is a retired Federal Judge (more on this one in another blog later). I sold a bunch of books, met some great people, and helped a little with the coffers of a great charity.

How on earth do you follow that one up?

Good books. Good friends. Good times.

During the weekend at Malice Domestic, I spent most of my time meeting new friends and fans (lord that sounds funny to say out loud … fans…) and swapping stories with fellow authors about how we’re muddling through this wacky business. I had the greatest time chatting and having a few drinks with my editor—the grande dame of Midnight Ink (my publisher)—Terri Bischoff, whom has single-handedly made life as a new-guy so much more bearable this past year that I don’t think she knows it.

But there were other highlights, too, that have pulled me into this family of cozy-writers.

First, there was the Midnight Ink dessert bash Friday night to celebrate 10 Years in the biz. We had amazing sweets, met some fantastic fans (there it is again … fans…), and had fun giving away a stack of books and signing for those lucky enough to get to the table first. But, being the loyal mystery readers they are, after I ran out of free books to sign, several bought them and had me sign on Saturday and Sunday. Thank you to all of you who made my day!
Second, there was the awards banquet for some good pals who were up for prestigious awards. It was bittersweet on a couple where friend vs. friend meant one would win and one would lose. Dinner was ehhh, but dessert —oh, la, la—(and I rarely indulge, although you wouldn’t believe that to look at me these days!) Speeches are speeches, but the event was grand. I had the distinct pleasure of sitting with my good friends—old and new—at Tracy Weber’s table. We were all rooting for her to win best first novel for Murder Strikes a Pose. Alas, it was not to be, but it’s pretty clear she’ll be heading to the podium soon.

Perhaps the best event at Malice for me was the honor of being on a panel with three brilliant and charming authors during the Sunday morning Malice schedule. Our panel was Magical Mystery Tour—Paranormal Mysteries. As Tonya Kappes—a bestselling author—said, “it was a hoot!” I was thrilled to be there among fellow authors Leigh Kelner/Perry, Tonya, and the extraordinary Charlaine Harris of True Blood fame. Our moderator was Judy Hogan, a delightful author who kept the whip cracking and the questions flying for us. While I was the low guy on the totem pole with so little experience and no notable success yet, these lovely ladies treated me like I was one of them—err, a good author, not a lady. That would have been weird, right? But, yes, what a hoot.

I was exhausted by the end of my book signing Sunday and ready to call it a weekend. How to end three days on an even higher note? Not possible. Not possible at all … but wait … maybe …

An email awaited me during the event that was the cherry on top of my third Malice. My incomparable publicist, Maryglenn McCombs, sent me this notice:

Independent Publisher Book Awards (Ippy) – Mystery/Cozy/Noir—Gold Medal—Dying to Know by Tj O’Connor.

No, you didn’t misread this. Yep, it’s real. Who would have thunk it? Not me. But Maryglenn did!

Wow. Holy crap. What a week—dinner with an American hero; meeting real fans; time with my pals and colleagues; on a panel with Tonya, Leigh, and Charlaine; and now an Ippy. What next, the Nobel? Ah, no. Just kidding.

So, book fans and wannabe authors, here’s the message. Don’t quit. Write. Write some more. Keep writing. If you have the dream, you’ll never wake up if you keep writing. I’ve been so privileged these past two years to have met some of my heroes, heard from others who shouldn’t even know my name (yes, Mr. James Grady, I’m referring to you again), and had the honor of being among some great authors and some talented, aspiring ones. You can too. Just don’t stop.

All things are possible and while I’ve had a few pretty tough weeks of late, this past one wasn’t among them. I may never become famous. I may never make the bestseller list or be able to quit my real job and write for a living (not unless my wife will agree to live in someone’s basement). And I may never make it to the level of James Grady or Stephen Frey. But I do get to hang with some of the best and most gracious people I’ve ever met.

For now, that’s pretty damn good.

Tj O’CONNOR IS THE GOLD MEDAL WINNER OF THE 2015 INDEPENDENT PUBLISHERS BOOK AWARDS FOR MYSTERIES. He is the author of Dying to Know and Dying for the Past, available in bookstores and e-books from Midnight Ink. His third paranormal mystery, DYING TO TELL, will be released January 2016. He is currently working on a traditional mystery and a new thriller. Tj is an international security consultant specializing in anti-terrorism, investigations, and threat analysis—life experiences that drive his novels. With his former life as a government agent and years as a consultant, he has lived and worked around the world in places like Greece, Turkey, Italy, Germany, the United Kingdom, and throughout the Americas—among others. He was raised in New York's Hudson Valley and lives with his wife and Lab companions in Virginia where they raised five children. Dying to Know is also a Foreword Review’s 2014 INDIEFAB Book of the Year Award finalist.

Learn about Tj’s world at:

Web Site:


Monday, May 4, 2015

Malice Domestic

--by Linda O. Johnston

I know I'm a little late posting this.  That's because I purposely delayed writing it until I left Malice Domestic, a wonderful conference for cozy mystery readers and writers that took place this weekend.
It was wonderful!  I got to see old friends and make new ones.  I hung out with fellow Inkers, talked about our books and shared information about our respective series.

I got to chat with my delightful Midnight Ink editor Terri Bischoff.  At the buffet I sat at the table hosted by fellow Inker Tracy Weber, who was nominated for an Agatha for best first novel.  I'm so proud of her!  We also sat near another table of Inkers and were able to toast each other with delicious wine.

My Malice panel was: The "Paws" That Refresh: Four-Legged Detectives and Their Sidekicks, where my fellow panelists also write mysteries dealing with pets, mostly dogs and cats.  What a fun group!

I participated in Malice Go Round, which is the exhausting but enjoyable event where authors visit tables of readers two at a time to each give two-minute pitches of their work, then move on.  I'd been second on the waiting list of authors, and a few authors very sadly weren't able to make it to the conference or otherwise were not able to attend this event. 

I received a copy of the Midnight Ink magazine containing its fall lineup of mysteries.  It had the cover of my upcoming October release, the second Superstition Mystery, KNOCK ON WOOD in it!  It looks great.  Information and covers of my existing MI books were there, too, including the first Superstition novel LOST UNDER A LADDER as well as the first Barkery and Biscuits novel BITE THE BISCUIT.

And, yes, BITE THE BISCUIT is now officially available, or at least it will be in four days.  Copies were at the conference, and I was able to sign some to give away at the wonderful dessert bar hosted by MI to celebrate its tenth birthday.

So, yes, I had fun.

And I look forward to next year's Malice Domestic!