There will be interesting people. The distinguished Mysterious Bookshop, a treasure trove of mystery titles. And cookies! Come join us for the fun.
(Clicking on the image should open it up nicely)
I had an interesting experience recently which is worth sharing, so here is my report:
In June, someone at my publisher sent a list of the fall regional trade shows to authors with a new book out or ARC available for one coming soon. Would we like to participate in a show, sitting at the Ingram booth? Turned out there was one in October in New Jersey, reasonable driving distance, so I said yes. I didn’t know what to expect, but why not?
It was in a large hotel in Somerset (a Doubletree), with restaurants, meeting rooms for the booksellers and an exhibit hall. That looked quite familiar to anyone who has been to Malice or Bouchercon, only this time it was the booksellers doing the browsing. The exhibitors were the publishers and wholesalers introducing new fall books. My badge was waiting for me, there was a big stack of ARC’s for Brooklyn Secrets and the friendly Ingram rep encouraged me to talk to anyone who walked by and not to wait for them to come to me. I said “Do you want a book?” About 98% of them did! They wanted them signed, they wanted to know about the series, they were happy to have eye-catching post cards about the other books, they were not put off by ARCS. (They are booksellers; of course they weren’t.) We chatted about where they were from, I met someone whose boss I had recently interviewed for an MWA/NY project, I met someone from the bookstore nearest my home, I met someone from a bookstore in a Delaware beach town who invited me to come do a program at her store!
In other words, I was out making friends for my books. Many ARCS were given out and now many booksellers know me and my books and perhaps will remember when it comes time to order stock and make recommendations to customers. It was easy and it was fun. Unless you really, really hate talking to strangers, I definitely recommend saying yes if have the opportunity.
(PS – these are not photos of the actual event. I need to get better at remembering to do that.)
I came across a fabulous write-up on the hoax of I, Libertine, which conned the New York Times bestseller list, also literary reviewers, publishers, and booksellers (even a lit professor) in the mid-fifties. Not because it wasn’t an obvious hoax. I encourage you to read the whole post to see how funny but transaparent the hoax was, and how easily it could be detected by people who asked questions rather than pretending to have the answers. From the blog of author J. Mark Powell:
Shep [Jean Shepherd, radio host and satirist] may have been working in Manhattan, but having been born and raised in Hammond, Indiana (where A Christmas Story is set, by the way) he still had Midwestern sensibilities. One thing that astonished him about New Yorkers was (and still remains) their slavish obsession with Top 10 lists. “The 10 Most Beautiful People…” “The 10 New Looks for Summer…” “The 10 Hottest Movies…” Shep felt New Yorkers blindly followed whatever appeared on those lists without thinking or questioning them. The one that got his goat most of all was The New York Times Best Seller list for books….
But here’s the thing: in Shep’s time, despite its name, the criteria for making the list involved more than just book sales. It included customer requests for and questions about books to book sellers. So if a retailer had a stack of a particular book that wasn’t selling, he could gin up enough queries about it to get the title included on the best seller list, which then made people go out and buy it.
You have to read it all to marvel and laugh at how long the hoax went on, how many people knew, and how many other people fatuously pretended to have read the book or to have met the author. The truly turgid cover above came rather late in the game, actually, when a real book was finally written to fit the hoax. Yes, it also hit the bestseller list.
There are still ways that people try to shift this list or that one, and the keepers of the lists still put their own thumbs on the scales, too. But also, for me, the story also highlights the way that people still assume if they haven’t read about it or seen it from a handful of media outlets, something couldn’t possibly be happening or be true. I’ve come across this more in New York than other places I’ve lived, to be frank. The downside, if there is one, of immersion in perhaps the preeminent media capital of the world is that people within may not look outside very often, assuming they already know all that’s worthy of knowing. Therefore, a story that’s unremarked and unreported in the northeast ends up working like a very successful “conspiracy,” because a huge number of people (in this case, listeners across 37 states) know something of which the self-appointed tastemakers and trendsetters remain ignorant and/or are satisfied to have other people remain ignorant.
In some salons, Frederick R. Ewing was considered the acme of success, but who among us will ever compare to his reach (not to mention his genius)?How do you define a writer’s success? How tough are you on yourself about your own?
The First National Readathon Day is set for January 24, 2015, from noon – 4 pm. The campaign (Twitter #timetoread) was launched yesterday by Penguin Random House. In addition to encouraging folks to make time to read, the program will support the National Book Foundation (whose function is to expand the audience for literature in America) using first giving.com. Participants can read on their own or form teams which can pool their fundraising efforts.
The first 100 venues to sign up as hosts will get a free Readathon poster.
Are you going to participate in the First National Readathon on January 24, 2015 ~ in a cozy chair in your own home, your local library, your favorite bookstore, or elsewhere? Let us know ~ and what you are planning to read, if you already know!
If you hadn’t heard the news yet, the multi-talented, award-winning author, Reed Farrel Coleman, has “become” Robert B. Parker when it comes to the New York Times Best-Selling Jesse Stone series.
Throughout September and October 2014, Reed will be appearing at various bookstores around the country ~ check out his upcoming BLIND SPOT signings.
Congratulations, Reed! Best wishes as you embark on your exciting BLIND SPOT tour.
Follow me on Twitter @katcop13.
Laura and I are back in one piece from last weekend’s Noir at the Bar, and what a fun time it was! Lots of writers, yummy crepes. It was cozy and collegial, and that was a night with many terrific readers, but it made me think about readings in general. The idea of authors reading their work is supposed to amount to entertainment for the audience and a good promotional opportunity for the author. However, too often IMO, it’s neither, and most often, I think it’s because writers assume that familiarity with their own work through having created it is enough to take them most of the way through a reading. Erm, well, I’m not so sure about that…
So, here are tips, in case you haven’t done a public reading before and wonder where to start, or hope to stop getting cut off before you’re done, would like to feel more engagement from listeners, or want to have more confidence and fun doing them.
SELECTION: Do NOT pick a selection of complicated choreography–it can be difficult to follow by ear if there’s too much action. I don’t mean action in general, but the kind where it really matters that he feinted clockwise on his heel then to the left, or that the tiny blue wire was affixed, just behind, but not quite out of sight of the barometric gangliwrench. If you’re going to read lots of action, read action that’s direct and easy to visualize, but I would make sure it has alternating moments of internal reaction to the action as well. People attach to characters first, so I probably ought to care about the guy who’s wrestling an anaconda, or I might want the wrong one to win.
In reaction to my caution above, do NOT pick a selection of extensive description or backstory where there’s no action at all, just exposition. There needs to be some arc and movement through what you’re reading to provide dramatic rhythm. Think about a hook-y beginning, an immersive middle. a breathtaking finish. Yes, even short readings should have that structure, because all of us campfire ghost story fans understand intrinsically how that works, whether it’s a joke being told or half of your Chapter 8.
Do NOT pick a selection where you think you’ll have to spend lots of time just explaining the context of the scene to make it comprehensible. Most often with this latter problem, you may think you need this, but clever listeners really can jump aboard a moving freight train with more agility than authors may assume. We do it all the time. Think of the micro-seconds it takes us to figure out the premise of a 15-second radio commercial. I don’t need to know these people’s names or backgrounds. There’s a dad with a lazy teen who keeps going overboard on his text messaging. I’m ready for what’s next.
Do NOT feel you have to do an early introductory scene, if it’s not the most easily carved into a dramatically-paced selection. Do NOT be over-concerned with spoilers. If you don’t give listeners some good stuff, they’ll never read your book to get spoiled at all.
DO try to pick a scene with one of your leading characters, because they’re likely to be the most richly developed, and it’s part of letting people know who you are as a fiction writer. DO try to pick a scene without crazy detail, but with some specificity that will help it stand out in the crowd. Miscellaneous talking heads on a street or over a table is usually less memorable than a conversation over a flat tire, while buying sixteen yards of duct tape, while hanging upside down from a bar. (But you know that, that’s why there are so many otherwise prosaic conversations over straight-razor shaves in barber chairs.)
DO try to pick a scene that’s easy to explain and inherently dramatic. I was reading a complete story, so it didn’t/shouldn’t need additional set-up, but if you’re reading from the center of a novel, think about setting up your premise for listeners in a single sentence. Hard? Sure, but you’re a writer. “The wounded detective returns to the station, only to learn the prisoner who stabbed her is loose in the building with a police uniform.” So maybe you’d begin, not with her thinking about her life and limping thoughtfully up the gray, granite steps, because it’s an introduction to her, but instead, with the detective’s profane yell at the sergeant in full voice as her blood drips on the floor. You might feel odd about beginning your reading with a yell, but if you’re brave enough to do it, people will remember (and I’d dare say enjoy) your reading, and if you’ve got a thriller, it’s perfect. What listener wouldn’t want to know more?
LENGTH: Now everyone is a little different, of course, and I’ve often heard (and even told people before now!) to plan on reading about one MS page per minute, so usually, around 250 words. However, over time, I’ve now decided, at least for my own work, to really deliver it the way I want, the speed is a LOT more like 150 words/minute.
Nervousness, once in front of a real audience, almost always makes readers speedier, and that can really impact the listener’s ability to follow the thread of the narration. Also, the occasional, deliberate pause is extremely important for effect and emphasis, as well as comprehension. Please take that breath!
In my case, I really thought I had the final selection done, but once I started practicing aloud, it was clearly way over my 10-minute allotment, so I went back to editing and editing until I had the right time. Finally, finally, it fell in at about 1670 words in 10 minutes. For me, that was almost 6 full, double-spaced manuscript pages in 12 pt font. If I’d already known how slow I was really going to want to read–and I won’t forget now that I’ll have this post to remind me–I could have saved myself some time tweezing at the margins while I still needed a machete.
In the case of my very-short story, which I was aiming to read in its entirety, I believe my repeated cut-downs made it stronger, because every word had to serve a purpose to be allowed to stay. Yes, I know we all hear that this should be our goal in every sentence, but let’s be frank, in a 90,000 word novel, there will be some prose that’s a little less purposeful and muscular, so to speak. All the re-reading during the revision process also made my reading smoother, so when I got to doing it live, I was more comfortable, having half-memorized it in the process.
By my lights, 10 minutes is about the maximum enjoyable duration for any single piece in a setting that’s not designed for performance. By that, I mean not in a theater, not by a voice actor, no paid tickets, stuck in the corner of the library’s reading room, that kind of thing. So, once my selection was appropriately whittled down, I printed out a fresh copy for the evening’s real notations.
PREPARING COPY: I love e-books, and if you have a lot of capacity in your reading app for markup, a digital copy may be fine, but for public readings, I really prefer having a printout, double-spaced, since that gives plenty of room for me to scribble. I also collate and staple my one-sided pages at the left corner. Once I’m reading, I don’t want to be shuffling pages, flipping back and forth reading duplex, dropping any sheets, or suddenly panicking that I’ve disordered something. Any of these fumbling misfortunes is only abetted by performance anxiety. Once I have my printout ready, I read it aloud with a timer and start marking it up with a pen and highlighter. (Some people prefer pencil, in case they need corrections.)
My markup includes highlighting any word that I wouldn’t naturally emphasize, but which ought to be in this selection. For example, I’d naturally tend to emphasize a word in italics, but what about that weird name of a Rottweiler when it’s called across the park? I’ll highlight things like that, even underline them for max effect. When you highlight this way, your eyes will catch it as you’re working down the page and you’ll be ready for whatever kind of vocal expression is called for when that bit comes.
I also scribble pronunciations next to any difficult words. Pronunciations are especially good to have in the margins if I’m reading work that’s not my own. Perhaps there are foreign words I had to look up, or words I’ve only seen written before and just learned to say (or say differently). Is the philosopher Pliny pronounced more like PLINNY or PLEINY? I don’t want to decide wrong on the fly, or worse, freeze up in confusion when I get there. Not sure what’s going to be difficult? Read it aloud. Again. (This is the cure for almost any problem.) Any place that trips you as you read, no matter how dumb it seems that you stumble there, is a place for you to give yourself some guidance. The Future You will send her fervent appreciation from the podium.
I had a sentence in my recent story that I just couldn’t say without mangling. Yes, I wrote it, but there was something about the way the consonants fell. I kept screwing it up in my classically dyslexic fashion. In this case, I had the ability to edit those words into something I could actually say, preciousness of my own prose be damned. If I can’t change the words, I can at least put in a note to Slow Down just before that part. (This, too, is practically a miracle cure for difficult sections.)
Long, complex sentences with big words (hello, Henry James) may have several emphasis points within their phrases, and in that case, I like to use a highlighter on any word I want to be sure to hit plus slashes to separate the text into logical phrases, and even double slashes or brackets where I want longer than usual pauses. This is my personal, bastardized way of marking up copy, something I learned and then forgot the proper way to do for radio copy in the distant past. If slashes don’t tell you to pause, put something else in. Red dots, tall X’s, unhappy faces. It’s your personal lexicon and the more effortlessly understandable it is to you, the more instantly and helpfully it will speak to you when you’re in the limelight.
DELIVERY: You’re on! So you’ve practiced reading aloud–and you have, right? And your copy’s well-prepared–and it is, right? Once you’re in front of an audience, it’s STILL Very Important to read More Slowly than you think you need to, and to emphasize with More Dramatic Pitch and Rhythm Changes than feels natural. Form the words More Deliberately than you do in conversation. All this, because nervousness makes monotonic mumble-mouths of us all.
Stand in a relaxed pose, one where you won’t need to weave, because lots of fidgeting or swaying can be distracting. But don’t lock your knees. (Many a high-school choir concert has seen fainting off the top riser from locked knees.) Try to keep your shoulders down, your chin up and your chest open, so you have plenty of air for your biggest moments. If you can, hold your copy in front of you, not flat. It’s pretty natural to want to hold the copy like a tabletop, then to curl your neck and head over to read it. However, your listeners are probably in front of you, not in the floorboards with the termites, and for the sound of your voice to get to them, it’s much better if you aim it in their direction, and the occasional bit of eye contact is always appreciated. The second issue is that crunching your windpipe like a shepherd’s crook isn’t very conducive to deep breaths either, the breaths that keep you calm, help pace your work, and provide support for dynamic range in your reading.
Feel it and see it! You know what it’s like when you tell someone something unusual, and they seem unmoved, so you respond by repeating it in a more emphatic, amped-up way to persuade them to get it? “I said he married the dog!” That second, more intense form of the communication is exactly what we’re listening for, so let yourself feel the emotional tides of your selection. That doesn’t mean you have to twirl an invisible mustache when you say “He was a bad man,” but if you can let that lousy ratfink appear in your mind while you’re telling us, he’ll come across. Really! That’s reason number infinity for advance preparation, because if you know the material well, your mind has enough spare wattage to visualize what you’re saying, and that really does help your delivery immensely.
I’ve never heard anyone call out “Read it with less feeling!” Also, no one will ever complain you’re too slow, as long as you’re within your time–and if none’s specified, think 10 minutes–it’s magic. The only thing better than a great 10-minute reading is a great 5-minute reading, seriously. You’re there to tantalize with a sample of your work that makes them want more. Boring them or overstaying your welcome is never in the service of that cause. (Also, I’d like to recommend a special cul-de-sac of Hell be assigned for writers at a group reading who chew up everyone else’s time and wear out the audience by going way over, because they didn’t bother preparing and tried to wing it.)
When you’re comfortable with the material you’re presenting, you feel confident, you can express dramatically, but still naturally, not stiffly, reacting to the listeners in the audience as they react to you. And when you have prepared great material, don’t be afraid to use it again, because those people in the crowd who’ve heard it may enjoy the encore!
Hard to believe there’s more to talk about, isn’t it? But I’ll have to save the rest for another post–this one’s enormous already! So, look for more later–I will not promise when–on reading with mics and sound systems, for the cases when you have that capacity. I’ll talk about what to DO with mics, what to AVOID, what can be easily ADJUSTED by you or someone else, and what you may just have to SUFFER through.
Hope this was at all useful. Happy Reading and Knock ‘Em Dead!
From the perspective of the Book Expo America 2014 exhibit floor yesterday, all is going very well indeed in book land. I did my best to catch a few shots from my mobile, but what with the crowds and the juggling of bags and books, my efforts were undermined.
I attended with two Glenmere Press authors, and it was a grand coincidence that the first person we bumped into was the owner of our small town’s indie bookstore – Ye Olde Warwick Book Shoppe – a gorgeous and recently expanded store that supports local authors as it does joyous readers who come to our town for the pleasure. On the floor at BEA, he, and we, thoroughly approved the apparent confirmation that the well-being of print books, and bookstores in general, is stabilizing.
The so called eBook threat may still bob around at ceiling level, but you wouldn’t know it down on the floor, among the folks in healthy sized lineups waiting for free print copies and author signings.
Our friends over at MWA and RWA were enjoying mobs of readers, and they’re true pros at scheduling signings and keeping the crowds both happy and orderly.
Yet it’s true the show is experiencing undercurrents, this year as in many others, at meetings off-floor and behind the booth tables. Murmurs about Saturday’s fan-based BookCon with a childrens’ author list largely white and male. Grumblings about the deadlock between Amazon and Hachette Book Group that has incited protest from The Authors Guild and from authors hit in the crossfire.
As a small publisher, I attended with a slightly different perspective. I met with my wonderful reps and marketing mentors at INscribe Digital, the fabulous eBook distributor that gives small publishers the means to achieve status at retailer sites. I checked out three of our authors’ books on the shelves of the Independent Book Publishers Association (IBPA) booth, where I got helpful guidance from the personable and knowledgeable Terry Nathan. I also talked to the folks at NetGalley, where our books are available as e-ARCs for reviewers, booksellers, and librarians.
If you weren’t out on the floor yesterday, I encourage you to go today, or on Saturday when fan-based BookCon debuts. Be sure to pick up a copy of Publishers Weekly Show Daily, a good way to get your bearings on the day’s signings and events.
There yesterday? Going soon? Went last year? Got better pictures? Do tell!
There was a time I wasn’t as aware of how much reviews matter–and I don’t mean the fancy masthead ones, though if you can get them, awesome! Online book reviews from regular-old readers matter in ways that may not be obvious at first, so I’ll explain my views on why, therefore, I’ve become a promiscuous multi-poster of online reviews.
Which sites matter most? On principle, I think the places you like looking at reviews deserve your freshest content-support, but you don’t have to stop at one. Maybe you have a site you like to buy from, but another you like to browse just for reviews and discussions. Sure, I could post say everywhere, but that’s a little nutsy, right? We’re not going to be nutsy-cuckoo.
Do I have to give 5 stars? No. For example, I rarely, rarely give 5, and consider 4 stars very good–not a bit of stink on that. When you read a lot of reviews, and I do, you tend to brush off the highest, ALL CAPS, vague ones written by an author’s cheering section (thanks, Aunt Margie!) and also disregard the very lowest where people may be griping unreasonably. What I find most informative is that big bell curve of reviews in the middle (from 2 to 4 in a 5-star system).
What should reviews contain? Honesty and Specificity, IMO. Be genuine and detailed if you’d prefer. You don’t have to go out of your way to summarize the plot, unless you feel the book’s description is very misleading (it happens!). However, I’d really like to know what you thought while reading it. What about the pacing, language, characters, etc.? Were you satisfied (or melancholy/resentful/rage-filled) at the end? Your strongest impressions will help me decide if a book’s a good fit for me.
Is it weird or improper to post the same content multiple places? I say emphatically that it is FINE and DANDY to post in multiple places, because you’re hoping to share with more people, and some visit one spot and never any others. Multi-posting is, however, another reason to be substantive, because that’s the kind of review sites are always grateful to get. Some sites, despite being well-trafficked, don’t get many reviews. A first review can help break the ice and encourage other people to comment. Discussion is the friend of authors and new books, who suffer most in being ignored.
Besides the obvious, how else can online reviews help? Well, the count of reviews drives various algorithms (like those at a site rhyming with Van-a-pawn),causing more frequently reviewed books to be served up as recommended titles, among other sorts of special treatment. A nice amount of genuine early reviews (like at places that rhyme with VetRally) communicates enthusiasm for a title that may cause booksellers or librarians to take a serious look at getting some copies. Reviews at sites like this one are easily indexed by search engines and can help boost relevant, timely SEO for a title and author.
Oh, speaking of which…
You might think that a tale revolving around old letters and stained glass windows (in a cemetery, no less) would be peaceful and leisurely. Well, not in Brooklyn. There’s beauty, yes, and some dust, but little peace for Erica Donato, who’s got a dissertation to finish, a part-time job that’s just been complicated by a pompous academic, a teenage daughter (need I say more?), and unpleasant dramas ripping through her neighborhood and personal life. There’s a lot to enjoy here about the evolution of Brooklyn up to the current day, and how this enormous, diverse borough keeps being shaped and remade by the people who decide to make it their home.
I loved the way the issue of grieving was addressed. Sometimes, in soft-boiled mysteries, the deaths of characters seem not to be anything more than plot points, excuses for the story to begin. Erica’s own grief over the loss of her daughter’s father years ago is triggered by the loss of a family friend, another father and husband. The way she negotiates her own memories with her daughter, and tries to reach out to a family whose grief she understands too well is handled very sensitively and realistically, I think, which added depth to the story and a parallel line of contemporary family drama to the ones suspected in the past. Come for the mystery, stay for the history!
Mullti-posting reviews takes a little effort, but it’s free to do, and can have great results, and that’s what we all want for our favorite writers and books. So, I’ve made it my new policy never again to leave just one review. In fact, you can dig up this one of Brooklyn Graves by our own talented Triss Stein in 5 places, including here : )
P.S. Dot says it’s still St. Patrick’s Week, and I believe it. I did a reading of Seamus Scanlon’s poem “The New Ireland” at the 5-2 Crime Poetry Weekly in honor. If you’ve got thirty seconds and a taste for the melancholy isle, please have a sniffle and a listen!
Thursday night it was my great pleasure to go to the launch party for Keeping Secrets by our very own Cathi Stoler. It was held at the Mysterious Bookshop in New York and there was wine and cheese and, of course, books galore. In short, all of our favorite things! Plenty of people turned out to celebrate and we all got to hear Cathi read a scene from the novel.
The scene Cathi chose was one I felt summed up the novel well. Both Telling Lies and Keeping Secrets are in the Laurel and Helen New York Mystery series, and both are quintessentially New York books, as was the scene Cathi chose, wherein Helen, a PI, is dressed as a bag lady staking out a mafia storefront.
Now, I’m not saying this couldn’t happen in Chicago or Boston or L.A., but it would be different if it did. Both Laurel and Helen—like Cathi herself—are New Yorkers, with all that entails. There is a certain international flavor to these books even when they don’t leave the confines of the city.
Cathi has a grand trailer for her new book, and she’s going to be giving away a copy of Keeping Secrets to one lucky commenter! So watch the trailer and then speak up for your chance to win!
In celebration of its 80th birthday, Kirkus Reviews is offering a NYC Literary Tour Giveaway. To enter, you must be 18 years of age and have a U.S. address. The giveaway ends on October 22, 2013, at midnight CST.
A Trip for two includes:
Read here to participate in Kirkus Reviews’ “80 Days of Giveaways.” Follow them on Twitter @KirkusReviews and ‘like’ Kirkus Reviews on Facebook. Each day, follow the link in the post and submit your answer. One lucky book lover per day with the correct answer will win a free NYT best-selling book. Each time a correct answer is submitted, you get an entry for a new iPad.
Even if you don’t win, if you’re planning a visit to NYC this fall, you may want to consider experiencing the Greenwich Village Literary Pub Crawl, held Saturdays at 2 pm (their event calendar lists walking tours every Saturday from October 5 through December 28, 2013), starting at the White Horse Tavern, 567 Hudson St. & 11th Street. Tickets are $21; students/seniors $16. Follow @litpubcrawl on Twitter and visit their Facebook page.
The grand prize winner will be announced on October 23, 2013.
To learn more about the fascinating history of Kirkus Reviews, read “Visions, Ideals and Persistence,” by Claiborne Smith.
Good luck to all who enter!
Follow me on Twitter @katcop13.