How to Embarrass Yourself and Not Sell Your Book

Inside Hollywood AdIf you want to embarrass yourself, and not sell any books, follow the example set by author and literary agent Jodie Rhodes: take out a half-page ad in the Los Angeles Times and be sure to include a boring and badly written excerpt from your self-published novel. Here’s a taste of her powerful prose:

“I’ve got it, James!” she exclaimed, her eyes sparkling. “I’ve got the script for my first picture. But I need your advice on where to go from here.”

He blinked in disbelief. “What do you mean, you’ve got a script? You don’t even have a production company.”

“Oh, don’t worry about that.” She waved an impatient hand at him.

“Anthony has already agreed to set up one.”

“Christ, Erin, you don’t waste time, do you? How in the hell did you accomplish that in one week?”

“It wasn’t all that difficult.” She gave a tiny shrug. “All I have to do is marry him. Anyway,” she continued eagerly, “let me tell you about this script.”

The characters in this thrilling excerpt from “Inside Hollywood” don’t talk. They exclaim, they shout, they admit and they continue eagerly. My favorite line, though, has to be the one about the impatient hand. The heroine doesn’t wave impatiently, she waves her hand, which is impatient.

The ad not only showcases her bad writing, but it also casts doubt on her judgment as a literary agent (she’s the president of the Jodie Rhodes Literary Agency, as she mentions on the cover of her book).  If this excerpt is her idea of great writing, and this advertisement is her notion of a brilliant marketing campaign, can you imagine the kind of advice that she gives her clients? What’s even more shocking is that she’s also a former advertising executive…and yet produced an ad as ugly, ineffective, and outright embarrassing as this one. This cringe-inducing ad should be given to every aspiring writer as an example of what not to do when trying to sell your book to Hollywood, publishers or readers.



Two Pros Battle Illnesses With Prose

crime_novelist_Joel_Goldman_02_t640Joel Goldman and Ed Gorman are two of my favorite authors…and two of my favorite people. They’ve both inspired, entertained, and educated me so much over the years. And now, coincidentally, they’ve both given lengthy interviews this week about their careers, their approaches to their craft, and how they have coped with life-changing illnesses while continuing to write great novels.

Joel was a successful Kansas City trial attorney when he was afflicted with a rare movement disorder which he calls “life annoying” and not life-threatening, but it still forced him to walk away from his legal career. He incorporated his illness into his fiction, with bestselling results. He talks about it in this candid interview with the Lawrence World Journal:

When he developed a movement disorder that caused him to experience involuntary shakes and spasms several times a day, he wasn’t literally under a spotlight. It only felt that way. But unlike his character Jack Davis, who stubbornly continues fighting crime against his doctor’s recommendations, Goldman turned away from the only career he’d ever imagined. Instead, he became a bestselling crime author.

“As crazy as it may sound, I look at this disorder as something that has opened new doors for me,” said Goldman, 60.

[…]In 2006, when he could no longer hide his periodic shakes at work and his doctors said he could no longer handle the long hours and constant travel of his job, he was determined not to feel sorry about leaving behind the law. Instead, he decided to focus full time on his now quite-successful writing career.

“People ask me now if I miss it,” Goldman said of his law career. “And I tell them that I miss it in the way that you miss your first girlfriend.”

You can hear even more about Joel’s books, his love affair with Kansas City, and his movement disorder  in a terrific NPR piece about him that aired last weekend.

Ed was already a successful author with dozens of mystery, horror and western novels to his credit when he was stricken with incurable cancer twelve years ago. He recently underwent a bone marrow transplant and has emerged 100% cancer free, though he knows the cancer will return eventually. But he’s not letting his cancer stop him from writing books, as he tells J. Kingston Pierce for Kirkus Review in this excerpt:

Gorman has been working for the last dozen years under the sentence of an incurable cancer, multiple myeloma—which has only brought his production of prose down to a slightly more human scale. “Before cancer I tried for 1,500 to 2,000 words a day,” he says. “With cancer it’s 500 to 1,000.” Ed_Gorman_-_photo_by_Carol_Gorman2_jpg_210x1000_q85

[…]”When you have incurable cancer you certainly have to face death. You have monthly meetings with your oncologist and those are a roll of the dice. Once in awhile you sit down and get some pretty grim news. As my oncologist told me, I had a choice—to go home and just wait to die or go in with my life. I’ve probably met 200 cancer patients by now, and I’ve never met a single one who didn’t fight like hell to stay alive. And none of them just sat around waiting for the final breath, either.”

You can read even more of the interview, packed with tons of insightful material about writing, that didn’t make the Kirkus article on J. Kingston Pierce’s The Rap Sheet blog.

The healthy attitude Joel and Ed have towards writing in the face of illness may actually be healthy. The Daily Mail reported a couple of days ago that people who write while they are ill recover faster.


Scribe Award Winners Announced

tannhauserThe International Association of Media Tie-In Writers, founded by yours truly and Max Allan Collins, is pleased to announce the winners of the 2013 Scribe Awards, honoring excellence in media tie-in writing (books based on games, tv shows, movies, toy, etc). The awards were handed out at ComicCon San Diego. The winners are:

Best Original Novel: Robert Jeschonek for Rising Sun, Falling Shadows, a Tanhauser novel

Best Adapted Novel: Kevin J. Anderson, for Clockwork Angels, based on the album by Rush.

Best Audio Tie-in: Nev Fountain, for The Eternal Actress, a Dark Shadows story.

Grandmaster: Ann Crispin, for lifetime achievement in the craft of media tie-in writing.

Here’s an excerpt from Ann’s acceptance speech:

When I heard the name of the IAMTW’s Grandmaster Award, it struck me as ironic that it’s officially the “Faust Award.” I know this title refers to Frederick Faust, who wrote as Max Brand, but to those of us who work in media universes, it sometimes comes down to making a deal with the devil, doesn’t it? Some members of the writing profession look down on those who take on media tie-in projects as having sold out, or assume they’re lazy and can’t do the work to create “real” fiction. Those of us here all know, of course, that nothing could be further from the truth. It is every bit as challenging to write a good tie-in story as it is a good original novel. When you throw in tight deadlines, unreasonable and clueless studio minions, and the rules of story canon, it can be even more difficult than writing an original book.

But a good story is a good story, no matter what universe it is written in.

My dear friend Andre Norton once listened to me complaining about how tie-in writers aren’t respected the way they should be, and remarked, “Being a storyteller is one of the oldest and most valued professions. Without stories to lift us out of life’s problems and doldrums, where would we be? Be proud of what you do.”

Andre was a very wise lady, and her words stuck with me over the years….


The 18 DEAD MAN Novels In Order

TheDeadmanVolume1I’m always getting asked what the correct order is for the 18 (and counting!) novels in THE DEAD MAN series… so here it is.

For those of you unfamiliar with THE DEAD MAN, it’s an original series of action-adventure-horror novellas created by William Rabkin & yours truly and published every month or so by Amazon’s 47North imprint. Here’s the basic concept:

Matt Cahill was an ordinary man leading a simple life until a shocking accident changed everything. Now he can see a nightmarish netherworld that exists within our own. Now he’s on a dangerous quest for the answers to who he is and what he has become…and engaged in an epic battle to save us, and his soul, from the clutches of pure evil.

Bill and I wrote the first and third novellas…but we’ve brought in some of the best writers in the business, from across a wide spectrum of genres, to work with us on the other books in the series. The roster of acclaimed authors includes bestselling thriller writer  Joel Goldman, Star Trek Voyager writer/producer Lisa Klink, multiple Edgar-award nominee Christa Faust,  legendary western novelist James Reasoner, and Emmy-award winning TV writer-producer Phoef Sutton (CheersBoston Legal, etc) to name just a few.

The DEAD MAN books don’t need to be read in order, so don’t let the number of titles intimidate you. The books are available in Kindle, paperbacks, and audiobook editions. As a special treat, here’s the DEAD MAN theme song by Matt Branham to get you in the mood while you browse the list of titles.


Face of Evil – by Lee Goldberg & William Rabkin
Matt Cahill is a widower leading a quiet, solitary life–cutting wood at a lumber mill in the Pacific Northwest, watching out for his trouble-prone friend Andy, and making his first, tentative attempt at a new romance with his co-woker Rachel. But a getaway to a ski resort goes tragically wrong and he is killed in an avalanche. That should be the end of his story, but for Matt, it’s only the beginning. And now finds himself taking the first step in a horrifying odyssey across a dark world that exists within our own, where he must confront Mr. Dark, a violent, supernatural entity that spreads evil among us like a plague.

Ring of Knives – by James Daniels
Matt believes a madman may hold the key to defeating Mr. Dark and his rotting touch. To find him, Matt must infiltrate a lunatic asylum in Ring of Knives—and his only chance of escaping alive is to face the unspeakable terror deep in the asylum’s woods.The Dead Man #18: Streets of Blood

Hell in Heaven – by Lee Goldberg & William Rabkin
In search of Mr. Dark, Matt finds himself in Heaven, Washington, a tiny hamlet in the Cascade Mountains embroiled in a four-family blood feud in Hell in Heaven. Only Matt can stop the bloodshed, but even he is going to have a hard time figuring out why Mr. Dark brought him here.

The Dead Woman – by David McAfee
A serial killer is stalking Crawford, Tennessee, and Matt is determined to stop the killing. But when his new love interest turns out to have his ability to spot evil, and Mr. Dark puts his fingerprints on the town’s terror, Matt is going to need help.

The Blood Mesa – by James Reasoner
An archeological dig on a desolate southwestern mesa unleashes an ancient evil spirit whose insatiable hunger traps Matt and a band of innocents. Now, they must find their way out before an epic slaughter turns the peaceful site into the Blood Mesa.

Kill Them All – by Harry Shannon
Trapped in a Nevada ghost town between its peaceful residents and a marauding band of mercenaries out for the secrets of his immortal blood, Matt must stand side-by-side with the townsfolk.

Beast Within – by James Daniels
Matt’s search for a paranoid visionary who claims to have defeated a supernatural entity like Mr. Dark leads him deep into the Michigan woods. But when he finds himself trapped in a bloody siege between warring factions, his only hope for escape from an unstoppable advance of mayhem, carnage, and black magic is to trust his instincts, grab his ax, and unleash the ferocity of The Beast Within.

Fire & Ice by – by Jude Hardin
A disgruntled ex-employee at a chemical company walks into the plant and starts shooting, trapping Matt and four other workers inside. As the body count rises, Matt realizes the shooter has a much bigger, deadlier plan in mind, one that could leave thousands dead. And just when he thinks the day can’t get any worse, the cunning Mr. Dark raises the stakes to horrifying heights

TheDeadManv5Carnival of Death – By Bill Crider
Hungry for respite from his solitary mission, Matt takes a gig working security at a traveling carnival. But it doesn’t take long for him to realize that something isn’t quite right. Sure enough, a series of violent events rocks the carnival and a charlatan’s dark prophecies suddenly begin coming true. So when she foresees imminent doom, Matt knows it can only mean one thing: Mr. Dark is here, and it’s not for the cotton candy…it’s to ignite a bloody Carnival of Death.

Freaks Must Die – by Joel Goldman
On a quest to find a kidnapped child, Matt discovers an underworld of people with uncanny powers living in the shadows of New York City, trying to elude a ruthless force that’s vowed that the Freaks Must Die. Matt must run a deadly race against time to save the child, and the entire “freak” community, from bloody annihilation.

Slaves to Evil – by Lisa Klink
Matt goes to a town where all the cops are corrupt Slaves to Evil, terrorizing everyone and allowing crime to run rampant…but before he can battle them, he’s shot by a gun-toting teenager out to avenge Matt’s killing of her brother. Now Matt is trapped between hordes of deranged, killer cops and an innocent girl hell-bent on revenge.

The Midnight Special – by Phoef Sutton
The re-release of a cheesy 1970s zombie flick is sparking horrific bloodshed whenever it’s screened…and Matt Cahill is determined to stop it. His quest takes him to a grindhouse theatre in L.A., where a screening of The Midnight Special begins a night of unmitigated terror that will either put an end to Mr. Dark’s reign of evil…or mark a blood-soaked new beginning.

The Death Match – by Christa Faust
Matt enters the violent world of underground cage fighting where a brutal death match becomes a fight-to-the-undead that could lead him to the truth about his reincarnation…or to a gruesome demise.

The Black Death – by Aric Davis
The Black Death is a deadly new form of crystal meth that turns users into black-eyed, homicidal maniacs. Matt must destroy the virulently addictive drug before the madness spreads from a backwoods community to the entire nation.

The Killing Floor  – by David Tully
A hydro-fracking operation resurrects an ancient, terrifying entity that pits Matt against Mr. Dark in an epic battle that began centuries ago and that will end today with the fate of mankind at stake on the blood-soaked dirt of the Killing Floor.

Colder Than Hell – by Anthony Neil Smith
On the road to Fargo, North Dakota, Matt Cahill is trapped in a hellacious blizzard on a frozen, traffic-choked interstate. He’s stalked by an escaped murderer and the guards who were transporting him–all of them seemingly possessed by a mutant virus that spreads quickly among the others trapped in their cars, turning everyone into crazed zombies. Matt struggles with a small band of survivors to find the source of the horrific plague before it claims them all. The odds are against any of them surviving the night….and that includes Mr. Dark. Print

Evil to Burn – by Lisa Klink
Matt Cahill is travelling by bus through the blasted wilderness of the Southwest to prevent a massacre from happening in Nevada, but Mr. Dark is intent on preventing him from making it there. A terrible crash leaves the bus totaled, and now Matt is injured, stranded, and fighting for his life against the elements…and an insidious evil that has spread through the surviving passengers. It’s a race against time, with Matt struggling to overcome his injuries even as he tries to save the survivors from the horror that they’ve become…because, while the evil surrounding him is bad, it’s nothing compared to the desert hell he needs to cross in order to keep a greater nightmare from unfolding—one that could give Mr. Dark terrifying new powers.

Streets of Blood – by Barry Napier
An elderly, bed-ridden woman in a retirement home is having nightmares of a dark, devilish entity tormenting her and her childhood friends in a dreamscape that’s as familiar to her as it is terrifying. She’s not the only one having the dreams. Matt Cahill is, too, and when he arrives in town, he discovers a community torn apart by gruesome violence, its residents in the grip of an evil force unlike any Matt has encountered before…one that’s even beyond the touch of Mr. Dark.


The Dead Man V1 – Face of Evil, Ring of Knives, Hell in Heaven
The Dead Man V2 – The Dead Woman, The Blood Mesa, Kill Them All
The Dead Man V3 – The Beast Within, Fire and Ice, Carnival of Death
The Dead Man V4 – Freaks Must Die, Slaves to Evil, The Midnight Special
The Dead Man V5 – The Death Match, The Black Death, The Killing Floor
The Dead Man V6 – Colder Than Hell, Evil to Burn, Streets of Blood (Coming Soon!)

The Mail I Get

KingCityI’ve been getting lots of reader mail lately with questions about my Diagnosis Murder, King City and Monk novels. Here’s a sampling of some of the questions and my answers:

First of all, I want to say thank you for bring Sharona back into the Monk series in 2012 with Mr. Monk on Patrol.  She was my favorite sidekick on the TV show and to see here reincarnated again in the book series was a delight for a reader and a fan of the TV Show.

Secondly, I was wondering if it would be possible to revive your Diagnosis Murder series again.  I used to watch Diagnosis Murder all the time as a kid, and reading the few books that are available that you wrote made me appreciate the show and the creativity behind the plot and the whodunit moment.  To read more adventures of Dr. Mark Sloan and his crime sleuth team would be a treat.  Is that something that could be worked out?

I replied: I’m glad you’re enjoying the Diagnosis Murder and Monk books. I’m afraid the ship has sailed on Diagnosis Murder. I was also a writer and executive producer the TV series during it’s long run…and after 100 episodes and eight books, I felt that I’d explored every aspect of those characters that I wanted to….and got to end the series the way I always intended (with Diagnosis Murder: The Last Word).

Once I walked away, my publisher let their license from Paramount/Viacom lapse on the books. Perhaps some day another publisher will decide to license the rights, and hire another writer to carry on, but I think it’s very unlikely. As for Monk, I actually brought Sharona back in an earlier book, Mr. Monk and the Two Assistants, which also predated her “return” on the TV series as well.

How did you come up with the title for King City?  I was raised in King City, CA so I’m sure you are not from there or the local newspaper, (we KC-ites call it, “The Rustler”) would have you all over the front page at least once a month!!  Since it’s a weekly newspaper and comes out on Thursdays they have to give some time to real crimes on their streets.

I replied: I have no idea how I came up with the name King City for my fictional metropolis in the Pacific Northwest. It just popped into my head. That said, I am a native Californian and have spent a lot of time in the Monterey area (when I was a kid we had a cabin in Capitola), so it’s possible the name of the town stuck with me all of these years, though I don’t remember ever having visited it.

Imagine how dismayed I was when I watched the final episode of the TV-series “Monk”, which I had discovered a few months earlier in reruns. It had become my favorite TV show. But then I got lucky. Quite by chance I discovered your Monk novel Mr. Monk on Patrol in a mail-order catalogue. Well, here was a chance to continue my Monk adventures. Having watched the series, I could visualize every scene in the book as if it were a TV show. Monk is his usual self, the plot is intricate and complex and the book is an easy and enjoyable read. Just one thing: You used who a couple of times when it should have been whom. If you like you can e-mail me any sentence with those words in it, and I’ll tell you which is correct. You’ll thank me later.

I replied: I’m so glad that you discovered the Monk books and that you are enjoying them. I’ve stopped writing the Monk books, but I can tell you the “who” instead of “whom” mistakes were entirely intentional, much to the consternation of my copyeditor. I know when and where to use “whom,” but I chose not to because it reads stodgy and awkward and I am a horrible human being. Most people do not use “whom” when they talk to one another.

The 16 Monk Novels in Order

Monk and the Dirty CopReaders are always asking me for a list of the MONK books in order. So here you go, along with some trivia that you might find interesting.

Mr. Monk Goes to the Firehouse (2006) William Rabkin and I adapted this novel into the MONK episode “Mr. Monk Can’t See a Thing.”

Mr. Monk Goes to Hawaii (2006) Yes, I know about the milk error in this book. A character in this novel also appears in my novel Diagnosis Murder: The Death Merchant.

Mr. Monk and the Blue Flu (2007) This book was loosely adapted into the MONK episode “Mr. Monk and the Badge.”

Mr. Monk and the Two Assistants (2007) This book is unrelated to the MONK episode that brought back Sharona, which came several years after this book was published.

Mr. Monk in Outer Space (2007) Some characters in this book might be familiar to readers of my novel Dead Space (aka Beyond the Beyond). Monk’s brother Ambrose also has a significant role in this novel.

Mr. Monk Goes to Germany (2008) Several of the “assistants” that Natalie meets with in this book were originally introduced in Mr. Monk and the Blue Flu. Monk’s adversary Dale the Whale makes an appearance in this novel.

Mr. Monk is Miserable (2008) This book is a direct sequel to Germany and picks up right where the previous book left off.

Mr. Monk and the Dirty Cop (2009) – There is a call-back in this novel to the MONK episode “Mr. Monk Meets The Godfather,” which I wrote with William Rabkin. There are also some in-joke references to the TV series Mannix and Murder She Wrote.

Mr. Monk in Trouble (2009) There are many, many in-joke references in this book to western authors, television series, and movies, and even radio shows. An excerpt from the book was published as The Case of the Piss-Poor Gold in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, November 2009

Mr. Monk is Cleaned Out (2010) This book features a variation on the classic locked-room mystery.

Mr. Monk on the Road (2011) This is the first book set after the final episode of the TV series and features Monk’s brother Ambrose in a big way.. Excerpt: Mr. Monk and the Seventeen Steps, Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, December 2010.


Mr. Monk on the Couch (2011) An excerpt from the book was published as Mr. Monk and the Sunday Paper in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, July 2011

Mr. Monk on Patrol (2012) An excerpt from the book was published as Mr. Monk and the Open House in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine in December 2011. This book features the return of Sharona and Randy Disher.

Mr. Monk is a Mess (July 2012) An excerpt from the book was published as  Mr. Monk and the Talking Car, Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine May 2012. There is another call-back to the TV episode “Mr. Monk Meets The Godfather” in this novel.

Mr. Monk Gets Even (January 2013) An excerpt from the book was published as Mr. Monk Sees the Light in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, December 2012. Dale the Whale and Monk’s brother Ambrose return in this book, which was my final novel in the series.

Mr. Monk Helps Himself  (June 2013) This is the first book in the series written by Hy Conrad and picks up where my books left off.


Who Knew I Knew About Content Marketing?

the-heist-coverI’m always amazed when someone finds meaning, a theme, symbolism, or a message of some sort in my work that I never intended. That was especially true when I came across this article by Samantha Gluck discussing all the things you can learn about content marketing from THE HEIST, the novel I wrote with Janet Evanovich. Here are just a couple of the tips she says you can glean from the story:

1. Know your target audience – content marketing requires that you understand and know your target audience. Nick and Kate take time to learn all about their target, Derek Griffin. They find out about his interests, his fears, his weaknesses, and his habits. Any good content marketer takes time to learn about his target audience. You can do this through conducting focus groups and demographic studies. Read the book to see what Nick and Kate did to learn about Griffin. You’d do well to use the same diligence.

2. Share the work load – one reason Nick Fox enjoys so much success in pulling off his heists and cons is that he knows how to share the load. Nick has an uncanny knack for finding and enlisting very talented and loyal accomplices. He finds a person to play a specific part in each aspect of the elaborate plan. Each of these recruits is the very best as what he or she does. If you want to achieve success – and achieve it in a big way – with your content marketing efforts, you’ll need to follow Nick’s lead. Assess your contacts and network. Look at the best engagers on your various social media profiles.

Many people who regularly engage on Twitter, Google Plus, and Facebook work on a freelance basis. Take your time and find out a little more about them. What makes them good at what they do? Could you use their skills to benefit both your cause and theirs? If so, start courting them and let them know how running with you can benefit them.

3. Identify and understand key objectives – obviously, Kate and Nick have a key objective of nabbing Griffin. But to do that, they have to pull the proverbial wool over the eyes of a few other folks first. Each of these smaller objectives represents a critical step that the hottie duo must pull off to achieve their ultimate goal. As a content marketer, you’ve got to outline each of the foundational objectives that will help you achieve your ultimate goal.

Figure out how you’ll measure the success of each step along the way. Kate and Nick have it easy for this part. They either pull off each part of the con, or they don’t and they fail. Content marketers must come up with their own metrics for measuring project success.

I should really follow my own sage advice. I just wish I’d known what my advice was before this! I wonder what else I don’t know that I know… 🙂


Battles & Browne: Self-Publishing Dynamos

POE-15Authors Brett Battles and Robert Gregory Browne have been friends for years. They are among the savviest authors I know and both have enjoyed considerable success and critical acclaim with their thrillers (Rob’s novel KISS HER GOODBYE was even adapted as a pilot for CBS starring Dylan Walsh).  Now they have ventured into self-publishing, on their own and in joint ventures, and they are both doing extraordinarily well. They have a new co-authored book out (POE) and two new individual titles (NEGLIGENCE by Rob and THE ENRAGED by Brett), so I thought this was the perfect time to catch up with them.

Brett, you are perhaps best known for your QUINN series. Were you worried about your Quinn fans finding your new, self-published books after you left your publisher?
B: Honestly, I was more worried about ANYONE finding my new books. I jumped in to this area 2 1/2 years ago, and while there were success stories then, I had no idea if it would even work or, if it did, last. I didn’t start of putting out new Quinn novels though. Started with some other, new series I’d been working on, and a couple Quinn short stories. About five months into it, I did put out my Quinn prequel novel, BECOMING QUINN, which really took off and told me the fans were still there.
How has your life changed since you made the move? How has it impacted the Quinn series?
B: I’m my own boss now, and I prefer that! I actually am a tougher boss than my old publisher as I demand many more finished novels a year than they did. I’ve always been a fast writer, even when I was traditionally published. It’s just then I ended up having a lot of down time because they only wanted one book a year. Now, I write at least four novels a year, and even try to squeeze in a short or two, or even a novella. In other words, I don’t allow myself to just sit around. My business is writing. If I were in construction or clothing or financial advice or whatever I’d be working everyday, so I feel I should be doing that with writing. So that kind of answers your second part. Instead of One Quinn novel a year, in the past 18 months I’ve release 3. More satisfying for the fans as they don’t have to wait as long.

Robert, you have been friends with Brett for years. I hear he had to drag you kicking and screaming into self-publishing. 

R: Ah, yes. When most of my friends were jumping into self-publishing, I had just finished a book for Penguin that was due to come out in hardcover. Plus, I was writing books under a pen name for a traditional publisher. So I was very much part of the “establishment” at the time. I had high hopes for the hardcover, but that was around the time ebooks were having a huge surge in popularity and hardcovers were dying, so the writing was pretty much on the wall. I saw all the success that Brett and others were having with their self-pubbed work and after the hardcover didn’t sell as well as I hoped (no surprise), I decided it was time to take the leap.NEGLIGENCE-FINAL-20
You had a huge hit with TRIAL JUNKIES. That must have been a stunning, and very welcome, surprise. What was the secret to the successful launch (so we can all steal it for ourselves, ofcourse)?

R: Yeah, that came completely out of left field. I had been told that self-publishing is slow going at first, that you have to give it time to build your audience, that not all of your “traditional” readers will embrace the technology, so to see TRIAL JUNKIES suddenly take off right out of the gate was a pretty amazing experience. Two weeks after it was out I had already sold 20,000 copies and it was still going strong. A month later, it was STILL going strong. Now, a year later, it just hit the Amazon Top 50 and went to #1 in Legal Thrillers again. It’s the book that won’t quit.

As for the secret, there really isn’t one. A week after it was published, I did a three-day free promo, got 46,000 downloads and the bounce when it went back to paid was incredible.
You mentioned that TRIAL JUNKIES benefited from the post-free bounce. Do the free promos still have the same mojo? From what I can tell, they don’t. 
At the time TRIAL JUNKIES was released, I was told that the free promos didn’t work as well as they once did, but it worked wonderfully for that book. But a year later, I think some of the luster has definitely worn off. I recently did a 99 cent promo for TRIAL JUNKIES that helped put it back in the Top 50, but as of this writing, I’m not sure what kind of post-sale bounce it will get, or how it will effect the sequel, NEGLIGENCE.
I’ve been sticking with KDP Select largely because of the Prime library borrows, which bring me more income than Barnes & Noble or Kobo ever did. I think, however, that we may be getting to the point where we’ll have to be shelling out a little more money for advertising on newsletters like Bookbub, which seem to be very effective.
THE ENRAGED FINAL_400w-1You were leery about self-publishing, Rob…but now you’re into it in a big way. You’re even designing your own covers. What made you decide to take such a hands-on approach? And do you enjoy it?

R: Actually, self-publishing was made for someone like me. My pre-author work involved video production and design, so it was only natural for me to utilize those skills. I really enjoy doing covers—I’ve done several for other authors as well—because it’s a different outlet that lets me stretch a another set of creative muscles.

You have both collaborated on a new, original, self-published ebook called POE… how did that come about? And what was it like working together?

R: For me it was largely painless. I had come up with the idea for POE several years earlier, but had never gotten around to doing anything other than a short synopsis and a couple chapters. I had pitched the idea to Brett at the time and he always loved it, so when we decided to write something together, he suggested POE and I thought why not? But I was in the middle of another book at the time, so he was the one who sat down and fleshed the idea out, wrote an outline we agreed on, then hammered out the first draft. I came in and did a rewrite, then Brett did the final polish. We spent a lot of time on the phone discussing various scenes and character motivations, but we never had any real disagreements. We also found that our writing styles meshed quite well.

B: What Rob said. Painless and fun! Can’t wait until the next one’s underway.

How has the book performed? Will there be sequels?

R: I’m happy to say that the book has been performing well despite little publicity. I’ll be launching into the first draft of the sequel sometime this month.

It seems you both followed up POE almost immediately with new, self-published ebooks. Was that always the master plan behind the timing of the release of POE? Was it intended as a “gateway drug” for draw your audiences to one another’s work?

R: Is there supposed to be a master plan? The collaboration was certainly designed to draw in readers from each other’s camp, but the new books were already planned even before we decided to write POE. Brett puts out several books a year and my own personal plan is to catch up to him at some point.

B: No master plan. Just put out the books when they’re ready.

Are there more collaborations on tap?

R: Well, there’s the new POE, which should be out in time for Christmas, and there’s another idea of mine we’ve considered working on called LINGER, but finding time to get it fleshed out and written is a problem with our busy schedules.

B: LINGER is going to be great when we finally get to it! Can’t wait.

Tell us more about your new books.
B: My latest is Quinn #7, called THE ENRAGED. It picks right up where the last book, THE COLLECTED, left off. There was a bit of a cliff hanger at the end of that. In THE ENRAGED, Quinn sets out to deal with those responsible for what happened in THE COLLECTED. It’s rocket fast, exciting, and, hopefully, utterly satisfying.

R: My book NEGLIGENCE is a sequel to TRIAL JUNKIES. Hutch and his old college friends—who spend a lot of time watching trials at a Chicago courthouse—find themselves embroiled in a case involving the murder of a school girl that leads them to an exclusive preparatory academy that could very well be housing a killer. It’s got a few shocks for fans of TRIAL JUNKIES, but I think they’ll be pleased.

The Mail I Get

Louisiana FeverIn my “The Mail I Get” posts, I’ve shared dozens of examples of the lame pitches I’ve received from inept publicists and clueless authors about their books. Well, now I thought it was time to show you an example of how it’s done right. Here’s an excerpt of a very effective pitch that I got from a publicist today:

My name is Anna Ryan, and I’m representing a uniquely clever, and altogether fun, forensic medical mystery entitled, Lousiana Fever, written by forensic medical expert, DJ Donaldson.  Louisiana Fever is the latest in the Andrew Broussard mysteries. […]Donaldson is known for his medical expertise, and his meticulous attention to scientific detail within his stories. But he’s also known for his colorful characters too.  What I particularly love is how the protagonist–medical examiner Andrew Broussard–is not only an amazing forensic detective, but is decidedly obese and unabashedly loves food (almost as much as I do!) The interplay between him and his gorgeous counterpart, Kit Franklyn, make for a really fast-paced and uniquely clever mystery plot.  Add in the sumptuous New Orleans, LA backdrop and you have a really enjoyable read…

The pitch not only conveys what is unique and interesting about the book and its author, but its shrewdly written in a chatty, personal way that makes it seem less like a press release and more like a recommendation from a friend. The accompanying press release included a blurb from Tess Gerritsen and an punchy lead:

Andy Broussard, the “Plump and Proud” New Orleans medical examiner, obviously loves food.  Less apparent to the casual observer is his hatred of murderers. Together with his gorgeous sidekick, psychologist Kit Franklyn, Broussard forms a powerful, although improbable, mystery solving duo.

All in all, very well done.