Tuesday, March 30, 2010


Unfortunately, with the demands of Kaye Publicity and Hey Dead Guy, I am unable to maintain the Chicago Contingent. I'm not going to take the site down, because at some point, I could find away to balance everything.

Thanks for reading everyone! I truly appreciate your support and it's been a great run!

For writing tips, book recommendations, and must-sees in Chicago, follow me on Twitter or become a fan on Facebook.

Friday, February 26, 2010

New Post on Hey, Dead Guy

Check out my latest post on Hey, There's A Dead Guy In The Living Room where I discuss why no one can do everything.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Recently Read

Back by popular demand, I decided to finish out the week with a few reading recommendations:

THE BLONDE by Duane Swierczynski had me at the opening line: "I poisoned your drink." The book starts at an airport bar when Jack, an unexpecting newsman hears those four words from the blond next to him. The book chronicles the 24-hours after, complete with over-the-top twists, unexpected turns, and pulse-pounding suspense. Told with fresh, cool that fans of Elmore Leonard will appreciate, THE BLONDE will suck you in and won't let you go until the very end.

BOCA MOURNINGS by Steve Forman is a light funny read told in the style of Carl Hiaasen. Although Jews and Baby Boomers will appreciate the writing style and dialogue more than others, P.I. Eddie Perlmutter is a memorable character who can be enjoyed by all. The aging detective sets up shop in a retirement community in Boca Raton. He thought his new life would be full of sunbathing and golf, but he quickly learns that even paradise isn't without its crime...

If you like humorous mysteries set in tropical locations, you can also try HEMINGWAY DEADLIGHTS by Mike Atkinson. This mystery series features Earnest Hemingway as an amateur sleuth. The next installment, HEMINGWAY CUTTHROAT, comes out in June, so you have a couple months to catch up on the first.

Next on my list is BURY ME DEEP by Megan Abbott. If you haven't read the queen of Noir, I highly recommend all her books. Haven't gotten to this one yet, but when I saw that it was nominated for an Edgar, I was reminded how much I enjoy her work.

Friday, February 19, 2010

New Dead Guy Post

Check out my latest post on Hey, There's A Dead Guy In The Living Room where I discuss why books are so much better than movies.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Psych Up

Whenever I'm out for a run or competing in a swim meet, music always pumps me up and gets me in the mood. If I'm sore, tired, or struggling, there are a few songs that will come through the speakers, instantly psych me up and help me power through.

I find the same can be true for writing. There are mornings where you wake up, sit down at the computer and, you're just not feeling it. Words don't seem to come, ideas don't flow, and your word count goal seems impossible to reach. For me, music doesn't inspire me to write, but there are a few things that can get the creative juices flowing.

Reading. What better way to inspire a novel than to read a great one? Reading a few chapters from one of your favorite books can remind you why you wanted to write in the first place and inspire you to keep moving forward. Nonfiction can be helpful too, especially writing guides. ON WRITING by Stephen King and WRITE FASTER, WRITE BETTER are two that always motivate me.

Getting Out. Most writing is done inside, alone, in a chair. You sit at a computer and make things up. Getting out of the house and exploring your neighborhood can open your mind, reconnect with the real world, and allow you to bring authenticity to the fictional world of your novel. Even if you're not writing about the same city you live in, hearing people talk and interact can be enough to freshen your dialogue and watching the traffic or the trees can help add texture to your scene.

Change The Scene. Do you always work at the computer at your desk? Try sitting in a chair with a paper and pen or heading to a nearby coffee shop. Changing the circumstances can initiate a change in attitude and motivate you to write.

Pep Talk. Every writer should have another writer they can talk to. Spouses and friends are okay, but if they're not writers, they won't completely understand where you're coming from. I think of the writer friend like an AA sponsor: they're there to encourage you and help you move forward while making sure you don't slip. Sometimes calling your writing buddy and talking about your story can be a world of motivation to keep moving forward.

Friday, February 12, 2010

New Hey Dead Guy Post

Head over to Hey, There's a Dead Guy in the Living Room and check out my post about "Promoting Don'ts".

Friday, February 05, 2010

New Hey Dead Guy Post

Check out my latest post at Hey, There's a Dead Guy in the Living Room where I discuss the importance of correctly branding.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

The Oscars and The Edgars

Every year, I make an effort to see every movie nominated for an Academy award. Not just best picture, but every movie with a Best Actor/Actress nomination, Best Screenplay, even a few of the foreign films when they come to town. So you can see I was overwhelmed when they announced not five, but ten best picture nominations. I figured Up In the Air, Precious, and Inglorious Bastards would be nominated, but The Blind Side? Up?

After listening to NPR commentary and reading the buzz around the blogosphere, I learned that the big reason behind the ten nominations is to include more mainstream movies that people who don't live near an art house theater or get every movie in their local Cineplex, would see.

Without going into the politics and saying whether I agree with their decision or not, this reasoning intrigued me. Before, the movies nominated were more obscure, often unavailable to the small-town crowd. They wanted to nominate movies available to everyone. Last year, more people saw THE DARK NIGHT than any of the pictures nominated for best film and therefore, in hindsight, they felt DARK NIGHT should have been one of the nominees.

Looking at the Edgar list this year, I see only a couple of small presses and those are in the Paperback Original and Nonfiction categories. None of the Best Novel and Best First Novel nominees are from independent publishers. In the past there have been a couple (SOUL PATCH by Reed Farrel Coleman, HEAD GAMES by Craig McDonald) but this year, zip.

So both prestigious awards have decided mainstream is the way to go, that nominees should be available to anyone who lives by a cinema or a Barnes and Noble. In both instances, I believe the awards should go to the best of the best, not the best of the most readily available. But the Oscars expanded their list to ten nominees. The Edgars are keeping theirs at six, which means in order to include a book by a big publisher, someone from a small publisher is getting pushed out.

All of this year's nominees are talented authors who deserve the honor and recognition. Like the Oscars, I attempt to read all the Edgar nominees, and I can tell you all of them are great books. But aren't there also some brilliant books put out by smaller houses that deserve to be on that list? And were they not nominated because they weren't mainstream enough? Did the judges hold certain prejudices towards small presses? Or were all books considered equally and nominated solely on their merit and the best books just happen to be from big publishers?

No matter the reasons behind the selection process, I believe these prestigious awards should go to the best movies and books of this year, regardless of availability. Of course, the term "best" is subjective, but I feel that's more true for movies than mystery novels. Good writing is good writing, regardless of publisher, and it's hard for me to believe that the best writing of 2010 all came out of big houses.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

They Have Questions, I Have Answers

For the month of February, I'll be answering questions on the ITW Debut Authors Mentor Forum. If you have questions about publicity, promotion and marketing that you've just been dying to ask, sign up and post on the forum. You'll have an answer within a day!

Friday, January 29, 2010

New Post on Hey, Dead Guy

Head over to Hey, There's A Dead Guy in the Living Room where I talk about the importance of the book tour. Sort of ties in with what I discussed here earlier this week.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

We have returned to regularly scheduled programming...

Now that I finally feel like I can balance the two blogs, The Chicago Contingent will return to its regularly schedule programming. Thank you for your patience!

Today's topic is something that everyone thinks about but no one wants to talk about and bringing it up can often lead to tension and awkwardness: money. Yes, I know it's not proper and goes against all the rules of etiquette my grandmother taught me, but I'm going ahead anyway. Let's talk about money.

In my experience, authors and publishers are always concerned with cost vs. benefits, and justifiably so. There's no reason to hire a publicist, buy advertising, or create promotional materials if they're not going to pay off. However, in my experience, authors and publishers are often short sighted about the benefits and are growing more and more hesitant to front the money for things without a direct payoff.

Fan Conferences. The truth is, as an author, you will not sell enough books at conferences to cover the cost of your registration fee, flight, and hotel. It's likely you won't even cover half. However, connecting with readers, librarians, even other authors, creates a snowball effect. If one person buys your book, and they like it, they'll buy the rest of your books. They'll tell their friends about your book. They'll review your book on Amazon and others will buy your book. Though not all conferences are beneficial, and you have to pick and choose which you attend, they are important networking tools worth fronting the money for.

Signings and bookstore visits. All of my clients know what a proponent I am of visiting bookstores. As techno savvy and forward thinking as I am, I still believe books are bought and sold via word of mouth and an in-person recommendation beats anything you read online or hear over the radio. Like conferences, it's important to pick and choose which bookstores to visit. Choose those with a good internet business, who have connections in the media, and promote their events through social networking sites. It also helps if the bookstore is in a city where you have a network of people who would come out for your signing. Booksellers see thousands of books come through their doors, signings and events help them pick your book off the shelf and possibly recommend it to a customer. Again, you won't sell enough books at a signing to cover the cost of flight, hotel, etc. but if the bookseller continues to recommend your work and sell your signed copies online, you might make that money back by the end of the year.

Launch Parties. Unless you have the food and liquor donated (which I highly recommend) a book launch party always leaves the author in the red. However, it's a lot easier to draw a crowd with "free open bar" on the invitation. Plus, launch parties are great for leveraging press, especially if they're sponsored or at a unique location.

Promotional Materials. Sometimes the publisher supplies bookmarks and business cards with the latest book cover, but often times, it's up to the author to cover these costs. Bookmarks and business cards are relatively cheap and a good way to have people remember you. If you meet a potential reader, they won't remember your name or book ten minutes later. But if they get home and find your business card in their pocket, they will. Bookmarks are effective because they're something people can actually use. However, don't just plop them down on a freebie table, no one will pick them up. Give them to booksellers to pass out or slip bookmarks in your backlist at the local library. This will ensure you reach your intended audience.

Authors, feel free to comment with other expenses you've incurred that seem worth the money. Readers, do you buy books based on television or newspaper ads? Any specific promotion that made you go out and buy a certain book?

Thursday, January 14, 2010

New Gig and New Format

Starting tomorrow, I will be contributing to the wonderful crime fiction blog Hey, There's A Dead Guy In My Living Room. I'm excited and honored to be joining this talented group of bloggers. My posts will run every Friday, so be sure to tune in!

This also means I will be cutting back on blogging at the Chicago Contingent. The format will return to it's previous state: weekly essays about the writing world with the occasional book recommendation and author interview. To find out about literary events in Chicago, log on to Time Out Chicago and Metromix.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Must-See Monday

Tonight at 7:30pm, 2nd Story returns to Webster's Wine Bar (1480 W. Webster). Stop by for a wine flight and performances by local authors.

Have you read Jonathan Frazen's THE CORRECTIONS? Dying to discuss it? Head over to The Gapers Block Book Club at The Book Cellar (4736 N. Lincoln) tonight at 7:30pm.

Tomorrow, stop by The Cliffdweller's Club (200 S. Michigan) where authors Laura Caldwell and Marcus Sakey discuss their latest novels. The event is part of The Society of Midland authors, and includes a social event at 6pm before the 7pm discussion.

Trek out to the burbs on Wednesday, January 13th where Elizabeth Gilbert will be signing copies of her novel, EAT PRAY LOVE. The signing starts at 7:00pm at the Borders in Oak Brook (1500 16th st.)

Head over to Beckett's Public Ale House (3210 N. Lincoln) on Thursday, January 14th for a cocktail party celebrating the Nelson Algren Awards. Mingle with nominees and celebrate Chicago's longstanding literary award, before the winners are announced on Friday, the 15th.

Since it seems to be a quiet literary weekend, head over to US Beer Company (1801 N. Clybourn) on Saturday January 16th for Cred Fest. The event kicks off at 8pm and includes four great rock bands, but the main event is defintely 20 Mark Helga, who will take the stage at 11pm.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Writer's Block Wednesday: Sell out?

Despite all the advances with e-book readers, online media, and creative marketing, the world of publishing continues to struggle. There hasn't been a jump in book sales, overhead for hardcovers is extremely high, and after everyone takes their cut, there's very little profit left over.

Lately, I've been musing over different ways for publishers to increase their profitability. Not just by selling more books, but actually increasing their profit margins. For ideas, I looked at newspapers and movies, to see what they're doing right.

Product Placement: In movies, whenever you see the actor drinking a can of Diet Coke or washing dishes with Palmolive, it's not a coincidence. Companies pay to have their products shown in films. So what about books? Bestsellers like James Patterson and Nora Roberts have an enormous following of readers, how much would a company pay to have Alex Cross talking on a Nokia or driving a Ford? Authors name products all the time, but putting a price on those product names could mean an increase in profit.

Advertising: When you purchase a Mass Market paperback, there is often advertising for the author's next book or other books by that publisher. What about selling that space and using it to house ads for other companies? Of course, to maintain integrity, the ads would have to be appropriate:
  • A Nike coupon in the back of Jamie Freveletti's RUNNING FROM THE DEVIL
  • A Bloomingdale's ad in the back of Sherrill Bodine's A BLACK TIE AFFAIR
  • An ad for the Kindle, Sony Reader or Nook "You could have read this on a ___"

If the advertising fit, not only would the publishers earn some money off that space, it could increase sales for the author. Would people purchase an $8 book if they knew they would receive $15 off a Kindle? This could also apply to e-books, in the same way Hulu or online newspapers use ad space. Would readers care if, when they load their e-book for the first time, they see an advertisement?

These are just a couple ideas I came up with and I welcome additional suggestions. Ultimately, fiction is art, and selling art is far different than selling a commercial product. But if publishers are willing to adapt and think of creative ways to make their art profitable, they'll stay in business longer and authors can earn a better living.

Monday, January 04, 2010

Must-See Monday

Stop by The Book Cellar (4736 N. Lincoln) on Wednesday, January 6th at 7pm for their monthly book group. Tonight's selection is OLIVE KITTERIDGE by Elizabeth Strout. No RSVP required and all beer and wine is 50% off for book group participants.

Fans of Sherlock Holmes should head out to the Edgebrook Branch of the Chicago Public Library (5331 W. Devon) on Wednesday at 6:30pm. Nick De Leonardis leads a discussion of the Arthur Conan Doyle story "The Five Orange Pips."

The biggest must-see this week is definitely Sherrill Bodine's book launch. The fabulous event takes place on Thursday, January 7th 5:30-8:00pm at The Palmer House (17 E. Monroe). Help Sherrill celebrate the release of her latest novel, A BLACK TIE AFFAIR, with champagne, cocktails, and delicious appetizers.

Can't make it downtown? You can still catch Sherrill at Bundles of Books in Glen Ellyn on Saturday, January 9th at 1pm and pick up your signed copy of A BLACK TIE AFFAIR.

And for those of you not in Chicagoland, here are a couple bonus events for you:

Author Lou Berney will be signing is debut novel, GUTSHOT STRAIGHT, at Murder by the Book in Houston on Thursday, January 7th at 7pm.

Robin Burcell will be signing her latest novel, THE BONE CHAMBER, at The Poisoned Pen in Scottsdale, AZ on Friday, January 8th at 7pm. She's also signing at Murder By the Book on Saturday, January 9th at 3pm.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Best Bets for 2010

Start the year off right and pick up one of these must-reads:

GUTSHOT STRAIGHT by Lou Berney This witty, caper novel is generating much (well deserved) buzz in the crime fiction community. Berney's debut novel features Charles "Shake" Bouchon, fresh out of prison and roped in for one last job. Fans of Quentin Tarantino and Elmore Leonard will be instantly hooked.

THE BONE CHAMBER by Robin Burcell As we learned last week, Burcell is moving away from police procedurals and diving headfirst into high-octane thrillers. In her latest Sydney Fitzpatrick novel, the special agent heads to the streets of Rome, into the underground crypts and caverns of Naples, attempting to stay one step ahead of a ruthless killer. Fans of James Rollins and Dan Brown, read a suspenseful, international thriller from a female perspective.

A BLACK TIE AFFAIR by Sherrill Bodine For something light, witty and fun, pick up Sherrill Bodine's latest women's fiction novel. The first in a series, A BLACK TIE AFFAIR features Athena Smith, a fashion curator in Chicago. Harriett Klausner calls it "an entertaining joy ride" and Romance Junkies calls A BLACK TIE AFFAIR "a witty and sexy new contemporary romance".