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".