Stand by Me: How We Can Help Each Other

Pari Noskin Taichert

(Hi all,
In all the excitement of the nomination, I think we may have gotten our wires crossed about a guest blogger for today. Next Tues. will be Louise Ure and then Tess Gerritsen will alternate with her beginning on June 17.

For today, since I couldn’t find our guest’s post, I’m putting up an article I wrote during the first few months of Murderati’s existence. I think the underlying concepts still ring true.
I hope you enjoy it . . . pari )

A few years ago, I was presenting at a retreat sponsored by A Room of Her Own Foundation. Lisa Tucker, a novelist who’d just made a bundle on her first book, was the featured speaker. In an engaging, but absolutely adamant, way  — she exhorted the writers there to buy each other’s books rather than always complaining about how little money they had.

Since then, I’ve thought often about her words. During the last two months in particular — I’ve been to three mystery conventions and the L.A. Times Festival of Books. At each event, I’ve met so many authors and seen so many old friends. There’s no way I could begin to buy all their works.

So, how do I put my money and actions where my mouth is? How do I support my fellow authors, my friends in this industry? How can I encourage new authors/writers? How to do all of this while still plugging away at my own craft and the marketing thereof?

I’m not sure where the balance tips into martyrdom or a lack of generosity. Though Lisa suggested buying books as a sign of support, I simply can’t do that as much as I’d like. Even if I could, I wouldn’t be able to read everyone’s works — my life is far too scattered and too full to take hours for that pleasure right now . . . alas.

But I think it’s important to consider how we can tangibly help each other in this odd profession we’ve chosen.

Here are a few ways I’ve found to do it.

I hope some of you respond to this blog with the most satisfying methods you’ve found to support your fellow authors.

1. Post formal reviews and positive comments about someone else’s books on DorothyL, 4MA and other listservs. Do the same for review sites such as Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble etc.
    Here, it’s important to be honest; I think readers of these electronic missives can smell backscratching as opposed to sincerity.

2. Cross-sell at joint booksignings. One of the most enjoyable hours I ever spent was at the LATFOB when THE CLOVIS INCIDENT first came out in ’04. I sat next to Laura Levine. We cross-sold each other’s books and had a blast. We also became fast friends that day.

3. Take your friends’ promo pieces to the conferences/conventions you attend. I try to do this as often as I can. Their bookmarks/postcards don’t weigh much and, hey, someone might find a new author to read.

4. Ask your library to carry the books of authors you care about. Though the Albuquerque Public Library system is wonderful, I often can’t find books by friends from smaller publishers — or who don’t have major name recognition.

4.a. Ask your favorite bookstore to carry the books of authors you care about. ‘Nuff said.

5. Offer marketing suggestions. Often we can’t see our own best asssets. A fresh pair of eyes might come up with a great idea that can help a friend get the word out. I’ve done this for other people and it’s been wonderful to see that click — the epiphany — when the idea is hot.

6. Talk-up authors you like. If you do, they might get invited to present at conventions/conferences/civic groups/signings. Your good word might land them an interview on television or radio. I do this frequently.
   I know it’s tempting to save all our leads for ourselves, but it also feels marvelous to share. At the very least, tell other readers you know about works you enjoy.

7. Find ways to cross-promote. Celebrate friends’ successes. We’re doing it right here on this blog. It’s wonderful not to feel like you’re alone on the publishing path.

8. Show newer authors the ropes (if they want the info). I try to be accessible to newer authors. If they want the benefit of my meager experience, I’m glad to help them avoid the mistakes I’ve made — and gain from my smarter efforts.

9. Use your websites to promote others. Yep. This gets into link exchanges and that kind o’ thing. I think these are moderately useful. One problem, though, is that strangers ask you to link as well. Personally, I don’t do that. If I don’t know the author or his/her work, I won’t exchange links because it doesn’t feel honest to recommend someone in that way.
    Related to this is posting on other authors’ blogs. It’s a good way to converse and help them attract more posters.

10. Commiserate. There are times when all another author needs is someone who understands and who can keep what’s said — or written in an email — confidential. I know this has been one of the biggest ways I’ve been able to support friends in the business. They’ve shown me the same kindness.

The ways I’ve found to support other authors abound. The ones I mention above are those that came to mind while writing this piece.

To me, it’s important to try to see beyond our own careers and to be positive citizens in our mystery community. If we do, we’ll strengthen our genre and create goodwill every step of the way.

Please, if you have other ideas about how we can support each other, post it here. We can all learn from your experience. I know I’m ready for more ideas.

cheers,

Pari

32 thoughts on “Stand by Me: How We Can Help Each Other

  1. Sandra Ruttan

    All excellent advice Pari.

    An experienced writer who will share advice to newbies is gold. Since I only see authors a few times a year at conferences, I’ve been pretty much on my own, and all my web stuff was underway long before being published became a reality. By then, I’d already made my share of mistakes.

    Now, aspiring writers ask me for advice (???). I recommend blogs like this one, where people know what they’re talking about. HIgher intelligence isn’t on tap at mine.

    Reply
  2. JT Ellison

    I’m so glad you brought this up. Here’s a question for you guys. I hate to go to a signing and not be able to purchase your book. I’ve been known to just not go, instead of showing up and leaving empty handed. Is there a graceful way to deal with this besides avoidance?

    Reply
  3. iden Ford

    Pari, you make the point that it is a hard transition from being a fan to being an author with expectations for you own success, and deservedly so. What I mean is that as a fan you have no hesitation about buying new books, trying new authors, walking away, etc. It is a trap to get caught in where you feel some obligation or guilt about supporting everyone. My wife buys all the books written by her fellow crime writers who write in our locale. She does get around to reading those books eventually, but she mostly wants to extend her personal support to others. She is a generous soul. I would be a bit tougher on that. No new ideas for you, just follow your heart on these matters. Speaking of which I have put up tons of photos of Book Expo Canada yesterday on my blog. See Louise Penny, Rick Mofina, Alex Brett, Maureen, and lots more at http://idenford.blogspot.comEnjoy

    Reply
  4. Pari

    Sandra,You’d be shocked to learn how many “newbies” aren’t receptive at all to suggestions — however diplomatically phrased. It distresses me a bit because I know how often I inserted my foot, knee and leg into my mouth at the beginning. As to “Higher intelligence,” well, um, I’m not sure about that . . .

    J.T. — go to the book signing — be a warm body. Not everyone is going to buy a book. But the author has made a trip to a store and there’s nothing more disheartening than having no one in the audience with whom to talk. Who knows? You might like that author so much, you’ll tell others to buy his or her book.

    Iden, you’re right about following your heart in these matters. Me? If I could afford to buy the books of every person I liked in the mystery community, I’d be happy. I’d also be so happy to read all their books, too.

    For now, I have to opt for being nice and promoting many of them in other than monetary ways.

    Reply
  5. Elaine

    I think Pari should have a round of applause for her open-hearted and generous series of advice.

    Pari’s suggestion of posting reviews on Amazon and B&N for authors you admire is a great idea – and she’s right – just don’t do them on a wholesale basis else you’ll appear to be merely promoting yourself.

    As for offering advice to newbies-like Pari, I believe in ‘paying it forward’ as well, and do so, but only if asked now! I’ve had one or two obnoxious ‘know-it-all’s’myself (and they DID ask me).

    Reply
  6. Sandra Ruttan

    Pari, sadly, I’m not surprised. I’ve had some very frustrating experiences just editing for Spinetingler. When you find a new author who’ll listen, it’s as wonderful as finding an experienced author who’ll share.

    Although not all newbies are set in their ways. There are a fair number of aspiring authors who hang out around my blog who seem pretty open-minded.

    Personally, there are some things I know some stuff about – my husband’s a business analyst and software developer by day, a firefighter the rest of the time, so marketing, arson investigation, web design, web optimization – I know about that stuff from a pro. Cover design? I have only opinions.

    And tact? None.

    Reply
  7. Pari

    Elaine . . . aw shucks.

    Sandra, re: newbiesI think it may be generational a bit — that or genre-ational. To me, promotion is promotion. Some people are savvy, some are less so. We can all learn from each other. It doesn’t matter if you’re promoting a thriller or the coziest of cozies — the marketing is pretty much the same on a meta level.

    I often have this discussion with people who work in public relations itself — while there are specialities, you’d be amused to know how similar doing PR for a furniture store — and, say, an orthopedic surgeon — really are.

    Reply
  8. Robin Burcell

    Pari,Great post. Too many writers are equating support with buying an author’s novels. In one respect, yes. But it is, as you say, so much more, and often it doesn’t need to cost a dime. A good word, a recommendation, all from the heart. Readers and authors know the difference. And when it comes from a respected reader or writer, that can count for so much more than the purchase of a book.

    As far as showing up at a signing, that is also a way of showing support. No purchase necessary. Authors realize that not everyone can afford to buy a book everytime. Or perhaps a book has been purchased already, and really, bringing a pre-purchased book from one store into the signing store is a bit sticky, so why do it? Or maybe you’ve read the book in the library. Or maybe you’re like me and can’t read hardcovers (because of tendonitis) and are waiting for the paperback. Or maybe it’s not in the budget yet.

    The bottom line is if you can afford the gas and the time, the author would love to have you at a signing or talk. No better way to show your support than simply being there.

    Reply
  9. Lee

    How utterly generous. I’ve come over for a visit from Petrona (the very estimable Maxine) and am so glad I have. Our culture is so steeped in competition that we seem to forget that we’re even doing here, and why. Do I really need to laugh because that author used one adverb too many?

    Reply
  10. Pari

    Wow. Talk about generous–how kind of you all to respond.

    Maxine, thank you for reading this post and spreading it further. I truly appreciate it.

    Inner Minx–you made me laugh.

    Robin, you are so right about just showing up to booksignings. I’ve noticed that attendance goes down a bit with the second book because people figure you’re an old pro by then. Pehaps that’s true, but it would still be nice to see friends.

    Lee, your comments are so right on. You gave me the idea for my next blog. I’m going to look at whether reading our crime fiction cohorts changes once we’re published. I know my approach has and it’s distressing.

    cheers

    Reply
  11. Jenny D

    I also came here from Maxine’s, & want to say what a good post this is! I completely agree–I really, really like pouring energy into making good stuff happen for people whose books I like–and I also want to second the “warm body” point about readings, you certainly do not need to buy the author’s book for your presence to be appreciated….

    Reply
  12. Marie

    I’m here from Maxine’s blog too! I agree with everything that’s already been said. How generous of you to consider other writers.

    Reply
  13. Pari

    Minx — I tried to send you a private email and it didn’t go through, alas.

    Jenny D — I went to your site and can see you know from whence you write. What an impressive career so far. I’m truly honored you took the time to stop by and to respond. Thank you.

    Marie — The same goes for you. I especially enjoyed the post about summer. New Mexico is a glorious place, but I’m afraid you’d find it much too hot –with too many creep crawlies — here.

    cheers

    Reply
  14. M.J.

    Great great post Pari.Just for the record. Lisa Tucker didn’t make any kind of bundle on her first book. It was a modest advance. It sold really well and she has gone on to publish two more really terrific novels, the latest of which ONCE UPON A DAY is one of the best books I read this year.

    Reply
  15. Pari

    Oops. Sorry about that re: Lisa. I guess she just so impressed me, I assumed she’d made big bucks. She certainly is one of the most sincere and lovely people I know.

    Thanks for the correction, MJ.

    Reply
  16. David J. Montgomery

    Pari’s suggestions are excellent. Good stuff here.

    One of the things that has really impressed me over the last few years about mystery/thriller writers is how generous most folks are with their time, energy and wisdom. I’ve learned a lot from people who know so much more about this business than I do, and the experience has been invaluable. (Now I just need to put it all to good use!)

    Reply
  17. Andi

    Speaking as a reader of DorothyL, yes, please whatever you do DO NOT promote other authrs if you don’t mean it. Fans are quite aware of (and quite tired of at times) promotion and even right now, there’s yelling going on about people who give positive review in opayment for free books. And just in case you think that’s hogwash, trust me, this reviewer has gotten books with the not very subtle “you WILL promote this book for me because i sent it to you” message.Course I’m in the minority and don’t like reading and in fact DO NOT read reviews posted on DorothyL. I go to review websites for reviews and tend to ignore any/all reviews posted on mailing lists (sorry Pari!) But hearing an author do the unselfish thing of “oh, I just read a great book” at a signing or any place does matter to people. As long as it doesn’t appear to be “I only read my friends/blogmates/people who blurb MY books”.I’ve been around this community for over a dozen years and can attest to the paying-it-forward and generous nature of most of the mystery community. i’ve seen the biggest of big names offer advice freely and happily and honestly. And as someone who seldom can afford to buy books (the 2d worst thing about being on disability), I still try to get to signings and hope that being there, maybe,helps. Either I can distract someone who isn’t drawing a crowd (and sometimes just seeing that will draw someone over. Some folks won’t want to be the first person in line, but they don’t mind being the second, you know?) or maybe I can help convince someone that “oh, yeah, really, I’ve read it. sure I recommend it” (even from a stranger that sometimes works).

    Reply
  18. Pari

    David, like you, I’m impressed with the generosity in our community. It’s through newfound friends that CLOVIS went into mass market paperback with Worldwide (Susan Slater introduced me to Feroze Mohammed at my first Bouchercon) AND I got my current agent. What a blessing.

    Get me drunk sometime and I’ll tell you the tale of a mainstream fiction author who was horribly ungenerous.

    And, Andi,Thank you for taking the time to write about author-for-authorreviews and booksignings. Regarding the first: I learned early on that everyone can smell a favor over sincerity. Now, I might review one of my blogmate’s books for a listserv, but I’d be honest; I try to be always.

    Regarding booksignings — I’ve had friends sell my books to other people while I was just sitting there . . . strangers talking to strangers works too. Again, though, sincerity is key.

    cheers

    Reply
  19. Bethany

    [head down taking notes]

    All good stuff! Thanks for sharing. But tell me your secret, how can you NOT walk out with a handful of books? My to-be-read pile? Always larger than humanly possible to read. But I keep trying. πŸ™‚

    Reply
  20. Debi

    Your suggestions gel exactly with my own instincts. The post and comments are heartwarming stuff.If nothing else, the love and support – almost always unconditional – of this virtual community bring their own rewards.Thank you!

    Reply
  21. Julia Spencer-Fleming

    Pari, what a phenomenal post! This so eloquently mirrors the way so many of us in the mystery community feel. I write a column in CRIMESPREE for the Jordans (and would also walk across hot coals if asked, as they so ably support midlist authors generally, and small press authors particularly). Perhaps this post, combined with some mini-interviews and concrete examples, would make a useful column. I’ll be in touch offline…thanks for the glimmerings of an idea!Yours,Julia

    Reply
  22. Louise Ure

    I’d say that jumping in and supplying the needed Tuesday blog post also counts big time as helping to support your crime writing friends!

    Thank you, Pari.

    The Tuesday Team

    Reply
  23. Pari Noskin Taichert

    Louise,No need to worry.

    I don’t know what happened, only that these things do happen on occassion.

    Frankly, with as many of us as there are on Murderati, it’s astounding we don’t have SNAFUs on a regular basis.

    Reply
  24. Kaye Barley

    Whew! Y’all scared me. I checked in first thing this morning, and no one was here! I thought perhaps you’d decided to go on vacation in honor of your well-deserved nomination. Or something. This is where Louise can jump in and tell me (again) I have a warped mind. Anyway – I’m glad you’re back, and look at all the company you’ve had today! Everyone’s thrilled with your nomination, and Pari – a perfect posting. Murderati members are the best of the best of what the mystery world has to offer, and the best of the best in serving it up not only in your books, but here in a lovely community you’re created. You are SO appreciated.

    Reply
  25. Felicia Donovan

    Pari, great post but big congrats on the Anthony nomination! A fitting tribute to all your hard work. Maybe we’ll bump into each other at Bouchercon.

    Felicia DonovanTHE BLACK WIDOW AGENCY(Nominated for the 2008 Barry Award – “Best Original Paperback”)

    Reply
  26. Jake Nantz

    Wow, what a great post. Thank you so much for sharing it. With respect to newbies (the unpublished masses) I can say from the other side that any advice/suggestion from a successful writer is like gold to me. I spoke with Michael Connelly at a signing and he gave me a surfing metaphor for finishing a WIP. I still remember it and although I don’t surf, he was so right, and it was incredibly uplifting. Same can be said for Mr. Rhoades when he was kind enough to respond to an email I sent on a whim. The mystery/thriller community just seems so genuine and wonderful toward unpublished writers that it overwhelms me sometimes.

    To hear you say that there are newbies who are rude (???) and just refuse good advice is just distressing. No one likes to hear that their baby needs a ton of work, even if it does, but come on. Writing requires thick skin (and some armor plating, at times, but still…). But to be rude? Even if you have no intention of taking someone’s advice because you disagree, how hard is it to say, “Hey, that’s not a bad idea! I’m gonna really look at that and see how it works! Thank you!”

    But no, you’re going to muck it up for the rest of us who’d kill for a friendly suggestion, or even an encouraging word, because you can’t handle hearing that your dialog could use some beefing up. Ugh.

    As far as supporting other writers, hell I’m unpublished, so I always go to signings if I know about them just because I think it’s fun to pose questions and imagine what it would be like to be up there doing a reading/signing. In fact, my wife was checking the local B&N newsletter at the front of the store and I saw Alex will be coming here to Cary soon. I’ll definitely be there to show support and soak up any knowledge!

    Thanks again for posting this.

    Reply
  27. Pari Noskin Taichert

    Jake,It was my absolute pleasure.

    Most of us are muddling along and can use all the advice we can get. Really.

    I’ve only met a few “newbies” who were convinced they knew more than I did. “Power to ’em,” I say. But in the next breath, I also vow not to be in contact with them again.

    Ya know?

    Reply
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