Saturday, May 6, 2017

The Magic of Advertising...Naturally

Scott D Parker

So on 1 May, I tried something: I advertised my books. It wasn't like I've never done it before. I've had people review my novels and the stories ever since I begin publishing them in 2015. I have promoted them on Facebook, Twitter, my own blog, and the blogs of other folks. Some have even been nominated for awards, giving those stories a little extra push.

But until this past Monday, I have never actually purchased any advertising. I now have.

On 1 May, I relaunched my re-branded westerns, all now having S. D. Parker listed as the author. And, as a further experiment, I put them in Kindle Unlimited. At this stage of my career, it seems like a good time to try going solely with Kindle. Lastly, I bought my first Facebook ad. I have hit publish for eight stories so far. That first one was scary, the one with butterflies in my stomach. Pretty much every other story I have published since then was exciting, but not nearly as exciting as that first book. I had an equal type of reaction when I clicked promote on that Facebook ad. It was exciting, a little scary, but mostly it was thrilling.

Later on this past week, I also began running ads on Amazon itself. The irony is that a mere three days after that Facebook ad, I had no issues hitting promote on Amazon's site. I guess you could call that experience.

The results were not immediate on the Facebook ad. Let's be honest: most of us have a vision that when we  submit an advertisement, the readers will pour in. That never happens of course. This publishing business is long term. Sure there are some overnight sensations, but for the vast majority of us, we are in it for the long-haul, the slow burn and build up of awareness by readers of our work.

The Amazon ads, however, produced some immediate results. On the first day I ran the ads, I earned some page reads. The day after, a little more. I am not one of those people who checks their sales ranking constantly throughout the day. I am a writer. Therefore I write. But it was fantastic to see movement.

So for all you fellow independent writers out there, what type of advertisements do you run? Where have you had success?

Friday, May 5, 2017

Twenty-Five Years of Reservoir Dogs

When I was in junior high we had a small, family owned video store around the corner called U.E.P. Video. I never knew what it stood for, but I'd regularly get a few bucks from my mom to go down and rent a video. There was never any real restriction on what we watched (though, I suppose my mom would have put her foot down on porn), so the small store was full of possibilities. My uncle has recommended From Dusk Till Dawn to my parents and we watched it together. He didn't mention it was a vampire movie, and none of us had seen the previews that made it clear. It was a huge, fabulous surprise. At least, for me. My parents hated it.

The internet was young back then. Only two or three people I knew had it at home, and it seemed like the majority of the internet was shitty message boards and porn we didn't even want to see (and weird shit edited to get through the parental filters, and absolutely no such thing as "Safe Search"). But even then, if you typed "Quentin Tarantino" or "Robert Rodriguez" into a search engine, you could find out what other movies they made.

Armed with a few bucks and new knowledge, I went down to U.E.P. to rent Reservoir Dogs.

They wouldn't let me.

Now, I had rented R rated movies before, I'm sure of it. This was before you had to have an ID or parental chaperone to see R rated movies in the theater. People generally guessed that parents would do whatever parents do, and kids would probably find ways around it, and R rated movies couldn't hurt anyone too badly or require too much therapy in adulthood. But they wouldn't let me rent Reservoir Dogs. I was fucking pissed. I called my mom at work to tell her about this grave injustice, told her that now U.E.P. said she would have to sign some waiver letting me rent R rated movies or that she would have to rent them for me. And just what the hell was I supposed to do today between finishing homework and my parents getting home? How was I going to relish these beautiful hours when no one was fighting over the TV (I always lost).

My mom went down to U.E.P. on her way home from work to sign the waiver and pick the movie up. I got a call from the store, my mom on the other line, "What was the movie you wanted? River Rats?"

I corrected her, and she got the movie for me. I had to wait until the next day to watch it, because by that time of day, I was on the losing side of every argument about what would be on TV. The next day, I guess my mom was at work because I remember what happened so clearly.

I was watching Reservoir Dogs (for the second time), and my mom was standing behind the sectional listening to Tarantino's Mr. Brown give his theory on the song "Live A Virgin." Right after he says, "Dick, dick, dick, dick, dick, dick, dick" my mom took a deep breath, like she wanted to say something, and then shook her head. "I was going to make a comment about the language in this movie but I guess it's not any worse than what you hear in your own living room." She walked out.

I don't remember buying it, but I must have because I saw it easily fifty times that year in between sampling all of Tarantino's movies and dipping into Robert Rodriguez's oeuvre as well. I had the most fun showing them to my dad who loved crime movies and had no reservations about watching Tarantino wax philosophical about big dicks with me sitting next to him. As strained and tumultuous as my relationship with my dad was, we could always have a good time with Tarantino or Rodriguez. Always.

So it's the 25th anniversary of Reservoir Dogs. I haven't got to watch it again this week because I've got a sick kid at home who isn't sleeping at her regular times and I'm zonked by the time I get her to bed, but I could probably recite the movie from first line to end line (including Mr. Pink begging for mercy outside the warehouse at the end). I told my brother recently that Reservoir Dogs was always going to be my favorite movie because it's been my favorite movie for so long. There's so many memories attached to it, it opened so many ideas for me. I know it's maybe a little ironic, being the outspoken feminist, and citing the one Tarantino film were not a single woman exists in the foreground as my favorite, but it is what it is. It fascinated me, it gripped me. The dialogue lit me up (I was already experimenting with writing novels by then), and everything about it was exciting. It held up to second, third, and thirtieth viewings. Even now, all these years later, I find new and different things to love about the story, about the way it's shot, about how fucking insane Michael Madsen is as Mr. Blonde.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Are Book Trailers Worth It?

Guest Post by S.W. Lauden

My new novella features drug-dealing pirate impersonators, so I wanted to create a funny book trailer about a pirate casting call. I imagined some of them being historically accurate, a few doing their best Johnny Depp (or Keith Richards) impression, and one or two drunks in ill-fitting Halloween costumes. Every one of them would be horribly offended by my depiction of pirate impersonators in Crossed Bones.

I put a call out on Facebook asking if anybody had recommendations for pirate impersonators in the Los Angeles area—the tribe didn't disappoint. Next I contacted a commercial director I know to see if he’d be interested in working on the project—he was. Everything was falling into place, but I was hesitant to pull the trigger because I had done this once before.

There was a trailer for my first Greg Salem novel, Bad Citizen Corporation, back in 2015. I was pretty happy with the end product considering it was made on a shoestring budget, but had a hard time getting anybody to watch it outside of my own social media base. The whole experience left me wondering if book trailers are worth it for authors at my stage of the game.

I needed feedback. So I pitched the Crossed Bones trailer idea to my publisher, Eric Campbell, and his team at Down & Out Books. Everybody on the call liked the concept, but we came to the conclusion that a book trailer would only be worth the time, effort and cost (professional pirate impersonators don't come cheap!) if there was additional marketing money to distribute and promote it—money that could be used for other forms of book marketing. We decided to move on.

End of story, right? Wrong!

I still wondered if we'd made the right decision by scrapping the trailer concept. I mean, plenty of authors are making book trailers every day. Several bloggers have written detailed and informative posts on the topic. There's a cottage industry of companies that can help you script, shoot, edit and distribute high quality video for a fee. And there are free and paid apps that make professional-looking DIY videos a reality.

Given all of the resources at our disposal, why don't more authors in the crime and mystery scene make trailers? I decided to ask a couple of publicists their opinion.

"When I’m consulting with authors, book trailers are actually lower on my list of 'musts,’" said Wiley Saichek, who spearheaded online publicity campaigns for The Book Report Network's AuthorsOnTheWeb division for a decade before leaving to establish Saichek Publicity in 2013.

Those ‘musts’? Professional editing, professional cover design, an author website with a newsletter/mailing list, a social media presence, an online advertising budget, and a publicity budget. If an author (and their publisher, if they have one) has resources left after going through that list, according to Saichek, “having a well-designed/produced trailer can enhance a campaign, but only if the author plans to use the trailer as part of their publicity and marketing strategy.”

As you probably guessed, it often isn’t enough to simply create a book trailer and throw it up on your Facebook, Twitter and YouTube pages—unless you’re happy with it mostly being seen by your current fans and friends. That means submitting it to websites that host trailers, convincing bloggers and influencers to share your trailers, and maybe even hiring a pro to help you with an SEO strategy. And just like with the book you’re trying to promote in the first place, the trailer better be really good.

“Make them interesting, make them intriguing, make them professional, and then be sure you use them wherever you can,” said David Ivester, a veteran marketing and publicity consultant working under the umbrella of Author Guide. “They can be embedded into press releases, websites, even some email services have the capability. And don’t forget to add videos and trailers to your author page on Goodreads and Amazon Author Central.”

But when it comes to authors using video to promote books, Ivester doesn’t stop with trailers.

“I also encourage writers to create a YouTube video to talk directly to potential readers. Authors need to think of creating a brand for themselves. An interesting three minute video where the writer talks about what inspires them to write, hobbies, and who you enjoy reading will help you connect with a potential reader as a person who happens to be a writer,” Ivester said.

That’s great advice and I can’t thank Wiley Saichek and David Ivester enough for taking the time to answer my questions. Alas, it comes a little late for my ill-fated Crossed Bones book trailer. But there will be other books and other opportunities to second-guess myself about getting the word out about them. I'd love to know what you think about book trailers in the comments section below.

In the meantime, I’m going to be busy for the next couple of months. You can find a full list of my upcoming events, check out my blog, and listen to the latest episode of the Writer Types podcast at my website.


S.W. Lauden is the author of the Greg Salem punk rock P.I. series including BAD CITIZEN CORPORATION and GRIZZLY SEASON (Rare Bird Books). His Tommy & Shayna Crime Caper novellas include CROSSWISE and CROSSED BONES (Down & Out Books). Steve lives in Los Angeles.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Social Issues in Fiction

Scott's Note: Dana King guest blogs this week. He has a new book out, Resurrection Mall, volume 3 in his Penns River series, and he's going to talk about how he incorporates social issues into his books.

Here's Dana:

First, I want to thank Scott Adlerberg for allowing me this opportunity. I look forward to Scott’s regular posts and will do my best to uphold his high standard.

Today he’s asked me to talk about how to work social commentary into a novel without sounding pedantic. I liked that topic right away because it implied to me Scott thought I was able to do it, so thanks again.

The Penns River books were the first things I wrote where I consciously thought of social commentary. It came to me in the context of “write what you know.” I grew up in and around three small Western Pennsylvania towns that were thriving mill communities at one time, with all the spinoff business opportunities that implies, including Mob-run nightlife that made one town Pittsburgh’s version of Cicero, with less violence. The mills supported half the families in town. The other half sold goods and services to the millworkers.

Then the steel and aluminum mills closed. Forever. The Seventies were devastating and things haven’t got much better. Small businesses pop up and disappear, locals shifting money back and forth to help each other go under slower. Pittsburgh recovered to become a major medical, education, and financial center. Little of that prosperity floated up the Allegheny River.

I turned fourteen in 1970. The mill closings and their ripple effects shaped many of my first thoughts of a world beyond my family and friends. True fact: it was me who told my father A&P was closing its Pittsburgh division, where he’d worked for over twenty years. I heard the story on the radio and called the store to get the straight scoop. It was news to the people working there.

I go back to visit my parents half a dozen times a year, so I stayed in touch with local events. My father served many years on the zoning board, so I got some inside baseball stuff from him. When I decided to invent a town, I knew that area and those people better than anywhere.

On one visit I drove past a small mall that closed ten years earlier and had been left to the forces of entropy. About this time Maryland was contemplating casino gambling as a supposed way to finance schools without further burdening taxpayers, as if schools aren’t worth paying taxes for. So there I was, driving by the abandoned mall with The Beloved Spouse, and a thought popped out: All this town needs is for some sharpie to put a casino there to solve all their problems. Right.

There were also news stories around this time to the effect that the Pennsylvania Gaming Commission wasn’t as fastidious as it might have been when vetting casino partners. I’d already placed a mob boss in Penns River, mostly as homage to the area’s past. He was pissed that the casino cut into his gambling income, and threatened when he learned a “reforming” Russian mobster and his psycho son had an interest. Boom! Grind Joint was born.

My new book, Resurrection Mall, takes this a step further. The casino established, a Pittsburgh televangelist named Christian Love sees an opportunity to capitalize on this “Gomorrah on the Allegheny” by moving his operation into another failed shopping center, this one in the old downtown area. The location, now called Resurrection Mall, will be “raised, not razed.” What Love doesn’t take into account is the one thing the casino owners did right: avoid the high-crime part of town where the drug gangs are gaining a foothold.

How does this answer Scott’s question about not being pedantic when exploring social issues? Don’t make too much of them. Don’t beat people over the head about how terrible all of this is. Not that it isn’t terrible. Sure, it is. I try to use the oldest, hoariest writing advice there is: don’t tell the reader what it’s like; show him. I never have to look for story ideas; they come to me. I never have to make up things to show how the people are affected. I’m tripping over those anecdotes, both from personal experience and by subscribing to the local paper online. If the societal woe I want to address is intrinsically involved with the story, I shouldn’t have to beat anyone over the head for them to “get” it.

A supporter once yelled to Harry Truman at a campaign stop to, “Give ‘em hell, Harry!” Truman replied, “I don’t have to. I just tell the truth and it sounds like hell.” That’s how to make social commentary not sound pedantic. I know when I make up my stories I don’t have to go out of my way to give anyone hell. I just have to make up a story that tells the truth.

You can pick up Resurrection Mall right here.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Ten Bands and a Lie

You’ve seen it. The post that has been making the rounds. Ten concerts you’ve seen and make one a lie. I jumped on this FB trend like a Stars Wars fan jumps on a Missile Throwing Boba Fett action figure. Unopened.

For the most part I got caught up in the memories. I started thinking about the clubs and coliseums I’ve visited over the years. For the first time in a long time I thought about what I did before I was married. Before I had kids. It became fun for me to get all that stuff written down somewhere. Music was a big part of my life for a long time.

Way back when, I spent most of my record-store-earned paychecks on new music and shows. Def Leppard. Foreigner. Journey. Tom Petty. Such a little rocker. As I developed a strong love of all black clothing and eyeliner I moved on to Mega Death and Metallica. The Cult.
After the record store, I went to work at a pop radio station. While there I saw plenty of one hit wonders. Artists that came, went and faded but there were also memorable moments. I served tea to Fred Schneider from the B52s. Met Motley Crue, quite respectful and nice, oddly enough. Served as security for a Remembering the Eighties with Richard Marx concert. You have no idea how aggressive middle age women can become. I even met the mysterious and missing Richard Simmons. He ran behind me and called me Snow White the Virgin Queen during his appearance. I don’t know why.

Eventually I landed a job in the record industry. It was a life changing experience in many different ways. On the positive side, I saw artists I never dreamed I would see. Some I never would have paid to see on my own but I’m glad I got the chance. The Rolling Stones. Van Morrison. Elvis Costello. U2. Sting. Steve Miller Band. Bon Jovi. John Mellencamp. Some of those folks were really awesome and gracious. Some were just asses. Most put on great concerts.  

Living in D.C. meant I had access to busy, nationally noted clubs. Plus, Philly and Baltimore were such quick trips. Afghan Wigs. Dinosaur Jr. Mudhoney. PJ Harvey. The Fall.

I had the chance to work with bands who were sort of up and coming. Blues Traveler. Soundgarden. Soul Asylum. Soup Dragons. Gin Blossoms. L.A. Guns. Extreme. PM Dawn. Dan Reed Network. Drivin’ and Cryin’. Jeff Buckley, for a tragically short time.

The enthusiasm of the newer musicians really kept me going most times. The farther along in their careers they traveled the less happy they seemed, though. I understood the waning joy.

I was getting tired of the insanely greedy and sexist record industry. It wasn’t what I thought it was going to be, at least it wasn’t at the end of my career.

I’ve had band managers grab parts of my body instead of shaking my hand. One label dude had me take a mysterious package to a waiting limo in front of the midtown NYC office building. Turns out, I was delivering cocaine. A radio manager once exposed his terribly unattractive member to me in his office. I’ve had a boss slip my friend and I a roofie. 
Eventually the business had to change to keep up with technology. Artists were tired of getting taken advantage of, when a local Radio Rep makes more money than the artist who wrote the song, there is a problem. When a woman, or man, wants to show up to work and do their job but gets groped, berated and demoted, there is a problem. The record industry was a dinosaur that needed to die.

What does this have to do with the FB question about live bands? I never would’ve remembered my own opinions had it not been for that trend. I don’t sit around thinking about this stuff. I’m usually thinking about my kids or whatever book I’m writing and wait a minute. This might make for a good story.  Gotta go.

Sunday, April 30, 2017


I spent the weekend at Malice Domestic in Bethesda, Maryland.  It was my first time at this particular mystery convention, and it's been a lot of fun. It's smaller and more cozy - in both ways, intimate and sub-genre - than Bouchercon. But there was also plenty of traditional mystery to go around.

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Here I am very excited to be signing. Notice the handmade vanilla caramel candies from the Branson Fudge Shop.

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And here's the panel I was on: Call the Cops - Police Procedurals. With L-R moderator Anne Cleeland, me, Frankie Y. Bailey, Bruce Robert Coffin (yes, that's his real name), and Karen Pullen.