Monday, November 8, 2010

ARTICLE: Writing Mystery Murder Fiction - 5 Hard Truths About Being a Published Author

When my sisters and I received the news that our debut mystery novel, Liar, Liar was to be published, we popped the cork off the champagne we bought the day we wrote the first chapter. We called everyone we knew and some people we didn't. We fantasized about writing a blockbuster sequel on a tropical beach next to Janet Evanovich where hunky waiters serve fruity drinks with paper umbrellas.

The glorious illusion lasted a day or two. After that, we learned some hard truths we should've known when we bought the champagne. Here are five of them.

1) It'll take 10X more time to market your mystery book than it took to write, edit, and argue with the publisher

Forget the paper umbrellas. Chances are you'll pound the pavement promoting your first mystery novel while you write your second.

As novice mystery authors, we thought the publisher would aggressively promote our book for us. (We pause here while they laugh.) Publishers have limited funds and lots of books to promote. However, they're immensely supportive and possibly the best resource you have. Always remember you are your book's most passionate publicist and advocate.

Put the tropical beach on hold and enjoy this part of the writing process. In the end, your marketing skills will prove as critical to the success of your book as your ability to write well.

2) Begin promoting your book early in the writing process.

That would be day one. Do everything you can to become market savvy. Introduce yourself to your local book-vendors and librarians. Become part of a group of writers who support each other and share publicity strategies. Create a list of media targets with contact information. There's a huge market out there and you'll want to develop your marketing plan early.

3) Write Write Write.

To get the best media coverage, you'll spend a lot of time writing press releases, newspaper articles, promo blurbs and pitch letters. You'll write answers to interviewer's questions and something you can say at book signings. You'll probably launch your own website, blog and maybe even tweet. You'll want to sell your book in a paragraph and you'll need an elevator pitch that sums it up in a few boiled down sentences. This may not be the kind of writing you think you were born for but if you're creative, you can make it fun.

4) Create a mailing list database.

Dig deep into your past and blow the dust off some old friendships. Make a list of business acquaintances, schoolmates and people you knew when Clinton was President. Then log on to Facebook and hunt them down shamelessly. They'll be glad you did. Let them know you'll send a press release as soon as your book arrives in bookstores.

5) If you're shy, get over it.

Marketing a book requires a certain amount of courage that doesn't always come easy for three rather shy Norwegian sisters. Our family and friends support us by wearing tees and sweatshirts that advertise Liar Liar. We pass out bookmarks to unsuspecting strangers and suggest they read the first chapter on-line. More challenging marketing efforts can make our palms sweat. If cold calling reporters and producers is hard for you, do what I do. Pretend you're one of the characters in your book. Hopefully you wrote a ballsy one.

There you have it. It's a hard road, but one well worth travelling. Now good luck and get writing!

This article is contributed by Kari Larsen from the 3 Sisters Mysteries team. She works together with Julianne and Kristen Larsen on their Cat DeLuca Mysteries. You can find more about 3 Sisters Mysteries by visiting their website at or

Liar, Liar: A Cat DeLuca MysteryPlotting and Writing Suspense FictionHow to Write Killer Fiction: The Funhouse of Mystery & the Roller Coaster of Suspense


Nancy Curteman said...

Really enjoyed this post. I've just had a publisher respond to my query with a request for my manuscript. Your post gave me a smart nudge. Now to work.

dana said...

Excellent tips. Really useful stuff .Never had an idea about this, will look for more of such informative posts from your side.. good job...Keep it up

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