Book Beat Babes

Book Beat Babes

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Mystery Author, Jenny Milchman, Addresses the Age-Old Question of Promotion

I'm happy to welcome Random House Mystery Author, Jenny Milchman, to Book Beat Babes. She's addressing the hot topic of promotion. Morgan Mandel

Jenny Milchman is a suspense writer who until recently lived on the road with her family on what Shelf Awareness called "the world's longest book tour". She has come to settle in upstate New York. For now anyway.
Jenny's debut novel, COVER OF SNOW, was published by Ballantine/Random House in January 2013, earned starred reviews from Publishers Weekly and Booklist, as well as praise from the New York Times, San Francisco Journal of Books, the AP, and many other publications. Jenny's second novel, RUIN FALLS, will be published by Ballantine in April 2014 and is available for pre-order now.
Jenny hosts the Made It Moments forum on her blog, which has featured more than 300 international bestsellers, Edgar winners, and indie authors. 

And Now, Here's what Jenny has to say about Promotion -

To Promote or Not To Promote...Is That Even a Question?

The question I get asked most often by emerging writers is whether it's really necessary to...X.

"X" can be any number of things. Tweet. Blog. Appear at bookstores. Try KDP, and what is this Pinterest thing anyway?

Because we writers are stumbling around in search of an answer to this question: How do we become successful authors? And this one: How do we reach readers?

As the great William Goldman says, "Nobody knows."

But I don't think this wisdom means that we should just throw up our hands. And while there's not exactly a roadmap for figuring out what you should do once you've reached that land called Publication, whether traditionally or independently, I have accumulated a few thoughts during the long road to my own. Getting a book written well enough that it should be read by readers is one of the harder things any of us will accomplish in our lives. But then what?

First I need to back up and tell you a little about myself. While I’m traditionally published, it took long enough and the world changed substantially enough during that time, that I explored self-publishing very seriously as well. In the end, working with three agents, writing eight novels, and receiving fifteen almost-offers during eleven years on submission, I sold my debut novel to a team I’m truly thrilled with. This finally happened through a confluence of events that still feels mystical to me. And the dream of being a published author was such a long, long, long time in coming that, once it took place, I did the only logical thing.

I hired an independent publicity firm, rented out our house, withdrew the kids from school, and asked my husband if he would accompany me on a book tour that would cover 44 states and 35,000 miles. Not exactly in that order, but you get the point. The whole family's life would be subsumed by this dream, at least for the next seven months.

We wound up visiting over 400 bookstores, as well as libraries, book clubs and almost every place where people come together over books. I've been the inaugural author at a brand new mystery bookstore in Madison, WI and the newbie who drew the smallest audience at a bookstore that holds near-daily events. I stood up in Oxford, MS with a rockabilly band behind me and spoke for precisely fourteen minutes--we were being recorded live--to a house crowd of three hundred. I've done Sit & Sign's where only one person showed up, but that one person drove three hours to see me, and thus will always have a place in the Annals of my Becoming an Author, not to mention in my heart. And there have been events that hit almost every point between these extremes.

So, is this the point of my blog post? Is there a roadmap after all, a literal one that shows our route, or a message: change your whole life in service of The Book?
I'm hoping that writers will take something else from this description of what I've done. That it's not necessary to do any one thing as an author. Neither Tweet nor Tour.

Instead, figure out ways you will find joy in your book being out there, and in your great love of books in general. Things that will help you celebrate this shining accomplishment while connecting with those who want to share it.

To my mind, it doesn't matter what you do, it just matters that in today's increasingly crowded content space, you find something that allows your own voice to stand out. And that doesn’t mean sending daily newsletters to the people who have been kind enough to support us.

Say you're an introvert and the idea of meeting crowds of people face-to-face sounds as draining as a bathtub. Online social media might be a great outlet for you. Or perhaps you have an author platform, such as being a doctor who writes medical thrillers, or a biotech expert who wrote a book about GMOs. Maybe you can find a listserv or organization that will appreciate hearing your wisdom. There are more reviewers today than back when a daily paper landed on the curb at every house in the United States. Book bloggers are today’s word-of-mouth in action. So are booksellers. The net gives like-minded readers and writers ways to find each other virtually and face-to-face. There are more riches than we can ever spend, but that also means that there is more than enough to go around. It's just a matter of finding it.

Some will find Twitter the perfect medium for self-expression while for others the idea of boiling something meaningful down to 140 characters will be anathema. Some will be on Facebook every day, others will start a charitable cause connected to their book. Some might give workshops at writers' organizations, or encounter terrific blogs that allow you to guest post, such as this one right here.

Some might even take to the road for seven months.

And when you do--whatever you do--please come find me. I'll be one of the connections that you make.

About Ruin Falls:
Liz Daniels should be happy about taking a rare family vacation, leaving behind their remote home in the Adirondack Mountains for a while. Instead, she feels uneasy. Her children, eight-year-old Reid and six year-old Ally, have only met their paternal grandparents a handful of times. But her husband, Paul, has decided that despite a strained relationship with his mother and father, they should visit the farm in western New York where he spent his childhood.

The family doesn’t make it all the way to the farm and stops at a hotel for the night. And in the morning, when Liz checks on her sleeping children, all of the small paranoias and anxieties from the day before come to life: Ally and Reid are nowhere to be found. Blind panic slides into ice cold terror as the hours tick by without discovering a trace of her kids. Soon, Paul and Liz are being interviewed by police, an Amber Alert is issued, detectives are called in. Frantic worry and helplessness threaten to overtake Liz’s mind.

But the children are safe. In a sudden, gut-wrenching realization, Liz knows that it was no stranger who slipped into the hotel room and kidnapped her children. Instead it was someone she trusted completely. And as the police abruptly wrap-up their investigation, Liz identifies the person who has betrayed her. Now she will stop at nothing to find Ally and Reid and get them back. From her guarded in-laws’ unwelcoming farmhouse to the deep woods of her hometown, Liz follows the threads of a terrible secret to uncover a hidden world created from dreams and haunted by nightmares.

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Please leave a comment to welcome Jenny Milchman to Book Beat Babes.


  1. Welcome to Book Beat Babes, Jenny. Promotion is something which baffles many authors. Thanks for your insights.

    Morgan Mandel

  2. Thanks so much for having me, Morgan! I'd love to get a good discussion started. Was I crazy? And what crazy thing has anyone else tried?

  3. Jenny,
    Your post came at just the right time for me. Lately, although I've been doing a lot of promoting for my Malone mystery series, book sales are, well, glum - or maybe that's how the lack of sales has caused me to feel. At any rate, your post reminded me to buck up and keep on trying.
    I loved "Cover of Snow" and I wish you the best of luck (and lots of sales) with "Ruin Falls."

  4. Jenny, I loved reading about your book tour--it was amazing!

  5. Patricia, I'm glad it had that effect! I'm happy to talk any time about how what I did can be applied on a much smaller scale. But yes, I think you're right. Try different things, and take it one reader at a time. That's why we write in the end. Good luck--and thanks for the kind words about Cover of Snow.

  6. Marilyn, thank you, that's exactly how I felt. What an amazing way to see this country, bookstore by bookstore, reader by reader.

  7. Jenny, your story is an amazing one and one that says "Shut up!" to anyone who complains about how tiring and arduous promotion can be. I feel privileged to be one of those lucky fans who had the pleasure of meeting you on your incredible tour, and hope to see you again on your next one. All the best to you, my friend.

  8. Earl, it's funny, but the tour part never once felt tiresome or arduous. The getting published part...that flattened me like a pancake. But I have felt grateful every day since to be here. Anyway, it's wonderful to be mutual fans of each other's work, and I can't wait to hit DFW and see you & the gang again :)

  9. Jenny, that was amazing book tour. Good luck with your sales.

  10. Hi Jenny,

    Welcome to Book Beat Babes. This is such a timely topic. A fellow blogger on one of my other blogs posted about promotion today as well.

    You said it right, it's all about finding what works for you and looking at things in a new way when one thing doesn't work.

    For you, what an amazing thing to be able to do...take the time to tour for your book.

  11. Welcome Jenny!
    Wow - kids out of school -book tour! You really had a wild trip! Congrats on your success and we at BBB wish you plenty more!
    DL Larson

  12. Margot, and Debra, and Deb, great to hear from you, and thanks for the support. It was crazy. I think everyone thought I was nuts when I first described it. But then we survived, thrived even, and now there's an author who will be joining us for the first leg of our next one. Yup, kids and all. I do want to stress, though--that even if you have 7 days instead of 7 months--I think the face-to-face can add a lot to word-spreading efforts.

  13. I hope you realize what an amazing family you have! This is something they'll always remember. I think this is paying off for you, too.

  14. Jenny,
    That was quite a book tour you undertook.
    I agree that we all need to get the word out about our books. Sometimes we have to try a few ways to find out what suits us. While I don't have the time to read all the blogs I'd like to, I make it a point of reading those written by friends or that I find on interest. This blog was both.

  15. Jenny,

    What you did was amazing! And it's so impressive the backing that your entire family provided. Book promotion isn't easy and personally my least favorite aspect of being a writer, but it is necessary in our modern age where more people than ever are writing.

  16. Kaye, I do realize that. I wouldn't have been able to do it--literally--without them. Or get published, for that matter. But one thing I didn't discuss here, but which I've written about elsewhere, is the struggle I've had with whether it's right to depend on them this way. Will they as you say always remember it? In a good way? How far is it okay to go in hitching so much to a dream? Thanks for your support.

  17. Marilyn, what a lovely thing to say. Thank you. I feel about you and your work the same.

  18. Jacquie, I think that more-people-than-ever part is really crucial. The way books get read these days is completely different because there are so many great ones out there. I remember just waiting for a new round of choices to come into my bookstore or library as a there are always new choices.