Thursday, September 21, 2006

Why Con Someone? The Midwest Lit. Festival & BoucherCon2006

Hello all witin the sound of my voice. The Aurora, IL Midwest Literary Festival was a huge success for both the conference and its guests, and in particular moi. Not only did I sell a lot of books, I was treated to the best red carpet I ever walked, I had the best food of any con I've been to
(Casino buffet, restaurant food pushed on us, and a private party), and to top it off there was a JACCUZZI in my the living room along with a fireplace, and a separate bedroom. I can't tell you what a great weekend it was for me. Couple of times I was 'spose to be here or there but weighing things up, nahhh...I went with the Jaccuzzi. Try 5 times in one weekend. But...however before you shout yeah or nay, this was serendipity, Carl Yung's big belief that just when you need what you need, it comes to you, and I truly needed that Jaccuzzi far more than seeing Joe Konrath's face again! I'd developed a week before what I had thought to be a blood clot in my left leg; turned out to be a bad infection, very painful...made walking and standing difficult and with doctor's orders to stay off it, well how serendipitous to win the lottery of rooms in the very nice hotel the MLF Staff got for its guests authors.

The conference wasn't bad either. I had a bite and a good talk with Shadoe Stevens, lots of fun, and I slipped him a copy of City for Ransom. I spent some time with Dennis Lehane, a quite approachable star, I can tell you. I spent time with my friend David Morrell, and really not enough time with my best friend, Joe Konrath. I spent time with all my friends at the Twilight Tales booth where I read and signed books. Spent far more time with my new editor\publisher Karen Syed and other Echelon authors like the lovely Luisa Buehler. Saw my buddy Jay Boninsinga and listened to him and others jam with some fine jazz music at the Friday night party for authors. Saw my friend and colleague Mort Castle, Tina Jens, Brian Pinkerton, and James Rollins with whom I share an editor at Avon\HarperCollins. Met some folks I didn't know before, made a lot of new friends and contacts.

Conferences is where it is at if you want to be among your own kind. This is where you get energized as a writer; this is where you gain inspiration and all kinds of terrific serendipty happens at any conference. If you can get to one, go. It does not have to be a con that is in your 'category' of writing either; you can learn so many things from writers of any type of book just by hearing them speak. I urge you to go to any writers conference you can get to and you have the funds for, and I hope to see you in Madison, WI next week at BoucherCon, the largest mystery con on the planet. For me, personally, it is a growth experience each time I go to a conference. At B-Con I am debuting Psi Blue, a novel just released from Echelon Press, first of a new series, new direction as I am a specialist in re-inventing Robert W. Walker. Debuting also is the 31-story hitman\hitwoman anthology edited by J.A. Konrath entitled These Guns for Hire. I watched how much blood, sweat, and tears Joe K. put into this work and it was a passion for Joe and all its contributors.
An open door debute party is being thrown Thursday night at the con for this anthology, and 20 of the authors in These Guns for Hire will be on hand to sign. Finally, my Avon\HarperCollins editor (James Rollins' editor) and my publicist from my new house will be on hand, and she will be distributing Wanted Posters and a Surgeon General's Warning against reading my books if you fear heart palpitations. Aside from all this, I will be on a 9AM Sat. panel on Marketing, and a late Sunday panel on Echelon authors and Echelon publishing. It's a 'higher' Echelon.

First weekend in November, I will be at Manhattan, KS' Great Book Conclave as one of the top guests along with Joe Konrath; the two of us will present a several hours long workshop on writing, crafting, and selling. Nancy Picard headlines here along with J.M. Mike Hayes, and an array of fine authors, including Laura Durham, Harley Jane Kozak, and Susan McBride. This is at Putting Manhattan on the map, man!

Between these two events on Oct. 21-22, The Charleston Book Festival in Charleston, WV is happening and I'll be on hand signing at the Echelon Press kiosk.

In February, once again, I will be at Love is Murder, another great conference in Rosemont, IL, a northwest burb of Chicago along with Ken Bruen, Anne Perry, and many more. This is at
The conference got its name based on my last relationship...yuk, yuk...just kidding Effie. David Morrell, Walter Mosley, and many others who have attended LIM have called it a fine fine conference and no one has died of the cold during this con where 'the bodies are kept on ice'.
Join us first week in February.

So whatever you do, whether a reader, a fan, or another author, aspiring or published, you can't go wrong doing a conference. It's well worth the money and you'll grow with it.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Selling a Book - Pitching it Literally

My good friend and best man at my wedding, J.A. Konrath recently did the insane; he broke records that did not exist for selling a book by hand, face to face, going from bookstore to bookstore across our fair continent. This is chronicled on Joe's website in a daily rigorously kept diary right next to the bag of carbohydrates in the car he drove. This was an author tour he initiated and he drove, literally. He visited more bookstores this summer than there are bookstores. The numbers are staggering and now so is Joe. I bring this to your attention so you can find it -- the story of an author at work selling himself and his books and making sales happen. Joe's site is at

As an author who has done countless book signings and limited trips like the one Joe undertook (the man literally crisscrossed the nation three times), I have a huge gunnysack filled with sales pitches that work and sales pitches that send a would-be book buyer screaming and running out the store (I kid you not). Tossing a book in the air for an unsuspecting bookbuyer to catch is not a good idea; tossing same book to one you make eye-contact with and shout "Catch" can and often does result in a sale. The real trick is to engage the customer. Make eye contact, shake the hand, smile always, and have a ready fast and simple to understand single sentence that sums up the core nature of your book. Get the book into the hands, allow the person to digest the copy on the back, and take in the cover and blurbs if he or she wishes. Interject a joke here and there. One of my oft used lines is, "Yeah, it's a crime novel, a crime it was ever written, but one I can't go to jail for."

The opposite of my approach (which has been studied by many!) is the author who sits behind a table and doodles, twiddles the thumbs, or even reads the newspaper expecting readers to step up. is the author's job to initiate contact and hey, let the customer know you are an author. I typically say, "They just dropped me out of a helicopter ten minutes ago so I could be here before you walked through the door."

Most of all, be prepared to "pitch" or pitch line the book as you would if the customer who stepped into your web were a Hollywood film producer. You have one minute of his time to impress him. Give him metaphors and if it helps visuals. What your book is about in a nutshell. Practice with the lines before you get into the store as you never want to sound like you are babbling....

Example: PSI Blue is about the FBI's secret weapon, a psychic detective who is half Japanese, half Celtic, entirely confused but all woman.

Example: CITY for RANSOM is a gaslight Sherlock Holmes era mystery featuring Inspector Alastair Ransom and his stormy relationship with Dr. J.Phineas Tewes.

Need more? Detective and doctor are on the trail of the Phantom of the Fair--the Chicago World's Fair, as it is backdrop to the drama. I often add, I feel City is the book I was born to write (after forty previous titles). The novel my career has led me toward over the years.

Candy on the table lying in a small wooden coffin...glowing skull and bones holding my business card for the taking, yellow police line tape...who knows what attracts people to your book and an ultimate sale at a signing? In fact, no one knows. The art of the sale is important, however. Sure, great art work on the cover may be one person's reason for buying, but I am convinced that if you demonstrate great enthusiasm for your own book and faith in it, that this alone sells more books than anything else (unless you have a pipeline to Oprah and other high-profile sales opportunities).

Let me know from your side....
Rob Walker