Squawk Radio

Wednesday, January 25, 2006


Q. What do you tell authors when they ask you how they can improve their sales?

I get asked that question all the time by writers and my answer is always the same: write the best book you can every time. It’s not meant to be patronizing and it’s not me dodging the question. I firmly believe in the ‘if you build it they will come’ theory of writing. If you strive to perfect your craft, if each time you do every thing you can to write the very best book that you have inside you, then the readers will find you.

Everyone knows two things about romance readers--they buy and read a lot of books and they tell their friends what they like. Especially now in the age of the internet. If you are writing a great book each time, then readers are going to find you. It’s just math. There are no gimmicks. There are no shortcuts. There are no secrets. Don’t chase trends. Write good stories with great characters and you’ll succeed. It may take a while, but like Stephen King said (and I’m paraphrasing) “they built the Great Wall of China one brick at a time, but today you can see that sucker from outer space.” Easier said than done, I know.

There are certain basic things that I think every writer should do. One is to have a web-site. They don’t cost that much and they can do a lot to spread the word about you and your book. The next thing is, build a regular snail mail mailing list and keep it up to date. When your new book comes out, send out a postcard to everyone on your mailing list. If you have a computer and a printer you can go to Office Depot or Staples and by a pack of computer postcards and make your own in about 15 minutes. (Important disclaimer: For all that is holy, I would like to state here for the record, that it is my lovely wife who makes all of my promotional material because she is the most loving and supportive wife in the history of wives. I’m helpless at that stuff). Mail them to everyone on your list the week before your book comes out. Friends, family, your insurance agent everyone. Postcards only cost $.23 to mail and mail still has impact on people.

The idea is that even if you send a postcard to your Mom and she sticks it up on her refrigerator like the proud mama she is, everyone that comes to her house is going to see it. People will talk about it. Some of those people will buy it.

Write a note and your own press release and send a copy of your book to all the local newspapers and television and radio stations, even the big daily metropolitan papers. Look on their website and find the name of the book editor and the features editor and send it to them. Burn your book cover and author photo and press release onto a CD and send that as well. Again, all of this can be done in a few hours at your computer. Local media outlets are always looking for local interest stories and most papers have a web-site. Once you’re in the paper you’re on the web-site and then you’re in search engines and that’s all good. You never know what is going to happen and if your book lands on a reporter's desk during a slow news week, boom, you’ve got a feature.

Lastly if you’re published at Avon, make sure you’re encouraging readers to sign up for Author Tracker. It’s an amazingly efficient way for readers to learn about your new book.
Again, it takes a little time and effort on your part to do some of these things, but it pays dividends.

Q. Aside from Romance what other types of books do you sell and what are you most excited about on your upcoming list?

I sell pretty much everything. Mystery, Science Fiction, non-fiction, audio books, whatever ends up on our list.

As for the books I’m excited about, one is The Fallen coming from T. Jefferson Parker next month. I think Jeff is the best thriller writer working today. In fact, if you’re a writer and you want to learn how to create three dimensional, tragic and flawed heroes, then this is somebody you must read. Almost every one of Jeff’s books is a stand-alone thriller, yet each time out he’s able to create these phenomenal, incredibly drawn characters. And just about every book of Jeff’s has a tragic and tender relationship between a man and a woman at the heart of it. Last year he won the Edgar Award for Best Novel for California Girl. I think he’s brilliant.

Then I would say in March to look for A Dirty Job by Christopher Moore. I fell in love with Chris’ work about 12 or so years ago when I read Coyote Blue. His books are hilarious, profound and oftentimes heartbreaking in a single sentence. One of my favorite reviews of Chris once said that “he’s like Carl Hiassen on acid!” He just this year won the Quill Award for The Stupidest Angel. These are wickedly funny novels and underneath the humor there is always an amazingly tender love story. (Sounds perfect for Romance fans!) With A Dirty Job I think he’s going to hit the big time.

Q. What it is it like to be one of the few men that attend the annual RWA convention?

I love RWA. We always send a fairly large contingent to RWA, especially from the sales department. Our romance authors are a vital part of our company. I always feel it’s important for the authors to know how glad we are to publish them and showing up at RWA each year to meet and support as many authors as I can is my small way of saying thanks to them.
The convention itself is a blast. I always like to talk to and be around people who are passionate about what they do and whether it’s writers or fans, RWA is full of passionate people. My first convention was in Anaheim in 1997 and I haven’t missed one since.I will say it can sometimes be hard to find a men’s room in the hotel!

Q. Are there men out there writing romance and if so why don’t men publish under their own names instead of a pen name?

Good question. There are a handful of men writing romance but most of them are published under a pen name. I’m not sure why. I think it would be a tricky thing for a publisher to try. By and large the consumer research tells us that the audience for romance is women by an overwhelming margin. If a man wrote a Regency historical romance, would the audience come to it? I don’t know the answer to that. I suppose if it was a really good book, then probably yes. But would the average romance reader in the stores pick up a romance written by “John Smith”? I think that is the question and I think it is hard for publishers to take that kind of risk. Publishing is a business and you really have to maximize your opportunities and sometimes that means you just have to play it safe.There have been male authors that have written some pretty terrific love stories. Nicholas Sparks and Erich Segal spring immediately to mind. But those books don’t actually follow the conventions of the romance genre as it is traditionally practiced. There’s no happy ending. The hero and the heroine don’t ride off into the sunset together.

Maybe someday there will be guy romance. Maybe I should start it? I have this idea….

Q. Is there anything you’d like to ask our readers?

There are a lot of things I’d like to know. I love to talk to and interact with actual readers. I’d like to know your reading habits. How many books a week do you read? Where to you shop for books? What is your favorite sub-genre in romance? Historical? Romantic Suspense? Paranormal? Tell me about you as a reader. That’d be neat.

And if you have any questions I haven’t answered I’ll try to answer as many as I can. Thanks for having me!
Teresa Medeiros, 11:28 PM