Monday, June 19, 2006

Why You Should Be Very Afraid

Why is it that we can hear about a TV show months before it airs, even note the night and time so we don’t miss it, and yet it’s so hard to hear about new authors?

Musicians can build up the buzz toward a debut album. All it takes is a smash single that catches on with radio, and there’ll be a lot of people looking forward to that CD release. TV shows get commercials, get newspaper mentions, there are whole websites devoted to keeping people informed about what’s going on on the small screen.

Writers have a harder time gaining that audience.

I suppose it goes back to what I learned in communication theory – the medium is the message. Books are normally, by nature, something you experience in isolation. The shared experience usually comes after the reading is done, when you talk about the book with someone else who’s read it.

And yet, word of mouth is very important to generating sales.

This is part of the reason I started participating on author forums – to hear news. It was a way to learn about what was going on in the industry. I started hearing about new (to me) authors I got interested in, events I wanted to attend, names of people I should know. When you don’t live in New York or London, or even remotely close, you can’t network physically. We don’t get that many authors doing readings in my area.

I have trained myself to go looking. As a result, one of my pet peeves is new authors I start hearing about without web sites. I have learned to rely on news via the internet to gauge what books I want to order because, for me, most of my books are coming through the mail these days. The local stores aren’t that local – about 45-50 km away to the closest chain bookstore – and much of what they carry are the well established names. Ruth Rendell? Sure. But Al Guthrie, David Terrenoire, Karen Olson aren’t on the shelves.

This has made me think about my internet presence and how important it is. Which is funny, because I started the blog before I knew I’d have a book out this year. I had my domain for my website registered. I even had a website up, although I changed it once I signed.

Some people don’t think it’s important – some don’t even have websites. Now, I’ve lived in the mountains. I know what it is to have a weather system sneak up on you. Even in Ontario, where I grew up, with all the trees and hills and rock cuts, you can’t see that far across the horizon when you’re on the ground. It wasn’t that hard to understand how people could get caught out on the water or out in the woods.

Now, I live on the prairies, and I know what it is to see the storm clouds moving across the sky. On a clear day, I can see the Rocky Mountains, almost 170 km away. We can even see storm systems move across neighbouring communities that never touch our own.

Today, we’ve officially unleashed a new storm on the internet horizon.
Jason Pinter, JT Ellison, Brett Battles, and I have started Killer Year.

Killer Year is about spreading the word and letting people know who the debut crime fiction authors of 2007 are. We can help each other by sharing our experiences, and we can also help raise the profile of new crime writers. We can help crime fiction enthusiasts discover the new authors to be excited about, the ones that are here to stay, with years of books in them. The new authors with talent, potential and drive.

But don’t take my word for it. Check out the launch of the Killer Year Blog. Jason has written the first post. Brett will post tomorrow, I’m on Wednesday and JT will post on Thursday. On Fridays, other members will take turns, and we’ll have some fun stuff planned for the weekends.
So take a moment, check out the Killer Year website, check out the Killer Year blog. To your right, there’s a list of the Killer Year members who’ve signed on so far. Some don’t have websites or blogs yet, but they’re working on them.

I have to say, just reading through some of the bio bits and book descriptions, I’m genuinely excited about the books we’ll be seeing in 2007 and I’m thrilled to be part of this group.

I hope everyone had a fantastic weekend. Got any suggestions for the Killer Year crew? Fire away. I don’t know if something like this has ever been done before, but I’m pretty excited about it.

One thing I wonder: I know the internet has changed the way I buy books. It's changed the way I choose my entertainment across the board. How much has it changed things for you? Or am I just weird?

Oh, and I've been working on updating the links here, and on my website. I already know I haven't got everyone on my website yet. I'm working on it. But if I've missed you here, let me know, please!

Oh, and Ivan, we won’t discuss what it’s like to be fucked again and again and again. But Fucked Again Redux has been suggested for the next chapter in Micky’s life.


Trace said...

Killer Year is an excellent idea. I love when writers help other writers like that.

S. W. Vaughn said...

Congrats on launching Killer Year! Gonna spend some time looking around the site later today.

The Internet's changed my book buying habits too. I've actually bought books directly from authors (signed copies), and I tend to go a little overboard on Amazon -- while I'm there to pick something up I'll see three or four more I want and justify the whole purchase because I get free shipping when I spend more than $25 at a time...


JT Ellison said...

Great post, Sandra. You're absolutely right, the Internet has changed the buying habits of the reading public, And there's nothing better than banding together with like minded individuals to promote, support, and kvetch. Let me point out that you've done an absolutely stellar job of bringing some new names to the forefront of our industry.
You da bomb, girl!
It's gonne be a killer year!

Flood said...

Great idea! I love it when writers lift each other up, because the industry can be rather ego-stripping.

Bill, the Wildcat said...

The Internet has changed my reading habits, but not quite in the same way. For me, it's the result of producing a "reading blog." At times, I go for themes, and it tends to lead me to books I might not have normally read. This past December, I went crazy, reading children's books... something I NEVER would have done otherwise.

Patrick Shawn Bagley said...

On my way there now. Love those multi-author blogs.

Patrick Shawn Bagley said...

The Internet has changed my buying habits in a couple of ways.

The first is that, thanks to blogs, I get to hear about forthcoming book releases. In the last three months alone, I've probably purchased a dozen books that I learned about through blogs. A fair number of these have been special orders, titles my local bookstore would not normally carry.

The other change is really to my rental habits. I rent DVDs through Netflix, and can't remember the last time I actually set foot in a video store.

I don't buy much on Amazon or other online stores unless someone gives me a gift card for Christmas or my birthday (It's only six months away, people. Start planning now).

Sandra Ruttan said...

Trace & Flood thanks! I agree - it's fantastic when writers pull together. We need all the support and encouragement too. It's a tough business.

SW, that's interesting. I've never gotten into buying signed books. Not yet, anyway...

Bill, that's very cool! So you've definitely had exposure to new-to-you books because of blogging and being online.

Patrick, thanks for commenting over there - you rock! "In the last three months alone, I've probably purchased a dozen books that I learned about through blogs. A fair number of these have been special orders, titles my local bookstore would not normally carry." See, now that's cool. True for me as well. Some authors I first heard about online, via some source - forum, conference panel listings, blog:

Val McDermid
Mark Billingham
Simon Kernick
Duane Swierczynski
David Terrenoire
Stuart MacBride
Denise Mina
Michael Connelly
Steve Mosby
Lesley Horton
Natasha Cooper
Jan Burke
Cornelia Read
John Rickards
Barry Eisler
JD Rhoades...

The list goes on. It's the dominant source of book referrals for me anymore.

ivan said...

Ha ha ha ha ha!

I am looking forward to Fucked Again Redux.

What he hell, it worked for John Updike and his Rabbit.

Boy Kim said...

The internet has changed my buying habits too.

It's far easier to order porn DVDs online than it is to walk into an adult store and buy them. And anyway, the stuff the local shop stores... well, they keep the local Trades Description Act people in business single-handedly.

And of course, they're cheaper online.

The Rentable Writer said...

I don't write crime fiction, but I'm really excited about Killer Year. It's a great idea to spread the word on upcoming writers. Great job, Sandra.

Lisa Hunter said...

I've always bought a ton of books, whether in a bricks and mortar store or online.

But you're right about books not being promoted in advance much. I wonder why that it? Most guides for promoting a book say it's a "waste" to do any type of publicity before the book is actually out. Tell that to the folks who plaster movie posters all over my neighborhood for films that don't come out till August.

Sandra Ruttan said...

LOL Boy Kim!

Thanks TRW - the credit to my cohorts, Jason, Brett, JT. Fantastic job, and a lot of industry support I might add.

Lisa, I'm so with you. In fact, I've heard the first few months of sales set the forecast for how the book will do, so if you aren't promoting ahead of time, why bother?

And tell me advance promotion doesn't work when they're having Harry Potter release parties.

anne frasier said...

sandra: killer year looks to be smart and cool. those go well together.

Eileen said...

I was going to say you were weird just because, but the truth is you are bang on. I think authors have to have an on line presence these days or risk being lost in the shuffle. There is no "I vant to be alone."

Sandra Ruttan said...

Thanks Anne! Hopefully, it has some appeal to readers!

Eileen, I am weird, so it's okay - I understand the temptation to remind me of that!

But I also agree with you about online presence. I think it's essential, you have to be out there on some level, unless you don't care about selling books.

Andrea at Lochthyme said...

An online presence is essential in my mind. I can't tell you how many authors i've heard about who I have then searched out their website to learn more, find out the order for a series etc. And online has changed my buying big time. I read a whole ton more authors now due to the online groups I belong to. I probably wouldn't have heard about many otherwise since they aren't carried in my local bookstores and aren't in my local library. But I will say my local Bonders recently rearranged the store and now in the mystery section they have a lot of the lesser known authors which was good to see.

And Killer year is a terrific idea!

Patry Francis said...

It looks fantastic! I'm so happy to be part of this.

Sandra Ruttan said...

Hey Andrea, that's great news about your local bookstore getting a more diverse selection in. I hope to see that happen here!

Patry, so glad to have you on board! It does look great - fantastic idea, Jason's done so much to get the ball rolling. And it's been a pretty exciting first day!

The Rentable Writer said...


Well, there it is. More to follow, of course ...

Everyday, I come to your blog, and seeing a new post makes me get all excited. Reading your blog is like eating a chocolate cake that never disappears.

Sandra Ruttan said...

TRW, you're so sweet! Glad you like the blog!

Elizabeth said...

I never thought for a second that I'd find such a great community of writers just by starting a humble little blog with no other goal than to remind my teenager that parents can be cool, too.

Congratulations on your debut novel and on the launch of Killer Year. And thank you for creating such a great blog stop!

Bonnie Calhoun said...

Congrats on yet another site...LOL...when do you get the time to write.

You did real good all the way to the last paragraph...ROFLOL!

Sandra Ruttan said...

Elizabeth, isn't it amazing? I love the fact that I've gotten to 'know' so many great people through the blogs. Some I talk to on the phone, others I email with... It's great. A vital virtual community.

Bonnie, I was reading your comment in my inbox, and wondering what on earth the last paragraph was (sleepy brained this morning) and then I saw it and laughed. Sorry! I should have a "Bonnie avert your eyes" warning!