Tuesday, October 6, 2009

In your Jammies?

"Lisa Black wows us with another tense and unputdownable thriller. She is, quite simply, one of the best storytellers around."
-- Tess Gerritsen

Lisa Black spent the happiest five years of her life in a morgue.
HANK: Lisa wrote that. And it's just about the best pick-up line I've ever heard. I met Lisa at--where, Thrillerfest? The Guppies? Someplace wonderful. But the impending release of her newest book Evidence of Murder sent the intrepid Lisa off into new territories, places unknown, uncharted waters.

Look--just ahead: The blog tour zone.

How'd it go? How'd she do it? And what happened in the blog tour zone? And what--did she wear?

I am not a computer guru. I am not a junkie or a hacker…well, I may qualify as a junkie but only because I spend about 70% of my waking hours in front a computer, but that’s not by choice. My day job is a latent print analyst, so I sit in front of a monitor looking at fingerprints and writing reports. My other day job is a writer, so I sit in front of a monitor with a blank page on it while beads of blood slowly gather on my forehead. I have a website which I haphazardly maintain, but no blog. The rest of the time is spent on email, research and searching for the lowest airfare.

I truly do not read all the MSN reports on Kate & Jon, Michael Jackson, and the Octomom. (I might indulge in the latest sure-fire diet or Ten Things Never to Say on a First Date. I’ve never even Twittered.

So I am not the most likely candidate to sign up for a virtual tour. That is, until I figured out that a virtual tour can be done largely by guest-blogging on other people’s sites. A surprising amount of your writer friends will have blogs that they will be only too happy to let you guest on. It gives them a day off, and a new reason to tell their friends to check out their blog that day, and gives them exposure to new readers since—one hopes—you will tell your friends to also check out the blog that day. Provided you write something passably likeable, everyone wins.

Best of all, these blogs can be written days or weeks in advance, with plenty of time to ponder and revise, so that when your pub date arrives you will be available for more in-the-flesh type events and not at home frantically scribbling out blogs.

And so it worked for me. Following the advice of fantasy author Sandy Lender, I set a time frame (two weeks after pub date—maybe I’ll go for a month next time), printed myself a calendar for the month, and set about trying to fill in each date. About 5 weeks in advance, I contacted writer acquaintances of mine and asked if I could guest blog. I have actually met most of them at one convention or another, but some I know only through cyberspace. One I didn’t know from Adam (or, more appropriately, Eve).

But I sent straightforward and only slightly pleading emails to friend and stranger alike. The worst thing they can say is no, and since they’re writers, they’ll be polite about it (unlike people who post comments to online news stories—don’t even get me started!). The only thing I would do differently next time is start sooner. For some sites, five weeks isn’t enough. Some will post only once or twice a week, so their schedule fills up fast. It wouldn’t hurt to put your feelers out a good three months in advance.

I am lucky in my choice of day job—forensic specialist—so that most mystery writer blogs wanted to hear about that. Some sites asked me specific questions, some gave suggestions, and some said to write about whatever I wanted. The former were the easiest blogs to write, the latter the hardest, which is why I don’t have a blog in the first place. The point of your tour is to highlight your book first and yourself second, so find something unusual about both those things to discuss. An occupation—of either you or your character—is a great topic.

People always want to hear behind-the-scenes tidbits of any job, whether you’re a cop, a teacher or the guy who paints stripes on the asphalt. Just flick on the Discovery channel for proof of this.

The catch is to make every blog different. You might begin to run short of stories after two or three weeks of daily blogging, but each essay must be distinct.

Podcasts and phone-in radio interviews are also great venues which do not require you to be physically present, but be careful. These cannot be done in advance. You have to actually answer the phone at the agreed-upon time, which can be treacherous for me. They’re usually early in the morning, and I came home from work the night before having completely forgotten about them and didn’t check my datebook.

Warning: your publicist gets really irritated with you when she’s gone through the trouble to set something up and her client is a no-show. Any other event, when I actually have to be somewhere at a certain time, I have no trouble remembering. But radio interviews, which I can roll out of bed ten minutes before air time and do them in my pjs…what can I say? I have a mind like a sieve. My advice: even if you have to do it two days in advance, leave yourself a note to set the alarm. Then leave yourself a note by the alarm to remind yourself why you set it.

But, just like blogs, you can do them in your pajamas.

In her job as a forensic scientist Lisa analyzed gunshot residue on hands and clothing, hairs, fibers, paint, glass, DNA, blood and many other forms of trace evidence, as well as crime scenes. Now she’s as a latent print examiner and CSI working with fingerprints and crime scenes. (And see how nicely her book cover mirrors that?) She has been published in Germany, the Netherlands, France, the United Kingdom, Spain and Japan. Her website is http://www.lisa-black.com
and she has promised to help any of you Reds out there with your blog tour, no problem.

HANK: Just seeing if you're actually reading this, She didn't really say that.

But--any questoins on blog touring? I have one! And it's right to the point, although my mother and Miss Manners might shush me from asking. Lisa, do you think it helped your sales?


  1. I did a phone interview for a print magazine article yesterday, and was absolutely terrified at which of my blathering words would end up in print. The thought of a live radio type interview scares me to death. I can see my foot in my mouth up to my knee.

  2. Live radio is a little scary. I've done a few and gotten a couple of strange callers..like the woman who went on a tear about cigarette smoking (I don't smoke. Even if I had been, how could she tell..we were on the radio?)
    I don't think I was on an official blog tour this year for The Big Dirt Nap, but I did guest blogs in half a dozen places. It was a lot of work and I'm not sure I wasn't speaking to the same core group of readers. So hard to know. I loved doing the food blogs though - Amy Alessio's and Jessica Conant's. It's great when you're given a theme or subject.

  3. I'm not sure about the correlation with sales either--and Lisa makes all those posts sound so easy! Not.

    I love radio interviews. I don't feel nearly as nervous as with TV interviews (Hank should give us tips on those...). The secret is to stand while you're talking on radio, not sit. You have a lot more energy and it shows. Or so I'm told:)

  4. I've done live radio a couple of times, and I don't think I'd want to do it again. Blog tours, though -- that's a great idea!

    Do you know Jeanne Adams? Between her funeral home knowledge and your morgue background, the two of you should put together an anthology. You could call it The Dead Zone, except -- rats -- that title is taken.

    I'm going to check out this book -- it sounds great!

  5. Oyh, I love rado interviews..no lipstick, no hair problems, no worryign about lighting.

    But I do think the key, as Roberta says, is the energy. ANd I sometimes get so into the conversation I forget to say my points-I'll hang up, and think AUGGGH I forgot to mention the Agatha. Or whatever.

    NOw, pre-interview, I literally make a list. And check off the important things as I say them.

    I also go to the web and see what the host of the program is like, maybe listen to some past shows so I can get the rhythm and the aittitude. And maybe some inside jokes.

    I agree--blog tours may be preaching to the choir, but A. I love the choir. And B--can't hurt.

  6. I have never posted a comment without a typo. Sigh. (oh, except this one.) You all forgive me, right?

  7. What an insightful post! I'm not an auditory learner, so the thought of doing a radio interview terrifies me! I'd need to be writing or doodling while I tried to speak in order to focus. I can't even imagine what nonsense would dribble out...

  8. Radio interviews would really scare me. I'd much rather write.

  9. Oh, John, I never got to Dunkins! But I will tomorrow, I promise--we have a big day of shooting, so I will defintiely be around DD!

    xoox H

  10. Roberta is right about standing..and Hank (of course!) is right about jotting down your message points so you don't go too far off track. I also write down - don't laugh - SMILE! - on a sheet of paper, because when you smile you sound better and it reminds you to sound cheerful.

  11. If I know you, Hank, you'll be having the "lite" version of the pumpkin spice latte. But just remember that the real deal comes with whole milk, real sugar, and whipped cream--and extra flavoring, if you're a glutton like me! ;-)

  12. Great ideas, RO.

    And yes, John, you know me too well. I'm all about the "lite" version. But I'm sure it'll be, um, delicious.

    Come back and visit tomorrow, everyone, not only for the latte report--but for a compelling and unique visit with a woman who wrote about the biggest mystery in her life. It's chilling, heart-breaking, and brave.

  13. One of the things I found with blog tours -- nudge the host a day or two before your scheduled stop to make sure your post goes up before the high-traffic morning hours (7 to 8 a.m. are big traffic times...or were recently...those trends change at the drop of a hat).

    As for radio interviews, I've not done a live one yet. So far mine have been pre-recorded, but you're still "on." You've got to get that smile across the phone, as folks are saying. Luckily, I'm insane, so smiling comes naturally... I had one radio host suggest I was crazy. He did it in such a kind, pleasant manner...but he suggested I "existed" in my fantasy worlds that I create. Nice. I guess that kind of interview keeps the energy up.

    For Lisa, I'm glad to hear the tour was a hit! I'm curious, too, to hear how sales were affected. I saw a definite bump with the summer tour I did for my first novel, right before my most recent release, so I know something caught the visitors' attention.

    Sandy Lender
    "Some days, you just want the dragon to win."

  14. I'm glad you all liked the post. I have no idea if the blog tour helped sales, but I'm sure it didn't hurt them.

    Don't be afraid of a radio interview!! You don't even have to care what you look like, which is why they're so much more relaxed than TV. I sit but I sit at my kitchen desk, so I can't get distracted by anything outside. And yes, I try to smile.

    I only had callers on one show, a long NPR broadcast, but nothing bizarre or ranting.

    It IS difficult for me to think on my feet, but if I keep myself focused and learn to cut off my answers (because I can go on and on if I let myself!) things usually turns out all right.