Friday, July 11, 2014

A Virtual Whistle Stop Tour ; a guest blog by Amanda Kyle Williams

Susan Erickson is the winner of Paul Doiron's THE BONE ORCHARD! Susan, please contact Paul at pauldoiron dot com for your book.

JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: Amanda Kyle Williams is one of our faves here at Jungle Red Writers. We've lauded her smart, damaged FBI profiler, Keye Street, who debuted  with a bang in 2012 in THE STRANGER YOU SEEK. Now she's launching the third in her series, DON'T TALK TO STRANGERS. As Amanda notes below, the third book is often a make-or-break novel in a mystery writer's career, so Random House had pulled out all the stops, planning a big tour with all the bells and whistles.

Then in March of this year, Amanda was diagnosed with endometrial cancer, and all those plans blew up. In addition to the bone-rattling concerns of the disease itself, she had to worry about DON'T TALK TO STRANGERS. How would people find out about it? How would she connect with readers and booksellers? As she explains today, it's been the internet to the rescue...

When I was diagnosed with cancer this year and told the treatment—chemotherapy—would weaken my immune system to the point that traveling is off the table, I had no small amount of anxiety about how to promote my 3rd novel Don’t Talk To Strangers. The diagnosis presented my publicist and publisher with a bagful of challenges, too. It’s an important book, the 3rd in a series. Book signings, conferences, speaking gigs, workshops, bonding with booksellers and librarians and readers across the country—the partners in your career—all the appearances an author makes that are so vital to the success of a book were cancelled, including my book launch at the Margaret Mitchell House in Atlanta. 

Every writer hopes for those glowing, fairy-dusted reviews from the big boys, but there is nothing better for a book and a writer than connecting with a bookseller, a librarian, a reader who will recommend your book later. That’s one of the benefits of touring for an author. Faced with a homebound writer, the logical next step was that thing Al Gore says he invented—the Internet—and reaching out to anyone with Skype capabilities, anyone willing to do a Google Hangout, anyone with a webcam, Facetime, a phone with a SPEAKER button, empty soup cans strung together, a truck bed and a megaphone. 

I’ve been using Skype for a couple of years as a way to reach out to book clubs. I’ve grown accustomed to how huge my face appears on a webcam. Living room book clubs are a great way to build grassroots support for a book and an author. And it’s relaxed. Book clubs drink a lot of wine. These long distance visits all over the country gave me some comfort with the idea of a virtual book tour. And guess what? It’s pretty cool! Okay, so it’s not like taking a book from someone’s hand and signing it for them, looking into their eyes, sharing a laugh, shaking their hand—another benefit of touring, the stuff that feeds and validates you, that interaction with readers.  

Some writers write for themselves, or so I’ve heard. Their work can go unseen without it disturbing their peace. So. Not. Me. I write for readers. I want those moments with them. I want their voices coming back to me. I want people reading my stuff and talking about it. A reader quotes a line from one of my books or tells me about a scene that stuck with them, and I’m charged up. I want to head back to my desk and write something brilliant for them. Writers spend a lot of time alone in a room with a computer. Those tours are like stepping out into the breeze. The Internet (bless its dark little heart) is the next best thing. It really is possible to sit down in front of my computer and visit a bookstore in Seattle, a library in Mississippi, a book club in Wisconsin, and connect, have a real dialogue. They see me, more weathered than usual, admittedly, but what people are really looking for is the heart of the writer. And I get to see them, and it nourishes me, and I remember why I can’t wait to write the next book. 

What would you like to see from an author on the web, dear readers? What are your favorite ways to connect with writers you love? One lucky commenter will win a copy of DON'T TALK TO STRANGERS!

You can find out more about Amanda Kyle Williams, and read excerpts of her books, at her website.  You can also friend her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter as @AKyleWilliams. Amanda also has her own YouTube channel with a great number of funny videos featuring Spike the Angry Neighbor Cat.


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  2. First, I simply must say I’m praying you’ll have a speedy and complete recovery . . . .

    Writing workshops and conferences are an amazing way to meet a beloved author in person . . . .
    I remember the days when the only opportunity a reader had to meet an author was at bookshop book signings; now, there are sometimes opportunities to attend writing workshops and conferences and library programs . . . getting to meet a beloved author in person is an amazing experience . . . .
    One of the best things about the Internet is that it has allowed readers to interact with the writers we love. Sometimes it’s a special website set up by the author; fans get to join and chat, not only with the author, but also with each other. Websites like Jungle Red Writers are wonderful gifts for readers as well . . . the wider circle of favorite authors and that same opportunity to connect with writers and other readers who share your enthusiasm for their books . . . I’m not sure that it can get much better than that!

  3. Wow, Amanda. I had no idea you were going through this struggle and I will keep you in my thoughts and prayers.

    The BOLO posts on my blog are usually limited to books that are coming at that week, but I am going to add Don't Talk To Strangers to next Monday's BOLO - Simply as my way of helping you get the word out there about the book.

    I will say that I was a huge fan of book 1 and must get myself back to this series soon.

    Best wishes on your recovery!

  4. First off, sending some healing thoughts your way, Amanda.

    In olden days before travel became relatively inexpensive, everything was done at a distance -- hand-written correspondence. Then travel became doable and authors and readers developed lots of opportunities to meet.

    Now, with the electronic tools available virtual meetings are much less expensive than physical travel. Younger fans may even prefer a virtual approach.

    In fact, if done well, authors may be able to connect with more readers than ever before. I think readers like to learn about the authors themselves -- to hear them tell their own story.

    Best of luck with your "virtual" tour. ~ Jim

  5. Oh Amanda, we all wish you the best, and also the best for this new book!

    I know exactly what you mean about how good it feels to hear from readers--that's what I love most about writing too. Hopefully you'll be out and about for the next book and many after that...

  6. Amanda,

    I wish you all the best with your health and also with Don't Talk to Strangers. I have just put it on my buy-before-vacation booklist.

    The Skype strategy makes so much sense. Yes, meeting readers in person is ideal, but even if your illness had not intruded on the promotion of your book, the wide-ranging nature of your "tour" makes tremendous promotional sense.

    Love, love, love the Angry Neighbor Cat Videos. I wonder if Spike was born angry, or had kitty life experiences that turned him into a mad cat?

  7. Best wishes for a speedy recovery, Amanda.

    I love meeting authors anywhere - conferences, bookstores, the Internet. I've met a number of writers on Twitter as a reader. And readers too. I know what you mean about connecting. I hope I can do that with my writing someday.

  8. I like the Internet for introducing me to new authors, many of whom get added to my list of favorite authors. At this point, I've only met two authors in person, our Hank and Lucy/Roberta, and I was on Cloud Nine each time! I'm trying to make up for my childhood and young adult shyness, when I desperately wanted to write to my favorite authors to let them know how much I appreciated what they put out in the world for me, but just felt too shy to even find out HOW I could contact them. When the Internet came along, I vowed that I would let my favorite authors know how much I appreciate what they do. I hope to meet many more.

    Amanda, I will be on the lookout for your books (BOLO, right, Kristopher?:-), and I wish you the best in your recovery.

  9. Thank you all so much for your comments and well wishes. Kristopher, the BOLO is fantastic! Thank you for helping get the word out. It's a bit challenging right now and the support of the community, readers and writers, has been such a huge blessing. Sometimes you don't realize how many friends you have, or how many people will go out of their way when you're in a jam. Just that has been healing. I'm very grateful to you all, and want you to know my prognosis is very good. I've begun the 4th Keye Street novel, and I plan to finish it and many more. All the best to all of you, Amanda

  10. Oh, and about Spike, he's special, isn't he? He stops by to torment me nearly every day. One day it took me 15 minutes to get in my car. He likes to wait for me there sometimes. The rascal.

  11. So lovely to meet you, Kyle. DON'T TALK TO STRANGERS sounds fantastic.

    All good thoughts for a speedy recovery.

  12. Amanda, I agree with face-to-face meetings and the positive energy they generate for authors and readers and for everyone who loves books. But, there is only so much time and so many places you can get to physically to promote your work, even in the best of health. A virtual tour like yours takes you to so many more places and people--and the feelings of connection are not 'virtual,' but real to all of us involved!

    May you continue to heal and grow strong, and know that you are surrounded and buoyed by a million zillion good wishes!

  13. Amanda, I had no idea that you were going through this treatment. I applaud your creative solutions to promotion and hope you are doing as well as possible.

    I am trying to remember how I first heard about your book - I know a few other Atlanta authors, and it's possible that one of them mentioned your book on FB. I went back and read The Stranger You Seek, loved it (I used to live in Atlanta and am always happy to revisit through a wonderful character like Keye) and am now waiting to Stranger in the Room before I move on to Book 3.

    Anyway, the writing community is so close and so supportive - I think doing guest blogs on writer sites and encouraging other writers to support you on FB and Twitter are also great ways to get the word out. And if you have any close writer friends, would they be willing to do some of the promo and touring for you? It's not the same, I know, but the experienced ones would know how to do good readings and other bookstore events, and maybe even hit the talk show circuit. They could bring autographed copies of your books along - again, not the same thing, but readers would still be happy to have them.

  14. Amanda, your books are FABULOUS! Highly highly highly recommended, gang!

    And as for you, sweetheart, we are all sending you loving and healing are beloved!

  15. Amanda's books are definitely BOLO worthy, Deb.

    It's interesting, when I started the blog, I went back and forth of whether is should be lookout or look out - for Be On The Look Out.

    In the end, most sources seemed to use the two word version, since lookout is a noun (the person in charge of the action) and look out is a verb (the act of keeping an eye out for something).

    Still not convinced by this, since I see it listed both ways in various locations. Just one of the quandaries of my blogging life.

  16. Amanda, yours is a true story of life shutting a door and you going through a window. Very inspiring to read this! Best of luck with the book, and best wishes for a speedy recovery.

  17. Hi Amanda! I've been keeping up with you on FB and following your progress, sending lots of healing thoughts your way.

    The virtual tour is a great thing. You may meet new readers you would never have come across in a "real" bookstore tour. Watch out--next book you may find yourself doing both:-)

    Can't wait to read the book, and wishing you a speedy recovery!

    PS My captcha today is my house number!

  18. I tried to embed Amanda's YouTube channel in the blog post, but the html defeated me. However, you should all definitely go see Spike the Angry Neighbor Cat - typical exchange:

    Amanda:(speaking in a calm, cheerful voice)Hey, there little buddy.

    Spike: (Hisses like the demon cat in PET CEMETERY)

    Amanda: I see you came over to visit me again today.

    Spike: (Yowls like a bloodthirsty beast, hisses threateningly)

    Amanda: Okay, my little friend.

  19. How totally impressive to take a seemingly negative situation and find ways to make it positive and life affirming.
    Good for you!
    Keep up the good work all around.

  20. What an inspiring story, Amanda. Certainly puts life's little annoyances in perspective.

    Like you, I write for READERS. To be read. And every time you hear from a reader, it's special. Thank goodness there's e-media now to *sort of* fill the gap.

    Love the book title - putting it in my TBR list.

  21. Amanda Kyle WilliamsJuly 11, 2014 at 12:26 PM

    Thanks, Everyone!

    Julia, that made me laugh. (The lol is real, y'all) Spike videos usually end in bad language, folks. Sorry. It just flies out of me when I'm scared. I'm also tickled that Spike videos got a mention here. When I have guests, they want to see Spike. Maybe I should give him a series.

    Really appreciate the comments and advice and encouragement, gang. Really. And thanks for reading my books!

  22. Oh this a great series-- I love it. I also love YOU, Jungle Redders. You are awesome. Imma go facebook this post.

  23. Amanda, I'm so sorry for your struggle with this illness and your having to scrap the exciting book tour. However, I applaud your determination and creative thinking to use other means to promote and connect. The trailer for Don't Talk to Strangers is deliciously chilling. I so love meeting and talking to authors, and your warm feelings for your readers is so lovely.

    I now have another series on which to start, and I'm excited to do so. Kristopher's BOLO is fantastic, and his forum will be a great place to get the word out. I have a book blog, The Reading Room, and a book page on FB. At this time, I will probably reach more people with my FB page (U.S and international members), so I will be happy to put up your trailer there to do my small part. Link is I will be putting up the material after leaving here. I would also like to set something up for my book blog soon.

    Joan's comments made me think about the chats authors do on Goodreads. Have you set something up for there? That would reach many readers, too.

    Good luck with this new book, which I predict is going to be a smash hit. Your recovery and your book are headed for success.

  24. Amanda Kyle WilliamsJuly 11, 2014 at 2:04 PM

    Kathy, thank you for the support! And yes I am investing the Ask the Author thing on Goodreads.

    Thanks, Joshilyn! I still get a little star struck when one of my favorite writers show up.

  25. Amanda, a short intro to your series and your trailer for Don't Talk to Strangers is now up on my FB Bookaholics page.

  26. Hi, Amanda.
    I absolutely love this blog post. Many thanks to you and Julia!
    My first mystery isn't out yet, but I believe I'll feel the same way you do about readers. Your personality shines through this post, so I'm certain you're connecting beautifully with readers online!!
    I'll look for you on Twitter, my favorite online spot. And I'll be sending you lots of good wishes for continued healing.

  27. Amanda, I'm wishing you the very best and hope you heal quickly and negotiate chemo and all treatments with a minimum of life-as-usual intrusion.

    I like online author discussions very much. I haven't been able to travel for several years, and until I can again, I will rely most on online author interactions. Book readings are good, especially when combined with Q&A. Blogging—like here—very good and so much the better when guest bloggers respond to comments. You will find many loyal readers have connected with authors and their books through blogs.

    Here is to holding your own while doing what you have to do.

  28. Amanda, my thoughts and prayers are with you...I'm a BC survivor, and wow, it's tough, isn't it? I tell people going through chemo is like going through your first pregnancy: you're scared, it changes your body and you in ways you never expected, you'll never be the same, everyone has advice that you sometimes want to smack them for and most times, you get a new life at the end, only this time it's yours. (However, the wrinkly butt isn't nearly as cute as the one you get on a baby.) I will be pulling for you.

  29. I don't have any thing to add, but I hope you are doing better in your fight against cancer.

  30. Amanda Kyle WilliamsJuly 13, 2014 at 8:30 AM

    Just wanted yo pop in quickly to thank everyone for their comments and social media shares, thoughts, prayers, support for me and for the 3rd book. Thank you all so much!

    Um... Lora... wrinkly butt? Is that a chemo thing? Because I can deal with being bald but that's just too much.