Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Cover Story--and question for you!

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN:  I need your advice. But first, even though they tell you never to do this, a bit of back story. (The flowers, the last from our garden last fall, are just for decoration.)

I was at my desk in the newsroom a few years ago, and, by mistake, clicked open an email spam. I stared at it, baffled. What it said didn’t make sense. Then--that very instant--I had the idea for my first novel.

That night, I went home and said to my husband: "I've got it. I've know the plot of the mystery I've wanted to write ever since I was a kid.”

Jonathan thought a moment. Smiled. Then he said, “That’s terrific. But, ah, sweetheart? Do you know how to write a novel?”

Newbie me laughed, and said,  “How hard can it be?”

And I typed: Chapter 1.

I soon learned how hard it could be. Ha! But through a process of doubt and delight, the story emerged. PRIME TIME (about secret messages in email spam!) became the first in my series of suspense novels starring reporter Charlotte McNally, the funny, smart, savvy TV journalist who wonders: What happens when a TV reporter is married to her job—but the camera doesn’t love her anymore?

The first cover looked like this. 
Don’t even get me started. But my sheer joy overcame any artistic questions. 
Questions like: Why is she wearing diamond handcuffs? And who is that person, anyway? It doesn’t look like Charlie McNally at all. And what is she kissing? That’s not an Emmy, and it if were, you wouldn’t kiss it.  And if she’s in silhouette, why isn’t her dress in silhouette? 
But I said not to get me started. And I was incredibly happy, whatever. 
And it won the Agatha.

Then MIRA grabbed the series, and re-issued Charlie to much acclaim. 
That cover looks like this. 

Very of-the-time right? Dark. Body part. Don’t get me started. At least it looks like a professional body part.  And, hey, I was still SO thrilled, I didn’t care. (Forgive the bad photos. My name is actually straight.)

That was several years ago. My first thriller, THE OTHER WOMAN (with an PERFECT cover), interrupted the so-far four books in the McNally series--but now, ta-dah, Charlie’s back.

I’m so thrilled to tell you the four Charlotte McNally books will be available in all gorgeous new hardcover and trade paperback editions from Forge--starting with PRIME TIME with a new one every other month this year.

Pant, pant. Back story over. SO. FINALLY the point.

How do I tell people about this? PRIME TIME is not new, but if someone hasn’t heard of it before (and they are certainly legion), it’s new to them, right?  But it’s not calendar “new.” So what does new mean?

And when I say “Charlie’s Back” it’s cute, but it  requires, as you just saw, some explanation. 

Reds and readers, how would you handle the new/not-new marketing case study? Have you ever done this? Have you ever been angered or annoyed by buying a book you've already read? Do I treat these books as new or old or returning or back or available or--what?

And if you saw  the version of PRIME TIME in a bookstore, what would you think?

(And isn't it instructive to see all these covers?)

PS--CONTEST!   If you missed Charlie (or miss her), TIME to get acquainted!  Buy PRIME TIME in any format—and you can enter to win a $100 or $50 or $25 dollar gift certificate to the bookstore of your choice! Yes, you can enter each time you buy. Click here for to see the info, the rules, and enter to win: https://1.shortstack.com/dmSQMz


  1. I think it’s a wonderful thing when terrific books are re-issued, and I’m always thrilled to see that happen, but I’ve never thought much about how authors treat them . . . is it the same as a hardcover book being released in as a paperback?
    I think, if I had to decide what to do, knowing that there were already readers who had read and enjoyed the book would make me decide to treat it like a returning book . . . .

    Every once in a while I find that I’ve purchased a book I already have, but I’ve found a perfect solution: duplicates of any book get sent either to Colorado or to Virginia, depending on which daughter I think will enjoy it. Everybody wins and there’s the added benefit of being able to share great books with the girls.

  2. I'd say I rarely re-buy a book by accident, except that apparently I've bought the same classic novel for my son as a Christmas present three years running. (He just thinks I'm in my dotage-- but he's seventeen and would think it anyway.)

    Reissued series books, I've found, often will say "first in the whatever-it-is series" or something similar. I do find that helpful, especially as someone who often finds authors a few years after they've begun: if I'm reading a series, I'd prefer to read them linearly, and to not take the chance of missing one.

  3. "Newly reissued" - would that work? But what I want, since I read them all when they came out, is a NEW Charlie! ;^)

  4. I think Jennifer's got it...."First in the XXX series." I'm very big on starting at the beginning when I trip over a new-to-me series.

    As for buying the same book twice, the fault lies at the feet of the publisher if they have reissued an old book with a new title, for which there is a special place in hell. Otherwise, I think the reader has to be on the ball.

    The most egregious example of this for me is some years ago when I was in a second-hand bookshop and found TWO volumes of a famous author's life story. Wow! Vols 1 and 2. I bought them both. SAME BOOK DIFFERENT TITLE. ARRRRRRRRGGGHHH!

  5. I like First in the xxx series,too. Congratulations, Hank!

  6. Yes, but then what to do with the second in the series? Second in the XXX series? maybe add, newly reissued?

    Interesting to see those covers Hank. the newly reissued version is my favorite!

  7. I'm pretty sure I've seen books with "newly reissued" on the cover somewhere--and it's when there are new covers and the whole series is coming out again--like seeing Agatha Christie's works republished--you know you've already read them, but the new covers look amazingly fresh and suddenly you have to get your favorites! (Have you ever stood in a bookstore and had the following conversation with yourself: "Put it down. You already own a copy of this book. But, but, look at the cool new covers and it's one of my favorites! Aren't they great?! No, put it down and walk away.")

  8. Flora, that's a great conversation! ANd yes, the new covers of Christie novels, as you say, are SO chic and classic/classy. ANd you think, well, my other versions are so shabby, and the font is weird, and and…

    As a reissue author with a cool cover, I LOVE that theory!

  9. The same book with a new title??? That seems completely unfair..I mean, where were they going with that? What was the goal?

    SO first in the Charlotte McNally series…yes, that's good. But what if someone says--why are you talking about this now? Or might they not do it?

    I mean if someone says--are you watching Game of Thrones? You don't say--no I can't watch it because I missed the first seasons and now it's not new. You say--not yet! I'll start at the beginning when I have time. And we're used to that, right?

  10. Yes, the covers. SO fascinating, right? How times changes and tastes change?

    ANd yes, the new one is hardcover--so to go from mass market paperback to hardcover is very unusual, right?

  11. Susan D--again, same book different title?? SO frustrating..

  12. Congratulations, Hank - I love it that Charlotte is back - she was a favorite of mine from the diamond handcuff days - - her's not mine. As for the re-issue issue, Charlie's back, reissued by Forge.

    Changing the title! Yikes, I've bought the same book twice, with new covers, but that's my bad. New title, to quote Hank, "Where were they going with that?" Literary entrapment.

  13. I'm with Lucy - the new covers are my favorite by far (and I'm glad those will be the ones on my shelf).

    I think, "newly reissued from Forge" or something of that nature, is a good way to go. As you said, the books are not new. But they will be new to some people. And others (like me) only got a chance to read one (or two) books before the series "disappeared," so we'll finally be able to continue the story.

    I have multiple copies of classics, mostly because I had to buy a certain version in college and then the hubby had a version. But yes, I've had the exact same conversation as Flora - "What a great new cover! Put it down, you have three copies of that already. But what a great new cover!"

  14. Well, thank you , darling MAry! And that was a goal, too, to allow people to catch up.

    When the rights went to Forge, there was an interim time when not even the ebooks were available! So that was a strange year or so. ANd it reminded me of the time--in the not too distant past--when a book was actually "out of print" and available only at used bookstores. SO we are lucky for e, right?

    Now the books are back in all formats. And aw, Edith, thank you. I am sitting on go to write more Charlies. Franky, it would appear that it all depends on whether anyone buys THESE.

    NO pressure, it's just my career. :-)

  15. Literary entrapment! LOVE that concept, Kait!

    But there's also literary --what would you call it? Smugness? Prescience? --when YOU have the original cover, and everyone else has the cover with the movie stars on it. Right?

  16. Hank, do you remember one summer on NBC many years ago, when they were marketing reruns? And the tag line went something like: "Must-see TV — if you haven't seen it yet, it's new to you!" Made me think of that... Here's the link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1CiNv8BKjBc

    Also, LOVE the current cover!

  17. Yes, Susan, EXACTLY! Thank you! I have said this many times to marketing people…it completely makes sense, and I have tried to figure out how to incorporate exactly that sentiment. Maybe just..say it? I mean those high-priced NBC types seemed to think it would work...

  18. Hank, I remember when your first Charlie novel came out, and I remember how proud, happy and scared you were. And I remember thinking how excited,proud and happy I was - for you. And how I fell in love with Charlie. There are a dozen different things I could say here about Charlie and things that helped me fall in love with her, but so many of them are spoilers, so I won't. But one thing I know I can say is that those of your readers who missed them are going to have another Hank Phillippi Ryan character to fall in love with. I'm as happy about this as I was the first go 'round. Thanks for bringing her back.

  19. AW, thank you. Yes, confession, I picked up Prime Time last night just to see…you know? ANd I started reading, and in a while I realized that I was just reading it. II forgot I was trying to be critical. SO--that was very sweet.

  20. I had something like that when my publisher reissued my backlist in trade paper. My approach was to emphasize it was a new edition. So: PRIME CRIME, first in the Charlotte McNally series, in hardcover (or in trade) for the first time!

    Since you probably have readers who started with the Jane Ryland books, those are the people I'd start with. "You love Jane, now meet Charlie!" Do a book giveaway to readers in exchange for an unbiased review on their blog, FB or other social media platforms.

    And if you possibly can, get Forge's Amazon person to make sure the book description highlights that it's a new edition! Otherwise, you'll have folks leaving angry reviews - "I thought this was a new book!!!"

  21. Hank, I love the cover!!! So classy and appealing. And YAY for no body parts:-)

    Great suggestion from Julia--"You've met Jane, now meet Charlie!"

    And how about "Book 1 in the Charlotte McNally series."

    Then you can do "Book 2", etc.

  22. I would latch on to the fact that this is the first time the book has been available in hardcover. Most collectors prefer hardcover books, so the ability to have the Charlie series on our shelves is a very big moment - at least for a fan like myself.

    But new readers will be intrigued to hear that an "older" book has been reissued in hardcover - that is the story! Think of it like a news piece, "what is the hook?" The hardcover element is it. Plenty of books are reissued in new version, but rarely does it become a hardcover for the first time years after it debuted.

  23. Yes, You've met JAne, etc…is great. But what if someone (heaven forfend, but they are legion) has not heard of Jane? Then we are in trouble.. ALthough I suppose I could target--however you do that.. :-)

    Book one in my first award-winning series--now back by popular demand?

  24. Kristopher, that is fascinating! I never thought about it from the standpoint of collectors. ( ;-))

    The publisher is hoping it'll be a boon to libraries, since it's more lily that a library will want a hardcover. So that's great.

    And you know, I went through to see if anything in the book was really out of date..and it really wasn't! Which was very interesting. I had to take away many people's beepers, though not all, but I know of explained why someone would have a beeper. But happily, there were no anachronistic or outdated popular culture references, so that's a lesson.

    And in AIR TIME, I had to change the preflight speech the flight attendant gives. SO funny, huh?

  25. I was thinking along the lines of Julia, that you should use Jane to promote Charlotte. Like, "Before there was Jane, there was Charlotte, and you'll love catching up with her." And, the hardback hook that Kristopher pointed out is great, too. So, "Before there was Jane, there was Charlotte, and she's back out, this time in hardback." Also, I like Debs' addition of Book 1 in the Charlotte McNally series, because it's so easy to go on to Book 2 and so on. Oh, and yes, mention that it's an award winning series. Wow, you have a lot of great promotional stuff to work with.

    Personally, I like collecting different editions of books, and one of the things that I do at Bouchercon is look for hardbacks of the Jungle Red authors that I've read in paperback. And, I love buying different editions of classics. I just bought probably my 5th or 6th Hound of the Baskervilles because this one has an introduction by Laurie King and I'm reading it with some people next month (Laura DiSilverio has a group going, the Readaholics Book Club, based on her new books series). So, Hank, I think even those who already have the Charlotte McNally in paperback will be interested in the hardback edition.

  26. It's a beautiful cover. It says Boston, not sex. It says intrigue with the walkway by the river looking across at the city. You must, please, add something like what Debs said. xo

  27. Strobing lights in the dark is a signature of yours but honestly I wouldn't think "news reporter" when I saw that cover, gorgeous as it is. To me, the combination of the cover and the title would tell me that something significant happened between 7 PM and 10 PM. Could you toss in a satellite news van?

  28. I'm wondering if there's a reporter quote that everyone would be familiar with like "Breaking News! Charlie's Back!"

  29. As a librarian, and a cataloger, I have to add my two cents. "First in the Charlotte McNally series" doesn't really explain that it's a re-issue - readers could still get confused and think it's a NEW publication, as well as a new series, especially when it has a new date.
    My preference would be "Newly re-issued in hardcover by Forge, as the first in the Charlotte McNally series". The next would be "as the second in the Charlotte McNally series" "book one" or "volume 1" work as well - all are clear to the reader, and the librarian.
    And I agree, I love the new cover!

  30. So funny......we were just talking about this in book group....how we end up scooping up a book with a "new" cover by our favorite authors.....not even noticing, in our excitement in the moment, that the title is the same! Apparently we need to pay more attention :=). We had a good laugh about it when we realized how many of us were confessing!! The second copy always finds a good home though, as we pass books on to each other, so all is not lost.....the author sells another copy and a friend ends up with a free book!
    Congratulations on the reissue.....exciting!

  31. Linda. so fabulous to hear a librarian's take! Thank you! And isn't it interesting that the goal is clarity. Well, duh.

    Ruth, I've already used "Breaking News! Charlie's Back" in my ads! YAY! Thank you! (great minds.. :-)

    And you all are such good and true pals. Because you KNOW Jane. But what if someone has no idea who that is???

    And thank you Reine--all the new covers have that perspective-y mysterious winding pathway to somewhere…beacon hill, airport, highway.

  32. Kathy and Helen, SO happy to hear people buy new editions (well, I hope not always unwittingly…) That is very reassuring!