Anatomy of a Bestselling Book Launch: 2. Come together

“It takes two flints to make a fire.”  Louisa May Alcott

Click here for Anatomy of a Book Launch 1: Just do it.

anatomy bestseller cover

I’m going to write this book about launching Terminally Ill and reaching Kobo’s Top 50 bestseller list. Yeehaw!

My friend Kandy said to put Terminally Ill front and centre. I just can't figure out how to put on a header. So, here. Relentless marketing for ya.

My friend Kandy said to put Terminally Ill front and centre. I just can’t figure out how to put on a header. So, here. Relentless marketing for ya.

The buzzword of 2014 is teamwork.

Not just because of The Lego Movie. Because good things can happen as part of a good group.

I was poking around Chuck Wendig’s blog one day, looking at promotional ideas, and danzierlea’s comment hit me upside the head, “So book signings, right? You…wait for people to show up. If you’re in a small town on a cold as polar whatever day, nobody shows. So much for all that work. My idea is, get a bunch of authors – like, at least ten – to collaborate and do a group book tour/signing.”

What a great idea!

If I’m promoting myself (look at me, buy my book, I’m sad, nobody likes me), it’s a turnoff, unless I’m a big name with a following already. My Cornwall hospital peeps may buy my book, but they generally don’t have time to come to a launch, since they work nights and weekends, just like me.

Plus, this winter has been as cold as a polar whatever. We still have snow, although it’s melting.

I sent out invites. Williamstown author Lindsay Below jumped onboard to read from new e-book, Stalking Shade, under the name L.K. Below. I knew she would do it. Lindsay is one of the few people I know who had the guts to write full-time right out of high school. She writes in so many genres that one day, she came to our writing meeting with a song she’d written for a musical about Sirens.

En plus, after I won a cover contest with Kobo (details on this blog and podcast), they have offered nothing but support. Including sending a representative from Toronto (about 5 hours’ drive away) for my launch.

“Amazing,” I said to Kobo’s Jodi White. “Listen. I want to ask you something. I’d like to do a re-enactment of the opening scene of Terminally Ill, where Elvis gets chained and nailed in a coffin. I could really use an Elvis. Or, I don’t suppose you feel comfortable dressing up as the girl in a bikini?”

C'mon. You know you want to rock out with Elvis. Art by rawclips.

C’mon. You know you want to rock out with Elvis. Art by rawclips.

Eventually, the Kobo director of self-publishing and author relations himself, Mark Leslie Lefebvre, volunteered to come instead and jump out of a coffin. Thrillsville. I’d only met Mark once, at a conference in Oregon, but I knew he was my kind of people and a phenomenal asset, never seen before or probably since in this rural area, i.e. a storyteller, brilliant at marketing and publishing, a true people person, and somewhat crazytown.

“Could you bring your skeleton?” I asked. “I have plans for him.”

But see, I’m already leading into Part 3: Entertain Us.

Who wouldn't want these kids at a book launch? Photo by David Mark

Who wouldn’t want these kids at a book launch? Except the KKK. And they’re not invited. Photo by David Mark

So I’ll bring it back to group love. More people participating=a bigger audience. More friends and family to hit up. They may buy books, they may not, but if you’re doing an in-person event, first of all, you need bodies.

Bring the bodies in.

Worry about the money afterward. I mean, don’t go into debt. But if it’s cheap or free, bodiessssssss.

It took a ton of anxiety off of me. If no one came, who cared? I’d get an hour or two to pick Mark’s brain. I could freely promote the book launch not just as a “C’mon, guys. If you really loved me, you’d come” sort of thing, but as a once-in-a-lifetime EVENT starring a premiere publishing phenom. “He flies internationally to speak at conferences. This weekend, he had to choose between South Glengarry and Paris. He chose us.” True story.

Even if you’re not launching a book, and don’t have access to star power, friendship loveship courtship* can help you. Consider joining a book bundle. Joanna Penn and 11 friends bundled their books together for 99 cents and hit the NYT bestseller list. Kris Rusch also did a very successful book bundle or three and discusses teamwork and discoverability here. Heck, if you’re very organized, do a book bundle AND a book launch while bragging that now you’re an NYT bestseller!

Now it’s your turn. Have you done group signings? Did they work for you? Or has group power ever backfired on you?


*I’m not insane. Well, maybe I am. But this is an Alice Munro reference. She won a little thing called the Nobel Prize for literature in 2013. And she’s a Western grad, like me. Coincidence?


“Teamwork. A few harmless flakes working together can unleash an avalanche of destruction.” Justin Sewell

If you got anything out of this post, join the team. Buy my book(s)!

If you got anything out of this post, join the team. Buy my book(s)! Now available in paperback at R&L’s Book Nook in Alexandria.

So You Want to Write a Mystery…


Will shoot for milk

I did a WritersFest workshop on writing mysteries. That was the idea, anyway. Actually, most people wanted to talk indie publishing and making money. It wasn’t until I checked my notepad later that I found some mystery craft questions, which I will answer here.

I also randomly picked a winner for the book draw. But because it was a mystery workshop, and I’m a pain the bum, I’ll announce the winner at the end of the post.

Question 1. How do you keep the protagonist hidden until mid-point?

I don’t. I like to have the protagonist, the main character, front and centre. In general, I don’t recommend hiding anything in a mystery.

Mystery readers are smart. They like to piece clues together. If you just hide information, they’ll throw your book across the room. So give them the information they need, but distract them while you’re doing this. It’s like the author’s a magician, saying, “Look at the hand, look at the hand,” and the audience is hypnotized by the bunny he pulled out of the hat and completely misses the knife he’s carrying in his left hand. Kris Rusch said that Ellery Queen is the best at this.

Or, to put it another way, check out this Daniel Simons’s awareness test video ( The clues are always there. But the reader has to piece them together.

I’ve got to work on this myself.

Question 2 & 3. How do you plot your mysteries? How do you effectively incorporate plot twists into your book?

I like to write by the seat of my pants, surprising myself, and then I go backwards and try to braid it all together. Fun but inefficient.

If you’re more organized, I highly recommend Camille Laguire’s blog. This is my favourite post, about how to turn a missed phone call into a plot device. Brilliant: She outlines plot here (, comparing it to a movie of the week.

And now, moving on, since people may be tired of hearing about me (another secret of writing–don’t bore the reader):

Thanks to Jodi White for trekking all the way from Toronto to join in WritersFest, after I asked Kobo to participate. (How many corporations would do this, and donate five Kobos to give away? And did you know that for every e-book you buy on that Kobo, a portion of the sale will go to the local Coles bookstore in Cornwall, because they support indie booksellers?)

I also learned from Jodi that the best way to link to your book is through the ISBN, and that Kobo now has a separate children’s section, which just might help spike children’s book sales. They’ll also start a reader loyalty program next year.

Thanks to everyone who came to WritersFest. Time is valuable when you’re pursuing the writing dream. I especially thank those of you who spent your hard-earned money on my books (and in Linda’s case, at least three times). I really appreciate it. Thank you.

Finally, I just have to give a shout out to Joseline Beaulieu, a multi-talented tour de force who not only expertly teaches me yoga at Sunset Yoga, but also belly dances with sabres, has a degree in marine biology, and raises money for the Madagascar School Project. She came to the workshop and brought me a card, an armload of flowers, and a squash. A squash! How could you not love this woman? You’d be hard-pressed to create a character this unique!

Joseline Beaulieu, sabre dancing to raise money for Child Haven

Joseline Beaulieu, sabre dancing to raise money for Child Haven. That’s right, she puts us all to shame.

So now that I’ve kept you in suspense long enough, who won the book draw, based on a randomly selected number?

Congratulations, Judy S!