I’m welcoming another Campbell to my blog today—Chester Campbell. Contrary to rumor, Chester Campbell was not a passenger on Noah’s Ark, but he didn’t get off the boat yesterday, either. With a writing career that has spanned sixty years, he has a new mystery novel just published titled The Surest Poison.
In it, three seemingly unrelated murders crop up during the investigation of a toxic chemical dump that plagues a rural community west of Nashville. PI Sid Chance is hired to find the party responsible for the pollution behind a small plant whose current owner is being harassed by the state. Sid is tailed, threatened, and shot at before encountering some nasty guys from his past. (And yeah, I thought “green” was eerily appropriate when writing about poison!)
One of the earliest eye-openers I experienced as a mystery writer occurred when my first book came out in 2002. I quickly discovered that marketing and promotion take as much time as writing the novel. It’s like learning to walk, then realizing you have to climb steps, too. Fortunately, I had started attending conferences, primarily SleuthFest, put on by the Florida Chapter of Mystery Writers of America. I picked up some great tips there on getting ready for your book to come out.
“Coming out” is a good term to describe a book’s publication, since it denotes a debut and, in Southern social circles, a debutante’s introduction at a ball. Too bad my books don’t get that level of fanfare.
However, I followed most of the advice for getting ready. I set up a website, primitive though it was. I created a mailing list of publications to inform and people who might be interested in buying the book. There were no Advance Review Copies, so I had to wait for the book to be printed before I could send it out for review. I got a friend who ran the color lab for the local newspaper to make a head shot to use for publicity. And I started calling bookstores to set up signings.
I found it all took lots of time and slowed my writing efforts. Being published by a small press, though, I knew the book wouldn’t sell unless I let people know about me and what I had written.
I now have four books out in that first series, the Greg McKenzie Mysteries, but the marketing and promotion effort remains essential. Some things have changed, however. The reason I’m here today is because I have another debut to talk about. The Surest Poison is the first book in a new series featuring a Nashville PI named Sid Chance. I’ve just started a Blog Book Tour for it, something unheard of back in 2002.
From now through the first of May, I’ll be doing daily interviews and a variety of articles about the book, its characters, the setting, the origin of the story, writing issues and such. Again, it’s promotion, and it’s a lot of work. But it’s fun, too. I have posted the schedule on my website of where I’ll be blogging each day. Join me, if you’d like, and make a comment. I’ll be doing drawings from those who leave comments, giving away several books as prizes.
With the Internet becoming more important as a means of communication, I’m concentrating more of my marketing efforts there. It takes a lot of effort, but, heck, you don’t have to dress up or even get out of your chair. I’ve recently established a presence on Facebook and Twitter, two of the most popular social networks. I belong to several others that deal with books, such as Goodreads and Crimespace, but haven’t been as active on those.
One of the most important aspects of Internet promotion is the author website. I do a makeover on mine every couple of years. If all goes well, I’ll have the revised version up by the time you read this, but there’s still a lot of work to do. Joanna has a great website with lots to see and benefit from. That’s the secret to a successful website. Give visitors lots of goodies and they’ll keep coming back for more.
The final act of “coming out” is the Book Launch Party. I’m having this one at my church, City Road Chapel United Methodist Church, in Madison, the Nashville suburb where I live. It’s also where my protagonist lives and has his office. We’re throwing the party Sunday afternoon, April 19. I thought about serving green punch in glasses marked with a skull and crossbones, but I’m not sure how that would go over. We’ll have a cake with green icing, though.
I can’t leave without telling you a bit about the people who populate The Surest Poison. The story is a little grittier than my first series, which some said bordered on the cozy. One reviewer wrote that the new book was “the kind of fiction writing that those with a penchant for Lawrence Block can enjoy.” Sid Chance is a big guy (six-foot-six, 230 pounds) who was a Green Beret in Vietnam, spent eighteen years as a National Park Service ranger, and ten years as police chief in the small town of Lewisville, southwest of Nashville. He left that job after being falsely accused of bribing a drug dealer.
His part-time helper is Jasmine LeMieux, whom DorothyL’s Kaye Barley called “a character I LOVE; Jaz LeMieux, wealthy ex-cop who has done a little bit of everything in her life, and done it with flair.” Her Southern Belle mother disowned Jaz when she dropped out of college and joined the Air Force. Making matters worse, she then became a champion woman boxer before joining the police force to pay her bills. After her mother died, Jaz’s father, a French Canadian entrepreneur, took her back in and left her controlling interest in a lucrative chain of truck stops.
Now you know just enough to be dangerous. Or maybe want to read the book. Or maybe you have some other good ideas for promotion? Joanna says she’ll mail a bag of benne seed wafers (a very Southern cookie a lot like peanut brittle) to some lucky person who comments with a good idea.