A Primer on Marketing for Novelists
by Sharon Linnéa

Sharon Linnéa answers questions from first time novelists.

Q: What did your outside publicist do that your publisher didn't, and what we can, reasonably, expect from our own publishers and independent publicists?
How do we figure out what a good independent publicist is like?
Is it like trying to find an agent—the same person won't be right for everyone—or is a  good publicist a good publicist no matter whom he or she is publicizing?

A: I had published a lot of nonfiction before my first thrillers were released, and I was told it was a whole new ballgame as far as publicity. SO TRUE! One thing I’m really glad I did was go to a seminar given by Robin at the Authors Guild about publicity. It was a great primer. Here are some tips Robin gave:

Fiction Writers Publicity Tip #1: YOUR PUBLICITY IS UP TO YOU.

Robin politely explained that, no matter how good your publishing house is, they will give you a publicist for six weeks surrounding the publication of your book. This sounds good except a) the publicist you are assigned may be in an entry-level position, b) it is the WRONG six weeks. c) You are sharing them with many other authors at your publishing house; they have a very limited budget; you should be very grateful to them and send them flowers, (or, in our case, a chocolate basket)  but you should in no way count on them to make your book a bestseller.

The publicists at your publisher will send your book to major book review venues for review. They will likely also submit it for awards (but even that you need to check on!) Virtually everything else is up to you. It might be that your publisher does much more. Then rejoice! But don’t count on it.

That means your publicity plan is up to you. If you can afford to hire an outside publicist, by all means, do it. I am including links here to two great articles Julia Spencer-Fleming did with five top publicists (all of whom you might consider to work with you!) If you can’t hire someone, you’ll need to start mapping out your publicity assault yourself.

A GREAT PRIMER ON OUTSIDE PUBLICISTS FROM JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: (You should poke around her website in general: it is one of the most other-author friendly websites going!)

For more on Julia Spencer-Fleming,
click here to read her interview with Sharon and B.K.

PUBLICITY RULES OF THUMB

+ A publicity campaign should start a good six months before your book comes out. That’s when you start working those ARCs (advance reading copies). (See later answer)

+ One successful author kept her day job and spent all the earnings from her first three books on publicity. She felt it paid off handsomely in the end.

+ W.P. Kinsella, the author of “Shoeless Joe,” the book that became the movie, “Field of Dreams,” kept his trunk full of books and spent his summers going from ballpark to ballpark selling those puppies. Even if you don’t go to ballparks, ALWAYS HAVE BOOKS IN YOUR TRUNK!

+ I know of one bestselling novelist  who has his own staff of five full-time publicity people. At breakfast at the last Thrillerfest, I sat next to his Blog guy—the guy who works the Internet full time for him, not only doing his  own blogs, but seeding other blogs, chat rooms, writers groups, and the like. FULL TIME.

+ BE KIND. Play well with others. Be helpful. Be grateful. Write thank-you notes. Answer questions. Move furniture. What goes around comes around.

The answer to the specific question "What did your outside publisher do that your publisher didn't...":
Our publicists at St. Martin’s sent our books out for reviews and award consideration. Our outside publicists (we used BreakThrough Promotions) got us ALL our signings, radio shows, print media, and more than half the reviews.

Fiction Writers Publicity Tip #2: THE MIGHTY “HOOKS”

What Robin at the Author’s Guild kept hammering home—and you know this already if you have bought any publicity books—is that you should make a list of your book’s “hooks.” What points of interest in your book might give it an “in” to a specific audience? Does your hero have a certain breed of dog? Is it about weight loss? A teacher? A nurse? (ANYONE who would belong to a professional organization???)  Targeting your book to a generic audience will get you nowhere, but buying an ad in Weight Watchers about the Pizza Diet Murders will get you tremendous return. Or making great friends on the Siberian Husky special interest blog.

This is really true. Our books were reviewed or mentioned in many of the “usual suspects” as far as national magazines/newspapers, and that was great. But when it got a rave review in Presbyterians Today (our heroine is a Presbyterian military chaplain, but the books can’t be considered religious fiction!) word of mouth took off in an unbelievable way. Presbyterians Today! Who’d a thunk it??

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Q: If your house is spending money to promote you, what are the best ways
to contribute to their efforts without breaking your personal bank?

A: Some answers to this question are above. As for specifics, I would suggest finding one or two specialized magazines that target your “hook” audience and getting the marketing folks at your publisher to make up a great looking ad for you and spend your money there. If you can hire an outside publicist, make sure they are on the up-and-up and play well with others. They should work IN TANDEM with your publisher’s publicists. Tell your publisher’s publicist to expect a call from your outside publicist. Also, have your publisher’s publicists send them books!

Q: Any tips on freeby promo options that you found? Or best value for the buck?

A: This is really the Million Dollar Publicity Question—and where the Guerilla Marketing comes in.
This is where you’ll get the ideas that will make all the difference. Put on your “thinking outside the box” hat, and please let me know if you come up with anything great! Here are some starters:

FREEBY PROMO IDEAS

+ It’s very hard any more to get “ink”—articles in print media about you and your fiction book. So you’ve got to get an angle. FIRST, consider sharing the profits of your book with a worthy charity that is somehow linked to your plot. (The Eden Thrillers give a portion of our proceeds to the Wounded Warrior Project.) It is much easier to get ink for good deeds than self-promotion.  If you do it for the right reasons, it is really win-win.

+ My favorite so far: This is a trick I got from charity auctions on eBay: if you have a contract for another book, let a charity auction off the chance for the winning bidder to become a character. This is a very unusual “silent auction” item, and got LOTS of press for us. (I took the “fine print” from Steven King’s offer to do the same thing on eBay.) Two characters in TREASURE OF EDEN—one evil, one good—will have the name, physical likeness, and personalities of two charity auction winners.

+ GIVE BOOKS AWAY to opinion-makers. Book store owners. Chefs. Seminaries. Antique store owners—whatever your book is about. St. Martin’s (per our request) has sent boxes of books to Books for Soldiers, Wounded Warriors, and the like. Get word of mouth started!

+ Give free talks to school classes or religious organizations or libraries, and make sure it ends up in the papers. This again is a win-win.

+ Sponsor a contest (online or in real life) in which the winners get free autographed copies of your books.

+ Be available to do the book club circuit. Post questions on your website. Offer to telephone book clubs for free during their meetings.

+ Know how to Play Amazon. If you have ARCs, offer them to friends and family members for free ON THE CONDITION that they will buy a book when it comes out if they like it and that they will POST A REVIEW on Amazon. Have closer friends offer to make lists of their favorite thrillers (or whatever) and put you on it. Do an Amazon Daily Blog. If you’d like, have an Amazon Hour—have all your friends and acquaintances wait and buy books on the same day, during the same two hour period—and get your book down onto the bestseller list for a brief burst of glory. Then send that fact to your local paper.

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Q: What is your opinion of book trailers? Are they worth the cost? How can
you best utilize them to promote yourself?

A: Good book trailers are seriously cool! I love watching them. And they’re a great way to get hits on Facebook and You Tube and MySpace. Plus, they make you feel like you’ve really written something harrowing and moody! If you have the money and/or know someone who can do a good trailer for you for a reasonable price, why not?

The only caveat: I’ve seen a lot of great book trailers, watched some of them multiple times. Have, as of yet, bought none of the books I wouldn’t have bought anyway. (“I haven’t read the book, but I’ve seen the trailer…”) But maybe you’re different from me—maybe you have already bought half a dozen books based on their trailers. So the jury is still out on this one in my book—it’s up to you!

Q: My book comes out in March, but I am going to be in the NYC/NJ area for my
daughters' wedding the end of December. I have a small press kit, ARC, to hand out to
some mall stores within the area. I haven't received any reviews yet, so I include blurbs from other writers. I also have a brief letter to the events coordinator explaining why I am there and I would like to come back for a signing. Is there anything else I need to include? Is it a waste of time and money?

A: This was one of the real surprises for me as far as promotion. When I went into bookstores for signings, whether independents or chains, time and again I had managers tell me that writers completely underestimate the importance of bookstore managers/employees in book sales.

I also discovered that there is a rare breed of bookstore owners/managers who actually train their customers to explore new writers. Many of these same managers train their customers to come to evenings of writers reading their works, book signings, evenings with mystery writers, panels, etc. If you find one of these—jackpot! Work with him or her as closely as possible.

One B Dalton manager in Connecticut told me that a dozen people a day ask her for fiction recommendations, and if she’s read a book and liked it, she will breeze a hundred copies out of her store. She said, “I don’t understand why ten writers a day aren’t walking in here, introducing themselves, and handing me their books. An author who does that has a 99% better chance of becoming one of my ‘picks’!”  (Another book store manager told me that, in general, if they sold 1 copy of a book, they considered that book a “store success,” so I’d definitely go for the 100!)

So, BY ALL MEANS, take those press kits/ARCs into every book store you can! Do exactly what the woman in CT suggested—introduce yourself and your book, tell him or her how much you value the role of book store managers, and you’d appreciate it if they’d give the book a read, and tell them when you’ll be back in the area and available for a signing. Signings basically cost them nothing, and help them move books, so if you present yourself as friendly and willing, you should have good luck.

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Q: I'm interested in where book signings fit into your priority for marketing.  I've heard mixed reveiws of how valuable they are.  Even with advance publicity, things can be pretty quiet. Do you have suggestions for the value of signings at libraries versus book stores, other places? What about book signings with other authors versus doing them on your own?

A: Before Chasing Eden came out, we definitely heard both sides of the argument—and both sides were emphatic that they were right. The “signings at brick-and-mortars are a waste of time” crowd (and, all right, I heard this most from people selling “virtual book tours” online) talked about how nobody comes, and even if they do, what good is it to sell 10 books at a signing if you can have a virtual chat and sell 200?

On the other side, my own outside publicist told us they were indispensable and you did them mostly for the bookstore manager/owners, to build relationships with both the independents and the chains. Also, if a library will let you read and then sell books, jump on it! You will be talking to an audience of readers. I also find that doing signings with others is fun, although I never sell quite as many books as I do on my own, as focus is split.

Long story short: my co-author, B.K. Sherer, and I ended up doing a LOT of book signings. This is what I learned:
1) The store managers are very thrilled to have you there, and will work at selling your books long after you leave.
2) (and this is a BIG 2) Readers will have a COMPLETELY different relationship with you when they have met you in person. They will be THRILLED. They will consider you a friend and follow your career and buy all your books and tell people they met you. This might only go for a third of the people who meet you at signings, but that third are your Golden Group. Also, these are people who likely do not go online and chat, so they wouldn’t have heard of you that way—but they do haunt bookstores and buy books, and are therefore your target demographic.

BOOKSIGNING TIPS

(1) Call the day of the signing as a gentle reminder that you are coming.

(2) Alert anyone you have ever heard of in the neighborhood of the booksigning that you will be doing a signing there.

(3) Unless you are James Patterson, you do not want to be put in the back or side of the store in their “author reading” area. Until you are sure there are dozens of people who want to hear you read and then buy your books, TABLE POSITIONING IS EVERYTHING. YOU MUST BE IN  THE FRONT OF THE STORE IN A HIGH-TRAFFIC AREA. If the manager has stuck you in back in their reading alcove, ask to move. Say politely, “I can sit here and sell three copies, or I can sit up front in a high-traffic area and sell many more.” The manager is interested in sales. He will help you move the table.

(4) Have a thirty-second announcement about your book/signing ready in case the manager doesn’t have one. Many managers don’t know what to say over the store p.a. and therefore they say something lame and it isn’t really a help. (If the manager is shy or obviously dreads announcing, VOLUNTEER TO ANNOUNCE IT YOURSELF!) Your announcement should include your name, genre, and an invitation to stop by to chat. For example: “For the next two hours, Sharon Linnéa, the author of CHASING EDEN, a new archeological thriller from St. Martin’s set in the Middle East, will be signing books at the front of the store. She’d love to meet you and if you have any questions about writing or publishing, she’d be glad to chat with you.”

5) This leads to the Golden Rule of Book Signings: TALK TO PEOPLE!

Have an opening line (one of mine that worked was, “Would you enjoy a good thriller signed by the author?” and if they stop: “I’ll sign them to anyone. It’s a very inexpensive gift, and they’ll assume you went to a lot of trouble!”) Be prepared for the fact that 2/3 of the people will walk right past you. But one third, all of whom you’ve never met before, will stop to chat. IF THEY DO, ASK THEM QUESTIONS ABOUT THEMSELVES. Compliment them on a nice tie, or on their toddler’s outfit, or on another book they’ve chosen and are carrying around. If they tell you they HATE thrillers, or whatever your genre is, ask them what they DO like. Or if they say they write, ask what they write. Ask them about the area and how they came to be there. ANYTHING. If you sound truly interested, they will talk to you. And, not to sound manipulative, but once they’ve gotten to know you, there is a VERY high probability they’ll pick up your book and say, “What’s this about, again?”

I was at a signing at a mall in Santa Cruz, California, and a man walked in and I asked him if he’d like a good thriller and he told me he absolutely would not, hated thrillers, etc. He walked by again a few minutes later, and I pleasantly asked him what he did like to read, and write, and he ended up telling me all about his brand of forensic medicine, and I was very interested, and we became pals and he bought three copies. And my young son came over after and said, “But he said he’d never buy one of your books!” So TALK TO PEOPLE ABOUT THEMSELVES.

The final thing I will say about book signings comes under the “mysteries of life” category. My co-author and I (who usually went out separately) agreed that each signing wouldn’t be about how many books we sold, but in meeting who we were supposed to go and meet. And, though this sounds strange, at every single book signing, there were persons I felt I was supposed to talk to. A doctor from India who had a broken relationship with his teenage son, a young girl who dearly wanted to be a writer but had never met a “real” writer before; a mother whose young daughter wrote stories and had imaginary friends, and their family had no idea “what to do” with her. The mother was SO relieved to have someone say that the girl had a special gift and should be encouraged, not sent in for counseling. At every single signing, there was at least one very meaningful conversation that I never could have guessed would have happened.

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Q: The best guerilla marketing is recruiting others to spread the word for you. 
What are some good ways to build this team?  How to inspire and empower them?

A: There is ten times more clout in one other person saying, “Have you read this book? It’s great!” than there is in hours of self-promotion. And team-building is a great way to think of it. Here’s what we did:

+ WORK THOSE ARCs. Your “team” can’t rave about your book until they’ve read it. We offered our mailing list a FREE advance copy of our book, and asked in return: If they liked it, they’d post a review on Amazon AND buy at least one copy to give away. Those “free books” just flew outta there. Then, we asked their opinions on things. We asked them for reading group questions. Etc.

+ Then we GAVE THEM STUFF. Starting with “mementos” like replicas of our main character’s dog tags.  And, you can NEVER underestimate the value of a good party. To thank our “local team,” I personally believe it’s worth it to ante up for a rockin’ book party. (For Chicken Soup from the Soul of Hawaii, I hired hula dancers and fire dancers, here in New York State! For the book party for BEYOND EDEN, we had a reading and signing—then took everyone to a middle eastern restaurant and bought them drinks and hors d’eurves  And talked to them, and thanked them. Think of your book parties less as strokes for you than a“commissioning” for your team. They’ll be talked about for years to come—in context of your book, of course!

+ Also see the answer about helping out with charities. Many folks who won’t promote a book will happily do so to help your chosen charity.

Q: Also, have you had more luck with online promotion or in person?  Can you speak to the differences in terms of cost and return on investment?  Any unique or ground-breaking marketing techniques that you developed and you would be willing to share with us?

A: Online is much more cost effective. You reach many more people if you get mentions on blogs,  etc. However, you have to remember that people online are having information thrown at them at an incredible rate. Just because they read about your book online, and even interacted with you, doesn’t mean they’ll buy it.

In person promotion is very time consuming and expensive. But every time I actually hand someone a book and watch them walk away with it, I feel like I’ve just sold three books—including at least one sequel and, hopefully, one for a friend. And, they’ve just joined Team Eden, or Team Hawaii, or whatever book it is.

In other words, both are important. Which you spend more time on probably has a lot to do with your personality and current circumstances.

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Q: I run an online writers organization with many members, a guest speaker program, a busy website, and put on writers conferences, at present, I have over 4,000 names in my address book.  At the rate it's growing, by the time my book comes out next October, it'll be at least 5,000, probably closer to 6,000.

Obviously, I want to make the best use of these contacts as possible.  I was planning to send an email blast to everyone that was fairly generic: "You are receiving this email because of our past correspondence, etc." but logic tells me I'm more likely to get a positive response if I personalize the email.

It would take considerable time to break the names into groups (family, friends, fellow writers, conference registrants, conference speakers, forum members, and on and on - the contact person at the hotel where we hold our events; the contact person at the hotel where we decided NOT to hold our events, the authors who blurbed my novel, the authors who DIDN'T blurb my novel, etc. etc.). 

Do you think the time investment involved with sending a more personal note is worth it?  Obviously, I'd like to get the most out of this list.  Any tips?  How about suggestions for how I can entice the people I email to tell others in turn?

A: Yes, it is worth the time to sort through your contacts, although three or four more generic groups will do it. Something like (and whatever titles you choose are for your eyes only): Inner Circle (family & close friends); Friendlies (people whom you’ve met and advised at Writer’s Conferences, fellow writers, speakers with whom you’ve had contact and who likely feel friendly towards you); Wider Net: contact persons at the hotels, etc., who may love to read or who may never pick up a book.

You may then address each group in a suitable tone and level of friendliness without needing to send 3000 personalized emails.

As you move along, your lists will morph, and you can start moving people into your Book Team list as they show enthusiasm for the book. Always address them in inclusive ways: Dear Inner Circle, Dear Highly-Esteemed Colleagues, or To the Eden Elite Team—something that shows you value their role and relationship to you and your book(s).

My editor tells me of some very successful writers who offer their mailing lists the chance to belong to a sort of club, with a special blog password and everything. Sounds good if you’ve got the time to do it!

You must, of course, give the people on your email lists a friendly way to opt out of the groups at the bottom of each email—but look at it this way: if they do opt out, your list is just getting stronger and tighter.

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Q: For sales tracking, does it help the author more if people buy books from bookstores or online sites? Does it matter? What should you tell your friends? What about cheap relatives?

A: The bottom line is, you want people to have a book in their hot little hands. The people you know who are motivated enough to go out to a “brick and mortar,” send them there. First choice independents, second choice, chains (I have always loved those who run independent book stores against all odds, and have in the last year become very tender-hearted towards book lovers who run the big chain stores as I’ve gotten to know many of them!)

HOWEVER, if your best chance to get Aunt Lula to buy your book is to let her fingers do the walking to the “Buy It Now” button on Amazon, do it. An Amazon sale is 100% better than no sale.  You need both bookstore and online sales.

TIMING, STYLE, AND BRAND

Q: Is there a cycle for marketing your book (other than publishing date), similar to the normal retail cycles--in other words, should we plan to be more visible at certain times of the year?

A: Our outside publicist has said from the beginning that, if you do it right, your publicity machine is always “in season.” And you’ve GOT to have a plan that takes you past the “fifteen minutes” of your release. If your book revolves around baseball, you’ve got a “built in” season to hit the ballparks. Even if you don’t have a seasonal topic, summer reading and Christmas/Hanukah holiday seasons are great sales times. Everyone wants “beach reads.” And pre-Christmas is a GREAT time for bookstore signings—FIRST, because signed books make great gifts, and SECOND because so many books are jostling for so little shelf space at that time of year that getting your own little table set up is about your only sure way into the store (if you’re not a new release).

Common marketing wisdom says that “Nonfiction gives the reader something, fiction costs them something.” (i.e. nonfiction gives you info to improve your life, fiction steals your time). Now we all know that not to be true—fiction gives you a great release from your harrowing everyday life. Or gives a harrowing component to a workaday world. So, any time people need a release, they should consider your book. Figure out the reasons they’d like your book in each season and get it to them!

Q: Are there marketing techniques that work better for different stages of an author's career? For example, are there things that worked for you as a new novelist that you wouldn't do now (all technological advances being equal)?

A: From your first release to your mega-bestsellerdom—when you employ your own marketing staff—there are no free passes. You’ve got to work it, in many of the same ways. But with your first book, you are concentrating much more on building your grassroots constituency. You can try to get onto Oprah and Good Morning, America, but you’re not going to make it. Which doesn’t mean you can’t/shouldn’t send your book in. Your best shot is to get one of the hosts to actually read your book and fall in love with it, so make it available to them or their staff persons, but don’t sit by the phone.

Book readings/signings are also much different if readers know you and are coming to meet you, rather than when you’re starting out and you’re trying to get them to take a chance by giving up their money for your book. But they’re still work.

But no, I’d say you’ve got to work it from Day 1, and as your career takes off, more doors will open. It’s still all about helping your readers feel valued, helping other writers who want to follow in your footsteps, and adding to the “team.”

Q: How have you defined (and stretched) your brand over the years?

A: For the stretching part, see the answer to the next question. For the DEFINING part, well, that’s been a real education from our publisher. The Eden Thrillers are a distinctly different brand from the rest of my writing, and this is what they did to position it:

+ The titles all match up. Likely you’ve already thought of this, and your books are already different kinds of custard, or alphabet letters, or a Cat Who…did something or a BOURNE Supremacy, Betrayal, Ultimatum or Legacy.

 St. Martin’s changed our title to be one big word, EDEN, on the bottom and one (or two) smaller words above. The books also all have the same look. The colors of the covers change, but you can glance at it in an airport and tell it’s an Eden Thriller.

 + For this brand, they even created the author’s name. For all my other books, I’m Sharon Linnéa, and on the Eden Thrillers we very much wanted to be ”Sharon Linnéa with B.K. Sherer.”
Fought tooth and nail. Lost. They insisted on one name—and initials at that—because apparently, unless you’re Patricia Cornwell, men don’t buy thrillers by women. (If you’re arguing with me right now, I’m agreeing with you!) We fought, but lost again. But hey, they were the ones doing a first print run of 175,000 for a first-time thriller writer, you’d better believe I understood how editorial was being driven by marketing when it came to creating a brand. It’s why we gave in. (Well, that and our contract.) (Apparently Jo Rowling gave in on the woman selling to boys/initials front, too.)

+Then you, as the author, need to BRAND YOUR LOOK for when you go out. Our publicist says you’ve got to LOOK like a bestselling author. More than, that, look like the person who wrote YOUR line of thrillers. I was just at ALA with a bunch of crazy mystery writers and loved how they dressed in Victorian garb or with a cape and top hat, whatever. They were a walking sales pitch. You might not want to go that far, but hey—if you write (and have published!) thrillers, you’re dashing already. Take advantage. Give yourself, your books, your blogs, all a “look.”

+ Also, come up with a descriptive hook. I worked with a really fun brander for a while to come up with the fact that Jaime Richards thrillers—oops! Now they’re Eden Thrillers, a tag which is gender neutral!-- take the reader on adventures. Adventure. That was our word. It felt sort of like when they spent millions to decide that Jell-O was “fun.”

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Q: How did you manage to be so successful in so many different genres? I keep hearing that you need to define your brand and then adhere to it, but I also write children's books, screenplays, horror, and who knows that I'll work on next. I don't want to write the same kind of book for my whole career. How can I do that and still HAVE a career at all?

A: I started out as a book editor when I graduated from college. In the intervening decades, what I have learned for certain about the biz is that, no matter what they tell you, THERE ARE NO RULES. Or, more specifically, they’ll tell you there are rules, then someone will break them, become wildly successful, and the rules change overnight. “You can only write in one genre” is one of those completely untrue rules.

In fact, I’ve found that writing different genres not only opens different doors but is very good for improving your craft. For example, writing biographies and nonfiction really strengthened my knowledge of how to research, which helped a LOT with thrillers. And writing thrillers and mysteries taught me a LOT about pacing, which helps make my YA biographies read like adventure stories. Ghostwriting taught me how to listen—really listen—which has helped in every genre. Writing for Chicken Soup taught me how to build and “turn” a story, how to be in control of the invisible structure of every scene.

When you publish in a specific genre, you do have to commit to becoming successful in that genre. It’s your pledge to your publisher. You can only genre-hop when you’ve done your level best by the genre before.

At the same time, I think my entire body of work has a particular “brand.” When people a book by Sharon Linnéa—or S.L. Linnea—there’s a certain kind of storytelling they can expect, coming from a certain set of core values. If that’s something that comes to you naturally—go for it!

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Q: I'm interested in whether you are an outliner or a make-it-up-as-you-go along writer?

A: It’s fun to switch gears for a minute! I can see how, if you’re writing literary fiction, you can develop a set of characters and see where they’ll take you.

But the thriller is such a specific genre—and it’s such a complex series of set-ups and pay-offs that build and build as the story progresses, that I don’t see how you can possibly write one without an outline. I’m not saying you can’t—but it would require a much more supple mind than mine to keep track of all the small cogs within medium cogs within big cogs.

I’m also working on a series of mysteries, and there you have a lot more time to “walk around inside the scene,” the reader WANTS details, clues and even red herrings. I still outline, but it’s much less detailed, because I know the plot, I know the characters, and I let them have at it.

Whereas with a thriller—the train is already moving so fast by the time the reader comes on board that s/he needs to feel the author, as the engineer, knows exactly where this bullet train is headed. The Eden Thrillers, specifically, have so many characters in so many locales, that my co-author and I refer to the final writing stage as “building the book.”

Both mysteries and thrillers depend on the skilled and dramatic parsing out of information—so you must know the ending in order to scatter the information backwards in a meaningful way.

That’s not to say that characters, and even plot twists, don’t often surprise me!

 

 


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