So you got a book deal. Now what?

So you got a book deal. Now what?

Diving deep into crime writing after a couple decades running a digital media company, I vowed to bring a business approach to my creative pursuit. Call it pay back. At thirty, I’d chopped off my pony tail and set aside writing fiction to wear a suit and write proposals to insurance company execs. Now my suit self owed something to the writer.

Everyone starts out as the new kid on the block, even if “kid” is kinda stretching the term. I shed the shackles of dry-as-a-bone business writing and squeezed story from my brain. The calibre of my work was up to me. Sweat, fear, crunching revisions, self-doubt—nothing I hadn’t experienced a hundred times in software. Ultimately though, other people would decide whether Stinking Rich or anything else I wrote deserved to be published, purchased, or read.
I leapt on the query treadmill. Countless blogs offer up reams of advice on finding and landing the right agent and publisher. I followed the rules best as I could learn them, then sheer dumb luck led me to Down & Out Books. More exactly, it landed me in a chair next to Eric Campbell at Bouchercon 2013 in Albany.

There’s a Twitter Tale or two in there for another time. Suffice it to say, when my conference mate Tanis Mallow pointed Eric out to me, all I knew was he had received my manuscript a couple months before. What I didn’t know was whether he was among the publishers who had already rejected it. So when the panel ended, I introduced myself and asked.

His memory took some jogging but eventually Eric confessed he hadn’t looked at the first fifty pages my agent had sent. I gave my best verbal pitch and made a new friend. Over the next two giddy days of soaking up Bouchercon, I had plenty of opportunity to get to know Down & Out better. I heard Eric Campbell refer to himself as a “coach”, met a bunch of his writers, learned how important Christy is, and inadvertently crashed their publisher’s dinner.
Let me back up a bit. My agent’s advice had been we target small to medium-sized publishers. There’s not a writer I’ve met who doesn’t dream of a hardcover release from The Big Five, but my objective was to roll up my sleeves and work at my new career. A lifelong entrepreneur, I’m not all that good at sitting still and doing what I’m told. I’d want to be hip deep seeking reviews, connecting with booksellers, and organizing appearances. Everyone knows we all have to do it. Might as well be working with a publisher who engages and supports their authors’ efforts.

As we worked through edits and cover design, I told Eric I planned to promote Stinking Rich with a book tour. Wait a sec, a book tour? Hours in a car to meet a few people who’ve never heard of you or your book? Couldn’t I reach a ton more readers on Twitter? Didn’t I run a digital media company until a couple years ago? Bottom line, social media is good for a lot of things, but it’s not great at communicating passion. And if there’s one thing the crime fiction community has in spades, it’s passion.

I sifted a list of bookstores against a map of the States, trying to guestimate how many miles my 14-year-old beater had left in it. I began contacting authors I knew along my planned route, expecting it would be like networking anywhere else. Instead, I found a depth of good will among people who write and sell books for a living.

Through Eric, I met more D&O authors in cyberspace. Some offered warm intros to booksellers. Others agreed to co-appear, helping me get over the double hump of being a debut and not local. Soon we had a growing list of great gigs in the northeast, and began working through Midwest, California, and Texas opportunities.

Everyone told me not to expect to sell much on a book tour, and I don’t. The effort isn’t about book one, but book three. If I’d written a good book and I got it into people’s hands, some of them would read it and some of those would enjoy it enough to tell a friend. People influence people. Besides, what could be more fun than a road trip meeting those dedicated enough to sell books for a living?

Rob Brunet

Rob Brunet’s 2014 debut, STINKING RICH, asks What could possibly go wrong when bikers hire a high school dropout to tend a barn full of high-grade marijuana? His award-winning short crime fiction appears and is forthcoming in Thuglit, Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, Shotgun Honey, Out of the Gutter, Noir Nation, and numerous anthologies. Before writing noir, Brunet produced award-winning Web presence for film and TV, including LOST, Frank Miller’s Sin City, and the cult series Alias. He loves the bush, beaches, and bonfires and lives in Toronto with his wife, daughter, and son.