Hey Author Friends:

I have a few features on my blog that I've been ignoring for far too long, and now, with your help, I'd like to put a little more effort into them.

I'm looking for authors (mainly crime fiction, but I'll consider others as well) to contribute to "Path to Publication," "Author Interviews," "Question o' the Day," or any other topic you might like to guest blog about. This blog is kind of geared toward aspiring authors, so anything in that vein would be great. I'd especially like to beef up the "Path to Publication" section because everyone loves a good success story, don't they?

The only caveat is I reserve the right to refuse if I don't think your content is right for my audience. Oh, and I don't get paid, so neither do you, except in all those book sales your presence on my blog might generate. I may add more caveats if I find I get too many requests or something like that. We'll see.

Anyway, I like to promote authors whose work I like. So that's what the purpose of all this is, as well as to give readers some content that informs, inspires, and/or entertains.

Contact me here in the comments, on Twitter, or on Facebook if you'd like to participate.

I've been thinking about book promotion lately. Not sure why–probably because Left Coast Crime 2011 just finished up and a lot of my friends went. It made me ask the question:

These days writers have to do quite a bit of their own promotion to spread the word about their books. How much time do you spend "on the road" each year promoting your books? (This could mean conferences, book tours, local events, etc).

Final_cover_long_knives Rebecca Cantrell:

More time than I'd like! For A NIGHT OF LONG KNIVES, I did a 10 city tour that took a month (but I took several days off at the beginning and the end to just hang out in San Francisco and New York with my family). Plus Bourchercon and LCC (4 days each).

For A GAME OF LIES, I'm packing it into a 1 week tour, 4 days for Tuscon Festival of Books, 4 days for LCC, 3 days for the Hawaii Island Book and Music Festival. Still haven't decided on Bouchercon.

Holly's note: You'd better go to Bouchercon, Rebecca!

Eric Beetner:

Not much time at all 'on the road'. Most of that is due to two things for me: money and interest. Not 94212919 interest from me, I feel like I'd go anywhere, but interest from stores or any other place that does author events. I'm actually finding it surprisingly difficult to get anyone to have me. I discovered that the treatment I got at The Mystery Bookstore spoiled me and now I can't even get an email returned from any number of indie stores where I've sent books (at my expense for the purchase of the book and postage).

I know they are busy and are inundated with requests all day long but the lack of response has been a shock.

I've done two LCC's now and B-Con last year. I have every intention of doing B-Con again in St. Louis but that may change. Conferences for me are all about networking and meeting other authors, not book sales. Last B-Con I didn't sell a single book. Still had blast though so totally worth it.

Rebecca Cantrell is the author of the award-winning Hannah Vogel series and iDrakula (writing as Bekka Black).

Eric Beetner is the co-author of ONE TOO MANY BLOWS TO THE HEAD and BORROWED TROUBLE, and author of numerous award-winning short stories.

Questionmark Since I'm in the process of plotting my second novel, the question of outlining (or not) is on my mind. I asked my friend Kelli Stanley, author of 2010 LA Times Book Prize finalist CITY OF DRAGONS, whether she is an outliner:

KS: Do I outline? Yes and no. It's complicated. 🙂

I use a rough outline to break down the story into acts or parts. CITY OF DRAGONS–and all the Miranda books–are constructed on a five act play structure. A contemporary thriller I'm working on is built on three acts.

Certain things need to happen at certain points along the way, and the division helps me make sure they do. I then break down the acts into chapters, and set a page limit for the chapters themselves.

As I write, I narrow the focus, so the outline becomes more detailed. But I never get too specific, Curse-Maker-3D-199x300 particularly at the beginning, because one of the primary joys in writing–for me–is the process of discovery. I like the freedom of letting characters develop themselves, steal scenes, and I love the thrill of the unexpected–I like to be surprised as much as a reader would. At the same time, crime fiction demands a certain pace, which itself constricts and expands depending on the scene, your goals, and the stage you are in the plot. Writing an outline keeps me focused on those elements–it reminds me of what's next, and acts as the spine of the novel–which I can then flesh out with much more freedom, knowing that key plot elements are planned ahead.

Kelli Stanley is the award-winning author of NOX DORMIENDA, CITY OF DRAGONS, and most recently, THE CURSE-MAKER.

Question_mark I had this idea to ask published authors random questions now and then, all geared toward aspiring authors like myself.

Today, Stephen Jay Schwartz, author of BOULEVARD and BEAT, was kind enough to answer one of my questions about his experience with getting published.

A bit of background: Stephen was the Director of Development for film director Wolfgang Petersen. He's also written screenplays, and worked as a "script doctor," along with many other accomplishments in film.

I asked Stephen: "Did your background in film help you land an agent and/or book deal?"

SJS: "My background in film helped only in that I took a rather aggressive approach to finding an agent. The film business is a bit dog-eat-dog, in case you haven't heard, and it's good prep for almost anything else you do in life. However, I didn't know any book agents and I had to begin at the beginning. I did a ton of research to determine who the great agents were and I went out to pursue them, sending my query letter and the first fifty or so pages of my manuscript. My experience in film did help validate me on paper–it let the agents know right away that I had a history working with story. So, it probably helped to get them to start reading my material. By the way, I've circled back a bit now. I've got a screenwriting assignment for an action feature. So, I hope to write the screenplay and two novels in 2011."

Good to know, Stephen! Thanks!