by Toni L.P. Kelner and/or Leigh Perry
Tuesday was the Release Day of A Skeleton in the Family, and one might think that it would have reminded me of the release of my first book, Down Home Murder, which came out in 1993. As it turned out, not so much. Things have changed so much.
Of course, a lot of the changes are personal. I'm older, of course. I used to have a day job and no children, and now I have two children and zero day jobs. (Except ferrying those two children to and fro, but that's a different blog topic.) Back then I knew very few other writers, while now it seems that most of my friends are somewhere involved in publishing. And we have guinea pigs--a huge change to anybody's lifestyle. But the really huge changes are in the book part of my life.
The release date for Down Home Murder was June 1993, which meant the first part of the month. But Kensington... No, scratch that. But Zebra Books liked to start putting June books on the shelf in the middle of May, and it was about then that my husband spotted the first copy in Wordsworth Books in Cambridge. A few days later I got my author copies, and soon embarked on author events to promote the book.
These events were arranged by making phone calls via land lines. For each one, I had to follow up the phone calls by printing copies of my author biography and pulling out cover flats and author photos. I agonized over sending author photos because those things were expensive. (Zebra provided the cover flats, and they were so generous that I still have a stack.) Then I'd get all that into an envelope and go to the post office to mail it. I also mailed out a few press releases to the local papers, my hometown newspapers, my alumni magazine, and various mystery magazines in hopes they'd put in an article.
Then came the events themselves: a B. Dalton in Raleigh NC, a Waldenbooks in Hickory NC, a Little Professor in Charlotte NC, and a Barnes and Noble in Charlotte. The first--and best--was at Kate's Mystery Books in Cambridge, a fabulous store owned by the equally fabulous Kate Mattes, shown below.
That was how I launched Down Home Murder. Now flash forward to the release of A Skeleton in the Family.
First off, I'm Leigh Perry, which is kind of disorienting, and I'm starting my third series. My publisher is Berkley Prime Crime, and I'm not sure that imprint existed twenty years ago. Zebra is still around, but their mysteries have come out under Kensington for years.
The release date is a lot more specific--Sept. 3--though some stores stocked it a few days early. Amazon, which of course didn't exist before, held tight to that date.
Both Down Home Murder and A Skeleton in the Family are paperback originals, but Skeleton also came out as an ebook and an audio download. There never was an audio book of Down Home, but if there had been, it would have been on cassette tapes. The only ebooks I know of from that far back were on floppy disks. Remember those?
Once again, my husband was the first to spot a copy in the stores, but this time it was in a Barnes & Noble that was built after Down Home was released. Wordsworth, once a giant among independent booksellers, is gone.
As for author events, I'm only doing one, at Bestsellers Cafe in Medford, MA. (If you live in the area and are available the evening of Sept. 9, you're invited.) It's not a mystery-specific store and there's no secret passage, but it's lovely and Rob and the other folks serve some great baked goods and soup.
I set the event up via email, and the folks there pulled the information they needed over the web. I don't have a single cover flat for A Skeleton in the Family, but I can print all I want via a file Berkley provided. I did stop by the store to drop off an ARC, but otherwise, it was all email.
Those other stores I mentioned? The B. Dalton in Raleigh NC, the Waldenbooks in Hickory NC, the Little Professor in Charlotte NC, and the Barnes and Noble in Charlotte? Only the B&N still exists, though at least the Little Professor evolved into the equally nifty Park Road Books.
I'll be sending out some press releases, too, but that'll all be electronic, too. In fact, most of my promotion will be electronic: Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and of course my web page. At least, having a web page is an "of course" now. I'll do guest blogs, interviews, and post on GoodReads. So without leaving my home, I'll probably reach ten times the number of readers than I would have going to bookstores, and I won't even have to put on makeup.
That's a whole lot of changes, and I'm not even mentioning the interim changes that came and went in two decades. (Printed newsletters? Listservs? Borders Books?)
Of course, the thing that has stayed the same is the reason for it the furor--to tell readers about the book and hope that they'll buy it. These days I'll get sales numbers a little sooner than I did then, but worrying over them is pretty much the same. I suspect that's never going to change.
Tell you what. Meet me back here in 2033 and I'll let you know.