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January 05, 2014


Robin Burcell

Great post, Donna. I wish every new writer (and some not so new) would read it!

Terrie Farley Moran

Donna, thanks so much for this thoughtful and heartfelt article. I recently got one of those "nominate me" emails from a total stranger and thought it was odd.

More importantly, I have my first novel being released by Berkley in August 2014. I am very interested in never offending anyone (be it reader or fellow writer) so I appreciate your guidance.

Julie Hennrikus

Great post. Very thoughtful, and thorough. These are tricky waters--it is very helpful to have folks help guide them.

Tracy Weber

This post is so helpful! Terrie, congrats on your book. My first launches from Midnight Ink this Wednesday! One thing make me giggle when I read your comment. I never want to offend anyone, either, but it is an impossible goal. Perhaps a better goal is to behave ethically and kindly, and apologize and correct mistakes when we make them.

Kelly Saderholm

Love this post. There is a fine line between confident self-promotion and pushy politicking, but guidelines such as these make it easier to avoid drifting into the rudeness zone. Thanks!

Donna Andrews

Terrie and Tracy: congratulations to both of you! And you seem to be well on your way to that all important involvement in the mystery community.

Sherry Harris

Thanks for tackling this topic,Donna. Your suggestions are spot on and a good lesson for those who are just starting out as well as those who are more seasoned.

Sarah H

Speaking as a reader, I would imagine that it makes sense to also know when a plug (I use that in the most positive sense) may be used in an online discussion. Terrie and Tracy- as much as I love mysteries, I sometimes feel that there are all too many great ones being published that I never get a chance to hear about. Now, thanks to your comments, I have two more new authors to look up!

Hank Phillippi Ryan

IN these days of endless endless promotion, and of well-meaning authors striving for discoverability, it's so difficult to navigate what's okay and what isn't--thank you, dear Donna, for this caring discussion for newbies and oldbies (And medium-bies?) alike...


Donna, I fall at your feet.

And congratulations, Terrie and Tracey. Tracey - you must be giddy with it right now!

A couple of years ago I'd have said that anything you wouldn't do face-to-face, don't do on social media, but some of the face-to-face hard sell I've since encountered has been pretty jaw-dropping.

E.g. Gentleman at Bouchercon: Is your stuff dark?
Me: No.
GaB: Huh, not for me then. But you should read mine [fishes in jacket for business card]
Me: Seriously?
GaB: What?
Me: Oh, nothing.

Sara Henry

Thanks for this post. I tried to gently tell the debut author who sent me one of these emails why it was not a good idea, and how it could backfire. I understand the desperation authors feel wanting to publicize their book (trust me, I've been there - I have a book eligible this year, too), but emailing strangers isn't the way to do it.

I'm especially grateful that the issue of posting on Facebook about nomination eligibility has been raised, and the consensus is that it's not only okay, but useful.

Note: I do dislike it when an author adds me to their newsletter list, especially one with no unsubscribe button.

Edith Maxwell

I'll add my thanks, Donna, for expressing the reaction of many of us so clearly, kindly, and firmly.

I also have eligible stories and an eligible book, and am trying to gently get the word out, with respect for my readers, but it's only in the vein of, "In case you didn't know I had a book eligible for X award, I do, and if you want to read my short stories, they're on my web site this month." Never ask for the vote.

Terrie Farley Moran

Tracy, super congrats on your release this week, and thanks for reminding me that I am going to offend someone, sometime.*sigh* To everyone else thanks for sending good wishes to me and my new best friend Tracy. A grand community indeed.

Liz Mugavero

Donna, thank you for your thoughtful post and wisdom. These are great lessons for new and seasoned authors alike.

Hank Phillippi Ryan

Hey--my comment disappeared. Huh. And I was just saying, earlier, that in these days of constant and endless promotion, and endless search for discoverability, and so much pressure on authors, it's so difficult for anyone to to know what to do, whether a newbie or oldie or middlebie. . So gracious of you, Donna, to offer such generous and caring advice.


Thank you so much for this post, Donna. My first novel is coming out in July, so some of this is very new to me. The emails I received this week certainly were new. Bookmarked for future reference.

Sarah Smith

Bookmarking this one and recommending it to others. Thanks, Donna.

(And by the way, DUCK THE HALLS is a hoot! And anything called THE HEN OF THE BASKERVILLES... Those of you who are going to Malice this year, take note. And Donna didn't even ask me to say this.)

Toni LP Kelner

I'm going to add that notes along the lines of, "I'll nominate you if you'll nominate me" make me extremely uncomfortable. Yes, I want to be nominated, but I want it to be because people like the work, and yes, I want to nominate my friends, but only when I like the work. It's not a quid pro quo situation.

Congrats Tracy, and Terrie, looking forward to your release in August.

Elaine Viets

Thank you, Donna, for a gentle reminder. The unwritten rules are hard to know.
And Catriona, I met a match for your gentleman who wouldn't read your book because it wasn't "dark." The woman -- the woman -- who said, "I never read cozies. I like hardboiled men." Traitor!

Lesa Holstine

Well, I don't have anything at stake here since I'm not a writer. But, as a reviewer and someone going to LCC, I do care. Thank you, Donna, for an excellent post. As a blogger and reviewer, I've received the letters. I've already voted after going through the list of what I actually read in 2013. And, the comments about pushy authors hit home. I tell any author who sends me a book that I never guarantee a review. And, the more you push me for one, the less likely it will be that I'll ever read and review your book. Donna, I love your etiquette tips. They were written with a great deal of kindness. Thank you.

Kathy Lynn Emerson

Thanks for saying what a lot of others were thinking when that email arrived.


Lesa - That drives me crazy too. When someone asks for a blurb instead of asking if I'll read a book so that if I like it I can give a blurb . . . argh.

Dana Cameron

Donna, thanks for this--you've hit the nail square on the head. I shall spread the word!

And congratulations, Terrie and Tracy! Great news!

Christopher Lord

Donna: as someone new to the scene I had a sense of what you advise, but it's great to hear it confirmed by one who has been around the block fifteen or so times...

Michele Drier

Thanks for these words of wisdom! One of the conundrums is that many of the people being asked to nominate have their own books in competition.

Cathi Stoler

Greawt post, Donna. I kind of made the 'asking' mistake--although in a very nice, polite way-- my first year at Malice. Would never do it again. And, you're right the goal is to get people to read our books all year long. This year, I nominated my two novels as well as those of other writers I really enjoyed. And I entered a story and novella for the Derringers. I'll probably post on FB and Twitter, but definitely keep it low key.

Toni LP Kelner

Another unwritten rule that should probably be written. An elevator pitch is a short pitch you can give to an agent, editor, or reader--as if it were during an elevator ride. It does NOT mean to try to sell your books to a captive audience on an elevator.

Yes, there was one guy who used to do exactly that at mystery conventions. Longest elevator ride of my life.


John Scalzi has similarly solid advice in his blog today: http://whatever.scalzi.com/2014/01/06/on-letting-people-know-about-your-award-eligible-work/

Tracy Weber

Terri--glad to be getting to know you!

Donna--Thanks. I am trying to get involved in the mystery community. I've been SOOOO impressed by how helpful and supportive people have been. I totally plan to return the favor.

Toni, Sara, Dani, Catriona, and anyone I've missed, THANKS for the congratulations. I am giddy!

Finally--at a writer's conference I went to recently, they asked people not to pitch agents in the bathroom. Seriously?

Lisa Alber

I'm another debut author coming in 2014 (March), and I appreciate this advice. Seems like the threshold for what's acceptable has gone down in recent years. e.g. It's only in the last few years that announcing our own eligibility for awards has become OK -- no matter how nicely done, did writers do this five years ago? No, I don't think so.

Self-promotion has become increasingly game-like, everyone jostling (even us nice people have to play at it too) ... I don't know. Maybe I'll get used to it, but to me the whole thing feel likes it's too much.

I don't want to play the "discoverability" game, but it seems I have to. As a debut author, I'd best get to used to it, eh? :-)

Leslie Budewitz

Spot on, Donna -- thanks.

The key, I think, is your point about watching what goes on in the mystery world for a while. I'd been around a while when my first nonfiction book came out, followed by my first mystery last year, and that's helped me so much to feel like maybe I've got half a clue what to do and what not to do. Of course, it's worth remembering that we all step in it occasionally.

And perhaps we should also acknowledge that in the film industry, solicitation is considered the norm, and some writers doing this may come from that field -- and not have realized that this one is different.

Congratulations, Tracy, Terrie & Lisa, on the new & upcoming releases!

Mary Ellen Hughes

You said what many of us were thinking, Donna, and said it better. I think many writers are influenced by the promotional blogs that advise super-marketing but forget to mention "to whom." I don't mind reminders of eligible books at all. I dislike (read: hate) pushy "vote for me" solicitations.

It can be a fine line, sometimes. Better to err on the side of too little than too much, I'd say.

Sheila Connolly

I've received only one of those "Nominate Me!" emails, and my first reaction was "ick." While we all flounder to find new and creative ways to promote our books, the best (and least manageable) means is word of mouth. "Have you read What's-Her-Name's new book? It's great." Repeat. And I still feel that you shouldn't nominate a book unless you have actually read it, no matter how good the reviews and the buzz are.

Anna Loan-Wilsey

Thank you for the post. Until recently I didn't even know writers asked to be nominated. I naively thought that a book good enough to be nominated would be nominated. But now that my second book is eligible, I'll take your advice if I attempt to dive into the award promotion game. Thanks again!

Nancy Martin

Donna, I have all respect for you and love your books. You have deserved your awards on the basis of your great work.

But somebody has to add this: Awards--especially fan awards--are in danger of becoming meaningless. Nowadays, they are more like prizes for relentless advertising and brand recognition, not quality writing or great storytelling.

Most of all, though? What do readers think of this conversation? What does it do to their joy of discovery, the joy of reading? Their respect for an award as truly a badge of merit?

Am I too Presbyterian? A cranky old broad clutching my smelling salts at the tackiness of it all? Out of touch? Awardless? So be it, friends.

Cathy Strasser

Great post! As another new writer with her first book coming out this coming year, I am paying a lot more attention to these situations. I will file this post away under "good advice". Thanks for sharing!

Laura L. Cooper

I don't have any work eligible for anything, but one day...

Thanks for the tips.

David Magayna

As a reader, reviewer & Mystery community advocate, I applaud your article, Donna. Great advice!
No one I know would nominate someone based on a request to "nominate my book" w/o reading it first...and liking it.

Another peeve of mine is when a question is asked, "Does anyone know of mysteries involving dogs?", and an author responds, "No, but my book on astronomy/basket weaving/scuba diving might be just what you're looking for. The sister of the victim in my 2nd book owned a dog". Say what?!

Chris Grabenstein

Well done, Donna. Perhaps we can auction off Etiquette Lessons at a coming con!

Beth Groundwater

Right on, Donna!

PS. I had a hard time deciding which of your two books to nominate, and I'm afraid my readers will have the same problem, since I also had two 2013 releases.

Chantelle Aimée Osman

Thanks for putting this out there! I echo Lesa's comments. As a result of the blog, I get a lot of those e-mails. It's one thing if it's a gentle (and personalized) reminder from someone who knows you've read their book and with whom you've interacted in the past. It's the worst when you don't know the person and/or it is glaringly obvious you are one of many to receive the e-mail.

Nancy Pickard

Excellent post, Donna. It's hard to be new and invisible. But the kind of behavior you've described is not a great way to become visible!

Dana Stabenow

And Nancy, let us be old, cranky and broad together. Where there is no juried adjudication, there is no merit.


Hi Donna, As always, a great post. One thing that bothers me a lot more than writers asking to nominate their book is for the nominated authors to ask me for their vote at the convention. I know of one finalist who went around asking everyone for their vote at a recent convention. Unfortunately, this author won. My books have been nominated before and have made the finalist list and I'm hoping that my new 2013 release ILL Conceived will find its way to the nomination list. But all joy and honor would be stripped if I had to beg the attendees to vote for the book. Thanks, Donna, for bring up such an important topic. L. C.

Kathy McIntosh

Wonderful post, Donna. With gracious and much-needed advice. And it was fun to read about all the new and soon to be out books and potential nominees. Wish I were able to attend Left Coast this year and vote.

Sara J. Henry

Wow, LC, I've never actually seen anyone ask someone for their vote at a conference - how uncomfortable that must have been. And how sad if an undeserving book won - but I think in general voters are pretty savvy and honest with their votes.

I do try to read all books nominated in a category before voting - at the very least I'll go over to Amazon and read sample chapters!

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