Monday, June 29, 2009

How to Make the Most of A Book Conference

Part 1: For Aspiring Writers

--Ask unusual questions. Everybody wants to know where authors get their ideas from. Tip: Most authors don't really know, and even if they did it probably won't be from the same place you get yours. Ask for specific advice that can aid your writing, such as how to write authentic dialogue, how to pace a thriller, the best ways to do research, etc...

--Bring a notepad and a few pens. Unless you have an incredible memory, you'll kick yourself if the next day if you can't remember that interesting tip from a bestselling author.

--Be polite. At an event recently, I was having a conversation with my agent when a woman came up and, quite loudly, said, "So you're an agent guy, right?" She then proceeded to spend ten minutes pitching her book, oblivious to the fact that she'd rudely interrupted us. Yes, agents often look for new writers at conferences, but there is a time and a place. Act like you would in a normal setting. Be polite, and others will too.

--Be organized. If you're pitching a book, have your pitch ready and your material on standby. Agents are busy bees and don't have time for you to spend three minutes digging through the hundreds of freebees and chachkis in your tote bag.

--Talk to writers outside of the panels. Keeping the polite rule in mind, authors do like to talk to aspiring writers (they were in that boat at one point too). Authors are more casual hanging out in the hotel or at the bar, and can sometimes speak a little more freely.

--Map your schedule out in advance. Running from Oak Room A on one end of the hotel to Cedar Room C at the other end at 10:03 for a 10:00 panel is no fun. Spend a few minutes the night before marking down the panels you plan to attend, and then figuring out where they are. You'll learn a lot more with that prime seat up front near the podium than in the back row behind the guy wearing the 'I Love Jack Reacher' sombrero.

--Remember that you're there to learn. Yes, there's a chance you might meet the agent of your dreams at a conference, but first and foremost you should focus on what you can do to improve your craft. Don't look at a conference solely as an opportunity for literary speed dating. Writing a great book should be your first priority, and there's a wealth of information at these conferences. It's your job to write it down and heed it.

--Don't only attend panels with famous authors simply because they're famous. Just because three #1 bestselling authors are on a panel about 'book tour war stories' does not mean that you should automatically sit in on it. Find the panels that are most conducive to your writing. Hey, maybe sitting in on that panel with three lesser known authors talking about historical fiction would benefit the historical novel you're working on...

Part 2: For Fans and Readers

--Similar to the aspiring author rule above...authors want to meet fans, but please be courteous. That means no following people into bathrooms (a rule that is shockingly broken at nearly every conference I've been to).

--Go out of your way to meet authors. Authors generally go to conferences for one reason, and one reason only: to meet readers. They want to meet you. So don't be shy. Get a book signed, chat, take a picture. Trust me, we love it.

--Buy Books. If you love an author, please support his or her work by buying a book or two at the conference. Even ask the author to recommend a fellow writer you might like as well.

--If you attend panels, try to refrain from asking questions like, "I love you and your books and I have a long story to tell you about it...". It's not that we don't want to hear your story--we do--but Q&A's are called that for a reason, and there are usually far more questions than time permits panelists to answer. So please tell it to us at a book signing or in the hotel so everyone can get the full experience. You'll have time to tell us your story, but those five panelists won't always have the chance to answer questions.

--Please do ask us specific questions about our books. I love it when a reader asks me about Henry Parker, or a certain scene in THE GUILTY. If you want to know what the author's motivation was, or why we had a character do such and such, those are often our favorite questions to answer. We love talking about behind-the-scenes stuff.

Part 3: For Newly Published Writers

--The courtesy rule extends to you too. Treat readers and aspiring writers as you would want to be treated. I've seen too many debut authors act dismissive towards fans, or rush people along on a signing line. These people want to meet you. Being published is a privilege--being read is an honor. Be humble about both.

--Never be 'that guy' in the bar. Authors like to drink. No secret there. But there's a fine line between tipping a few back in the hotel bar and having to be carried fireman-style back to your room.

--Don't hog the mic. If you're on a panel, less is often more. If you're a panel newbie, watch and learn. Take a page from the other writers on your the panel, and use discretion. Answer questions the best you can, but there's no reason to take up 10 minutes on a 45 minute panel to discuss your hatred for word processors or to go off on random tangents in response to questions that weren't asked.

--Be discreet about self-promotion. You are expected to plug your books, but don't do so at the expense of your fellow authors or your own dignity. I was on a panel last year where one author brought a massive stand-up display for his latest book that dwarfed the podium and was, frankly, embarrassing. Stand up your books (if everyone agrees beforehand), mention your latest book, but screaming "ME ME ME" won't win you any friends--or fans.

--Don't be shy about being a fan as well. At last year's ThrillerFest, I ended up alone in an elevator with Robert Crais. I had a total fanboy moment, nervous as hell, debating whether to say anything. In the end, I did. I introduced myself, told him I was a fan of his books, and he couldn't have been nicer. Be proud to be an uber book geek--I know I am--but don't let your geekiness get in the way of meeting your idols. (FYI, at last year's CrimeFest I ended up alone in a Men's restroom with Ian Rankin. I wisely left him alone.)

Part 4: For Everyone

--This is the most important tip, by far: Have fun. Enjoy yourself. The conference experience can be a wonderful one for everyone involved, and no matter which group you fall in to, you can leave having had a wonderful time, having made new friends, having learned about great new books, and having become a better writer.


Thursday, June 25, 2009

R.I.P. Michael Jackson

TMZ is reporting that Michael Jackson has passed away. This has been confirmed by the Los Angeles Times. Like millions around the world, I'm stunned. Growing up in the 1980's, I was a huge Michael Jackson fan. "Thriller" is one of two albums that dominated my Tape/CD players growing up--the other being "Use Your Illusion 1" by Guns N' Roses.

Jackson was one of the most famous people in the world and one of the iconic pop culture figures of all time: First for his music and incredible talent, and second, and sadly lastly, for his legal, emotional and financial troubles. The world has lost one of the greatest performers of all time, and one of the most tragic figures of all time.


Back from London

I got in late last night from an 8-day trip to London that was absolutely fantastic. I'll post pictures and more soon, but I want to thank everyone in the UK--especially my publisher--for really going all out and doing a fantastic job. And thanks to the readers who are already making THE STOLEN into a hit!

Two quick notes:

--THE STOLEN has already debuted on the UK Heatseekers bestseller list...and it only came out last Friday!

--THE STOLEN is currently #36 on the Tesco bestseller list, and if you look at the other books on that list you can see why I'm pretty thrilled. Any time you're that close to James Bond and Stephenie Meyer, it can't be a bad thing.

26. DEVIL MAY CARE - Sebastian Faulks
27. SILKS - Dick Francis
28. NEW MOON - Stephenie Meyer
29. ECLIPSE - Stephenie Meyer
30. TWILIGHT - Stephenie Meyer
31. FRACTURED - Karin Slaughter
32. MYSTERY MAN - Bateman
33. GYPSY - Lesley Pearce
34. TESTIMONY - Anita Shreve
35. THE OTHER HAND - Chris Cleave
36. THE STOLEN - Jason Pinter
37. GUERNICA - Dave Boling
38. SECRETS - Freya North
39. THE TAKE - Martina Cole
40. THE BUSINESS - Martina Cole
41. GREAT LOVER - Jill Dawson
42. THE ATLANTIS CODE - Charles Brokaw
43. PALACE COUNCIL - Stephen L. Carter
44. MR. TOPPIT - Charles Elton
45. FIRE AND SWORD - Simon Scarrow
46. BLACK WIDOW - Jessie Keane
47. DON'T LOOK TWICE - Andrew Gross
48. THE FIFTH VICTIM - Beverly Barton
49. DEADLY INTENT - Lynda La Plante
50. LIBRARY OF THE DEAD - Glenn Cooper


Saturday, June 20, 2009

THE STOLEN: now available in the UK

My third Henry Parker novel, THE STOLEN, has just hit shelves across the pond. The cover is fantastic, the book is getting great reviews, and I'm currently in London where I'll be helping to spread the word.

You can buy the book at your local independent bookstore, as well as at:

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Thursday, June 18, 2009

Now this is a grand sight


Monday, June 15, 2009

London and a Father's Day contest!

Tomorrow morning I leave for London--part vacation and part business--as THE STOLEN comes out in the UK on June 19th--the same day the mass market edition of KILLER YEAR hits UK shelves. Buy THE STOLEN here, and KILLER YEAR here. Posts will likely be limited over the next week or so, but hopefully I'll have some good pictures to share. In the meantime, we're going to have a little fun...

In celebration of Father's Day, I'll be giving away signed copies of the first three Henry Parker novels. You can enter three ways:

--Leave a comment on this blog
--Email me at (please type 'Contest' in the subject line)
--Send me an @ reply on Twitter (

One lucky winner will be chosen on Friday, and they'll receive signed copies of THE MARK, THE GUILTY and THE STOLEN to give to a Father of their choice.

Let the festivities begin!

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Thursday, June 11, 2009

A Conversation at the offices of Esquire magazine

Editor: We need to stir the pot a little, and nothing stirs the pot like criticizing something that everybody else seems to like without even trying to understand why people might like it in the first place. Let's's summertime...people go to the beach...people read on the beach...hey, let's do a hatchet job article on books people might read at the beach!

Writer: Great idea. There are already several books that I have to hold my nose at just to be in the same room with.

Editor: Terrific. Now, not only do you have to hate these books, but you also have to mock people who might like them. Make it clear you abhor literary commercialism. We're a serious magazine, and by taking a stance against these stupid books it will increase our street cred in the literary community. Don't make it too long, though, we need to save room for A.J. Jacobs's article about the time he wore a bunny outfit for a month straight.

Writer: This is perfect. I'll make sure our readers know how much we look down on commercialism. These books might look pretty and have millions of readers, but there's nothing of substance underneath. This is ripe for the picking!

Editor: Perfect, you have your assignment. Oh, and don't worry about reading the books. You can cherry pick a few lines or even words to make your case.

Writer: Good. I wasn't planning to.

Editor: Well this was a productive meeting, and I think your article will go a long way in showing the high regard with which we consider our culture. No schlocky books, nothing superficial in our magazines. We're all class, all the way. Oh, did you see our most recent magazine?

Writer: No, sorry, I've been re-reading the last fifty years worth of New Yorker issues in reverse chronological order.

Editor: Ooh, that sounds like fun. Will you be at the beach?

Writer: Nah, people who go to the beach are crass and stupid. And who needs the agita of putting on lotion? Personally, I like to read in the elevator of my apartment building. Makes the setting more intimate.

Editor: Totally. Anyway, check out last month's issue of our magazine.

Writer: Ooh, hot, isn't that the chick from Transformers? Megan Fox?

Editor: Yeah, totally. She's like half naked and everything. And check out our exclusive sexy Megan Fox video!

Writer: Is that her bra? Homina homina homina.

Editor: Tell me about it. Oh, and here's the most recent issue.

Writer: Oh good that...

Editor: Damn right, Bar Refaeli, this year's Sports Illustrated swimsuit cover model.

Writer: Awesome! And she's, like, totally naked! Wait...are those words painted on her naked, glistening body?

Editor: Yeah. I totally got to do that myself.

Writer: I'm so jealous.

Editor: So listen, get cracking on that article. Commercial literature is just crass and people who read it should feel ashamed of themselves. I'm glad you and I are here to make sure our magazine only covers issues of real substance.

Writer: Speaking of substance, I can see Megan Fox's boobies!

Editor: Totally! I love boobies! High five!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Anatomy of an Awesome Book Package

I like all my book covers. Each edition--whether foreign or domestic--has their own strengths. I'd be lying if I said there weren't a few covers I wish I could tweak here or there, but by and large I'm very happy with how my covers have come out and thankful that my publishers have really put a lot of thought and effort into them. I was happy with my book covers. Until yesterday.

Yesterday I received the first copy of the UK edition of THE STOLEN, which hits shelves across the pond on June 19th (UK fans can pre-order here). And I don't just like this edition. It doesn't just make me happy. I LOVE it. 

This thing is just beautiful. Sometimes in publishing you hear someone say, "Seeing the cover online doesn't do it justice." Well, seeing the UK edition of THE STOLEN does not do its cover justice. The whole package--front, spine and back--has this very cool silver/metallic finish that catches the light, reflects and will stand out on a shelf like nobody's business. When I say this cover shines, I mean it shines. Even the back cover and spine look cool. It's hard to say if this package is my favorite out of all my books--but it's hard to say that it's not. My sincere thanks to my UK publisher for doing just an extraordinary job on this book. I even took photos to analyze why this package works so well:

The fantastic front cover. Perfectly captures the book's tone, while also offering a clear central image that gives the reader an immediate sense of what lies within. The font is atmospheric, and the neat smudges and burn marks make the whole thing look ominous as hell. This baby should be in a textbook entitled "How to create an awesome book cover."

Does everything a back needs, and does it well: A bold reading line, a synopsis that hooks you, quotes to let you know that other people besides my publisher and I think the book is worth reading, and full color photos of my backlist so you can catch up on the whole series.

Did I say this baby shines? I mean it SHINES.

Central image. Title. Name. Shiny. Even the spine is cool.

Each of my foreign editions (give or take one or two that haven't arrived yet). The fact that my books are available in so many countries and so many languages still blows my mind.

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Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Funny Video Day

Zack Attack is back!

Zach Galifianakis interviews Bradley Cooper on "Between Two Ferns"

Click here for more "Between Two Ferns," including thought-provoking interviews with Natalie Portman, Jimmy Kimmel and Jon "Honey Baked" Hamm. I highly recommend this, and highly recommend that you see "The Hangover".

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Thursday, June 04, 2009

I've Been Punished

If you're a comic book fan, or have a strange desire to see me slaughtered in horrifically brutal fashion, pick up a copy of the new Punisher Max: Naked Kill, written by Bram Stoker award-winning author Jonathan Maberry. Aside from being a fantastic issue, Jonathan was kind enough to name a character after me. And if you want to see what happens to my character (it's the Punisher, I'm sure you have an idea) pick up a copy at your local comic book seller. And I don't want to hear anyone else say, "You got what was coming to you."

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