Monday, April 5, 2010


By Sandra Balzo

This morning someone asked me, “How’s the book going?”

When I was writing my first book, UNCOMMON GROUNDS, that question always elicited an eager, detailed response. Certainly more detailed than the poor questioner probably wanted or expected. Five years later, with that book still unpublished, the question would make me want to turn tail and run. Two years after that, the people asking it started to do the same.

Now, fourteen years after I wrote UNCOMMON GROUNDS, “How’s the book going?” just confuses me.

“Which book?” is what I want to say, but that sounds like I’m pretty damn full of myself. God knows this is EXACTLY what I’ve always wanted to do, from the time I picked up my first DICK AND JANE book. I am not complaining.

Fact is, though, I have a contract requiring a book every six months (I know, I know—I was caught up in the excitement of the moment). The sixth of my Maggy Thorsen books is coming out in September, and I have a second series in the works. That means I’m promoting FROM THE GROUNDS UP, even as I’m proofing galleys of A CUP of JO, while working on the manuscript for the first book in a new series (I’d tell you the name if it had one yet).

Like I said, I’m not complaining. I did find, though, that -- especially in promotion -- some things are worth my time and others aren’t. With that first book, I did everything I could think of – and I’m a public relations person/publicist by trade. Publicity eventually became a black hole, eagerly sucking away as much time and money as I was willing to pitch into it, but with nebulous (sorry, space-dust joke) results.

At the risk of BSP (Blatant SinC Promotion), I have to tell you that one of the best promotional tools I’ve found is our own organization’s Mystery Book Club Database. Lorraine Bartlett (, bless her, provides the list to you in the form of an Excel spreadsheet. Group names, contacts, email and snail-mail addresses – everything right down to what type of books the group likes to discuss and whether they welcome author participation. But what makes this such a good list is that the clubs have asked to be on it. Of the 120 personalized emails I sent out, nearly thirty-five percent were opened. That’s a five percent higher open-rate than my own fan (read: friends and family) newsletter.

Not only that, but I got a ton of replies -- thank you’s, no less. And invitations to speak. Wow. I was so impressed I did a book giveaway to library-based book clubs on the list. Not only did the libraries benefit, but I introduced new readers to the first book in the series and cleaned out my closet. A win-win-win!

Well, speaking of black holes, I’ve often feared blogging could become one for somebody like me. Best I get back to work on the book.

Any book.

Wishing you all the best on yours.
Sandra Balzo turned to mystery writing after twenty years in corporate public relations, event management, and publicity. FROM THE GROUNDS UP, Balzo's fifth Maggy Thorsen mystery, was released in the United Kingdom this past December and the US in March. A CUP OF JO will follow later this year. The first book in Balzo's second series will be out from Severn House in 2011. Visit her web site at:


Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for the blog. It really helps to read about the realities of book writing and the publishing world. Good luck with the books. I've got to get back to writing mine!
vp chandler

June Shaw said...

Oh my gosh, Sandra. How can you possibly do that? And really -- how is the book going: )?
Yay for Lorraine for doing all of that hard work for SinC!

Sandy Balzo said...

Lorraine does a wonderful job. I shouldn't talk about multi-tasking--look at her! The new book (Running on Empty, I think) is coming along. I spent all of yesterday researching home DNA tests and leeches. I love what I do!!

Jamie Freveletti said...

Great post! Sisters in Crime was the first organization that I joined when I was unpublished and it's been wonderful.

Steph Damore said...

SinC is definitely worth my time especially since I'm still unpublished. I can't wait to see how my involvement with the organization will grow.

Thanks for the post Sandra!

Elaine said...

Look at you! Love the picture of you in that fabulous coffee shop. Must have been a great place to inspire your success! Should be "how are the books going"? Busy-busy.

Sandy said...

That "fabulous coffeehouse" Elaine is talking about is hers! Or WAS hers (sniff). She and Mary Michalak gave me a place to write--Bless them!