Wednesday, June 3, 2009

The Edge of Night

"Sometimes I feel as if the marketing is the tail wagging the dog."

Hannibal Jones is back and stirring up trouble again! This time with the Russian Mob and a beautiful woman with secrets.

My guest today is Austin Comacho, author of five books in the Hannibal Jones series.

Most authors work hard on their manuscripts so as to have them published. The focus is always on the making of the story and making it the best it can be. Once it hits the publisher it takes on a life of it's own. There are edits, revisions, line edits, deadline after deadline, Galleys, ARC copies, and...promotion. The transition from writer to published author can be overwhelming. Even authors with several books under their belt find this time nerve wracking as all the 'what if's' attack.

So, what's it like those few days before release and the insanity of promotion begins? Austin shares his thoughts:

Just three days before my big book release party I feel as if I’m poised on the edge of a knife with spectacular success on one side and abysmal failure on the other. I’m not worried, exactly, but there is a certain amount of uncertainty. Anxiety? Maybe apprehension. A lot of time and effort has gone in to getting to this day but now we’ve reached the point where it’s too late to do more, too late to make a difference. Nothing left to do for now but wait. Will the Washington Metro area turn out to cheer my successful book launch, or will I be listening to crickets chirp and my wife’s sobbing while hundreds of dollars worth of wine and h’or douvres go to waste?

My lovely wife Denise put much time, sweat and tears into setting up a fabulous event in a fabulous place, to attract the local literary leadership. This event will be a bellwether, an indictor of how well I can expect to do at the first bookstore event, at the Borders Superstore in Waldorf, Maryland. And THAT event will be an indicator of the life Russian Roulette will have.

Russian Roulette, my latest novel, was a labor of love. The Fifth in my Hannibal Jones mystery series, the book allowed me to continue the rising and advancing of my protagonist’s spirit and I want to share that experience with as many people as possible. Goodness knows I’ve done all I could think of to make the book explode onto the scene. I’ve tried old school paper marketing, internet marketing, and personal appearances.

The old school way begins with free books. After mailing out review copies to all the usual suspects I gave away another stack of books to anyone who would promise to post a review in four different places on line.

I got a bunch of blurbs from favorite mystery writers who are also pals. I bought print ads in Mystery Scene and Crimespree Magazine. I bought a list of 5,000 mystery readers so I can send each of them a postcard announcing the new novel. And I sent personal letters to each of the 47 bookstores in this country that specialize in mystery fiction informing them of the imminent release of Russian Roulette and respectfully asking (alright, begging them) to order a few copies. I also promised them a pizza party for their staff if they sell 50 or more copies of Russian Roulette. Yeah, I’m shameless.

For the on line audience I got a book trailer produced and made a promotional video for Russian Roulette myself. I launched a blog tour, appearing on several mystery and literary blogs, and I’ll be on 10 more (at least) in June. That is not my favorite kind of writing, but it is essential in the 21st Century to get the buzz mill running.

And I’ve arranged for a dozen personal appearances at writers’ clubs and book stores. That’s the easiest part for me. I love being face-to-face with readers, explaining my books and discussing their favorites to find if my work is a good fit. Writing aside, this is the best part of being an author. And every hand I shake is another potential fan for the whole series. Someday, that could even make this writing addiction evolve into a decent living.

Sometimes I feel as if the marketing is the tail wagging the dog. My wife Denise is very supportive but sometimes I think she misses the point. I don’t get discouraged if a book doesn’t sell a million copies because it’s not about the sales. It’s about the writing. It’s about that process that spins random straw thoughts and ideas into golden chapters.

I know I won’t get rich from sales of Russian Roulette, but the book deserves its fair share of attention. It isn’t simply a good story with a social conscience, putting good characters into a complex puzzle of a plot. It is the distilled embodiment of all the hours I could have spent with my lovely wife Denise but instead chose to give a keyboard my attention. It is the concentrated essence of her hopes that I will one day achieve my dream. At its core are the lunch hours I spent creating instead of relaxing, the early mornings, the late nights, the surreptitiously stolen moments when no one was looking. It deserves the eyes of an appreciative public, and I want so badly to give the book what it deserves.

But the ugly truth is that a book does not become popular in the marketplace just because the author wants it to be. No matter how good it is, you can’t force a book into buyers’ hands. You can’t will a novel onto the best seller list. You can only do your best to draw attention to your baby and hope that you stumble upon that magical combination of writing quality, buzz, distribution and timing that will raise your literary voice above the din of the thousands of worthy contestants whose fiction enters the lists every year.

So here I sit, three days before the kickoff of my own big game, poised on the edge of night. But is that dusk I see approaching, or the glow of dawn?
Austin S. Camacho is the author of five novels in the Hannibal Jones Mystery Series (including The Troubleshooter, Blood and Bone, Collateral Damage, Damaged Goods and Russian Roulette) and two in the Stark and O’Brien adventure series. His short stories have been featured in three anthologies from Wolfmont Press, most recently Dying in a Winter Wonderland – an Independent Mystery Booksellers Association Top Ten Bestseller for 2008 - and he is featured in the Edgar nominated African American Mystery Writers: A Historical and Thematic Study by Frankie Y. Bailey.

He is also a public affairs specialist for the Department of Defense. America's military people know him because for more than a decade his radio and television news reports were transmitted to them daily on the American Forces Network.

He was born in New York City but grew up in Saratoga Springs, New York. He majored in psychology at Union College in Schenectady, New York. After three years, he enlisted in the Army as a weapons repairman but soon moved into a more appropriate field. The Army trained him to be a broadcast journalist. Disc jockey duties alternated with news writing, video camera and editing work, public affairs assignments and news anchor duties.

During his years as a soldier, Camacho lived in Missouri, California, Maryland, Georgia and Belgium. He also spent a couple of intense weeks in Israel during Desert Storm, covering the action with the Patriot missile crews and capturing scud showers on video tape. While enlisted he finished his Bachelor's Degree at night and started his Masters, and rose to the rank of Sergeant First Class. In his spare time, he began writing adventure and mystery stories set in some of the exotic places he'd visited.

After leaving the Army he continued to write military news for the Defense Department as a civilian. Today he handles media relations and writes articles for military newspapers and magazines. He also teaches writing classes at Anne Arundel Community College and is deeply involved with the writing culture. He is an active member of Mystery Writers of America, International Thriller Writers, Sisters in Crime, American Independent Writers, the Maryland Writers Association and the Virginia Writers Club.

Camacho has settled in Springfield, Virginia with his wife Denise.


~Sia McKye~ said...

A warm welcome to you Austin. I'm so glad you're visting with us Over Coffee. :-)

Help yourself to coffee, or tea if you prefer. Please tell Hanibal to stay away from my liquor cabinet--especially my fine Scotch, or he'll have worse than the mob after him.

Austin S. Camacho said...

Thank you so much for having us over, Sia. I can't wait to see what your readers have to say.

And don't worry about Hannibal! he's an absolute coffee snob and much prefers a good cup of java to alcohol. ;-)

Judi Fennell said...

Heh, and people think I'm a marketer! Hat's off to you, Austin!

(try having edits due in 2 weeks while your launch is happening - THAT's fun...!)

Austin S. camacho said...

I agree that's evil, but I find it worse to be trying to write the next one AFTER the launch. The cycles overlap - writing, editing, marketing - but it's so much better than living on ad copy or writing the obits, right?

Kat Sheridan said...

Austin, so nice to meet you! And YAY, I trained as a broadcaster for the Air Force! Your book sounds wonderful--I watched the trailer and you did a great job on it (with your background, no wonder it looks so professional!) What an original and intriguing concept! I wish you the very best of luck with your launch, and kudos to Denise for being such a supporting partner (and kudos to you for recognizing that!) Still being in the yet-to-be-pubbed category, I can't imagine the insanity of trying to do all that promotion and still find time to write (and have something resembling a "real" life!)

Sia, you do have the most interesting guests, and I do adore the new look of the blog! The slideshow is wonderful! And now, since we *are* friends, you woulnd't mind sharing just a splash of that Scotch, would you? LOL!

Good luck again, Austin!

~Sia McKye~ said...

That's a good point Kat. Family support is vital isn't it? Without it, I think an author's job is much harder.

Kat, glad you like the new look of the blog. As far as my scotch, hmmm, you must still be on Paris time, lol!

~Sia McKye~ said...

Austin, I only serve the best coffee--none of that whimpy stuff, or the stuff you have to drink at work. Military coffee is always so....awful. No wonder they have various coffee shops on Post, it's defense, I tell you.

Austin S. Camacho said...

Kat, I will pass your comments on to my lovely wife Denise. I could never do this without her total support.

And Sia, in the book you'll see that Hannibal grinds a custom blend of Kenyan, Colombian, and Guatemalan coffees that he gets from a favorite coffee shop, so you'd prolly like to share some of his.

~Sia McKye~ said...

You got that right, Austin. Tell him I'll give him some fresh baked cookies, scones, and muffins, for some of that, lol!

~Sia McKye~ said...


Libby Malin Sternberg at 11:15am June 3

I read this on your blog and couldn't agree more. So much depends on things outside the author's control -- particularly placement in bookstores.

Sheila Deeth said...

Great to meet you. The transition sounds really scary but it makes fascinating reading. Hope that light you see is a wonderful dawn.

Anonymous said...

It's nice to meet you, Austin. What an interesting and full life you lead! When you wrote your first book, was it with the intention of making it into a series? If so, what were some of the challenges you encountered?

Dana S

Austin S. Camacho said...

Dana, I didn't start out with any such ambitious thoughts, but about halfway through The Troubleshooter I knew it would be a series. I care too much about these people to just let them float in limbo. They really do come to me asking, "What happens next in my life?"

One of the underlying themes of the series is the rising and advancing of Hannibal's spirit as life changes him (as it does us all.) The only real challenge for me is keeping the characters moving forward to hold your interest, yet trying not to let them change TOO much, which would alienate some readers.

Great question!

aries18 said...

How great to meet you Austin. Your books sound terrific and are now on my TBR list. I appreciate how your characters become real to you and especially how you don't want to let them go until they have told their full stories.

Thanks Sia for bringing us yet another terrific author providing us with inspiration and motivation.

aries18 said...

Oh! Sia, I totally forgot to say how much I love the new look of the blog! And you say you aren't a techie! Very sharp site with lots to see.

~Sia McKye~ said...

Thank you Wanda. I'm not techie, perse, I had some help with the codes through a friend, Lea, who is phenomenal with that sort of stuff. I like the picture of Scotland at the top, I've had it for sometime but hadn't had a chance to use it and the hunky Scot warrior until I was working on it yesterday and last night.

I have Austin's book on my To Be Read pile, too. I love stories like that. :-)

Helen Ginger said...

Jimmenee, Austin, I don't know when you're sleeping. All your marketing amazes me - and impresses me enough to look for your book. That and the fact that it sounds really good!

Straight From Hel

Linda S. Socha said...

Great post!
I am impressed and look forward to checking out this series....

~Sia McKye~ said...

Helen, thanks for stopping by.

For sure Austin has worked hard as has Denise. Very impressive.

~Sia McKye~ said...

Thank you Linda! A lot of good info shared. I liked Austin's book trailer too.

Austin S. Camacho said...

It is just wonderful to have made so many new friends! I hope everyone who reads Russian Roulette will send me a note with some feedback - - so I can keep getting better. And thanks again, Sia, for introducing me to your wonderful readers!

Anonymous said...


OMG...your site is beautiful! Lea gave me a heads up to come over and peek...then I read the article...awesome interview! Austin's book is a need to buy...

cyber hugs, hon! Great job on it all!


Cym Lowell said...

Sia- Nice Article. I am doing a blog entry tomorrow "spotlighting happenings around the web", I will link to your site. My readers will love this interview.

Austin- I recognized the Book from ITW site Great ideas on the marketing blitz you have created...impressive. I look forward to reading the book and blogging about it!

~Sia McKye~ said...

Cym, thank you. I will stop by tomorrow and check out your site and say hi. :-)

~Sia McKye~ said...

Hawk, *big grin*, thanks. I think it looks wonderful with lots of help from the wonderful wizard, Lea. She knows so much about codes and such. She was a wonderful resource. Thanks for your help too. :-)

Hugs right back attcha!