Sick of this heat? Pour yourself an iced drink and watch thriller writers, MJ Rose and JA Konrath, sweat it out this month as they race to see which marketing strategy--blogging or bookstores--will best sell their newest books.
International best-seller Rose opted for the virtual highway or blogging to promote her latest, The Venus Fix (July, 2006), featuring sex therapist Dr. Morgan Snow. This third book in her Butterfield Institute series dives into an explosive combination of Internet sex, online pornography and adolescents.
Konrath who injects humor into his crime novels is burning rubber on America's highways to promote Rusty Nail (July 2006), the third book in his Whiskey Sour series featuring Lt. Jacqueline (Jack) Daniels.
Rose plans to link to 500 blogs by summer's end to create buzz and book sales.
Every time a blogger writes about The Venus Fix, and links to an interview about her book or Vidlit video trailer of her novel, Rose will donate $5.00 to one of three charities. Participating bloggers choose the charity and are eligible to enter in a weekly drawing to win a signed, personalized copy of The Venus Fix. For details go to MySpace.
"It's altruistic, sure," says Rose, "But the goal is to sell books."
Konrath plans to visit 500 bookstores where he'll sign books and meet booksellers to create buzz and book sales. Spending no more than 20 minutes at each bookstore, Konrath promises to list participating booksellers in the acknowledgement pages of his next novel. He also gives away signed drink coasters before hopping back into his 1995 Suzuki Sidekick a.k.a. Rustymobile and heading to the next bookstore. Konrath relies on his GPS, which he affectionately calls "Sheila," to get him there.
Whoever sells more books by September wins a bottle of Champagne.
A few weeks ago, I checked in with both authors to see how things were going. We met, appropriately, at the Algonquin Hotel in Manhattan at the Backspace writers' conference, a two-day event packed with top agents, editors and writers. In the low-lit lounge, MJ looked cool and coifed in her black suit and shoulder length blond hair. Konrath looked round-shouldered, like he'd spent his summer hunched over the wheel of a...well...car.
The banter between the two sounded like this:
Rose: I don't think I'll win because Joe has control. I have to rely on others to blog about me.
Konrath: I don't think I'm going to win because the Internet catches on. It becomes viral. All she needs is a couple of people who catch on.
Rose: I'll know if I fail if I sell fewer books but the issue is this: there's so few ways to sell a book. I have to figure out a different way. If we do nothing, nothing will happen.
(Book stats are daunting: 10,000 novels are published yearly or 200 each week. Authors competing for readers' time have about three weeks to make a showing on the bookshelves.)
Meanwhile, the race continues. As of August first, Konrath reported on his blog (www.jakonrath.blogspot.com) that he's been to 262 bookstores.
In a phone conversation, Rose says she's linked to 53 blogs. " It doesn't sound like much compared to Konrath's 262," she says, "but momentum is building. We're expecting a big bump in 10 days. There's an exponential growth effect."
In Konrath's case, there might be an exponential fatigue effect.
Since he launched his Rusty Nail book tour in July, The Rustymobile has logged in 5655 miles, from California to Massachusetts.
"Yeh, I'm tired," says Konrath whose biggest mishap has been an air conditioning leak in the car.
Konrath made the best of that drippy situation. He stuck a picnic cooler under the leak.
"The cold water," writes Konrath in his daily blog, "keeps my cans of energy drink nice and cool without having to stop for ice all the time. Lemons and lemonade..."
As for Rose, she's admitted to signing a few books at her local bookstore. Otherwise, she's been car-free, working 4-5 hours a day on her next book.