Wednesday, February 4, 2009

THE BUSINESS OF BOOKS, with novelist Jennifer Apodaca, writing as Jennifer Lyon

With the release of her first novel, DATING CAN BE MURDER in 2002, award-winning author Jennifer Apodaca launched what Publishers Weekly calls her “delightful light mystery series,” featuring spunky heroine Samantha Shaw. Apodaca took time out from her series in 2007 to release two standalone novels, THE SEX ON THE BEACH BOOK CLUB and EXTREMELY HOT, but that didn’t completely satisfy her desire for something new. This month she’ll debut the paranormal romance BLOOD MAGIC under a new writing name—Jennifer Lyon—with SOUL MAGIC to follow in November.

She lives in Southern California with her family.

What are the top 5 things you are doing to market your latest book?
This book/series I’m doing differently. I wanted to build a promotion plan that will grow with the series, and that will bring readers in as part of a community. I wrote up a two-page promotion plan, and sent it to my editor and agent. Here are five things from that:

1) I had a blog with a separate “About Jen” page professionally designed. While the books are dark and sexy, I went a little lighter on the blog design—something paranormal, sexy and inviting. The site is “open ended” so if things go well and the series takes off, I can add more pages to the site for a very reasonable cost. Because this is a blog where readers can comment, this makes the site interactive and hopefully will build a community where readers can participate.

2) I had specific goals for the site: Build my “new” name of Jennifer Lyon while creating interest in the book and the series. Everything I’m doing on the site works toward those two goals. The categories on the blog are things like Witches Rock—where I talk about witches in the book, then just fun witch stuff; Hunter’s Safari, where I talk about the witch hunters; Lyon’s Lair, where I have fun with who Jennifer Lyon is … there’s more but that’s the general idea.

3) I planned to drive traffic to the site by giving away a prize each week. The winner is drawn from that week’s comments. I’m doing this for five weeks, and then giving away a grand prize on the day of the book release. The grand prize is a necklace similar to the one the heroine wears in the book, so it’s tied to the book. The five weeks of prizes is basically a count down and a way to build excitement, I hope.

4) I had postcards made up to promote the book and “launch party,” and gave my editor several so she could show the sales and marketing folks what I was doing. I also wrote in my promotion plan all the other places that I planned to promote the new site, including my newsletter and various Internet groups I’m on.

5) The last thing that I can think of right now is that I’m doing all the blogs and interviews I’m asked to do. It usually turns out to be fun! I long ago realized that we really can’t tell how many people we reach, and the best thing to do is be ourselves and have fun while we promote our books.

What has been the biggest challenge of working with a new pen name?
First is just getting used to it! Jennifer Apodaca, the name I originally published under, is my real name. So I have to make myself identify and own Jennifer Lyon! After that, it’s two things: First, letting all the people who know me as Apodaca know that I’m writing under Jennifer Lyon now. I do that a few ways: I’ve put the information on my Web site, I let everyone who e-mails me know, and I’ve written blog posts about it for the Murder She Writes blog. I often use humor to do this. Then I have to start building the name Jennifer Lyon, and “branding” it as a hot paranormal author. My new site, is all about that!

Did you work alone on your book promotion strategy, or in conjunction with a publicist?
I always try to let my editor and agent know what I’m doing, at least with the bigger stuff. I sent both of them a two-page “promo plan” and revised it from their remarks. I also showed them the template of my Web site and made changes per their input. For the smaller things, like where I’m guest blogging, I don’t usually tell them unless I think it’s something they should know. But I’m a big believer in keeping your editor and agent in the loop. They are invested in your career and will usually do whatever they can to help you. Additionally, they have invaluable experience that can be a tremendous help to keep us from making expensive mistakes.

What is the most important lesson you’ve learned about promoting books?
Oh man, I wish I knew! I know the number one thing that I DON’T do, and that is regarding reviews and comments. I don’t respond to bad reviews, or troll the Web looking for anyone who is saying less than glowing things and challenge them. I think the most important thing we have as authors is our name, and I can’t see how getting into a flame war (and it almost always will become one) builds my name in any useful way. I learned this lesson by observation.

Also, I try to remember that anything I write can get forwarded. So if someone e-mails me that they have issues with my books, I try to respond in a polite, respectful way, even when they are not being respectful. It’s not always easy, but at least I know that if the e-mail gets spread around the Internet, I won’t have anything to regret.

As to active promoting, I guess I’ve learned three things:

1) Be nice to everyone. I’ve talked to people in causal conversations, maybe at the coffee shop at a conference, who ended up going out to buy my book, become a fan and spread the word. That kind of “real” word of mouth is a powerful tool in promotion.

2) Don’t take yourself too seriously. It will help you keep perspective. There will be bumps, bad reviews, unfortunate covers, setbacks at the publishers, various things can and will happen. The world is not just about me, and most things that happen aren’t persona,l and by not taking myself too seriously, I am able to keep that in perspective.

3) Have a sense of humor! A sense of humor has rescued me more than once from situations where I’ve put my foot in my mouth or something has gone wrong.

With your past books, what aspect of the promotion seemed to result in the most book sales?
Anything that generates word of mouth. One thing that really helped with my mysteries was setting up signings at mystery bookstores. These were stores that knew their readers, hand sold books, and I always had very successful signings there. But in general, books signings are hit and miss for romance.

One thing that has been helpful is the group blog at We started with five very different authors, and we all drew in different people to the site. That cross-section of people began to get to know all of us, and they tried books from authors they wouldn’t normally have even known about. And then they spread the word, and that’s what “viral” promotion is all about. Now we have 10 authors blogging there. But a site like that takes a fair amount of work and cooperation.

Newsletters keep people who are already fans up to date on your releases. That way they know to go to the store and buy your book when it’s out.

How do you balance writing with the business side of being an author?
The truth is that I’m not great at promotion. I do what I can, but the idea of going out there and selling myself isn’t my cup of tea. So I try to play to my strengths, like humor and the fact that I like casual chats with readers. I tend to stay away from appearances that require a formal, polished speech, but I’m perfectly fine doing a “chat” that engages the readers so that it becomes interactive. I don’t like doing readings, but I’m more than happy to go to a readers group and answer questions. I find that if I keep it to things I enjoy, it helps me balance things, and I spend less time worrying so I can concentrate enough to write when I have the time.

But that doesn’t always work. Sometimes I have a deadline and very little time for promotion. Then I write. I have to, my job is to write the books first, them promote as time allows.

Any other advice for newly published authors?
Enjoy the experience, then get to work and write the next book. And then the next one. Learn to filter out all the noise of reviews, praise and criticism, and keep writing. It is so easy to get sidetracked from our jobs of writing books. The business will have its ups and downs, trends will come and go, but the only way we can have a successful, long-term career is if we keep writing more books.


Favorite item on your writing desk: A little guy my son made in pottery class. I love him!
Favorite way to procrastinate: The Internet! E-mailing with friends! I can waste hours that way. Sad…just sad.
Favorite literary character: Does Old Yeller count? I think one of the most memorable is Scarlett O’Hara from GONE WITH THE WIND. I read it in high school. Oh! Then there’s Scout from TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD, which I read even younger and was my first taste of injustice. Those are the ones that come to mind right now.
Favorite CD: I don’t have a favorite CD, I have an iPod with various songs. I love my iPod! However I don’t listen to it very often when I’m writing. It sits on my desk for the occasional time I want music, but I mostly write to silence.
Favorite snack: Raspberry Latte!

For more on Jennifer Apodaca and her books, visit and


Jen Lyon said...

DeAnna, thank you so much for having me on your blog today!

Barrie said...

Thanks to the two of you. Great interview!

DeAnna Cameron said...

I'm honored you took the time, Jen. And welcome, Barrie. I'm glad you enjoyed it.

Alyson Noel said...

Jennifer's The Best!! Looking forward to her new book!

Jen Lyon said...

Barrie, DeAnna is great, isn't she? She made the interview fun for me.

Jen Lyon said...

Alyson, so great to "see" you here! Thanks on the book, I hope people like it :-)

DeAnna Cameron said...

Hi, Alyson!
And, Jen, I've gotten quite a few messages offline about your interview, too. People love that you've gone into detail on your answers. It really helps those of us who just starting to put together marketing plans for our releases :-)

Jen Lyon said...

DeAnna that is so nice! I always feel like I'm just yammering on and on :-) You have an awesome blog and it's a real pleasure to "appear" on it!