Tuesday, April 14, 2009


On Saturday I was part of a panel for NorCal MWA, talking about the various subgenres of mystery fiction. Other panelists were Penny Warner, Robin Burcell, and Sophie Littlefield (next to me at the table), and brilliantly moderated by Tim Maleeny. Our own Terri Thayer was present and added much to the discussion. We covered topics ranging from the conventions of different subgenres to finding a niche market for our books.

I won't rehash whether we thought "the cop boyfriend" is overused, or whether talking pets add to or detract from the cozy genre. My biggest insight is best described by the photo.

Notice the pile of STUFF in front of me. I have promotional postcards, souvenir rulers, a folder of articles from my research, a one-page handout on the conventions of the cozy, 2 book covers from my first series showing the difference in approach for the same book, a notebook and pen for jotting down thoughts from others, a mini reading scene I put together featuring the books of the panelists and others, a badge with my bookcover on it, and a Writers Digest version of the subgenres to pass around.

Sophie's place at the table is bare—not even a pencil. The paper you see is MINE. Yet she managed to talk quite a bit, be very entertaining, and give a great deal of information. So did Robin, whose place was also bare. Penny had some STUFF, but not as much as I did.

Is it me or is it the genre? Cozies do lend themselves to tchotchkes, but I may, just may, overdo it. Does it come from teaching science for so many years, when I always had demo equipment or a model of the atom in front of me? But even when I taught philosophy, I had STUFF -- a cartoon, a page of quotes, a video clip of a piece of dialogue that was pertinent.

Do you need stuff to make your points? Do I?

I have thought about going cold on this. STUFF is heavy to carry around (unless you're traveling with Ann Parker, who will carry your bag for the price of a cup of coffee, or less!) and it takes a long time for me to pack, even for a simple book signing. But the fact is, I have fun doing it. I might always do it.


Ellen said...

It could have been hats. Big hats take up even more traveling space. And they're squishy.

Sheila Connolly said...

I think there are a couple of points to consider. One--do you feel more comfortable speaking with props? If it puts you at ease to hold up a bookcover or point to a chart, do it.

Two--marketing. This topic comes up a lot, and nobody knows what giveaway works. You want people to take something away that will remind them of your book(s), but as you said, it's too easy to go overboard with cute (and expensive) things. It's a balancing act--but people do like freebies.

Rosemary Harris said...

I have done daisy keyrings, and seed packets for both books. I think the diehard readers like to have something related to the books, they're fun (I can still remember my I Believe in Garp bumpersticker when I was a kid!)I think it's less about the value of the thing than its ability to keep your name out there. I only did the keyrings because I was going to Malice and didn't have a cover yet, but the seed packets were a no-brainer. I wasn't going to do them this year but people kept asking me for them.

Terri Thayer said...

That was a fun talk, Camille. Maybe MWA Norcal should do a panel on Marketing. You could bring all your stuff again.

I'm changing my to-do list to include getting more tchotchkes.

Camille Minichino said...

On the giveaways -- I try to make them useful, like Rosemary's seed packets. I gave away a pocket/purse size periodic table for my first series (what could be more useful?) and rulers for the hobby series. A marketing panel would be great. Or a marketing week on our blog?

I'm glad I don't have to carry around big hats, but they're spectacular on Monica.

Terri -- what quilt item might work? A thimble??

Linda O. Johnston said...

Bookmarks! Yes, not everyone loves them, but I've tried a lot of different giveaways and I've come to rely on bookmarks as calling cards (although I do have more official-looking cards, too)and promotion. My second choice is keychains--also small and definitely promotional.

Joanna Campbell Slan said...

Okay, dish girls. Where do you buy your keychains? I found a source to make buttons cheaply. Wow, I'm always looking for goodies. I love bookmarks, but I think we authors overlook the power of good-looking, useful handouts.

Maryann Miller said...

LOL, Camille. I, too, used to have a lot of props when I did talks. Maybe it was an instinct to have enough piled up in front of me I could hide. :-)

Now, I have become more comfortable speaking to groups, either alone or on a panel, and I usually just have a single copy of my latest book in front of me. The other items I bring to events are put on a give-away table.

Anonymous said...

Stuff (not greed) is good! It shows you care enough to give..... I love every little thing picked up along the way....xoxoxox

Betty Hechtman said...

I'm a little late on a comment. I do bookmarks like Linda -- actually just like Linda since she turned me on to her printer.

I also did a mailing of postcards for both of my books. It was a lot of work. I personally stamped and stuck on every one of the 1800 labels.

Michelle said...

I still have my periodic table from Camille! Useful indeed...

As a talking/writing scientist, I tend to lug a lot around with me - but did go more or less cold turkey this year for various and sundry reasons (some of them having to do with living in a room in a monastery the size of walk in closet with one drawer for storage for more than a month -- THAT can get you do downsize "stuff" in a flash!)