Kaitlyn Dunnett/Kathy Lynn Emerson here, with quite a story to tell. In the wee hours of last Wednesday morning, when I was having trouble sleeping, I went downstairs for a glass of milk and while I was there I checked my email and my Facebook page. Imagine my bleary-eyed surprise when a post containing the title of one of my Liss MacCrimmon mysteries, Ho-Ho-Homicide, popped up. What was even stranger, was that it was a link located on the Facebook page of Steven Zacharius, the CEO of Kensington Publishing Corp. Kensington publishes the series. Although I’ve been writing books for a long time, I’m definitely a mid-list author. I’m not often singled out for special attention. Then I took a closer look at the link and things got really weird. It was a clip from the Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon. Only the segment he was doing was one of his “Do Not Read” lists.
Can you say mixed feelings?
Taking a deep breath, I played the You Tube video. You’ll find a link to it at the end of this post. The good news is that there’s a quote in what he said that can be pulled and used for publicity. He really did say, while holding up my book, “It’s got two things that everyone likes: Christmas . . . and murder.” Of course, he then went on to make faces, hint that because of the “Ho” part of the title, the story focused on prostitutes, and generally imply that mixing Christmas and murder was unappealing, but since he was doing it for a laugh, and since I really like him in the movie Fever Pitch (go Red Sox!), the upshot was that I was not unduly upset by anything he said. Besides—usable quote.
I’m an optimist at heart. In the old days, having a book banned in Boston always helped sales, and in most cases, any publicity is good publicity. That’s like the theory that any review is good, even a bad one. It’s certainly true that most people remember that someone mentioned a certain book or movie but not what they actually said about it.
Now on to another clichéd saying: when life gives you lemons, make lemonade. It didn’t take me long to start thinking about how I could maximize the positive effects of having one of my books thrust into the spotlight. First, though, I went back to bed and slept on it. It was, after all, still the middle of the night.
When I got up again, I started spreading the news through my personal and author Facebook pages and I asked my retreat buddies (Kate Flora, Barb Ross, and Lea Wait) for suggestions. First on their list was one I’d already thought of, posting the news on the three mystery listservs I belong to—Dorothy L, Sisters in Crime, and New England Sisters in Crime. I did that, and I also asked if anyone on those lists had suggestions. By the time I went back on Facebook, writer friends were already spreading the word, including a post to “Save Our Cozies.” I spent most of that day and the next responding to emails and comments.
The responses I received were overwhelmingly of the opinion that any publicity is good publicity. The second most frequent reaction was to ask if I was getting a big bump in sales. The answer is: I don’t know yet. Ho-Ho-Homicide came out in hardcover in 2014 and was published in mass market paperback last year. Amazon didn’t have any paperbacks in stock. The ebook was already on sale for $1.99. By the time I looked at the Amazon stats, it was doing better than the other books in the series but was nowhere near hitting the top ten (or even the top hundred) in any category. On the other hand, quite a few people have said they have bought or will buy a copy based on seeing it on the Tonight Show. And my publisher has gone back to press on the mass market paperback.
Suggestions for making lemonade included sending Jimmy Fallon an autographed copy of the book, flooding social media, making Fallon the victim in my next mystery, making stickers that say “as seen on the Tonight Show,” creating a challenge for readers to read the book and vote on whether Fallon’s recommendation was right or wrong, with a Christmas-themed prize for the winner, making a poster of Jimmy Fallon holding up Ho-Ho-Homicide, volunteering to appear on the show and read other cozy titles, and writing a parody about Fallon’s obvious lack of familiarity with the genre.
There were two responses I particularly liked. One came from Leslie Budewitz, president of Sisters in Crime, who pointed out that Fallon was having fun with words, “something we can all get behind.” The other was from Clea Simon, who experienced something similar when she was featured in a Wall Street Journal article about an alleged feud between those mystery writers whose books feature talking cats and those whose cats don’t talk. It was “ultra-silly” she told me, but it gave her a huge bump in sales.
So what have I done besides social media? The biggie was sending a thank you email to DoNotRead@TonightShow.com in which I included a link to the first section of Mystery Readers International’s list of Christmas mysteries Christmas Mysteries A-D as proof that there are a whole heck of a lot of novels out there that combine Christmas and murder. I also mentioned that many of them have atrocious puns in the titles. If I get a response, I’ll be sure to report it in the Weekend Update section of this blog.
Meanwhile, a question: if you suddenly and unexpectedly found yourself (or something you’d created) in the national spotlight, how do you think you’d react? Here’s the link to the You Tube video: http://bit.ly/2bnfF8c
Kathy Lynn Emerson/Kaitlyn Dunnett is the author of over fifty books written under several names. She won the Agatha Award for best mystery nonfiction of 2008 for How to Write Killer Historical Mysteries and was an Agatha Award finalist in 2015 in the best mystery short story category for “The Blessing Witch.” Currently she writes the contemporary Liss MacCrimmon Mysteries (Kilt at the Highland Games) as Kaitlyn and the historical Mistress Jaffrey Mysteries (Murder in a Cornish Alehouse ~ UK in December 2016; US in April 2017) as Kathy. The latter series is a spin-off from her earlier “Face Down” series and is set in Elizabethan England. Her websites are www.KaitlynDunnett.com and www.KathyLynnEmerson.com