Do you think readers would be more likely to buy a $25 hardcover from a debut author if it included free ebooks on CD from a well-known author? Discuss.

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But I guess it's sort of a catch-22. You can't get reviews in prominent publications unless you write well; nobody knows how well you write unless you get reviews in prominent publications.

As for a sexy hook, I've been working on the flap jacket copy for Pocket-47, to be released by Oceanview Publishing May 2011. Here's my latest version:

Rule #2 in private investigator Nicholas Colt’s Philosophy of Life: If you have a good Tuesday, Wednesday is likely to be a bitch.

Welcome to Wednesday.

Fifteen-year-old Brittney Ryan has taken to the streets. Colt is hired to find her and bring her home.

Piece of cake, he thinks. A surprise visit to the forbidden boyfriend should put this one in the scrapbook.

But something more sinister is behind Brittney’s disappearance, and Colt soon finds himself in an ever-widening maze of deceit, betrayal, and murder.

And, when he learns what the mysterious phrase Pocket-47 means, he is haunted even more by the plane crash that killed his family and rock band twenty years ago--a crash he now realizes might not have been an accident.

Colt is determined to save Brittney and untangle the threads of his own tortured past.

Unfortunately, one of the most heinous and violent criminals in modern history has other ideas.

Which might be okay, because…

Rule #1 in Nicholas Colt’s Philosophy of Life: Screw the rules. Let’s jam.
But I guess it's sort of a catch-22. You can't get reviews in prominent publications unless you write well; nobody knows how well you write unless you get reviews in prominent publications.

For a first novel in a gene there are a lot of publications that might not be considered prominent but are very important. Places like Crimespree and all the online mystery discussion groups like 4MA and so on. Let's face it, genre was invented as a marketing strategy and in many ways it works.

If your book is PI there are PI specific places for reviews like the Thrilling Deective site. Think of those as peer review. If your book is well-reviewed there it'll get some buzz.

And, of course, an award nomination s good, too, so make sure it gets submitted to everything. Good luck with it.
Thanks, John!
Sounds like a fun one, Jude. Good luck!
Thanks, Jon!
Okay, I think it might help to get a blurb from a bestselling author, but if you are giving stuff away for free, use your own writing. That way you promote yourself, and it doesn't cost as much.
That would be the Cory Doctorow and JA Konrath method - give away the contents of the book, the whole book, as an e-book and sell the print copy. It works for them.

If ther's no "outside" story to a debut hardcover, if it isn't written by a celebrity or wasn't ispired by a famous "true" story, or just something else for the media to talk about without having to read a whole book, then debut hardcovers rely entirely on the strength of the writing. Reviews and word of mouth.

Every year at Bouchercon I get a big bag full of free books but I don't usually read very many of them.

There was a time when I may have bought a used copy of a debut hadcover. For the writer that has the same effect as giving away the e-book for free - they don't get any of the money and it spreads the word. That's really what Doctorow and Konrath are onto, not a new model but a return to an old one.
But I see books with crummy reviews on the NYT bestseller list all the time, John. I suspect it has more to do with marketing hype and coop placement.
Oh sure, I don't ever look at bestseller lists so I have no idea, really. But I'm told it's unusul for debut hardcovers to be bestselles, usually the print run isn't big enough that even if every copy sold it wouldn't make the list.

What gets one debut book marketing hype and co-op placement over another? Of course publishers will tell you they love every book they publish but they also send out a lot of arcs and monitor the reaction. Some books get more buzz. Sometimes the buzz is wrong and sometimes books really do come out of nowhere. Every week someone actually does win the lottery.

I would guess that Doctorow gets marketing hype and co-op placement because he's famous and he's famous because he gave away his books for free online and talked about it to anyone who would listen (and plenty of us who didn't want to listen ;) The same with Joe Konrath. He's been described as a tireless marketer of his books, but his sales really took off when he stopped marketing his specific books and started talking abut e-books and pricing and piracy. And giving away his own books for free.
But what if the well-known author was willing to do it for free, I.J.?
If the well-known author was doing what for free? He might give a blurb. I'm guessing that conventions like Bouchercon are a good place to ask for a reading and a blurb. Since I don't like celebrity blurbs, I've never tried this. But I notice that books are being marketed with such blurbs on the cover. Probably, a famous writer's blurb replaces all sorts of starred reviews. You would have to have a book that's similar to the celebrity's own.

As for what the discussion above touched on: there is a big difference between most bestsellers and an outstanding novel from a new writer. Bestsellers very rarely get there via great reviews. They get there by turning out a fast and easy read on a topic people eat up. That's why they get bad reviews. Some of us prefer the starred reviews, even if they don't translate into huge sales.
Of course one would hope for great reviews as well, but we have no control over those.

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