Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Want to be a NYT Bestseller?

KJ Howe welcomes Maria V. Snyder, who just debuted on the NYT List at number 34 with her latest novel, FIRE STUDY.
I had the pleasure of meeting Maria when we were both completing our Master's in Writing Popular Fiction at Seton Hill University in Pennsylvania. Maria's career has really taken off. Her unique stories and powerful voice have created quite the fan base. Maria has kindly agreed to join us today to talk about the road to the NYT List dream.

Maria V. Snyder:

First off, I would like to thank the Banditas for letting me be their guest blogger today. Thank You!

Today I’d like to talk about reaching milestones. I’ve had some recent news – the kind that, for a writer is considered a major milestone. My latest book, Fire Study has reached the New York Times Paperback Best Sellers List! Yay! (My dh and kids brought me flowers and we celebrated by dancing around the living room. After that, I finished washing the dishes and started the laundry – such is the glamorous life ;>) And Fire Study has managed to stay on The List for another week, creeping up two places to be #32 for this week. Go Fire Study!

This is a big – no a huge deal in the publishing world. Publishers sell books – it is what they do and anything that helps them sell more is all good. For a writer – it’s a gigantic step forward in a writer’s career – or to stay on topic – a milestone.

How did I reach this milestone? I believe it was a combination of three factors. One part luck, one part editing and marketing savvy on my publisher’s end, and one part hard work on my end.

I have no control over luck – it’s a matter of the right readers picking up the books, buying them, and talking about them. I have no control over the publisher, either. J Harlequin decided to switch my Study books from their LUNA line to MIRA, change the cover art and format (from hardcover to trade size paperback), and re-release them, causing a 17 month gap between new books. When Fire Study finally was released as a trade paperback, many of my loyal readers were unhappy about not having a hardcover. But I had gained a bunch of new readers with the MIRA books, and with the cheaper paperback book, it eliminated the delay from some readers who would wait to purchase a copy until the book is in paperback. Obviously this worked well for sales – when you add in mailing out ARCs, and ads in a few choice spots, their efforts helped propel the book onto The List.

What I did have control over is the writing and promotion on my end. Writing a book that readers enjoy is fundamental to this whole enterprise, but there are plenty of books out there that are well written and enjoyable – so why aren’t they on The List, too?

Here’s where the hard work in promotion come in. I’m actively engaged with my readers. I answer every single email myself because I enjoy it. It’s a great way to connect with readers, and to market and promote my books. I usually add links to my other short stories and to my website and newsletter registration form. Sometimes the emails are from librarians and book store employees - then I offered to send bookmarks and signed labels to them - and discussion questions for the library's reading groups.

I’m on MySpace (I have a whole essay on how Myspace is a wonderful marketing and free resource for writers on December 4th 2007 on my Sfnovelists blog - http://www.sfnovelists.com/), and I have lots of “extras” on my website besides the typical “about me” and “about the book” sections. I have free writing tips, short stories, and run a number of contests to win signed books and other stuff.

I do as many book signings as possible. Even if only a few people show up for me, this is an excellent way to talk to the booksellers in person about my books. I tell them what the books are about, and who they can recommend the books to. I also will stop at bookstores and sign the books on the shelves (called signing stock) where ever I go, and talk to the employees about the books.

I have a monthly email newsletter that I send out every month. Basically, I include news about the books and my schedule, but I always include something fun. The fun stuff has been interviews with other authors, deleted scenes from my books, humorous pieces on the writing life, and short stories. Currently I’m sending out a short story in eight chapters/installments – one each month just for my newsletter subscribers. I think the short story and the newsletter have helped keep my readers interested in my Study world while they waited the 17 months between books.

I don’t say NO. Besides book signings, I’ve gone to conventions, spoken at book discussion groups, presented workshops for writers’ groups, done readings, had a phone chat with a high school book group over lunch, participated in live on-line chats, taught writing classes for the local college, presented talks at schools, done radio interviews, answered plenty of questions from readers who want to blog about me and my books, and answered students in school, doing book reports and writing articles in their school newspapers. Whew – I’m tired!

It is a ton of work and I’ve had to give up a few things (sleep, social life, and going to movies to name a few J) in order to dedicate more time to promotion. But it’s also fun – I truly enjoy talking to groups, and conventions are the only time I can catch up with my writing friends ;>
And I have an excuse not to clean the house – a true bonus!

Reaching a milestone has been very rewarding, but it doesn’t mean I can relax. Oh no – there is another milestone waiting in the distance. If I work hard enough, one of my books just might reach the #1 spot on The List – it might not – but it won’t be for lack of trying.

KJ: Maria, thanks for sharing your road to success. I know this is just the start of a long, very successful career! If anyone wants to connect with Maria, the links are below.


Maria’s website: http://www.mariavsnyder.com/
Maria’s MySpace page: www.myspace.com/mariavsnyderMaria’s MySpace Blog: http://blog.myspace.com/mariavsnyder

New York Times Best Sellers List for 3/16/08: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/03/16/books/bestseller/0316bestpapertradefiction.html?_r=1&oref=slogin
New York Times Best Sellers List for 3/23/08: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/03/23/books/bestseller/0323bestpapertradefiction.html


Suzanne Ferrell said...

Good morning and welcome to the Bandit Lair, Maria!!

OH boy..the Golden Rooster has finally come to Texas!! hehehe

Suzanne Ferrell said...

Maria, congratulations on making it onto the NYT list! That is such a super achievment for any writer. Some of the other Banditas will tell you I'm very interseted in PR for books, (not mine yet, since I'm not published, yet!), and in particular the personalized hand selling and book signings. Do you get a lot of hits on your MySpace pages from readers? I change out my books to feature friends new releases and trailers every few months.

Jeanne (AKA The Duchesse) said...

Yeah Suz! Snag that GR! :>

Maria, Congrats on the LIST! It sounds like you have a strong and really solid grasp on what it takes to connect with readers. And obviously a loyal following as well! :> I won't be a bit surprised to see you move up the list.

What do you think is the number one thing you've done to promote yourself that's given you the most "bang for the buck?"

Maria V. Snyder said...

Hello all! Thanks again for inviting me to post on your wonderful blog and for the congrats on the NYT List.

I left a message in my MySpace blog for my readers to come over.

I...er...sort of told them...you...ah..kidnapped me and I needed comments to be...er...freed. ;> I couldn't resist playing up on the Bandits reference!

As for your questions - Suzanne - I do get many hits on my MySpace page - my blog gets more with about 200-500 hits per week depending on content (the more posts the more hits).

Jeanne - That's a hard question! I don't get sales numbers broken down in a useful way for marketing - but I would guess my newsletter and being on MySpace have been the best ways for me to reach my readers. Since MySpace is free - that would qualify for the most 'bang for the buck' :)

KJ Howe said...


Thanks for joining us here today! I'm curious as to how your publisher reacted to the NYT news and if it will increase the amount of publicity dollars they might invest in your future novels...speaking of which, what's next???


Gillian Layne said...

Congrats Suzanne! Is it raining buckets in Texas like in Kansas?

Congratulations on the List, Maria! Your web site is beautiful, and very easy to navigate. And those MySpace stats are really impressive.

Love the "never say No" part! ;) I bet you are tired, but it must be fun making the connections.

Beth Andrews said...

Hi, Maria. Welcome to the Lair *g* Usually it's only our Golden Rooster who gets kidnapped but for you, we could make an exception ;-)

Congrats on hitting The List! How exciting!

My website will be "officially" launched soon and I was going to go with a quarterly newsletter but after reading this, I might switch to monthly or at least, every other month *g*

Do you use book trailers? What about other promotional tools such as bookmarks, pens, postcards etc?

Thanks for joining us and all the great tips!

Kimber Chin said...


And thank you for being so generous with the promotion tips.

Eve Silver said...

Maria, huge congrats on your success! Great post; thank you for sharing.

doglady said...

YAY, Suzanne! The GR was craving some Tex-Mex cooking or maybe some good old barbecue like the kind I had at the Cadillac Bar and Grill in Houston! YUM!!

Maria, I am printing this blog! What a great tutorial on book promotion. Sounds exhausting, but it worked. Kudos on the NYT Bestseller List. What a fabulous accomplishment. I am definitely going to check out your website as well. I don't know much about MySpace. Is it hard to do? (Computer idjit here!)

In the interest of self-promotion, I couldn't say anything until it was posted, but my novel LOST IN LOVE made is a finalist in the Marlene! I am so excited!

Now if I can just whip it into editor-worthy form and get someone to buy it I can use all of Maria's techniques to claw my way up the NYT list.

Heidi Ruby Miller said...


All of us at Seton Hill are extremely proud of you and your success.



jo robertson said...

Welcome to the Lair, Maria. It's good to have you here and to get a glimpse of your busy life! Congratulations on your success.

Suz, is our feathered friend now wearing one of those 10-gallon hats?

Thanks for bringing Maria to us today, Kim, and sorry for the earlier mishap. Readers, I'll re-post the topic on "Wasting Time" on my regular blog day, the 30th.

Maria, I'm certainly going to add Fire Study to my TBR list. Can you tell us a little about the book?

jo robertson said...

Doglady, super great news on the contest. You certainly deserve it. Congratulations!

Tawny said...

Suz, congrats on the GR - go you!!

Maria, welcome to the lair :-) Congratulations on the NYT list!! OMG how awesome that has to feel :-)

I love your list of promotional tools, and it definitely sounds like you work your tush off. I've heard time and again that there is only so much we authors can do, and that the bulk of the major promotional success comes from publisher support/co-op. Since you obviously work hard at promotion on your own, what's your take on that theory?

Tarot By Arwen said...

I got Maria's first book in a bag at RWA. I was mesmerized by the story! I pounced on the next one. The reason I went out and bought Fire Study was an email from Maria letting her list know it was out. I literally logged off the computer and got in my car. LOL I'm such a good reader that way.

KJ Howe said...

Dog lady, huge congrats on your final! I hope you wow the editor with your submission. Contests are a great way to keep that writing fire alive!

Great to see some familiar and new faces drop by! We all need folks like Arwen...rushing from the computer to go out to buy a novel. I love it!

I feel very fortunate to read Maria's work in the formative stages...I just hope no determined fan kidnaps me to find out what happens in her next novel. LOL If you haven't read Maria's work, be sure to start with POISON STUDY and go from there. She creates an entrancing world a la Harry Potter.

Fedora said...

Congrats, Maria! You've so much to be proud of! And thanks for sharing today!

Congrats, Suz!

Maureen McGowan said...

Congratulations, Maria! I'm so excited for you.

Katherine Ivy said...

Hi Maria,

What a great post about things an author can do to boost her career. I'm really impressed by all that you do with promotion. I felt a little weary just reading about it!

Huge congrats on hitting The List, that's such a feather in your cap and I couldn't be happier for you.

Hope Fire Study keeps climbing!


Elisabeth Naughton said...

Congratulations on your big news, Maria. That's so exciting!

Thanks so much for your fabulous post about promotion. As a newly sold author, this is on my mind big time. My first book won't be released until late spring '09, but I'm working up a business plan now so I'm ready.

I know you mentioned MySpace, but I was curious if you also have a Facebook page. A friend and I were discussing the pros and cons of each and which gives you 'more bang for the free buck'.

hrdwrkdmom aka Dianna said...

Congrats Maria! How long had you been published before you hit THE LIST? I have not read any of your work to date but that will be remedied ASAP!

hrdwrkdmom aka Dianna said...

Okay, help, there was another post going on and I have totally lost it.
doglady, congrats to you too for finaling in the Marlene! Before I could post there the whole thing disappeared and I can't find it.

hrdwrkdmom aka Dianna said...

Suzanne, congrats on the GR as well, he is one traveling bird for sure, how did he do with the St. Patrick celebrations??

Cassondra said...

Hi Maria and welcome to the lair!

Welcome also to all the new folks who've come from Maria's list to free her! We won't let her go easily...we have a reputation for being rowdy after all. Gotta maintain that.

Maria, thanks for the tips on marketing. We're always looking for ways to pimp books. Do you consider yourself a fast writer? I'm not fast, and I'm concerned about marketing (if I get the chance to do it) cutting into actual writing time. But there has to be time for both because that's our job.

You mentioned you've given up going out for movies with the family and such. Do you have a schedule you follow? How do you balance it so you don't end up on THE LIST and divorced? (I'm kidding about the divorce of course, but not about the question). Everything we do takes time. I'm so impressed by you and others like you who are able to make the absolute most of theirs.

Congrats on hitting the List and good wishes to keep climbing and for an even higher hit next time.

Cassondra said...

Doglady congrats on the Marlene final! Woot!

And how appropriate, that our head book pimp Suz would grab the GR on the day KJ and Maria post such a fab blog about selling!

Have I used enough exclamation points yet?!!!!

Donna MacMeans said...

Maria - I stand in awe of all you do! Thank you for sharing your tips. I'll have to see if I can integrate some into my life. I've already adopted the no housecleaning idea *g*

Unknown said...

Maria is truly a wonderful author and person! I've emailed and she is always quick to respond with warm answers. Her books are fantastic and i reconmend them to the world! Congrats Mrs. S and i hope to see you at number 1 some day as well!!!!

Annette Blair said...

Hi Maria, I'm one of your MySpace friends and I couldn't help dropping to shout CONGRATULATIONS! Go you! A milestone is right. I'm so happy for you. I can't wait to see you at #1.

Annette Blair

Michelle Buonfiglio said...

Congrats, Maria! A fab milestone, and you clearly worked very hard to achieve it. You have so many great instincts about promotion, and I love the "turn nothing down" mantra. :)

I'm looking forward to reading your article about mySpace, because I'm woefully undereducated about how to make it happen, and keep trying to carve out time to set it up. I have this fantasy about making friends with some 20something computer nerd who will do it all for me. You know what I mean.

Thanks for this great info.

Keira Soleore said...

Maria, welcome to the Bandita Lair, and a huge, huge congratulations to you on making the NYT extended bestseller's list.

I'm incredibly impressed with the amount of promotion you do for your work and yourself as a writer.

If I may enquire: How do you do it all? I.e., within the same twenty-four hours, how do you write, manage the business side of things, exercise, and manage the house and family? Do you have a schedule? Do you write everyday? Do you have a special day devoted just for promo?

That's a lot of questions. I'm just so awed by your list of accomplishments.

Pamela Palmer said...

Hi Banditas! I keep intending to stop by and I finally made it. :)
Maria, huge congratulations on making the LIST! I'm in awe of all you're doing to promote yourself and your books. Have you ever considered a Yahoo Group or Bulletin Board where your readers can chat among themselves or does the MySpace page serve that function?

Keira Soleore said...

PAM == Marlene == w00t! w00t! w00t!

Keira Soleore said...

Erm, Maria? If the Banditas kidnap you, I don't think you're gonna make it back. At least not till they've all become promo gurus like you. The Banditas are like that. Just ask MichelleB. She had to reveal all before she was let go.

Suzanne Ferrell said...

Yep, Gillian. Coming down like I live in a rain forest today! But it makes it dark and dismal...great sleeping weather for us vampires! :)

Helen said...

Congrats on the GR Suzanne

Big congratulations Maria you have worked really hard to get there and the books sound like fantastic reads that I have just added to my must get list.
Love the message you have left on your my space page. I do love it when an author does all you do for their readers I know it is always a thrill fr me when I get emails from my favourite authors and I have a lovely collection of coverflats and bookmarks that authors have sent to me and they are really special o me.
Have Fun

Maria V. Snyder said...

WOW!! I take my son to the orthodontist and run errands and Wow lots of great comments!

Thanks for all the heart-felt congrats :)

Now onto the questions.....

Kim - what's next? My next book will be Storm Glass (coming out April 09 - for now - it could change). It's set in the Study world, but this time Opal will be the main character. She's a glass artist/magician in Fire Study and I was really taken with her and wanted to try something new. To read the cover copy and first chapter go to my site: http://www.mariavsnyder.com/books

Beth - There is a book trailer for Poison Study. I have it on my MySpace page. I didn't pay for it - the UK publisher put it together and I think it's fab! I do pay for book marks and postcards. They're nice to have to give out and remind people about the books. I also have cards with all my email and website info on them to hand out.

Doglady - ruff, ruff, growl....er and for the rest of you - MySpace isn't that hard - I'm not a techno wiz at all (see my blog about Myspace for a good laugh). And Congrats on the Marlene!!

Jo - Fire Study is a hard book to sum up, but I'll try. It's the third book of a series - with Yelena as the main character. I tried to make each book its own story.

In Fire she has to deal with a number of problems. One - her unique powers are making the Sitian Council very uneasy since the last person who had those powers created an army of soulless people to attack the government. Second - as Liaison between Sitia and Ixia she's trying to keep war from breaking out. Third - she has to re-capture a serial-killing magician before he finds new victims. Fourth - a Fire Warper (evil magician) is after her and none of her powers can quench or call fire. Yikes! She's in some hot water and it's a good thing she has her brother, her love and her friends to help her - unless she succeeds in driving them all away.

You can read the first chapter of all my books on my website.

Tawny - The publisher's efforts do help - I've been lucky to get good support from them. Now I don't get the top of the line support - but I think without their help, it would take a lot longer to get onto the List - which brings me to Dianna's question - My first book, Poison Study was published in Oct. 05.

Elizabeth - I don't have a Facebook account. I would like to, but I'm too busy to add another site/time commitment. Although I do hear there is a "Study" group over there :)

Arwen - You Go Girl!! You helped put Fire Study on the List!

I think I can combine Keira and Cassondra's answers :) I am a slow writer - I do about one book a year. I'm fortunate to be a full-time writer - so I get my writing done while the kids are at school. I answer emails at night after the kids go to bed. I try and limit promotion to one day a week - and it's usually Sunday - although these days I haven't done any writing.

I wrote a blog about Juggling that gives a more in-depth look at how I do it. It's at http://www.sfnovelists.com and I wrote it back on Feb. 4th 08. I used the blog for a presentation at the Library of Congress. I actually juggled koosh balls at the LOC! I'm kicking myself for not videoing the talk - it would make a great addition to my website :)

I hope I answered everyone's questions! If I missed someone - just ask again - or email me.

I'll check back again tonight - I have another presentation and book signing tonight!

Maria V. Snyder said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Helen said...

Huge congratulations doglady hopefully I will be able to read it soon.
Have Fun

Suzanne Ferrell said...

Maria, being the mother of twenty-somethings, my kids are all over myspace, as are their friends. Also, the girls' given interest in reading includes sci-fi/fantasy, as well as romance. Do you think this is an easier medium to sell paranormal romances than say, just straight romances or historicals?

Christine Wells said...

Maria, welcome to the lair and thanks so much to KJ for bringing Maria here. CONGRATULATIONS on making the NYT bestseller list, Maria. That is only a distant dream for me at the moment, but I read your article avidly and took notes! Thank you for being so generous in sharing your secrets with us:)

Keira Soleore said...

Maria, I know I'm repeating myself here, but you're amazing!!

Anna Campbell said...

Hey, Suz, kudos on the bird! He hasn't been to Texas in so long!

Pam, huge congratulations on reaching the finals of the Marlene! Whoo-hoo!

Hey, fantastic to see all the new faces in the commentary space! Welcome, y'all (um, I'm an Aussie - that didn't quite come out right, did it?).

Anna Campbell said...

Michelle, when I have a fantasy about making 'friends' with a 20-something, computer nerd isn't the first type that springs to mind ;-)

Keira, do you think we let Michelle out once we kidnapped her? You poor misguided possum, you...

Maria, I'll get to something sensible soon. I promise!

Miss Palmer, always a pleasure to see you!

Anna Campbell said...

Maria, firstly a huge congratulations on hitting the NYT!!! Fantastic. And thanks so much for those great promo tips. The books sound fantastic - creak, crash! Sorry that was the sound of my floor collapsing under the TBR pile. Thanks for visiting us in the lair!

Anonymous said...

Oh, wow, congratulations.

This is so wonderful.

Toasting you with a cup of Cheer, liquid.

limecello said...

Hi Maria,
Congratulations on hitting the List! Thanks for visiting today!

Jeanne (AKA The Duchesse) said...

Bwah-ha-ha! Keira, don't tell her we aren't letting her go just yet, that's a Lair secret. heehee. Great to see so many visitors! Congrats to those Marlene finalists, Yeah!

Maria, do you need to read the books in order, I think I read that in one of the posts but I can't find it at the moment...

Cassondra said...

diana said:

Okay, help, there was another post going on and I have totally lost it.
.... Before I could post there the whole thing disappeared and I can't find it.

SO SORRY Diana. There was some confusion this morning and JoMama's post got put up before Kim and Maria's. It's very complicated...involving Auntie Cindy, a brief trip up the Coast, her missing riding crop (which I am supposed to be in charge of in her absence, but I'm a miserable failure at snapping) and the switching of blog days.

You should have seen the rushing about in the lair late last night and this morning. Some of us even mixed up our Bucket boots and got them on the wrong feet. Blisters abound! What's worse, I've been carrying around Posh's rapier all day. She's so tall, the darn thing is dragging the ground on me! AAACK.

Fear not, Jo's original post will be back up for all to read--on the 30th I THINK. Stay tuned.

Trish Milburn said...

Maria, HUGE congrats on hitting the NYT list. What a wonderful writer's dream come true. Thanks for all the great PR tips. I need to be more diligent about updating my MySpace page.

hrdwrkdmom aka Dianna said...

Cassondra, this is why you are an author. Rolling in the floor with your descriptions of the lair, the blisters, the dragging rapier. I just wanted to congratulate doglady and went ahead and did that right here on this post!

Kate Carlisle said...

Maria, welcome to the Lair. And thanks for all this amazing advice. No wonder you hit the NYT. You are really working the promo scene! And of course, it helps to write fabulous books! *g* Congratulations!

KJ, thanks for inviting Maria to share her great advice and promo tips. (Hey, by the way, I was in the limo in Dallas with you guys! Good times!)

Suz, nice job snagging the GR! Hope you had a rollicking good time with the old boy!

Jeanne (AKA The Duchesse) said...

How come I got stuck w/ the short rapier? Drat it, who has my claymore?

Grins. Cassondra, you crack me up. (As if I had the shoulders to swing a claymore, right?)

Maria V. Snyder said...

This has been a fun day! Well you know what they say about people who've been kidnapped falling in love with their captors.... sounds like a....story idea...hmmm....

I'm always willing to answer questions and help other writers. I had a lot of help getting to this point and will *cue booming voice* Share My Vast Knowledge *cue echo* knowledge....ledge....ledge ;>

Okay - a little dramatic - but anytime you have questions, just email or message me on MySpace :)

Suzanne - I think MySpace is a great networking site for ALL writers no matter the genre or time period.

And my advice for those thinking about making a page - consider using your photo instead of your book cover - my reason is there is more of a connection when you see a person's face - I have a ton of writer "friends" but it's the ones who use their picture that I find myself drawn to. You can always add in your cover art when you comment on someone's page. And of course put your covers on your page.

Jeanne - You don't have to read the Study books in order. I tried hard to make each their own story. But - if you're new to the series - then definitely start with Poison - you'll get the whole background etc.. But if you have one of the others - you shouldn't be lost - one reader read Fire and emailed me she had no trouble jumping into the action :)

Now I have a question - What's the Golden Rooster??

Anonymous said...

Maria, stopping by VERY late to say congratulations and thanks for visiting the Lair! We may let you out occasionally to visit your buddies on MySpace, but don't get too used to your freedom! We will want you back for more promo tips!

jo robertson said...

LOL, Maria, thanks for the answers. While you were at the dentist I had a chance to read the reviews and excerpts. Wow, the world-building you've created in the Study books sounds awesome. And the covers are lovely.

And Kim, I read other recommendations that suggested beginning with Poison Study, which is exactly what I'm doing.

Congrats on making the NYT list, Maria and thanks for visiting us today and sharing your great promo advice!

jo robertson said...

And the Golden Rooster is the honorary "prize" given to the first commenter every day. It's a surreal cyber-space rooster, of course, and has travelled the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans many, many times.

Suzanne Ferrell said...

Well, I'd promised the GR some Tex-mex, and he definitely liked the brisket nachos with jalepenos, but I'm afraid we had to take a few swimming lessons, since the heavens opened upon us today. All in honor of his first visit to Big D!! He looks awful cute in his goggles and swimming trunks though!

Sarah Weir said...

Wahoo!!!! Go Maria!!!