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Between the pages, Past
A Mystery Column
By Dennis Collins

It Started With a Haircut

Have you ever wondered how a book gets noticed and finds its way into libraries and bookstores? Many people are under the impression that the publisher handles those details and that they do the promoting. Not so. Even the big publishing houses usually leave that job for the author and not all authors are aggressive promoters. Very often, the success or failure of a book depends on the ability of the author to bring attention to the work. Some hire publicists, some take on the chore by themselves, and others leave it all to fate.

Sometimes fate finds the author.

My daughter owns and operates an upscale unisex hair styling salon and among her customers is the news editor of one of Michiganís larger newspapers. As it has happened for generations, a bit of small talk between the barber and customer eventually leads to, "well, what have you been up to lately?" The customer said, "Iím writing a mystery novel." And so my daughter grabbed the opportunity to brag about her father, the "should be, but not yet" famous mystery author. The visit ended with my daughter giving the man my phone number.

The editor, letís call him Dave, called me and asked if we could get together for a chat about writing. I agreed and of course I brought along a copy of my latest book. Dave said that he was always looking for local people to feature in the newspaper and so we did a short interview. Two weeks later there was a half page feature article and book review in the newspaper.

A local librarian saw the article and asked me if Iíd be willing to do a luncheon speaking engagement at the YWCAís "Booked for Lunch" series. I jumped on it and to my surprise, the local PBS channel showed up with a camera crew to film the whole thing. It was broadcast once every weekday day for the next three weeks. Iím sure glad I remembered to comb my hair that day.

One of the folks who saw me on TV invited me to participate in an Author Day at the main branch of the library where I shared a large hall with twenty-five other authors all pitching their wares. The lady sitting next to me at the Author Day event turned out to be a representative of the Mid-Michigan Writerís, Inc. and she invited me to speak at one of their events in a city in the northern part of Michigan. The Mid Michigan Writerís and I struck it off pretty well and I was offered two more speaking engagements through their efforts.

Somebody at the Saginaw Valley State University saw one of the telecasts from the PBS channel and invited me to present a three day seminar on writing and getting published at their College of Lifelong Learning. It was another first for me and a wonderful learning experience.

The University included advertising fliers in all of the local newspapers and the paper that services my hometown noticed that one of their homeboys was involved in something interesting and sent a reporter to my house for an interview. The result: another full page feature article complete with lots of photos.

And itís not over yet. Last week, I ran into Dave, the newspaper editor, at a local restaurant and he asked me if Iíd like to submit some articles for a high quality Northeast Michigan Living magazine.

By my count, thatís ten promotional opportunities.

And to think that it all started with just a haircut.

2008 Past Columns

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