Breakfast with Lisa Jackson

Book CoverThis morning I had breakfast with author Lisa Jackson, her assistant and her publicist, who is also my neighbor – thus I was on my best behavior. In classic Pittsburgh fashion the breakfast buffet was the best deal, and featured every breakfast product known to woman. Since breakfast is generally my favorite meal to eat in restaurants, I was very happy. Plus there was coffee.

So after everyone at our table got their healthy breakfast and I had more coffee, we talked about regional accents, small towns in the west, small towns in the south, how many traffic lights qualify for small town status, and how to get to outer parts of Pittsburgh.

Then we started talking about author celebrity, and Jackson had some really interesting thing to say about promotion, the internet, and blogging.

Jackson writes suspense and romantic suspense, and told me about her earlyefforts to promot herself and her books, and how she figured out that authors nowadays often do have to promote themselves as well as, or as an accessory to, their books. As I said during breakfast, it used to be that movies were marketed based on the story and then mentioned the actors in it. Now, the movie is often marketed as a vehicle for fans to see their favorite actor or actress. The individual is as important as the created product – and authors are marketing their books following much the same pattern.

Lisa: About 10 years ago, I was paying attention to the sales for my books, and I realized I needed to do something to push my career. I could not let my next book slide in sales. So I sent myself on tour. I went to places I could drive to, where I had friends I could crash with, and I hired a publicist I couldn’t really afford, and it really seemed to make a difference. The book did well – it could have also been due to the cover, the timing, whatever, but sending myself on tour definitely didn’t hurt.

But authors have to be very proactive. Name and title often appear in equal size on the book cover. And readers don’t ask “What books do you read?” They ask “Who do you read? The name and the backlist behind it are compared to other names when readers talk about romance – and mysteries, and suspense, etc.


We chatted about author blogs, online research and promotion as well. Jackson has a clever twist on the “you must have a blog” author mandate: her recurring protagonists from her book series have MySpace pages:

Lisa: I did a lot of online research for my new book Lost Souls by reading about vampire clubs because the main character Kristi Bentz is investigating the disappearance of young women linked to these clubs. So now my character has a MySpace page with a few hundred friends, many of whom are connected to or active in these clubs I found online.

Christine blogs and gives away hints from or about the book and sends out bulletins to her friends, and other lead characters have their own MySpace pages as well, like Reuben Montoya.

Seeing how authors promote themselves as personae representative of their books is fascinating – and if I were in their shoes I’d feel a little naked. Used to be you didn’t know so much what an author looked like and it didn’t matter so much if you knew all about them. Now an author’s presence online and role as representative of her own work – and the genre – is so mixed up in the promotional effort that it’s impossible to separate sometimes. As itchy as MySpace makes me personally, using it to develop character presence online makes a lot of sense for maintaining some distance.

Thanks to Lisa and Joan for the interview.


Romantic Times

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  1. 1
    Karen says:

    I agree with you about the authors and the push to publicize them as much as their books.  But I think movies have been “star vehicles” for most of their history.  If you look at the way people went to the movies in the 30’s and 40’s, for example, it was very star oriented.  You went to see a “Joan Crawford movie” or a “Bette Davis movie”, rather than looking for Mildred Pierce or Dark Victory.  (I wasn’t actually around then, but my parents were, and I’m also an old movie buff.)  Not that some movies weren’t sold on storyline, but I think that was more prevalent later, when the studio system broke down.  In the earlier days, it was all about the star.

  2. 2
    CynthiaH says:

    I read books by a particular author because that author has proven to me that they consistently write good stories of a style I enjoy. If I pick up a book by Nora Roberts, Louis L’Amour, or Terry Pratchett, I know I’m going to get a good story.

    Think of an author’s name as a trademark in the old-fashioned sense: assurance that this book is crafted by a particular smith of some skill and will be of good quality.

    (Or, on the flip side, should be avoided like the plague, for some other authors whose names I will not mention.)

  3. 3
    limecello says:

    I agree with Cynthia, but I’m more of a cynic. I’ll pick up a book by a certain author expecting a good story, but it’s still hard for me to auto buy a new book. (A lot of this might have to do with being a student.) I think it’s interesting how some authors really go out and promote themselves. It’s fun to hear their stories. Of course, some don’t really, and still seem to do well. It might be because they’re already established? I’m thinking about Susan Elizabeth Phillips, I don’t think she does a lot of promoting. but I may just have missed it.
    It’s really interesting how authors are bringing their characters into “real life.” But I have to agree… I don’t like myspace. It makes… yeah – itchy is a good word for it. I hate visiting author myspace pages, and have only been drawn in to 1-2, with the promise of “AMAZING CONTEST TO WIN 32 BOOKS” type things (to my eternal shame.)

  4. 4
    Randi says:

    I just bought Lisa’s book last night at B&N;. I had a nice coupon and I recognized the name and cover art. Never read any of her stuff-so-SB Sarah, you can tell her you made her a sale just by having breakfast with her! hahah.

  5. 5
    Esri Rose says:

    I’m guessing the publicist was probably key. I’m finding that it’s difficult to get media people to return my calls, and this is for a story that’s very much linked to my town! Some of that may be the “romance” stigma, and more of it may be that I just don’t know the secret handshake.

  6. 6
    Kassiana says:

    Actually, Lisa Jackson IS one of my “avoid her like the plague” authors. I’ve read two very, very disappointing books by her and they were two books too many. No amount of self-promotion can overcome bad writing.

  7. 7
    MA says:

    I must agree with Kassiana.  I picked up Lisa Jackson’s Absolute Fear at the library because the premise seemed intriguing, but the convoluted twists and connections made Lost look like child’s play.  Very disappointing, won’t get fooled again.

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