You might think that a writer like Julie Kramer has hit the sweet and easy big time unpublished writers only dream about. “Missing Mark,” the followup to her highly acclaimed debut mystery, “Stalking Susan,” got a glowing People magazine review, went into its second printing before it was even released, and is hanging out on best-seller lists across the country. Readers who turn out for the White Bear Lake author’s national book tour eat cookies frosted with her book’s cover image and sip wine or bottled water with “Missing Mark” labels. That’s pretty fancy for an economy like this.
But, behind the scenes, Kramer and her family are up late the night before the reading, printing out those labels on their home computer and gluing them on by hand. That puts things in a new light, doesn’t it?
“Traditional news is in a melt-down, and so is publishing. Nobody knows what publishing is going to be like five years from now, but right now, publishers are pulling back from promotion. So that’s all falling on the authors, especially new authors, who are basically having to be small businesses,” says Kramer, who has traveled to nine states so far this summer. Last year, touring for “Stalking Susan,” she visited five states.
In addition to the readings and author events, she does a lot — about 80 this year — of “drive-by signings,” where she drops in at stores, says hi to booksellers, and signs as many copies of her book as she can. A Career Initiative grant for the Loft has helped her plan and finance her marketing plan. Kramer, and not her publisher, created her website, and she’s also created a book trailer. Of course, given her years as a news producer, she already had the expertise needed to give the trailer an edgy TV news vibe that matches her newshound heroine, Riley Spartz. In this book, Spartz is on the trail of a missing persons case that came to her when she started wondering about the stories behind all those “wedding dress for sale” ads. Those ads, which she cut from the paper and saved in an envelope, were a real-life mystery that fascinated Kramer for years, and became the spark that started this book.
“I think my news background helps me understand media better than a lot of writers do. And it gives me interesting things to share with the people who come to my events. I can tell them about how newsrooms work, how they cover missing people, and decide who gets publicity and who doesn’t,” says Kramer.
She also visits book clubs, which can be the most fun, and the most strange, author experience of all. “Last year I came to one, and the people were kind of odd, goofy-looking. I couldn’t put my finger on it, then one of them says, ‘Don’t you know who we are? We’re dressed like characters from your book!’ This year, they are all planning on wearing their wedding dresses, so of course, I have to visit that book club again.”
Which just goes to show, making that extra effort pays off for readers and writers.