Monday, March 26, 2012


Montel and I discuss the Madeleine McCann case

Criminal Profiler

(Blogs and Websites for Writers - feel free to repost this article on your site as long as it is the full article and there is a link back to The Daily Profiler and links included within remain operable)
I am going to make your day, self-published and traditionally published struggling authors! You can stop wishing you were me because, in spite of the fact Nancy Grace and Dr. Drew both mentioned my new mystery novel, Only the Truth, when I was on their shows last week, I didn’t see any dramatic jump in book sales. So, stop worrying if you aren’t on television and you can’t afford a publicist to get you on. I do television at least three times a week and I can tell you, while constant visibility does keep one’s name and book out there, getting on a television show doesn’t mean you are going to become an overnight bestseller, well, unless you are on Oprah which you can’t be anymore.

And I am sure you are likely discouraged by all those bestselling authors who seem to come out of nowhere and hit it big; let me clear that up. One, some of those are lying like dogs and are simply giving themselves the “bestselling author” label and claiming they sold way more of their books than they actually did. Proving someone is a liar is pretty difficult when it comes to questions of success in the book market.  Others who actually achieve success may not get it the way they would like us to believe, by having a great literary accomplishment.

Now, before I get successful authors throwing heavy objects at my head and calling me “jealous” or “bitter,”  - I do already have two traditionally published books, Killing for Sport (Phoenix 2008) and The Profiler; My Life Hunting Serial Killers and Psychopaths (Hyperion 2010) and two more traditionally published books coming out in the next year, How to Save Your Daughter’s Life (HCI Sept 2012) and The Murder of Cleopatra (Prometheus Feb 2013) - let me state that they are some fabulous writers out there and they have become well-known and  lauded for their outstanding books and the merit of their writing. I am inspired, impressed, and proud of each of these authors who have reached such heights through wonderful work and effort.  I love reading their works and I recommend their books to my friends and I wish them continued best of luck.

But, a good portion of selling authors are not making money due to the brilliance of their word-craft or even tolerably good storytelling; many are mediocre at best, and some are downright abysmal and you wonder how they hell they are selling books by the thousands each day or week while you are struggling to sell one per month. It is this group I want self-pubbed authors to understand so they can realize they are not failing to sell their books because they aren’t good.  I also want struggling authors to stop believing a lot of the rot published in anything titled close to  “How to Sell Millions of Your Self-Published Book ” or “100 Top Tricks to Get Your Book on the Bestselling List.” Some of the books are making good money off of desperate authors by selling them an illusion (let that author write a book that doesn’t have to do with selling books and watch him crash and burn) and some of them can’t even sell a book about selling books!  So at no cost to you at all, no price of a book or a seminar, I will give you the scoop right here.  Actually, if I told you the truth in a book or a seminar, no one would invite me back because no one pays for giving out bad news. Not all bad news, but enough bad news that I can’t sell what I have to tell – I am not out to make bucks by shamelessly motivating you with bullshit. Okay, so how do authors sell books?

Well,let’s take a moment to examine authors who are lucky enough to get an agent (I have been fortunate enough to have four and very happy with my present literary agent, Claire Gerus, who just got me my two last book deals) and that agent gets you a publishing deal with the average advance (read: small).  If you want to make really great sales, you have got to get in the front of the bookstore. You need to have your book cover facing out in a nice column on a front rack with a poster next to it. If your book is displayed at the entrance with pomp and circumstance, your publisher is guaranteeing you to make a shitload of cash on your book and they are paying, yes, paying for that prime real estate. But, if your publisher gave you a small advance, he isn’t spending a fortune on a bad gamble, so no front-of-bookstore for you. You can be confident, as crap, if you are not Dan Brown or another hot selling author or an industry insider who saw more than five zeros on their advance check (not counting those with a decimal point in between), your book is not going to be there. It is going to be on the back shelves with the other tens of thousands of books serving as wallpaper for the front runners. Yes, there are a few slightly cheaper paid spots in a bin near the front of the store or on the ends of the racks that might make you a few dollars, but don’t hold your breath that those spots are going to throw you onto The New York Times Bestseller list. 

So, most of you, if you have a traditional publisher and aren’t already famous, you will be on the racks of doom for about six weeks at which time your book will be summarily executed if it hasn’t sold its two copies by then. Most disappear rapidly, a few hang around a number of months, and there are those that eke out an existence in certain genres in a moderate way.

 Book launch? What’s that? Book tours? No way. Publicity from the publisher? Maybe a tad. Pretty much you are on your own when it comes to book promotion, unless you are Dan Brown or a hot selling author or already famous and then you get fifty top book reviews and a couple hundred good reviews from Amazon Vine before the book goes on sale, NPR, lots of big TV, a massive radio tour, full-page ads, book tours, parties, and global attention. But I repeat myself.  What happens to regular published authors is that they are told to get a publicist and to spend about $4000/month for at least six months to make sure their book sells. And the publicist gets the author on some local radio shows, a few small television shows, and gets them book reviews on a few blogs and in a few small regional magazines.  They send out a lot of press releases that bring in very little interest because you are not Dan Brown or a hot selling author or already famous (damn…did it again). Then, instead of making $5000 on a published book, an author can lose $19,000 because that kind of limited publicity isn’t going to rock the buying public’s world especially if they can’t even find your stupid book in the bookstore. So, if you are going to hire a book publicist, make sure they have some level of reasonable book visibility to improve, that they aren't charging you to move your book from ten sales to twenty sales per month.

But, wait! You get an opportunity to have a book signing at your local Barnes and Noble. Awesome! You invite all your friends and business associates and you are the star for a couple of hours, selling and signing twenty books. You are on your way! You manage to finagle another book signing in a small bookstore out of town by fifty miles and at that one, you stand there like a dope in front of a bunch of empty chairs. Finally, a few people come up. Two want to rest their feet and eat their sandwiches and the other one wants to ask you how to sell books (like you know). Humiliated, you skulk out of the store with your publicity material and never do another signing. 

So, why did the first one go so well and the second one feel like an exercise in masochism? Well, the first one was your Tupperware party. The Barnes and Noble manager knew, since you are a local author, you would bring all your friends in to buy books, mostly other people’s books. They get a free event and new customers and you get a moment in the sun. Out of town, reality stinks.

(disclaimer: Not all publishers and publicists follow these general rules, certainly no one I work with).

Feeling goooood now? Okay, that is the raw deal for the majority of authors published by traditional publishing houses. Now, to the worse news. The self-publishing world.  Lets’ say you do what those experts say (the ones you just wasted $9.99 per click buying their ebook of tips) and you have an awesome cover (that you paid for), a manuscript that was well-edited (that you paid for),  and a great story (that you gave up paid work to spend time writing), and you are ready to go. You get help with formatting it for Kindle (which you pay for) and up it goes to take its joyful place among 4,000,000 other hopefuls, a needle in a haystack unless you GPS someone to your book's exact location.  And there the bugger will sit while you spend another $50 buying five more ebooks on how to promote your darling. So you Tweet and you Facebook and you get on message boards, send out postcards, get on some small blogs, and send hundreds of emails…..and you sell one book per month. Desperation and depression set in; you wonder what you are doing wrong. Why are other self-published authors becoming millionaires and you are getting nowhere? You have read some of their books and you think most of them suck eggs; you would never buy a second one of their tripe. Some of these big sellers even have more one-star Amazon reviews than five-star ones. What are they doing right and you doing wrong?

Give yourself a break. Big self-published Kindle authors may just be lucky or they may be master salesmen; they don’t necessarily have far better books than you. Some of them were known published authors with large followings before they went the self-pubbed route and they brought their fans along with them. So they have a big head start. Some of them are able to sell a couple of their books as loss leaders to draw people into their other books, so they have a lot of stuff to sell. Some spend sixteen hours a day/seven days a week promoting in every way possible, studying trends, and spending money on advertising and, still, they need to get lucky as well; many can do all this and still just sell small numbers of books. But you hear about the ones that hit the lottery (and they often make sure that you do because then they can sell more of their books). Some truly just get incredibly lucky that their book came out at the right time,  got a review in the right place, hit the reading public with just the right story, and the thing went viral. Sometimes you can’t figure out exactly what caused an author or a particular book to hit the tipping point and get bestseller status, a thousand books a day in sales, and a movie option. It could be you tomorrow, who knows?  Likely not, but you might just get the golden ticket, so here’s rooting for you.

Now that I have shot down most of your bright hopes, what do I recommend to the aspiring writer and self-pubbed author? Enjoy writing. Love your book. Go ahead and promote your book, be clever if you can, watch trends, encourage folks to put reviews for your book on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Smashwords, try to get  thebig book reviews if you can find a way,  and try stuff to see if it works (change pricing, go on Kindle Select, blah, blah, blah), but, for heaven’s sake, be realistic enough not to feel like a loser in a race with few winners and don’t drive yourself crazy looking at your book sales every hour of the day (only to see the same number again and again). And don’t waste your money on a lot of guru garble. I am not saying there isn’t some useful advice out there (sometimes one bit of info can make the difference) and I have bought certain motivational and sales books from select guys I consider brilliant in that arena. But beware of salesmen bearing fool’s gold, making big money off of other people’s dreams; yours.

Before I leave you to prepare and plan for your publishing future, let me at least give you some tips on what does make a huge difference in sales, publicity you can aspire to get, that if you do, you may find yourself with a book rising to the top of the rankings. 

1)    Hard work, and by that, I mean years of hard work, not overnight sensation stuff. I got my first agent because I had already been on television regularly for a number of years. As my appearances on television hit over 2000 for the last decade, I had more options because my name was well-known by then. Other avenues  could be working hard in the literary field, in academics, in some specialized field, journalism, in publishing, in any media outlet – places you can build a reputation in either something specific or in the art of writing or make great contacts that will then be willing to back your new novel or nonfiction book.

2)    Build up that social networking even if it doesn’t exactly mean a Tweet or a Facebook post to 20,000 people is going to generate hundreds of sales; it won’t. But your presence out there, a verifiable presence, gives you some clout rather than just being Jane Jones from Noplacesville, never heard of you, lady, and when I Googled you, you didn’t exist. Get a blog and website going as well. All of this is work, work, work, but it may pay off in ten years.

3)     If you are a schmoozer, make well-known friends who can endorse and back you.

4)    Television can be useful.  But, usually we are talking about big, big shows like the ex-Oprah, The Tonight Show, The Today Show which reach huge numbers of people with a particular message and the message must be about your book.

5)    Radio can move things along but you either need to be doing hundreds and hundreds of little shows to get a little buzz or do NPR and make you book soar. Good luck getting on there.

6)    As to book reviews: if you check out the big authors, you will notice they have reviews in big papers, magazines, and blogs like The New York Times and Marie Claire and Forbes. If you check out small authors, you will find them in Tennessee Camping Monthly and Betsy’s Best Books. Bigger is better. Good luck getting in these, too.

7)    Forewords and blurbs written by well-known authors and celebrities. They do this because they a) adore your book, or b) it gets them publicity. B is what happens 99% of the time, so if your book won’t get them good publicity, they probably aren’t going to bother giving you a blurb or writing your foreword, unless they happen to be a very close relative (like your mother).

8)    Find a rich mate who will fund your writing business and let you work full-time making no  money for decades.

9)     Don’t croak too young.

I hope my advice and my tips help you navigate through the world of publishing, traditional and self. Good luck to you all, my writing friends. Meet you at the top of the publishing world or at least at the pub.

Available now at Amazon for $2.99!

Finally, a self-help book for aspiring authors that will save them money rather than scam them out of it. Criminal Profiler Pat Brown, author of seven books, takes writers on a sometimes funny, often surprising, but always honest journey through the world of publishing books, both traditional and self-published, and the confusing world of literary agents and book publicists. Always straightforward and blunt, this no-bull book is the kind of information writers need to navigate through the tricky waters of getting one's book published and publicized, what to do and what not to do and, most of all, how not to lose your mind, money, and self-worth in the process.


ONLY THE TRUTH now available for only $2.99 at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Smashwords!


Harkening back to the writing styles of the earlier American authors – John Steinbeck, Harper Lee, and Carson McCullers, "Only the Truth" is a story of soul searching, a psychological mystery which examines the question, “Whom should one love and when should one quit doing so?” Billy Ray, a lonely and rather slow, uneducated African-American man living in the mountains of Tennessee, runs across a mysterious young woman at the railroad tracks. She asks to go home with him and Billy Ray takes her with him as she requests. He comes to love this woman, Charlene, unconditionally. She is the only woman he has ever loved, and life is finally good for Billy Ray. Then Charlene shoots the neighbor and burns down the neighbor’s house. His happy life destroyed, a confused and devastated Billy Ray is at a loss. Is the woman he loves “just a troubled girl” or a psychopathic killer? Billy Ray sets out on a quest to find the truth, only the truth, whether it leads him to be able to save Charlene from a death sentence or it frees him from her spell.

About the Author

Pat Brown is a nationally known criminal profiler and television commentator. She is the CEO of The Sexual Homicide Exchange and president of The Pat Brown Criminal Profiling Agency. Having made over two thousand television and radio appearances in the United States and worldwide, Pat Brown is well known for her crime commentary and for her profiling and forensic analysis. She can be seen regularly on MSNBC, CNN, FOX, NBC, and CBS, and is a frequent guest of Nancy Grace, Dr. Drew, Jane Velez-Mitchell, Inside Edition, and The Today Show, Pat Brown was the host and profiler for the 2004 Discovery Channel documentary, The Suspicious Death of Cleopatra and the 2010 Discovery Channel "Mystery Files" in which she revealed a new Jack the Ripper suspect. Pat Brown is also the author of "Killing for Sport: Inside the Minds of Serial Killers" (Phoenix Books 2008), The Profiler: My Life Hunting Serial Killers and Psychopaths (Hyperion Voice 2010), and the upcoming How to Save Your Daughter's Life (HCI Sept 2012), and The Murder of Cleopatra (Prometheus Feb 2013).


Marni said...

Thanks for this!

Gale Seaton said...

Thank you so much for posting this. I have someone that reached out to me to assist with getting a publisher, for the book about my daughter's murder, but am trying to make sure all of my ducks are in a row.

Anonymous said...

I bought your Only the Truth on Amazon, and I found it very well written, enjoyed it very much. Only a few days ago I published my first thriller on Amazon, Double usage, but as you say, it's hard. I can only hope I will be one of these lucky fews.

Anonymous said...

Wow, I read this with such interest, and realise, I am not a failure. I have written two books, completed two books and have started on my third. My first book is up on Amazon with 1 sale, yes 1 - but that is better than no sales. Prior to reading this article, I wondered, do I give up writing, does my writing suck because no-one wants to buy it. It is just a case of perseverance and patients and maybe one day, someone will pick up my book and say WOW I really enjoyed it.

Anonymous said...

Hi Pat, You will be pleased to know I bought a copy of "Only the Truth" and I am loving every page of it... each "unexpected turn" of it...this is a thriller full of curves! I have now reached those scenes with Chief Williams and Billy Ray (say no more) but, credit to you as a story teller, I still have no idea of how it will end ...I have been savouring it for the past two evenings... this is a very moving story, beautifully written that turns out to be quite a thriller! Thanks for the trip so far!


Pat Brown said...

Thanks so very much, Al! I appreciate those kind words, as does Sweet Billy Ray and Chief Williams (who The Rock said he would play in the movie version if I add a few bad guys in for him to beat up). Please do leave a review on Amazon if you can! That would be awesome!

And, thank you as well, Anonymous, for reading Only the Truth. Good luck with your thriller as well.

To Marni, Gale, and the other Anonymous, I do hope I have cleared up some of what is happening out there so you can feel much better about yourselves and plan action that makes most sense. Amazon has made an incredibly brilliant business move, essentially allowing millions of India authors to throw a book Tupperware party where each author's friends buy books, each author netting ten bucks and Amazon netting tens of millions. Incredibly clever, eh? I bet they will eventually charge ten dollars to put a book up and then ten millions more and then maybe five dollars a year, for millions and millions more again. Great game but is it really helping Indie authors? Yes, it can, here and there, but it is up to you all to find new people to come to your party and that is the rub.

Anonymous said...

Well as a person who makes his living teaching people to pitch the media, you and I are on opposite sides of the pros/cons of getting on TV. That said I can't say that your experience is uncommon. I think we could agree that getting on TV is more about becoming famous as an expert in your field than selling books.

I do respect your work, you put a lot of thought into that post and made it hard to give you much of an argument. OK, thanks and good luck. Edward Smith,

Lostribe said...

I'm copying and keeping that. For years, I've agonized over publishing my personal journal, which covers the decades I was in the music business business, but personal embarassment has held me back. Now I have something less neurotic to hold me back! Silly me, I was thinking that was maybe my only chance at making some real money. Not. I know how marketing in music works, but I had always assumed the book publisher picked up the expenses of marketing and promotion and travel expenses. I mean, if not, then what is the advantage to having one, I wonder.

Well, maybe my only chance is to publish on the internet, free, and just see if I can get a buzz. But again, embarassment for no monetary reward? Probably not worth it.

I bought your last nonfiction, and I'll be buying your fiction as soon as I recover from tax time. Your books, like your blog, are honest, straightforward, educational, and entertaining.

SteelMagnolia said...

Thank-you Pat a very interesting article and very helpful maybe one day I will write something.

I have just purchased your latest and look forward to reading it.

Much love to you. xx

P.S. Agree with Lostribe you are a great Gal . No BS from Pat Brown, you tell it like it is.

richard william said...

By far he best advice for budding authors I have read.
I have just written a book - The NCA Bombing - a Mafia Murder?
I have been contacted on numerous times by budding authors on how to publish.
I tell them - expect disappointment but enjoy the ride. + "Writers write - don't talk about writing, just do it".
Michael Madigan

Pat Brown said...

Hi Richard,

Glad you liked the advice. It is a really rough time out there in the writing and publishing world and it seems Amazon has just killed their self-publishing program for the most part. I just gave away 10,000 of Only the Truth which in the past would have netted me enough sales in the days following to be quite happy. I ended up selling four in the next few days and then one per week. Hardly worth the freebie frustrating for all of us. But, like you say, if you like to write, write, and then see if you can get it out there.