Writing Wednesday — approaching another author for help

Brass desk lamp with green shade, desk, binder open to a printed manuscript
Leslie’s desk

Recently, I got a polite but generic email from an author with a new book just out, including a short, appealing description of the book and noting that it was available on NetGalley, along with a press release and a review. I do not know her; she does not appear to follow me on any social media, although we do both belong to one large national writers group. I can only assume – because she did not make a specific request – that she hoped I would download and review it. I’m not going to do that — I have enough to read. But I found myself feeling badly for someone who is clearly putting a lot of work into an approach I think is doomed to disappoint her. Ultimately, I decided the best response was to share a few of my thoughts on how newer authors can best approach established authors to ask for reviews, blurbs, guest post spots, and the like.

First, personalize your note. Address the author by name and show that you are familiar with their work. Explain how your books are similar and why you think that author’s readers will be interested in your book. If you’re part of the same group, or you follow the author online, say so.

Tell them what you want. Be specific. Acknowledge that they may not have the time and say you understand.

Do it early. If you want a blurb or a review, ask for it at least 2-3 months before publication – having it in hand in time to put it on your cover, website, or booklisting at least by the pub date is when it will do you the most good, because that’s when your book will get the most attention. Weeks after publication, the impact is diminished. Published authors know this, and if you give them plenty of time, they will be more likely to say yes.

Similarly, if you’re asking for a guest blog or podcast spot, do it early. Do your research – demonstrate that you understand what the blog or podcast does and that you can provide something interesting for readers or listeners.

A friend adds that if someone tells you no, don’t take it personally. They may truly be too busy — this time.

Be brief, be polite, be professional. Be part of the community. The more you engage with and support other authors, the easier it is to ask them for help – and the easier it is for them to say yes.

Spicing it up with a short story!

We all love a party, right? Join me for a party taking place over the next few weeks on my FB Author page, with fun posts, spice trivia, prizes — and you, I hope! It’s all in celebration of the upcoming launch of Between a Wok and a Dead Place, the 7th Spice Shop mystery. Each week until mid July, I’ll be talking about the origins of one book in the series, starting this week with my contribution to the newly-launched Murder at Sea: A Destination Murders anthology. In “Seafood Rub,” Pepper and Nate take a long weekend getaway, only to find that trouble boarded the same ferry, and that killer whales are not the only mammals who circle their prey.

Although I’ve written seven Spice Shop mysteries, this is Pepper’s first appearance in a short story. I enjoyed writing short — about 12K, compared to the novels at 75-80K — for several reasons. It’s always risky to take a series character with a strong tie to a particular place away from it, without losing part of what readers love. In a short story, I could take Pepper away from her shop, Pike Place Market, and Seattle, making references to it, but because of the compressed time and word count, readers know we’ll be back. I had an idea I wanted to explore — the not-uncommon experience of seeing a stranger repeatedly while traveling and wondering if there’s a reason — that I didn’t think would support a full novel. Only one recurring character, Pepper’s boyfriend Nate, is along for the weekend, so I was able to focus on a new cast — a tour group visiting the same island and making some of the same excursions as Pepper and Nate — without having to work in the usual cast of recurring characters.

I’m one of eight contributors, and of course, we’re all hoping that readers who pick up the book because they know and enjoy one author’s work will discover new-to-them authors and pick up our books.

Earlier Destination Murders volumes are Murder at the Beach (I’m not in it) and Murder in the Mountains, which includes my story “The Picture of Guilt,” featuring characters from my Food Lovers’ Village mysteries.

I hope you’ll take a little vacation on the page — and join me on Facebook as we celebrate the Spice Shop mysteries!

The Saturday Creativity Quote


“Only when the brain is confronted with stimuli that it has not encountered before does it start to reorganize perception. The surest way to provoke the imagination, then, is to seek out environments you have no experience with. They may have nothing to do with your area of expertise. It doesn’t matter. Because the same systems in the brain carry out both perception and imagination, there will be cross talk.”

— neuroscientist Gregory Berns, MD, PhD, in a 2008 article, Neuroscience Sheds New Light on Creativity

Law and Fiction — circumstantial evidence


In my posts and presentations on the common mistakes writers make about the law, I often talk about the difference between direct and circumstantial evidence. This article on homicide charges recently filed against a Utah woman for her husband’s murder lays out a good case of circumstantial evidence: evidence of facts that lead to an inference of guilt.

Turns out the man had told others if something happened to him, look at her. Changes in wills and insurance policies, drugged drinks, fentanyl purchases, and more. But one of the most eye-popping threads in this story? After her husband’s death, she published a book for children on dealing with the loss of a parent.

Good grief.

The Saturday Creativity Quote: What is yours to do?

daffodils blooming between the cracks in a rock

Last weekend, I attended the Pikes Peak Writers Conference in Colorado Springs, giving presentations on building character, setting, and common mistakes writers make about the law. Barbara O’Neal, the keynote speaker at lunch on Sunday, gave a powerful talk focused on a topic for all creators: What is yours to do? What is the work only you can do? She’s reprised those themes in this essay, drawn from the talk, on Writer Unboxed.

daffodils blooming between the cracks in a rock

Lean into that, I say. Into the stories, the paintings, the songs, only you can tell, paint, or sing. The gardens only you can plant. The joys only you can give, the sorrows only you can ease.

What is yours to do?