Friday, June 26, 2009

The Waiting Is Over

By John Gilstrap

All right, this is it. Next week, anticipation becomes reality as No Mercy hits bookstores everywhere. I submitted the manuscript last August and finished the final revision in November. Since then, there have been copy edits and galley proofs, but I haven’t touched a word of the story since February.

Next week, everybody gets to decide for themselves if the characters are interesting and the story exciting. I certainly think they are, as do my editor and agent, but we’ve had our vote. Now it’s all in readers’ hands; which is why, for me, this is the scariest time in a book’s life cycle—the point where potential and reality finally intersect. On any given day, a writer has precious little control over his own career; but at this stage, the powerlessness feels to be in higher relief.

I thought I’d dedicate my blog this week to a behind-the-scenes peek at our marketing/publicity preparations.

Here’s what No Mercy’s publisher (Pinnacle) has done for me: they designed a kick-ass cover; they printed and distributed a couple hundred gorgeous advance reader’s copies (ARCs); they negotiated really strong sell-ins at the major big-box stores, as well as with distributors for the likes of Wal-Mart and your local grocery store. The book should have a big presence in airports, too. At ThrillerFest next month in New York City, No Mercy will be featured as a bag stuffer for a couple hundred attendees.

Here’s what I’ve done on my own nickel to market the book: I’ve bought advertising on well-visited blog sites that will bring 4 million views over two weeks; I’ve updated my website to be something worth visiting (; I’ve hired a publicist who will get me on lots of local radio and television shows, plus she’s snagged me a few bookstore signings. (For details, please check the “Events” page on the aforementioned website.)

In July, I’ll be on the faculty of the Midwest Writers Conference at Ball State University. As the writers conference schedule heats up again in the fall, I’ll be making appearances everywhere—all of it to sell a book that I haven’t touched in months. All of it as I put the (not-so) finishing touches on my next book, which I’m supposed to deliver to my publisher in August so I can begin the cycle all over again.

On the one hand, it’s all very exciting; but as one who’s walked this walk a few times already, I know that none of it matters unless all of the promotion and marketing combine with the X-Factor that creates “buzz” about a book.

Buzz is what happens when book lovers start talking about a title among themselves. I’ve published to Big Buzz in the past, and I’ve published to silence. I could guess at what makes the difference, but I’d probably be wrong. Buzz hides in the cracks between the cushions of all the things over which I have no control.

Another factor of nervousness to throw into the mix is the fact that No Mercy is my first paperback original (PBO). The rules are all different for PBOs, or so I’m told. At $6.99 a pop, they’re considered to be an impulse buy, as opposed to a hardcover, which is a more targeted buy. The theory in my case is that people will be far more apt to try out a new series character for 7 bucks than they would be for $25. We’ll see.

Lord yes, we’ll see.

Now, just this once, in light of the Big Event, please forgive me for . . .


No Mercy is the first book in a new series starring freelance hostage rescue specialist Jonathan Grave.

When a loved one is taken, you just want them back safely. You don’t care about gathering evidence for a future trial, or about Miranda warnings or search warrants. You just want them brought home. That’s why you call Jonathan Grave.

In No Mercy, when Jonathan’s meticulous plan to rescue an Indiana college student explodes into a deadly shooting spree, the local authorities are out for blood—and they’re not alone. Someone wants to control a devastating secret . . . someone willing to capture, torture and kill anyone to keep it. Even the people Jonathan loves most.


Wish me luck! We now return you to your regularly scheduled Kill Zone.


  1. "Buzz hides in the cracks between the cushions of all the things over which I have no control."

    So true, John. But it looks like you've made all the right moves to ignite that buzz. Best of luck with NO MERCY. I look forward to reading it. See you at ThrillerFest.

  2. Good luck, John!

    I can't wait to read NO MERCY.
    Having read your other books, I know we're in for a treat.

    And I'm sure it'll do great as a PBO.

    Hoping to see you at some of your No Va events. I'm always up for a good show!

  3. I too have been looking forward to NO MERCY. Sounds like a good, solid marketing plan. I also think a PBO at this point in our economic times is a good move. Here's hoping the book blasts off.

    Looking foward to meeting you at ThrillerFest.

  4. I'm looking forward to reading NO MERCY! I'll read it on the plane when I'm heading to Thrillerfest. See you there!

  5. Congratulations and good luck. I have often wondered why virtually all new authors aren't started out as PBO. Not that you're new, but it seems intuitively correct that people would be more likely to take a chance for $6.99 than for $25, regardless of the economic climate.

  6. Having read the manuscript, I can say that John's book is indeed a great read, and I do not say that as his friend, or as someone who has been well paid to do so, but as an avid reader and lover of well-written Thrillers. John is an extremely talented author, and this book is one of the great books with a truly intriguing cast, most notably the protagonist. And Gilstrap did his research on Delta Force participants. I'm looking forward to reading the finished product again.

    Congrats John. You deserve accolades and a very dry Beefeater martini.

  7. Thank you all. Just so you know, when I put this post up yesterday, it felt way less self-aggrandizing than it does when I look at it again today. Thanks for being so tolerant.

    And Miller . . . the martini is already on the agenda.

  8. OORAH!!

    But, wait...something's missing.

    Your events list doesn't mention anything about Alaska...not even the Yukon Territory.

    How am I supposed to High-Five ya if you're not even in my global octet? Dang...once again snubbed by stardom.

  9. Congratulations! And thanks for this inside look at the publicity game. I'm certainly buying paperbacks rather than hardbacks.

  10. What a great cover!

    Congratulations indeed! I'm reasonably certain that we've got it on order at the shop, but it's late now and my brain is mush. I'll check tomorrow, but I'm sure we do.

    And with that cover, it's gonna leap off the new release table, I have no doubts!

    Again, congratulations!