Award-winning investigative reporter Hank Phillippi Ryan is currently on the air at Boston's NBC affiliate, where she's broken big stories for the past 24 years. Her stories have resulted in new laws, people sent to prison, homes removed from foreclosure, and millions of dollars in refunds and restitution for consumers.
Along with her 26 EMMYs, Hank’s won also won dozens of other journalism honors.
Her first mysteries, PRIME TIME (which won the prestigious Agatha Award for Best First Novel, was a double RITA nominee for Best First Book and Best Romantic Suspense Novel, and a Reviewers' Choice Award Winner) and FACE TIME ( a Book Sense Notable Book), were best sellers. They were both re-issued this summer from MIRA Books. Her newest book is AIR TIME (MIRA Sept. 2009) which is already an IMBA bestseller.Drive Time will be published in February 2010. Her website is http://www.hankphillippiryan.com
And now, here's HANK:
Why is there never hidden camera when you need one? Oh sure, I use one at my day job all the time. As an investigative reporter for a Boston televison staion, going undercover and wiring myself with a hidden camera is standard orating procedure. Do it all the time.
(And in my newest book, AIR TIME, my reporter alter-ego Charlotte McNally goes in disguise and carrying a hidden camera into the closed to the public parts of the Boston and Hartford airports--—and deep into the not-so-pretty world of counterfeit fashion and knock-off purses. And when you read it—feel free to imagine me doing the same thing. Been there—done that. Except of course, for that big life-or-death choice near the end. That’s all fiction. But I wonder if I would have made the right decision…)
Anyway! In my other life as a mystery author, I wish I could do the same when my books some out. I wish I could just park myself in the mystery (or sometimes romance) section, in disguise, and see who picks up my book. See who doesn’t. See what they do choose. And somehow, somehow, try to figure out why.
Every time I have a book signing at a store, I try to (surreptitiously, of course) discern what it is that makes readers turn into buyers. I watch them stroll down the aisles, past the rows and rows of covers—what do they look for? What stops them? Are they on a mission for a certain title? Are they drawn by a beautiful cover? Do they recognize a book they’ve seen advertised? Or gravitate to a certain author—and buy anything that person wrote?
Always, always, when they pick up a book, they then flip it over and look at the back cover copy.
I kind of cringe. In my books, I didn’t write the jacket copy. (And although most of them are great, there are parts of them I would , I admit, tweak a bit. Can I say to a shopper-—hey, that’s the only part of the book I didn’t write?) I wonder how other authors feel.
And you know how annoying it is when the back cover copy doesn’t match the book.
Say you’ve got an indecisive hero, surrounded by people he can’t decide whether to trust, feeling alone, missing his father, struggling to understand his role in a world he can’t escape. You got Hamlet. You also got Gilligan’s Island.
The jacket copy has to be the true essence—it’s what gets people in the front door of your world. Will readers grasp the fast-paced, high-stakes, suspenseful and romantic world of the Charlotte McNally mysteries when they read the back? Sometimes I wish I could chat with every reader in person!
When I’m in book-buyer mode,it different. I love that introductory moment, that audition moment at my local bookstore. The cover creaks a little, that nice ‘new book’ feel. The cover’s what attracts me first, of course.
Then I read the back, and I love to see a picture of the author. You all? Picture, yes? Or no? Do you look? Do you care?
Blurbs—I do look to see what other authors have said! Do
But it’s the inside jacket copy that gets me. Are there key words that mean probably yes? Many of them--Literate. Clever. Innovative. Mystery. It’s easier to think of the ‘no’ words: Cowboy. Bodice. Titillating. But hey, not always.
So. It would be fascinating to watch on surveillance camera, don’t you think? Watch what people pick up, what they read, what they discard and what they take home?
What makes you turn from shopper—to buyer?
In honor of my very first guest blogger, I am giving away one copy each of Hank's first two books, Prime Time and Face Time, and Hank has graciously offered three limited editon Prime Time tote bags.
All you have to do is leave a comment, and I'll pick 5 winners at random.