Writing, Marketing, and a Double Giveaway

Happy New Year! Liz here, with guest Jess Lourey today – a great way to start the year, don’t you think? She’s celebrating the release of her new book, Bloodline. Take it away, Jess!

Bloodline, my 20th book, officially releases today. It’s coming on the heels of Unspeakable Things, which was my breakout novel. After eighteen years of writing and fourteen years of being published, I finally figured out how to tell the stories I was born to write. They’re true crime-inspired because I love the realism and the research. And just as importantly, they draw on my own emotional experiences because I think honest writing resonates, and I think there’s healing to be had (for writer and reader) if we dig into our truths.

I also developed both books (and many of my previous books) using something I call the Book in a Bag method. This method is based on the idea that every story is about the main character facing their greatest fear. So, when I begin a new novel, I first decide on my protagonist’s greatest fear. Next, I decide their A story (usually solving a crime) and their B story (their emotional arc). After that, I envision the inciting incident (the scene that sets them on the path of their A and B story) and the climactic scene (where their A story and B story come together and they face that greatest fear).

After that, it’s straightforward to map out the intervening scenes, which I describe in a sentence or two per scene. This method removes so much stress from the writing process because I know I’m on a sure path and can sink into the indulgent creativity I crave when writing. I’m so pleased with this method that I designed Book in a Bag kits for other people to use, and I’m giving away one to a commenter on this post.

But we know that good writing, unfortunately, only gets us so far. We also need viral marketing. I hit on something with Unspeakable Things that I replicated to great success with Bloodline: I send out era-specific review kits to a list of 50 or so reviewers that I worked with Dana Kaye at Dana Kaye publicity to develop. Unspeakable Things was set in 1983, so in addition to an ARC of the novel, I included an authentic Trapper Keeper (bought on Ebay) plus modern recreations of 1980s scented pencils, puffy stickers, candy, and lip gloss.

Bloodline is set in 1968. That kit includes fantastically authentic 1960s jewelry (found by scouring Etsy and Ebay), a small tub of Noxema, candy cigarettes, 1960s Betty Crocker recipe cards and matches (you’ll know why matches after you read the book), and 1960s-style nail polish. It is an amazing package, and I’m calling it the Perfect Housewife kit in honor of the book. I focused on getting that kit to Bookstagrammers, who truck in photogenic marketing, and I’m grateful for the loud and early buzz they’ve generated.

Want to see the kit up close and personal? One commenter below will get a Perfect Housewife kit mailed to them! I’d also love to hear your story plotting methods and your best marketing tips in the comments. Thanks for stopping by.

Readers, I have one of these – trust me, it’s awesome. Want one? Leave a comment below for a chance! Thanks for stopping by, Jess, and good luck with your new release!

85 Thoughts

  1. I have my book in hand and can’t wait to read it, Jess! You’ve found your sweet spot, and I’m so happy for you. I’m a pantser by nature, so “plotting method” are funny words.

    My main method is going for a long walk after a morning of writing and asking myself out loud, “What needs to happen next?” When ideas rise up, as they always do, I dictate a text to myself so I don’t forget.

    1. Edith, your method sounds perfect. You know how I know? It works for you, and you turn out amazing books.

  2. Happy New Year to all! Have not read anything by this author, but now I am intrigued. Love the kit!

  3. Jess, congratulations on the release of your 20th book!
    I enjoyed reading UNSPEAKABLE THINGS last year and have BLOODLINE on my Kindle app to read this week.

    These review kits are brilliant and I think will make the books even more memorable to your reviewers.

    Thanks for stopping by and Happy New Year!

    1. Happy New Year, Grace! It’s always nice to “see” you, even if it’s a thumbnail pic. 🙂 Thank you for your kind words, and for making time for my books. You’ve been entered to win!

  4. Congratulations on the great success of publishing 20 books!

    Can’t wait for the opportunity to read “Bloodline” which is most definitely on my TBR list. It sounds like a fabulous story.

    Thank you for the opportunity to win a Perfect Housewife kit. Someone is going to be very happy and I would love it if it was me. 🙂 Shared and hoping to be that fortunate one selected.

    Happy New Year! Today is the first blank page of a 365 page book. Write a good one!
    2clowns at arkansas dot net

    1. Happy New Year, Kay, and thank you for the kind words! You’ve been entered to win.

  5. Happy Book Release Jess! I’ve watched your career rise from the first time I met you and now look at you. You go girl!! Embrace it all and best of luck in the new year. 2021.

    1. Dru Ann, you are a star in the world. Like, a bright, shining star. Thank you for your kind words. You have been entered to win!

  6. I loved “Unspeakable Things” and “Bloodline” is on my TBR list! I like your writing/marketing method and your book in a bag sounds so cool! I like to have a beginning and an end in mind and then I brainstorm some major plot points (road markers) in between. It gives me a roadmap to follow but still gives me plenty of room to explore where the story might go. I call it “off-roading.” 🤣

  7. Happy New Year! Your thoughts on writing were very inspiring this morning. It was interesting to read about the “behind the scenes” that goes on for an author.

    1. Thank you for the kind words, Jeanette! Happy New Year, and you’ve been entered to win.

  8. First and foremost – Happy New Year to Jess, Wickeds, and readers. may 2021 be the best.

    Second – Mega congrats on Bloodline, Jess. It’s set in my favorite era (and they say if you can remember it, you didn’t live through it – hah – believe me, I was there) and the cover makes me want to pick it up right though the computer.

    Third – OMG – Book in a Bag sounds fantabulous! I was a pantser who gave way to a plotter, but my process is very similar – especially in the two line scene suggestions. Love it.

    1. Thank you for your kind words and kind wishes, Kait. 🙂 Love that comment about the 60s. You have been entered to win!

  9. This sounds like absolute genius. What a cool idea. I’d love to win a kit. Thank you for the chance.

    1. Happy New Year, Laurie, and thank you for the kind words! You’ve been entered to win.

  10. A Trapper Keeper! Oh, the memories.

    Like Edith, I’m mostly a pantser, so “plotting” is a loose process for me. I start with my victim and how he died. Then I think of at least 3 (and build it up to 5) potential killers and “whydunit” reasons. I don’t know which of them will turn out to be the culprit. Like Edith, every day I think, “what would happen next?” and I sit and write until the killer is revealed.

    Congrats, Jess!

    1. This sounds like a solid method, Liz. Thanks for sharing! You’ve been entered to win.

  11. Congratulations on your success and the release of Bloodline, Jess! My writing process is messy. Hahaha. I mentally, loosely track three-act structure, and mix it up with seat-of-the-pants. I’ve actually wondered if Book in a Bag might help. It’s really neat that you can write the books and share your methods as well! As a journalist, I’m also intrigued by your use of real events.

    1. Thanks for your kind words and sharing your method, Cathy! I find journalists are often very gifted novelists. You’ve been entered to win!

  12. What a great way to start the new year! Your new book sounds great, and your marketing is inspired, as always. The Book in a Bag is fab–I was a proud Kickstarter supporter, and I sent another one to a writing friend in CA. Happy New Year!

    1. Julie, I so appreciated your support and am always grateful for the wisdom you share with the writing community. Happy New Year, and you’ve been entered to win!

  13. Congrats on the release of Bloodline, Jess! I devoured Unspeakable Things and can’t wait to read this one. Congrats on the Book in a Bag, too! It was thrilling to help out on its Kickstarter campaign.
    I’m such a Plotter. I start with a story nugget, then turn that into a handwritten 1 or 2 page outline, then develop that into a timeline that covers 25-30 chapters. It’s a bit of work up front, but it leaves me plenty of room to get creative while writing and keeps me on track, too.
    Cheers to the creative process and all the ways our stories get written!

    1. JC, thanks for supporting the Kickstarter, and for sharing your method! Absolutely cheers to the creative process–there are so many good ways to write a story, none of them the only way. Happy New Year, and you’ve been entered to win!

  14. I love the Book in a Bag idea. It looks like a lot of fun whether you’re a writer or not. I’m primarily a reader but I’ve always enjoyed writing for fun and one of my goals this year is to try to get my current work-in-progress finished and hopefully published. Love the sound of your book, I’ll be checking it out. Happy New Year!

    1. Thanks you so much for your kind words, Alicia! You’ve been entered to win. Happy New Year to you, as well!

  15. I love the idea of Book in A Bag. It must be so much fun to do the research. Happy New Year and thank you for the chance to win. Will definitely put your books on my TBR!

    1. Thank you for your kind words and Happy New Year, aut0215! You’ve been entered to win.

  16. The books sounds very good and I’m just a reader. She’s a new Author for me so I’m going to check out her books. Great review thank you
    Happy New Year

  17. Book in a bag sounds wonderful! It sounds like you’ve distilled the most important part of the book into easily grasped parts, and I’m eager to try it!

    1. Thanks for your kind words, Barbara, and Happy New Year! You’ve been entered to win.

  18. Happy New Year! Congratulations on the release of “Bllodline”. Sounds like a great book, looking forward to reading reading it. Thanks for the great giveaway.

  19. I love hearing how authors create the great books we get to enjoy. Your idea of review kits is awesome. What a great way to set the mood for a book!
    You are a new to me author and I’ve added your books to my TBR list 😊

  20. I’m looking forward to your Jan 26th webinar on Revolutionary Editing! In the meantime, wouldn’t I just LOVE to win the Book in a Bag! All the best to you in 2021, Jess — and happy book birthday!

    1. Woot! See you then, L.C., and you have been entered to win. 🙂 Thank you for the good wishes!

  21. Book in a Bag and the Perfect Housewife kits — these are genius. Anything to make the writing more fun and more visceral. I like to plot after I’ve thrown down a very messy and veering first draft. My first draft is so shapeless, it’s like a bag of half-melted ice cream. I unravel all the different threads, throw them into separate documents, and read the documents through to see what threads I like. I also do the same thing for characters and then decide what to keep and reshape. But your Book in a Bag sounds like a lot more fun.

    1. Shizuka, your method sounds really powerful, actually. Thanks for sharing it. And you’ve been entered to win!

  22. Bloodline just arrived and is sitting on top of the TBR pile. Can’t wait to start it. Love the idea of Book in the Bag. How about Editor in a Bag?

  23. Jess, looking forward to BLOODLINE! I’m intrigued by Book in a Bag–it’s giving me ideas for the story arc of my new book.

    I love your 1980s marketing scheme! My favorite marketing tool is limited-edition postcards. For CHASING SHAKESPEARES, it was a quote from the book that begins “I believe that God is a librarian…”–I’ve seen it posted on the bulletin board at many libraries I’ve visited. For CRIMES AND SURVIVORS, it’s a photograph of Titanic triumphantly entering New York.

    Happy New Year to all!

    1. Thanks, Sarah! You have been entered to win. Happy New Year to you and yours!

  24. Greetings:
    Ah, plotting. I started out thinking I was a pantser but stories that trailed off to nothingness convinced me that wasn’t the way. Then plotting almost every single thing that was going to happen also proved that wasn’t the way for me either. Where was the fun and excitement of discovery in that? I’ve taken a break from books and am writing short stories. I like writing them but I also know I want to take a couple of my ideas and find the way that’s my way to get plotting figured out for a book. I’m mulling over major points so I’ll know how to conclude it and then leaving the journey between the major points as the new and exciting part. But I’m open to something new. I just know that I need the “rocks in the road” so I know where to turn, but I don’t want all the pebbles strewn before me. I want to uncover a few along the way. Maybe I need to explore Book in a Bag! Thanks!

    1. I hope you find it useful if you check it out (or win it), Karen! Happy New Year, and you’ve been entered to win.

  25. Congratulations on your new book! Looking forward to the SINC webinar on editing later this month. Thank you for sharing your practice and process. Both are of interest and inspiring to me!

    1. Thanks, Debbie! I look forward to the SinC webinar, too. Happy New Year, and you’ve been entered to win.

  26. Congratulations on Bloodline! Book in a Bag is one of those quirky ideas that really grabs attention! I’m with Edith: panster all the way, but the elements you’ve described in your method hold every story together, so I’ll “button up my pants” with those elements in mind!! Happy New Year1

  27. Happy New Year, everyone. Are we ready, or what?

    Jess, super-congratulations to you! You give me hope.

    I love the idea of Book in a Box. Every story I’ve written has arrived at the finish line in a different way. I could sure use some structure!

    1. Thanks, Peg! I sure am ready to turn a new page. 😉 Happy New Year, and you’ve been entered to win.

  28. Happy Book Birthday, Jess! I write a simple, very simple, outline. Write a chapter or two until I get stuck. And then develop my outline a bit more. When I’m writing on deadline I write a short synopsis, simple outline, and then storyboard enough to mark turning points for clues, relationship growth, and red herrings. Marketing? Consistency is king.Thank you for the opportunity to win your Perfect Housewife. I really enjoyed reading your post.

    1. Thanks for sharing your insight, Rebecca! Happy New Year, and you’ve been entered to win.

  29. Happy New Year, everyone! We’re so ready for this, right?

    Jess, super-congratulations to you. You give me hope.

    The idea of Book in a Bag is awesome! Every book I’ve written has gotten to the end in a different way. I could use some structure.

  30. Welcome back, Jess. Congratulations on your new book! I love your writing process — it’s so helpful because I have this idea for a thriller rattling around in my head.

  31. Congrats on the new book. As a reader, not a novelist, I don’t have any ideas to share with you.

    Happy New Year!

  32. Hi, you are a new to me author and your books sound like Great reads! And what an Awesome Book bag, I love it and it sounds like a Great idea. Thank you so much for the chance. May you and your family have a Very Happy and Blessed New Year.

  33. Congratulations on having another book hit. I love reading and the nostalgia of the 60’s reminds me of the decade when I started having kids beginning with twins.

    1. That’s a fantastic way to start, Sunnymay! Go big or go home, right? 🙂 You’ve been entered to win, and Happy New Year!

  34. Happy Book birthdays!! How much fun to have two books coming out so close together. Most Mom’s in the 1960’s stayed home with their children. You maybe able to market it either as a game show which were popular in the 60’s. It could also be marked in a way that would be something along the lines of a reality show.

  35. As a long-time reviewer [see http://www.reviewingtheevidence.com] I enjoy author promos AND they in no way influence my reviews. I call ’em as I see ’em, and that’s all there is to it. You may certainly verify that with some of my writer friends. Having lived through all the decades you discuss – not sure I need the reminders. Please feel free to pass my info along to your publicist(s). Thanks for the chance to win!

  36. Congrats on the new book! I LOVE hearing how authors think through the plot, characters, and storyline. Book in the Bag sounds like a great way to get some structure. I have just decided to take a 6-month “sabbatical” from my professional technical writing to focus on the mystery I’ve been dabbling in since September. I appreciate it when seasoned authors share insight. Thank you!

  37. Congrats on your new book! Thank you for sharing your writing wisdom! Book in a Bag is brilliant! Thanks for the opportunity to win!

  38. How awesome!!! Would love to win! You are a new author to me!

    Thanks for the chance!

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