Just finished reading Don Winslow’s new crime thriller, City on Fire, which I loved. Five stars. But as I wrote up my Amazon review (as we should all do 🙂 ), I found myself wondering how I’d come to pick Winslow’s book in the first place. I’d never read any of his other books. Although he’s well-known, I hadn’t heard of him. I mapped out seven steps on my book-picking journey (steps that might be of interest to all authors who are trying to lure readers to their books.)
1. Book-picking and the title
Although I had never heard of this particular book, there are a lot of City on Fire titles in my consciousness. An earlier novel, with the same name, was published in 2015 and earned its debut author a $2 million dollar advance. (I can’t remember my name half the time, but details like that stick in my head.) There have also been movies with that title, and also a scent. So the idea of a novel titled City on Fire was frothing around in my mind, and it made it easier for me to remember.
2. The bookstore
I happened to be at a party at The Mysterious Bookshop (celebrating the publication of an anthology in which I had a story, Crime Hits Home.) There was a pile of Winslow’s books on one of the tables, and I began to drift toward thinking, oh. There’s that book by the guy who had the $2 million advance and some random person came up to me and said, “It’s not that guy. It’s someone else, and it’s really good.” So that joined the froth in my mind.
3. The epigraph
Then I opened the book and saw the epigraph, which is a quote from The Iliad. Take your meal now, we prepare for combat. I have mixed feelings about epigraphs. Sometimes they’re the best-written part of the book, which is worrisome. Other times they’re pretentious. I felt like Winslow’s quote added some gravitas to a crime story set in Providence, and so that drew me in.
4. Book-picking and the Cover
I liked it. There was something stark about it that made me think the author didn’t need to do anything fancy to draw me into the book. It had authority. Also, his name is so big on the cover that I figured I should know who he was.
5. Word of Mouth
I was chatting with someone knowledgeable and we were talking about good books we’d read and he mentioned this one and said it was great. It had already been in my mind, so I was more receptive.
The book is set in Providence, Rhode Island and starts out at on the beach and that was good enough for me.
It happened that I had just finished listening to a book on Audible. (Tana French, The Searcher.) I had that panicky feeling I get when I finish up a good book and I’m not sure what my next good book’s going to be. Then, hey presto, City on Fire pops up as a recommendation from Audible. And I had a credit!
Fellow readers and writers, that’s a lot of work that Don Winslow had to go through to get me to pick his book, but I’m so glad he did. Now I’ve preordered the sequel. 🙂 Do you have any book-picking observations of your own? Join the conversation on Facebook and Twitter.
Susan Breen is the author of the Maggie Dove mystery series. Her stories have been published in Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine and Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine. The MWA anthology, Crime Hits Home, in which she has a story, just won an Anthony Award Finalist. She teaches novel-writing at Gotham Writers and is on the staff of the New York Write to Pitch Conference. www.susanjbreen.com