Friday, February 20, 2015

Signal Boosting

by Linda Rodriguez
I have piles of books sitting on my coffee table right now. None of them are mine. Some of them are from people I know, even people I consider dear friends. Many of them are from people I’ve never met and have little connection with. Some are mysteries. Some are thrillers. Some are literary fiction. Some are poetry. They all have one thing in common, though. I’m planning to give their authors a signal boost in one way or another.

Today’s publishing environment is tough for authors in many ways, but primarily in finding ways to bring the attention of readers to their books. With the advent of easy self-publishing, everyone who finishes a NaNoWriMo book can pop it up on Amazon with little or no editing, and amid the flood of poorly prepared and written books, it can be difficult for the writer who has put in the time, effort, and money to make their book the best it can possibly be to let the potential reader know that hers/his is a good, high-quality book, worth taking a chance on. The problem is the same for everyone, whether self-published or traditionally published. It’s Gresham’s Law applied to books rather than money—“Bad books drive out good.”

One helpful thing is for another author to lend a hand in some way. Four of the books in those piles on my coffee table are books I’ve agreed to blurb, that is, books for which I’ll write a short pithy review of several sentences that will be placed on the cover of the book to entice readers to pick it up. Blurbs can be terribly important. They help in getting reviews and orders from bookstores, as well as in persuading browsing readers to try the book. When I was starting out as a mystery novelist, established writers volunteered to blurb my book, for which I will always be grateful. When reviewers read brief raves from top writers, they became eager to review my unknown debut novel. I try to pay that favor forward as much as I can within the confines of time and scheduling. I’ve seen some writers who have benefited from great blurbs by famous authors and then refuse to give blurbs to anyone themselves. I can’t understand that attitude.

I have a blog,, and on it I have a long-running series called “Books of Interest by Writers of Color.” I began that series as a resource for librarians and teachers who would approach me after readings or conferences and ask for suggestions of books by diverse writers. If it’s tough for all writers to get attention while buried in the crowd, it’s nigh impossible for writers of color, who tend to be invisible in modern American literature. I’ve been showcasing writers of color on my blog for the past six years. Just a little way to pull an author or book out of the throng and hold it up, saying, “This is good. Take a look.” The rest of the books on my coffee table are books that I intend to signal-boost on my blog.

Like writing a blurb, this showcasing on my blog is time-consuming. I could write an article or a good day’s pages on my current novel or short story in the time I spend on reading, making notes, and writing a blurb or review on my blog. So why would I bother?

I see the literary world as one large community and a set of smaller communities, and I believe that building these communities and making them stronger benefits all of us in the long run—writer and reader. I see my work as all part of a spectrum, writing my books and poetry, writing my blogs, teaching workshops, connecting with other writers and readers on social media, and signal-boosting other writers who deserve attention. I believe we make the world we want to have. And so the piles of books on my coffee table continue to exist, no matter how many reviews or blurbs I write.

Do you believe in signal boosting? How do you feel when an author often blurbs or praises another writer’s book to you? 

Linda Rodriguez’s third novel in the Skeet Bannion series, Every Hidden Fear (St. Martin’s Press), was a Latina Book Club Best Book of 2014, a selection of Las Comadres National Latino Book Club, and received an ArtsKC Fund Inspiration Award. Her second novel featuring the Cherokee campus police chief, Every Broken Trust (St. Martin’s Press), was a selection of Las Comadres National Latino Book Club, took 2nd Place in the International Latino Book Awards, and was a finalist for the Premio Aztlan Literary Award. Her first Skeet novel, Every Last Secret, won the Malice Domestic Best First Traditional Mystery Novel Competition and an International Latino Book Award Honorable Mention, was featured by Las Comadres National Book Club, and was a Barnes & Noble mystery pick. Her short story, “The Good Neighbor,” published in the anthology, Kansas City Noir, has been optioned for film.
Find her on Twitter as @rodriguez_linda, on Facebook at, and on blogs with The Stiletto Gang http:, Writers Who Kill, and her own blog

REPLIES TO COMMENTS (because Blogger hates me, and even though I managed to comment from another browser twice, now it won't let me comment even that way--huge sigh):

Paula, I write about a lot of different topics on my blog, but I've had a running series on Books of Interest by Writers of Color for 6 years. If you click on the tag "writers of color" on one of the latest posts, it will pull them all up to read.

Cyndi, I'm glad you agree and also signal boost. I'm always grateful for all of the writers who try to build the literary community they want to live in.


  1. Linda, thank you for this thoughtful and insightful post. I am very much looking forward to reading your blog about Writers of Color. We have so many rare, wonderful, and unique experiences of this world. It enriches us all to hear everyone's story. Thank you.

  2. Such an important, timely reminder to be good literary citizens.

    Thank you - and keep boosting...I do!

  3. If you don't spread the word about books you love, don't expect to see more books like them.

  4. I love recommendations from those I trust, and the security of knowing I'll NEVER run out of good books. As a reader, I am happy to write reviews, and was thrilled beyond measure to see one of my comments turn up as a blurb on a real cover.

  5. Linda, because of the current rush to self-publishing made easy by Amazon, I have found myself buying more than one books horribly written unedited book good had a nice cover and professional sounding description that was apparently paid for. I'm not saying that was wrong just set the inside was misrepresented by being unprofessional in every sense regarding the quality of the book you expect when you pay money for it.

    I'm saying this with carefully considered thought, because I hope to make it clear that I don't mean I simply did not care for a book or a writer's style. I have also read excellent self-published books that were well written and professionally edited. In each case, however, the author's book was later picked up buy a major publisher or was a book previously published by a major house and re-pubbed by the author. Also there is now movement by excellent writers who decide for many good reasons to promote themselves in the self-published marketplace. When I learn about them I sometimes buy their books.

    But to answer your specific question I would say that I've put weight on what authors I like tell me about others' books. When it becomes clear that they are only promoting without knowing… when they could've just as easily have said this looks like a good book… I've read the first in the series—but they don't, and I buy—I feel misled and I am not as likely to read either author again however unfair that might sound. It's just as easy to say my friend has a new book out without promoting its value.

    I have found your blogs especially valuable in introducing me to authors I might never have read were not for these. One excellent example is the Crispin Guest series by Jeri Westerson, which I may never have noticed simply because knights errant are not on my radar. All of Crispin’s fans, however, know he is much more than that. That is just one example of the many books and authors you have brought into my personal library buy your interviews, comments, lists, and reviews.

    1. And, as you can see, I could use a better speech-to-text program and editor!

  6. I missed this post three weeks ago, Linda, but am so glad I found it now. There are big changes afoot in publishing and it's important for serious, constant readers to understand what roles they can play in improving things. Thank you.

  7. I missed this post three weeks ago, Linda, but am so glad I found it now. There are big changes afoot in publishing and it's important for serious, constant readers to understand what roles they can play in improving things. Thank you.


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