Publishers Weekly Article
Sex, Lies and Book Sales
by Michael Archer -- 4/7/2003
When three female mystery writers met online, the "Sex, Lies
and Videotape" tour was born. Libby Fischer Hellmann, Deborah
Donnelly and Roberta Isleib were regular members of several Internet
mystery sites and began contacting each other "off-list." They
began discussing their projects and upcoming promotional ideas.
Finally, the women got together in Austin, Tex., during Bouchercom,
the 32nd annual SF/mystery convention.
The trio realized they'd all be participating in Left Coast Crime,
the annual conference for mystery authors taking place in Pasadena,
Calif., in late February. They decided to get together in Northern
California the week before and tour down the coast together. The
three got along well and thought that their books‹mysteries with
a sense of humor‹complemented one other. So, after the conference,
they decided to continue traveling down to Southern California.
The tour's title came from the occupations of the authors' amateur
sleuth protagonists. Donnelly's mysteries, Veiled Threats and
Died to Match (both Dell), follow a wedding planner; Isleib's
A Buried Lie (Prime Crime) features an aspiring golf pro; and
Hellmann's An Eye for Murder (Prime Crime) stars a video producer.
"Libby came up with the name, but Deborah didn't want be 'Sex,'
" said Isleib. "We tried other alternatives‹ 'Matrimony,' 'Love'‹but
they just didn't have the same ring, so we talked her into it.
She said she didn't have the wardrobe to carry it off."
The tour started in San Francisco and went well. "Bookstore owners
have been great about publicizing," Donnelly told PW. "We're trying
to work with a lot of independent bookstores, both mystery and
general. They've been great about putting up flyers and telling
their regulars. Also, it's really important for us to connect
with the booksellers, regardless of the crowds they bring in,
because they can become familiar with our work and recommend our
books to customers."
The women found traveling together to be beneficial on other
levels as well. "On a big tour like this, it would be miserable
going on your own unless you were a huge name who's being escorted,
and we're just not there yet," said Isleib. "We're all in the
same place, basically, in our careers, so we can commiserate and
congratulate. It really works out well, because we're not competing
against each other. My experience has been that someone comes
in with the idea of buying, say, the wedding planner mystery,
and leaves with all three. It's been helpful to have someone bring
in the kind of readers that might not be interested in a golf
The authors joke that keeping their expectations low has paid
big dividends. When they reached Ann's Books in Atascadero, Calif.,
they were simply expecting to sign some inventory in the small
shop and move on. However, when they got there, owner Jolee Watembach
had posted a huge sign announcing their arrival and an event was
in place. The ladies had to act fast.
"We stopped in a mall to do laundry, taking things out and asking,
'Does this need washing?' " said Isleib. "We finished, popped
into the back of Ann's Books, changed from our road clothes into
our nice clothes, and had a great event."
The trio, who bill themselves as "three women of a certain age
who turn to a life of crime," said future tours on the East Coast
are a possibility. "We're three strong personalities, and we're
still speaking," says Donnelly. "We've sorted out all our strengths‹who
drives the rental car at which points, who navigates, who needs
to sleep in the backseat."