February 20, 2016. The Ivy Bookshop Crime Fiction Writing Panel
Ed (E.A.) Aymar, Stacia Decker, Nik Korpon, Sujata Massey, Art Taylor
Last night, The Ivy Bookshop hosted a very entertaining and informative panel on the writing of crime fiction. The illustrious panel was moderated by Ed Aymar and each of the panelists had very sound advice to impart to the writers in the audience. I am not going to attempt to summarize the whole event, but thought I would point out a few highlights for those that were unable to attend.
Art Taylor talked a bit about his struggles with marketing his “novel in stories” On the Road with Del and Louise. Some readers are still confused by the idea of interconnected stories, but Art’s Agatha Award Nomination in the Best First Novel category should certainly help.
There was much discussion of starting out writing short stories and then transitioning into novel writing. From the agent’s perspective, Stacia said that success in the short story field has virtually no meaning to her when taking on a client’s novel. Since the markets for each are so different, name recognition in one does not really help to sell the other. Stacia said that in many ways, she would prefer a client have no “trackable” writing history when she takes them on as a client.
There was an extended discussion of what the best “frequency of publication” schedule was. As you might expect, there was no real agreement on this topic. Art said there were discussions with his publisher of whether he anticipated writing another book in 6 months, 9 months, or one year. As a reader, Sujata said she prefers a one year cycle as it can be difficult to keep up with all the releases otherwise. Others felt that keeping ones name in front of readers more constantly was a good strategy.
Of course, there was also some discussions of self-publishing. Stacia wisely said that authors should make sure they enjoy all parts of the process (cover design, hiring copyeditors, typesetting) before making the leap into this arena. Some authors just want to write and let the other things happen via others. Sujata said that if you are going to go the self-published route, make sure many people have told you that your book is good – and not just your family and friends. If that is the case, and you still can’t find an agent or a publisher, than maybe self-pub is a viable option.
Nik talked about mastering the use of social media. Learn how to use it as a way of gaining visibility without adding to the flood of self-promotion posts that are so common. Nik also changed many of his answers to the answers of his fellow panelists – after they gave really strong answers. This added some levity to the evening’s proceedings.
Sujata talked about never underestimating the power of the niche market. This rang true for me. As I have always said, every book has a reader and every reader, a book. Find your audience and market to them and you will have more success.
With one of the best lines of the night, Art Taylor said that “writing is not just a craft, it is a business.” This is wise advice and was worth the price of admission (which admittedly, was free – but still damn good advice).
And finally, the whole panel did agree on one thing – the best promotion is still Word-of-Mouth. Stacia even likened social media as a new form of Word-of-Mouth. I did not bring this up, but this is why the book blogging community is so important to publishing success these days. People follow us, get to know our interests, and eventually come to trust our opinion.
Over all, it was a wonderful evening. You can’t go wrong when you get smart people together and talk about books and publishing. I always come away realizing that there is no perfect answer to any question – just what works for you. But there is much advice out there to be gain if you will just take the time to hear it.