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Crime Beat

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Crime Beat: Stan Trollip on the publishing trends in crime fiction

michael stanleymichael searsOur special correspondents at Bouchercon this year, Stanley Trollip and Michael Sears, are back on their mammoth US book tour to promote their latest, Death of the Mantis. But before they hit the road they sent through a few thoughts about what was exercising the tongues around the coffee tables between panel discussions. As you’ll read, the worrying thing is that we might be losing diversity in crime fiction if the promo money is going behind the massive sellers. To be honest I can easily live without the blockbusters but if the mid- and low-list writers were to be jettisoned, crime fiction readers would find themselves without the books that are innovative and interesting. It gives one pause… Here is the final Stan Trollip report of Bouchercon 2011:

Outside the panels, ceremonies, and revelry, there was a great deal of conversation between authors on their respective positions vis-a-vis publishers. With few exceptions, Cara Black being one, everyone was irritated, upset, or confused.

For example, Tim Hallinan, Edgar finalist for his wonderful Queen of Patpong, was dropped by his publisher, Morrow, an imprint of HarperCollins. Soho eventually picked him up but at a much smaller advance.

Leighton Gage, author of the Brazilian series featuring Chief Inspector Mario Silva received no advance for his latest book, despite burgeoning sales in Europe.

Everyone complained that they were receiving little or no financial support for promotion, and that the publishers’ publicists did very little promotion and provided very little advice, if any. Most of the writers I spoke to (mid- to low-list) thought it quite likely that they would be without a publisher in the near future.

The general consensus was that the big names were getting all the promotional money, and that the publishers were not grooming any future stars. If you don’t make it to the big time in your first or second novel, you are forgotten.

Another fascinating item was the prevalence of ebooks.

carrionmantisNot only were the signing lines much shorter this year than last year, but people were buying ebooks while authors were speaking. Apparently Michael Stanley was mentioned in a morning panel on the Sunday as an author to watch. The Amazon ranking for the Kindle version of A Carrion Death jumped nearly 50,000 places. Of course I don’t know what that means in terms of sales, but going from position 65,000 to 15,000 is very exhilarating!

If South African crime fiction writers have the chance to make it to a Bouchercon, I would recommend it. Next year it is going to be in Cleveland from October 4 – 7 – not everyone’s favourite city, but still worth a visit for the gorgeous old metal malls in the centre of the city. And of course the lake.

Now Michael and I get back to our gruelling book tour.


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