Today I met fellow Guppie Michelle Yep Martin, a charming lady who writes cozies. We were sitting on the floor eating our box lunch when Joshua wandered by, sat and chatted with us a bit, and offered her his card. (Go, Michelle!) I enjoyed my time with her (I think it's always a little more fun at panels to have someone to sit and yammer a bit about it or deride the moderator.)
Anyway, the book tour panel with Diana Gabaldon, SJ Rozen, Earlene Fowler, and Eric Stone, with Laura Lippman moderating, was an interesting collection of war stories, epiphanies, and fantasies. They talked about their book escorts and how one had best be nice to the those escorts because they gossip! Laura Lippman said she always asked her escort first thing who was the worst author they'd had in their car...and they told! It's a cautionary tale, folks.
Rumor had it that Stephen King was going to show up for the Bouchercon surprise panel...but it was just a fake out. So we clambered over to "Author, Agent, Editor" with Dana Stabenow, her agent Rich Henshaw, and her St. Martin's editor Kelly Ragland. The process was pretty standard, except when it came to describing Stabenow's particular situation, which almost became too much with its unrealistic exceptions. That is, most of us can't expect all the extra attention and deals. But it was still interesting to hear.
And lastly, Barbara Peters from Poison Pen gave a State of the State of Publishing address that was quite informative. When she asked Jim Huang in 1990 how many mystery books were being published that year, he answered "1500." When she asked the same question in 2006, he couldn't easily answer, because the whole question had changed. In other words, how do we define "mystery", what is a "book", and what is a "publisher?" Besides these esoteric questions, she went on to talk about trends and to reiterate what all knowledgeable folks in the industry say: forget trends. Write what you love.
Be that as it may, she said in 1989, the historical mystery as such was dead (no wonder I couldn't get arrested) but those writing it had turned their talents to creating the genre of the historical mystery. Fantasy is on the rise. Western is making a come back. And paranormal romance is on the rise, as well as romance/mystery. Mystery on the whole is down while thrillers are dominant. "But don't worry about hitting a moving target," she said. Genre trends change.
She said the most difficult thing about the process of selling books (in her bookstore) is the supply side. And I've heard this from many authors this week. How difficult it is to get their publishers to send the darned books when they need them for a signing. This is not brain surgery. If you need books to do a signing, and you are a publisher who, coincidentally produces books, then tab "A" should easily slide into slot "B".
Barbara defines "publisher" as:
~a company that pays authors not the other way around
~follows common industry practices of sales/marketing/promotion
~has a distribution process set up with a reputable wholesaler
~produces at least five titles a year not written by persons related to the publisher
I thought it was great that she closed the store and the press to bring all her people with her. Good talk.
In a little bit, I'll be off to the Anthony Banquet and Awards. Tomorrow morning I go to the SinC breakfast (7:30 in the morning. Yikes!) and then closing ceremonies, and then back to the airport.