Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Member Benefits? Check out SinC Links!

By Nancy Martin

Every month, Sisters in Crime sends an e-blast to members called SinC Links. When the board created this project, the purpose was to provide the professional writers among us—members who make their living from writing—with solid information about the industry and our place in it. To prepare the e-blast, a crack team of volunteers spends every month scouring the Internet for new stories that have value to women crime writers. We specifically target the Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Publisher’s Weekly, UK and Canadian newspapers and various industry-related blogs and websites. But we manage to find good stuff off the beaten track, too.

If you followed the Links this year, you undoubtedly noticed that publishing industry trends—especially those in the mystery genre--have been mixed. Sure, bestsellers Janet Evanovich and Patricia Cornwell managed to land great book deals. A few more authors in the mid-six figure range were also successful. But the majority of women selling mysteries right now are being paid very low advances—and a sorry few of those women were members of Sisters in Crime. (So few, in fact, that we changed our policy and now include deals by non-members just so we have something to report in the SinC Links.)

We’ve also noted the “small presses” are paying about a thousand dollars for a book, often for just one-book deals. This kind of deal is more for the hobby writers than the pros, but we list such deals anyway because knowledge is power, right?

The disheartening low-advance trend brings up the consideration that maybe now’s a good time to write something besides mystery if you can. But if you watch the “deals” in other genres, you’ve noticed that YA has exploded (that is, publishers have been eagerly accepting manuscripts that appeal to young adult readers) as have the paranormal and inspirational genres. (Now’s the time, apparently, to try selling that Amish teenage vampire manuscript you’ve kept in a drawer.) If you want to write a thriller and you have a name that could pass for a man’s--well, now’s good for you, too. Romantic suspense seems to be heating up as well. And historical fiction is enjoying a surge among publishers, too.

Of course, those trends may have run their course. If it takes you two years to write such a book--well, “you snooze, you lose,” comes to mind.

The other big story for SinC Links this year, of course, is the rise of e-books. Amazon says they’re selling more e-books than hardcovers. Barnes & Noble’s Nook device has come down in price, and many of their e-books are priced at $10 or less. Which means you can buy a Nook along with a dozen e-books instead of $25 hardcovers, and you’ll break even. Professional authors would be fools not to be sure their books are available in Kindle and Nook format? The Sisters in Crime Summit Report contains valuable info if you’re behind in the e-book trends.

But let’s face it: It’s the “deals” that everybody’s really interested in. How much money was So-and-So paid for what kind of book? Who’s her agent? What editor made the purchase? If you read SinC Links every month only for the deals, you’ll eventually start seeing the trends and act accordingly.

What SinC Links doesn’t do? We don’t provide supportive inspiration. (Although we occasionally find a tidbit that’s entertaining.) Nor are we an outlet for self-promotion. (We don’t announce pub dates, only business deals.) Unfortunately, we don’t provide a venue for discussing current trends either—but that’s what this blog is for! And so is the Sisters in Crime listserve. But SinC Links is intended to help professional writers make solid business decisions as we strategize our careers.

Any questions about SinC Links? Thoughts? Suggestions? Today’s the day!
Nancy Martin's writing carer has stayed alive for 30 years, during which she has written nearly 50 popular fiction novels including The Blackbird Sisters mystery series and the Roxy Abruzzo series. She serves on the board of Sisters in Crime and blogs at The Lipstick ChroniclesBe sure to visit Nancy's web site.


E. B. Davis said...

Thanks for the information Nancy. I'm writing a cross-genre novel--part mystery, paranormal or horror (depending on your definition) and romance. I'm doing so because of the trends, which I hate, but have to acknowledge. Categorizing the novel, deciding who to query and where it would be shelved is the difficult. But I chose a pseudonym that can't peg me as female. Writing like a man, though, it a challenge. Love your work, especially since I'm from PA.

Nancy said...

Thanks for the nice comments, EB.

Sometimes cross-genre is a good idea, but sometimes it just muddies the waters. You'll have to decide how the book will be submitted, of course. And, yes, communicating your concept clearly so the editorial folk know how to package and sell the book is definitely the tough part. Who's your reader?--Is always the question to answer up front. Best of luck to you. It's a tough market out there right now. I hope SinC Links has been helpful.

Ellis Vidler said...

For many of us, a thousand dollars and a contract with a small press would be wonderful. It would be a validation of all our hard work. The chances of a new writer breaking in with a decent advance from a major publisher are very small, but we plug away, never quite able to give up. Small presses are tough to break into as well, but they're more open to new writers.
I do love the Blackbird sisters. Keep it up.

Polly said...

I like the idea of shifting genres, which is exactly what I've done. I also used a pen name, just in case one my other manuscripts being pitched hits pay dirt. I'm not holding my breath for that in this elusive market. It may work, may not, but it's fun spreading my creative wings. One such work is out on submission.

Nancy said...

Hi, Ellis! How nice to see you here.

Yes, of course, a thousand dollars is nothing to sneeze at. And many writers are happy at small presses. Sisters in Crime makes an effort to provide benefits for all members, though. It just so happens SinC Links is aimed at providing a service to the members who need to make a living wage from writing (I've got a daughter's wedding to pay for this year!) which is why we don't include a lot of small press information in every issue. Our goal is to help career writers stay on top of things--- especially important now when the business is in such an uproar.

Nancy said...

Polly---Stretching our creative wings is always a good thing, right?

Beth Groundwater said...

Hi Nancy,
I look forward to receiving the SinC Links in my email every month and usually click on at least a few of the included website addresses. Including information, if its available, about contract royalty rates for different formats is very useful. When the e-book rates were shifting all over the place, I was on the lookout for what different publishers were offering.

Laurie said...

I find SinC Links to be very helpful. It's definitely a great tool for our members! It always directs my attention to useful info that I might have otherwise missed learning about.

Nancy said...

Beth, I'll start watching for more info about e-book royalty rates. Thanks for the tip.

Hallie Ephron said...

SinC Links is a fabulous benefit - it really gives you perspective, something that's so had to get hunkered down in one's office working, or hanging out with writer friends and hearing everyone gripe.

Great work, Nancy et. al.