Friday, September 23, 2011

Greetings from Bouchercon!

[Originally published at Literary Lunchbox,]

By Karen Burgess

I’m on a four-day literary extravaganza! Bouchercon is the annual fest for fans and writers of mystery, crime, thriller, suspense and related subgenres (graphic novels, anyone?). This is mostly a fan event. The numbers are not yet in for this year, but attendance in 2010 topped 1,600.

Although I know more writers than I did in the past, I’m still bowled over to be in the room with luminaries such as Val McDermid, Jan Burke, Parnell Hall, Jeremiah Healy, Charlaine Harris… the list goes on. And on.

Yesterday began with a 6 a.m. pickup from my friend Addy, chauffeur and roommate extraordinaire. (For which I am eternally grateful – she had to get up at 4:30 to make this happen!) We drove to St. Louis, checked in to the super-lovely Renaissance Grand Hotel, and then walked over to the ever-so-opposite Holiday Inn Select, where Sisters in Crime was holding its pre-conference workshop for writers. It was the only event specifically for writers, so I was pumped to go.

The event was an incredible value for the $50 registration fee. The speakers included:
  • David Wilk, CEO, Booktrix, on the state of publishing
  • Libby Fischer Hellmann, author (most recent book, Set the Night on Fire, a standalone thriller), on comparing traditional and e-publishing
  • Cathy Pickens and Jim Huang (author and bookseller, respectively) on getting your book into print
  • Marcia Talley and Ellen Hart, popular mystery authors with long backlists, on do-it-yourself publishing on Kindle
The most useful session for me? Do-it-yourself publishing on Kindle. Marcia and Ellen talked very knowledgeably about what to do, step by step. For published authors with a backlist of out-of-print books, this means new life – and new money – with this new channel that can introduce your fiction to new audiences. (Get your rights back!)

Personally, I have a super-fun book that I have given up on pitching – it’s not a mystery. I came away convinced that I can freshen this up (wrote it so many years ago that my popular references are sure to be dated), format it myself, get an ISBN number, get my ever-so-talented graphic designer husband to do me a cover, price it at $2.99 or $3.99, upload it to Amazon and let my employer know I’m about to retire. (Just kidding on that last one.)

The Sisters in Crime event included a banquet with a very amusing after-dinner speech by author Meg Gardiner. Meg writes the Evan Delaney series about a Santa Barbara attorney and the Jo Beckett series about a forensic psychiatrist. Her books were published worldwide, but not in the U.S., until Stephen King wrote an article about them in Entertainment Weekly. Fourteen publishers called the next day. I was drinking coffee and paper-and-penless during her speech, but I sent myself a series of emails so I could remember some key points.

Email #1: Meg’s blog is called Lying for a Living. She’s also on WordPress. Sister!

Email #2: Meg's first published book was China Lake. I bought it – and several others she authored – today in the Bouchercon book room because when she talked about China Lake, she commented that “a big, big story will expand your readership.” Now I want to see a big, big story. I fear mine are tiny, itsy-bitsy stories.

Email #3: ”Left Behind in the E-book Rapture.” Or at least that’s what my email was supposed to say. iPhone corrected it to “Left Behind in the Snook Rapture.” I love the phrase and the point she’s making – e-books are not going away. Not there? It’s not too late. And if you can focus on a big career, this is going to all come naturally.

So that’s it. I have a giant list of cool blogs, web sites, resources, and more – a bulging book bag full of new purchases and a Bouchercon tote bag full of books that I got FOR FREE repeat FOR FREE, several new friends and a few days to go. More later.

Karen Burgess writes fiction (novels and short stories), is a published author and is searching for an agent. She is a member of Sisters in Crime and Mystery Writers of America. You can keep up with her online at her blog, Literary Lunchbox.

Photos courtesy of Karen Burgess.


Anonymous said...

I had to leave after the first two speakers--did anyone ever explain how you differentiate your work from the hundreds of thousands of others in epublishing?

Karen Burgess said...

Yes! Great cover. Great blurb. Great reviews. Price it correctly to generate purchases. And constantly, constantly be out there promoting your work, driving people to Amazon to check it out!