Thursday, October 31, 2013

Thinner?

This is an interesting year. For the first time in six years, I have new novel-length works coming out, which has offered a glimpse at changes in the industry.

Changes, I must say, that aren't flattering.

I feel like I've stumbled upon an old friend, one who was once lovely. But meeting her six years after we knew each other so well, I can't help but realize how much she's changed. Typically, it seems, people gain a few pounds as they age. But in this case, my once-lovely friend, that beautiful crime-fiction publishing industry, has grown so thin I barely recognize her.

For starters, where the hell have all the independent bookstores gone? I'm fortunate to live in western Massachusetts, which has a handful of indie stores (World Eye Bookshop and Mystery on Main Street, among them) within a half-hour. But I tried to call  on my old haunts in northern Maine, where I lived when the Jack Austin series was being published. Not only has the local indie store gone under, the chain store in the region's sole mall is gone. This means there are literally no bookstores in a town of 10,000 people. The gods of Amazon must be smiling.

Publicity help has also diminished. I've always been with small presses, a fact I both love and hate. The publisher for my December novel has told me any store events hinge on my ability to generate them. Publicity budgets are stretched thinner than ever -- as you all surely know -- but it seems now that if you want promotion, you really must generate it yourself. So I've spent a couple days in the car driving around the area, shaking hands and meeting managers at area stores -- which I enjoy -- but which would also be much easier if someone from the publishing house had greased the rails first.

At the end of the day, though, the mystery genre is still full of great individuals; and I'm lucky as hell and absolutely thrilled to have two novels sitting on my coffee table in the next six months. Now, I just have to sell them.

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