Lately, I've been overwhelmed by what I'll call the fear factor. Clive James asserts there areonly so many storylines and patterns of conflict, suggesting all that's left to distinguish one work of crime fiction from another is setting. (An assertion I find absurd, but let's set that aside.)

Jim Huang offered insights from his experiences that didn't give much reason for cheer either. Elsewhere, a fascinating discussion about royalties opened the door for people to share opinions on yet another contentious topic.

And elsewhere in cyberspace, people are still going on about Rankin, McDermid and sexual orientation like it's a hot new topic.

And then there is the steady stream of spam from people. Argh... I've never been so frustrated. Oh, don't get me wrong. Jim had valuable points to make. The royalties discussion was fasinating. But everything feels so... negative lately, and I haven't even linked to the latest discussion about cutting review space. It just feels as though the consistent message is it's impossible to succeed.

Our recent decision to launch Spinetingler awards was, in part, a knee-jerk reaction to it all. We'd discussed it. We still hadn't worked out some technicalities, but I said, "Screw it, we're doing this. We'll tweak as we go."

I'm hoping people here will start thinking about nominations in the appropriate categories. We've tried to level the playing field so that authors with major profile compete against others with a lot of profile, and those without as much push get a shot at some publicity.

Other than that, I'm mostly avoiding lists and forums these days. I find myself thinking that instead of the endless discussions about the decline of review space and how hard things are right now, we need to think past the old standbys we've relied on. Thinking back to Anne's idea of some time ago, about the Book Channel, I find myself wondering if the next order of business might not be BookTube. Heavens, if GodTube can make a go of it, surely BookTube can...

Maybe we should host a virtual Crimespace Convention. Special video interviews, podcasts, articles...

Damn, okay, I have to stop thinking. I have a frickin' deadline to meet.

** Edited to add: Okay, since I didn't make this clear enough, this isn't about kickstarting a pity party or anything like that. I'm tossing out the challenge, for us to come up with some things we can do to celebrate our genre, to celebrate good books and the love of reading. We're doing our awards. I tossed out ideas like BookTube and a Crimespace Convention (by this I mean an online virtual con). What I'm saying is, let's not just keep complaining, or reading the doom and gloom. Let's put a little elbow grease into doing something positive.

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Nine books makes you a legend? Wow! Come to think of it, there are an awful lot of people with 9+ books, many of whom I'd never heard of until I got on some web site. Awards should be given to the best books. (Or was that tongue-in-cheek?)
Now this thing about fewer people reading and more people writing is funny! I suspected it all along. People are too busy to read because they are writing the books themselves. It would account for the fact that there are plenty of books being published (and that is not as hopeful for genre as one might think) -- and that publishers don't bother to promote them and instead rely on chance: maybe one in fifty will be a winner. And that in turn accounts for the chicken suit performances. Anything to get sales on that first book. Don't you wonder about readers who would buy a book by someone who is willing appear in a funny costume in order to sell his book?
Yes, awards are good, if they are juried by people who know the genre. But how do you fight your way through that many new releases without brain freeze?
That's it, no more cons for me if I'm not going to see you in a chicken suit!
Did you all see this from M.J. Rose? I'm not tech-savvy either, but this could be a good addition to Sandra's suggestions for anyone who is.
Re M.J.Rose: I only took a quick peek. This thing (another web site) depends entirely on the size of the audience. Almost anything about mysteries on the internet appeals only to people who are sufficiently hyped on mysteries to search out such places. What you want is TV spots reaching a very broad audience. I have seen few book ads but those were very short, simple, and effective. It is something a publisher needs to do.
We spent a few weeks in Chicago recently and I noticed many of the El stations in the loop had advertisements for James Lee Burke's latest book on the panels that line the railing, usually full of ads for deodorant and soft drinks. I'm not a fan of advertising, but it kind of warmed my heart to see his rugged face there instead of the usual.

That said, it impressed me because I already knew his work. I have never (to my knowledge) purchased a particular brand of deodorant because of advertising. But then, you can't buy off-brand books. (Same active ingredients as a James Lee Burke novel at only half the price!)
I am like you about advertising, Barbara. My sales resistance is legendary. But the fact is that other people aren't like that. And name recognition counts for a lot when a buyer browses in a book store, recognizes a name, and buys the book because the author's name is vaguely familiar.
This is a good one - it's professional, interesting, entertaining and done right. And there's just enough on each author to pique your interest
Something like this would really work well I think, but the videos need to be done as well as this.
I believe Oline Cogdill blogged about book promos recently. I don't know. I'd love to have a publisher that supported such efforts in a meaningful ($$$) way, but at this point I find it almost paralyzing to think about. I just want to keep my head down and keep writing; it's the only way I can function.

(wow - I'm new here, and this is what I post? anyway, please to meet you all.)
It's not impossible, it's just very, very difficult, and along with talent, persistence, and luck, I agree that a positive attitude and willingness to be creative and take a few risks is needed. I'm flying this morning because I found out that Death Will Get You Sober is listed for preorder on Amazon, even though it won't be out till April. I just told several hundred MySpace friends about it--and they're not all writers who have dozens of friends' books on their shopping lists (pleeeeease buy mine--but I'll understand if you don't!), but also people I think might get a kick out of my irreverent but affectionate look at people in recovery. If I were still the computerphobe I started out as (only a decade ago) or shied away from the idea of making friends in cyberspace, I wouldn't be feeling good this morning about being a new mystery writer. BTW, about the notion that there's "nothing left" to distinguish one crime novel from another, that's like saying our faces are all alike because we all have two eyes, a nose, and a mouth. I posted a blog about the proverbial Seven Original Plots on Poe's Deadly Daughters this morning on this very topic. IMHO, originality is in characterization, voice, language--all that's unique to each writer. Liz
The online community of readers and authors might be small, but it's a place for word-of-mouth to start spreading outward from. Everyone's got a life outside what they spend on the internet.
I'm new to this too, even more so since I'm unpublished, but I too note that the mystery section in my local B&N has been given more space, and that some authors I consider mystery writers are actually showing up in the fiction bays. As a bookseller, I talk books whenever I can, and I make recommendations as often as possible. It's also been fun to patronize some of the independent book stores as I travel. Word of mouth is always a great way to reach other readers. We all do it too. As for commercials, I've seen James Patterson's books hyped on TV. Maybe we could start a petition to convince C-span 2 to give over some time to writers of mystery in addition to their normal sometimes rather dry broadcasts. You know, the one thing I've learned from other authors is that giving up is not an option. Moving ahead (even if it means two steps back) is the key. Color me optimistic, but I believe genre is what keeps people balanced in this otherwise unbalanced world.


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