Recently, the Bouchercon committee posted their minutes from their last meeting which was held at Bouchercon in Anchorage. The chairperson of that Bouchercon is reported to have said the "big name" authors didn't come because so many small press and self-published authors did. I was there and yes, I'm one of the small press authors--but I saw lots of big names. Frankly, if numbers were down it was because of the cost of going to Anchorage IMHO.

The committee then went on to say that their recommendation was from now on to only allow "legitimate" authors be on panels. Of course if you go to Bouchercon or any other mystery convention, you want to be on a panel as it's your one chance to shine and talk a bit about your book. If you are taking the cost of the convention off your income tax then you need to be using the con as promo opportunity.

So, I ask, what makes a "legitimate" author? I heard that one of the members of Mystery Writers of America (which I've been an active member of for years despite the fact my publisher didn't make the approved publisher list) say an author isn't really a writer until he or she makes her living writing. That criteria certainly excludes many authors.

I have a good author friend who self-publishes her mysteries which are top-notch, the books are beautiful, and she sells plenty. Is she a legitimate author? Not by MWA's standards.

I've published more than 20 books, have contracts for two more in my Deputy Tempe Crabtree series, a contract for the next Rocky Bluff P.D. book, taught novel writing for Writers Digest School for over ten years, taught a writing class at Borders for five, was an instructor at the Maui Writers Retreat in Hawaii, have given workshops at writers conferences at colleges and many other places--but am I a "legitimate" author?

What do you think?


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Comment by Marilyn Meredith on December 3, 2007 at 1:34am
What I meant to say, is I'll go to the conventions and conferences where they want me.

Comment by Marilyn Meredith on November 21, 2007 at 2:41pm
This is a comment I received from a Native Alaskan who I met at Left Coast Crime in Alaska way back when I only had one book in my Deputy Tempe Crabtree series. (It was published by a one-woman independent publisher--no advance, not very good about paying royalties.)

"Reading this made me sad too. I picked up a lot of new authors when I went
to Left Coast Conference all those years ago, because I heard them speak on
a panel, found them interesting and gave their books a shot...then I pass
on the books and hope they get more fans."

This young woman is now a friend of mine and after Bouchercon this year in Alaska, I stayed at her home for four days. We had a wonderful time.

And yes, I agree that you discuss the topic of the panel, but something is always said about the authors' current books if only in the introduction.

I love going to mystery cons--they are a lot of fun. It's great to rub elbows with fellow mystery writers. I've made so many good friends this way.

And yes, I'll be going to the conventions and conference wheter they want me.

Comment by Jack Getze on November 21, 2007 at 5:50am
Of course you're a legitimate author, Marilyn. Like Sandra, I believe there's a big difference between self-published and small presses, and I can't understand why MWA (I'm an active member, too) and these convention committees don't seem to understand that. But like so much in the publishing industry, I'm afraid this one is out of my control. I'll go where they'll have me, skip the ones that don't want me. What are you gonna do?
Comment by Sandra Ruttan on November 21, 2007 at 3:23am
I agree that for most people it was the cost of Alaska that was what kept them away, and had nothing to do with who was or was not attending.

I think the reason some big names don't go to the cons is because they don't have to. Simply put, they don't have to work as hard to promote.

While this isn't an issue that has bearing on me now, because my publisher is MWA approved, I think this is dangerous territory because there are new publishers coming up to fill the gaps and provide things that are different than what the big publishers do, and that's important if we want to keep the genre from stagnating. I certainly raise eyebrows at the thought of limiting panel participation to those with MWA approved publishers only - it eliminates a number of legitimate Canadian publishers, for one thing. Capital Crimes Press - the publisher of Robert Fate and Troy Cook, amongst other well-received books - isn't on the list presently.

And if we go by income then I'm told only about 5% of authors earn a living from sales of their books.

I don't think that people have the right to expect to be on a panel at a convention (and I disagree that the point of being on a panel is to talk about your book - it's to talk about the topic of your panel) and there are other ways to write off the expense - meet with agent/publisher/interviewer/reviewer - but I think the biggest cost is to the readers who attend the conventions. If the scope of who is and who is not allowed is narrowed dramatically, the risk is going to a convention where all the panels are variations of a few dozen authors sitting in different combinations, because nobody else is eligible.

Self publishing is a different issue entirely, over the approved lists alone. There are a lot of valid publishers who just don't meet the guidelines, and what might make the difference for some is that their advance was only $900 instead of $1000. But other cons are already moving in this direction, limiting the scope of who is allowed on panels.

And it's probably a good thing to have a con that isn't loaded up with too many 'big names' for a change. It gives people a chance to hear about other authors that they might otherwise overlook.

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