One of the best ways for promoting yourself and your books is to attend a book festival. This past Saturday, hubby and I went to San Luis Obispo (CA) and the Central Coast Book Festival. The weather was wonderful! There were 60 plus vendors–mostly authors, but some Friends of Library selling used books (from several area libraries).
Besides having a table with a display of most of my books, I did a talk on “How to Write a Mystery.” In twenty minutes, the audience came up with an idea for a sleuth, the setting and time period, the victim, and several people who had both the motive and the time to commit the murder. It was great fun and a good way for people to learn more about writing a mystery.
Of course there were authors that I knew at the book fair, but more importantly, there were readers who had bought some of my books before and were ready for new ones.
Several mystery authors came and talked to me about the two mystery conventions who have decided not to allow authors whose publishers are not on Mystery Writers of America’s approved publisher list to appear on panels. My publisher is not on this list because it can not meet all of their criteria. Though I had been told I would be “grand-fathered” in and given a panel, ethically I just can’t go–the rule is far too discriminatory and elitist. What is amazing is, this convention is sponsored by two major libraries. So, I’m giving up on of my favorite conventions and a place where I usually see many of my good friends and fans. Disappointing? Yes, very.
What is the criteria to be on MWA’s approved list? First, you can not be self-published. If you have a publishing company and publish other authors as well as yourself, the other authors are not eligible. The publishing company must pay at least $1000 in advance, pay royalties, edit, take returns, print at least 500 copies of a book at a time (this is to weed out publishers who use print-on-demand technology), must publish a certain amount of new books per year, and can not charge the author anything.
Of course the intent is to weed out the less than scrupulous publishers who prey on unsuspecting authors–those who make their money by charging authors, or those who don’t do any editing but are willing to publish anything. The problem is, in making these rules, they are eliminating many authors who are published by honest, small independent publishers.
Why the conventions have decided to do what they are doing I’m not sure. I’ve heard rumors that some of the authors published by these presses complained about their time slots on panels and behaved badly on the panels. Also, others have said they were charmed by the author when they spoke, bought the book and it was awful, filled with errors, etc. I’ve gone to many of these conventions and I’ve seen a few big name authors who didn’t behave well on panels. I was once on a panel where the moderator–a well known author in the mystery genre, after the brief introduction of the other authors, did all the talking about herself and her book. I’ve seen authors who “thought” they were more important than anyone else because of being published by a New York publisher who tried to “hog” the panel. And yes, to be fair, I’ve seen new authors from small publishers who did the same.
As for the books, I judge books for a huge contest for self-published books. I can read two or three pages and know if a book is a contender for the best book. Yes, the greater majority need editing. Some of the authors didn’t know what they were doing. But in each group, there have been real gems.
I’m sorry that these conventions have decided to screen authors in this manner. Those of us published by small independent publishers buy books too. I always buy books at the conventions I go to. I also think we ought to be able to let people know about our books at these conventions like any other author no matter who the publisher is.
My not going will not make a bit of difference to either convention. Sometimes, though, a person needs to take a stand.
Stepping down from my soap box,