As always, I had a wonderful time at Left Coast Crime (LCC). It's an extremely well-run conference, hometown in a way because most crime fiction writers who live on the west coast try to make it. This is both a plus and a minus because you see all the people you haven't seen in a while, but you also tend to see the same people. But I hadn't been to a mystery con in a long time and it was nice to reconnect with folks.
On a general level, what did I glean from LCC?
1. Independent bookstores are making a small comeback.
2. Editors are acknowledging the death of the mid-list, although crime fiction, because so much of the genre is predicated on the series concept, seems to be weathering that demise as well as can be expected. Basically, it's only semi-dead or semi-alive.
3. The advent of computers means that every book sold is counted, which means that every book that isn't sold is also counted. This means that it's harder and harder to justify keeping an author whose numbers are that great but has potential. Book reps are now regional as opposed to local, which means the most common denominator tends to hold sway, which certainly is an excellent reason why I find most books so generic these days. And so disappointing.
4. Thrillers are selling well. International thrillers are selling very well. Hail the rise of the Scandinavian mystery author!
5. Publishers are still buying but put your absolutely best foot forward. Your voice needs to be unique and you need to know how to write. You won't get a second chance.
On a personal level, what did I glean from LCC?
Basically that my foray into self-publishing was a non-starter. I was on a panel with a bunch of self-published authors who were making it work for them and that is precisely why it works for them. They work like DOGS at it. Connect, connect, connect is their motto. It's certainly a part-time job, and easily could be a full-time job. Unfortunately, I have a full-time job that demands a tremendous amount of brain cells, plus whatever free time I have I want to use it to write. The fantasy of just putting a book out there and hoping that people other than your friends buy a copy is just that: pure fantasy. I did get a lot of ideas on how to market Pen and Prejudice if I had the time. Given that I've had so little buy-in from the mystery community on this book, I would have to start marketing it to a whole new group of readers: romance readers and Jane Austen fanatics. There is a market for this book. I just don't have the time to chase it. Sometimes you just have to be honest with yourself. I do not have the time for this.
Is self-publishing a last resort option? Sure. It was fun and I learned a lot about the process of putting together a professional looking book, but there my expertise ends. If it's a choice between devoting my precious free time to sales as opposed to writing, I'll choose writing any day. And since my output seems to be a book every five years, well, that pretty much says it all.