Hey Gang, since last week's Q&A was so much fun (for me, at least) I decided it'd be cool to do another one. Questions are being submitted through Twitter (@tyrusbooks) and Facebook. If you've got something you want to know, ask it at some point today and I'll do my best to answer. I'll be updating this entry multiple times during the day.
Also, this Saturday is my birthday and I've reflected a little about life over on my blog. You can read that here and wonder how the hell anybody takes me seriously. Seriously.
Now! Questions ahead!
(1) “Is romance dead in crime fiction? Does it ever work out or is this genre dedicated heart & soul to heartbroken protagonists?” (oddmonster)
It’d be easy for me to bust out the cynical Romance is Dead Everywhere answer. And with crime fiction being full of really cynical characters (and the authors who create them) it’d also be consistent messaging for a lot of the people with whom I associate.
But because I’m always searching for the truth, I want to explore this a little deeper.
What is romance? Using a very limited understanding of romance fiction, I think I’m supposed to imagine some broad shouldered cowboy showing up in a white hat to pluck some lady off the train tracks before disappearing into the sunset.
Well that’s not dead. But not because it’s alive and throbbing, but because it never existed. Ever. Not in real life. A bunch of heartbroken mopes with inked up quills played the literary what if game and then a bunch of readers were like, “Yeah, that would be Awesome! I hate my life, too! What have I done and how did I get here?”
We are all destined to be heartbroken protagonists of our own scripts.
Happy Valentine’s Day.
(2) “Conferences. I've never been to one. They look like fun, but I've wondered about just how beneficial they are. Thoughts?” (@caroylnleeadams)
Conferences can be hugely beneficial depending on your goals.
As far as I’m concerned, hanging out with friends (new and old) in an environment where you can talk about writing, books, shared experiences, etc. is the spice of life. Some of my closest friends are people I’ve met at conferences. I’m so glad to have met them. Though it’s not what I’m looking for when I go, I know a lot of people meet beta readers/critique partners at conferences, and that’s valuable.
Then, of course, are the speakers and the classes that the conference offers. This is—in my experience—a very hit or miss proposition. I don’t spend a lot of time in the workshops I’m not leading (too busy hanging out with others at the bar), but I’ve sat in on a few classes that left me wondering, who the hell is this person and why is he/she pretending to know what the hell he/she is talking about? Cringe inducing bad.
But when I was a young pup, I also attended a few conferences that helped me to understand how the industry works, gave names to writing techniques/devices that I loosely understood, and introduced me to agents and editors (who I was then interested in pitching, but now, in some cases, call friend).
Conferences vary widely. So do experiences.
Dig around before you sign up.
(3) “What are your thoughts on self-publishing allegedly poisoning your marketability to actual publishers later?” (@SSVa_Raven)
That’s conventional wisdom and it has been for as long I’ve been publishing books. The addendum people would throw in would be something like, “But, if you can sell X copies of your book by yourself, a publisher might be interested in picking the book up from you.” X was sometimes understood to be 5,000 copies. Sometimes 10,000. Sometimes...eh, you get the point, people were making shit up like they always do.
The idea was, if you sold it to 1,000 people, you’d probably maxed out all of your friends and family connections and the book didn’t have a life past that. In most cases, knowing what I know now, that was probably true.
But somewhere along the line publishing flipped a little bit, and the dismissive attitude towards self-publishing is changing. Sure, most of it is still suspect, but as recent successes, both critical and commercial, have shown, there are some really worthwhile projects that could be moneyfied if they had the machinery of big publishing behind them.
For us, one of the challenges (and it’s one that may be changing) is that historically, if a book had already been published in any form, it wasn’t eligible to be reviewed by the important publishing industry trade magazines like Publishers Weekly, Library Journal, Booklist, and Kirkus. Because reviews/coverage in those magazines are an essential building block for a book’s success for a company like ours, we couldn’t really even consider re-releasing self-published books.
But I think the rules on that kind of thing are changing. Basically, at some point, all the Publuminati will gather in some super swank Manhattan office and decide what is officially “ok” and “not ok.” They’ll disseminate that information down the ladder to me, and I’ll whistle the tune.