Power to the Small Presses
Warren C. Easley (moderator), Kendel Lynn (Henery Press), Lee Goldberg (Brash Books), Matt Martz (Crooked Lane Books), Barbara Peters (Poisoned Pen Press), Maggie Topkis (Felony & Mayhem Press)
How did you get into the business of editing and publishing?
Lynn: Was a writer, started Henery to give mystery writers another option. Grew to actually prefer editing to writing.
Martz: Went from misspent youth to being over-educated, which made him unqualified for anything. Eventually made his way to editing and publishing.
Goldberg: In 2009 he had a sizeable out-of-print backlist of his own novels and started reprinting them on his own. Sold reasonably well and he became a magnet for other authors who wanted to know how he did it. In addition, a number of writers he had admired had fallen out of print. He ran into Joel Goldman at Bouchercon several years ago and discussed his idea of putting these books back into print. Goldman described the idea as "pretty brash" and that was the beginning of Brash Books.
Peters: Not a writer, but started out as a professional librarian, then opened up the Poisoned Pen bookstore. She got into both the bookstore and publishing with the idea of, "How hard could it be?" Kind of fell into editing but loves it. Both the bookstore and publishing house are non-profit.
Topkis: Both her mother and step-mother worked for publishing houses, so she was born to it. Founded and ran Partners in Crime Bookstore in Greenwich Village for almost twenty years. Founded Felony & Mayhem to print out-of-print books.
Skillset required for running a small press?
Peters: Need a business plan.
Goldberg: They approached it in a very business-like manner. They have a lawyer, accountant, and a private eye to track down heirs of deceased authors they want to put back into print.
Peters and Topkis both referred to their years of running small bookstores in that they feel like they know what appeals to readers.
Martz: Need to be flexible.
Lynn: Flexibility and focus.
The topic of POD (print on demand) and e-books came up and how this technology has affected the business:
Peters: Books never have to go out of print anymore. They can live out there forever. Also they can fix any errors as soon as they're found, as opposed to an offset run of books, which can't be fixed until the next run (if there is one).
Goldberg: You can make changes on the fly. If a book is not selling you can change the cover, title or product description to try and make it more attractive to buyers. This actually happened to him. He had written a novel called The Man With the Iron On Badge that was nominated for a Shamus Award and sold reasonably well. He changed the title to Watch Me Die and republished it and sales skyrocketed. He did say that so far he has only done that with his own books and not any of the Brash books.
|L to R: Warren C. Easley, Kendel Lynn, Lee |
Goldberg, Matt Martz, Barbara Peters, Maggie Topkis
The Psychology of Murder
Steve Brewer (moderator), Cathy Ace, Ellen Kirschman, Pat Morin, Dennis Palumbo
Is there a psychology of murder?
Ace: Psychology is the attempt to understand why people do what they do, so every murder will have some sort of psychology behind it.
Palumbo described the conflict that a person can have with himself and others, how co-existing with that conflict can become intolerable to the point where something has to give.
How does their background in psychology affect their enjoyment of therapist characters in media?
Kirschman: Gave Barbra Streisand's character in The Prince of Tides as an example of how he dislikes how therapists are portrayed.
Ace: Disappointing when she reaches the end of a book and the explanation for a character's actions are simply because they're insane/mad/crazy. Won't read that author again.
Palumbo: Doesn't like how therapists are usually portrayed as either messianic or predatory. Cited J.K. Simmonds' character of Dr. Skoda in Law & Order and the show In Treatment as examples of shows getting it right.
On the psychology of crime writers:
Kirschman: Psychologists can be competitive. She's found crime writers to be kind and helpful. She also added that the biggest concern of a therapist is the possibility of a patient committing suicide, and that was the motivation for her first book.
Palumbo: Doesn't think there's a type. A wide variety of people write in the genre.
On the psychology of crime readers:
Palumbo: Runs the gamut, just like writers.
Kirschman: As humans, we have a need to see justice done and see a resolution to an action. Crime fiction provides this to its readers.
The use of humor in crime fiction:
Palumbo: Crucial, especially if the material is dark. Humor gets you through life.
Kirschman: Cops use humor to blow off stress. The funniest people she knows are police. She actually keeps a file of their stories and comments and uses them in her stories.
Ace: Doesn't try to be funny, it just turns out that way. When she tries to purposely write humor it doesn't work.
Justifying writing crime fiction in the face of real-life crime:
Kirschman: Doesn't believe crime fiction creates criminals.
Ace: Doesn't write about real-life deaths that she has experienced.
Palumbo: Thinks its good that we don't become numb to real life crime.
A question from the audience was the concept that the prime motive of many violent crimes is humiliation.
Kirschman: Believes this is a major factor in workplace violence.
Palumbo: Humiliation and shame. Shame is a deep well, and when that feeling becomes intolerable to maintain, as he mentioned earlier, something has got to give.
Ace: The psychology of an individual determines how they will deal with humiliation and shame, however these things are damaging to a certain degree to any psyche.
Morin: Feels that other issues factor in along with humiliation and shame. It's a stew.
|L to R: Steve Brewer, Cathy Ace, Ellen Kirschman,|
Pat Morin, Dennis Palumbo
Next up: My judgmental, obnoxious review of Phoenix and the Hyatt Regency Hotel therein.