Friday, January 7, 2011


Carrying the gauntlet.

The latest question in the turbulent publishing world is whether Key Porter Books is in trouble. I hope not. They have been such a respected name in the business for so long. Hopefully it's just a rumour. But times being what they are, nothing would be surprising. Not after Random House of Canada downsized its sales rep staff recently.

So, that was my opening paragraph this morning...before I heard the dreadful news that Key Porter has actually closed its doors. What a loss...and how quickly things change. Which makes the remaining portion of this blog all the more relevant. Read on!

What's an author to do? That's the real question.

It may be up to the published authors to get sales moving and save the publishing industry -- how's that for a challenge! But how to do that? It's what we do already but need to kick into high gear -- self-promotion.

The American cosy authors know how to do it. There are blogs galore with such snappy names as Cozy Chicks and Killer Characters -- each offering a bit different take on the genre.

The RendezVous Crime authors are no slouches, either. Just look at the blogs -- Type M for Murder being the main one, a consortium of authors, and then there are all the individual author blogs (Vicki Delany, Brenda Chapman, Louise Penny, Gail Bowen to mention just a few). And when it comes to social networking, they are "in your face" -- and I mean that in a very positive way, on Facebook and many are on Twitter. They are headliners at signings and conferences, giving workshops and as guest speakers. Their goal -- instant name recognition and it's working.

It's not just the RendezVous gang that makes Facebook work. Of my 'friends', the Canadian author names that appear most often are Anthony Bidulka, Peggy Blair, Pam Callow, Cathy Astolfo, and Hilary Jane MacLeod. Good on you!

Readers want to know the authors as much as they want to know their characters. The end result -- happier readers, more sales, happier publishers, and authors with careers.

Writing the book is only part of the process. These days, even more than before, it's the self-promotion that takes the time, the effort, and often, it's at the author's personal expense. But it's also a great way to connect with the reader, and readers are part of the best things about being an author.

So, back to the question...what can authors do?

Linda Wiken/Erika Chase


  1. To the ramparts, as they say! Here is a long but extremely interesting (although appalling) article on the state of publishing, ebooks, and the monopoly of the giants.

  2. HI Linda,

    Thank you for an excellent post. I think you are right - authors do need to carry the gauntlet for their books, for crime writing, for excellence in Canadian fiction. My approach is to take a global perspective. I realize that the Canadian publishing industry is in the midst of many challenges, but I think that is the reality of the global nature of media. The entire publishing industry is in a state of flux. As writers, I think we need to stick to together - here and across the borders. For example, International Thriller Writers is a great, collegial organization where writers from all over help each other out. By creating strong networks, we can support our craft, our careers, and reach out to our readers.

  3. Right on, Linda. At a recent booksigning I approached a shopper, introduced myself, and said what I write, and then I said, "Do you or anyone on your gift list read crime novels?" She said "no, but I read Canadian fiction." She bought a book. I now say "... read crime novels or Canadian fiction?" I have four separate US book tours lined up in the spring. I'll be waving the flag.

  4. Coincidently, I just read Jim Napier's column in this weekend's Sherbrooke Record, which says "here are many truisms in book
    publishing, most of which are
    false. One of the most firmly
    entrenched is that novels set in
    Canada – at least outside large, wellknown
    cities – won’t sell. By now
    you’d think that had been pretty well

  5. Right you all are. Vicki -- when I had Prime Crime, I used to delight in telling publishers that I had a lot of American customers -- many by mail order -- who wanted books set in Canada. Anywhere in Canada. They were hooked on the location and the writers. Too bad American publishers haven't woken up to that fact.

  6. I was told by a reviewer for a VERY well known magazine in the U.S. that when he/she got books to review they sorted out the Canadian first, because they would be the best. True story.

  7. My book "Revenge of the Lobster Lover" is being distributed in the United States by a small quality publisher Islandport Press. They gave my book a nice plug on their blog, following this preface complimentary to Canadian book publishing:

    "There is no question that many of the best books today are being produced by small, independent publishers, often by micro presses. You will find several such books in our catalog or on our website, in addition to our own books. We are delighted to help bring these titles to new readers and give them a slightly broader reach. Our latest partner is Acorn Press of Prince Edward Island, Canada. Acorn strives to combine “high editorial standards with excellent local design and printing to craft fine books of poetry, fiction, history, folklore, and literature for children.” Sounds great to me, plus I have thing about islands."

    So do I. But I think our genre occupies a larger landscape than that. Some libraries have a separate section for mysteries from general fiction. As do bookstores.

  8. Interesting conversation. Since day one as a professional writer, I have always believed that there are two sides to my job - the creative side and the business side - and both need regular attention.
    In a recent interview, I was asked how the tumult in the industry was changing my career. I realized that I have only known the publishing industry to be in upheaval - so it seems normal to me. Sad, that.