SLEUTHFEST is one of the best mystery writer conferences around. I had a great time schmoozing with old friends and meeting new people. On Friday, I participated in a panel called “The Power of Publicity”. Rod Pennington narrated, and I had the pleasure of listening to my fellow panelists discuss their tips for promotion: Sandra Balzo, James Grippando, Charles Todd, Pearl Wolf, and Dirk Wyle. Sandra suggested targeting bookmarks and other printed material to booksellers, librarians, and book clubs. I gave the pointers that were in my last blog regarding free Internet promotion since many of us authors wish we had bestsellers like James or Charles. Pearl offered her pearls of wisdom, and Dirk chimed in advising us on niche promotion like he does with his science background.
Attendees had a choice of four tracks of workshops: Craft for the Beginning Writer, Career development for Advanced Novel Writing, Hollywood tips and tricks on the Stage and Screenwriting track, and Forensics. I skipped the bomb squad visit because I’d heard a similar topic at one of our regular meetings. I also avoided the CSI stuff since my books deal more with relationships than crime scenes. Instead, I stuck to the career track options.
EDITORS ROUNDTABLE with editors from G.P. Putnam, Poisoned Pen Press, and Berkley The Berkley editor said their cozy program is very successful and some titles have even become bestsellers. Thrillers work well for them also, and they do true crime and historical mysteries. The Poisoned Pen Press editor prefers stories with no graphic sex or violence. They’d like to see strong historicals and classic mysteries with detection, not so much thrillers. They are open to new, unpublished authors. This editor in particular is tired of bed & breakfast settings and quilting cozies. She’d like to see a medieval historical mystery. Email submissions are accepted and an agent isn’t necessary. Putnam wants work that is fresh and polished with something extra. They’re interested in building a career, not just one book.
NEGOTIATING A KILLER CONTRACT with an editor and two agents discussed deal points, boiler plate contracts, and e-rights, a hot and touchy topic. They said e-books are appealing to younger and older readers and are cutting into large print sales.
HOOKS, LINES, AND STINKERS found agents and editors dissecting what makes a good query letter. One of them said she appreciates thank you notes even for rejections where she’s taken the time to comment on a work.
Lunch followed with guest speaker Stephen J. Cannell from Hollywood, who gave an inspirational talk about his rise to fame. Auctioneer and author Cynthia Thomason conducted our annual author auction where bidders could win critiques from our chapter’s experienced scribes.
Finally, I attended Randy Rawls’s BOOK BROADS, a humorous look at the writing life presented by authors Kris Montee (aka P.J. Parrish), Deborah Sharp, and Christine Kling, and bookseller Joanne Sinchuk.
The cocktail party followed with food and drink for all, and then it was home and back to reality. What I enjoyed most was chatting with everyone and seeing people I hadn’t greeted in a while. Making friends is the best part of any conference, although the four tracks of workshops offered something for everyone. Kudos to the conference organizers and volunteers!