Crime in the Keys

View the Photos Here: http://bit.ly/1lzhqPt

The last panel of the day at Mystery Writers Key West Fest was on Crime in the Florida Keys. Panelists included Monroe County Sheriff Rick Ramsey, Key West PD Chief Donie Lee, U.S. Coast Guard Captain (ret.) Jim Filton, true crime writer and journalist Terry Schmida, and Jim Linder from the Joint Interagency Task Force (ret.). Moderator was radio news director Bill Becker.

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The report that follows is based on my interpretation of what I heard. Any errors are mine alone.

In the 80’s and 90’s, most crimes involved drug smuggling of cocaine and marijuana via boats. Now it’s alien smuggling. Often the instigators will steal a “go-fast” boat and charge the migrants $10,000 per head to smuggle them ashore. Once a Cuban refugee touches U.S. soil, they can stay. Today there’s also an influx of Miami-based crime such as burglaries and prescription drug abuse plus related crimes by addicts who need to buy their fix. There are more online crimes with credit card fraud and sexual predators.

Another panelist spoke about “amusing” crimes in Key West, such as the case of a cat abduction and custody battle over the animal. “The Keys have crimes that you can’t make up.” But serious crime is rare. It’s normal for law enforcers to greet crooks at the bar. He told more illegal migrant stories. Other crimes might involve animals or a piece of machinery being used in an unexpected manner.

Fantasy Fest is ten days long and about 80,000 people come down to Key West for this event. It’s difficult to police. People have sex in the streets, roam without their clothes on, do stuff here they’d never do at home. For example, there was the airline pilot who stole a pizza car because he was hungry. A bank robber was caught because he gave away $2 bills at a strip bar.

We heard about the ingenious vehicles that migrant smugglers used to cross the water from Cuba, like cars and trucks. When the Coast Guard approached one car plying the waves, the miscreants rolled up the windows so there wasn’t any way to board. The Coast Guard guy opened the gas cap and poured in sugar. When the vehicle stalled, the occupants surrendered.

Then there was the airplane modified with a bed in back for a “Mile High” club. Two customers tried to hijack the airplane to Cuba. A struggle with the pilot ensued, and he ditched in the ocean. You can read about it here: http://abcnews.go.com/US/story?id=92667 Since the customers didn’t survive and there wasn’t any paper trail, the speaker questioned the truth of the story. Was it for real or a case of insurance fraud?

Then there’s the “Yamaha Drift.” These are people who claim their boat drifted south toward Cuba. They should know the current doesn’t run south.

Crocodile poaching is another crime in the Keys. The Russian mob may also be an influence. The speakers told about the “gray-haired” burglar and the air smuggler who kept a parrot on his shoulder. Certainly the Keys are home to colorful characters.

We heard many more interesting stories from this panel of experts. After the panel concluded, we trooped to a room near the pool bar for a group book signing.

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Rather than attend the noir film at Tropic Cinema, my husband and I opted for dinner at La Trattoria, an Italian restaurant with a water view just down the street from the Doubletree Grand Key Resort.

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Coming next: Key West

 

Planning a Writers Conference

Today I’m talking about Planning a Writers Conference over at the Kill Zone. Come join me at http://killzoneauthors.blogspot.com/

I give suggestions for laying the groundwork. Once you’ve booked the hotel, set the date, and acquired your keynotes, you are ready to nail down the details.

Comments are welcome!

 

Key West Mystery Conference

View the Photos Here: http://bit.ly/1lzhqPt

Last weekend was the inaugural Mystery Writers Key West Fest. The festivities began at the Smokin’ Tuna Saloon off infamous Duval Street in downtown Key West. We sat outside while the mayor and a police official greeted us. People came from all over the country to attend this debut event that was organized by Michael Haskins and Shirrel Rhoades. Multiple representatives from Mystery Writers of America Florida Chapter attended. We listened to our musical members play on stage. Authors Heather Graham and Don Bruns took turns entertaining the crowd that included tourists and regulars, as well as our gang of writers.

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My husband and I ate dinner at the Smokin’ Tuna. As seven o’clock rolled around, we skipped the subsequent bar hop in favor of an early night. Others went along on a pub crawl to the Hog’s Breath Saloon, Fairvilla Megastore, Pat Croce’s Rum Barrel and the Schooner Wharf Bar. Regretfully missing this event, my husband and I caught the hotel shuttle back to the Doubletree Grand Key Resort. I took some souvenirs home, however: itchy no-see-um bites on my ankles. Remember to wear your bug spray in the evenings.

Early in the morning, I handed over my books to the conference bookseller and put out my bookmarks and pamphlets on the promo table. Then I joined my fellow panelists at 8:30 am for a talk on “Women in Mystery”. Our panel consisted of Sandra Balzo, Nancy J. Cohen, Miriam Auerbach, Carla Norton and Heather Graham. Moderator was Jeremiah Healy.

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The next panel was on the “Importance of Getting Locale Right” with Jonathan Woods, Hal Howland, Robert Coburn, Michael Haskins and moderated by Sandra Balzo.

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A buffet lunch featuring prime ribs followed with guest speaker William E. Butterworth IV (W.E.B. Griffin) on writing: “Each time you build a cabinet, it gets better. We’re cabinet builders. The first time, it’s a little crooked. Keep writing. Keep writing. Keep writing.”

Interruptions and the anticipation of interruptions can lead to writer’s block. Every day, you have to sit down and write until you get enough done.

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Does it get any easier? “No, it’s extremely difficult. You have to be focused, and you never stop working.”

After lunch, we listened to “Writing the Series” with Don Bruns, Mike Dennis, Heather Graham, Jeremiah Healy and moderated by Carla Norton.

This was followed by a panel on ePublishing with Neil S. Plakcy, Shirrel Rhoades, Wayne Gales, Sheri Lohr and moderated by Mark Howel.

Neil said about piracy: “If you are not paying for the product, you are the product.” In other words, it’s your info that is being collected when you illegally download pirated books.

Coming Next: Crime in the Keys

*Last Day to enter our Contest at Booklover’s Bench and win a $25 Amazon/BN gift card or 1/6 free books by our authors. Enter here: http://bookloversbench.com/contest

 

FRW Cruise Conference

Florida Romance Writers is thrilled to announce our

Keynote for the 2013 Fun in the Sun Conference

 

Charlaine Harris

 

Charlaine is the author of the Sookie Stackhouse novels,

the basis for the hit HBO series, True Blood.

 

Our other Guests include

Angela James, Executive Editor of Carina Press

Elaine Spencer, Agent with the Knight Agency

Leslie Wainger, Editor-at-Large for Harlequin

 

We set sail from Ft. Lauderdale, Florida onboard

Royal Caribbean’s beautiful Liberty of the Sea,  

on Thursday, January 24, 2013 and

return to port Monday, January 28, 2013.

 

Join us to see the beautiful blue seas of

Cozumel and bask in the Caribbean sunlight.

 

Other highlights include:
* Stellar Agents and Editors
* Sizzling Workshops
* Floridian Idol
* Shipboard Entertainment
* Panoramic Ocean views

 

  This year our conference will include a Pre-sail party

on Wednesday night January 23, 2013.

This will not be included in the conference registration.

Location, cost and time to be announced.

 

For additional information:

Pricing

Keynote

Agent & Editor

Schedule

FRW Chapter website

 

 

We have a few slots left to fill in our workshop schedule.

Send your proposal and a brief bio to our workshop coordinator

Heidi Lynn Anderson at heidilynnanderson@att.net

Feel free to contact Heidi with any questions you may have.

 

 

We look forward to seeing you onboard!

 

Kimberly Gonzalez

FRW Conference Coordinator

Come Cruise with your Muse

 

 

 

Get Rich Self-Pubbing

Get Rich Self-Pubbing Your E-books with J.A. Konrath

 

“Brainstorming on the Beach” Conference with Novelists, Inc.

Here are my notes, keeping in mind this is what I heard and my interpretation.            Konrath (800x600)

 

Self-publishing eBook guru J.A. Konrath shared his experiences with us at the Ninc conference in St. Pete Beach. His sales figures are impressive and I’m not going to repeat them here. You can follow him on his blog, http://jakonrath.blogspot.com

Joe suggests making your website “sticky”, i.e. give people a reason to stick around. Content should be informative and entertaining. For example, you might offer an unsold book online for free as a pdf download. Joe calls this a “gateway drug” because these readers will go on to buy your print books.

Publishing houses still provide editorial services, cover design, and distribution, plus they serve as  gatekeepers between the author and readers via bookstores. But should we pay for these services forever, or one time only?

If you are self-publishing, the cover art should be professional, even if you have to hire your own artist. Be sure to get the rights to use your cover design for any promotional purposes and also possibly if your book goes into print someday. Make sure your work is edited, error free, and correctly formatted so it looks professional. You’ll need to write the blurbs and back cover copy and get reviews and quotes. You’ll want the free preview option and no DRM.

Joe suggests doing a Kindle Nation ad but not necessarily a Facebook ad to attract readers. Participate in the kindleboards and social networks.

When self-pubbing, if you start out at Smashwords, you’ll get an ISBN there. You can opt out of the Kindle and Pubit (for B&N) and do those yourselves.

If you have an agent, think above having him sell the subrights to your eBooks, i.e. audio, foreign, film.

Books no longer have a shelf life. “This is infinite. It is forever…It’s a buffet mentality. We’re not going to have a saturation.”

Publishing Concerns

“Brainstorming on the Beach” Conference with Novelists, Inc.

Publishing Concerns with Carolyn Pittis, Senior VP, Global Author Services, HarperCollins

Carolyn reviewed the progress of publishing from the first cave drawings to the printing press to our current Digital Age.  The pain over the digital media transition is caused by firms trying to hang onto their legacy business, the struggle to prevent piracy, and the fret over uncertain outcomes.

Media is digitized in the order of least resistance (i.e. newspapers, magazine, music, film, etc.) so books are last.

Carolyn predicts increased consumption by readers but less time with any one book or author, because readers have too many distractions.

Bloggers are the current reviewers.  Reviews matter more than social media in terms of selling books.  However, authors who are not engaged in social networking are at grave risk.

Issues in the digital ecosystem: advances, royalty rates, territoriality.  The old business model is losing scale.  There are reduced barriers to entry for new writers. Everyone is trying to figure out how to make money under the new model.

These five forces conspire to drive profitability out of the business:

Bargaining power of suppliers (writers)

Bargaining power of customers (readers)

Threat of new entrants

Threat of substitute products (products other than books)

Competitive rivalry within the industry

Considerations in the publishing world include Content Development, Production and Packaging, Marketing and Merchandising, and Distribution.

Content + Editorial + Distribution + Marketing + Product = Sales $$

C = E-D-M-P = $$     If self-publishing, the author will have to do the E-D-M-P herself or hire someone to do it.

Carolyn distinguishes between Word Writers and Word Brands.

Word Writers need an advance, have low tech knowledge, have a small to medium fan base, and want a support system.  

Word Brands don’t need cash up front, have other businesses, are confident in their abilities, possess tech knowledge and a marketing platform, and can hire people to complement their skills. 

Which one are you?  Which one do you think better leans toward self-publishing?

Ideally, a publisher’s role should be to grow an author’s reach in this manner:

 Fund:  Advance, royalties, subrights

Create: Edit, design, distribute

Defend: Protect intellectual property

Inform: Collaborate, communicate, integrate, lead, and advise

Amplify: Market, raise awareness and acclaim

Focus: Support creative renewal

***Don’t you wish all publishers would do these things for us?

Writing for Worldwide Distribution

“Brainstorming on the Beach” Conference with Novelists, Inc.

 Here are my notes, keeping in mind this is what I heard and my interpretation.  This panel was geared toward Harlequin Enterprises.

Writing for Worldwide Distribution with Marsha Zinberg, Executive Editor, Harlequin Enterprises and Author Vicki Lewis Thompson

 Marsha:  A breakdown on what’s popular with readers shows that cowboys, weddings, babies, and Texas remain favorite themes. The Presents line features the power dynamics between a hero and heroine.  A new line is coming, HQ Heartwarming with wholesome stories.

 Mini-series and connected series are always hits.

Direct to Consumer: No paranormals. Heroines should be focused on home not career.

Overseas: Fantasy and romance are welcome but not paranormal. Ugly Duckling, Cinderella, forbidden love, millionaires, and secret babies are themes that work.  The romance should be the focus of the story.

When you, the author, are doing your fact sheet, keep in mind that overseas editors read them so make your universal theme evident right away.  The synopsis shouldn’t be overly long or complicated since English may not be their first language.

Topics to avoid: Casinos and gambling, ballroom dancing, post-war traumatic stress disorder.

Medical sells well overseas but not in North America.

Be prolific to create your author franchise.

Time sensitive issues and brand names may date a book so be wary of using these.  Ditto for technology and politically correct terms.

Vicki:  Know what is selling but don’t always follow trends.  Focus what you do well and write often.  Be a pro regarding deadlines.  Challenge yourself as a writer and take a chance on special projects.

Refilling the creative well implies that you drain your energy when you write. Instead, think of writing as recharging your batteries.  The more you write, the more you want to write. 

Coming Next: Sharing Concerns with Carolyn Pittis, Senior VP, Global Author Services, HarperCollins

Digital Rights

DIGITAL RIGHTS

“Brainstorming on the Beach” Conference with Novelists, Inc.                                                   

lunch2

Lunch Break

Panelists

Lucienne Diver, Literary Agent

Angela James, Executive Editor, Carina Press

Brian O’Leary, Magellan Media Partners

Sue Lange, Book View Café

Barbar Keiler, Author

Chris Kenneally, Copyright Clearance Center

Lou Aronica, Publisher, The Story Plant

J.A. Konrath, Author & Blogger

Here are my notes, keeping in mind this is what I heard and my interpretation.

Lucienne:  Unless you have an audience or a platform, you need a publisher.  And to reach the broadest possible audience, you need a publisher to put your book into the different formats.

Chris:  Digital publishing offers you a chance to experiment with a novella or a short story. 

Google editions may discourage piracy because people won’t share their Google accounts.

Lou doesn’t advice just putting your book up on Amazon.  They don’t put effort into marketing individual books.  Plus with so many formats, going with a publisher is better.

Joe Konrath believes consumers feel less toward digital copies than toward works in print. 

Agency Model: Publisher gets 70%, Amazon gets 30%, publisher sets price.  Out of the publisher’s share, the author may get 25%  and their agent gets 15% of that money.

Barbara:  How will mobile phones affect the art of writing?  Will readers have patience for paragraphs longer than 3 lines?  Will description be tolerated or will it be replaced by a video clip?  Will the Twitter novel become popular?  How about turning off your cell phones on airplanes? Does this mean you can’t read during takeoffs and landings?  People with shorter attention spans will want shorter books.

Brian:  Re contract clauses and reversion of rights and subrights, try for a shorter term, like 3 to 5 years, after which these items are negotiable. 

Publishers have to agree on terms of sale with eReader device providers in order to offer their stock in that format.

“Windowing” is when a hardcover comes out then the eBook comes out xx weeks later.  You have to market the book twice when this happens so it causes the author more work.  This also may happen with books that release in the U.S. market and later in the foreign markets.  You lose sales momentum.

Final Advice:                                                           

Nancy and Denise

Nancy Cohen and Five Star Editor Denise Dietz

Write more good books and write quickly.

Don’t be overwhelmed by the marketing aspects.

Spend time selling your book.  Work it into your calendar.

You don’t need an entire social media strategy.  Start with just one thing.

You can reinvent yourself.  Don’t be frightened by the prospect; be excited by it.

Be transparent for your readers; let them see who you are.

You can find a smaller, devoted audience without a blockbuster mentality.  This can be artistically liberating for writers.

Follow you own path while keeping in mind all your options.

Lunch

Enjoying Lunch

Coming Next: Writing for Worldwide Distribution

EBooks

EBOOKS

“Brainstorming on the Beach” Conference with Novelists, Inc.                                                         

Annette

Annette Mahon, Nancy Cohen, Cynthia Thomason

Here are my notes, keeping in mind this is what I heard and my interpretation.

Panelists:

Lou Aronica, Publisher, The Story Plant

Donna Hayes, Publisher and CEO, Harlequin Enterprises

Al Zuckerman, Literary Agent and Founder of Writers House

Carolyn Pittis, Senior VP, Global Author Services, HarperCollins

Heather Graham, NYT Bestselling Author

Alan Kaufman, Literary Attorney

Loriana Sacilotto, Executive VP, Editorial & Global Strategy, Harlequin Enterprises

Angela James, Executive Editor, Carina Press

“Publishers are moving toward digital publishing because consumers want it.” Ereaders will be hot over the holidays.

A digital world offers no returns, no print production, and a different distribution avenue. It’s a very big opportunity for writers and publishers. Genre readers have adapted to the technology faster than others.

Neilsen Bookscan (if I got this right) reported $40.6 million eBook sales in one month.  The Kindle is responsible for this explosion.

The competition, i.e. B&N, Borders, Amazon, and Google, are growing awareness of this product.  What will really shake things up will be Smartphones.  This is the next big opportunity.  People who don’t own dedicated eReaders will have global Smartphones.  Even eReaders may disappear in favor of these devices.  The deciding factor is how long brick and mortar stores stay open.

See this article “Verizon Wireless Brings Kindle Experience to Android Smartphones and Other Devices” at http://bit.ly/9LypQG

Lou:  He doesn’t distinguish between print or eBook writers and publishing houses re prestige.  Readers want interaction with writers.  You must connect in some significant way with your readers.  The only way you can stand out from the pack is to market yourself, no matter the publisher or the format.

Regarding whether you should self-publish or go with an epub, Lou reminds you that epubs can manage the different streams of income.  Convenience is a major factor to going with an epub for now.  If eBook sales equivocate to print sales, perhaps these epubs should begin offering advances. 

Print publishers have to set up a new infrastructure while maintaining their legacy print operation, but there may be casualties as their margins are very small.

Angela:  Digital first authors may choose to go with an epub because they want to write something different or they want to start out in a smaller market.  It doesn’t mean they’ve been rejected by the major houses as many perceive it. 

“You don’t want to just publish a book.  You want a career.” Authors are small business owners and have to market themselves. 

Carolyn:  How do pubs and authors collaborate together as partners in a new business model to sell more books?  The major houses have to figure out how to reduce costs on the print side while increasing their investment in digital.  Readers care about what reviewers think and what their own friends like.  They care about a good story.  She believes too much technology (i.e. enhanced eBooks) may interfere with this experience, at least for fiction. It might work better for nonfiction.

Alan believes things may look similar in five years if the general trade publishers acquire the eBook publishing houses.  Then those pubs may in turn be acquired by Google.

“Publishers act as gatekeepers.  This is their most important function.  If they aren’t around to do that, who knows what’ll be out there?”

Harlequin is already ahead of the game because it has Carina Press.  Angela says other issues like DRM and pricing will change the landscape.

Other issues mentioned in the panel were consumer pricing and the strong trend toward price reduction, demographics and the behavior of younger readers and their purchasing habits, and the foreign market which is hungry for content. 

Coming next: Digital Rights

I’m guest blogging today over at Fresh Fiction on Creating Memorable Villains.  Please check out my post and leave a comment: http://freshfiction.com/page.php?id=2864

Judy

Judy Fitzwater and Edie Claire

                                   

Traci

Traci Hall, Sally Schoeneweiss, Kathleen Pickering

Contracts and Copyrights

“Brainstorming on the Beach” Conference with Novelists, Inc.

 Contracts and Copyrights                                                                                                                                        panel

Panelists:

David Forrer, Literary Agent

Alan Kaufman, Literary Attorney

Carly Phillips, NYT Bestselling Author

Deb Werksman, Editorial Manager, Sourcebooks

Donna Hayes, Publisher and CEO, Harlequin Enterprises

Chris Kenneally, Copyright Clearance Center

Al Zuckerman, Literary Agent and Founder of Writers House

Brenda Hiatt, Author

Here are my notes, keeping in mind this is what I heard and my interpretation.

Ad revenues surrounding e-books will increase.  For example, books will be sold on Google with ads surrounding them.  This will be new revenue to the publishers, and authors should share in it.  Publishers have to staff up their royalty departments. 

Regarding reserves against returns, one panelist believes they should not continue beyond two royalty periods. A book having ongoing sales a year or more after it was published should not have reserves held back. Another agent agreed that if there are ongoing sales above the advance, there should no longer be reserves.

Editors defended their reserves policies. One editor said backlist books are out there for a long time.  50% sell-through is considered a success in mass-market, but there are still going to be returns.  Trade paperbacks can be returned at any time.

Regarding piracy, is it cannibalizing book sales, or would those readers not have bought the book anyway?  One way to combat piracy is through education.  Mention it in your blogs and on your website.  You should let people know, those who feel entitled to getting whatever they want off the Internet, that information is valuable and it is not free. Another solution is to write to the advertisers on pirate sites and alert them to violations.

One panelist said she thinks the used book marketplace as we know it will go away.  If publishers price eBooks reasonably, legitimate readers will buy them. 

What about the issue of returns?  Why are we still doing them at all?  Because booksellers won’t stock the books otherwise.  There have been attempts to launch imprints without returns, but the experiments failed.  Booksellers demand return policies.  There have even been eBook returns when a customer clicks on the wrong book or downloads the wrong format.

Reversion of rights and the definition of a book being in print entered the conversation.  We should try to restrict this clause to trade editions, English-language editions, or a dollar amount like $250 sold over two royalty periods.  You could also try to narrow this clause by saying the book is considered to be in print if 300 copies are sold electronically within two royalty periods.  Publishers want to hold onto your rights and they will do so forever because of the clause “in any form whatsoever” as defining a book in print. 

A similar phrase to watch out for is when a book is considered to be in print “in any format now or yet to be invented.”  This is a sticky issue today as publishers are trying to grab whatever rights they can. “They have a huge challenge coming up and are running scared.”

According to one panelist, the most important rights to keep are your foreign and film rights.  Try for a movie bonus in your contract, i.e. you get extra money if your book is optioned.  Try to get an audio rights reversion clause for six months or later so if the publisher does not exercise these subrights within the specified amount of time, the audio rights revert to the author.  50% of net is a good deal for audio rights.

Also try for a Look Back clause regarding eBook royalties.  For example, after three years, you can renegotiate your royalty rate. 

The advantage of digital first pubs: no advance but a higher royalty rate. The size of the eBook market is equivalent to 67% of mass-market sales or 55% of hardcover sales.  The Book Industry Study Group is looking to measure data but Walmart, for example, doesn’t report to them.

Copyright will be more important than anything in the future.

Some publishers are sticking a morals clause in contracts now.  This means the publisher can cancel the contract if the author behaves in an immoral manner.  Try to cross this one out.

And a final quote: “If you’re confused, you’re beginning to understand the problem.”

Panel on eBooks is coming next.

And check my Contest page for new info!