Long Shots


 Welcome back! And where have I been since the last instalment? All over the place!

September meant Bouchercon in Cleveland Ohio and after flying into Chicago, I met the amazing Judy Bobalik and we took a road trip, arriving early to make sure we caught up with people and had a good look around. Yes, you might call it being nosey, but I am always keen to see what works and what doesn’t at an event to see if there’s anything that can be added to what happens in the UK.  Why? Because its struck me recently that the events I attend are often frequented by many of the same people, most of which are in the Industry in some way (writers, agents, publisher personnel, bloggers/reviewers) and therefore not many of which are ‘readers’ in the sense that’s all they are - or more importantly they are the book buyers who want to meet their favourite writers and find new ones. Those that watch a panel and go out and buy the books because they liked the writer or the sound of their novels.

Don’t get me wrong, I – and many others that attend (including writers) - do buy books still and are always happy to meet a writer we really like (ask Judy how speechless I was when meeting Paul F Wilson ‘Repairman Jack’) but are we really the people we’re all aiming at with our publicity in whatever form? In my opinion – no. After all, most of us know what’s happening, don’t often buy books (in general although if you’ve seen the luggage my fellow Shots people carry anywhere, you’ll know how many they buy) and really aren’t who we’re trying to make aware of a certain book, writer, genre or event. Publicity, advertising or marketing is supposed to generate sales, so if pretty much everyone at an event or launch already has the book or could be given it – how does that help sales?

Many of us don’t actually have to buy any books really. Personally I get so many sent to me, I don’t always have the time to read them all and buying more would only lengthen that list and mean that I will have to extend my house before long! However, where it was one I would have bought anyway having always followed that writer, or find that I really like and want the back issues of someone new to me, I buy the ebooks now.  Saves on space and means I can read whatever I want, whenever I want. I also buy other genre books by favourite writers, some of who tell me they would have given me a copy, which I knew before buying it, but I want to support them. Ali, Ayo and Mike are also buyers still and I am going to highlight Ali especially, having seen the size of his bags when travelling on the way back from somewhere! And he does this to keep expanding the amazing knowledge that he has because he loves it so much. I honestly hope one day to have anywhere near a tenth of that!

But I digress. Now, I am not knocking what we do here in the UK; its always lots of fun catching up with people and chatting about new books and what we as reviewers/promoters can do, but Bouchercon makes me realise that perhaps some things could be improved as it has a very large amount of readers/book buyers who attend and seem to make up the backbone of it. My room sharer, for example, was up every morning at the crack of dawn and attended panels from 8.30 to 6 every day, picked up whatever books she could afford and we talked about what she had and had not liked. To be fair, the US is so much larger than the UK and so you can’t really compare it, but I would like to see more ‘book buyers’ at things like CrimeFest and Harrogate as well as knowing that reviews are being picked up and are useful to those looking for a book to read.

Amazon and Goodreads are places people look for books and we all know that what goes on there isn’t always indicative or accurate. I rarely put my comments on those sites, but when I do its under my own name and I try to add in the Shots website link – not something Amazon actually endorses unfortunately. But if readers cannot trust those two sites, how many of them search elsewhere? Based on my research – hardly any. They don’t know these things exist. So are there any solutions? What can we do to let people know? I don’t think there’s an easy answer unfortunately, but here are a couple of things I’ve seen or thought about recently.
  • Social media - whenever I post something or share it, my book buying/reading friends who don’t look elsewhere or come to events always look at what I’ve said and share it with others they know. I also email certain friends when I do post something to make sure they do that, especially if it’s something I think they will like.
  • Word of mouth – my mother has similar tastes to me, although she doesn’t read as much crime, and has built up a circle of friends that read. She often asks for recommendations from me or passes on a book, especially if I’ve met the writer because she can say ‘Of course Kirstie knows this person and they’re very nice!’ I also talk books with my friends who don’t do events, many of which do read, and pass on signed copies when I can get them from their favourite writers.
  • Writers supporting each other – with excerpts of similar in books. That is not as easy as it seems because publishing houses will not (quite rightly as it is a business) want an excerpt from a book that isn’t theirs. However, those that do their own via ebooks could. I happen to know that Zoë Sharp does this, having published her backlist herself. Zoë contacted various other authors and they arranged to swap excerpts in each others novels. A good idea because the reader who liked the book will then have some recommendations to start looking for their next read.
I am not naive enough to think that the above is enough or anywhere near an overall solution, but maybe it’s a start. Your thoughts are welcome. The lovely people at Headline kindly invited me to ‘Murder at the Heights’; their social event for Christmas. It was great to see Sam Eades and colleagues in Police Uniforms, catch up with my Shots and CrimeSquad cohorts, take silly pictures in the photo booth as you’ll see from the ones of Mike and I below, speak to lots of writers, editors and agents. I am going to make a thank you as well, for not just an excellent evening, but for the Nook I found in my book bag! A very welcome surprise and received with grateful thanks! As I was the lucky individual and have various reading devices, I have decided to keep it, donate my older Sony and make a cash donation to a Military charity. Huge thanks again to all at Headline.


So what have I read this month? In all honesty a lot and yet not a lot of crime! My highlights are:-

   For those that like romance with their crime, Karen Rose is highly recommended. Her fourteenth novel in the long running series (DID YOU MISS ME?) demonstrates the usual excellence in plotting and is a roller coaster ride of a suspenseful thriller. In my opinion Karen doesn’t get enough credit for being the great crime writer she is, because of some people’s dislike of the romantic suspense genre.
   The latest Martina Cole  THE LIFE, brought me back to her earlier books and showed yet again, why she is so enjoyed. Set over a number of years, Martina brings to life a family full of violence and needing to stay on top of their game in the world they live in and yet highlights vulnerability alongside the treachery.
   Having been lucky enough to receive an advance copy of The Burning Air (out January 2013) I can honestly say, this is Erin Kelly at her best. When a first book – The Poison Tree is so good, it must be hard to come up with something that will meet reader’s expectations, Erin managed that with The Sick Rose, but in my opinion, The Burning Air eclipses it. Full of twists and turns, it takes you through different perspectives as the plot unfolds to great drama and the depths of human nature, to leaving you wondering and thinking at the end. It’s not out until January, but put it on your lists.






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