Left Coast Crime 2014

What's Your Publishing Personality?

Last month I attended Left Coast Crime, and I've been thinking more about an interesting discussion that took place during one of the convention panels I was on, Alternative Paths to Publication.

The focus of this panel was the ups and downs of self-publishing vs. traditional publishing. The five of us on the panel had each published both ways. Chuck Rosenberg and I started our writing careers self-publishing and moved to traditional publishing contracts, whereas Cindy Sample, Claire Johnson, and Barbara Hodges are currently self-publishing after previously having publishers. (If you're reading this blog, I'm guessing you already know my story and how it evolved -- if not, you can click those links.)

Left Coast Crime Alternative Paths to Publication panel:
Gigi Pandian, Cindy Sample, Claire Johnson,
Barbara M. Hodges, and Chuck Rosenberg. 
An interesting theme emerged in our panel discussion: much more than our situations, it was our personalities shaped how we felt about being involved in different aspects of publishing.

It wasn't simply a matter of each of us assessing our goals to decide what type of publishing was best for us (though goals are still  important). Instead, regardless of what we each wanted to get out of publishing, it was the way in which we approached tasks that mattered most.

Cindy and I were the starkest examples. Where she absolutely loves being responsible for every last aspect of producing her books, I hated that part of publishing when I was doing it.

Now that much of the stigma of self-publishing is gone, what remains is authors making the right choice for their own circumstances--but a lot of that "right choice" has to do with what a person enjoys doing on a daily basis.

I could never be as successful as Cindy at self-publishing for a gazillion little reasons, all of which have to do with control and responsibility ("control" being the positive spin on "you're-responsible-for-every-single-thing"). Cindy is currently responsible for every aspect of producing her books, just like I was when I formed Gargoyle Girl Productions to publish Artifact in 2012. I learned so much about publishing by being my own publisher, and for that I'm thankful. But I learned even more about myself. Sure, it can be great to have control over exactly what your cover looks like; but it also means you're responsible for making that vision happen, including all the little details you never imagined were part of producing a cover. I learned that I'm not someone who enjoys being in control of the never-ending list of tasks associated with producing a book--I want to focus on writing the next one!

Artifact's book covers:
Gargoyle Girl Productions (left),
Henery Press (right).
I'm an incredibly organized person, but that wasn't enough. A comprehensive list with due dates is no good if you procrastinate on the tasks you don't want to do--and procrastinating was what I did with 90% of the things that had to be done. It didn't matter that I had the skills to pull of being my own publisher. What mattered was that because I didn't enjoy the non-creative side of the writing business, the mental drain was hurting my writing. You bet I jumped at the chance to work with Henery Press and Midnight Ink.

I should note that it's true authors often bemoan the fact that they need to publicize their books in addition to writing them, but the promotion you do as an author with a publisher backing you is nowhere near the amount you need to do without a publisher behind you.

There are many resources for writers considering what type of publishing is best for them, and the times are changing quickly, so I'm not going to go over nuts and bolts of either type of publishing in this post. Instead, I'll leave you with the best advice I gave give you: be true to yourself, and the right answer will emerge.

I'm getting ready for Malice Domestic, where I'm looking forward to many fascinating conversations with readers and writers over the long weekend. If you'll be there, be sure to say hello!


Left Coast Crime 2014: Photos from Monterey

I'm back from Left Coast Crime, feeling incredibly inspired by all the mystery readers and writers I talked with and heard speak over the long weekend. Here are some highlights:

Sophie Littlefield was a saint and got up before dawn to drive to Monterey with me in time for my Thursday morning panel, Leap of Faith: Writers Who Took Alternative Paths to Publication.

Here I am with fellow panelists Cindy Sample, Claire Johnson, Barbara M. Hodges, and Chuck Rosenberg (a fantastic moderator). We each had a completely different story about our path to publication, so it was a lot of fun to discuss our varied experiences.

Juliet Blackwell and Sophie Littlefield at dinner. 

 New pal Tracy Weber talking about her debut novel at the New Author Breakfast.

Coffee with the Dana Kaye crew: Sophie Littlefield, Ray Daniel, and Lynne Raimondo.

Mysti Berry at the San Francisco mysteries panel, with moderator Randal Brandt, a librarian at the UC Berkeley Bancroft Library who keeps a bibliography of mysteries set in the San Francisco Bary Area.

An impromptu "Noir at the Bar."

 Hanging out with the MacRae siblings, Andy and Molly, both of whom write mysteries!

 Catching up with short story writer Pat Morin between her volunteer duties.

 Henery Press authors at LCC: me, Susan Boyer, Diane Vallere, and Kendel Lynn.

Wonderful to meet my new Midnight Ink editor, Terri Bischoff, in person. I'm incredibly blessed to be working with such awesome editors.

 Running into one of my literary idols, Aaron Elkins.
I still have to pinch myself that this is my life. Two years ago, Aaron graciously read my first novel, before we'd ever met and before I was published. He ended up loving it and giving it an amazing blurb, which made me feel like I'd made it as an author before I even had a book out. We met for the first time when he was being honored at Malice Domestic last year, and now that I know him it's even more fun to see him.

With fellow panelists of Mystery Far Afield: Anne Cleeland, Lisa Alber, Aileen Baron, and moderator Jeffrey Siger (who I want to pack in my suitcase to be my moderator at all conventions). Very cool to be on a panel with pal Lisa, whose first book Kilmoon came out just this week!

With Lisa Alber at our signing.

 Hanging out with fellow Guppies Donnell Bell, Susan Boyer, and Leslie Karst.

Portland pals Holly Franko, Cindy Brown, and Lisa Alber.

 At the banquet dinner with Fan Guest of Honor Sue Trowbridge.

 I was having such a good time that it was difficult to take a break and head out of the hotel, but I'm glad I did. On a waterfront walk, I got to stretch my legs and see dozens of sea lions like these two.

In spite of several days of not enough sleep, the convention left me energized. I've got one week until a draft of Jaya Book 3 is due to my editor, so it's time to get back to work!

Left Coast Crime, Here I Come

From March 20 - 23 I'll be in Monterey for Left Coast Crime, the West Coast's annual mystery convention that bounces to a different location each year.

If you'll be there, you can catch me on two panels:

Thursday, March 20
10:45 a.m.
Leap of Faith: Writers Who Took Alternative Paths to Publication
With Charles Rosenberg, Barbara Hodges, Claire Johnson, and Cindy Sample

Saturday, March 22
9 a.m.
Mystery Far Afield
With Jeffrey Siger, Lisa Alber, Aileen Baron, and Anne Cleeland

I didn't do an official book tour for Pirate Vishnu after the book came out last month, but after the book launch party I had the opportunity to do three joint events with friends. And you know what? I'm now completely convinced that doing joint events with friends is the way to go. It's not only that we can draw a bigger audience and help readers discover other books we love--it's the fact that it's so much more fun. In our interactions with each other, we chat about things that are entertaining for both ourselves and the audience.

With Sophie Littlefield and Rachael Herron at Read Booksellers in Danville.

With Terry Shames at Orinda Books.

With Juliet Blackwell and Penny Warner at the
Alta Mira Scholarship Tea in San Leandro.