Killer Nashville was held at the Hutton Hotel in Nashville, TN, August 25 - 27. It's an annual conference for mystery and thriller writers to pick up tips on the craft, on the world of publishing, to meet with agents and editors, and to network with other writers. Besides myself, the other members of the Make Mine Mystery blog in attendance were Chester Campbell and Marilyn Meredith. Here are some observations from the conference.
• Cooler than Texas. A lot cooler.
• The Broadway Brewhouse at 19th and Broadway looks kind of grungy but has a great brisket sandwich and dozens of beers on tap.
• Nashville is hilly. Especially if you are a runner
• Great rock and blues at B.B. King's
• Tootsie's Orchid Lounge is crowded. Buy the tee shirt and go to B.B. King's
Investigations. We heard police, ex-police, Tennessee Bureau of Investigation Agents, and private investigators talk about their profession and their cases. Some of them, such as Michael Black were published fiction writers. Here are a few tidbits from some of their sessions.
• Don't bring a gun to a knife fight. An opponent with a knife who is twenty-feet or closer, has the advantage over a gunman.
• The kill shot: Imagine a sweat band circling the bad guy's head at eye level. If you can't hit the sweat band, go for center mass.
• Most police are killed with their own gun. Protecting your gun is important in a fight.
• Most fights go to the ground and clothes get torn up and ruined
Publishing. Agents Jill Marr, Jeff Kleinman, and Kathleen Ortiz and editors/publishers Deni Dietz and Martin Shepard took pitches and discussed the state of publishing. Everybody wanted to know about the impact of ebooks. Is the book dead? There was also a lot of interest in self-publishing versus traditional publishing.
• The book is not dead. More importantly, the story is not dead, but the form of delivery is changing.
• Hardcover and trade paperback sales are not likely to be affected by ebooks.
• Ebooks will likely cannibalize sales from mass-market paperbacks.
• Barnes and Noble is seeing more total sales. Ebooks allow them to reduce the number of copies of each title shelved and shelve more titles.
• Pricing is important in sales. Most consumers look at the price, not the publisher.
• Some publishers are betting that a glut of cheap inferior ebooks will move consumers to higher priced ebooks.
• Changing book prices willy-nilly can cause a backlash among consumers.
• Ebooks are often an impulse buy.
• Literary Agencies such as Folio are helping their clients self-publish.
It takes a team. Authors are solitary creatures by inclination, but success in the book business is elusive and hard to achieve alone. Besides the agents and editors Killer Nashville featured some publicists. Here's what I heard.
• Ultimately books are sold by word-of-mouth. The danger of self-publishing is inadequate word-of-mouth.
• Publishers are cutting back on publicity departments so both self-published and traditionally published authors need publicists
• Publicists can help to get the word out, but success is limited by distribution. Make sure your publisher is connected to the major distributors.
• Publicists work closely with the publisher, not in competition, to create a brand for the author.
• Authors need a website, facebook and twitter.
• Every book is expected to have a book trailer although there is no data to show if book trailers drive sales.
Networking. Killer Nashville is large enough to present great networking opportunities but small enough to make it feasible.
- I was able to pitch formally and informally to all of the agents and editors. Now they are expecting the manuscripts, so I consider it a success, or at least a decent return-on-investment, as the publicist says.
- I sat down with a publicist to review my marketing plan. Even without a publication date, it's not too early to start.
- I could tell you about drinking wine at the MWA reception with a romance novelist wearing an all-white suit, an Appalachian preacher, a Memphis SWAT team sniper, and a Mennonite woman who told dirty jokes, but I'll save it for another blog post.
Nashville was a Killer.