Far be it from me to use TV Guide as my inspiration, but with 2007 winding to a close, I thought it was time to offer a holiday toast to some of the people, organizations, and publications that serve the mystery community so well.
MYSTERY SCENE MAGAZINE
Anyone who hasn't experienced the pages of Mystery Scene magazine is doing him/herself a serious disservice. This superbly written and edited magazine covers the mystery from every conceivable angle. It has a strong community feel to it, because many of the contributors are published writers themselves. Yet the magazine doesn't exist as a vehicle for self-promotion by these writers; rather, it allows them to shine by writing about topics of general or specific interest. The woman in charge is Kate Stine, who deserves the Nobel Prize of Mystery for her integrity and passion. Unlike so many other magazines, Mystery Scene pays attention in each and every issue to books published by smaller and independent presses, recognizing us as a source of quality publishing. Small press reviewer Betty Webb somehow manages to get at the essence of each book she reviews; and she's everything a reviewer should be: open minded, thoughtful, and (best of all) critical. If you don't have a subscription, by all means treat yourself to one for the holidays.
SISTERS IN CRIME
Sisters in Crime was founded (originally) to give women more of a voice in the mystery community. It has since branched out into a host of regional chapters, all of which are exceedingly welcoming to both published and aspiring mystery writers. Some of the chapters have become very effective marketing vehicles, too, which is a service to both writers and publishers. And in case you're wondering, they accept men into their organization! From a publisher's standpoint, SinC does me favors every day by training its members on how to write query letters and submit sample materials. I really am a fan, and I always pay a bit more attention to queries from people who say they're members of SinC.
Of course, we're all fabulous in our own way. But I would like to recognize the contributions of some mystery publishers who embody the type of bold and quality publishing that I so respect. Some of the houses I really respect, both larger and smaller:
Saint Martin's Press -- One of the few major publishers that will take chances on new or unknown writers. Also the sponsor of the Malice Domestic contest that publishes the best submitted manuscript. SMP has found a lot of talent over the years, and it's a particularly hospitable house to new writers.
Poisoned Pen Press - PPP needs no introduction; this mystery-only independent house publishes books from the entire spectrum of mystery, from cozy through hardboiled. PPP's books routinely win not only awards but glowing reviews, and it's a place where aspiring writers can find a home.
Perseverance Press - Perseverance helps published and respected writers stay in print when they've been dropped by a larger publisher for sales that just aren't quite good enough. Through their philosophy they do a service not only to writers but also to readers.
Organizing a convention may be some space alien's idea of fun, but it certainly isn't mine. The time expenditure, the marketing, the million details -- it's a full-time job for people who usually have another full-time job to keep a roof over their heads. Convention organizers -- and their cadre of volunteers -- take on the work out of sheer love of the genre, logging many hours of unpaid work so that readers can gather and writers can mingle. They're the unsung heroes of the industry, so let's take a moment in 2007 to toast and appreciate them.
REVIEWERS AND LIBRARIANS
The people who take the time to read ARCs and/or printed books, then write reviews to share their opinions do everyone a service. Like convention organizers, they're usually unpaid, but they're essential to readers, writers, and publishers. So, to everyone who gives a book a fair shake and spreads the word about the latest, greatest mystery (and perhaps some of the dogs)--a big thank you from all of us. Kudos, too, to the librarians of America, the best market researchers in the world. Not only do they listen to readers and help people of all ages find the right book for them, they make the purchasing decisions that help to keep publishers in business. So--thank you, librarians, and may your 2008 be filled with even more books than 2007.
I seem to have run out of time for the Jeers section -- which should be fun to write -- but will follow up before the end of the year. Now, while you're in shopping mode for the holidays, please take yourself to Amazon and buy lots of stocking stuffers, eschewing Janet Evanovich and James Patterson paperbacks in favor of those titles published by small presses....