Can it really be two months since I blogged? Wow. Well, I always said I wouldn't blog unless I have something to say, so I guess the last couple of months have been pretty thought-free.
The idea for today's post came to me after reading about the death of Ruth Rendell, one of mystery's luminaries. This isn't something I'd necessarily say in public, but I didn't like her work. Nor was I a fan of the late P.D. James, either. I found Rendell's work to be cold, and James' to be unbearably snobbish. Both had a tendency to write books that were much too long, and I suspect both women liked the sound of their own voices (words on the page) a bit too much.
Are you clutching your heart, gasping in horror that an editor who publishes mystery fiction should dare say such things? I should say that I love any writer who has a loyal following and whose name sells books; I'm not snobbish that way. But I recognize that an effective brand name doesn't necessarily mean that I have to like the brand myself. Would I buy stock in Pepsi? Sure I would, but I never touch the stuff. I'm a Coke man.
Anyway, this crazy desire to admit that I think both Rendell and James are overrated made me think about the other "secrets" that we small publishers keep close to the vest (but not any longer). Here are a few:
1. I don't care how many friends you have on Facebook. I've long thought that writers on Facebook/Twitter/blogs is one big Ponzi scheme. It's writers following other writers, hoping to use connections to get an agent, get a contract, get published themselves, get blurbs from other writers. Of course I want your book to sell, but I'd be surprised if even 1% of your Facebook friends buy your book. What I care about is the quality of your work. I want you to write well, to give me a good plot and characters. Everything else follows from there. If you're a hermit and the way we get the manuscript done is through email alone, that's fine with me.
2. I think blurbs from other mystery writers are ridiculous. I never, ever put blurbs by other writers on my books. When I look at the back of a book jacket and see a bunch of blurbs from "New York Times Best-Selling Writers" whom I've never heard of, my first thought is, "This book must suck." The only blurbs I ever put on a book are from reputable review journals, newspapers, or somewhat well-known magazines.
3. I really don't want to take any crap from an author. I love working with writers, and there's nothing quite so satisfying as feeling that I've partnered with a writer to bring a superb book to the reading public. But the only writers who get away with acting like jerks are best-sellers ... by which I mean people who can sell 10,000 copies or more of a book. For that, I can put up with diva fits, nasty emails, and dismissive comments about editors and the publishing industry. For anyone else -- you will undoubtedly be unhappy when I ask you to please take your work elsewhere.
4. I'm not interested in anything that's been previously published or self-published. Please understand, one of the reasons for doing this job is to discover the next great writer. I'm sorry if your publisher is going out of business, but I have no interest in republishing books that probably didn't sell that well to begin with. As far as "traditionally publishing" (a term I detest) a book you have already self-published, I don't have any interest in that, either.
5. I'm not going to overprint or underprice any book. I know you want your book in bookstores--you really do. But we can't go bankrupt taking in returns. Libraries, Amazon, and other online retailers that closely control their inventory get first dibs on our stock. I'd rather have a few people buying the book used (we know that's going to happen) than waste money on additional printings that then sit in the warehouse and get remaindered or destroyed. I'm also not going to sell your book for 99 cents on Amazon. That's a signal that it's crap, and I don't publish crap.