Greetings, lovers of mystery.
I never thought I would enter the blogosphere. It's not that I'm a luddite--it's that I prefer to spend my time reading manuscripts and publishing books rather than writing what might be perceived as a self-important blog. But our wonderful editorial assistant (who will have to remain anonymous, as will I, for reasons that will become evident in future postings) has convinced me that it has become my solemn duty to start this blog.
So here I am--and I'll explain why, briefly. After more than two decades as an editor (and at one time a publicist) in the mystery and suspense genre, I got fed up with what had become my life. I'd wanted to become a publisher to bring new and exciting writers to the public, to help find talent and build careers. Anyone who knows anything about publishing knows how it began to change in the 80s with all the corporate take-overs, with the newfound emphasis on money, profitability, and blockbusters. Within a decade, we'd entered a vicious cycle of overpaying for books, not selling enough copies of them, and therefore being able to sign up fewer and fewer new and talented writers.
But what bothered me the most was the increasing emphasis on the agent system. I've known some great agents, some mediocre agents, and many terrible ones--and I have to tell you, I loate the whole system. An agent's job isn't really to find great new books--it's to schmooze us editors and attempt to get to know us and read our minds. We editors get pigeonholed as much as writers do. Agents think, "OK, I've had lunch with XY and Simon & Schuster, and she likes this kind of book," or "I've had dinner with AB at Warner, and he likes this kind of book."
But I've never felt that I needed an agent to read my mind. I want to look at the materials that writers submit, to give guidance and encouragement to those who have the potential to succeed, and to kindly let down those who can't do the job. I don't want agents to do that for me. As an editor and publisher, that's my job. But what choice did I have? I was busy all day in budget meetings and with other ridiculous things that sucked my time.
So, several years ago, I decided to make a change. At Frankfurt I ran into an old colleague of mine, and we bewailed the state of the industry. We decided we wanted to go back doing it the old way. We raised some capital, set up a small office, and now we have a staff of five doing what we love to do: Finding great books and working with writers. Agents don't bother us much because we don't pay six-figure advances. We pay our bills and make a small profit, though eBay and Internet sales have made our jobs ridiculously difficult.
So why have I started this blog? Simply because I am devoted to this field and want to share what I know.
As I mentioned, I'm going to remain anonymous, at least for the time being. I've chosen the pseudonym "Agatho" in honor of the Grand Dame herself, Agatha Christie, often imitated, never equaled. Other than that, the only thing I'll say is that I'm a man and I live in the United States.
Stay tuned for more. I have a few topics I want to write about in the coming weeks, including -- advice for new writers; the topic of money; reviews; used books; mistakes often made by people in their first books; mystery listervs and mystery on the Internet; and so forth. I'm going to be honest and straightforward. Sometimes I'll be critical, but I'll try never to be heartless.
So, welcome, and stay tuned for more.