The first official day of Bouchercon was Thursday the 19th. Everyone is raring to go. There are panels to watch, authors to see, books to be signed, friends to catch up with....and only a few days to do it all in. So we pack in as much as we can.
The first panel I attended was a panel from the folks at William Morrow who have started an ebook first crime fiction imprint called Witness, thus the panel was called "Can I Get a Witness." The panel was composed of an editor, a publicist, an agent and an author.
Now I know I'll get the "ebooks aren't as good as real books" feedback, but the content of their panel was very good. And their rationale is obviously well thought out, and the business plan seems solid. Genre sales in ebook format are still very much on the rise. And their lower price point offers new and lesser known authors a chance to break through because people are more willing to take a chance on an author at a lower price point. A $25 hardcover is an investment for most folks and they want to feel confident they're going to spend that $25 well.
Some concerns that were addressed: reviewers will review ebooks, the Today Show even featured an ebook recently. From a reviewer perspective the format isn't what keeps people from reviewing, it's whether it has been vetted by a publishing house, an editor, etc. With this imprint, WM isn't going to put out more books than they have the resources to promote. So they are going to be well edited, well promoted, etc. Their ebooks will be available on all platforms, so regardless of the device you wish to use, the ebook will be available. They also have the technology to provide signed ebooks.
eBooks can be produced quickly so WM can put an author's backlist out in a short amount of time, but new books will still go through a thorough editing process, new cover art is created, promotional plans are constructed, so those will go to market slower in order to accommodate all the necessary preparations.
And ultimately the books can go to print depending on demand. And all of the titles will be available for Print on Demand.
So I think this is exciting and I'm looking forward to what Witness will have to offer.
The next part of my day was my own panel. All the panels were assigned Billy Joel song titles to go with their descriptions. This one was "You're Only Human" and our description was "Secret powers and other little-known talents that would make us great Super Heroes...or Villains."
My superb panelists were Catriona McPherson, Zoë Sharp, Daniel Palmer, Brad Parks, Michael Wiley and Tom Schreck. They were all amazing. I can't say enough about their good sportsmanship, their humor, their enthusiasm. It made for such an entertaining panel.
Tom shared how he does not have super powers when it comes to his dogs, that they actually have the power over him. Zoë has developed her self-defense powers because she's the "world's slowest runner."
Brad Parks employs his super apology powers when it comes to making mistakes with his wife and Catriona has incredible driving super powers when it comes to round-abouts.
Michael Wiley separates the day job from his crime fiction writing, but murder is often on the minds of both he and his students. And believe it or not, Daniel Palmer really CAN make up a blues song on the spot about any topic. Here's the evidence. With no forewarning about the topic I was choosing, he sang a blues song about meerkats!
We talked about (and laughed about) everything from bad reviews to super powers listed in the authors' obituaries. Everyone on the panel engaged and shared. As an added bonus, Brad Parks pulled a Clark Kent sans the telephone booth. And I had my pronunciation of Albany corrected.
I could not have asked for better panelists. Everyone gave me content to work with for my preparations and the show came off beautifully. I hope the audience had as much fun as we did...I think they did.
The last panel I attended on Thursday was called "An Innocent Man" and their description was "Making the Law Thrilling." This one was moderated by Ken Isaacson with panelists Laura Caldwell, Marcia Clark, Adam Mitzner and Matthew Quirk.
The first question that was offered to the panel was "do you have to MAKE the law thrilling or is it already so?"
Marcia Clark says she feels that there's an inherent drama in the court room and she offered up jury selection as an example. If you haven't read Marcia's newest book Killer Ambition, she shows just how much that's true. The jury selection is where lawyers win or lose their cases.
Adam Mitzner finds fascination in the defendant. He says that person has either crossed a line...and maybe he/she is just your average, everyday good citizen, but something caused them to cross that line. OR the defendant is innocent and their life is about to be changed forever because people will never be able to look at them the same way, simply because they were accused and their character is being called into question.
Laura Caldwell pointed out that for writing purposes, authors pick out the "sexy" cases. So they do a little filtering of the "unthrilling" to begin with.
And Matthew Quirk said the ambiguities of law and the legal process offer intrigue.
Another fascinating question that came up with this panel was whether being able to watch court cases on TV has made the legal thriller more popular. There are pros and cons. The celebrity affects witnesses. Some people come forward who really know nothing but want the attention, while others who may know something won't come forward because they want to stay far away from the limelight. Judges have also been found to pander to the celebrity.
On the flip side of that, when cameras aren't in the courtroom, the great travesties of justice can be more easily hidden from the public.
Also, it was cautioned that Court TV is a representation of how court really is, Law & Order is not.
The panel as a whole came to the conclusion that while sometimes authors have to fictionalize to maintain pace and keep the reader engaged, it's ultimately the kernels of reality that "make the books sing." Interestingly the question of why these authors don't attempt true crime came up and they were pretty much in agreement that true crime is challenging because you can't veer at all from the facts. So being able to employ that creative license is pretty important to these panelists.
Another great, informative and entertaining panel.
The opening ceremonies took place on Thursday night, but I had an outside commitment and then I had more prep work to do for my Friday panel, so I missed those. So we're off and running...stay tuned for my report on my final panel and the remainder of Bouchercon.
Also I want to give special thanks to my wonderful friend Christine McCann who took the great pictures from our Superhero panel. Isn't she talented?