The green-eyed monster
A good friend of mine got some great news this week. She is going hard cover after toiling in the paperback original ghetto far longer than she should have. We got together to celebrate over a glass of Sauvignon Blanc last night. She confessed she had been wary of telling me, because she knew I would be jealous. Well, hell yes, I'm jealous! I've been PBO for six books now and we are the Rodney Dangerfields of the fiction world. You should hear us when we get together -- and we do, gravitating to each other like redhaired stepchildren at mystery conventions, mumbling that so-and-so HC author is a hack and such-and-such HC writer should be on the Sierra Club hit list for deforestation.
Okay, I admit it. I AM covetous. I want the respect that comes with being hard. I've been lucky to get reviews in some major rags like the Chicago Tribune and the San Francisco Chronicle. But will you ever see my name in the New York Times? (well, it has been on the bestseller list there, but I guess that doesn't carry any weight with their reviewers. Go figure). And today I called a bookstore in Key West who a reader had told me did not stock my books -- this despite the fact they had a prominent FLORIDA AUTHOR section. The owner snottily told me he carried only "selected" authors. I pressed him and he gave me names. Okay, the usual guys like Hiaason, but also some midlist laborers and even lesser lights. But they were hard, brother!
But here is the bottom line. As a PBO peon, I have a lot of books out there every year. And with HC prices pushing $30, do you really think most buyers are going to take a chance on someone they haven't heard of? Let's face it, there are two groups of crime book buyers out there. There is the intelligensia, those readers who follow the posting boards and subscribe to the mystery magazines, who know what the Edgar is, who are tuned into the genre. But then there is everyone else -- that vast pool of general readers who must rely on the media and reviewers to tell them what is hot. There are folks -- we have seen them in action -- who walk into B&Ns bestseller list in hand and who seldom venture down the aisles to check out the spine-out books. And then there are the readers -- thank God! -- who use word of mouth to cull their reading choices. These are the people we writers need, like it or not. These are the readers I am going after -- one at a time. Being a succes d'estime is great. But it doesn't give you a good sell-through or keep your publisher from dropping your series.
So am I really jealous of my friend's good fortune? Sure, but her good fortune does nothing to diminish me. I will lurk here in the PBO weeds, waiting for my chance. And in the meantime I salute my friend Elaine Viets She's moving on up, to the East Side. She finally got her piece of the pie.