Friday, May 4, 2012

Multiple Author Syndrome

I attended the Malice Domestic conference last weekend. Malice is for mystery fans who love the "traditional" mystery, the kinds penned in the style of authors like Agatha Christie, usually with non-cop sleuths and small town settings. I've been to more than a dozen Malice weekends over the years. Probably a lot more. I've lost count.

This year they had a tribute to Barbara Mertz, who writes under the pen names Elizabeth Peters and Barbara Michaels. I'm a big fan of all of her works. Her paranormal Barbara Michaels suspense novels certainly were a major influence on my Possessed Mystery series. Among the authors presenting the tribute to Barbara were Joan Hess, Dorothy Cannell and Margaret Maron.

Watching them, I remembered the first time I'd seen them together in the same room. The four of them plus Charlotte MacLeod and Sharyn McCrumb had come to my local independent bookstore for a signing. I was a yet unpublished writer, and here were some of my favorite authors, so I'd taken a long lunch hour from work to go see them.

I was struck immediately by the fact that these women weren't simply writers traveling together on a book tour. They were good friends.

Since then, I've done signings of my own. My book tour buddies are most often Robin Hathaway and Caroline (Charles) Todd. And yes, we're good friends. When you share hotel rooms and meals and long hours on the road, as well as a love of good books, it's inevitable. I have other writer friends, too, with  whom I've done local mystery panels and presentations. We all support each other's work, and we love to get together and talk shop, which is important in a profession that requires you to be home alone most of the time. The friendships writers develop while hawking books in unison are precious, and as Barbara, Joan and Dorothy reminded me last weekend, often lifelong.

In the last 15 years or so, I've noticed a definite decrease in multiple author events at bookstores. Some stores seem less willing these days to deal directly with authors, but only want to set up events through the publisher. And some publishers seem to keep a fairly tight rein on their authors' promotional activities, insisting they go through their publicists, discouraging their writers from appearing with authors from other publishing houses.

For many authors, especially new ones, it never seems to occur to them to try to schedule signings with other writers. In my opinion, this is a huge mistake. More than one author at an event can generate larger audiences and more excitement. Fans attending to see one author are more likely to take a chance on the others. I've always sold more books at multiple author signings. And I can't name one big name author, on having to share space with a newbie, who has complained that his or her sales suffered.

At that signing years ago with Barbara Michaels, Joan Hess and the rest, I bought six books. One was the first novel I'd read by Margaret Maron. I've since read all in her Deborah Knott series. If only one author had been in the store that day, I might not have bought more than one novel, and possibly never discovered Margaret's work.

Happy fans, happy writers, happy bookstores.

Happy reading,

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