I’ve just been to Lincoln for the 2015 Crime Writers’ Association annual conference. The only previous one I’ve attended was just down the road in Southampton in 2012 so Lincoln was much more of an adventure. I intended to go by train but when the Resident Engineer decided he’d like a trip to Lincoln too I was happy to let him drive. It would have taken about three changes by train and probably a week to get there if I’d had to drive as I hate motorways and would have pootled cross-country getting side-tracked by pretty villages and stately homes and panicking at sight of a dual-carriageway.
Lincoln is one of those cathedral cities that we do so well in this country – two thousand years of history under your foot, under your nose and in front of your eyes. I love it and if it happened to be in Hampshire I’d move there like a shot and buy one of the wonderful historic houses in the Cathedral Quarter. (Millionaire budget allowing, of course.) I cantered (it’s hard to do otherwise) down Steep Hill and staggered up again, stopping for a cup of tea on the way to get my breath back.
Anyway, the conference. While the Engineer drove round Lincolnshire in search of things that float his boat – a foundry, a watermill, some canals, an RAF museum and a WW2 airfield where a kindly volunteer helper forced him to eat ham rolls and apple pie because none of the usual male volunteers had turned up for lunch and she was clearly pining to feed someone – I was enjoying the lectures at the conference.
It was enlightening to hear how the ‘New Tricks’ teams really work on cold cases, and entertaining (in a slightly gruesome way) to be conducted through a couple of real-life cases involving missing persons and murder. Made me glad I mostly write Victorian mysteries where forensic science and even fingerprints aren’t part of an investigation into murder.
With about eighty other writers present it’s not the done thing to plug one’s own books but I did manage to mention that my books are all out as e-books which is great, and one person (of impeccable taste) said she loved my books and told me she would be checking out the e-books. Also, not many people realised that my publisher, Robert Hale, now has a paperback imprint called Buried River Press. So far it’s only for new submissions but one day I’d love to get my books into paperback. We’ll see…
Another talk was by an e-book-only publisher. I was interested to find out what he does in the way of promoting his authors and not surprised to find that essentially he does what they all do: tweets, Facebook, internet promotions, etc. This led on to a discussion about self-published authors and publicity, etc. which rammed home the fact (which I knew anyway) that a self-publisher has to become a publisher him- or herself and work at it! I’m all admiration for those self-publishers who dedicate themselves to what was described frankly as the ‘drudgery’ of promotion and publicity. As my only self-published e-book, Scuba Dancing, (originally published by Transita Ltd) sells intermittently, sometimes with an encouraging spike but also – occasionally – with a grand monthly sales total of five copies – it’s probably time to pull my socks up and do something about it!
Finally, it’s always interesting to meet and talk to writers whose books you don’t happen to have come across and I’m certainly going to investigate books by Shetland author Marsali Taylor and Devonshire-based writer Margaret Duffy. Keeping me company during the talks was fellow Deadly Dame, Eileen Robertson, who writes excellent cosy mysteries ‘with an edge to them’!
NB To become a member of the Crime Writers’ Association you have to have had a crime novel published by a ‘traditional’ publisher.
(The photos of Lincoln are from Wikipedia)