Observations From The Left Coast

I’ve just returned from this year’s Left Coast Crime convention, that annual gathering of mystery fans and writers. It was held in Colorado Springs, Colorado. I had my usual difficulty adjusting to the altitude and the dryness, after all these years of living close to sea level. Despite that, I had fun.

Here are some of my observations from this Left Coast Crime.

The convention itself seemed small. I don’t know how many people attended, but it didn’t feel as though there were as many folks in Colorado Springs as there were at last year’s convention in Sacramento. I suspect that conventions held in California get a wider attendance because there are more of us out here in the Golden State.

Having said that, there were writers and fans from locations other than Colorado – a contingent from California, of course, from New Mexico, just down the road, and our own PP writer from Washington state, Sheila Simonson. I also ran into folks from Georgia.

I didn’t sign many books and several of those were the older Jeri Howard novels. It seemed the book room wasn’t very busy. Nor did I purchase many books. There are several reasons for this. I am in a period of my life where I’m going through the bookshelves and thinning out what I have. So that has an effect on what I buy and what I carry home on the plane. I did purchase a few books because I wanted them signed by the authors. In another case, I wanted to read an author’s book but I didn’t want a physical book. I purchased the e-book for my Kindle.

I participated in two panels, one on traditional mysteries and the other on the private eye novel. Both were well attended.

I also went to panels. Two that caught my eye were on Thursday afternoon: Going It Alone – Self-Publishing, and Websites and Social Media: The Dos, the Don’ts, the Dangers.

In the first panel, on self-publishing, several authors referred to themselves as hybrids, published traditionally as well as on their own. It was interesting to hear them discuss why they’d made that decision.

A case in point is Albuquerque writer Steve Brewer, author of 25 books, who has worked with both a New York publisher and a small press. That smaller publisher has now gone out of business. Steve still has an agent who shops manuscripts to traditional publishers, but has had little luck in placing the books. So Steve, who is a prolific writer, has added self-publishing to his repertoire.

Others on the panel included husband-and-wife writing team Rosemary and Larry Mild, Del Jack, Rebecca Bates, and J.L. Austgen, who has started his own small press.

The second panel, on websites and social media, wound up focusing on social media and didn’t even get to the subject of blogs. Panelists were Kiffer Brown, Hilary Davidson, Maddee James, Patricia Stoltey, Jen Forbus, and Janet Rudolph of Mystery Readers International. They discussed various social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, Goodreads and Pinterest.

One of the don’ts, mentioned by all the panelists, was don’t constantly ask people to buy your book. It gets old and turns people off.

All the panelists admitted that social media can be a major time suck, which is one of the problems I have with social media. The best suggestion I heard was to find two social media platforms that you like – and stick with those. After a year or so on Twitter I deactivated my account. Right now I’m on Facebook. I have made some connections there. I haven’t done much with Goodreads and haven’t explored Google Plus.

Pinterest, however, does intrigue me, so I’ve started an account. Posting photos of my cats and other things that interest me, like trains. Yes, I can get into that.

Back in October 2011, when the Perseverance Press blog was just getting started, we had a Round Robin discussion titled “The Fate of Booksignings and Conferences.” If you’d like to revisit that discussion, here’s the link.

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4 Responses

  1. A lively and accurate account of LCC, Janet. Like you, I met many interesting fans and writers. A relatively small con like LCC is easier to cope with than the big bashes, so I had a good time, except for the horizontal snow. I was delighted to meet Deni Dietz (Four Star), for example, and to hear so many good panels. On the way home my husband and I took the southern route, crossing NM and AZ, so I can now at least visualize Hillerman country.

  2. Good account, Janet. Many thanks. I was interested in your comment on the altitude, the second one I’ve read about that con. Having the memory of an elephant, I still remember that some boosters pooh-poohed my questions about the altitude in Santa Fe when LCC was held there. Altitude is nothing to be messed with if you’re older and/or having any kind of breathing problems.

    But forget all that. Your report was a welcome read.

    Pat Browning

  3. An intriguing post, Janet. I’m particularly interested in authors who have been with traditional pubs and then struck off on their own. I might do that myself, although it’s scary. Perhaps we should explore this sort of thing in another Round Robin. Or social media: describing which (if any) has been helpful to us personally. A “time suck” is all too true!

  4. What was the ratio of autors to fans this year? It seems to me that the number of former is getting larger relative to latter. The LCC has always been my favorite con, ever since the first one in San Francisco just as Gulf I got underway. Small, but it was fun. LCC has always been a wonderful opportunity to connect with other writers. I’m sorry that I missed Colorado this year–too close to Spring Break to play hookey
    .

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