|Poison, image by |
Andrew Kuznetsov, via Flickr
“Established in 1989, Malice Domestic® is an annual "fun fan" convention in metropolitan Washington, D.C., saluting the traditional mystery—books best typified by the works of Agatha Christie.I don’t write traditional mysteries or cozies, and the fact that all my books are self-published made me ineligible to participate on a panel. Had any of my books been published by a large or small press, or if I’d published three short stories in any of the accepted mystery magazines or anthologies before I switched to publishing my own books, I would have been considered panel-worthy. I could have moderated, but since that was my first time going, the program director thought it would be a good idea for me to get my feet wet first. I knew that going in, and I was okay with it.
The genre is loosely defined as mysteries which contain no explicit sex or excessive gore or violence.”
However, I was gob-smacked when I asked the attendant of the hospitality room if I could put my bookmarks along the walls with a gazillion of other writers’ promotional paraphernalia, and she said no when she found out that I wrote darker mysteries. The writers I told, some in board positions, were as outraged as I. They told me I should have put them there without asking, and the next day I did, but the slight still rankled.
All the qualifications/requirements set by the conference got me thinking: how could so many indie authors writing good books continue to be ignored, and was it fair that they were? Conferences can make any restrictions they want; it is their privilege, but has the time come to set some criteria to separate those serious self-published writers from those with one or two books who didn’t take the essential steps such as editing, cover design, or formatting to produce a professional publication? Should a ranking gleaned from purchasing venues such as Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or bestseller lists, whether local or national, newspapers, libraries, or bookstores, be a determining factor of whether an author should qualify to be included in conference participation? Self-published books have garnered high marks and positions on all of those venues. What about a requisite number of reviews with a minimum rating as a condition? I don’t know the answer or if there even is one. But I certainly think it’s time for some discussion. Another indie writer made the point that readers couldn’t care less who published the books they like. Or those they don’t like. They remember the authors and either look for more of their work or avoid them.
My real purpose for going to Malice was to meet friends I’d made in the online mystery community, friends I knew I would like in the flesh and did. I cheered them on when they were up for awards and was thrilled to congratulate them for their nominations and wins. I manned the Sisters in Crime table for a few hours, met more people I didn’t previously know, and enjoyed the many panels I attended. All and all, it was a great time, and I’m glad I went. But more than likely, I won’t be going back. Though I felt welcomed by the amazing writers I met, I was still left with the feeling that I wasn’t quite good enough for this particular conference.
An opposite example is Murder in the Magic City in Birmingham. It’s a smaller conference, of course, but they’ve managed to integrate the panels with both traditionally and indie published authors, and in doing so, expanded the opportunities and information for all writers. I enjoyed being on the panels in the more intimate setting. I know other conferences have adapted to the new author landscape, and when I can afford to do so, I’ll attend some of those because conferences are the best way to make personal connections.
Polly Iyer is the author of six novels: standalones Hooked, InSight, Murder Deja Vu, Threads, and two books in the Diana Racine Psychic Suspense series, Mind Games and Goddess of the Moon. A Massachusetts native, she makes her home in the beautiful Piedmont region of South Carolina. You can visit her website for more on Polly and connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.