Bouchercon 2013, the world’s leading convention for crime fiction readers and writers, was last weekend! Since we couldn’t make an appearance, we enlisted Lucy Carson, a literary agent from the Friedrich Literary Agency, to be our eyes and ears at the event.
Here’s Lucy’s report of this year’s Bouchercon.
You just came back from Bouchercon 2013! What’s new in the world of mystery?
Things are certainly shifting. There was a lot of not-fully-articulated genre discrimination, depending on who is bending your ear. Writers who consider themselves hard-boiled did a bit of cozy-complaining and vice versa. I was amazed at the number of writers who were self-publishing multiple books in a series and then deciding that book #3 or #4 would now be submitted to major publishing houses. Mystery writers are often folks who write quickly and in high volume, so I think there’s sometimes an impatience to publish, which shouldn’t trump strategy. The most common swag items were printed products like bookmarks and basic card stock with excerpts and cover art. A lot of folks were bemoaning the recent closures of some beloved mystery bookstores, but carrying Kindles to solicit author signatures (!). There was an overall atmosphere of excitement, and the “big shot” authors were incredibly gracious with their time in talking to each fan who approached them. It’s a supportive community full of voracious, loyal readers.
We’re curious, how do you—as a literary agent—spend your time at Bouchercon? Can you describe your convention experience?
It’s really a convention for writers and fans, so I used my time primarily for meeting up with clients who live outside NY. Having the chance to strategize, consult and even gossip together is something we rarely get to do in person! I did have an hour on Friday afternoon where I welcomed authors to “speed-date” their pitches with me, and the range of content was astounding. I asked for a few, and declined a few, but each person was well-prepared and thoughtful in their approach.
What was your favorite panel/event?
There was a panel on Saturday morning called “Four-Legged Sleuthing” that focused on mysteries in which an animal has a starring role. I had gone to it expecting there would be a lot of repetition, but each writer had a completely different philosophy and style (not to mention animal! There was even a squirrel featured). An incredible range from the noir world of Spencer Quinn’s books to the more lighthearted self-described “newbie” Kathryn O’Sullivan.
Who are some of the industry people you met there that we should keep an eye on?
Well, I had known him while he was at Viking, but it was great to catch up with Josh Kendall, who is now running the Mulholland Books imprint at Hachette. The imprint is glowing from the recent success of a certain Robert Galbraith, and I think that will give them even more freedom to take chances on debut crime fiction in the coming seasons.
Should Book Country members go to conventions such as Bouchercon, and if so, why?
There’s far more reason for prospective writers and fans to go to Bouchercon than for agents to go. It’s a convention FOR you, and if you’ve got the right attitude, you can build wonderful relationships with fellow writers. The internet can only take those relationships so far, but having face time is incredibly valuable for networking in a meaningful way. Depending on how much of a “beginner” you are, the panels might be a treasure trove of great advice as well. But even for those writers who consider themselves seasoned, Tess Gerritsen shared her personal philosophy, “No matter how long you’ve been writing, never let the gratitude fade.” That’s paraphrasing, but I think she is absolutely RIGHT! Whether you’re writing full or part time, at the beginning of the process or in the middle of a major career, it’s an essential frame of mind to cultivate and maintain.
About Lucy Carson:
Lucy Carson graduated from The University of Michigan and promptly joined The Friedrich Agency in early 2008, where she is now a full agent as well as the Director of Sub-Rights for the company. In addition to brokering domestic publishing deals for her own clients, Lucy also oversees all foreign and film business for the agency list. During her five years with The Friedrich Agency, Lucy has worked with such authors as Sue Grafton, Lisa Scottoline, Ruth Ozeki, Terry McMillan, Jane Smiley, and Elizabeth Strout. Her list is focused on fiction and (narrative) non-fiction for both adults and teens.