Monday, August 27, 2012

Killer Thrillers and author collectives

Yes, I have been away for a long time, two mind-bending weeks in Australia, which I will post about when I can wrap my own thoughts around the trip.  That will not be today, however. I'm still trying to wake up.

But life and work go on, especially work, and today is a big launch of a new venture in publishing that I wanted to write about: a collective of thriller writers called Killer Thrillers.

I've been blogging more and more here about e publishing and marketing, because these days it's impossible to have a career as a novel writer without being an expert in both. So today I'd like to talk about the issue of filters.

One of the huge problems of e publishing from a quality perspective is that in the brave new world of self publishing, "gatekeepers" have essentially been eliminated.  Agents and publishers are no longer filtering books before they're put before the public. While there's an argument that that's a good thing, I know from my years as a reader for film production companies how very much absolute dreck is screened out by early readers:  agents, editorial assistants, editors - and when I say dreck I mean scripts and books that should never have been read by another soul besides the purported author.

I'm all for readers being allowed to discover books on their own, and it is true that the actual purchase or publication of a script or book is subject to personal taste, the specific needs of a publishing house or line, and the vagaries of the market.  But those screeners also kept some seriously awful material from ever seeing the light of day.

So now that anyone who can figure out the e publishing platform can upload virtually anything to Kindle, Pubit, Kobo and Smashwords, where's the quality control?  You can argue that the readers are their own quality control now, but seriously - the vast number of books - and especially free books - on offer has made sorting through the dreck that's out there (and oh yes, the dreck is out there) a time-consuming proposition for a reader.

Personally, I WANT some screening.  But where is that going to come from?

While literary agencies are a logical entity for promotion of quality authors and books, they seem so far reluctant to set themselves up as publishers or storefronts for their clients.  And since agencies are not performing this function, I have thought for some time that authors should be banding together to support and promote their own books, and there are more and more of these author collectives springing up (not surprisingly the majority are romance authors).  I've been asked to join various author collectives but have so far been wary about committing because I haven't heard of or more importantly read most of the authors involved.  I can't in good conscience post about other authors' books on Facebook and Twitter and on this blog and others when I haven't actually read the goods. I think we all have a responsibility not to waste other people's time by randomly promoting mediocre books and leaving readers to find for themselves that those books were better avoided.

So so far my only choices have been to form a collective of authors I admire myself, or wait for someone like-minded to do it. And luckily for me, thriller author Karen Dionne has done exactly that. Karen is a bestselling author and organizer extraordinaire: the founder of the writers forum Backspace and the Backspace Writers Conference.  For Killer Thrillers she's put together a group of thriller authors I would have approached myself: friends and blogmates from Murderati:  Rob Gregory Browne, Brett Battles and Zoe Sharp, and other authors I know and love like David Morrell, Blake Crouch, CJ Lyons, Keith Raffel - all authors I have read and can recommend without reservation.

All Killer Thrillers authors are bestselling, award-winning and/or internationally published; most are traditionally published as well as e published.  Those qualifications do not guarantee that a particular reader will love all or any of the books offered, but they do say that a significant number of readers have found the books worth reading. And most of the authors involved know each other from Bouchercon and Thrillerfest, MWA and ITW and Sisters in crime, and can promote each other without the slightest hesitation.

In essence authors are banding together to establish their own publishing imprints, just as publishers do. We are creating an umbrella organization that guarantees a certain genre and a certain quality of work. How effective these collectives are going to be in the Wild West of e publishing is an open question, but Killer Thrillers is a brand I can put my energy into building with real enthusiasm. I hope you'll check out the site and the books today, and if you see anything you like, tell your friends.

Killer Thrillers

And today I'd love to talk about book screening.  How do you find your books these days? Have you seen other effective methods of quality control and promotion?

- Alex

Related e publishing and marketing posts:

My e publishing decision 
E publishing - Where do I START?
To Nook or Not to Nook? 
Giving it Away (Kindle Select promotion)
Marketing = Madness
Letting it Ride (Kindle Select promotion)
Bestseller lists and Tag lists
Liking, Sharing and Tagging


In other news...

I'm thrilled that Huntress Moon is a featured book in Amazon's KDP newsletter this week.

And I made IndieReader's  Top 100 Indie Authors list for August with the sales of Huntress Moon alone.

Yes, I am happy I decided to e publish!

A driven FBI agent is on the hunt for that most rare of all killers: a female serial.

Amazon US
Amazon UK
Amazon DE
Amazon FR
Amazon ES
Amazon IT


Alejandro De La Garza said...


I agree that the presence of “dreck” is the downside to self-publishing. But, as you stated also, literary tastes and preferences are purely subjective. I started reading a John Grisham novel several years ago, but had to put it down because it was so poorly-written. I barely got ¼ of the way through it. Yet, he’s one of the best-selling authors with several of his books turned into movies or TV series. But, I feel that self-publishing is giving the power of writing and publication back to the writers – where it belongs. I’ve heard of editors and agents reworking novels to produce something that is almost entirely different from what the writer originally intended. That won’t necessarily foster a good business relationship. Indeed, self-publishing is uncharted territory, and – while it grows in popularity – I don’t see there will be any consensus on how best to handle it.

Sarah W said...

Sorry, too busy squealing (in a completely dignified way) over the Killer Thrillers site to answer your question . . . unless that answered it?

For eBooks, consortium writer sites and blogs work for me---from the Outfit to Do Some Damage to Murderati, etc. If I know and like at least one author on a site, I'll usually pay close attention to the others.

Alexandra Sokoloff said...

Alejandro, personally I think that at Grisham's level it's really the readers who need to be giving the author the feedback if the books aren't up to snuff. Publishers aren't going to mess with a cash cow, but a responsible author will listen to readers and self-correct. I hope!

I totally agree that e publishing is giving authors the power, although I haven't myself seen any examples of publishers totally reworking an author's work, actually. That's an issue in Hollywood for sure, but not widespread in the book world.

And yeah, I don't see any consensus happening any time soon.

Alexandra Sokoloff said...

Sarah, I'm excited that you're excited! I don't know a few of the writers on the site, but I'm for sure going to try them out because of the recommendations. I really am the target reader!

Karen Dionne said...

Thanks for the nice words, Alex! I love your thoughts on the need for filters to sift through the overwhelming glut of e-books - this is exactly what I've been thinking. So many new e-books, with more going up every day. How is a reader supposed to sort through them all?

Author collectives like Killer Thrillers in effect do the job for them, because membership is restricted to authors who've already proven themselves, so readers know they're getting a quality story.

And I think it's SO COOL that you and I had the same idea! Does that mean I can now claim to have a mind as great as yours?

Lance C. said...

Alex -- good luck on this new venture.

While collectives may work for already-published authors, I'm unclear what they do for writers who haven't yet grabbed the brass ring.

Once the Killer Thrillers get established publicizing their own books, do you see them promoting works by non-members? Has that issue been raised in your discussions, and if not, is it something you think author collectives in general should do?

Alexandra Sokoloff said...

Hi Lance - I think a well-thought out collective that focuses on brand and targeted promotion can work for unknown writers who are really willing to commit their energy to the project. Not a lot of people are willing to do that.

I think Killer Thrillers is a porous group that will build in size with many more like-minded authors. I also think Karen is wise to keep the membership requirements clear and consistent: award-winning, bestselling, and/or internationally published thriller writers. That's the specific hook and filter of this group.

I can tell you that every author I know in the group is great about promoting newer authors we discover and admire. I just don't know if the group will have the time to do that as an organized effort. Time is the eternal problem for any writer.

Alexandra Sokoloff said...

Karen, I think at least we can claim that between the two of us we have ONE fully operating brain! ;)

It really is exciting that we can create our own version of a small, quality press... without having to deal with printing!

A. J. Abbiati said...

Hi Alexandra,

There is SO much garbage out there, I practically NEVER browse through an online bookstore. For me, I will either stroll through BAM or Barnes & Noble and take note of the books that seem interesting, then grab samples online (if I don't buy the hardcopy), or I will find my books by word of mouth. As an independently published writer, I follow a lot of independently published authors' sites (Konrath, DWSmith, Mayer, Rusch, Crouch, Block, Eisler, you, etc. etc.) and I get a lot of leads on good books there.

Goodreads is an up-and-coming dreck filter, but I have not used it much.

Finally, I Google. With searches like "Top 25 Best Fantasy Novels." You can get a lot of great info simply by scanning the web.


Alexandra Sokoloff said...

Jim, your Google idea is fantastic! I'll have to try that. I am really not proactive about finding books at all - it has to be right in my face for me to notice it. I get book suggestions from Murderati, and from the conferences I go to. But Googling Top 25 or Top 100 lists - even I can do that!

Virginia said...

Hi Alex,
usually I read the reviews on Amazon or Ibs, a big Italian site where you can find lots of them. And I use google too, to find the best authors of some genre or the top 10 books of the moment. Even if I often I do not agree with those top 10 or top 100 lists. I think your idea is wonderful and will make the difference among all the books out there. I'm happy for your epublishing success.

Alexandra Sokoloff said...

Thanks, Paola! I really need to do more Googling to find books. Since I go by storylines, this is an easy way for me to call up what I'm looking for, I don't know why I haven't been doing it!