Publishing, as an industry, as been on a real roller-coaster ride in recent years. I've followed the news avidly, since I've been involved on one level or another in the book business for over 25 years now. I've been a writer, a publisher, an editor, a writing teacher, and a bookstore owner. Each of these roles has provided me some new and valuable piece of the great puzzle that is bookselling--moving books from a mere idea in the writer's mind to a page that a reader will enjoy to the fullest.

Now, anyone who follows my newsletter already knows that I am a huge fan of e-books--lower cost, instant delivery, availability of an author's backlist titles--there are so many reasons. BUT, I am still and always will be a fan of printed books too. I love my local library and support them wholeheartedly. I love browsing a bookstore (many of whom are now offering e-books, did you know?). What I'm saying is that I doubt any true lover of books is going to give up printed books altogether, even if we love our Kindles and Kobos and Nooks and iPads.

It was with great interest this week that I did a little catching up on the news in the retail bookstore end of things. And the news is great! After a few years of doom-and-gloom predictions, the number of independent bookstores has actually increased over the past couple of years. Part of the reason might be because there are fewer major chain stores now, with the closing of Borders, but all the dire predictions about how e-books would put bookstores out of business have just not materialized.

So . . . what's the new, big, exciting news in the last few months for booksellers? The major book wholesalers, Ingram and Baker & Taylor, have recently changed some of their terms and practices to allow bookstores to easily order titles of independent writers (I'm one of those) and small presses. This was not always the case, as I discovered during the years I owned a retail bookstore.

If you are a bookseller, this is a huge development. There has always been big frustration for those who wanted to carry a wider variety of titles but were unable to find them through wholesalers. Now, even POD books are available to you at favorable terms.

If you are a writer, it means there is a greater chance that your books will find space on the shelves. At the very least, it means that your fans can go into their favorite shop and request your book.

And if you are a reader (aren't we all?), hallelujah--you can go into your local store and ask for the book you want, even if it's an older title, and chances are very good that bookseller can get it for you.

I'm thrilled about this. In my days as a bookstore owner I worked with both of the major wholesalers and found it frustrating at times that I couldn't order certain books--for instance, the older titles of an author who was coming for a signing, or a self-published book that had gotten great reviews. I could buy it at retail from another store and sell it at a loss, but that hardly pays the rent. Having both major wholesalers bring the titles of lesser-known authors to your neighborhood bookstore can only be a good thing!

I say hurrah for the changes in the publishing industry in the past few years, because in the long run it's really about writers and readers meeting up. In an industry that has, in many ways, put roadblocks between writers and readers we are now seeing a much clearer path and a lot more interaction. I love it!

And, on that note, I'd like to add my personal thanks to every reader who has bought my books. I know there are millions of choices for you, and I am truly grateful when you choose me, whether you prefer a printed book or an e-book--thank you!!
 
 
Hard to believe it's September already---wasn't it spring the last time I turned around? Every year seems to fly by faster (am I getting older, or what?). But I have to say that I truly love the way I spend my time, mainly writing!

2012 again sees three new titles--Sweet Hearts and Bitter Sweet in the Samantha Sweet series and a new Charlie Parker, Phantoms Can Be Murder. That means a fair amount of time where I've been closed away in my office, pecking away at the computer. During the evenings when I'm not writing or editing my own work, of course I love to read. Some favorites this year: the Flavia de Luce series by Alan Bradley, several stand-alone books by Ruth Rendell . . . and a bunch more. Have also watched Downton Abbey (don't you love that series?), several seasons of A Touch of Frost  and am now getting into Foyle's War, another British TV series.

Obviously, I am on a real British mystery kick this year, including in my own writing. Shortly after the release of Phantoms I was lucky enough to again travel to the small Suffolk town of Bury St. Edmunds, the locale of the book. I visited the bookstores and watched the Olympic Torch pass through. Visit my Facebook page to see some pictures of locations featured in the book, including the Angel Hotel (Charles Dickens stayed there!) and the cemetery at St. Mary's Church, a shortcut where Charlie had to walk late one night.

For anyone who fears that Charlie strayed too far from New Mexico, don't worry. She and Drake will be back at home next time. Of course (not to give away anything in the story...) it looks like they may be flying their helicopter in Alaska sometime in the future too!

People often ask if it's hard to come up with enough ideas to keep two series going. Actually, I have more ideas than I have time to write them all down. The next two books in each of my series are already bobbing around in my head, and when there's time . . . I actually have another new series in mind. If only I could invent the 48 hour day!

Meanwhile, enjoy the lovely autumn weather and stay in touch!
Happy reading,
Connie
 
 
Wow--unbelievable that the first three months of 2012 are almost gone! I've stayed so busy that it's been a blur. As my newsletter subscribers have already heard, there have been family events--my daughter got married in January, my father celebrates his 85th birthday this month . . . I introduced the 4th Samantha Sweet book (Sweet Hearts) in late January and the Valentine themed story has brought a lot of new readers into the fold. Thank you to all my readers for spreading the word and introducing their friends to Charlie, to Samantha, and to me!

As I write this post, I am deep in the middle of the next Charlie Parker book. There is still much work to do on it, but I'm excited to say that so far we are on track for publication by late spring or early summer. I will keep you posted!

Meanwhile, my novel writing course continues to do well, and I'm thrilled that so many new writers are starting work on their own book ideas.

I hope the first quarter of the year has gone well for you and your family, as well. I think often of my readers and how much it means to me that you are there. A post now and then on my blog isn't really sufficient to express my deep gratitude. But please know that I am so grateful for your purchases and so happy when I hear from you. I try to personally answer each and every email--stay in touch!
 
 
This has been an incredible year and I'm feeling somewhat dizzied by how lucky I've been. I've met so many new readers (I'm SO appreciative of your comments about my books!), and I spent all summer writing and hoping to live up to your expectations with new stories.

The newest Samantha book, Sweet Holidays, just went live today on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Smashwords in all e-book formats. The print version is on CreateSpace and will soon be just a click away through the other bookselling sites as well, plus being available to any bookstore where you might want to order it. My home page has the links.

And . . . this past week has been a milestone for my Charlie Parker series. Amazon's promotional efforts resulted in sales of nearly 30,000 books in one short week, propelling the first Charlie title into the #1 ranking in Mysteries/Women Sleuths, the #1 spot in Thrillers/Suspense, and the #6 spot in Kindle books overall. I literally had to catch my breath when I read those stats. And it's all because of the wonderful folks who buy and read my books. You guys are awesome!

As we head into winter, I hope Sweet Holidays will bring the holiday spirit to readers and that you will have fun with Sam and Beau and the whole crew at Sweet's Sweets. Enjoy the treats, savor an extra piece of chocolate, and know that I count you as a special blessing in my life.
 
 
My July newsletter just went out today, announcing this month's Kindle winner and a few more things (if you didn't receive your copy, click here to sign up).

Since summer is such a favorite time for kicking back and reading, I thought I would include some ideas for finding more of those fun summer reads.

I've recently come across a new mystery newsletter, AllMystery! email newsletter. The editor is, herself, a mystery writer and she is doing a great job of getting the word out about new books. The newsletter features both big-name bestsellers and newer authors that you may not already know about. Each issue follows a theme (the current one is PI's and Police; future ones will include Murder at Work and Christmas Cozies). Click this link to read the current issue and to sign up to receive AllMystery! every month.

Among the other great websites that feature books and book discussion, visit Goodreads, Shelfari and Library Thing. I love getting updates from people I have "friended" on those sites because I get such great ideas for new books I want to read.

On my own Facebook page I posed the question: What are you reading now? I'd love to hear from you. Click on over there and let me know. Or follow me on Twitter @connieshelton


 
 
Last month I mentioned in my blog that several agents had suggested that I stop writing my Charlie Parker series and write something else, under a different name. A reader questioned why those in the publishing world would suggest such a thing, and I thought that would be a great topic for this month's post.

First, a little background: Publishing is a strange business. I don't know any other way to say it. Traditional New York publishing is now owned by six large corporations and publishing decisions are driven almost completely by sales numbers. It doesn't help that so many independent bookstores have gone under, in the face of overwhelming competition from chain stores and online sellers. The large chains set up sales models which were monitored by a very few buyers in a central location. Computer reports dictated what the stores would stock and this largely determined the fate of an author.

The way a book moved through the system was based on advance "buzz" about the title. If big advertising dollars were going to be put behind a title, the chains could justify ordering multiple copies for each of their stores. Publishers paid tens of thousands of dollars for placement of those books at the front of the store (don't think for a minute that some bookstore employee just takes a look through the stock and starts sticking books on shelves and tables---it's all very carefully planned), and that money was spent on the "name" authors and titles.

Okay, so what happens is that First Time Author writes a book and it gets published. Let's say there is a good amount of buzz, some positive reviews, and the author has planned a little signing tour (for all but the top ten or so bestseller list writers, all this is done at the author's expense). First Time Author's book does okay. For the sake of argument, we'll say that it sells 10,000 copies in the first two months. That's not bad. But by then new books are coming along, and the bookstores are allowed to return unsold stock to the publishers (a VERY weird business practice, in my opinion, but that's how it is in publishing). So, maybe 2,000 copies get returned, for a net sales total of 8,000 books.

The author has written book #2 and it comes out a year later. But this one doesn't get quite the buzz of the first. Face it, everyone loves the concept of discovering that fresh new voice! So, this time the chain stores look at their records and see that the author's first book didn't sell out, so they order even fewer copies of the second book--say, 5,000 total. These most certainly won't get placed on a table at the front and, buried among 50,000 other books, will likely not get noticed at all unless the author has really pushed hard for this one. So, probably half of Book #2 get returned and the publisher is thinking this is an author who is definitely on his way out the door. If they give the author a chance at a third, fourth or fifth book, it will almost be a miracle. The computer doesn't lie, and that computer is telling everyone in the publishing world that this author is a loser.

The author still wants to write. There are fans who still want to read their books. But the publisher and the stores are no longer interested. So, if the author is still on good terms with his/her agent after all this, the agent may recommend writing a whole new series or genre and submitting it under a different name.

So, that's the strange world of publishing.

Now, I must say that my own case was not quite this bleak. I was lucky to be with a smaller press in the beginning and they stuck with me through ten books. But when my original publisher changed hands and the interest seriously began to wane I just didn't have the sales to make an agent or a bigger publishing house jump for joy. That's when I began to get those suggestions from agents.

Making a long story just a little bit longer...I came to the realization that the group who were really being left out were my readers. People wanted more Charlie books and I was  determined not to quit writing them.

Enter the new realm of e-books, printing presses designed to fill demand as needed--and I was on my way! Now I can write as much as I'm capable of, and I can get them out to the people who want them. To me, it's about the relationship between author and reader. Period. As long as I can come up with fresh plot ideas, and as long as you are out there wanting new books I'll be here!
 
 
It's always so exciting for me when I've finished a new book and know it's coming out soon. My newest Charlie book, Stardom Can Be Murder, was slated for early May release but I've learned that a couple of sales outlets have gotten on it even more quickly. So, I'm having a hard time waiting to tell everyone.

Yes, there will be a paperback version. Yes, the ebook version will be out there to all sales outlets very soon... Meanwhile, for my readers who've been asking about it, Stardom is already showing up on these sites in ebook versions:

Kindle version

Sony, iPad, Kobo and others

Thanks to everyone who has encouraged me to keep writing this series. And a huge thanks to everyone who has recommended my books to their friends and posted such wonderful comments online. I couldn't do it without you!!

Happy Reading!
Connie
 
 
I guess there are several reasons why readers gravitate toward mysteries. There was some discussion of this recently among members of a writers group I belong to, Sisters In Crime, and the consensus really went along with all the reasons I've personally found the mystery genre so satisfying and fun to read.

1. Mysteries give us the sense that justice prevails. A crime happens, the sleuth follows the clues, the bad guys are caught and put away. Since real life often doesn't give us that satisfaction, finding resolution in fiction meets one of our basic needs.

2. Mystery readers love series. Unlike many other fiction genres, with mysteries we get to stay with a set of characters we like. Sometimes it's a location that appeals to us. Often the protagonist's profession is one that we find interesting. As we get to know those fictional folks and learn more about them, we develop a bond. Multiple literary agents over the years told me that I should drop Charlie after the first few books and start writing something new. But when I talked to readers they were appalled. They wanted Charlie and Drake and the whole gang to stick around. Well, guess who was more important to me?---My readers!

3. Readers often look for the bits of the story that come from the author's life. Many authors draw from their own experiences in creating their fictional worlds--be it the police department, the hospital, the courtroom or some other career. In my case, the whole world of helicopter operations comes out of my own life. My husband is that handsome helicopter pilot and his work inspired many of the situations in my books.

A lot of my own work experience before I began writing full-time was in accounting, so it was a natural to use that as Charlie's profession. At an earlier point in my life I decorated cakes and sold them for extra spending money--that became the basis for Samantha Sweet's career in my new series (okay, that and my obsessive love of all things chocolate!).

Now that you know which parts are real, I guess I need to state for the record that there are many parts of the books that are completely made up. I've never fired a gun at a person; I've never seen an up-close dead body that wasn't first prepped by a funeral home; I've never been brave enough to go chasing down bad guys. Probably at least 80% of Charlie's adventures come right out of my head.

But maybe that brings us to another thing readers love about mysteries. We get to live a lot of those outside-the-box experiences without really having to put our own necks on the line.
 
 
My, how things have changed in the publishing world! Rarely a day goes by that I don't receive an article on the rising phenomenon of e-books (the latest being that e-book sales have now outpaced hardcovers). Traditional publishers aren't quite sure what to do about it yet, but those of us who are with smaller presses and with the flexibility to do things ourselves are charging right ahead with the new technology.

I've just begun working directly with Barnes & Noble to assure that readers with Nook e-readers can quickly and easily have access to all my books. If you explore the rest of my site, you'll notice that there are now direct links to B&N for every title.

Some writers are going strictly with the e-book format alone while others, like myself, are keeping our books in both printed and electronic formats. My own thought is that, hey, you all are the readers--I should give you what you want! I will continue to insist that all my titles are available however you want them. Thank you so very much for your continued support and encouragement!

As always, happy reading!
Connie
PS: If you especially liked one (or several) of my books, I'd love it if you could share that opinion by posting a review for me on either Amazon or Barnes & Noble. Thanks!


 
 
One of my biggest joys in life is writing--but you probably already figured that out. With my Charlie Parker series going strong for over 15 years now, I spent most of 2010 focusing on expanding and stretching myself as a writer. My first Samantha Sweet mystery came out in September and the response from readers was SO gratifying. Just about everyone--from my editor to readers around the globe--has responded with love and praise for the new cast of characters. Thank you, from the very bottom of my heart!!

With 2011 already off to a great start, I hope the second Samantha book will delight you in the same way. And for fans of Charlie and Drake...don't fear! They are still going strong. A new Charlie book is in the works now and I hope to have it ready for you by early summer. My goal is to write at least one in each of my two series' every year. Maybe more!

My readers are absolutely the nicest people in the world, and I want to take a minute to personally thank you for reading my books and for contacting me. I love you all!
 
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    I try not to write a LOT of blog entries--I know your time is pretty full already-- and subscribing to my newsletter is really the best way to get news from me on a timely basis. But I invite you to stop in now and then to see what's up. And if you have a question that you would like to have addressed here, feel free to send me an email.

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