By Brandon Pascall & Brett Pascall

Crime fiction has always been a part of the publishing world, from great bestsellers to hidden gems. During a panel at NYCC today authors J.C. Vaughan and Charles Ardai discuss the changing landscape of crime fiction in today’s modern book market. Moderated by Ed Catto, these two established authors and publishers dive into a broad range of topics, from publishing books in the COVID era to using cover art to sell books.

(L to R) J.C. Vaughan, Ed Catto, Charles Ardai

Ed begins by having each panelist discuss how COVID has affected their marketing strategy. J.C. talks about how crowdfunding has helped him tremendously and has exceeded his wildest expectations, he recently Kickstarted his second novel Second Wednesday to great success, earning $3004 which was $1000 over which was 110% over his starting goal. The advantage for him was that with the limited number of days he gets to devote to the campaign allowed him to hyper-focus on getting backers for his project when also juggling a day job, and then it’s over. This approach let him do what he needed to do without sacrificing his personal life while wrangling with the pandemic.

J.C. then threw the topic over to Charles. Talking about the struggles of new books being published during this timeframe, he wanted to find different ways to market his nearer books to audiences. Charles Ardai is the founder and editor of Hard Case Crime, with that, he decided to give one of his writers a fresh start with a pseudonym and the difference in publicity he received was astounding. This led him to discover first hand that the strife of being a brand new writer relies all in ones ability to market themselves to the chosen audience and that if you ignore that aspect of writing your book will fail no matter how well it is written. He went on to say that he believes that with consistent brand building, readers will come back. Every single Hard Case Crime novel has a single spine and branding so that readers will know that they have published that book. This approach allows readers a chance to not only identify the brand but possibly pick up something of similar quality to what they just read.

Charles moved onto covers and how their ability to sell anything is also a massive factor. “A good picture is worth a thousand words,” Charles said, talking about how artists like Bill Sienkiewicz have boosted sales by just having a variant cover. For himself when a cover clicks with a story it makes the sales ‘that’ much better. He’s even had writers write stories to covers that he’s commissioned for the company and has had writers like the late  Michael Crichton (Jurassic Park) publish various novels at Hard Case because their covers are so well received. He recalled a story where Drew Struzan (Star Wars and Indiana Jones poster artist) even did the covers for his wife Dylan Struzan novel A Bloody Business. The power of great cover art can not be understated.

Consistency is also a concern. Both authors talked about giving people an experience that matches the previous book, without falling into the trap of writing the same thing over and over. Readers have their favorite authors not because they’re being spoon-fed the same story with different elements, but because that author can enchant readers with their style and the consistency of that style that runs throughout their books.

Overall the crime genre is one that is constantly evolving but will always be a hallmark in publishing.

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