Lead pipe in the library By Jan Needle

I’m not a great believer in get-togethers with people in the same trade. As one of the most gregarious people you’re ever likely to meet, that’s quite weird, really, but I think it’s true. In all me years I’ve never been to a children’s writers ‘convention,’ never been to a book fair, never been to ‘Harrogate’ or ‘Cheltenham’ (except as a speaker once) or any of the other jamborees. Not my type of thing.

But last week, thanks to Beardie’s superb (no joke) Virgin service – two hours and nine minutes Manchester to London – I found myself in a meeting of the International Thriller Writers (UK) in the offices of a most successful law firm called Stewarts Law. Why was it held there? Because Mr Stewart is a thriller writer, and wanted to give us the benefit of a bit of class.

There were canapés to die for, Australian red and white wine by the bucketful, and soft drinks and fizzy water for those killeristas who presumably think crime should be respectable. Talking of myths, I found out the other day what canapé means in French. It means a sofa. Another one of life's great mysteries.

There were about forty of us there, and Joanna Penn was in the chair. She writes thrillers which are a great success on both sides of the Atlantic, and like other members, thinks thrillers are a damn good thing and ought to be held in higher esteem, especially in terms of sales. No argument with that, as long as I'm allowed to write all my other types of book as well. And I am.

Black Jake, banjo, in the bar. A genuine mystery
Last year's ITW meet-up was held in the house of Peter James, and this year his generosity extended to buying all the drinks. I got involved by further kindness of strangers, in that my e-book publisher, Endeavour Press, sent me an application form. The main organisation is based in America, and it took me a long time to fill it in, because forms have never really been my thing (sorry Mr Taxman), and until last week I hadn't even begun to explore it. Which was foolish of me, but probably irreversible.

Never mind. So there I was in the height of luxury in Chancery Lane not very far from the former grot-hole in Bouverie Street where I used to do casual subbing for the Sun. My voice activator just rendered that as casual supping, which is really quite astute of it. Who said computers don't have brains?

The thing was very jolly, and it started off with drinks and chats. There was a long table at one end with the IT screen raring to go, and short talks from Erin Kelly, who’s just novelised series one of Broadchurch, Simon Toyne on how to write a bestseller, exploiting audio rights by the said Joanna, and other fascinating things.

Up on the screen went the ‘Codex’, on the ‘discoverability of books.’ Briefly, it was breakdown of the efficacy of various forms of getting your book known to John Public. For instance, it told us that advertising in newspapers and magazines, and advertising on TV or radio, are both responsible for a mere 1.7% of sales. If I could reproduce the pie chart I would, but I'm an author not a bleeding techie. Sorry about that, pals.

I can tell you, though, that ITW 'wants to be the most useful organisation for thriller writers,' and future meetings in Britain will include segments on marketing tips and joint promotional opportunities, advanced writing craft, and how to exploit your rights and make more money. Which all sounds pretty good to me.

I signed up immediately with their man Nick Stephenson to take part in the latest email promotion, which involves me and other writers providing one 'proper, printed' book to be a competition prize. The last one they held, in December, resulted in 2500 email signups from thriller fans, which is the start of a 'dedicated ITW UK and Europe email list.' The aim is to grow this list to 50,000 in the next twelve months with a series of similar giveaways.

As it's scheduled for next month, one bright spark member came up instantly with the working title: HomicIdes of March.

The parent organisation, in America, already has an email list which is quite enormous. It's got a magazine as well, which any member with more nous than me can utilise (as I'm sure they say Stateside!)

Believe me, I had a lovely evening, which led naturally to a splendid hangover until the aforementioned Beardie lulled me to dreamless sleep. Here's the URL


Chris Longmuir said…
Sounds good, Jan, and an organisation worth joining. However, although my trad publisher is on the list, they let my title go out of print last year and I now self publish it, so I reckon I'm no longer eligible, unless of course they allow retrospective applications.
Jan Needle said…
i think if you look at the small print they allow e-writers anyway. the rules are less intimidating than they seem. it's a matter of being 'published' i think. try em, and if there's a problem, i'll put you in touch wiht joanna. she seems a right good'un!

for instance, the book i'm putting in their giveaway comp is an ebook, but matti gardner (my son) has done me a paper copy through one of the things i can't remember, and that's it. only one copy needed!
Lydia Bennet said…
I seem to remember looking into joining this org a while back and something put me off - I'll have another look having read your, as always, lively post. However if 'Beardie' has done you proud with one service it might explain why his cross country service stinks to high heaven in so many ways and why I dread him taking over our excellent east coast service to London from the north...
Lydia Bennet said…
Ah yes I remember now - having looked at the link, it's all coming back to me - my perfectly reputable small indie publisher isn't on their 'list' of publishers and it seemed they had quite a traditional 'big' idea of what a bona fide publisher is.
Jan Needle said…
sorry to here that, lydia. as i say i slipped in easily. as to cross country, you're not the only person who says that.commiserations
Jan Needle said…
sorry to HEAR that, too. time for a cuppa!
Dennis Hamley said…
Always late to the party here in NZ because all the action on here comes when we're still asleep. However,
I reckon I could join Thriller Writers UK, with Joslin and my Point Crimes of years ago as evidence. It sounds more convivial than most authors' gatherings - with the exception of AE were we ever to have one. Virgin on the East Coast? Appalling. But this government would never acknowledge that the mini-nationalisation actually worked. Still, Virgin is better than First Group, currently fouling up the Great Western. If the railways aren't to be renationalised then Chiltern Railways should run then all.

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