My guest on Moving Target today is crime fiction writer Madeleine Harris-Callway. Madeleine and I have been members of a Toronto writers’ critique group for many years, and I’ve long been aware of her talents. She is an amazing writer and editor, and an inspiring mentor. Last year, I learned that she is also a visionary when she came up with the idea of publishing an anthology to showcase the work of Canadian crime fiction writers. The result was Thirteen, which has seen amazing success in the six months since its release.
Here’s what Madeleine has to say about the creation of Thirteen.
As all authors know, the publishing business is going through a seismic shift. Digital books are the future, and we must either embrace them or disappear. The new age of publishing is both liberating and terrifying. We have the freedom to publish our own books, but we can also sink without a trace in an ocean of indie authors.
As former management consultant, I believe in the power of team work. Teams accomplish far more than individuals. And to learn and master our new environment, what better way than to find out by doing?
For many years I’ve belonged to two vibrant writing critique groups. Together, we are 15 established crime writers and editors, many of us winners or finalists of prestigious awards such as the Edgar, the Arthur, the Debut Dagger and the Bony Pete. I asked myself, what if we authors banded together? What if we promoted our own work and the work of our friends? That way we’d tap into our own network and the networks of 14 other women. And we’d have 15 times the knowledge, experience and support to draw on.
I floated the idea by my friends—and they loved it! And so The Mesdames of Mayhem was born. In short order, we had our own website, Facebook page and Twitter account. And thanks to artist, Sara Carrick, we have a distinctive brand.
Our anthology, Thirteen, is a collection of crime stories by 13 Mesdames. Its main purpose is to showcase our writing. In one book, readers can sample the writing of 13 writers—and access links to their websites and other books.
We decided to produce Thirteen in both digital and print form. And we became what The Writers Union of Canada calls “hybrid authors.” For practical reasons, our e-book was published first.
Marketing a digital book is entirely different than marketing a print book. To generate sales, you need to create ripples in cyberspace. Thirteen’s cyber launch last August sold books to readers all over North America. For a short time, it was No. 2 on Amazon’s best seller list for mystery anthologies. Another strategy that continues to work well is a sale—a deeply discounted price that Amazon allows us every few months.
The print edition of Thirteen garnered excellent support from book stores, cafés and libraries. The Oct. 27 print launch at Sleuth of Baker Street, Toronto’s mystery bookstore, was a huge success. What has been especially exciting are our joint ventures with community theatre. We promoted two mystery plays through our members and website—and the theatre companies arranged for us to sell Thirteen and our authors’ other books at the theatres.
It’s been quite a ride, and we still have many readings at libraries and book clubs to look forward to. In another six months, we’ll know even better how to reach readers.
Thank you, Madeleine!
Madeleine Harris-Callway is an award-winning mystery author whose stories have appeared in several crime fiction publications including Crimespree Magazine, Going Out with a Bang (Rendezvous/Dundurn Press) and Blood on the Holly (Baskerville Press). Her first novel, Windigo Fire, will be published by Seraphim Editions, fall 2014. Windigo Fire was a finalist for the 2012 Unhanged Arthur (as Gunning for Bear) and a finalist for the 2009 Debut Dagger Award (as The Land of Sun and Fun).
In 2013, Madeleine founded the Mesdames of Mayhem, a collective of 15 leading Canadian crime writers and editors. Thirteen is the Mesdames of Mayhem’s first anthology.
An avid cyclist, runner and downhill skier, Madeleine has participated in the Toronto Ride to Conquer Cancer every year since its inception. She and her husband share their Victorian home with a spoiled cat.