Recently at the National Arts Club, we had the pleasure of discussing contemporary international crime fiction with actor and writer Paul Calderon. His short story, “Primitive Grace,” appears in Noir Nation No. 2. Although known mostly as an actor — due largely to his recurring role in the television series Law & Order and his outstanding performance as the bartender in Pulp Fiction — he is also a serious writer. He studied fiction with Kaylie Jones, daughter of James Jones, author of From Here to Eternity. He has just finished a hardboiled crime novel that has all of the action and suspense of top Hollywood movie.
The discussion hit on many topics. But the takeaway insight dealt with the difference between independent makers of crime films and independent makers of crime books. The film people market their products to people who want to be entertained, aiming for viral ticket sales. They appeal to their audiences with ads in general interest newspapers, with subway and bus signs, television commercials, and talk show interviews. A film budget always includes a line for marketing and public relations.
That is not true of crime book producers. They often have zero dollars set aside for marketing. So they appeal to other crime writers who might blurb their books, as well as influential bloggers, who very often are themselves writers trying to create awareness for their own creative work. The hope becomes not that a book will go viral — because such virality will be limited to the number of paying readers in the crime fiction blogosphere — but that they will come to the attention of a powerful literary agent or a publisher, or even a filmmaker looking for a great story to turn into a movie.
The question is: what strategies can independent creators of crime fiction employ to appeal directly to the tens of millions of crime fiction fans who are devouring Fifty Shades of Gray and The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo?
That is the question of the age. We don’t know the answer or, rather, answers. Perhaps you do. If so, please help the conversation continue and share your thoughts in the comments section.