In late February I read a report in The New York Times about a controversy when it came to awarding Oscars. There were gripes coming for the lack of support for American Sniper, which had ten times the box office success as Birdman. Essentially the complaint was that Oscars should be rewarded for commercial success, as opposed to giving them out to films based on artistic merit. If this same argument prevailed in the book world, then James Patterson would win the Edgar Award for Best Mystery Novel each and every year (he writes about six a year), and E. L. James would win the National Book Award every time she wrote another 50 Shades of Grey novel.
We’ve never published a Best Seller since we began publishing in 1978, and while individual titles have won various awards in both the mystery field and for quality fiction, it’s also clear that given the decreasing review space in the largest newspapers and magazines, books published by smaller Indie presses are not likely to become Best Sellers, a necessity if one is to have major sales.Which leads me to think about what additional “prizes” any of our authors might enjoy. And this is what I think, particularly since several of our 2015 titles— Eleanor Lerman’s Radiomen (January), Paul Zimmer’s The Mysteries of Soldiers Grove (February), Ivan Goldman’s The Debtor Class and Tom LeClair’s Lincoln’s Billy (both in April), have gotten incredibly praiseworthy early reviews from pre-publication review sources in Publishers Weekly, Booklist, Library Journal and Kirkus Reviews— as well as independent bloggers and some small newspapers, that their “prize” is knowing that their fiction is appreciated not only by us, but by critics who admire exceptional writing.
For instance, on March 1 Radiomen was reviewed in Library Journal as part of a roundup entitled “13 Key Spring Titles for Readers Looking Beyond the Best Sellers list,” and also gained exceptional reviews in Booklist, Publishers Weekly and five other sources. Audio rights were purchased by Blackstone Audiobooks, who also bought the rights to Lincoln’s Billy, which had a fine advance review in Kirkus and will be published on the 150th anniversary of Lincoln’s assassination. The Debtor Class had a starred review in Booklist, comparing it to “Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., with howlingly funny dialogue. Don’t let it slip by; this one needs lots of word of mouth to become the cult classic it deserves to be.” And The Mysteries of Soldiers Grove merited a starred review in Publishers Weekly and a great one in Mystery Scene.
And that, dear people, will have to do in a world where the Pattersons and the E.L. Jameses reign supreme in media coverage and sales, and where some of the best writing largely gets overlooked as coming from “boutique” publishers. But we’re delighted to be in the boutique camp…and that is our “prize” as well.I welcome your comments.