Simon Wood

SHELF LIFE EXTRA: A Learning Experience

I’m this year’s Bouchercon toastmaster which I find quite astounding as I was starting out just over a decade ago.  Naturally, I’ve going over my B’con experiences over the years and I was thinking about my first Bouchercon.  It was in Austin, Texas in 2002 and I came to it with that new author smell.  My first novel, ACCIDENTS WAITING TO HAPPEN, was only weeks old.  Being a brand new author, everything was new, everything was a whirlwind, as was my arrival to Bouchercon.  I’d done a book signing at M is for Mystery, had dinner then gotten on a midnight flight to Austin.  I arrived at the conference hotel with just enough time to check in at registration before being shoved in the direction of my first panel, still in my clothes from the night before, luggage and book bag still in hand.  Now I had to speak…in public…to people.  Not my forte at the best of times, but it’s the thing you do for queen and country…and for publishing.  I don’t know what I looked like to the outside world but on the inside I was a nervous wreck.  I was on the new author panel and I took refuge in the notion that it would be an empty room seeing as a Walter Mosley was being interviewed in the next room.  Unfortunately, the room was fairly full.
I met my moderator and fellow panelists.  We talked game plan then got down to it.  I can’t say as we went live, all my nerves disappeared and I blossomed, but I did OK, despite a quaver in my voice.  Talking about a book and its inspirations always helps to take the edge off. 
At the end of the panel, a group of men totaling around six or seven approached me.  Oh God, angry hordes.  Maybe I hadn’t done as good a job as I thought I had.
But these men were happy to see me.  They wanted to know if ACCIDENTS was my first book, if it was in its first printing and was it available in the book room.  The answer to all these questions was yes.  These men were even happier to see me.  They were book collectors!  And first books were important. 
These guys escorted me down to the book room and bought books.  Seeing how green I was they bought me coffee and proceeded to tell me about the birds and the bees of books.  They taught me how to sign a book properly, the importance of print runs, first printings, book collecting and book speculation.  These guys just weren’t just buying my book, they were investing in me.  If I made it big, my first book would be quite valuable.  One guy told me he’d bought a dozen copies of Ian Rankin’s first book and was now selling them for $1,500 each.  I just hoped they could profit from me like one day.  J
Over the years, a number of people have provided me with invaluable advice which has made me a smarter writer and it started with these men at my first Bouchercon and I shall forever be in these men’s debt.  I look forward to Long Beach what I’ll learn this year.  Hope to see you there and all you have to do is pop over to registration to secure your spot.


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