We live in discombobulated times. This is also true in the book world. Many readers are trying to adapt to an increasingly electronic world. Writers are trying to make sense of the shake up in the publishing industry. The bad news is that no one seems to know what’s going on or what to do. That’s also the good news. Out of the chaos comes creativity and opportunity.
Big publishers, who quite often take agented-only submissions and consider books as products, are battling mega-retailer and publisher Amazon, which offers a new, internet-friendly model for essentially the same business. In another trend, some writers, once too ashamed to go the vanity press route, are finding that self-publishing can be liberating and even profitable. Many fine veteran writers, taking their rights back, are re-releasing their early books as e-books. In the mean time and in the midst of Amazon throwing its weight around and mega publishers gobbling up other publishers, some smaller and/or more innovative publishers are taking advantage of the controversy and tumult in the business by providing some diverse and exciting opportunities to writers and interesting, highly targeted offerings to readers. Some of these new, many of them high-quality crime fiction publishers, harvest the past. Others are on the cutting edge of now.
Chalk Line Books — Make no mistake, this new publisher is vintage all the way, bringing the likes of Jim Thompson, Ed McBain and David Goodis into the age of the e-book. Retro grit. I suspect submissions are only open to dead masters of the genre.
Brash Books — This new publisher takes a broader look at crime fiction.
We’ve got it all,” they say, “psychological thrillers, murder mysteries, international espionage, and police procedurals from established masters of the craft — as well as premiere books from new voices who are sure to become crime fiction stars.” Founded by mystery writers Lee Goldberg and Joel Goldman, the new company is indeed “brash” in the best sense of the word. Look for some retro classics here, but also look for work from contemporary masters – Dick Locht, Jack Lynch, Dallas Murphy and Bill Crider.
Perfect Crime Books —This publisher is populated by proven, multiple award-winning veterans of crime fiction. A sampling includes Robert J. Randisi, Max Allan Collins, Bill Pronzini and Ed Gorman. Perfect Crime publishes trade paperbacks and e-books.
280 Steps — The publisher, though it publishes established crime writers, seems to be genuinely open to new ones. They also reissue crime classics. Names on their current booklist include past masters Harry Whittington, Paul Engleman and Bill S. Ballinger as well as talented younger writers like Philip Reed and Eric Beetner. 280 Steps seem to have developed a signature and uniquely-crafted cover style for their books. They are looking for noir, hardboiled, mysteries and thrillers to release as paperbacks and e-books. They appear to be off to a good start.
Hardcase Crime — You’ll find these beautiful slim volumes in bookstores everywhere. They specialize, as the names suggests, in hard-boiled crime fiction by past, current and future masters. Among the many authors you’ll recognize are Donald E. Westlake, James M. Cain, Mickey Spillane, Lawrence Block and Domenic Stansberry. Think pulp and think pulp book covers. One could spend all day just looking at the covers. This is original art, but in the pulp style.
Ravenbooks (Rapid Reads) — This is an imprint of Canada’s respected publisher, Orca. They are doing something that few traditional publishers are doing. They are exploring new paths. In this case, they are taking the novella — and the crime novella in particular — seriously. Their Rapid Reads books, many of them crime fiction, are less than 20,000 words. They are designed for on-the-go readers searching for high-quality novellas by such award–winning authors as Gail Bowen, Linda L. Richards, Reed Farrel Coleman and Melodie Campbell, (In the interest of disclosure, they will publish a novella of mine next year.) Most novellas are available in trade paperback and e-book. The novellas also appeal to young adult readers and ESL students.