It was five years ago this month that I debuted as the lead crime-fiction blogger for Kirkus Reviews. Not long before that, Molly Brown, then the publication’s Web and features editor, had called me up out of the blue to offer me the job, based on favorable recommendations she’d received from other sources. It seemed like an excellent opportunity, especially since working for Kirkus meant, in theory, that I could cut back on other freelancing obligations; so I didn’t take long before saying “yes.”
Some aspects of the job Brown described were never realized. For instance, she told me, as she did other bloggers Kirkus hired back then to cover different genres of fiction, that I’d be expected to do my own posting to
the Web site, and would need to contribute several pieces each week of varying lengths—all written in a “conversational,” “consumer-friendly” style. She also mentioned how advertising dollars brought in by these new blogs would be shared among the writers, and how we’d be paid for our work at a generous per-word rate. In the end, a flat per-column fee was negotiated (quite below what I’d earned previously), and there was no more talk of ad-generated bonuses. Rather than posting frequently, I was restricted to a single column per week, and subsequently to fortnightly contributions.
Despite all of that, the Kirkus gig has been a generally satisfying one. I have the leeway to write about whatever subjects I wish, just so long as they relate in some manner to crime, mystery, and thriller works available in U.S. bookstores. Although I’ve gone through several editors (with the most recent one—and one of my favorites—Chelsea Langford, leaving the company just last Friday), they have all been accommodating and respectful, if rather quiet.
I am pretty much left alone to do my work, which demonstrates trust in my abilities but also leaves me feeling distant from the business of publishing, a business I have loved for so long. Then again, as my beloved maternal grandfather used to say, “it could be worse.”
To celebrate this fifth anniversary, my new Kirkus column is devoted to what I think are alternately amusing and revealing top-five lists representing my experience with this genre. They range from “5 Crime and Mystery
Novelists Best Represented on My Shelves” and “5 Classic Authors Whose Work I Should Have Read, But Have Not” to “5 Mysteries I Wish I’d Written.” I’d be very pleased if others among the Rap Sheet audience were to submit their own picks
in those same categories, either in the Comments section at the end of my Kirkus piece, or as a comment at the end of this particular post.
2016 is turning out to be a big anniversary year for me. January brought the fifth birthday of my book-design blog, Killer Covers. Now we’re commemorating my half-decade association with Kirkus Reviews. And The Rap Sheet’s 10th anniversary is coming right up in mid-May. It’s a good thing I like champagne toasts!
READ MORE: “Take Fives,” by J. Kingston Pierce (Killer Covers).