Gorkana Insight & Analysis Team
Gorkana meets...Crime Scene
Rosie Fletcher, editor of new Future title Crime Scene, why the time was right to launch a magazine dedicated to crime fiction, wanting to "fetishise" good writing and beautiful design, and the plethora of opportunities open to PRs with content ideas.
Crime Scene is a new title for Future PLC, having launched in September. What was the inspiration behind it?
Future Publishing has 29 monthly print titles and around 125 specials a year, but none of them could put Sherlock on the cover. Crime TV is huge at the minute and crime has taken over as the biggest genre in fiction. There’s a clear fan-base, but nowhere on the newsstand is there a magazine that can really celebrate the best of crime, and we thought we were missing a trick.
I know it’s a bit of a funny time to be launching a magazine, but the Crime Scene readership is a bit older than readers of Total Film and SFX. They want something glossy and high-end that they can enjoy, so we thought now would be a good time for this type of product.
The magazine covers shows like Sherlock, True Detective and Fargo. What other types of crime fiction is Crime Scene interested in covering?
In the most recent issue we have a piece on Luther, (a great show, which is coming back for a special this month) and, aside from Sherlock and Fargo, we also cover shows like Endeavour (a spin-off from Morse). This is the Nordic Noir issue so we have big pieces on Wallander and The Bridge, as well as a new Icelandic Noir show called Trapped, which comes out in January. It's very much ‘water-cooler’ TV.
There’s also crime fiction. In this issue, we feature authors like Patricia Cornwell, David Baldacci and we have a big interview with Martina Cole. As well as popular authors, we also feature new authors who aren’t well known but are really exciting.
We also cover movies and have a piece on Room in the upcoming issue and we are actively watching Girl on a Train, which is in development with Emily Blunt.
Essentially, we cover books, film and TV.
Crime Scene has been put together as a thick, glossy print magazine. How important is it to keep that medium alive?
I think it’s super important and we want to make a product that would make you proud being seen with on the tube. With Crime Scene, it is 148 pages, perfectly-bound, heavy paper stock. It needs to feel like something you want to own, something you want to keep and something that you would read every page of.
It’s kind of about fetishising the importance of good writing, beautiful design and narrative prose. The readership consists of people who aren't afraid of reading, so need to be comfortable sitting through a 2000 word think piece.
What have been biggest challenges of launching a title like this?
Our biggest challenge is budget. Because of the industry we don’t have a lot of money to throw at it. Crime Scene being a quarterly magazine is also quite challenging because you can’t be a "completist". While Total Film and SFX review every film showing in the cinema, we can’t because it would take up the whole magazine.
We also have to be careful about curating things, which is part of the reason we don’t have star ratings on our reviews. If something is not very good, it’s just not going to make it into the magazine. I don’t want to produce a magazine where people go “Oh, there’s a book out. Oh, it’s rubbish.” I don’t see the value in that.
Timings can also be a problem because we are long-lead. Quite often with TV, something will come out in the three month period after we’re out, but not in time for me to write about beforehand, which is quite annoying.
What was the most exciting pieces of content Crime Scene produced in its launch title?
In the first issue we had Stephan Moffat, which was my favourite article in the magazine. He did a piece on Colombo which was really funny. Obviously he’s a writer by profession, so it was always going to be good, but he’s very passionate about Colombo and it’s such a beautifully constructed piece of prose. We’ve also featured Anthony Horowitz and Kate Mosse. I’ve really enjoyed working with these named contributors.
Are you looking for more of that content?
Yes, although we're not just looking for well known authors. In the first issue we had piece written by an author named Diana Bretherick, who isn’t as well known, but wrote a great piece about the blends between fact and fiction and the responsibility you have to the people when it is based on the truth.
Does the title share any content with other Future titles like Total Film or SFX?
We use some of the same writers, but thus far it’s not really come up. That’s not to say there wouldn’t be a possibility to do that.
Tell us about the Crime Scene reader?
We were building the product for about six months before publication and that involved meeting with a lot of studios and publishing houses to talk about their readership. One of them said that they have an imaginary person called “Crime Annie” who is a slightly older woman who likes NCIS and CIA, but also likes Sherlock and Fargo, and reads a lot of crime fiction.
The reader is 50/50 male/female and possibly a bit older than magazines like TF and SFX. I suppose the shorthand would be: “Us and our parents.”
Describe your relationship with PRs.
We’ve been really lucky having worked on Total Film and SFX because we are fortunate enough to know lots of people already. Building it from the ground up when you don’t know anyone would have been so hard, but the TV studios and the book publishers have been really helpful and encouraging. They’ve been great at directing us towards things that are interesting and coming up with pitches for things and those have been absolutely invaluable.
How best can they help with content?
Always bring to my attention things that are coming out that might be interesting. If you’re a publisher and you have a debut that you think is brilliant, then I definitely want to know about it.
Similarly with TV Shows, we can cover things in lots of different ways and it doesn't just have to be access. Even if it’s just an image, an onset still or a first look then we can cover it in news. Then three months later we can run a feature and then a review.
Also, if a PR has someone on their books who wouldn’t be averse to writing something for us, then I’m really happy to talk about that (and I'm not massively prescriptive about word length).
Three top tips for PRs when pitching ideas?
I’m quite bad at responding to emails sometimes and that’s partly because I manage four quarterly titles a year, and Crime Scene is just one of them. Crime Scene is my baby, so I always want to hear ideas about it, but I won’t always be able to reply. So I would say email again if you haven’t heard back from me.
For books to be reviewed, just send me the book. Don’t ask to send it to me and make sure there is a press release. It might sound obvious, but if I don’t have the press release then I can’t get the context of when the book’s out and what kind of genre it is, which causes a problem.
Overall, I'm open to anything. That’s the nice thing about Crime Scene being new; we can introduce new stuff all the time, but if I find it’s not working after two issues then I can just knock it out.
Finally, what will we all be watching over the festive period when it comes to crime?
Our next issue is out Tuesday (8 December). You will be watching The Bridge! You will! Some of it’s already showing. The first episode is absolutely brilliant and even if you didn’t watch season one and two, you can pick it up from this point. There's also Luther of course, which is coming this month. It’s a two-parter, very gritty and dark, and it looks fantastic. And of course, on 1 January everybody has to go and watch Sherlock The Abominable Bride, which is showing in cinemas.
Rosie was talking to Gorkana's Sam Willis
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