Walker Books is phasing out its mystery book line. Walker president and publisher George Gibson said he decided to discontinue the line so that the mid-size house could focus its resources in other areas. "Mysteries have been part of our fabric at Walker for a long time," Gibson told PW. "But I've been increasingly aware that the market is ever-more competitive. We've got a lot of parts, and I've been feeling that we haven't been able to invest in all of our parts fully." He added, "It's not a reaction to anything going on in the publishing world, to a downturn that some people feel exists."
Walker will honor all outstanding contracts and possibly roll over a few authors onto its general adult list. Michael Seidman, who headed up the series, will leave the company in the next few months. With about 12 new titles per year, mysteries constituted roughly 20% of Walker's list, but amounted to only 5% to 10% of sales, according to Gibson. That number might come as a surprise to some who follow the company; the assumption had often been that the mysteries carried other parts of the list.
Seidman said that while the decision shocked him, he wonders if there isn't a silver lining. "I think one of the best things that could happen for readers and publishing is a growth in some of those smaller houses, so writers of imagination have somewhere to go," he remarked, but added, "I think some of the large publishers' approach [to mysteries] is strangling the goose. It's like Mikey and Life cereal—give Mikey anything; he'll eat it."