Monthly Archives: February 2014

They Just Don’t Get It…

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I tried to resist the fray, but sue me, I’m weak. So here goes.

gatekeeperHugh Howey and Anonymous X published their first report at authorearnings.com. I won’t go into the details (go read it for yourself), except to say I knew it would cause a shitstorm. To see one example, take a peek at the absurd rebuttal from Dear Author PG posted on The Passive Voice blog. All this comes on the heels of a sudden spate of self-publishing bashing by such luminaries as Steve Zacharius, Robert Gottlieb, Donald Maas and others. (Joe Konrath had a great run fisking their foolishness over on his blog. One example where he fisks Mike Shatzkin.)

As interesting as it all is, I’ve noticed a whole lot of “missing the point” going on.

It’s really not about the money.

Oh sure, money is a measure, an easy way to calculate one’s progress…

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Patterson/Cussler merger? Guess its not true.

Well, there are times when someone reads a fantastic headline and story and write their own post on the subject, only to discover that its not true.  For me, this is one of those times.  Last night I posted about an allegted merger between fiction titans, James Patterson and Clive Cussler.  After reading the comments on Lawrence Blocks post about it – and considering the fact that I still haven’t found any other source with this story – I can only conclude that its not true.  Was it a joke?  A satire on the industry, of sorts?  I don’t know.  I don’t read LBs blog enough to know when he may be joking.

So I jumped the gun, and I apologize for that, But this isn’t a retraction.  I stand by my opinions in that post.

For now, we’ll call it a hypothetical situation to consider.  IF such a merger happened, it would likely be for the reasons I suggested AND it would be a good thing as long as the newly merged properties didn’t start dicking with the readers with ridiculous pricing or making them jump through hoops to get their work.

In the future, I’ll try to be more careful.  Thanks for reading.

 

The Secret to Writing a Bestseller

That’s a blog post title that gets your attention, isn’t it?

Well, Jodie Llewellyn had a brief post today sort of on that subject and, once again, my comment on that post would have turned into a post all its own.  So, here we are.

Now the question of the bestseller is different from her question of what makes great writing great.  The two are FAR from the same thing.  Before I get too far into this, I should clairfy that:

*DISCLAIMER* – I’ve never written a bestseller and anything I say on the subject is my own opinion.  I still firmly believe that there is NO silver bullet to guarantee writing success, and any aspiring writer that spends more time looking for this phantom than they do practicing their craft, will not succeed.

Now, back to business…

IF there is a secret to be found, one must first consider what a bestseller is.  The short answer is sales, but not all bestseller list work like that.  There’s nice write-up about this HERE.  If a book hits the NY Times list – regardless of how it gets there – they can call it a bestseller forever and always…but I digress.

So, how does a book sell a lot?  It has to be popular.  How does it get popular?  People talk about it.  How do you get people to talk about it?  Put something in it they’ll want to talk about.

In my opinion, it comes down to content or what it’s about.  Some examples:  The DaVinci Code, took the world by storm and was on the NY Times list for something like 136 consecutive weeks before falling out of the top 15.  It was talked about in the media, because it caused a stir with the Catholic church which made people buy it to see what all the chatter was about.  The subject matter drove the curiosity which drove the sales.  It’s one of my favorite books for what it was about and the controversy is caused, but I don’t care for Dan Brown’s actual writing style. I had to listen to the audiobook, because I couldn’t get through the way it was written.   A lot of people I’ve talked to about that book agree:  Average writing, but it was great book.

Harry Potter and The Sorcerer’s Stone started a phenomenon.  It gave kids wonderful characters and a world that delighted their imaginations.  I mention it in this post, only because it is regarded as the most poorly written in the series, from a technical stand point, but that doesn’t take away from its popularity and J.K. Rowling thanks us every time she receives a fan letter and a royalty check.  *No disrespect intended.

And who could forget Fifty Shades of Grey.  It got a hell of a lot of press, right?  Did the media declare it to be on par with The Grapes of Wrath?  War and Peace?  Nope, it was all about the uh…content, to put it cleanly.  It got noticed because it pushed boundaries and was driven by the fact that E.L James self-published it as an e-book.  The readers liked it.  Literary critics, not so much.

So what’s the secret to writing a bestseller?  Hell, I wish I knew.  If you forcibly try to write something that will get this kind of attention by design, you’re almost certainly setting yourself up for failure.

Just ask the creators of Basic Instinct 2 how that worked out.

Patterson and Cussler to merge?

Lawerence Block just put up very interesting blog post about an announced merger of two of the major deities of popular fiction; James Patterson and Clive Cussler.  You can read his post HERE.

It doesn’t into a great detail, but the deal is said to include ALL rights, in ALL media, to both author’s past, present, and future works.  If you are fans of these writers, that about the volume of work that is…and what it will be.  I’ve read that Patterson has no less than 15 books coming out this year alone.  Granted, he has a large stable of co-authors he works with that have enabled him to keep his name on the new release rack constantly, but it’s still something to behold.  Cussler doesn’t have nearly that kind of productivity, he does have quite a library of his own and a very large fan base to go with it.

So when I read this post, I tried to find out the specifics.  The post doesn’t cite a specific source and, oddly enough, I haven’t found anything on either author’s website, and my google searches have been fruitless so far.

Still, it got me to thinking and it came down to two questions:  What does it mean? and What is it mean?

Since I haven’t found anything else about this yet, a lot of this is speculation on my part.

WHAT does it mean? – It seems like two of the biggest names in popular fiction are seeing the changing landscape of publishing.  Perhaps it’s the outdated business model, or the excruciatingly slow pace the big six publishers are adapting to the changing marketplace.  Whatever the driving factor is, it appears TO ME that even though these two writers – who have the most solid standing, and theoretically, the most pull with their publishers, are seeing the need to take total control of their careers.  LB’s post doesn’t say so, but in MY own opinion, it can only mean that they plan to self-publish going forward.

What does it MEAN? – Again, in my own opinion, it has to mean that they see some sort of major crisis or collapse on the horizon and they are preemptively jumping off the sinking ship.  And if the biggest of the big names are getting nervous, and leaving the “protection” of the big six, how long does traditional publishing have left?

The post mentioned opposing views from two officers in the Author’s Guild.  One called the deal “exciting”.  The other said it was “Appalling”.

Someone else mentioned in the post said to blame Amazon.  I got a chuckle at that.

It was also suggested the Department of Justice might not even sign off on the merger, I presume, over monopoly concerns.  I don’t see the problem there.  While these are giants in the industry, they are not the WHOLE industry.  If I am correct, and they are simply kicking the trad-pub chauffeur out of the driver’s seat and taking the wheel of their careers and their own futures, then there can’t be a monopoly.  They are still competing in the same marketplace, with the same competition.  Today’s readers eat up material from their favorite author faster than trad-pub can get it to them.  The merger will allow them to feed their audience’s need without being chained down by some outdated, and useless, publishing schedule.

I guess the biggest opposition to this merger is the same as the opposition to the new era of publishing:  The middle man is no longer calling the shots.

It sounds like I’m just bashing traditional publishing, and suggesting that Patterson and Cussler are dissatisfied with their publishers.  Well, that’s not entirely the case.  I have no clue as to how JP and CC feel about their publishers.  They’ve obviously had highly successful relationships with them.  However, trad-pub still operates like its the late 80’s, in most cases, and in today’s world that is just bad for readers, writers and themselves – and if this merger is actually happening for the reasons I believe, then I have one last thing to say:

The prosecution rests.