Is LOS ANGELES Magazine in trouble?

Los Angeles Magazine must be desperate too boost their anemic circulation numbers. We’ve been getting subscription offers from them for years. Today we got a letter from them offering us a two years subscription, 24 issues, for $9.95, which is more than 90% off their cover price. I’m tempted to subscribe,  but I figure if I ignore them long enough, pretty soon they’ll offer to send me the magazine for nothing. That’s what Weekly Variety did.

Self Publishing = Bad Idea

Book critic David Montgomery weighs in on the self-publishing debate.  His bottom line? Save your money.

The problem with self-publishing is that the resulting product will
have no credibility and no exposure — and very little chance of ever
obtaining either. Everyone will know that the only way you were able to
get your book published was to pay someone to do it, and they will
judge your work accordingly. (In that sense, I think it’s even worse
than having no book at all.)

Conflict of Interest

Bernard Weinraub is retiring from the NY Times. For ten years, he was their  LA correspondent covering the entertainment industry beat. Along the way, he  married Sony Pictures chief Amy Pascal…but kept on reporting about the biz as if nothing had changed.

In his parting shot, he finally acknowledges what everybody, even those without any journalism experience, already knew and what he strenuously denied…that it was a conflict of interest for him to be reporting about the industry, and impossible for him to be truly impartial, once he married a major player in the movie business.

Clearly, I stayed too long on my beat, clinging to a notion that I
could sidestep conflicts of interest by avoiding direct coverage of
Sony, and learning too late why wiser heads counsel against even the
appearance of conflict.

Well, duh, Bernie.  If a reporter covering the U.S. Senate married a Senator, he would be yanked off the beat in an instant. If  a reporter covering the automobile business married the top exec at Ford, she would be reassigned to something else. But it’s okay for a reporter covering the entertainment industry to marry a studio chief and keep covering the business? C’mon. A kid in a high school journalism class would know better than that.

But my marriage, and some of the events that
tumbled out of it, also taught me something about the ferocity of a
culture in which the players can be best friends one day and savage you
the next.

It took marrying a studio exec for Weinraub to figure that out?  Most people discover that the first week they are in L.A. Doesn’t say much for Weinraub’s keen observational skills, does it?  But the true nature of Weinraub’s naivete and lack of journalistic ethics is betrayed by this stunning admission:

I’d written about Jeffrey Katzenberg, then president of the Walt Disney
Company. He returned every call quickly and often phoned me; he dished
over pasta at Locanda Veneta about all the studios in town and became
such a pal that I once showed him off-the-record comments made about
him by Michael Eisner.
That was wrong and foolish, and years later I still regret it. As soon
as I stopped covering movies, Mr. Katzenberg stopped responding to
phone calls. I was surprised but shouldn’t have been.

Weinraub revealed off-the-record comments to the person the comments were made about? That’s an outrageous breach of ethics. It wasn’t just foolish and wrong, it was reprehensible and shameful.

Weinraub asked to be taken off the movie beat in 2000. The fact is, the New York Times should have reassigned him themselves the day he acknowledged he was dating Pascal…but then again, this is the newspaper that gave us Jayson Blair.

What Weinraub’s article reveals is that the Blair’s behavior wasn’t really an isolated incident, but rather a by-product of  a reporting cultures at the New York Times that, casually disregards basic  journalistic ethics.

How sad for the Times. How sad for its readers. Shame on you, Bernie.

Self-Publishing

In a comment to a previous post, someone mentioned they had a good experience self-publishing their non-fiction work.

Let me make it clear, I’m not knocking self-publishing, except for people who think it’s
going to get them into "brick and mortar" bookstores, reviewed in tne
New York Times, and onto the bestseller lists… or that it makes them "published authors." (That’s a seperate rant for another post).Mygunpbk

When my book UNSOLD
TELEVISION PILOTS
went out-of-print after ten years, I reprinted it for
free through the Authors Guild’s "Back in Print" iUniverse program (in
a cheaper, two-volume set) and have been very happy with the results. I
get a few hundred dollars in royalties every year… it doesn’t sound
like much, but it’s more than I’d get if the book remained
out-of-print.

I also reprinted for free MY GUN HAS BULLETS, through the now-aborted Mystery Writers of America/iUniverse program, and I’m happier with the way it turned out than I was with the original, hardcover, St. Martin’s release… and I’m getting some royalties every now and then.

My experience with iUniverse has been terrific. I have no
complaints at all about the service, the quality of the books, or the
timely payment of royalties. Then again, iUniverse doesn’t pretend to
be anything it isn’t.

Translation please?

I got this email tonight.

In fact , It’s a great pleasure to me to send this letter especially for you
because I admired with your fantastic series which one of them like (( Martial law )) — please : contact with mbc tv and tell them to show your series (( martial law )) , call for me on number : XXXXXXXXXXXX  in kuwait country – or send me on this e-email XXXXXX@hotmail.com as soon as possible          thank you

I wonder if it’s too late to call Kuwait?

Wasserman Remaindered?

Publisher’s Weekly is reporting that LA Times Book Review editor Steve Wasserman may be on the way out,  seeking job opportunities elsewhere. Let’s hope so. 

Wasserman came to the LAT eight years
ago after a career at Times Books and NY publishing, bringing a flash of
intellectualism to the paper. But he has also reportedly had a number of
run-ins with supervisors who saw the section he ran as being overly
highbrow.

Not to mention exceedingly dull, irrelevant and out-of-date. But mostly dull.

It’s not unusual for the Book Review to finally get around to reviewing some major hardcover mysteries  around the time they are about to come out in paperback  (not that you’d call what mystery critic  Eugen Weber  writes  "reviews," more like senseless ramblings).

I had lunch with Wasserman when I was president of the SoCal chapter of the Mystery Writers of America. I came armed with months worth of local and national bestseller lists. I wanted to convince him that they should run more reviews of mysteries and thrillers  because those were the books his readers were actually reading. But he told me that he felt the mission of the Book Review was to educate people about what they should be reading…  which wasn’t mysteries and thrillers.

His smug superiority might have been easier to take if he didn’t spend most of our lunch drooling over the fact that Brian Grazer was at the next table.

Whether they review more mysteries or not, it sure would be nice if the LA Times Book Review  was interesting and entertaining to read again…

UPDATE:  My wise and witty brother Tod, who recently talked about shooting his life force out his ass, now offers his view of the Wasserman era.  He, too, has reasons to be encouraged by the prospect for change at the Book Review.

Another Publishing Scam…they just keep coming, don’t they?

First there was the PublishAmerica scam, now comes another vanity press masquerading as a publisher. I got this email from a reader here:

Hi All, I was just ready to submit my novel (which took about 8
years to write) to PA. Boy, glad I did some reasearch first, Whew!

Any ideas/comments about www.american-book.com before I submit?

So I checked the site out. The company is called American Book Publishing. They proudly proclaim:

We don’t abide by today’s conventional book publishers’ wisdom. We don’t conduct
business as usual, at least not in book publishing.

They certainly don’t.  In their author submission guidelines, they say:

We provide our authors all the professional services of editors, book designers, and book publicists to ensure their success.

In other words, you ARE A CUSTOMER.

We may issue publishing contracts with offers of financial advances to authors who have been published and have already established their popularity.

Conventional publishers don’t work that way. When they say "we may issue publishing contracts with offers of financial advances," it means that their standard practice is that  they don’t. But they will kindly make an exception if they can trade on your  good name.  How thoughtful of them.

We may issue publishing contracts to professional writers who have become accomplished in their writing career and the contract may neither offer an advance or request a deposit.

A deposit??? This should be your big, fat tip-off that this is a vanity press eager to take advantage of your desperation to be published.  But just in case you missed that subtle clue, they go on to say…

We may issue publishing contracts to talented writers who have not been published before or become accomplished in their writing career, and this contract may request a one-time deposit of $780 that is returned to the author the first quarter after the book has been formally released.

Publishers pay you, you don’t pay them. Don’t let your desperation to be published blind you into throwing your money away on a vanity press trying to  pass itself off as something else. Open your eyes!

If you want to be self-published, at least go to a company like iUniverse that doesn’t pretend to be something it isn’t.

Written With Both Hands Behind My Back

WakingnightmarehalfMy new DIAGNOSIS MURDER novel, "The Waking Nightmare," comes out on Feb. 1.  Rarely has a title been more appropriate for a book… at least for the writer.  I wasn’t even half-way through writing it when I had an accident and broke both of my arms. In order to meet my deadline, I ended up having to "write" the rest of the book using dictation software. I later cleaned up the prose by hand when I got the cast off my left arm and was able to hunt-and-peck on the keyboard again.  Even so, my friends and family tell me it’s better than the three DIAGNOSIS MURDER novels that preceded it… so go figure.

Here are some of the nice things other authors had to say about the book  in their cover blurbs…

"Can books be better than television? You bet they can — when Lee Goldberg’s writing them. Get aboard now for a thrill ride!" LEE CHILD

"Even if you never watched the TV show, read these mysteries!  Sly humor, endearing characters, tricky plots–Lee Goldberg’s smart writing is what akes these terrific Diagnosis Murder books something to tell all your friends about," JERRILYN FARMER

"The Diagnosis Murder novels are great reads. Intricate plots and engaging characters combined with Lee
Goldberg’s trademark humor make for page-turning entertainment." BARBARA SERANELLA

"A fast-paced, tightly constructed mystery that’s even better than the TV show.  You’ll read this in a great big, gulp!" GREGG HURWITZ

I hope you enjoy the book!