What is Success?

Novelist Martha O’Connor, author of the terrific novel BITCH POSSE,  is musing about the meaning of success.  Here are some excerpts from Martha’s post:

I’ve been having some interesting discussions with other writers on the issue: what is success? Some see success as selling a bunch of copies of one’s book, and producing a book a year. Some see success as something less quantifiable—a personal best, if you will, an art-for-art’s sake kind of endeavor.

view is this: If a writer who consistently remains on bestseller lists
is automatically a better writer than one who doesn’t, then that means
Dan Brown is a better writer than Marilynne Robinson. In which case, I have to drink bleach.

If quality is all about monetary success, then Britney Spears is a musical genius. If success=money, then Coldplay is actually the best band in the world right now.  GUH.

Think of it this way, if artistry were reflected by sales then McDonald’s would be the VERY BEST RESTAURANT in the world. Who needs filet mignon or lobster bisque when you can have a flippin’ QUARTER POUNDER?


Blog Suicide

Being too candid on your blog about the happenings in your professional life can have serious personal and financial consequences…which is why I don’t talk much about my current projects (beyond blatant self-promotion). The anecdotes, rants, and observations that I post here are not about people I’m working with today or might work with in the future, much to the relief of my wife, my writing partner and my two agents, all of whom keep a close eye on my blogging.

I have seen too many people I know commit blog suicide by trashing their current employers or co-workers  (studios, networks, producers, editors, publishers, etc) or by revealing a little too much about their own insecurities, ambivalence or creative difficulties regarding whatever projects they are working on.

But you don’t need a blog to get in trouble. You can commit the same sort of career suicide by saying the wrong thing in an interview with a print or broadcast reporter (I’ve learned that lesson, to a smaller degree, the hard way myself on too many occasions).

Today, novelist Jayne Ann Krentz’s literary agent Steve Axelrod tackles this subject in an interesting post on his client’s blog. His post is titled "Why Smart Agents Don’t Blog." Here are some excerpts:

About two
months ago Jayne kindly invited me to contribute to this blog (“Just
something short from an agent’s perspective….”)—and, though I quickly
agreed, I’ve been dragging my feet ever since […]

But every
time I’d start to think about which great story to start with, I would
think of Dave Wirtschafter—and I’d come to a dead halt.

the president of the William Morris Agency, didn’t blog, but about a
year ago, he let himself be interviewed for a long, candid profile in
the New Yorker. It made for great reading—it was the real deal—but his
candor is widely believed to have cost the agency at least two major
stars, Halle Berry and Sarah Michelle Geller, as well as a major
director, etc.

A few months
after the New Yorker profile ran, W Magazine interviewed the
now-retired Sue Mengers (“Hollywood’s first superagent”) and she has
some choice words for Wirtschafter (“Dave Something—Schmuck, I
think….”) but then she goes on to say something I thought was pretty
perceptive: “It’s very tempting for an agent to give interviews. We
want a little credit, so it’s hard to say no. But you should.”

I’m starting to believe that what’s true for agents granting interviews
is doubly true for agents blogging. Agents should just say No.

Blogs by Fictional People

Monk’s assistant Natalie has a blog on the USA Network site. She is, of course, a fictional character and her blog is written by me. But that’s just one example of what’s fast-becoming a rampant marketing practice — blogs by fictional characters. TV critic Chuck Barney at the Contra Costa Times writes about this new trend and some bloggers are carrying on the discussion.

UPDATE: USA Today has an article today about TV shows with blogs that also touches on the "fictional blogger" angle.

What is the Appeal?

There are three actors that the networks continually cast as TV series leads — despite the fact that the shows these guys star in consistently bomb. I’m talking, of course, about Steven Eckholdt, Christopher Gorham, and Eric Balfour (the list used to include Jason Gedrick and Ivan Sergei, but it seems the networks have finally wised up to them).

Eckholdt has just been cast as one of the stars of the CBS pilot SPLIT DECISION despite a string of bombs like HALF & HALF, MY BIG FAT GREEK LIFE, GRAPEVINE, and IT’S LIKE YOU KNOW.  He’s apparently the kiss-of-death for any series…but the networks keep going back to him again and again. What is it about him that makes him so darn castable?

Gorham’s CBS sitcom OUT OF PRACTICE has just been shelved…making this his fourth flop series in a row, following MEDICAL INVESTIGATION, JAKE 2.0, and ODYSSEY 5. What do you want to bet he’ll show up in  yet another series next season? Networks keep betting on him…and losing. So why do they continue?

Balfour is currently one of the stars of the ratings-challenged CONVICTION, but his past series flops include SEX LIES AND SECRETS, HAWAII, and VERITAS. Casting directors obviously fell in love with him for his guest-starring role on SIX FEET UNDER, but does that make him a series lead? So far, the evidence seems to be  NO.

What is it, exactly, that casting directors see in these guys? And how
much longer will they keeping getting starring roles in pilots before someone decides that they are never going to be the  next George Clooney… or even Robert Urich?

My Pool Man is Probably a Producer, Too

I got this email the other day from a publishing exec I know:

I have an author in Minnesota who is working with a production company to produce a movie from one of her books, but the production company is a little stuck. They are looking for funding and distribution but don’t know for sure where to begin. Do you have any advise on where they might start?

Of course they’re stuck. They don’t know what the hell they are doing. A real production company, which this company clearly isn’t, would know how to finance and distribute films. Clearly, the author  optioned her book to amateurs and wanna-bes (or worse, complete frauds) who know nothing about the business they claim to be in.  If it’s not too late, back out of the deal and run screaming from these people. Anybody can call himself a movie producer, that doesn’t mean he is one.


Taking the Mystery out of Crime Writing

My friend Gar Anthony Haywood (aka Ray Shannon) is teaching a six week course on mystery writing for MediaBistro in Beverly Hills.

You can learn the basics of writing a crime or mystery
novel pretty much anywhere these days, but the focus of this class will
be to teach you how to write one agents and editors will find nearly
impossible to reject.

Gar is an acclaimed writer, a likeable and very funny guy, and probably a terrific teacher. If you’re interested in mystery writing, you should check this course out.