There’s a Q&A interview with me up at Poes Deadly Daughters.
From my mailbox this week:
Dear Mr. Goldberg,
I have written a story that would make a great movie. The actor XYZ has read it and he thinks it’s really good. He would love to see it as a screenplay, but here is the problem: I have never done that before and have no experiences in turning a script into a screenplay. Can you please help me with this? You can take the credits for the screenplay, if it is made into a movie. It would mean so much to me. I hope to hear from you soon.
I declined her kind offer and suggested that it probably isn’t a good idea to be pitching movies when you admittedly have no skill as a screenwriter and no experience in movie making. The actor she mentioned, by the way, is nobody I’ve ever heard of. So I looked him up. His major roles recently include "Short Order Cook," "Instructor," "Snake Guy," and "Trucker #1" in several movies that I also have never heard of. I can see why she’d be excited by his interest in her movie idea.
The International Association of Media Tie-In Writers is pleased to announce the nominees for the first annual Scribe Awards, honoring excellence in licensed tie-in writing for books published in 2006.
Our first annual GRANDMASTER AWARD, honoring career achievement in the field, will go to DONALD BAIN, author of the MURDER SHE WROTE novels and the ghostwriter behind COFFEE, TEA OR ME and other bestsellers.
The 2007 Scribe awards will be given out at a ceremony in late July at Comic-Con in San Diego. The details on the event, and how to attend, will be announced in the near future. Congratulations to all our nominees!
BEST NOVEL – ADAPTED
SLAINE: THE EXILE by Steven Savile
SUPERMAN RETURNS by Marv Wolfman
TOXIC AVENGER: THE NOVEL by Lloyd Kaufman & Adam Jahnke
ULTRAVIOLET by Yvonne Navarro
UNDERWORLD: EVOLUTION by Greg Cox
BEST NOVEL – ORIGINAL
STAR TREK CRUCIBLE: McCOY – PROVENANCE OF SHADOWS by David R. George III
STARGATE ATLANTIS: EXOGENESIS by Elizabeth Christensen & Sonny Whitelaw
THIRTY DAYS OF NIGHT: RUMORS OF THE UNDEAD by Jeff Mariotte & Steve Niles
WARHAMMER: FAITH AND FIRE by James Swallow
WARHAMMER: ORC SLAYER by Nathan Long
BEST NOVEL – ADAPTED
SNAKES ON A PLANE by Christa Faust
THE PINK PANTHER by Max Allan Collins
BEST NOVEL – ORIGINAL
CSI NEW YORK: BLOOD ON THE SUN by Stuart Kaminsky
LAS VEGAS: HIGH STAKES by Jeff Mariotte
MR. MONK GOES TO HAWAII by Lee Goldberg
OAKDALE CONFIDENTIAL: SECRETS REVEALED by Alina Adams
YOUNG ADULT – ALL GENRES
ALIAS APO: STRATEGIC RESERVE by Christina York
BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER: PORTAL THROUGH TIME by Alice Henderson
DRAGONLANCE: WARRIOR’S HEART by Stephen Sullivan
KNIGHTS OF THE SILVER DRAGON: PROPHECY OF THE DRAGONS by Matt Forbeck
You can catch me and criminal defense attorney Thomas Mesereau together on the latest episode of INSIDER EXCLUSIVE with Steve Murphy on the web and on a cable station near you. Steve is a congenial interviewer and, although he makes a couple errors (he calls me the "creator and host" of MONK on the "USA Today" network), it was a lot of fun to be a guest and I think you’ll enjoy watching. I taped as second episode that day, with another criminal defense attorney, and will share that link with you as soon as I get it.
There’s a great documentary on TV composer Alexander Courage, hosted by John Williams, available in several parts on YouTube. Here’s the segment on the STAR TREK theme…
I received this email from Phillip R. Dolan, who got the rights to his manuscript and his money back from PublishAmerica. Rather than paraphrase his email, I am reposting it in its entirety:
Some scam publishers can be stopped. Publish
America’s contract has an arbitration clause to prevent authors from suing them.
To me, it seems to be a mistake because lawsuits are expensive and time
consuming. Arbitration under their contract requires that the American
Arbitration Association rules be followed. Those rules are user friendly and
inexpensive, especially when the prevailing party is reimbursed for all fees and
expenses. Even attorney fees if one uses an attorney. Anyone with a high school
education can handle an arbitration if they are so inclined.
Anyway, I filed for arbitration against PA and won. It took
eight months and I did it without an attorney. My contract was rescinded (not
just terminated) to the date it was signed and I received damages and expenses.
I thought this would be but the first of many arbitrations and that PA might be
driven out of business. It cost them quite a bit.
To help other authors complete arbitrations I posted how I
had done it, including my mistakes, at Arbitration And How To Do It (PublishAmerica, Publish
I had a forensic accountant examine PA’s sales records and
posted that info. I had an intellectual property attorney analyze the whole
thing and I posted excerpts of that. Together it is a blueprint of how to know
when PA breaches the contract and how to make them pay for it and get author’s
In about six months there have been 4,691 views just of the
accountant’s report so I know a lot of people have looked at the arbitration
material. But not one author, other than me, has filed
for arbitration. Two other anti-scam sites even offered to pay all the costs
attendant to arbitration. Not one PA author took them up on it.
I think that any author who feels they were scammed by
PublishAmerica and refuses to take any action other than complaining is right
where they should be.
Phillip R. Dolan
Lynne W. Scanlon, the self-proclaimed Publishing Contrarian, urges aspiring authors to get someone to read their manuscripts and offer an honest opinion. That’s very good advice and I’m all for that. I’d even urge authors to join a local writer’s group or take some classes through their university extension program.
But then Scanlon suggests that it’s okay to pay a literary agent or editor to read your book. She uses some awfully faulty logic to back-up her argument.
Everywhere you turn on the Internet publishing pundits scream: NEVER pay a literary agent at a literary agency or an editor at a publishing house to read your manuscript. If they ask for money upfront, they are thieves! You do realize that it is routine for in-house editors to farm out manuscripts to freelance editors to evaluate or edit. You do know that Publishers Weekly pays a stable of reviewers to cough up 250-word reviews routinely, and, in fact, has commissioned reviews for over 100,000 books since 1987. (The Wicked Witch does her homework…sometimes.)
It’s one thing for a publisher or a magazine to hire freelancers to read manuscripts…it’s an entirely different thing to ask an aspiring author to pay to have their work submitted and considered. Legitimate agents make their money from commissions…that’s their incentive for selling your book…NOT from reading fees. Legitimate publishers make their money by publishing, distributing and selling your book….NOT by charging authors for editorial services. And legitimate publishing industry magazines make their money off subscriptions, newsstand sales and advertising…NOT by charging authors to review their books.
So let me underscore the very good advice that she mocks:
NEVER pay a literary agent at a literary agency or an editor at a publishing house to read your manuscript. If they ask for money upfront, they are thieves!
Do I think it’s wrong to ever pay someone to read your manuscript? No, of course not. It’s only wrong if it’s a literary agent or publisher asking you for it.
There are lots of freelance editors, some with very impressive credentials, offering to criticize manuscripts. Whether or not you should hire one depends on lots of things. Are you having difficulty getting the manuscript the way you want it? Is it consistently getting rejections from publishers? etc.
If you decide to pay someone to read your book, do your homework first. Does the editor have real experience? Is he any more knowledgeable than your gardener or your Aunt Betty? Is the fee they are asking reasonable? What specific services will you be getting for the money? Be sure to ask for a list of their previous clients and give them a call. Were they happy with the advice they got? Did their books get published?
Some of those freelance editors have been very helpful to authors. But I know an author who spent thousands of dollars to have a very well-known, former editor read his book…and all he got for his money was his typos & miss-spellings corrected. Buyer beware.
In my opinion, you are much, much better off spending the money on a creative writing course, where you will benefit from the teacher, the students, and the experience of reading and critiquing the other students’ work. You will also have a real motivation to churn out pages every week. Not only will you be getting honest feedback…you will also be learning new skills. It’s money well spent (assuming the teacher is good, of course).
You can even go the "free" route and join a writers group. There’s bound to be one at your local Barnes & Noble. I know several authors and screenwriters who have been part of groups like this and have gone on to great success (Edgar winner Theresa Schwegel comes to mind).
Scanlon goes on to suggest that you could offer a professional book critic a couple of hundred dollars to give your manuscript a thorough read and write an honest, unflinching 500-700 word review for you. This wouldn’t be a review for publication…it would be a reality check. Is your book any good? If not, why? She writes:
I made a few phone calls and fired off a few emails to very qualified publishing and writing professionals, including Frank Wilson, blogger and book critic for the Philadelphia Inquirer, who described book reviewers as a “dying breed” because of disappearing outlets in which to ply their trade. He and other reviewers confirmed that if you offer a reviewer $300, in all likelihood that reviewer will jump through a hoop of fire to get the job.
I asked a few critics I know how they’d feel about an offer like that and the response was mixed. A few would consider it, others were offended by the suggestion. No one that I contacted was willing to "jump through a hoop of fire" to do it. And it could pose ethical problems for the critic with some publications and, perhaps, later if the manuscript is published and the book assigned to them for review.
Even so, it’s a very interesting idea and is an option worth considering for aspiring authors. But, again, do you homework. Read the critic’s work AND the books he’s reviewed. Do you agree with his opinions? Is the critic knowledgeable and respected? Does he have a thorough understanding of structure, character and dialogue as well as the requirements of your particular genre?
I stayed up almost all night reading Douglas Snauffer’s CRIME TELEVISION. This is the latest in Praeger’s excellent line of television books (which includes SPY TELEVISION and CHRISTMAS ON TELEVISION, two other books I loved). Snauffer’s fascinating overview of television crime shows is much, much more than a look at the histories of particular shows over the decades. He offers a unique and revealing perspective on the history of television as a medium, a story-telling form, and as a reflection of our society and culture. It’s also a step-by-step examination of the evolution (and, you might say, the maturing) of the crime show genre. It’s packed with interesting facts, behind-the-scenes anecdotes, and interviews with some the top writer/producers of our time. There are some errors, and you could quibble with the shows he choses to focus on, but those are minor drawbacks. It’s a valuable book for cop show fans, tv scholars, film students, and even writer/producers working in “crime television” today. The only problem is that the book costs $50, which is way, way, WAY over-priced for what it is and that’s going to limit its potential audience.
I was wrong. Well, at least this week I was. No sooner to do I criticize the Los Angeles Times Book Review for being flat and boring, then along comes this week’s issue, which I found thoroughly entertaining and informative. Perhaps it was because this issue was packed with fiction reviews. Or perhaps it was because those reviews were written by the likes of Chris Albani, Susan Straight, and Ed Champion.
I read the section cover-to-cover and it was a lot better than any issue Steve Wasserman ever put out. I guess that during those weeks when I stopped reading the section, things got markedly better. My apologies to David Ulin and his staff (and no, I’m not writing for them or sucking up to get my books reviewed).
BUT, from an asthetic viewpoint, my opinion is unchanged. The section couldn’t possibly be less visually appealing. It’s almost if they are daring people to read it. I’m sure it looked very good to people back in 1968 but it’s completely out-of-step today in this web-driven world we live in. It’s not like the guys at the Times are incapable of updating the look — they’ve done a pretty good job energizing other sections of the paper lately.