A Police Academy for Crime Writers

This has got to be the best idea for a writer's conference that I have heard about in years…

My friend Lee Lofland, ex-cop turned author of POLICE PROCEDURE AND INVESTIGATION,  has put together THE WRITER'S POLICE ACADEMY on April 17-18 2009 in Hamilton, Ohio. The faculty is packed with top cops giving hands-on instruction in, among other things, Interrogation, hand-to-hand combat, police tools & equipment, arrest procedure & tech, law enforcement technology, and equipment, hostage negotiations, lie detection, traffic stops, handgun training,  as well as indepth tours of the local morgue and police department.

It sounds fantastic to me. I hope I will be able to go.

The Writer's Police Academy coincides with the Mad Anthony Writer's Conference, which includes guests like Bleak House publisher Ben LeRoy and Writer's Digest Books editor Jane Friedman.

Another Opportunity for Vanity Press Suckers To Throw Away Their Money

The Telegraph is amused by Blurbings.com, another inept "service" aimed at hopelessly stupid people who've already been suckered by a vanity press and are eager to throw away even more money:

It had to happen sooner or later: an American company
is offering writers gobbets of praise with which to decorate the covers
of their self-published books. A plug from an unknown author is
unlikely to encourage anyone to buy a book by another unknown author,
but this has not stopped www.blurbings.com offering various packages that start at $19.95 for 10 micro-bouquets.

Victoria Strauss at Writers Beware also points out the stupidity of this new attempt to shake a few more bucks from the pockets of the dumb and unwary:

According to Blurbings' About Us
page: "Normally, a blurb will cost an author and/or publisher $14 –
$23, which includes printing of the galleys, packaging and mailing
fees. The standard 30 – 50 blurbs expected per book can range from $420
to $1,150. It is also very time consuming researching and contacting
prospective authors as well as conducting follow-ups during the
duration of the process."

Uh…okay.

[…]The whole point of a blurb is that the blurber be recognizable to the
general public, or else be someone whose credentials suggest that his
or her opinion is worth taking seriously. But how likely is it that
someone like that will find his or her way to Blurbings and happen upon
your digital galley? (And if you contact them yourself, what do you
need Blurbings for?) It's far more likely that the blurbs you'll get
will come from other site users–i.e., other self- or
small-press-published authors–or, possibly, from random web surfers.
No offense to Joe Micropress Author or Jane Random Web Surfer…but
blurbwise, who cares what they think?

Emily Maroutian, one of the owners of Blurbings.com, defended her "service" in a comment on Writer Beware:

Blurbings.com was not created for big industry authors or authors, like
yourself, who don't like blurbs. Blurbings was created to help
self-published authors and small presses receive blurbs for their work.
It was created to shorten the process and make it cheaper. […]If anyone here feels as if our service is pointless then don’t use it. It’s as simple as that.

I don't know why the Telegraph and Victoria are criticizing Blurbings.com. Everyone knows that a ringing endorsement from a complete nobody for a total unknown is better than no blurb at all. But I think I'm going to save $20 and just ask my gardener, the cashier at Ralph's, and the first person I see on the street to blurb my next book.

The Supreme Court of Seinfeld

Seinfeld
The Maryland Court of Appeals cited a SEINFELD episode to explain their reasoning in a lawsuit brought by the ex-wife of author Tom Clancy against her ex-husband for pulling out of a book deal that would have profited her. In the SEINFELD episode, Jerry tries to return a jacket because he didn't like the salesman:

The decision issued today says a trial court will have to determine whether Clancy acted in
bad faith when he withdrew from a television and paperback series that profited
the partnership he formed with his then-wife, Wanda.

In footnote 27, the court reprints the dialogue between Seinfeld and a store
clerk :

Clerk: I don't think you can return an item for spite.

Jerry: What do you mean?

Clerk: Well, if there was some problem with the garment. If it were
unsatisfactory in some way, then we could do it for you, but I'm afraid spite
doesn't fit into any of our conditions for a refund.

I think if Obama becomes President, he should consider putting Jerry on the Supreme Court.

(Thanks to my cousin Danny Barer for the heads-up)

Tie-ing up the NY Times Bestseller List

In his Los Angeles Times essay on Sunday, My brother Tod touched on the enormous popularity of tie-in novels. I've just learned from International Association of Media Tie-in Writers' member Sean Williams that his STAR WARS: THE FORCE UNLEASHED has hit #1 on the New York Times hardcover bestseller list.  I suspect his tie-in won't be the only one on that list on 9/7. This week, Eric Van Lustbader's tie-in ROBERT LUDLUM'S THE BOURNE SANCTION is #2 and IAMTW member Karen Traviss' STAR WARS: THE CLONE WARS is #19.

Is it time to start carving a tombstone for Network Television?

Wired magazine thinks so. Last season, the three major networks (ABC, CBS and NBC) combined attracted their smallest audience since the advent of television. But the cable networks, which target a niche audience rather than aiming for the broadest possible reach, now claim more than half of total viewers.

It may be time to perform an autopsy on network TV, which some have
pronounced officially dead at age 60, the victim of a lifetime of big
spending, hard living, and bad planning. Here's the coroner's report:
The evening newscasts have been mowed down by cable's heat, spin, and
round-the-clock immediacy. In prime time, nobody watches reruns
anymore—and reruns, along with syndication, used to be the only way
comedy and drama series, the heart of a network's prime-time business,
made money. (The way they make money now is…well, the networks will
get back to you as soon as they figure that out.)

Speaking of old-school, half-hour sitcoms: Once, 50 of them were on
the air at a time. Today, they're all but gone. Suddenly, people just
stopped liking them. Prime-time news magazines? Barely holding on.
"Protected" time slots? Viewers accustomed to Web surfing and channel
flipping at hyperspeed aren't going to watch a new show just because
they're too lazy to change the channel after The Biggest Loser.
The audience for daytime soaps, a profitable staple since TV's infancy,
has shrunk so dramatically that the form may vanish within a few years.
This is all very bad news for a medium that hasn't come up with a fresh
format since 2000, when CBS launched Survivor, the gold rush in reality-TV competitions. (P.S.: Survivor isn’t what it used to be either.)

It's unlikely that a broadcast network is ever again going to create a megahit like The Cosby Show,
which at its mid-’80s peak drew as many as 50 million viewers an
episode. For several years now, TV's top event has been Fox's American Idol. Last season, it drew 28.8 million viewers a week.

 

Expanding Literacy through Narcissism

Leetod34x6
The front page of this Sunday's Los Angeles Times Calendar section features a big essay by my brother Tod discussing his experience writing BURN NOTICE: THE FIX and his research into the business of tie-in writing. I was approached to write the novels, but I declined and recommended Tod, who I knew was perfect for the job:

My brother was right: I was the perfect person. The only problem was my
advanced sense of artistic self. I had long, twisting conversations
with my agent, my wife and the kid who makes my sandwiches at Quiznos
about the literary equity I'd accrued, about how writing a tie-in might
somehow sully my career and other topics concerning my navel. My agent
told me to take a deep breath, get lucid and call her back after I did
some research…

So he did. Read his very funny article and find out what he learned.

UPDATE 8-25-2008: Tod's article got a surprisingly unsnarky mention on GAWKER, some love on TV Squad and some attention from Publisher's Weekly's Book Maven.

UPDATE 8-26-2008: TV Squad also gave Tod's book a rave review.