I admit it…I’ve got the Kindle fever…and I’ve got it bad. I don’t mean reading books on the Kindle, I mean creating Kindle editions of my out-of-print books. The idea of making easy money from stuff that was buried in boxes in my garage is too good to resist (thank you, Joe Konrath!).
“As stunning as the report of a .357 Magnum, a dynamic premiere effort […] The Best New Paperback Series of the year!” West Coast Review of Books
Brett Macklin is justice — a one-man judge, jury and executioner, wiping out the L.A. street scum that the police can’t catch, that the law can’t hold — dealing sweet revenge from the barrel of his .357 Magnum.
Now Macklin’s target is Wesley Saputo, child porn kingpin and murderer who has slipped through the courts time after time, only to kidnap, rape and kill again…and again. Macklin’s mission: locate and brutally destroy Saputo before he finds another little girl blue…
Roy Scheider once complained on SEAQUEST that he was a live actor stuck in an animated cartoon. That's how the cast of GI JOE must have felt… only much, much more strongly.
At least 90% of the movie –100 % if you include the computer-generated sets — is a cartoon with a few living, breathing people (the actors at least, not their characters) matted in. There wasn't even an attempt to make the animated/CGI portions appear the slightest bit realistic (or the characters, for that matter).
The best parts of the movie — and I use the terms "best" and "movie" very loosely — are the computer-generated battles. When the CGI action stops for some "emotional" moments, the movie becomes unbearably dull. The backstory flash-backs are so heavy-handed, cliche-ridden and obvious that I found myself longing for the CGI to return. The comedy bits, mostly lame one-liners badly delivered by Marlon Wayons, portraying a steroid-pumped Stepin Fetchit, were only slightly less painful. Marlon wasn't the only guy playing a caricature, not by far (I kept waiting for the sharpnosed, penny-pinching Jew to show up). With the emphasis on CGI, caricature seems to be all that's left to quicky and effectively convey character…or at least what passes for it.
CGI is no longer a tool in story-telling — it has become the story-telling. It's the Michael Bayification of cinema. Who needs acting, character, plot or the emotional investment of the audience when you have CGI? Every big movie coming out of Hollywood now is a videogame or a toy commercial masquerading as a film. A movie can be big without being 99% CGI and 1% cardboard characters.
On the way to the theater, my wife and I remembered how we used to go to the movies every week. Now months can go by without us seeing a movie. What changed? Well, watch GI JOE and you'll see.
I'm sure GI JOE will make 100 gazillion dollars…and its a damn shame.
I have been absent from the blog, working hard on my screenplay and my latest Monk novel, because I have a very busy week head of me. On Tuesday, I am leading a seminar on episodic TV writing & producing for representatives of China Central Television…which should be a very interesting experience…and then on Wednesday, I'm heading off to Owensboro, Kentucky with my buddy David Breckman, writer-producer-director of MONK, to participate in the third annual International Mystery Writers Festival. I'll be moderating several panels, and doing Toastmaster duties, while David will write, producer and direct an original short film with a group of theatre students. Kentucky native Sue Grafton will also be on hand for panels and such. It should be a lot of fun.
I'm looking forward to the flights to and from Kentucky because it will be my first opportunity to really try out my Kindle. I haven't had any time to read since I got it…
The action-adventure will re-imagine Marshal Matt Dillon, the hero of the classic Western, for modern audiences. The story will be set in the same American West as the original but will feature a contemporary look and modern action twists.
Poirier is said to be close to completing a first draft of the script.
I've just posted another old, out-of-print book of mine on the Amazon Kindle Store…my 1991 paperback Unsold TV Pilots: The Greatest Shows You Never Saw, which was the basis for the hour-long ABC special "The Best TV Shows That Never Were" and the hour-long CBS special "The Greatest Shows You Never Saw. It is now available in a special $2.49 Kindle edition. Here's the book jacket copy:
“The Best Bathroom Reading EVER," – San Francisco Chronicle
"A must-browse for media freaks.” —USA Today
“Irresistible and enthralling.” —Hartford Courant
“Full of fool’s gold and genuine TV treasures.” —The New York Post
This lively and entertaining book looks at the three hundred best and worst TV series ideas—known in the industry as "pilots"—that never made it to primetime. From the adventures of a Samurai D.A. to the antics of an invisible alien baby, Lee Goldberg details the greatest shows you never saw.
The paperback was originally published by Carol & Company and was an abridgment of my fat hardcover "Unsold Television Pilots 1955-1989," which contained over 2000 pilots. Maybe some day I'll get around to making that big book into a Kindle edition, too.
The folks over at the Western Fiction Review have a great Q&A interview up with author Joseph A. West, who wrote those terrific GUNSMOKE tie-ins a few years back. Lately, he's been writing the Ralph Compton books as a work-for-hire writer and his comments about that will give you some insight into what it's like to be a working writer these days:
"The Ralph Compton books are all work-for-hire, and I write them because I like to eat. I can’t write in Ralph’s style, nor do I try. I do the best I can, send the novel off to New York and keep my fingers crossed. Touch wood, they’ve never bounced one back to me for a rewrite, so I must be doing something right. At the moment times are hard for writers, and I appreciate any work I can get. In a way, a work-for-hire is a great compliment from the publisher. Three or four times a year, I get an email from my editor that says simply: “Joe, write me another Compton, due XXXX.” I never hear from him again until the next assignment. I guess he knows I always send him a professional product on time."
I have great admiration for guys like Joseph West…talented, hard-working professional writers who do the job because they love it and because it's what they do. And they do it damn well. Aspiring writers could learn a lot from him.
"It's a finite gift, for sure," he says of novel writing. "I'm about at the end of it. I can write certain things. I don't think I can write fiction any more. I think I've used it up over 30 novels. That's a lot of novels. […]Most great novels are written by people between 40 and 60, or 35 and 60. Not too many great novels are written by people over 75. Hardly any. Maybe Tolstoy."
RHINO RANCH comes out August 11th and is yet another sequel to THE LAST PICTURE SHOW, as were TEXASVILLE, DUANE'S DEPRESSED, and WHEN THE LIGHT GOES. I'm a huge fan of McMurtry's work, but I've found his "contemporary" novels of the last few years, particularly his sequels to THE LAST PICTURE SHOW, to be morose, meandering, and boring tales that lack his usual punch. I'll buy it and read it anyway, of course. Over the last 20 years, by far his best books have been his westerns, most notably LONESOME DOVE and its sequels and prequels.
But this is not the first time McMurtry has threatened to quit…and then followed the announcement by writing a great novel.
The second month of my Kindle experiment has ended and here are the results:
(Click on the image for a larger view).
All told, I made $375 in royalties selling three out-of-print novels at $1.99 each, a short story collection at 99 cents, and an out-of-print, non-fiction reference book for $2.39 .
THE WALK sold 444 copies in June and 373 copies in July. My short story collection THREE WAYS TO DIE sold 54 copies in June and 40 in July. So sales of both titles have dropped in their second month on sale.
Still, I'm very happy to have sold 817 copies of THE WALK to readers who missed the book the first time around in hardcover. At this rate, it won't be long until I've sold more copies of THE WALK on the Kindle than the book sold in print.
On July 14, I added my novel MY GUN HAS BULLETS to the Kindle Store. It has sold 95 copies in 17 days at $1.99 each, earning me $65 in royalties. On July 17, I added the sequel, BEYOND THE BEYOND, which has only sold 29 copies at the same price, earning me $20.
Two days ago, I added TELEVISION SERIES REVIVALS. I set the price for that one at $2.39, just to be daring. It has sold 17 copies so far, earning me $14.28.
(All those titles are also available on Scribd and Smashwords, but so far I've earned less than $10 in combined royalties from both sites over the last two months. They can't compete with Amazon and the Kindle).
This month I did slightly better than last month, but I also added three more books to the mix.
So far, I have earned nearly $700 on out-of-print books that I thought were long past their earning potential for me. That's not a lot of money, but it was enough to buy me a Kindle and leave plenty of money left over to buy books for it (I'm still not earning anywhere near what Joe Konrath and John August, my inspirations in this endeavor, are making with their work…but I am thankful to them both for showing me the way).
I've said this before, but I don't think the Kindle is the wave of the future for authors or publishing…at least not yet. Not even for self-publishing. There just isn't enough money in it for original works to make a living at it or simply a decent wage.
But not all authors care about making money. Some are in it "for the art" and just to reach people. They are happy giving it away for free…or for next to nothing. Well, let me tell you something, the "free" and $1.99 Kindle books that I have sampled so far have been, for the most part, unspeakably horrendous shit. There's a reason most of these authors can't find publishers for their work. It's stuff so awful you can't even give it away. The Kindle won't change that. The novelty of downloading crap, even when it's free, will pass quickly.
I do think, though, that for authors with out-of-print books sitting in their drawers earning nothing but dust that publishing on the Kindles makes a lot of sense. I don't see the downside. It's found money. And it's fun to watch the royalties and sales click up in real-time (yes, it's a new way to procrastinate!)
I was surprised to discover, once I got my Kindle, that my out-of-print books that I posted myself are better formatted than some of my in-print titles posted by my publishers. I will be talking to my publishers about it.