I Want to Hire The Ghostwriter Who Wrote My Books

The con artists at Creative Book Writers, a ghostwriting scam that offers to make your idea into a bestseller, were using my book TRUE FICTION as an example of their work. I’ve often wished my books would write themselves, but that isn’t the case. I threatened to sue them, and they pulled my book. But it’s like whack-a-mole. They still have my book up as an example of their work on many of their clone sites (a scam that Victoria Strauss investigated in detail and discusses in this excellent post at Writer Beware).
 
 
So I decided to have some fun. I visited The Book Writing Company, which claims a woman named “Patricia Johns” (pictured as a black man!) wrote Lisa Jewell and Sue Monk Kidd’s books. They pulled me into a chat.
 
Stuart Cook joined the chat Chat started

STUART: Hello, how are you doing today? Are you looking to get some Writing Assistance? Book Writing? Editor? May I know what is your book about? Autobiography? Fiction or Non Fiction.

ME: Fiction, but I am confused. I have been looking at various ghost writing services today, because I want to have a book written by the writer who wrote Lisa Jewell’s THEN SHE WAS GONE, but on your site, you say your author Patricia G. Johns ghost wrote it (though there is a picture of a black guy, also confuses me), but the Pearson Ghostwriting Service says their authors David Johnson & Julie D. Scott wrote it. So who really did? Because that is who I want to hire and I am so confused.

STUART: Hey, I did get the info. What you have just told me is the part of every fir. gf
 
ME: I don’t understand what you just wrote.
 
STUART: let me explain you. Whatever you have seen on the other sites could be the way of marketing but we never quote any fake examples to generate the sale. Also if we have written anything for the famous person so we will share the details else we won’t believe in fake marketing. Also you can share the details of the book with me. We have a team of experts with more than 150 people. they are Ph.D. qualified writers and retired professors. Once you will become our customer, I will assign a team of 4 experts on your project and you will be in communication with one of them throughout the process.
 
ME: I am still confused. So those ghost writers on the other sites are fake ones… but Patricia G. Johns, who is pictured as a black man on your site, is the real one? The woman or guy who really wrote Lisa Jewel’s book?
 
STUART: Yes she was the part of the team, usually what happens profiles like Patricia or any other senior author worked before as a part time writer with us to give management sessions , to train the young writers as a good gesture we use their pictures and details. Yes?
 
ME: So these ones are fake…?
<I sent him screen grabs of the ghost writers on the other sites that claim to have written the same books>
But this one is real?
<I sent him a screen grab of “Patricia Johns” from their site>
 
STUART: No, I am not saying that as I have told you usually what happens senior profiles join different companies temporarily to train and provide different sessions to their staff and writers.
 
ME: But Patricia and and whoever the black guy is are the ones who wrote Lisa Jewells book? I’m sorry, but I am having a hard time understanding this.
 
STUART: May i know your name and number in case we get disconnected?
 
ME: Your site and explanations are too confusing and don’t make any sense.
 
STUART: If you are willing to understand it will help

Amazing, Isn’t it? So I decided to visit another one of their clone sites, AD Ghostwriting, and had some fun chatting with “Susan Hughes,” a senior creative editor. I think you might enjoy it…and their strange logic. Their “fruit” analogy about books is especially bizarre…

Susan Hughes: Hello there ! How are you today? Are you interested in having your idea converted into a book? Would you like to discuss your requirement with Sr. Creative editor?
Visitor 7998474: I have been researching ghostwriting sites and you all seem to be identical. Vox Ghostwriting. AD Ghostwriting. Pacific Ghostwriting. Central Ghostwriting. Ghost Writing Proficiency. The same graphics, the same books you wrote. It’s all very confusing. How am I supposed to compare prices and services if you are all the same? Even your name pops up as customer service on all of them.
 
Susan Hughes: Sure let me answer that. All the fruit sellers sells their fruits on similar closets and baskets the only difference is the fruit which are from different farms. Similarly, we all look same probably to many extent but the editors varies. We are working with Ph.D. qualified editors and experts from various genres and yes one of the experts will be reserved to get this book done with a cohesive and coherent script And also will make it intriguing with top-notch writing.
 
Visitor 7998474: They also work with Phd qualified editors and somehow wrote the same books you did. It makes no sense to me.
 
Susan Hughes: They cant take the same book it isn’t possible but having PhD editors by every company is possible
 
Visitor 7998474: I know, but the sites are identical. They all claim to have written the same six books that you do.
 
Susan Hughes: If anyone has copied some book, We can file an infringement but the fact remain the same we never disclose with whom we are writing for As it always remain discreet
 
Visitor 7998474: Also, you Susan Hughes, seem to work for all of them. Are you all the same company?
 
Susan Hughes: Those books that you are seeing on my website, We have taken approval from the authors. It is not possible, like I have already answered you. If someone is using my name then they are crooks because same name can only be a coincidence.Since how long you have been thinking to do a book?
 
Visitor 7998474: I am looking at the other sites right now. They are the exact same as yours in every way. Even the statured client lists is the same! And when I visit, a chat opens up and Susan Hughes offers to help me. this is beginning to smell fishy to me.
 
Susan Hughes: I dont trust that it cant be susan hughes. can you give me the website name.
 
Visitor 7998474: Vox Ghostwriting. AD Ghostwriting. Pacific Ghostwriting. Central Ghostwriting. Ghost Writing Proficiency. Paramount Ghostwriting. The Writing Crib. I think you are all the same person trying to trick me. That doesn’t seem very honest to me. Maybe I should just write the book myself.
 
Susan Hughes: That’s not true it can never be the same. I have already given you one of the example of being identical. However we all offers 100% money back rights in case of any dissatisfaction.
 
Visitor 7998474: The fruit example makes no sense. I am not blind or stupid. I can see they are the same sites with different names. If you can’t be honest with me, I can’t do business with you.
 
Susan Hughes: You can only be stupid if you don’t take that example seriously. Now dont say that I cant call someone stupid.
 
Visitor 7998474: Paying you to write my book requires trust. How can I trust you if you start off by insulting my intelligence? A book is not an apple. You can’t all have written the same six books.
 
Susan Hughes: Lets get down the business take that example seriously and let’s work together. A book is an apple. it just taste differents there are plenty of books just as apples. the categories are countable too just like an apple, it can either be life story, fiction or non fiction
 
Visitor 7998474: Either you wrote BURN BRIGHT by Patricia Briggs or you didn’t. Either you wrote ALEX CROSS by James Patterson or you didn’t. They aren’t categories. They are individual book titles.
 
Susan Hughes: They are termed as life story books
 
Visitor 7998474: What??
 
Susan Hughes: I meant obviously not these 3 books but what clients bring us is either from the above 3 category
 
Visitor 7998474: If you don’t know those books are novels, not memoirs, then you definitely aren’t the right writers for me.
 
Susan Hughes: I have corrected my statement above already. We can argue as longer as you want me to but you know that nobody can take your money and run away you always can dispute if any situation arises
 
Visitor 7998474: I want my book to be written by the writer of Patricia Brigg’s BURN BRIGHT. You all claim to be that writer. That is not possible.
 
Susan Hughes: being a US citizen you should trust your own bank and work
 
Visitor 7998474: What does my bank have to do with it? Why do you want to know about my bank?
 
Susan Hughes: your bank always secure you against any frauds.
so why would not you trust them. you can pay us and see the book that is getting delivered as we will be delivering it chapterwise
 
Visitor 7998474: I am not asking my bank to write my book. I want the writer of BURN BRIGHT to write my book. You all claim to have written her book. Which one of you did??
 
Susan Hughes: So at any point if you are not contended it will be refunded. Assigning the editor is our choice so you cant make a choice: Getting a professional book is our commitment.
 
Visitor 7998474: I don’t want an editor. I want a writer. I want the writer who wrote BURN BRIGHT. You say you wrote her book. Why can’t I have that writer?
 
Susan Hughes: I already answer that.There are 85 writers who work under the belt of this company. We can get you the best writer but you cant pick the writer because you are not meeting writer you ain’t seeing their profile either. So there is no point of making a selection. Not all companies will tell you that ever.
But I am honest and I am transparent and giving you all the reason to trust my team. My writing as well as editing team will be board from day one until the book has been launched. Is there any way I can have your name
 
Visitor 7998474: Well, that doesn’t sound like a wise way to spend my money at all. I think I will talk to the other Susan Hughes and see if she makes more sense.
*** Visitor 7998474 left the chat ***
I stumbled across another ghostwriting scam site, Ghost Writing Express, who claim to have written my friend Tim Tigner’s books …oh, and Anthony Doerr’s, too. So I got into a chat with them..
THEM: Hello, are you looking for a ghost writing service?
ME: I loved Tim Tigner’s books. Can I get the same writer to write my book?
THEM: Sure. Let me help you out with that.
ME: Would it be Tim Tigner?
THEM: You mean you want Tim Tigner to write a book for you?
ME: No, whoever wrote his books if it wasn’t Tim Tigner. I want the same guy.
THEM:
ME:
THEM: He wrote his books himself, but yes, we can match the quality for sure.
ME: I’m confused. You said I could get the same writer. I want my book to be just like his.
THEM: Let me guide you through that.
ME:
THEM:
ME:
THEM: The original draft was done by Tim and given to us for a thorough edit, proofreading, and cover design.
ME: Great. I’ll ask Tim for a recommendation and get right back to you.
THEM:
ME:
THEM: Sure thing.
ME: Please hold.
THEM:
ME:
THEM: You know him?
ME: Yes, I’m texting him now. Please hold.
…and I was disconnected.

If you’re looking for a way to procrastinate, I encourage you to chat with these imbeciles, test our one of your characters on them by conversing in their voice. It’s fun. My brother Tod can’t stop doing it.

Get to Yes, But Don’t Pay For It

Jane Friedman, the former publisher of Writers Digest, walked a tight rope in her “Getting to Yes” article in Publishers Weekly‘s Booklife self-publishing advertising insert, which is stuffed with positive reviews that self-published authors have paid for.
 
Her article says that authors marketing their work should start their campaign by making lists of “owned media, one of paid media, and one of earned media” to approach.

Owned media are existing resources and assets you control that can help spread the word about your book. This can include your website or blog, email newsletter, social media presence, or anything that reaches readers directly, whether digital or analog. Paid media are those you pay for attention or exposure. This includes advertising and paid reviews. Earned media refers to media coverage or attention that you secure for free.

 
I thought “earned media” was interesting and revealing phrasing.
 
She implicitly likened “paid reviews” in her article to a form of advertising. But what they actually are is a complete waste of money that nobody takes seriously…the opposite of “earned media,” or a review you’ve earned by virtue of your book appealing to critics on its own merits, not your ability to pay. An “earned” review is taken seriously, a “paid” review is not. That was the revealing part of the phrase. She was essentially acknowledging that real reviews are earned. Paid reviews are advertising.
 
But advertising what…and to whom?
 
The only thing a “paid review” advertises is your desperation, naivete, and ego.
 
Paying for a review is actually a huge mistake…for one thing, it negates the likelihood of you getting an “earned” review from PW or Kirkus (which also runs a “paid review” insert in their magazine for self-published authors). You’re better off, and will save money, by asking your Mom to post a positive review on Amazon for you…and you’ll accomplish just as much with just about the same level of humiliation.
 
But naturally, she didn’t dare say that, or dwell on the “paid review” aspect of a “marketing plan” in her article. In fact, she actually doesn’t mention paid reviews again…not daring to bite that hand that feeds her.

Self-publishing authors—or any authors who are pitching themselves—should seek alternative options to gain momentum. These include local and regional media, influencers in the relevant target market, and any person who is likely to answer your emails or pick up the phone when you call.

Note that she didn’t say, “buy a positive review like the ones in the following pages of this Booklife insert.” To be honest, I am surprised she didn’t.

UPDATE 2-12-22: Jane let me know on Twitter that she has, in fact, warned writers against paying for reviews, in an article she published back in 2016. At the time, she wrote:

Some of you reading this post may be looking for a quick and easy answer to the question of whether you should invest in a paid book review. Here’s what I think in a nutshell, although a lot of people will be unhappy with me saying so:

The majority of authors will not sufficiently benefit from paid book reviews, and should invest their time and money elsewhere.

She also noted that the PW piece that ran this week is actually a reprint of an article she wrote for them two years ago.

 
 

GATED PREY is here!

Gated Prey by Lee Goldberg

I’m so excited! It’s pub-day for my new novel Gated Prey, the third book in the “Eve Ronin” series, which is  now available in ebook, paperback and hardcover editions.  Here’s the story:

Los Angeles County Sheriff’s detective Eve Ronin and her soon-to-retire partner, Duncan Pavone, are running a 24-7 sting in a guard-gated enclave of palatial homes in Calabasas. Their luxury McMansion is a honey trap, set to lure in the violent home invaders terrorizing the community. The trap works, leaving three intruders dead, a body count that nearly includes Eve and Duncan.

Eve’s bosses are eager to declare the case closed, but there are too many unanswered questions for her to let go. Was the trap actually for her, bloody payback for Eve’s very public takedown of a clique of corrupt deputies? Or is there an even deadlier secret lurking behind those opulent gates? Eve’s refusal to back down and her relentless quest for the truth make her both the hunter…and the prey

The reviews so far have been terrific. Here’s just a sampling:

“Goldberg is every bit the equal of Michael Connelly… Superb reading entertainment.” Providence Journal

“Against all odds, Goldberg not only ties up most of the loose ends, leaving just a few deliberately dangling, but links some of Eve’s investigations in ways as disturbing as they are surprising. The seamy side of California dreaming.” Kirkus Reviews

“Hollywood decadence and duplicity are at the heart of bestseller Goldberg’s entertaining third outing for Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy Eve Ronin. Lively descriptive prose enhances the tight plot of this episodic crime novel. Columbo fans will have fun.” Publishers Weekly

“Affectionate and witty interplay.” Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine

“Strong writing with just enough humor…Goldberg keeps the energy high throughout. One can hope that Goldberg will keep things moving for the foreseeable future, as there’s something special about what he’s started. This is a great series.”Mystery & Suspense Magazine

“The third Eve Ronin is another suspenseful, fast-paced yarn with engaging characters” Washington Post

“Third in Lee Goldberg’s Eve Ronin series, ‘Gated Prey’ begins, moves and ends at the speed of a bullet. Goldberg has a knack for adding subtle character nuances into his series, and here we find Eve and partner Duncan Pavone more complex than ever.” The Mountain Times 

If you’d like a signed copy, and can’t make it to one of my events next week, no problem! These bookstores will be glad to send you signed books:  Poisoned Pen, Mystery Ink, Bank of Books, Mysterious Galaxy, and Book Carnival.

And if you’d like to enjoy the “book event” experience, you can catch me in these recent video interviews with The Crew Reviews, Rogue Writers (with Lee Child, Andrew Grant & Lisa Unger), and at the City of Agoura Hills One City, One Book event.

Book Review: DOCTOR-DETECTIVES IN THE MYSTERY NOVEL

DOCTOR-DETECTIVES IN THE MYSTERY NOVEL by Howard Brody (Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2021) Let me get my bias out of the way. I was the executive producer & head writer of the TV series DIAGNOSIS MURDER, and have written for many other TV mystery series, so I have a natural interest in the subject matter of doctor-detectives. However, I also wrote eight original DIAGNOSIS MURDER novels, which are discussed in a chapter of this book. That has no impact on my review, but you will have to take me at my word on that.

My biggest criticism of the book is the outrageous, indefensible, $68 price for a 375 page hardcover, which makes it highly unlikely that this fantastic reference work will reach the wide audience of mystery readers and writers it deserves, and that is a shame.

My second major criticism is also a veiled compliment. Brody does indepth analyses of many medical mystery authors and their works (like Kathy Reichs, Patricia Cornwell, Colin Cotterill, and Aaron Elkins among many many others)…and, in doing so, spoils many terrific mysteries by revealing the solutions (which is inevitable, given that he is analyzing how medicine is used to solve the crimes, reveal character, and further the plot). If you are interested in a particular author, or their work, do NOT read any of the examinations of the books or the pleasure of reading them will be ruined. However, if you *have* read the books, then his indepth reviews are a splendid and revealing addition to your experience.

Whether you are interested in medical detectives or not, this book is an invaluable resource for mystery writers, particularly the first four chapters, a study of the basics of mystery plotting. Brody also discusses the various types of mysteries and methods of investigation, the various tropes and cliches, the art of misdirection, and the key differences between a mystery ending “that makes perfect sense” and one that you “couldn’t guess the solution.” In many ways, these chapters serve as a primer on what to do, or not do, in crafting your own mystery.

He notes from the get-go the close ties between detective work and everyday medicine, arguing that being a doctor, and diagnosing a patient’s ailment, requires all the same skills  and methods as people solving crimes. He makes a case that R. Austin Freeman (1907-1942) was the first, and best, of the medical mystery authors. Freeman is unknown to me and, I suspect, most mystery readers, most likely because he was a raging anti-Semite and eugenics proponent, and those attitudes permeate his work. 

To be honest, I was less interested in his in-depth — and that is a huge understatement — explorations of every single work by Freeman and other very obscure, early authors than his broader comments about the craft of mystery writing, plot structure, and investigative techniques. If this book were more affordable — and that is also a huge understatement — I would enthusiastically recommend it as a necessary, fascinating, scholarly volume for every serious mystery writer and reader.  I wish I had this book before I started writing DIAGNOSIS MURDER…. 🙂

PS – That has to be one of the ugliest, and laziest, book covers in the history of publishing. It really feels like the publisher didn’t give a damn whether the book sold or not. Baffling.

The Cowboy and the Cossack

This is embarrassing… I wrote this post a few months ago and thought I’d published it… but it’s actually been sitting in my “drafts” folder all this time. If you are looking for a great book to read, I have a strong recommendation for you:

For years, Paul Bishop has been telling me that Clair Huffaker’s THE COWBOY & THE COSSACK is one of the greatest westerns he’s ever read & one of his favorite books. I finally got around to reading it and, holy crap, he was underselling it. It’s everything he said and more… yes, it’s another cattle drive story, and filled with the usual archetypes and tropes, but none of it feels like a cliche, largely because of the unique setting, the culture clash, the spare writing, and the colorful characters. What I wasn’t expecting, and greatly appreciated, was the humor and the little, surprisingly moving, touches of humanity. In many ways, the book reminded me of my favorite book of all time: Larry McMurtry’s LONESOME DOVE. I don’t understand why THE COWBOY AND THE COSSACK hasn’t been made into a movie yet. But it’s definitely one of my favorite westerns now, too… right up there with DOVE, A.B. Guthrie’s THE BIG SKY (and the sequel, THE WAY WEST), Thomas Berger’s LITTLE BIG MAN, James Robert Daniel’s THE COMANCHE KID, Elmer Kelton’s THE GOOD OLD BOYS, Frederick Manfred’s RIDERS OF JUDGMENT (and SCARLET PLUME), and Jim Bosworth’s THE LONG WAY NORTH. Stop whatever you are doing and read THE COWBOY AND THE COSSACK. Don’t wait years like I did…

Lots of Ronin News

Gated Prey by Lee Goldberg
It’s been a busy summer for me. I just delivered MOVIE LAND, the 4th “Eve Ronin” crime novel, to my publisher for an early 2022 release. It was a breakneck 90 days from conception to delivery. I’ve written books that fast before (all 8 of my DIAGNOSIS MURDER novels and most of the 15 MONK novels), but I was younger and more foolish then. It’s nice to know I am still capable of doing it…though it helps that I’ve basically remained in pandemic lock-down at home. Typically, it takes me a leisurely five months to plot and write a novel. Now it’s back to work on the spec thriller I was writing in May…I need to cram a lot of writing into the next few weeks because I don’t have much time before I’ll be attending a whole bunch of events tied to the release of my 3rd “Eve Ronin” novel GATED PREY, which comes out in October. You can see some of the early reviews for GATED PREY (and my contribution to the new collection COLLECTIBLES) below along with some other exciting news.
 
One City / One Book Picks LOST HILLS
 
Each year, the City of Agoura Hills participates in the “One City / One Book” national literacy program to stimulate reading through group book discussions and other related activities. The community read is sponsored by the City of Agoura Hills, Friends of the Library, the Los Angeles County Library—Agoura Hills Cultural Arts Council, and the Las Virgenes Unified School District. This year they’ve picked my novel LOST HILLS!! I am so thrilled. I’ll be talking about the book, and signing copies, on Sept 30th at the Agoura Recreation center. The event is free, but seating is limited and tickets are required. Here’s where to get yours…
 
Publisher’s Weekly loves GATED PREY
 
I am thrilled that I got a great review this week from Publishers Weekly for my new novel GATED PREY, which is coming out Oct. 26th but is now available for pre-order.
 
“Lively descriptive prose enhances the tight plot of this episodic crime novel. Columbo fans will have fun.”
 
Best Thriller Books Loves GATED PREY
 
The popular blog Best Thriller Books gave me a great early review for GATED PREY.
 
“Violent crimes and desperate criminals and homicide detectives, oh my!  Lee Goldberg delivers an intriguing, fast-paced, satisfying novel…This is a series to keep an eye on if you’re a fan of police procedurals, formidable female characters, and stories with great pacing.”  
 
Mystery Scene & Publishers Weekly Praise COLLECTIBLES
 
CollectiblesThis week Mystery Scene Magazine singled out my short story “Lost Shows” in their glowing review of Lawrence Block’s new anthology COLLECTIBLES
 
“This anthology’s true gem is Lee Goldberg’s ‘Lost Shows,’ a perfect, at times humorous story from an under-appreciated writer.” 
 
Not only that, but Publishers Weekly also singled out my story in their rave review:
 
“Villainy, paranormal goings-on, and cold-blooded murder…  Overshadowing everything, though, is Lee Goldberg’s Lost Shows, a delightful shocker about a fanatical collector of short-lived and unaired TV shows.”
 
You can order the book here
 
Entertainment Weekly Picks Summer Reads
 
My friends Rachel Howzell Hall , Shawn A. Cosby & I are among the authors recommending some thrillers in Entertainment Weekly by kick-ass writers like Hilary Davidson, Stephen Mack Jones and Matthew Farrell. You can find our picks here
 
Kirkus Reviews Loves GATED PREY
 
 
“Against all odds, Goldberg not only ties up most of the loose ends, leaving just a few deliberately dangling, but links some of Eve’s investigations in ways as disturbing as they are surprising.The seamy side of California dreaming.
 
Lots of Events Coming!
 
As I mentioned at the top, I’ve got lots of events lined up (with more to come). You can find them all here.
 
Okay, that’s the news for now. Back to writing!!

Disney Must Pay

I am a member of the #DisneyMustPay Joint Task Force, a group of various writers’ organizations (SFWA, MWA, ITW, etc), that is demanding that  authors, comic book & graphic novel creators get paid the royalties they’ve earned for their work from Disney & its companies. Here’s the full press release:

LOS ANGELES (August 12, 2021) – The #DisneyMustPay Joint Task Force is expanding its focus and reaching out to all comic book and graphic novel creators who may be missing royalty statements and payments from Disney and its companies.

“Writers, artists, illustrators, letterers, and other artists are valued members of the creative teams that produce art and literature that is enjoyed by millions,” said Mary Robinette Kowal, Task Force Chair. “We are inviting these talented artists to share their stories and we will fight for them to receive the money that is owed to them.”

All potentially affected writers and artists should contact the Task Force to share their stories. Creators who are missing royalties or royalty statements may fill out this form hosted by SFWA. Anonymity is guaranteed.

Lee Goldberg, Task Force member and founder of the International Association of Media Tie-In Writers (IAMTW), adds his thoughts about the need for the #DisneyMustPay Task Force to expand its reach to all creators: “Novelists and illustrators provide a rich, all-encompassing story-telling experience, their words creating fully flesh-out characters and detailed images, if not entire worlds and universes, in the readers’ minds. The authors and artists honored their obligation to write and create their books. Now Disney should have the decency and integrity to honor their obligation to pay them. It’s that simple.”

Sandra Wong, National President of Sisters in Crime, states, “Sisters in Crime believes that writers and creators should be paid what they’re legally owed for their work, no matter the media or genre. We joined the Task Force to help spread the word to potentially affected authors, since Disney has placed the onus to be paid on writers and creators, and to lend our voice to an issue which has potential consequences for all creators.”

The Task Force’s goals are to ensure that all writers and creators who are owed royalties and/or statements for their media-tie in work are identified and that Disney and other companies honor their contractual obligations to those writers and creators after acquiring the companies that originally hired them.

Fans, fellow writers, and the creative community need to continue to post on social media showing their support so the #DisneyMustPay Joint Task Force can help writers. Thanks to their support, the message is reaching Disney and related organizations, to alert them to the work they need to do to honor their contractual obligations.

Progress has been made, most notably ensuring that three well-known media tie-in authors have been paid and attaining the cooperation of BOOM! Studios in identifying affected authors. However, more than a dozen additional authors are still in negotiations with Disney. Many of them, especially ones with lesser-known names, find communications with Disney repeatedly stalled until pressure is again applied by the Task Force and its supporters.

The #DisneyMustPay Joint Task Force, formed by SFWA, includes the Authors Guild, Horror Writers Association, International Association of Media Tie-In Writers (IAMTW), International Thriller Writers, Mystery Writers of America, National Writers Union, Novelists, Inc., Romance Writers of America, and Sisters in Crime (SinC). Individual writers on the Task Force include Neil Gaiman, Lee Goldberg, Mary Robinette Kowal, Chuck Wendig, and Tess Garritsen. The Task Force identifies and guides authors and creators who might be owed money. Disney is refusing to cooperate with the task force to identify affected authors.

The #DisneyMustPay Joint Task Force is working to make sure creators’ contracts are honored, but individual negotiations are rightly between the creators, their agents, and the rights holder. The Disney Task Force is working to address structural and systemic concerns.

Additional updates and information are available at www.writersmustbepaid.org.

 

Bathroom Etiquette

Etiquette question: I was standing at one of two urinals in a restaurant men’s room. A woman brought in a boy to use the urinal next to me. It made me very uncomfortable. Was I wrong? Or was she wrong to come in with him? Or should she have taken the child into a stall? Or should she have taken him into the woman’s room (FYI: There was no line for women’s room).

Work-For-Hire Conundrum

This article from The Guardian is a must-read for anyone considering a “work-of-hire” deal in book publishing or comic books. 

According to multiple sources, when a writer or artist’s work features prominently in a Marvel film, the company’s practice is to send the creator an invitation to the premiere and a cheque for $5,000 (£3,600). Three different sources confirmed this amount to the Guardian. There’s no obligation to attend the premiere, or to use the $5,000 for travel or accommodation; sources described it as a tacit acknowledgment that compensation was due.

Marvel declined to comment on this, citing privacy concerns. “We can’t speak to our individual agreements or contracts with talent,” said a spokesman.

Several sources who have worked with Marvel say that remuneration for contributing to a franchise that hits it big varies between the $5,000 payment, nothing, or – very rarely – a “special character contract”, which allows a select few creators to claim renumeration when their characters or stories are used. There are other potential ways to earn more – many former writers and artists are made executives and producers on Marvel’s myriad movies, cartoons and streaming series, for example – but those deals depend on factors other than legal obligation.

“I’ve been offered a [special character contract] that was really, really terrible, but it was that or nothing,” says one Marvel creator, who asked not to be named. “And then instead of honouring it, they send a thank you note and are like, ‘Here’s some money we don’t owe you!’ and it’s five grand. And you’re like, ‘The movie made a billion dollars.’”

The way Marvel writers & artists are being treated may be “contractually legal,” but it is still despicable. 

I’m very, very lucky. I have been treated fairly in my work-for-hire deals, which include my Monk and Diagnosis Murder novels. Those were great experiences. But I was in a unique position in both cases.

On Diagnosis Murder, I was the executive producer/showrunner on the TV series for several years (all with William Rabkin). The publisher and studio came to me to write the books… and that gave me leverage. Creatively, I certainly wasn’t going to let them tell me how to write books based on a TV series that I exec-produced. And, to their credit, they never dared  🙂 I had complete creative freedom.

On Monk, I was already a writer on the TV show and good friends with Andy Breckman, the creator/showrunner. He gave me free reign to do as I pleased creatively and he personally made sure I was treated fairly on every level (and two of my books were adapted into episodes). I wish I was paid a lot more, but otherwise, I look back on those 15 books with nothing but fondness.

The big pitfall with work-for-hire book deals is that you don’t own any aspect of your work. It’s the equivalent of building an addition on someone else’s home. In most work-for-hire deals, you are paid a one-time flat fee, a buy-out of all rights and royalties. Some work-for-hire deals, like mine, included a share of royalties and can also include a share of some future rights, like a movie or TV adaptation, but that’s very rare and few authors have the leverage to demand it…and get it.

The common work-for-hire, total buyout deal is easier to stomach when you are working within a hugely successful intellectual property you didn’t create… and it can bring your work (and your name) to a wider audience than you could ever hope to reach on your own, especially early in your career. It can be a big boost in visibility (reviews, bestseller lists etc) that’s worth the often very low pay, draconian deadlines, and rigid creative restrictions.

But a work-for-hire deal becomes thornier when you create new characters and storylines that lead to other works in the “universe” you are working it. Take, for example, the freelance TV writer who wrote the “Space Seed” episode of the original Star Trek series. Decades later, the character he created became the basis for Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. My guess is that he got paid a pittance, if anything, and no credit. The Writers Guild of America has since dramatically increased protections (and compensation and credit) for writers in that situation, but authors don’t have a union in their corner or anything close to the same protections. They have an agent, or a lawyer, and they can consult with the Authors Guild (which has no teeth and is not a union), but they are still likely to get screwed over. The $10,000  you got paid to write a work-for-hire book seems like a win at the time…but it becomes an insult if the novel is later adapted into a movie or TV series or TV series episode…and you not only don’t paid anything more, you don’t even get a credit for your work.

Work-for-hire contracts in the publishing world are routinely slanted against the writer on every level. That needs to change. But will it? I doubt it.

 

One City, One Book

I got some great news this week. The City of Agoura Hills has selected me and my novel LOST HILLS as their 2021 ONE CITY, ONE BOOK / AUTHOR. That means the local libaries, schools, etc. will be encouraging everyone to read the book and to come to City Hall on Sept 30th to see me in conversation, buy a copy of my book if they haven’t already…and get their copies signed. Past honorees include Michael Connelly and Dick Van Dyke. 

 

Their press release goes into more details:

Each year, the city of Agoura Hills participates in the One City One Book national literacy program
designed to stimulate reading through group book discussions and other related activities. The
community read is sponsored by the City of Agoura Hills, Friends of the Library, the Los Angeles
County Library—Agoura Hills Cultural Arts Council, and the Las Virgenes Unified School District.

“Lost Hills’ is a gripping story with twists and turns that take place on the very streets of our local
community. I especially love the tenacity of the detective and could picture myself riding past so
many familiar places and, typical when I read a book I love, I didn’t want the story to end,” said
Agoura Hills Mayor Denis Weber, who added he is a veracious reader and Goldberg is one of his
favorite authors.

The city is hosting “An Evening with the Author – Lee Goldberg” on Thursday, September 30,
2021, at the Agoura Hills Event and Recreation Center, 29900 Ladyface Court, Agoura Hills, CA
91301. The author will also be available for book signings. Registration will begin starting August
1, 2021 at www.agourahillsrec.org. Admission is free, but registration is required; space is limited.
For updated information on One City One Book 2021 events, call 818-597-7361 or visit the
website. For more information about the One City, One Book literary program, contact Amy Brink, Director of Community Services at (818) 597-7361 or email ajbrink@agourahillscity.org.