How Not To Make it Big in Hollywood

I got this email today…

I am a 21 year old aspiring model/actress/entertainer, my name is  Melinda XYZ. My dream and goal is to
work in all different aspects of the entertainment industry. I have the attitude
and personality that it takes to make it in this industry.
I am fun, energetic, and a beautiful 21 year old female that has the drive to make it "big" in the entertainment industry. I am very comfortable in front of the camera and in of people!
I am really interested in working with you.
Could you please help me out. I know that you are busy but
I seem to keep ending up with the people contacting me only for "adult films"
and I dont want to put myself in that situation. Could you possibly help me
out a little – PLEASE..

Birthday: October 24, 1983
Hair: Light Brown
Height: 5’3"
Weight: 102
Pants: 3
Waist: 22
Hips: 34
Shoe: 6.5
Size: 3
Please feel free to contact me or my manager. My
numbers are;
Work: XXX-XXX-XXXX ext 2171 please feel free to call me at work any time. My address is XXXXXXXXXX. My manager’s address is XXXXXXXXXX. My email address is XXXXXXXXXX.

Gee, I can’t imagine  why she’d only be getting offers from porn producers, can you?

Do you think it could be because her impersonal pitch reads like a singles ad… or worse, like one of those email come-ons from women inviting you to call them for some hot phone sex?

I don’t know what makes her think that junk mailing this pitch, packed with important details like her shoe size, will get her a job offer from anyone but a porn producer.

I wonder if her "manager" gave her this wonderful advice….

UPDATE (1/22/05) – I got this email today:

4 Cheating House Wife have been matched for you in your area:

Danielle, 120 lbs, 5’9, 36c, 14 miles away, available Jan 15-17th
2) Emily,
128 lbs, 5’7, 36d, 11 miles away, available most week nights ( looking for
3) Hannah, 121 lbs, 5’8, 34b, 5 miles away, available Jan
4) Melissa, 127 lbs, 5’8, 36c, 13 miles away, available most week
nights ( looking for side-fling)

All 4 women are waiting to speak with
you live & have photos. Webcam’s are available for all 4.

I wonder if they want to be actresses too…

Dollars and Cents

Publisher’s Lunch,  email digest version of Publisher’s Marketplace,  today defined the terms they use to describe book deals in their reporting…

"nice deal" $1 – $49,000
"very nice deal" $50,000 – $99,000
"good deal"
$100,000 – $250,000
"significant deal" $251,000 – $499,000
"major deal"
$500,000 and up

What universe are they living in where $100,000-$250,000 is simply "a good deal" and $250,000-$499,000 is  "significant?"

Outsourcing Signings

Author Margaret Atwood has stirred up quite a controversy by creating a "remote booksigning device" that would allow her to "attend" booksignings without actually being there.  She wrote about her invention, and the controversy, in today’s Los Angeles Times.

In an effort to simplify the most grueling part of the book-publication process
— the dreaded Author Tour — I dreamed up the concept of a remote book-signing
device. (I’ve spent far too many evenings crawling around on hotel room floors,
eating Pringles because I was too exhausted to call room service, so I needed
this!) The author would be able to relax at his or her home base and could see
and speak with a book buyer in a bookstore thousands of miles away. That much
can happen already.

But in addition, the author would be able to
actually sign — in real time, and with real ink — the book buyer’s book (or the
singer’s album, or the actor’s photograph). You would no longer have to be in
the bookstore to write "Happy Birthday, Aunt Sylvia." You would simply write on
a little pad (somewhat like the one the UPS messenger brings to your door) and
on the other end, your message and signature would be duplicated in the book.

Think of the plane trips avoided, the beer nuts left uneaten in the
hotel mini-bar, and — from the publisher’s point of view — the money saved! For
it costs a lot to whiz a bunch of disoriented and grumpy authors around the

That’s exactly what she’s doing…thinking of the author or,more accurately, herself. What she’s proposing is the customer support approach towards her readers.  What’s wrong with an automated menu and no live operator? What’s wrong if that live operator is someone you can barely understand in Singapore or India? It’s still customer service, right? RIGHT?

She’s forgetting the personal touch, the human interaction. The respect. It’s not just the signature that’s important to most readers, it’s the chance to meet someone who has had a dramatic and often emotional impact on their lives and imaginations. It’s a way to meet someone who has inspired and entertained you. It’s also a way for authors to see the face of the people they are writing for, the people who have supported them in their art. It’s a way to say "Thank you," for both author and reader.  It’s not just a signature. And looking into a computer screen and shaking hands with a robot arm isn’t quite the same thing. What’s astonishing is that she doesn’t get that… or maybe she does.

The only difference between the author-at-a-distance and the author-in-the-flesh
would be that no author’s DNA would get onto the book, and no readers’ germs
would get onto the author.

I think this is where she betrays her real attitudes towards signings and her readers.  But there’s something else I find personally offensive about her booksigning-at-a-distance machine: it’s her broad, caricatured characterization of authors as cranky assholes who think it’s a burden to meet readers.

This may come as shock to Margaret Atwood and everyone else on the planet Vulcan, but lots of authors enjoy meeting their readers, enjoy the personal contact, and derive enormous pleasure from being able to sign their books in person.

She may have unintentionally succeeded in her goal of avoiding book tours. Given her attitude towards signing and readers, who would ever want this woman to sign their books again? Who would ever want her in their store? Not me.

Ken Bruen Revisited

A month or two back, I mentioned here that I was underwhelmed by Ken Bruen’s much-praised novel THE GUARDS.  I  was surprised by the shock and outrage my comments provoked here and on several other blogs.  Author Jason Starr  suggested I try Bruen’s HER LAST CALL TO LOUIS MACNIECE.   I did. And I loved it.  I devoured it in one sitting. It’s everything THE GUARDS wasn’t. Fresh. Surprising. With a narrative engine that growls like a Pontiac GTO.  It’s a darkly funny,  nasty reimagining of the pulp noir formula.  It’s equal measures  Harry Whittington, Charles Willeford Elmore Leonard and Roger Corman… set in the UK.  Now I see what all the excitement is about. I wish I read this one before THE GUARDS.  I’m  sure this won’t get as much play in the blogosphere as my critical comments did… but I’ve just got to say, WOW. I can’t wait to read the rest of his stuff… except, maybe, for his sequels to THE GUARDS.

The Iconoclast

After only a week "on the air," novelist Richard S. Wheeler seems to have shut-down his blog, The Iconoclast. It’s a shame, because I was enjoying his posts and looking forward to his ruminations on the state of westerns in publishing today. The blog generated a healthy discussion almost right away with his take on the demise of the midlist. Anybody know why he decided to quit so soon?

It’s a Blog. It’s a Book. It’s Both

Bob Sassone, one of our frequent visitors here, is launching a book blog. Er. Blog book. Ah hell, I’ll let him tell you.

"Letters To Martha", my new novel, launches today. I know, I know, you’re
thinking many things.  You have a new novel?  Martha who?  How can a novel
"launch"? And should I ask my doctor about Lipitor?  That last one is
between you and your doctor, but here’s the web site for the

It’s a blog novel.  A
novel, because that’s how I originally wrote it, and it’s a blog
because…well, if you haven’t heard they’re all the sa-hizzle with the
hip kids nowadays.

There’s a more in-depth answer to the "why put
it online" question.  Read it

This also
fulfills my promise I made to you a year and a half ago, about giving all of
you a free novel as thanks for reading my stuff.  It will be updated
every Tues and Thurs with new entries.  You can leave comments at the blog
if you’d like (for now anyway – let’s see if anyone abuses that little
feature), and it will run until March/April, just in time for Martha’s
release from the pokey.  Let me know what you think. 

Time Management

My buddy author Gregg Hurwitz talks on his infrequently updated blog about the ordeal of proofing his galleys… and the difficulty juggling the various demands on a writer’s time. He mentions some advice he got from James Patterson Inc:

The exchange was simple:

JP: Do you write on the road?
GH: No, I can’t.
JP (with great gravity): Learn.

so I have. Now when I’m working on a rough draft, I won’t let anything
short of an emergency interrupt it. I write on planes, in hotel rooms,
in the car (no, not when I’m driving).

I write anywhere and everywhere. Writing for TV trained me to do that, particularly when  you’re in production and jetting off to locations in Vancouver,  Toronto, Orlando, New York, Boston or London, as I have done.  I have no problem writing in a hotel room or on an airplane…and often had no choice if I was going to meet the shooting schedule. Great motivator, the shooting schedule.

That said,  writing on an airplane… especially in coach class… took some getting used-to. In first class, there’s some space between you and your fellow passenger. In coach, they are looking right over your shoulder and at every word you type on screen. They can’t help themselves. It’s like a TV set.  It’s very hard to write when a complete stranger is watching you do it,  especially if what you’re writing involves sex or violence.  I’ve had to learn to just tune out the stranger and go for it.