NY Times on Self-Publishing

At the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books today, I got into a spirited debate with a writer whose books have been published by PublishAmerica, which he thinks has been unfairly criticized by guys like me (ie authors published by real publishers). He feels that PublishAmerica is providing a worthwhile service to writers who can’t get through the door with New York publishers.

I argued that PublishAmerica is a vanity press that deceives wanna-be writers by claiming to be a traditional publisher…when it is far from it. Only later do these aspiring writers realize their book hasn’t been accepted by a "real" publisher at all… but by then it’s too late, they’ve already signed the company’s awful contract.  But the gentleman I spoke to argued that he hasn’t been taken at all, he knew what he was getting into and what mattered most to him was that it didn’t cost him a cent to get published. 

Whether PublishAmerica is a scam or not (and I think it is),  the bottom line is that their titles are dismissed by reviewers and booksellers as vanity press books — badly written, amateurish work that doesn’t meet even the most minimal professional standards.

The PublishAmerica scam was touched on only briefly in a New York Times piece today about the explosion in popularity of print-on-demand self-publishing. The article focused primarily on companies like iUniverse and Author House.

Self-published authors have essentially
become the bloggers of the publishing world, with approximately the same
anarchic range in quality that you find on the Web. Indeed, companies like
AuthorHouse and iUniverse say they will accept pretty much anything for
publication. ”That’s the big problem with self-publishing and the stigma
associated with it.”

Read more

Used Book Stores

I love going to used book stores and just browsing around. And, like the folks at Pod-dy Mouth, I also look for my own books.

I always make sure I check out the section where my book would be, sometimes finding a copy. I am the first to admit it is sad to see it there, buried, ignored, gathering
dust. Sadder still was the copy I found in Arlington, Virginia, where I looked at the binding and it clearly had not been read past page 75. I lost that reader, and with it a sense of accomplishment.

I don’t feel bad when I see my books in a used bookstore. In fact, I like it. What does piss me off is when I find a signed-and-inscribed copy… particularly if the person I signed-and-inscribed it to is also one of the people who blurbed the damn book! Okay, this has only happened to me once, and it was years ago when I was browsing at Mystery Pier in West Hollywood, but I’ve never forgotten it.

The guy liked the book enough to blurb it, but he gave away the signed copy I sent him when the book came out? What gives?

Blogger Identity

I bought my brother Tod a blog for his birthday. That was three months ago. When the Los Angeles Times mentioned Tod in an article this week, they referred to him as "blogger and screenwriter Tod Goldberg." What’s interesting to me is that in just 90 days, "blogger" has become  his identity (we’ll gloss over the fact they also called him a "screenwriter," even though he’s never sold a screenplay nor, to my knowledge, has he ever written one).  Not "acclaimed novelist," not "LA Times Award nominee," not even "creative writing instructor." No, now he’s "Blogger Tod Goldberg."

How long do you have to be running a blog before it becomes you?  Is 90 days… or less… all it really takes before the mere fact that you have a blog eclipses your professional accomplishments and every other aspect of your public image?

Am I now "blogger Lee Goldberg?" Or am I still "TV writer and author Lee Goldberg?"

My Day at the Bookfest

I love the LA Times Festival of Books. So many bookstores, so many panels, so many people… so many books to buy.

Today I snagged signed first editions of Ian McEwan’s SATURDAY, Meg Wolitzer’s THE POSITION , Jonathan Safran Foer’s EXTREMELY LOUD AND INCREDIBLY CLOSE,  Susanna Clarke’s JONATHAN STRANGE,  and Caldwell & Thompson’s RULE OF FOUR, and I got a couple of my old Kinsey Milhone books signed by Sue Grafton. I chatted with Eoin Colfer, T. Jefferson Parker, Kem Nunn, Roger Simon, Harley Jane Kozak, Scott Frost, Denise Hamilton, DP Lyle, Joanne Fluke,  Jim Fusilli, Dick Lochte, Tom Nolan and Mystery Dawg blogger Aldo Calcagno, among others.

I also bought a bunch of architecture and "L.A." books … including tomes on Albert Frey and Richard Neutra. And for my daughter Maddie, I got all the  ARTREMIS FOWL books, signed to her by the author.

Tomorrow, another day, more dents in the credit card…

Munch Makes TV History

A TV milestone was quietly reached last week and only the TV fanatics at Inner Toob noticed. Richard Belzer showed up in the LAW AND ORDER/LAW AND ORDER: TRIAL BY JURY crossover on Friday, which makes his Detective Munch the most crossed-over character in TV history. Munch has now appeared in six different series — HOMICIDE, LAW AND ORDER, LAW & ORDER:SVU, THE BEAT (UPN), THE X-FILES (FOX) and now LAW AND ORDER: TRIAL BY JURY (he may even have appeared in animated form in THE SIMPSONS, but my memory may be playing tricks on me).

And it shouldn’t be long before he finally catches up to Sam Drucker of ‘Green Acres’, ‘Petticoat Junction’, ‘The Beverly Hillbillies’, and ‘Return To Green Acres’ fame. Without counting TV
shows that moved part and parcel from one network to another, Munch probably stands alone in another distinction – that of the most networks as the same character, with three.

I don’t know if the folks at Inner Toob are right…but even if they aren’t, what is it about Munch that makes him such a well-travel character in primetime? It’s not like he’s a particularly popular or beloved character…so what gives?

Pax Goes Info

Variety reports that PAX is giving up on original programming and going back to being an infomercial network. This news is sure to rile up the fans of one of the worst-titled shows in TV history: SUE THOMAS: F.B.EYE, the adventures of a deaf FBI agent who reads lips and her hearing-ear wonderdog Levi.

03fb_eye1300The show was shot in Toronto and our casting director on MISSING was always touting actors who  delivered " powerful" or "unforgettable"  performances on SUE THOMAS: F.B.EYE like it was the pinnacle of Canadian drama.  The scary thing is, it probably was.

(Click on the photo for a larger image…and then ask yourself: Why does an FBI dog need a photo ID? Could you really tell the difference between the face of one Golden Retriever and another? And if the pooch needs a photo ID, why doesn’t she?).

The Pilot Pitch Dance

TV Writer/Producer Paul Guyot blasts onto the blogosphere with a painfully accurate portrait of the pilot pitch dance that’s the opening act of development season.

I’ll be cruising out to LA this summer to make the rounds of pitch
meetings. God, it’s awful. Walking into these offices and sitting
across from low/mid-level execs who, not only have spent their entire
last days
or weeks hearing writers pitch ideas for TV series after TV series, but
who don’t have the authority to say yes even if they LOVE your idea.

The Pilot Pitch Dance is an action in which you must suddenly become an odd
combination of Riverdancer, auctioneer, and Up With People performer, all
while trying to maintain your dignity that you don’t realize until it’s too late that you left with the
guard at the gate when you got your drive-on.

I, too, will be doing this dance come June/July and, after all these years, I’m still not entirely at ease doing it.  Sure, pitching can be fun, but I always end up feeling like one of those desperate hucksters trying to sell The Amazing Meat Syringe ("inject garlic — onions — anything at all —  into any cut of meat!") at the L.A. County Fair.


A Great Bad Review

Book Critic Matt Taibbi of the NY Press has great fun trashing Thomas Friedman’s new book  THE WORLD IS FLAT. I’ve never read Friedman, and never will, but I thought the review was hilarious. Here’s an excerpt:

Friedman is such a genius of literary incompetence that even his most innocent  passages invite feature-length essays. I’ll give you an example, drawn at random
from The World Is Flat. On page 174, Friedman is describing a flight he took on Southwest Airlines from Baltimore to Hartford, Connecticut. (Friedman never forgets to name the company or the brand name; if he had written The Metamorphosis, Gregor Samsa would have awoken from uneasy dreams in a Sealy Posturepedic.) Here’s what he says:

I stomped off, went through security, bought a Cinnabon, and glumly sat at the back of the B line, waiting to be herded on board so that I could hunt for space in the overhead bins.

Forget the Cinnabon. Name me a herd animal that hunts. Name me one.
This would be a small thing were it not for the overall pattern. Thomas Friedman does not get these things right even by accident. It’s not that he occasionally screws up and fails to make his metaphors and images agree. It’s that he always screws it up. He has an anti-ear, and it’s
absolutely infallible; he is a Joyce or a Flaubert in reverse, incapable of rendering even the smallest details without genius. The difference between Friedman and an ordinary bad writer is that an ordinary bad writer will, say, call some businessman a shark and have him say some tired, uninspired piece of
dialogue: Friedman will have him spout it. And that’s guaranteed, every
single time. He never misses.

Taibbi doesn’t just take potshots at Friedman — he also analyzes the substance of Friedman’s thesis, such as it is. But for me, this review will always hold a special place in my heart for this observation:

Friedman is a person who not only speaks in malapropisms, he also hears
malapropisms. Told level; heard flat. This is the intellectual version of Far Out Space Nuts, when NASA repairman Bob Denver sets a whole sitcom in motion by pressing "launch" instead of "lunch" in a space capsule. And once he hits that button, the rocket takes off.

Surely, this is the first time Bob Denver and FAR OUT SPACE NUTS have ever been referred to in literary criticism…and I, for one, hope it’s not the last.

Meet the Blogger

My brother Tod recently discovered that one of his students is actually the author of Booksquare, one of his favorite blogs.  The experience has left both teacher and student a bit unsettled. Tod says:

Now, if you have questions about my evil teaching ways — next week,
I’m looking to outlaw narration all together — go visit Ms. Square and
see if she’s had her spirit destroyed.

Does this mean Tod will censor himself, now that he knows there’s a blogger in his midst? I doubt it.  Booksquare  says:

We have been uncovered: cranky blogger by day, mild mannered student by
night. What started as an innocent foray into the world of academia
became an experience we can only describe as all Tod Goldberg, all the

The horror. The horror. 

Nancy Drew’s Hooters

I haven’t given a lot of thought to Nancy Drew’s breasts, but the folks over at Booksquare aren’t comfortable with the teen sleuth’s new extreme Manga Make-over, which includes a boob job. USA Today reports that Simon and Schuster are releasing a new line of Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys graphic novels:

InsidenancydrewLongtime fans will hardly recognize their old favorites. The Hardy Boys
have the wide-eyed look of traditional manga characters. So do Nancy
Drew and friends Bess and George, who wear form-fitting clothes, with
plenty of cleavage for Bess.