James Bond’s Daughter

This is an excerpt from a long email I received today from an aspiring writer.

I thought perhaps you may be interested in a project that I am contemplating. Or perhaps give your input on the idea? The idea involves a new Bond movie but not with James, rather "Jane Bond" his estranged daughter? WithAngelina Jolie as "Jane", and Sean Connery as the "Retired" Bond, I really think it could be a blockbuster movie…I would really appreciate your feedback and any information or advice you can give me as to what you think of the idea and how to go about making it happen?

Here’s how I replied: Don’t waste your time on "Jane Bond." For one thing, you don’t own the Bond
character and the people who do are very litigous. For another,
it’s hardly a fresh idea. If you are going to write a screenplay, write
something that is entirely original…not based on any existing characters or
movies. Write something that will showcase your creativity, your ability to
create characters, and your unique story-telling instincts. Don’t write "Daughter of
Bond" or "Sister of Superman" or "Brother-in-Law of Buffy" or a sequel to
"Bullitt." Also don’t think about boxoffice potential or casting possibilities or ad campaigns right
now…just think about telling a terrific story. Good luck!

That was the end of my reply. Bet you thought I’d be snarkier, didn’t you? Must be my sinus medication mellowing me out. Here’s the thing that really struck me, though, about his email: The guy says he’s a film school graduate… you’d think they would have taught him, at some point, that it isn’t a good idea to write a script based on a property you don’t own.

Ready for the Staff Job

I got this email today from an aspiring writer who has just finished writing his first two episodic spec scripts:

Now, for
the first time, I begin the process of looking for an agent.  I have two spec
scripts that are great examples of what I can do on a TV

Here’s how I responded: Congratulations on finishing your specs. That’s a big step! However,
I’d aim your sights a little more realistically. The best you can hope for at
this stage (after landing an agent) is to be invited in for a freelance pitch
and possible writing assignment. In the mean time, start writing another script… perhaps an original feature,  if you don’t have one already.

iUniverse By The Numbers – The Goldberg Edition

A week or so back, I published some sobering statistics from Publisher’s Weekly about the sales performance and brick-and-mortar-store distribution of  iUniverse titles. Today, I got my quarterly royalty statement on my iUniverse titles — several out-of-print books republished at no charge to me through  Authors Guild and Mystery Writers of America programs. One great thing about iUniverse is that they pay royalties promptly and their clear, easy-to-read statements are posted online for you to view at any time.

I’ve gathered my statements for the last twelve months (2/04-2/05) and have posted them below so you can judge the performance for yourself. Some caveats — these books are reprints of previous published titles, so they have the benefit of the publicity and awareness that came from being in print before.  In addition, these "Back in Print" titles have been in release with iUniverse now for over four years.

Unsold TV Pilots  List Price:  $13.95  Royalty: 30%
Copies Sold            Total Sales             My Royalty

84                                  $780.69                   $234,23

Unsold Television Pilots Vol. 1 List Price: $26.95  Royalty: 25%
Copies Sold            Total Sales              My Royalty

15                                  $258.75                     $64.69
Unsold Television Pilots Vol 2 List Price: $24.95  Royalty 25%
Copies Sold                Total Sales                  My Royalty
15                                   $239.55                     $59.88

Total Sales: $1278.99
Total Royalty:  $358.80

iUniverse CEO Susan Driscoll and I have been trading friendly emails for the last few days. I’ve invited her to post her view on the PW stats and asked if she’d allow me to follow up a little later with a Q&A interview. She’s agreed… so look for her post here in the very near future.

The Book-A-Month Man

Uber-prolific writer  James Reasoner, author of 177 books (probably 178  by the time you finish reading this post) answers some of my questions about how he works on his blog today. But get this:

Over the course of my career, I’ve averaged about eight books a year. Last year was my most productive year ever, with twelve books and about half of another written. If I keep up my current pace I may beat that by a little this year.

Wow.  And I whine about how hard it is to write four-a-year.

The name is Goldberg, Lee Goldberg 2

The slick James Bond site MI6 is celebrating the 20th anniversary of A VIEW TO A KILL and has posted my interview with screenwriters Richard Maibaum and Michael Wilson as part of the celebration

Meeting Richard Maibaum was a very big deal for me and had an enormous impact on my life.

I was (and am) a big James Bond fan.  At the time, I was an 18-year-old kid on his way to UCLA to attend college…and putting himself through school as a freelance journalist (mostly doing phone interviews so no one would know how old I was).  I chose UCLA because it was near the film and TV industry and I wanted to learn as much as I could about both.

As soon as I arrived in L.A, I made up a target list of writer, producers and directors I admired and wanted to interview for articless (I know I could do them for the UCLA Daily Bruin if no where else).  The two names at the top of the list were Richard Maibaum and Steve Cannell.

I don’t remember how I tracked Maibaum down, but with my heart pounding with fear, I called him at home and asked if I could interview him for the UCLA Daily Bruin. Not only did he agree, he insisted that I come over for lunch. I nearly fainted.

Richard was a sweet, lovely man…and so was his wife. He showed me around his house (including a closet decorated with James Bond wallpaper) and shared some momentos he’d collected doing the films. He was delighted that someone was taking an interest in how the 007 films were written (in fact, I would later discover that my interview…not the one reprinted at MI6… was the first significant, detailed discussion with him any journalist had ever done. To this day, I see quotes from the lengthy article have been lifted without attribution books about the movies).

We spent six hours together that first day…and many hours together after that in person and on the phone.  He became my friend and an unofficial mentor.  Not only did Richard give me the confidence to approach other artists I admired (snagging the interview with him gave me the confidence to go after everybody else on my list…and I nearly all of them!), but he encouraged me to try screenwriting myself. 

The article itself was a financial and professional success for me — it won a college journalism award from Rolling Stone magazine (that came with a $1000 check, a HUGE amount of money for me at the time), a Society of Professional Journalists award for college journalism, and I sold it to STARLOG magazine as a two-part interview. That story led to many other freelance assignments, for STARLOG and other publications, writing about the Bond films…including an all-expenses-paid trip to London (my first!)  to cover the opening of THE LIVING DAYLIGHTS and interview the film-makers.

I remember how proud I was…and Richard, too… that years later we were able to walk the picket line together during the 1988 WGA Strike as  fellow professional screenwriters. It was a big moment for me…and one I will never forget. I like to think, in some small way, it was a special moment for him, too.

I don’t think Richard Maibaum ever got the appreciation and recognition he deserved for writing a dozen 007 movies.  It wasn’t in his nature to seek the attention… but consider his achievement:  How many screenwriters today have been nearly as successful or stuck with a single franchise for as long as he did? He was a terrific writer and very nice man. I miss him.

Richard Wheeler is Blogging Again

Ed Gorman reports that he will now be sharing his terrific blog, Ed Gorman & Friends, with famed western author Richard Wheeler…and that Jon Breen, Jack O’Connell and Terrill Lee Lankford will continue to offer occasional posts as well. Wheeler’s first post is an interesting story about an established novelist’s foray into self-publishing in the days before print-on-demand made it easy.

In the 1970s my friend Stanley Gordon West wrote a splendid novel called Amos.
It was about a man in a nursing home who fought its corrupt and sinister
administrator. It was successfully published by Houghton Mifflin and became an
Emmy-nominated TV drama starring Kirk Douglas. (It was the reason Kirk Douglas
became an advocate of reforming old-people’s homes.)

Then a funny thing
happened, one of those maddening things about the houses in New York. West was
unable to place another novel with an established publisher. For years he
patiently wrote novels, had various agents submit them, and was steadily turned
down. A few years ago he took another route. He organized his own company,
Lexington Marshall, and published one of those novels that had been rebuffed in
New York. ..

You’ll have to visit the blog to find out what happened next.

Self-Promotion vs Self-Destruction

I received this spam email today from Richard Brawer. The subject heading was:  "New Book from MWA Member."


I’d like to introduce you to David Nance in his latest case,
"MURDER ON THE LINKS", a mystery set at the Jersey shore, in Monmouth

Book Jacket:

The body of a prostitute is found tossed into
the woods bordering the fifth hole of a posh golf club.  The same day a penny
stock promoter and the daughter of a New York mobster are found murdered in a
mansion in the wealthy community of Elberon, New Jersey.
Peer into mob
infested stock brokers scamming worthless paper to naïve investors, and into the
deviant world of the rich with their kinky sexual appetites as David Nance roots
out the murderer from among the members of Spring Brook Golf and Country

Read excerpts of Murder On The Links and all the books in the
David Nance Mysteries Series at:  www.rbrawerbooks.com

ON THE LINKS is only offered through the mail from HFFO, Inc.  Please print out
this form:

I think this email is a perfect example of how NOT to promote your book.  Beyond being impersonal, there is no hook, no angle, no grabber. Nothing that would persuade you to do anything except hit the delete key. 

If you are going to send out a spam email, the least you should do is make every possible effort to make your solicitation an attention-grabber, something that hypes your book and makes people want to read it (especially if your book, like this one, is self-published and only available through mail-order).

Let’s start with the subject heading: "New Book from MWA Member." That’s supposed to mean something? That’s supposed to intrigue me? New books come out from MWA members every day. Your subject heading is your headline, your banner, your movie marquee… it should entice the reader to open the mail, not delete it. (I only opened this one because I had a feeling it would make a good blog post).

But he compounds the error by making the first line of his email an utter snooze: "I’d like to introduce you to David Nance in his latest case, "MURDER ON THE LINKS", a mystery set at the Jersey shore, in Monmouth County."

Why would anyone bother to read further? I’ve read  time-share sales invitations that are more exciting.  Sadly, the rest of the email is just as perfunctory and dull.

Where’s the salesmanship? Where’s the enthusiasm? Where’s any reason whatsoever to read the email…much less the book?  Whether the author realizes it or not, the email reflects on him and his book. If the email is flat, dull, pointless and lazy, it implies the book probably is, too.

Rather than promoting his book, I think Richard Brawer has done the opposite…he’s driven people away.