Guilty Pleasure

1629Today at Costco I found a heck of a deal… a $16.00  DVD boxed set of three of Frank Sinatra’s  crime dramas: TONY ROME, LADY IN CEMENT and THE DETECTIVE.  As I’ve mentioned here before, these three films are among my guilty pleasures, especially the two TONY ROME movies. The TONY ROME movies are based on the novels by Marvin Albert, who wrote screenplays, original novels under a variety of pseudonyms (Nick Quarry, Tony Rome, Albert Conroy, Ian McCallister, Mike Barone), and movie tie-ins (including a novel based on Woody Allen’s screenplay WHAT’S NEW PUSSYCAT!)

Run out to Costco and get yourself this boxed set…you can’t beat the bang for the buck.

DVDs Bring in Billions of Dollars… and What do Writers Get? Bupkis.

Variety reported Friday that sales of DVD boxed sets  accounted for $2.8 billion in sales in 2004, up from $160 million in 2000, making TV shows "the fastest growing sector of the US vid biz."

The TV DVD sector account for 18% of  the US disc retail market last year…American shows dominate the DVD market not just in the US but in most Western European countries…

"In economic terms, this trend has been the equivalent for the Hollywood studi0s of striking oil in one’s own backyard, as they discovered lucrative new vehicles for exploiting brands they already own," according to the Screen Digest report.

What is the writer’s take of that gigantic windfall? About zero. Screenwriter John August crunches the numbers, using the DVD of his movie BIG FISH as an example.

the formulas used for home video residuals are based on videotapes, which are
relatively expensive to produce, and sell for a fairly low price. Technology
changes. DVDs are cheaper to produce, and sell for a higher price. But the
formula for paying residuals is still locked into the old paradigm. Studios make
a hell of lot more on each DVD they sell, but the writer (and actor, and
director) still get the same amount.

residualsA recent campaign
by the WGA East
does a graphical breakdown of the numbers, but let’s take
Big Fish as an example. According to Video Business, its
MSRP is $28.95, but most people will pay less than that. Let’s say $20, which is
what you’d pay on Amazon. And Amazon is still pulling a 25% markup at that
price; it buys the DVD wholesale at $16.

How much does it cost to manufacture, package, distribute and market each
DVD? On average, $5.45. So the studio is making a profit of $10.55 on each DVD
sold. For Big Fish, that means Columbia/TriStar has made $21.1 million
profit in just one week. Of that, the writer gets the “point-one.”

The studios refuse to give writers, actors, or directors a bigger piece of DVD revenue, not even as little as 1%,  arguing they need  it all to 0ff-set losses in other areas. The income from TV shows on DVD, as well as movies on DVD, more than make up for any losses incurred by short-lived shows in primetime or films that tank at the box-office (In fact, the take from movies on DVD are often much, much larger than the box-office revenues)

For TV writers, DVDs are the future of reruns,  not syndication or foreign sales.
Experts quoted in the article predicted that US sales of TV shows on
DVD will reach $4.4 billion  by 2009.  Currently,  TV shows on DVD account for 30% of all DVD purchases in Western Europe, adding up to $2.1 billion in sales.

We caved on the DVD issue in this negotiation because the studios said there was no way they’d increase our take. They declared it a non-negotiable point. So we, and all the other guilds, settled for small bumps in other areas (and we wrangled a $37 million infusion of cash into our health fund, still a pittance compared to the revenue we won’t see from DVDs).

I think it’s imperative, for the future f the WGA and the financial security of writers, that we make getting a bigger share of DVD revenue a line-in-the-sand in the next contract negotiation…that we align ourselves with our sisters unions on this issue and  make it clear to the studios that we won’t accept no for an answer.

Book PR 101

Author Monica Jackson found these two interesting Book Standard articles about book publicists and their advice to authors. I thought this bit was particularly helpful:

Unless you’re friends with (and I mean have had the person into your home
numerous times), do NOT contact the media yourself. Reviewers and feature
writers do not like to be called directly by an author. Do NOT pay people to go
into bookstores and turn your books face out on the shelves, and/or pay people
to hang outside the bookstore and harass people going in with news about the
book. (Yes, this happens). DON’T ask your publicist to get you on

Oh hell. There goes my entire media campaign for my next book…now what do I do? And how do I break it to my grandmother that I’m not going to pay her to go into Sav-on and turn my books face out any more?

Dick Van Dyke’s Address

I got this email today:

I’m a HUGE fan of Dick VanDyke’s and would like his home address so that I can send him a letter and maybe a Christmas card each year. I also would like to send him a picture of my son, who is also named Dick and ask him some questions about what it was like doing The Dick Van Dyke Show and Diagnosis Murder. If you could give me his address itwould be great and it could be just betwen us.

And I got this email today, too:

I know you have probably gotten tons of requests about this, but….I have
been searching and searching the internet looking for Dick Van Dyke’s address
and have not been successful. I was wondering if you had it orknew where I could
get it? I would really appreciate any help! Thanks!

You’re right, I do get asked this a lot, twice in one day, in fact. But I don’t mind. Here’s my answer to you both. Not only do I have Dick’s home address and phone number, but I also have his cell phone number. I can also tell you how to reach his son, his grandson, his daughter, and his son-in-law. I think I may even have his wife’s cell phone number as well. I will be glad to pass them along to you, along with his driver’s license and social security numbers. If there is any other way I can help you invade the privacy of this legendary entertainer, please don’t hesitate to ask. Oh, I also have the home addresses and phone numbers of the regular cast
and all the guest stars who appeared on DIAGNOSIS MURDER, as well as information on how to reach the stars of  all the other
shows I have done. If you would like those, too, just let me know and I’ll get them to you right away. I’m sure the actors wouldn’t mind…

…or you could write to Dick in care of the William Morris Agency, which represents him.

“Romeo and Juliet” is NOT a Romance… the confusion is finally over!

The Romance Writers of America are so proud of their bold new initiative to define what qualifies as a romance novel that they’ve issued a press release about it straight from Romance HQ in Houston, Texas. It reads, in part:

Romance Writers of America has outlined two elements — a central love story and an emotionally satisfying ending — as the crux of their association’s official definition of a romance novel.

no doubt about it, when you call a book a ‘romance’ it gets attention,"
says RWA President Tara Taylor Quinn. "But there are so many books
promoted as ‘romances’ or ‘love stories,’ readers, writers and
reporters who are considering our industry statistics are confused as
to what we mean. We see new titles released every month — from
non-fiction how-to manuals to women’s fiction — that are being touted
as ‘a new romance’ or a ‘timeless love story.’ Only a percentage are
actually romances. Many ‘relationship’ novels come close to being a
romance in our sense of the word, but in the end they don’t meet the
expectations our readers hold about the genre of romance. They are not
the same, and it’s confusing.

"In short, we found ourselves needing to officially define what a romance novel really is," Quinn says.

to RWA’s official definition, a romance is a book wherein the love
story is the main focus of the novel, and the end of the book is
emotionally satisfying.

I’m so glad they did this. I don’t know about you, but I’ve seen many people shuffling through the aisles at B&N,  mumbling to themselves in a confused stupor… "is this a romance or chick-lit or fiction or what? Somebody PLEEESE help me!"  Thank God the RWA has finally ended the mass confusion and, dare I say, hysteria. I know I’m seeing things a whole lot clearer now.  The press release goes on to say:

This part of the definition excludes the type of novels that are most often incorrectly
considered to be romances: love stories with unhappy endings.
Bittersweet endings, like the conclusion to the love story in the film Titanic, for example, or the end of the novel Bridges of Madison County, prevent otherwise love-story focused books from being true romances.

established a simple and straight forward acid test for classifying a
book as a popular romance novel. Our
central-love-story/emotionally-satisfying-ending criteria will allow
writers, readers, and other interested parties to fully understand what
RWA means when it discusses ‘the romance novel,’ and all the statistics
and demographics that refer to it," Quinn says.

Good thing the RWA did this, because we wouldn’t want someone mistaking TITANIC or BRIDGES OF MADISON COUNTY for romances. That’s simply unthinkable and confusing.

Now…is a book still a romance if it includes the words cock,
cocksucker, cunt, fuck, motherfucker, shit,
and tit?
And what about all those pesky communists in the organization?

(PS – For more comments on this RWA press release, check out Paperback Writer and the comments to her post, particularly the one from writer Douglas Clegg)

The RWA Demolition Derby

It’s fun, in a way, to watch the ongoing demolition derby over at the Romance Writers of America. First their Board tries to institute "graphical standards" and  for book covers and member websites (banning certain images and words). That brilliant move went down in flames. Having not learned a thing from that embarrassing debacle, now they want to strictly define "romance" so they can presumably squeeze out writers and content the antiquated Board members (have you seen their hair?) find offensive, or don’t read, or  simply don’t like.

Romance writer Alison Kent reports that the RWA sent out a survey to its members asking them to choose from their two arbitrary definitions of romance (which, like their "graphical standards," they probably devised without any input from their membership):

“Romantic Fiction” or “Romance” means a story in which a predominant
part of the story line focuses on the romantic relationship that
develops between CHOICE #1 one man and one woman / CHOICE #2 two people
on more than a physical level. Although other elements and subplots may
also be components of the story line, by the book’s conclusion the
romantic relationship has been resolved in an emotionally satisfying

Hard to believe this is an organization of WRITERS isn’t it? I’ve never seen a writing organization so eager to alienate its membership and destroy its credibility in the professional writing community at large. Why would any romance writer want to be associated with the RWA? You’re better off joining the John Birch Society instead.

What the Heck Is She Talking About??

I got this email today…

Are you the director of one on one? If so reply to XYZ  my email adress because I have good ideas, and if I gave you these ideas I would want be on the show. If so I would need you to send me 4 tickets to one on one, I think in California. And I would be on the new season in summer. If you write back you can send the questions and I will fill them and I’m asking you to take me very seriously. I really want this and need this. I know I could make the show even better than it is. And if your not the director and you know him or her  please send this to him or her. I know your a very inportant man so please take the time to read this and help me out.

I have no idea who this woman is confusing me with or what the show is
that she is talking about. But I thought the note would amuse you…


Sandra Brown says No to Fanfic

I posted this back in January, but since Holly Lisle has been taking some flack from fanficcers for her stance against fanfiction, it’s worth posting again…

Bestselling author Sandra Brown  doesn’t like fanfic based on her work and wants her fans to help her find it.  She posts this note on her site.

A Word About "Fan Fiction"

We post excerpts from some of Sandra’s more recent books so that you, the
reader, can make more informed purchasing decisions.  We now ask that you
  help us in return.  Fan Fiction is illegal.  Taking characters from an
  author’s work and adapting stories
around them constitutes copyright infringement. 

If you discover "Fan Fiction" of Mrs. Brown’s work, please don’t
hesitate to email us.

“I’m currently watching the pilot of KOJAK, waiting for my bowels to erupt into a Jackson Pollock painting.”

What is TV Writer Paul Guyot talking about? Check out his blog and see.

It’s nice to know I’m not the only TV Writer who is a total TV Geek.

My recent TV Series boxed set purchases include:  MAGNUM PI,  GREATEST AMERICAN HERO, CRIME STORY, DUSTY’S TRAIL (I admit it, I couldn’t help myself), RESCUE ME,  BOB NEWHART SHOW, KAVANAGH QC (British series), and THE HUSTLE (British series).   

I also have all the box sets Paul just bought with the exception of QUINCY, which I think he is going to be heart-broken to discover actually sucks. KOJAK, however, is every bit as good as he remembers. I even recommend the TV movies they made a few years after the show was cancelled, particularly KOJAK: THE BELARUS FILE.

They’re At It Again…

You’d think the people at  ("where literature meets Hollywood")  would have taken me off their mailing list after what I wrote about them here before. But no…today I got another come-on from them. publishes a semi-annual catalog which is
distributed to
over 2500 film producers, directors, studios, and film
agents nationwide…including those who produce educational and
films. The Spring 2005 catalog was a huge success, and it is available online now at
our website for current clients and film makers. The film industry is raving
over it!

Their website is  still wallpapered with bookcovers of bestsellers that were made into movies…implying that had something to do with them. They didn’t.  They still fail to list a single book sold to a major studio or production company  as a result of their catalog or their "numerous contacts in the United States film industry." Nor do they list a single author among their endorsers that you’ve ever heard of. The rave reviews touting their services are from the same handful of primarily self-published and PublishAmeica authors  as before (though they’ve stopped using the blurb from Sibyl Avery Jackson, author of "Degree of Caution,"
winner of the  "Sistah Circle Book Club’s 2002 Self-Published African African American Author Award for Best Mystery.")

The only new twist to their pitch is they now donate to charity a portion of the money they receive from authors who fork over $195 to be mentioned in their catalog.  It brings a tear to my eye.

My advice is not to waste your money on a listing in a piece of junkmail. Unagented authors interested in selling their books to Hollywood would be better off spending their money on sending their books, along with a punchy cover letter, directly to studio & production company development executives. 

You can donate to charity yourself…you don’t need "" to do it for you.