Why Self-Published Books Fail

If you bring up the harsh realities about self-publishing and print-on-demand vanity presses, you’re inevitably going to get trashed by legions of aspiring writers who think that writing a check to Authorhouse makes them a published author.  Which is why I thought it was pretty gutsy of bestselling author Tess Gerritsen to offer her opinion on why vanity press books inevitably fail. She lays the blame primarily on lack of distribution to brick-and-mortar stores and the no-returns policy that most of these so-called publishers have. She says it doesn’t necessarily have to do with the quality of the books.

I agree with her — except on the quality issue.  I think she’s being nice.  From my conversations with booksellers, their decision not to stock self-published titles has just as much to do with the quality of the books (or lack thereof).  I’m talking both about the way they are written and the way they are printed and bound. The cold, hard, unpleasant truth is that there’s a good reason that most of these authors go to vanity presses…because their manuscripts are unsaleable, unreadable crap that no agent will represent and that no editor would ever publish. Vanity press titles usually look terrible, too, inside and out. On top of that, Tess points out that booksellers find self-published authors difficult to deal with.

I was reminded of this at a booksigning at a Barnes and Noble in New
Hampshire.  After the signing, the events coordinator thanked me for
being “so easy to work with — unlike some other authors.”

“But I would think that most authors are pretty nice,” I said.

“Most are,” she said.  “But the self-published ones are horrible.”
Then she described an incident that had happened earlier that week.  A
local self-published author had requested that the store arrange a
booksigning for him, and she had turned him down flat.  Enraged, he’d
thrown the book on the floor and asked: “When the hell am I ever going
to get a signing in this store?”

“When pigs fly,” she’d snapped at him.  The man couldn’t accept the
fact that their store almost never hosted signings by self-published
authors — even if the author was local.

I hear this a lot from my bookseller friends. The problem, they say, is that people buy the iUniverse hype — that writing a check makes them a published author — and are shocked when booksellers don’t agree.

Psychedelic Dorothy

Variety is full of interesting movies-to-TV series  and TV series -to-movies news today.

First off comes word that NBC is developing a TV series version of the movie THANK YOU FOR SMOKING, which was based on the Christopher Buckley novel of the same name about a lobbyist for the tobacco industry.

Peacock version of "Smoking" is being developed as a single-camera
laffer focusing on Nick Naylor, the superstar spin doctor who, as
played by Aaron Eckhart in the movie, did PR for big tobacco. TV take
will pick up where the feature left off, with Naylor running his own

The SciFi Channel is doing a new, six-hour mini-series version of THE WIZARD OF OZ, only this time as a dark, science fiction tale called TIN MAN from writers Steve Mitchell & Craig Van Sickle (THE PRETENDER), with whom I worked long ago on the Cannell series COBRA.

"Our goal is to take ‘Wizard of Oz’ to the next level and make it
relevant, modern and fresh to a new generation," said Dave Howe,
general manager of Sci Fi Channel. The producer is Robert Halmi’s RHI
Entertainment, which produced a previous mini for Sci Fi, the 2004
"Legend of Earthsea."

[…]Using adjectives such as psychedelic, twisted and bizarre to describe
"Tin Man," Sci Fi said the mini turns Dorothy into a young woman named
DG, who finds herself plunged into a netherworld called the Outer Zone.
Other celebrated characters are reimagined in "Tin Man": the cowardly
lion as a wolverine-like creature without backbone, the wicked witch as
a sorceress called Azkadellia and the wizard as a larger-than-life
figure called the Mystic Man.

And, finally, Steve Carell is on board as Maxwell Smart and Anne Hathaway has signed on as Agent 99 in Warner Bros’ big-screen version of GET SMART, which Peter Segal will direct in March.

Get a Hold of Yourself

The site Beautiful Agony is the YouTube of masturbation — where hundreds of men and women have submitted their own videos of their faces as they jerk off.  Despite the subject matter, there’s nothing explicit about the site. There’s no nudity whatsoever, just lots of moaning,  squirming, grimacing and shrieking. It’s porn for people with vivid imaginations. The reason I’m mentioning this is because my old post about the site is getting a bunch of hits today. Why the renewed interest in, um, self-gratification?

Mr. Monk and the Finished Manuscript

I’ve just emailed the finished manuscript for the fourth Monk novel, MR. MONK AND THE TWO ASSISTANTS, to my editor in New York. The book will be published in hardcover in July 2007. Here’s what the cover copy says (yes, the cover was completed before the book):

Only a special kind of person can keep up with Monk’s
brilliant, if idiosyncratic, methods. One such person is his former assistant,
Sharona.  And now that her ne’er-do-well husband has been arrested for
murder, she’s back in San Francisco, ready to reclaim her place in Monk’s
extremely well-ordered life.

His current assistant, Natalie, is not at all pleased
with this turn of events. As little as her job pays, she’s grown fond of
Monk and would rather not get fired.

While Monk tries to maintain a delicate balance between the
two women,  he discovers a few unsettling snags in the case against
Sharona’s husband.  With bestselling crime novelist Ian Ludlow nosing
around, and other cases taking his attention, Monk may be up against a killer
who not only understands him, but is one step ahead….

Tie-Ins Rule

Publisher’s Weekly reports that the #2 bestselling trade paperback in the nation is HALO: GHOSTS OF THE ONYX by Eric Nylund…outselling Amy Tan, Lisa See, Paula Coelho, Nicholas Sparks, Clive Cussler, Jodi Picoult, Jan Karon and Elizabeth Kostova to name a few. The book is in its second printing with 180,000 copies in print so far. Not bad for a tie-in novel based on a video game. While critics may sneer at tie-ins, they are wildly popular with readers and publishers are increasingly depending on them to prop up their bottom-lines.

Battlestar Craptica

It happens on even the best shows and, on Friday night, it happened to BATTLESTAR GALACTICA. They had a truly awful episode. Flat, obvious, speechy, boring and illogical. For those of you who saw it, I had one big question while I was watching the episode:  how did Buckshot or the Cylons know where the
Galactica was? And if they knew, why didn’t they send three or four Basestars there to blast it out of space? Wouldn’t that have been a better plan?

The only nice bit was the implication that Balter is having a menage-a-trois with two Cylon women. I wish we could have seen that episode instead.

UPDATE: I’m not alone. TV Critic Alan Sepinwall agrees with me.

Okay, I’m starting to get just a little bit
concerned about the post-exodus portion of the season. The virus
two-parter had some interesting moments and ideas but never quite
clicked, and "Hero" felt like a mess from start to finish.


Give Us A Kiss

Variety reports that Anjelica Huston will direct a movie adaptation of Daniel Woodrell’s GIVE US A KISS. Huston directed BASTARD OUT OF CAROLINA and the screenplay will be written by Angus MacLachlan, who scripted JUNEBUG, so this could turn out very well for us Woodrell fans.  I enjoyed RIDE WITH THE DEVIL, which was based on Woodrell’s WOE TO LIVE ON, and was done by the same production company as this project.

Casino Royale

I just got back from the first show (yes, I am a geek). I enjoyed the movie, I liked Daniel Craig a lot and there are some fantastic action sequences… but it isn’t a James Bond movie.  It’s not your father’s James Bond or even your grandfather’s James Bond.  Sure, there are Aston Martins and casinos and exotic locales  and villians with scars near their eyes. But something was missing. Maybe for the better. (Though it could also have missed about twenty minutes, the film goes on way too long).

The producers weren’t kidding when they said they were reinventing Bond (unlike, say, their attempt with LIVING DAYLIGHTS). This truly is a new interpretation, clearly one that’s heavily influenced by the Jason Bourne movies… with a touch of DIE HARD’s John McClaine thrown in for good measure. But if they are jettisoning so much from the old intepretation, the few
hangers-on (the women who swoon at his glance, the scar-faced villains
and Aston Martins) should be scrapped, too.

This Bond is basically Connery’s take on the character as a ruthless assassin, a working-class  "blunt instrument" in a tuxedo.  In fact, you could say that Daniel Craig is dramatizing the formative days of  Connery’s 007.  If so, then the next film will be a James Bond film. At least more so than this one was… or so they seem to be hinting at the end.