Handselling Joe

I was standing in line at my local Barnes & Noble when I witnessed an amazing thing: A woman was buying several mysteries, and as the salesguy was ringing her up, he asked: "Have you read J.A. Konrath?"

She said no, she’d never heard of him, and that’s when the salesguy pointed to a stack of Konrath books right there on the counter.

"This writer is amazing," The salesguy said. "I sent him an email and told him so…and look what he did." The sales guy picked up a book and pointed proudly to a blurb on the back.

"That’s me!" the guy said.

"Wow," the woman said. And bought the book.

The saleguy did it with the next customer, too. And sold another one of Joe’s books.

I was stunned. It was hand-selling in action…and positive proof that Joe’s unique approach to promoting himself and his books works. I told the guy that I knew Joe and that I’d let him know about the salesguy’s hard work.

"Great," the saleguy said. "Would you like to buy a copy?"

Now I’m wondering if Joe is also paying a commission…

A Lulu from Lulu

Publisher’s Weekly reports this week that Lulu.com is,and I quote, "Turning Bad Books Into Big Bucks."

"We publish a huge number of really bad books," admitted Bob Young, the Canadian entrepreneur who founded the digital publisher Lulu.com in 2002.

He doesn’t care whether the books he publishes are are good or bad. His job is to play on the ego and despiration of aspiring authors who are eager to see their unpublished (and usually unpublishable) manuscripts printed in book form so they can delude themselves into thinking they have been published. Lulu, like most vanity presses, makes the vast majority of their money on authors, not readers. 

Andrew Pate, Lulu’s vp of global fullfillment (now there’s an interestig professional title….I wonder if his wife agrees with it?), provides a statistic that puts Lulu’s business into sharp perspective: 80% of their orders are for ONE copy of a book. Can you guess who is buying that copy? The author, of course.

"Retail is still a low percentage of sales," said Pate. About one million people have signed on as members, with about 60% of those buying an item from the site and 40% using the site to create a product.

The company is heading towards revenue of $30 million this year

Back in the USA

I got back to the U.S. late Sunday after nearly four months in Europe and it feels good, though I was wide-awake at 4 a.m. this morning.

I’ve already starting wading through the unbelievable mountain of mail I’ve accumulated while I was away…it’s like the back room of the post office. It’s also like Christmas…the boxes I’ve opened so far include maybe 100 Emmy screeners, some copies of the Polish editions of my MONK books, and stuff I forgot that I ordered on Amazon, DeepDiscount DVD, and eBay.

But I am not stowing my suitcases just yet.  I’ll be returning to Germany in about four weeks to finish post-production on FAST TRACK and to be a keynote speaker at the Cologne Conference 2007, along with guys like Steve Bochco and Paul Haggis. And I may be hitting the road with Action Concept’s international sales team to help secure worldwide presales for FAST TRACK in advance of the broadcast of the pilot in Germany (which will happen some time before the end of the year). 


I am back in Cologne, Germany, and enjoying the view of the Dom cathedral out of my hotel window. 

We had a wonderful little European roadtrip through Belgium and Holland. The highlights for me were Brugge, Belgium and Ultrecht, Holland, two incredibly beautiful cities with lots of canals, bridges, wonderful architecture, and colorful gardens. I have to visit both places again some day.

I wasn’t wild about Brussels — the streets made me nd my GPS go nuts.  The Brussels city planners must have been drunk when they devised their traffic flow scheme. Antwerp left me cold, too.

Amsterdam was interesting. I might have liked it more if I hadn’t seen Brugge first. It was also way too chaotic for me…crossing the street meant dodging trams, buses, bikes, motorcycles, cars and crowds of people. I felt like I was in a meteor shower. We also inadvertently strayed into the red-light district…where my 12-year-old daughter saw lots of, um, interesting things.  It wasn’t the prostitutes sitting in the windows that was unsettling for her, it was the window displays in the sex shops (then again, there was nothing there she didn’t see later in the front window of the sex shop right next door the Intercontinental Hotel here in Cologne).  It wasn’t easy explaining to her why a woman would wear a giant, rubber penis strapped to her waist. My wife told her it was to keep her hands free while she made scrambled eggs, but my daughter didn’t buy it and demanded that I tell her "exactly" what it was for. So I told her the truth. I said it was a clothes hanger.

My family returns to L.A. tomorrow but I have to stick around for a few more days to do some post-production work on FAST TRACK before finally returning home. This is the longest I have ever been away from the U.S. and I am beginning to feel home sick, even with my family here with me. It will be nice to sleep in my own bed again and stop living out of a suitcase for a little while.

More later…

Mr. Monk and the Nice Review

MR. MONK AND THE TWO ASSISTANTS got a rave review from The Weekly Journal in Angleton, Texas. Here’s an excerpt:

It’s not often that a reader can be entirely satisfied when one of
their favorite TV characters is transported into the pages of a book.
But Lee Goldberg has an advantage over most: he has co-written several
episodes of the hit TV series “Monk” so he is dually qualified to be
writing this latest Monk mystery, “Mr. Monk and the Two Assistants.” […] Even if you aren’t familiar with the TV series “Monk”, this book is
too funny to not be read. Goldberg’s comic genius is channeled by Monk
throughout and the truth of the crime is always worth waiting for.
Reading this book is like reading a script of the weekly show, making
this read a delightful treat for any fan.

Thanks to "Tex" for the link!

Harry Potter and the Brazen Knock-offs

The New York Times reports that bootleg editions of the Harry Potter novels as well  as unauthorized continuations and sequels abound in  China, where counterfeiting and copyright infringement are major industries.

No one can say with any certainty what the full tally is, but there are easily a dozen unauthorized Harry Potter titles on the market here already, and that is counting only bound versions that are sold on street corners and can even be found in school libraries. Still more versions exist online.

These include "Harry Potter and the Half-Blooded Relative Prince," a creation whose name in Chinese closely resembles the title of the genuine sixth book by Rowling, as well as pure inventions that include "Harry Potter and the Hiking Dragon," "Harry Potter and the Chinese Empire," "Harry Potter and the Young Heroes," "Harry Potter and Leopard-Walk-Up-to-Dragon," and "Harry Potter and the Big Funnel."

Some borrow little more than the names of Rowling’s characters, lifting plots from other well-known authors, like J. R. R. Tolkien, or placing the famously British protagonist in plots lifted from well-known kung-fu epics and introducing new characters from Chinese literary classics like "Journey to the West."

The publishers of these rip-offs are unapologetic and surprisingly candid about what they are doing.

Wang Lili, editor of the China Braille Publishing House, which published "Harry Potter and the Chinese Porcelain Doll" in 2002, one of the Chinese knockoffs, said: "We published the book out of a very common incentive. Harry Potter was so popular that we wanted to enjoy the fruits of its widely accepted publicity in China."

I can only imagine how these knock-offs make Rowling feel…and how confused Chinese readers must be. How can they tell the real books from the fakes?