Nabisco Has a Monopoly On Oreos

Amazon recently stopped selling titles from Macmillan and its subsidiaries because the publisher refuses to abide by a $9.99 cap on prices for ebooks. Today, Amazon grand poobah Jeff Bezos released a statement  on the matter saying that he'd eventually have to capitulate because:

"…Macmillan has a monopoly over their own titles, and we will want to offer them to you even at prices we believe are needlessly high for e-books."

Say What!?

That's like chastizing Ford for having a "monopoly" on Mustangs, or Nabisco for having a "monopoly" on Oreos, or Amazon for having a "monopoly" on the Kindle. It's a bizarre and idiotic attempt to make Macmillan into a villain for charging what they want to for their product…the same way that Amazon charges what they want to for their Kindle.  

If Bezos truly feels Macmillan is wrong, and it's a matter of principle that's important to him, than he can sell Macmillan books for whatever he wants and take a loss…or stop selling any Macmillan books that he thinks are over-priced. But stop trying to cast Macmillan as the bad guy here. They aren't.

Author Solutions is No Solution

Author-solutions  Kevin Weiss, the CEO of the vanity press Author Solutions, posted a video on YouTube asking the Mystery Writers of America, Science Fiction Writers of America, and the Romance Writers of America to meet with him to discuss all the ways he's "helping writers."  This from a man who charges writers thousands of dollars to print their book…and then, in the unlikely event they ever sell copies, takes a huge chunk of their royalties, too. Yeah, Kev, that's a big help. Thanks so much.

Author Solutions, incidentally, is the company that Harlequin partnered with to create their own vanity press operation, initially called "Harlequin Horizons" and quickly redubbed DellArte after the announcement created an uproar. The partnership, and Harlequin's practice of referring rejected authors to DellArte (among other things), led to Harlequin being delisted as an Approved Publisher by just about every major professional writers organization out there. Naturally, this disturbs Kev, who is hoping to peddle similar partnerships to other publishers.

Author Shiloh Walker posted a lengthy, and very detailed, critique of his message on her blog. Here's an excerpt:

You talk about open discourse, and honesty and offering choices, yet do you
openly make aware to your `customers' that while they may spend thousands, you
were quoted as saying in the New York Times that the average number of titles
sold through one of your brands was 150? […] The writer shouldn't pay thousands to 'self-publish' and then have to share the profits.

[…] The organizations you're calling out to `discuss' things are the advocates for
writers. Period. A writer that goes in with you is likely to spend thousands
sell…how many books? Unless you can guarantee me four, five figures, (1000
books, 10,000) there's nothing about your company that has me interested in
telling either of my writer organizations, "Hey, maybe these people can offer
choices to those who are seriously pursuing a writing career."

There's no reason for any professional writers organization to meet with Weiss. Their beef is with Harlequin, a real publisher, not with his vanity press. Such a meeting would only give him, by association, the credibility he so desperately seeks. And let's face it, Authors Solutions is not a publisher, it's an outrageously over-priced printer. Nor is it a maverick offering a genuine alternative for authors. In fact, Author Solutions is no solution at all. Banner_Logo  

What he fails to mention in his videos (for good reason) is that an author can print their book in trade paperback or hardcover FOR FREE through companies like Lulu and Blurb (the companies take their share when a book is bought by a reader, but the author sets the purchase price)…or get their books on Amazon, at no charge with no middleman at all, using the Kindle platform. Writers can get everything Author Solutions offers elsewhere with no out-of-pocket expense. (In fact, my Mom just did it with her memoir Active Senior Living. She's made hundreds of dollars in just a few weeks…and isn't out a dime).

Those free alternatives have made companies like Author Solutions totally irrelevant, which is why he is so desperate to create partnerships with major publishers in the hopes of taking advantage of their slush pile. 

However, if the writers organizations succeed in convincing publishers that it's wrong to try to monetize the slush pile and to take advantage of the desperation and gullibility of aspiring authors, then Author Solutions is screwed. That's why Kev is so worried about the Harlequin situation. He already lost big time when Harlequin took their name off their new vanity press venture. He was counting on trading on the Harlequin name, hoping that naive writers would assume that they were being published by the "real" Harlequin. That was certainly the whole point of the venture. But  DellArte carries no such cache…in fact, without Harlequin steering the writers it rejects to the vanity press, it has no reason to exist, nothing to set it apart from all the other over-priced "self-publishing" companies out there.

So is it any wonder Kev is making YouTube appeals? 

UPDATE: Victoria Strauss at the Writer Beware Blog also offers an excellent critique of Weiss' video. She writes, in part:

Will a sit-down, if it happens, be productive? Good question. Part of the objection to the AS/Harlequin/Nelson "partnerships" was the misleading way in which they were presented–seriously overstating the benefits of self-publishing for many if not most authors, using the carrot of possible transition to commercial publishing as a hook to draw in customers–as well as, in Nelson's case, a promise of referral fees for agents who steered authors its way, plus a truly exorbitant cost. Given that high costs and less-than-transparent presentation are at the core of AS's services, I don't think that's likely to change. Also, can there ever be a meeting of the minds between professional commercial writers' groups and a company that wants to present fee-based publishing as an "indie revolution?" Part of the problem, I think, is that Weiss is speaking a different language.

This and That

Sorry I have been missing in action here on the blog lately. Since I got back from NY last week, I have been tied up with various personal matters and rewrites on a spec feature script which, I am pleased to say, now has an A-list movie star officially attached. The star and I are on exactly the same creative wavelength on this project and his notes have really improved the script. 

There were also some projects & gigs that fell through over the last few weeks, which was really disappointing since I put a lot of time and work into them, but it looks like the connections I made in the course of developing/pursuing them may pay off with other assignments in the coming weeks. We'll see. If I got paid for pitches and meetings, I'd a multi-millionaire several times over.

I've been reading lots and lots of plays lately in my new role as co-chair of the International Mystery Writers Festival in Owensboro, KY  and we're closing in on the handful that we'll be producing this summer. More on that later.

I'm also hard at work on my next MONK novel and preparing some pitches for upcoming meetings. I've been offered another series of tie-in novels, based on a hit TV show, and I am considering it, depending on my availability, the details of the deal, and how the deadlines will fit in with my MONK schedule. Speaking of MONK, it looks very likely that I'll be doing a few more books beyond the one remaining on my current contract.  More on that later, too. 

Unfortunately, I've just learned that I'm going to need surgery again on my right arm, which may slow me down some. I had a bad accident a few years back and broke both of my arms, the right one very severely. I've had multiple surgeries on my right arm that left me with about 50% of normal range of motion  and some numbness. Well, the numbness has increased, so they have to go back in and do some work to prevent further damage. I am not looking forward to that…but  I knew it was going to happen eventually, I just didn't think it would be so soon.

Well, that's it for today. Time to dive back into MONK…

Breasts Breasts and More Breasts

Hot, naked breasts, swollen and aching to be touched by your lips.

That's just one of the delights that the Assistance League of Ventura County is offering at their 15th Annual Authors Luncheon.

We're talking chicken breasts, of course, which will be among the luncheon items offered at the event, which is being held at the Marriott Residence Inn at Oxnard River Ridge on Mon., Feb. 8.

I'll be speaking along with authors Lisa See, Zippora Karz and Diane Worthington. Borders will be selling all of our books at the event. Registration starts at 9:15 a.m., with the program beginning at 10 a.m. Lunch will be served, and a no-host bar will be available. The cost is $50, of which $29 is tax-deductible. Reservations are due by Sat., Jan. 30.

Proceeds from the fundraiser will be used to fund scholarships for five Ventura County college students.

The Assistance League, one of the county’s oldest philanthropic organizations, has been serving the children of Ventura County for 56 years.

Call (805) 643-2458 for more information.

Paul Quarrington, RIP

Canadian author Paul Quarrington has died after a short battle with cancer. He was well-known up north but never got the acclaim he deserved down here. He wrote two of the best and and funniest non-fiction books about fishing ever (Fishing With My Old GuyFrom the Far Side of the River: Chest-Deep in Little Fish and Big Ideas )… along with a bunch of novels that have earned him well-deserved comparisons to John Irving and Robertson Davies. I was fortunate to work with Paul for a year on the series MISSING, where he was an odd fit and he knew it. His off-beat humor and literary sensibilities just didn't mesh with a typical Lifetime detective series, which was a shame because he was a hell of a nice guy and a pleasure to work with. He will be missed.  

Robert B. Parker, RIP

LeeParker  I've had a long, on-and-off love affair with Robert B. Parker's books, and although I have criticized his last few novels, I will deeply miss him, and not just as a reader of his work. He had an enormous impact on my career. In fact, I broke into the TV biz with three freelance episodes of SPENSER FOR HIRE.  

I was lucky enough to meet him on several occasions. The last time was way back in 2002 at the Edgars, when he was named Grandmaster and I was nominated for a NERO WOLFE episode. We had a very nice conversation about writing for TV and the PI genre.  

I understand that there are three or four more Parker novels in the pipeline, including a Jesse Stone, a Spenser, and a western. I'm sure I will read them the week they come out…just as I have with every book he's written since I was a kid.