The Mail I Get

I received this email this morning. I have removed the author’s last name to spare him embarrassment. 


My name is Sean L.

I discovered you through J.A. Konrath’s blog.

Basically, I’m just getting into the world of self-publishing. I’ve recently published my first ebook through the Kindle and I’m looking for ways to get my name out there to the masses.

If you’re interested in helping me, I have a few ideas.

Thank you for your time!



Here is the reply that I just sent him:

I am so glad that you have some ideas to help me get your name out there to the masses, because I am stumped.

I set everything aside that I was doing this morning, including writing my book that’s due on Nov. 1 and my efforts to publicize Amazon/47North’s launch of the “Dead Man” series this week, to put some serious thought into how to make you a success, and my mind was just a blank. Maybe that’s because you’re a complete stranger to me, but that’s no excuse for my lack of inspiration.

This is so incredibly frustrating for me since I know how important reaching the masses is for you. But rest assured, I will be devoting the day, if not the entire month, perhaps even the remaining days of my life, to this important task, so please forward to me as soon as humanly possible your  ideas on how I can best promote you.


His response:

So… then?

He may be clueless, but at least he has a sense of humor.

The Mail I Get

I got this email from Mark Sanders, a MONK fan.

I enjoy watching the reruns of Monk and reading your book, Mr. Monk and The Dirty Cop.   Though the personality Natalie had in the book, seemed more like Sharona.   It was a good read, however, I don't think I would have paid the $22.00 cover price.    I got it on sell for $5.00.

I replied:

I'm so glad that you were able to find my book at a bargain price. Of course, that means we'll have to eat beans this week… 

Good Writing Advice

I found an excellent piece of writing advice in Randy Boyagoda's  New York Times review of Charlies Frazier's novel Nightwoods.

It’s too bad the writing gets in the way of the storytelling — or, to be truer to Frazier, it’s plangently unfortunate the writing style gets all up and troublesome-like in the whisper-leaved way of the true and fine telling of this terrible and valiant tale of priapic violence and distaff recompense. A little girl doesn’t hurt her nose, she “pierced the wing of her nostril.” Bottles don’t spill or break, they are left “shattering with spewing concussion” and falling “in festive breakage.” Furniture doesn’t just age with time and use, but instead is “buffed to a pale silver nub by many decades of buttocks.” Writing that invites this much attention, that so strives to concentrate our attention on its effects, has to achieve more than precious and overwrought evocation.

That's so true. If you're a writer, that's advice worth remembering.

Short but Sweet

0Guyot ecover 3SD_2A few years ago, I was one of the judges for Michael Connelly's MWA anthology The Blue Religion. We got hundreds of blind submissions from unidentified authors eager to fill the half-dozen openings for stories that weren't being commissioned by Mike. One of the very best stories, out of those hundreds of submissions, was What A Wonderful World, which we later learned was by veteran TV writer/producer Paul Guyot, who now toils on Leverage.

When critics reviewed The Blue Religion, they inevitably picked Paul's story as one of the stand-outs…and for good reason. It's a powerful piece of writing. Now you can grab it for just 99 cents on the Kindle.

But wait, there's more. You can also get three of  Paul'sother memorable, and highly acclaimed short stories in Three Stories Down, a steal at $2.99.

This will have to satisfy you until Paul finally writes that novel he's been promising for years… 

(The great covers for Paul's Kindle books are by the amazing Jeroen Ten Berge)

The Mail I Get – Review Bot Edition

I have been getting a lot of  book review requests that I assume are generated by some kind of "review bot" that has mined my name from Amazon. Here's an example:

Dear Lee Goldberg:

I got your name from the list of Amazon Top Reviewers. I’ve written a book, “When The Shadows Began To Dance.” I noticed from your Amazon profile that you frequently review spiritual fantasy books. If you think you might be interested in reading my book and posting an honest review of it on Amazon, I’ll gladly send a complimentary copy if you’ll reply with your postal mailing address. There is no obligation, of course.

Best Regards,

Yamaya Cruz

I have never reviewed a spiritual fantasy book in my life, Yamaya Cruz. So I don't know why you think I would like to read your book, Yamaya Cruz. I hope, Yamaya Cruz, that you didn't spend a lot of money on this ineffective mailing campaign.

I also don't review get-rich-quick books, though that didn't stop me from getting this:


Hello Lee:

I got your name from Amazon's list of Top Reviewers. I've written a book, "1-800-Awesome: Tactics for Making $10,000 an Hour" and I noticed from your Amazon profile that you frequently review a variety of book genres. I have read some of your reviews and found them to be thoughtful and well written and I value your opinion.

If you are interested in reviewing my book, please email back and I will send you a free PDF version.  I sincerely appreciate your help.

Thank you!

Chris Rugh

I'm sure Chris has never read one of my reviews. If he had, he'd know this is not a book that would ever appeal to me.  I would much rather read "1-800-Awesome:  Tactics For Not Getting Spammed for Reviews by Dimwit Authors."

Speaking of bots…

My brother Tod, who has been nominated for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize and has many published novels to his credit, recently got a solicitation from Kyle Oakeson, who is trying to raise money to fund a publishing  outfit called CentsPress. The email read, in part:


I found your information from your website/blog. I like your writing, and I thought I would inform you about an upcoming publishing company that I will be starting this year that can help you to make a little change for your work.

[…]CentsPress will be an online marketplace for hobby and novice writers, and it bridges the gap between unpublished or self-published authors and professional authors. Essentially, authors will be able to list an ebook on the website of either a short-story, poetry, or short drama–anything less than 32pgs. Once listed, the work becomes available for purchase by the world. But that's not the cool thing about what CentsPress does. CentsPress is designed around socializing with, tracking, and gathering important input from audiences. 

Right now I'm in the fundraising/financing business stage. I've started a crowd funding campaign online […]  I encourage you to go check it out. 

To which my brother replied:

Hi Kyle, 

I'm really glad you like my writing. What's your favorite part of my writing? Is it my hobby writing or my novice writing? It's important for me to know before I send you some money.
To which Kyle responded:
Sorry about that, maybe you know of some writers who would take an interest in this project. Obviously it isn't for everyone–anyone who has already been published, like yourself, probably wouldn't take an interest in it…
Then why the hell did you send him your lame solicitation, Kyle? If this is any indication of your attention to detail, and how you will be running your publishing company, you are doomed to failure (but, having seen his pitch, I think he's pretty much doomed anyway).
It never ceases to amaze me how lazy and inept aspiring authors and publishers can be when trying to whip up attention for themselves. There isn't anything quite as lazy and inept as sending a solicitation to someone you claim to be familiar with and yet clearly know nothing about…  



The Wit and Wisdom of Brien Jones

Yesterday, I wrote about the apparent demise of Jones Harvest Publishing, huckster Brien Jones' notoriously sleazy vanity press. Today I stumbled on his blog…and his posts are very telling. Here are a few samples…

Yesterday, he wrote a post that began:

Sorry I’ve been AWOL. I got caught up in legal proceedings. Not against ME (for once) but an actual-factual criminal. 

A few weeks earlier he wrote, in part:

THIS subject is closest to my heart it will probably not be terribly amusing—ESPECIALLY if you’re underpaid and stuck in a dead-end job with AN ASSHOLE for a BOSS.

Recently I was HORRIFIED TO LEARN that was precisely how my colleagues viewed ME.

THAT’S MY FAULT. As with EVERY rule, law, or responsibility IGNORANCE IS NO EXCUSE. In fact, NOT knowing makes the situation WORSE.

THAT’S NOT how things USED TO BE. If you spent a day working in our office last year you wouldn’t have thought BRIEN JONES was in charge of ANYTHING.

My wife and co-founder Brandy (who remains UNIVERSALLY REVERED) had clearly been at the helm.

Then I stepped in and made a couple VERY BAD DECISIONS. As a result of those decisions what had been a vibrant, happy and even slightly profitable little company augured into the ground…

We can only hope. Also, about a month ago, he wrote, in part:

About once a year I have the following conversation with our attorney.

“Hi counselor, one of our author friends is SUING US.” 

[…]So I hope you understand why I don’t go OUT OF MY WAY to sign CONTRACTS. In fact I try to avoid writing ANYTHING down.

[…]Ironically I learned this lesson rather late. During the five years I lived in California I kept a journal. When I moved back TO INDIANA I went straight to Lake of the Woods.

It was there Gramma saw me writing in my big black book. She asked me what it was. I told her it was my daily journal. That’s when that wonderful woman gave me PRICELESS ADVICE I still live by TODAY.

She said, “If you don’t HAVE a journal then THEY CAN’T SUBPOENA IT.”

And a month before that, he wrote about dealing with angry authors:

I don’t know about YOU but the whole time I worked for other people’s companies I had an overwhelming urge to tell rude customers to ‘GO JUMP IN A LAKE!’

Sometimes customers say really mean things to employees. And if that employee was me, I wanted to say mean things right back. But had I responded in any way, that customer might have asked to “speak with my supervisor.” You know what THAT means…

The risk was just too great. I had to remain polite. Otherwise I could have LOST MY JOB! But OH, how I wanted to say something like ‘GO FLY A KITE’ to those JERKS.

Now it’s MY COMPANY and that changes EVERYTHING. Only NOW do I understand the true gravity of the situation–that the wrong response could have dire consequences for everyone.

It really changes your perspective. In fact, no matter how impolite or unreasonable a customer is, I remember it’s critical to remain polite and professional. Right?

I had you going right? RIGHT? DIDN’T I? C’MON I HAD YOU GOING! ADMIT IT!


And at MY COMPANY if somebody asks to talk to one of MY PEOPLE’S ‘supervisor’ and they get ME? GOD HELP em’!

We got a call this week from an author I’ll call MARY JONES-DURBIN (because it’s her name) the author of “Words From My Soul.”

THIS IDIOT called to DEMAND the money we were making from selling HER BOOK. Never mind the fact that WE DIDN’T PUBLISH her book, nor EVER HAD ANY COPIES. I listened to one of my people spend 10 MINUTES trying to explain that. I did it in 10 WORDS!

“Are you listening moron? I DARE YOU TO SUE ME!”

That reminds me, of the CONSEQUENCES. Aside from breaking the phone by slamming it too hard, here is the COMPLETE LIST of the consequences in order of DIRENESS.

1. People say mean things about me on the internet.

THAT’S IT! But GOOGLE ME or my company you’ll discover I am a REALLY BAD PERSON.

2. I am not ONLY publishing books in a FIENDISH manner but also the MASTERMIND behind the MADOFF SCANDAL as well as THE BOSTON STRANGLER!

3. It goes without saying I was NOT born in HAWAII!

In fact, one woman created an entire website JUST FOR TRASHING ME! I know! AWESOME RIGHT? You can’t BUY that kind of PUBLICITY!

What a lovely guy. Let's hope Jones Harvest doesn't rise from the dead…and that Brien Jones finds a new way to earn a living that doesn't involve talking senior citizens into dipping into their retirement fund or social security income to "publish" their books.

Amazon Launches 47North Imprint with THE DEAD MAN

The Dead Man Face of EvilToday, Amazon announced the launch of their new sf/fantasy/horror imprint 47North…and one of the premiere titles is THE DEAD MAN series. Our kick-off is coming in just a couple of weeks…in a very big way…and we can't wait!

UPDATE: Publisher's Weekly also wrote about it. Here's part of what they said..

Amazon has added another genre to its publishing stable, with the launch of 47North, a science fiction/fantasy/horror imprint that will publish original and previously published works from new and established authors as well as out-of-print books. “We are especially happy to have a diverse list at launch, and look forward to publishing across a wide range of subgenres,” said Victoria Griffith, publisher of Amazon Publishing’s west coast group.
47North has signed 15 titles at launch with its first title coming from Lee Goldberg and William Rabkin, the authors of Successful Television Writing and who have written and/or produced scores of highly successful network television series, including Diagnosis Murder, Spenser: For Hire, and Baywatch. Their digital-first novel, Face of Evil, will be published this month; four more installments will also be published in October, with a new adventure following each month thereafter. A print compilation of the first three novels will publish in January 2012.