TV and Movie Books

I’ve been remiss in talking about some of the TV and movie reference books I’ve read over the last year…so here are a few short reviews… 

 
I have to admit some biases from the get-go — I’ve known the author for years and we had the same mentor in TV business, Remington Steele showrunner Michael Gleason. So it’s probably no surprise that I loved this book..but I am sure I would have regardless of my biases. It’s a long overdue, nuts-and-bolts guide to TV showrunning that should be required reading before any writer-producer is put in charge of a TV series. I’ll go further than that. Every TV writer who joins the WGA should get a copy of this book with their membership card so they understand exactly what they are getting into.  And the book should also be required reading for network and studio executives, many of whom, it would surprise you to learn, don’t actually realize what goes into producing a TV series (ignorance often reflected in their notes). Melvoin’s book reflects the wisdom he’s gained from his years of in-the-trenches experience running shows, but it also benefits from his active role as a teacher / mentor / advisor in the WGA’s showrunner training program, which helped many of today’s top TV showrunners hone skills they might not have picked up on the job (especially in this era of eight-episode limited series and tiny, pre-production writer’s rooms). Melvoin delves into just about every aspect of showrunning, from tiny details to big-picture concepts, and it’s great stuff. But even if you’re never going to run a show, if you’re just fascinated by TV, this is a remarkable inside look at how series are made. Speaking personally, seeing the photos of Jeff’s early scripts, with Michael Gleason’s handwritten notes on the side, brought tears to my eyes….and many good memories. 
 
 
 
The prolific Irvin continues to mine the corners of TV ephemera for his exhaustively detailed, wonderful unique TV reference books which, as I’ve said again and again, seem to be written just for me. I love his books and wish they’d existed before I wrote my book Unsold Television Pilots back in the 80s. It would have made my research so much easier, and my listings much more informative… particularly in the case of this book. If you’ve always wanted to know more about pioneering TV producers Jack Chertok, Roland Reed, or Edward Lewis, the King of the Backdoor Pilot, this is the book for you. Speaking of back-door pilots, Irvin’s chapter on Movie Star TV Production Companies sounds like a pilot proposal for a series of books aimed, with laser-focus, on my wallet. This is a must-have for any TV reference collection….and for true historians of TV history.
 
 
This huge book is the definition of a niche title, covering every theatrical and TV movie made with a flake of snow and a set of skis in the story (It’s also the definition of the perfect bathroom-read…especially for AirBnB snow cabin vacation rentals).  But it’s much more than a collection of detailed and snarky movie reviews — the listings often include interesting production information and interviews. Even if you aren’t interested in the genre (is it one?), movie-lovers and movie-historians will find the book a fascinating and engaging reference work. I sure did. (As an aside — I can’t believe the notoriously litigious Bond producers haven’t sued McFarland & Co. for using the full poster of ON HER MAJESTY’S SECRET SERVICE as their cover!).
 
 
This wonderful book by IAMTW Grandmaster Alan Dean Foster is, IMHO, mistitled. It isn’t really about the film trade, it’s about the movie and TV tie-in business and the rocky, land-mine filled world of novelizations. And nobody knows more about
tie-ins and novelizations, perhaps, than Alan Dean Foster. His anecdotes about novelizing movies and TV shows can be enjoyed on so many levels –. as a primer on the business and creative life of a working writer, as a history of tie-in,as an inside look at movie marketing, as history of film-making over several turbulent decades, and as a collection of amusing anecdotes/vignettes about Hollywood and writing. And on every level, it’s a resounding success.   
 
 
This is another one of Irvin’s niche TV reference books, this one focusing mostly on short-lived series that were abruptly cancelled, leaving a few unaired, and probably never-to-be-seen, episodes on the shelf. He could write fifty books like this, so his picks of which shows and pilots and never-aired-series to include seems very arbitrary. It’s not clear what made these particular bombs any more worthy of being remembered than the 100s of others out there. The detailed descriptions of unaired episodes of short-lived become tedious and irrelevant, unless you happen to be one of the very few fans of one of these forgotten shows. I wish, instead, that less information was given on the unaired episodes and more space given to interviews with the writers & producers to give us more details on the creation and failure of these shows…and why they deserve not to be forgotten. That said, I don’t really get the point of this book. While I loved it, because I eat this kind of stuff up, I’m an outlier. I have to admit, as Irvin’s biggest fan, that this is his first misfire, a book that doesn’t strike me as necessary, or particularly useful, TV reference or history book.
 
 
I thoroughly enjoyed this book, which charts the history of the movie from the writing of the initial novel and on through the sequel films that followed decades later. The movie is chock-full of great personal and production details about the writers, producer, studio executives, actors, and especially star Lee Marvin, who Epstein previously wrote about in biographical book Lee Marvin: Point Blank. Epstein builds his book on his own interviews, but also upon previously published material gleaned from newspapers, actor biographies, and the like. The only drawback to the book are the lengthy, overly-detailed synopses of the novel and each draft of the script, Frankly, I skimmed most of the synopses, though I might go back to re-read those portions of the book if I ever re-watch the movie. I heartily recommend this book to anyone who is interested in film-making, regardless of whether you’ve seen the movie or not.

Dame Edna and Me

I’m sad to hear that Barry Humphries has passed away. One of the absolute highlights of my career was writing a DAME EDNA movie for him. It was initially developed for the A&E network and was meant to be the first in a series. What the network wanted was a mystery solved by Dame Edna. I got the gig because Barry had read my book Watch Me Die (then called The Man with the Iron-On Badge) and had really liked it. The opportunity was too good to pass up …and, incidentally, would also be the biggest payday I’d ever had as a screenwriter (and my first solo script without my then-writing partner Bill Rabkin).

But could I actually do it?

I watched just about everything Barry had ever done as Dame Edna, or at least everything I could get my hands on, and read all of his books, as well as John Lahr’s book about him. I was confident in my ability to write a mystery, and to be funny, but not anywhere near as funny as Dame Edna. The project scared me. How could I even try to be as funny as him? To capture his unique voice? It was insane. Moreover, so much of Dame Edna was also rooted in Australian culture, which I knew nothing about. 

So when I met with Barry, in his suite at a Beverly Hills hotel, the first thing I told him was that I will never be as funny as you. If I’m lucky, I’ll get you a script that 40% of the way there joke-wise, and you’ll have to do a major pass to make it your own…to make it Dame Edna. But he shrugged that off. He had great faith in me — a lot more than I had in myself. 

I worked on the outline with him and his good friend, producer Gary Hoffman, for the next several weeks. It was so much fun. I don’t think I’ve ever laughed so much developing a story. Then it came time to pitch the project to the head of A&E in person. The three of us went in.  I was counting on Barry to do the pitch with me. We’d never actually talked about that — I’d assumed it was a given. Why else would Barry be coming? We needed his star power and his wit.

I started things off. When we got to the first scene where Dame Edna appears, I turned to him to take over… and he just looked at me with a smile. I didn’t know it then, but he wouldn’t do Dame Edna unless he was in the make-up and outfit. He could only talk about her in third-person…and he wouldn’t even do that.

I was on my own.

I ended up having to imitate Dame Edna in front of the man who’d created the legendary character. I was terrified and furious at the same time. It was like trying to imitate Robin Williams or Jonathan Winters in front of them. But I had no choice. I wanted to sell the project. So I pretended he wasn’t there and gave it my all. Everybody was laughing. I wasn’t sure if it was at me or with me.

It didn’t matter. The president of A&E loved the pitch and I got the greenlight to write the script. I left that meeting soaked in sweat, embarrssed and angry despite our success. But Barry couldn’t have been happier or more supportive. He told me I did great. 

Barry was  very easy to work with, which I honestly didn’t expect. Whenever I approached him with questions or ideas, he was always gregarious, friendly, open-minded. There were a couple of times that I called him when he happened to be preparing to go on stage as Dame Edna, or had just come off-stage. Whenever that happened,  he talked to me in character, even if he was alone in his dressing room. That’s because once the wig, glasses, and outfit were on, he refused to break character (that was also why, he once told me, doing his guest role on ALLY McBEAL was incredibly exhausting for him — he was Dame Edna playing a role. So even when he was “off-camera” he was still “on-camera.” He never was able to relax. He couldn’t be himself until he got back to his hotel room and out of the make-up). Those calls with Dame Edna were hilarious, and a bit unsettling, but also very helpful. I could ask the character herself the questions I had about her. It also felt like I was getting a private Dame Edna performance… and, in essence, I was. My only regret is that I never recorded one of those calls.

Barry loved my script — and, to my shock and delight, he didn’t change a single word. So Gary turned it in to the network and we waited. The network president loved it, too. I was so excited. We all were. But then the president was unexpectedly pushed out and the new regime rethought their programming strategy…and a series of DAME EDNA movies didn’t fit in. They dropped the movie.

But Gary refused to let the project die. He was able to get the project going as a feature in the UK thanks to, if memory serves, a big tax rebate. But then, shortly before pre-production was about to begin, the rebate was pulled, the funding gap couldn’t be filled, and the project was over. I was heart-broken. There were times over the next few years when it seemed like it might come back, but it didn’t happen. The problem was that Dame Edna was big in Australia and the UK, but not big enough elsewhere to get the necessary money or presales internationally.

That was it. We all moved on.

Some years later, after my career as a novelist really took off, Gary self-published my script as an ebook on Amazon, perhaps to generate new interest in the movie. I honestly wasn’t too happy that he did that, especially because the cover was amateurish and the interior formatting was wonky, but I didn’t own the script or the character, so it was out of my hands. I never included the ebook in my bibliography nor shared its existence with anyone. The truth is, I haven’t looked at the script in at least 12 years…probably longer. But you can. The ebook version of the script is still available. I don’t know if the script holds up after all this time. You’ll have to tell me. 

I lost touch with Barry after the project fizzled, but I’ve always cherished the memory of working with him, and not just for the laughter or the paycheck. The experience undoubtedly made me a better writer. Certainly a funnier one, and I’m sure whatever lessons I learned from him, a true master of comedy and character, are still shaping my work today. 

Writing the Pilot: The Streaming Series

Writing the Pilot: The Streaming Series by William Rabkin

This is a terrific book, but I am biased. Bill is my oldest friend, and was my TV writing and producing partner for over twenty years.

The book’s introduction alone, both a revealing history lesson and a perceptive overview on the state of the television industry, is worth the purchase price. The explosion of streaming services has changed the business of television and, with it, the way series are conceptualized and written. It’s not enough to have a good idea, you must understand the underlying forces, both creative and financial, reshaping TV. Luckily, there’s William Rabkin to make sense of it all…and guide you through it. This is essential reading for anyone hoping to break into streaming television…or any television.

An acclaimed screenwriter, showrunner, development executive, international TV consultant, and beloved professor, absolutely nobody is better suited than Bill to guide you through the creative landscape of streaming television today, envision where it’s going tomorrow, and teach you how to shape your series ideas to succeed in this ever-changing business and dramatic medium.

With this book, Bill will be your own personal Yoda, teaching you how to master the Force of streaming television success. This book is an essential manual for creating streaming television series that can succeed, not only in the business as it exists today, but what it’s likely to become tomorrow.

Raquel Welch

I was sad to hear about Raquel Welch’s passing today. I had one encounter with her, back in the early 1980s, when I was a reporter for the UCLA Daily Bruin. She came to campus to speak, and I interviewed her beforehand, then walked with her and her husband to the event. Afterwards, I spoke with her again and walked with them back to their car. She was very friendly and it was a pleasant interview.

Much to my surprise, I got a call from her a day or so later… apparently, the National Enquirer, or some other scandal rag, was reporting that a fan came up to her at UCLA on her way back to her car and that her husband (I think his name was Andre, or something similar) physically assaulted him.

She asked if I’d be willing to make a statement that it wasn’t true. I said, of course, that I would be glad to. I don’t recall who I talked with after that… whether it was her lawyer, or somebody else, and if the story was either quashed or corrected instead after it ran… but I do remember that she sent me a nice note afterwards thanking me for my help.

It was an experience that left me feeling fond of Welch…and gave me an early lesson in the misery that fame can bring.

Malibu Burning is Now Available for Pre-Order

Malibu Burning

My new thriller Malibu Burning, is now available for pre-order and will be out in September. It’s a standalone novel, but it’s set in the same “universe” as my Eve Ronin series. In fact, it takes place at the same time as Lost Hills. Here’s the story:

Hell comes to Southern California every October. It rides in on searing Santa Ana winds that blast at near hurricane force, igniting voracious wildfires. Master thief Danny Cole longs for the flames. A tsunami of fire is exactly what he needs to pull off a daring crime and avenge a fallen friend.

As the most devastating firestorms in Los Angeles’ history scorch the hills of Malibu, relentless arson investigator Walter Sharpe and his wild card of a new partner, Andrew Walker, a former US marshal, suspect that someone set the massive blazes intentionally, a terrifying means to an unknown end.

While the flames rage out of control, Danny pursues his brilliant scheme, unaware that Sharpe and Walker are closing in. But when they all collide in a canyon of fire, everything changes, pitting them against an unexpected enemy within an inescapable inferno.

I’m fortunate that the book has earned some early praise from some fantastic authors.

Malibu Burning is a blistering thrill ride full of Southern California thieves, cops, and firefighters, all facing high stakes and imminent danger. Superbly researched and told, fast-paced, and downright fun, this is Lee Goldberg at his best!” —Mark Greaney, #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Gray Man series

“By turns tense and rambunctious, wildly entertaining, and breakneck-paced, Lee Goldberg’s splendid Malibu Burning is pure storytelling pleasure from beginning to end.” —Megan Abbott, Edgar Award–, Anthony Award–, Thriller Award–, and Los Angeles Times Book Prize–winning author of The Turnout

Malibu Burning is classic Lee Goldberg at the top of his game: a fast-paced, funny, and deeply satisfying page-turner.” —Jess Lourey, Amazon Charts bestselling author of The Quarry Girls

“An inventive, twisty, and funny caper from one of crime writing’s true pros. Elmore Leonard and Donald Westlake would’ve loved this wild heist.” —Ace AtkinsNew York Times bestselling author of Robert B. Parker’s Bye Bye Baby and The Heathens

“This is a book I couldn’t put down. Lee Goldberg is a master when it comes to building tension and writing heart-pounding action scenes. Malibu Burning is a roundhouse kick of a thriller, a true nail-biting race against time.” —Simon Gervais, former RCMP counterterrorism officer and author of The Last Protector and Robert Ludlum’s The Blackbriar Genesis

If Malibu Burning does well, it could be the start of a new series. This novel will be followed in November by Calico, another standalone thriller, and then the fifth Eve Ronin novel in January 2024.
 

The Joy of Sets

I recently released a slim little book called THE JOY OF SETS: Interviews on the Sets of 1980s Genre Movies

Go back in time with me to the 1980s, when I was a young journalist and aspiring author, and visit the sets of movies like Back to the Future, A Nightmare on Elm Street, and A View To a Kill, where I interviewed Michael J. Fox, William Friedkin, Wes Craven, Chevy Chase, Robert Zemeckis, Roger Moore, and many others actors, directors, producers and screenwriters.

I put myself through college by writing freelance articles, primarily about movies, TV and publishing, for publications like Starlog, American Film, Cinefantastique, and the San Francisco Chronicle. I didn’t do it just to pay my tuition and support myself… I also saw it as a way to get a graduate school education in all aspects of the entertainment industry…learning lessons I’m still benefitting from today.

Lee interviewing John Houseman on the set of THE PAPER CHASE

I’d go to the set of a movie and interview everyone — the actors, director, writers, special effects guys, production designers, etc. I’d write an overall “set piece,” with quotes from everybody, then longer interviews with each person that I’d sell sepately (though Starlog commissioned and published most of them). 

The set pieces are a snapshot of film history, offering a revealing look at film-making in the 1980s, while also exploring the long careers of established talents like Kurt Russell and director Fred Schepsi at the top of their game…and introducing newcomers like Johnny Depp and director W.D. Richter, some of whom went on to greatness, and others who disappeared into obscurity. 

I think this Bookgasm review really captures why I decided to publish this collection:

Lee Goldberg’s collection indeed captures the feeling of reading about hotly anticipated movies in the blockbuster excess of the ’80s. One can sense the then-young film obsessive had to have felt with such access to the making of multimillion-dollar pictures. While not all of these Interviews on the Sets of 1980s Genre Movies (as the subtitle has it) entail movies worth watching, Goldberg’s reports never fail to entertain. As with his recent James Bond Films volume, one reason is revisiting a once-dominant type of film journalism; the larger is the in-hindsight delight of checking how forecasts panned out.

I hope you enjoy it!

MOVIELAND is here!

My new novel MOVIELAND is entirely a work of fiction, but it was inspired by a series of actual shootings in and around Malibu Creek State Park that culminated in the murder of a man camping in a tent with his two young children. I’ll tell you more about that in a moment. But first, here’s the plot:

Movieland by Lee GoldbergFor decades Malibu Creek State Park was the spectacular natural setting where Hollywood fantasies were made. But when a female camper is gunned down, it becomes a real-life killing ground. Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department homicide detectives Eve Ronin and Duncan Pavone are assigned the case…which Duncan fears is the latest in a series of sniper attacks that began long before Eve came to Lost Hills.
 
Seven victims over fourteen months…and top officials still refuse to see a connection. Eve and Duncan are stonewalled, threatened, and ordered to keep quiet. But Eve won’t back down. She’s no stranger to intimidation or corruption—she’s had a target on her back from day one at Lost Hills station.
Despite finding no evidentiary links between the shootings, Eve and Duncan follow their instincts into the shadows of Malibu Creek, where it’s not enough to expose the secrets and break the conspiracy of silence. They also have to make it out alive.

I’ve been thinking about this book for a long time. I live in Calabasas, and I was keenly aware of the shootings taking place in and around Malibu Creek State Park. In fact, I attended the August 19, 2018 community meeting at King Gillette Ranch where local politicians, state park officials, and detectives from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department briefed residents about the shootings. The authorities stated that the killing and the various shootings reported in the area over the years were totally unrelated, which nobody in the audience seemed to believe, including me. I took copious notes. When the meeting was over, I knew that I had another case for Eve Ronin.

I continued to follow the real-life investigation, which was rife with controversy and, in a bizarre and troubling twist, led to lawsuits being filed against the LASD by some of the detectives involved in the case and who spoke at the meeting. I won’t go into the details here. You can Google them for yourself, but it makes for some very interesting reading.

My fictional resolution to the mystery is very different from how the real case turned out, though there are still many unanswered questions about the investigation, which have sparked numerous conspiracy theories and this book, too.

In October 2018, a homeless man living in the park was arrested for the deadly shootings, which the LASD conceded were all related, a belated admission that surprised no one. The alleged shooter was only recently declared mentally competent to stand trial and is awaiting his day in court. This all happened against the backdrop of a huge, and ever-widening, corruption scandal involving Los Angeles city and county politicians that is still playing out today with new, shocking revelations and ongoing trials. I was also inspired by those scandals in MOVIELAND as well.

I hope you enjoy the book!

I Want to Hire The Ghostwriter Who Wrote My Books

The con artists at Creative Book Writers, a ghostwriting scam that offers to make your idea into a bestseller, were using my book TRUE FICTION as an example of their work. I’ve often wished my books would write themselves, but that isn’t the case. I threatened to sue them, and they pulled my book. But it’s like whack-a-mole. They still have my book up as an example of their work on many of their clone sites (a scam that Victoria Strauss investigated in detail and discusses in this excellent post at Writer Beware).
 
 
So I decided to have some fun. I visited The Book Writing Company, which claims a woman named “Patricia Johns” (pictured as a black man!) wrote Lisa Jewell and Sue Monk Kidd’s books. They pulled me into a chat.
 
Stuart Cook joined the chat Chat started

STUART: Hello, how are you doing today? Are you looking to get some Writing Assistance? Book Writing? Editor? May I know what is your book about? Autobiography? Fiction or Non Fiction.

ME: Fiction, but I am confused. I have been looking at various ghost writing services today, because I want to have a book written by the writer who wrote Lisa Jewell’s THEN SHE WAS GONE, but on your site, you say your author Patricia G. Johns ghost wrote it (though there is a picture of a black guy, also confuses me), but the Pearson Ghostwriting Service says their authors David Johnson & Julie D. Scott wrote it. So who really did? Because that is who I want to hire and I am so confused.

STUART: Hey, I did get the info. What you have just told me is the part of every fir. gf
 
ME: I don’t understand what you just wrote.
 
STUART: let me explain you. Whatever you have seen on the other sites could be the way of marketing but we never quote any fake examples to generate the sale. Also if we have written anything for the famous person so we will share the details else we won’t believe in fake marketing. Also you can share the details of the book with me. We have a team of experts with more than 150 people. they are Ph.D. qualified writers and retired professors. Once you will become our customer, I will assign a team of 4 experts on your project and you will be in communication with one of them throughout the process.
 
ME: I am still confused. So those ghost writers on the other sites are fake ones… but Patricia G. Johns, who is pictured as a black man on your site, is the real one? The woman or guy who really wrote Lisa Jewel’s book?
 
STUART: Yes she was the part of the team, usually what happens profiles like Patricia or any other senior author worked before as a part time writer with us to give management sessions , to train the young writers as a good gesture we use their pictures and details. Yes?
 
ME: So these ones are fake…?
<I sent him screen grabs of the ghost writers on the other sites that claim to have written the same books>
But this one is real?
<I sent him a screen grab of “Patricia Johns” from their site>
 
STUART: No, I am not saying that as I have told you usually what happens senior profiles join different companies temporarily to train and provide different sessions to their staff and writers.
 
ME: But Patricia and and whoever the black guy is are the ones who wrote Lisa Jewells book? I’m sorry, but I am having a hard time understanding this.
 
STUART: May i know your name and number in case we get disconnected?
 
ME: Your site and explanations are too confusing and don’t make any sense.
 
STUART: If you are willing to understand it will help

Amazing, Isn’t it? So I decided to visit another one of their clone sites, AD Ghostwriting, and had some fun chatting with “Susan Hughes,” a senior creative editor. I think you might enjoy it…and their strange logic. Their “fruit” analogy about books is especially bizarre…

Susan Hughes: Hello there ! How are you today? Are you interested in having your idea converted into a book? Would you like to discuss your requirement with Sr. Creative editor?
Visitor 7998474: I have been researching ghostwriting sites and you all seem to be identical. Vox Ghostwriting. AD Ghostwriting. Pacific Ghostwriting. Central Ghostwriting. Ghost Writing Proficiency. The same graphics, the same books you wrote. It’s all very confusing. How am I supposed to compare prices and services if you are all the same? Even your name pops up as customer service on all of them.
 
Susan Hughes: Sure let me answer that. All the fruit sellers sells their fruits on similar closets and baskets the only difference is the fruit which are from different farms. Similarly, we all look same probably to many extent but the editors varies. We are working with Ph.D. qualified editors and experts from various genres and yes one of the experts will be reserved to get this book done with a cohesive and coherent script And also will make it intriguing with top-notch writing.
 
Visitor 7998474: They also work with Phd qualified editors and somehow wrote the same books you did. It makes no sense to me.
 
Susan Hughes: They cant take the same book it isn’t possible but having PhD editors by every company is possible
 
Visitor 7998474: I know, but the sites are identical. They all claim to have written the same six books that you do.
 
Susan Hughes: If anyone has copied some book, We can file an infringement but the fact remain the same we never disclose with whom we are writing for As it always remain discreet
 
Visitor 7998474: Also, you Susan Hughes, seem to work for all of them. Are you all the same company?
 
Susan Hughes: Those books that you are seeing on my website, We have taken approval from the authors. It is not possible, like I have already answered you. If someone is using my name then they are crooks because same name can only be a coincidence.Since how long you have been thinking to do a book?
 
Visitor 7998474: I am looking at the other sites right now. They are the exact same as yours in every way. Even the statured client lists is the same! And when I visit, a chat opens up and Susan Hughes offers to help me. this is beginning to smell fishy to me.
 
Susan Hughes: I dont trust that it cant be susan hughes. can you give me the website name.
 
Visitor 7998474: Vox Ghostwriting. AD Ghostwriting. Pacific Ghostwriting. Central Ghostwriting. Ghost Writing Proficiency. Paramount Ghostwriting. The Writing Crib. I think you are all the same person trying to trick me. That doesn’t seem very honest to me. Maybe I should just write the book myself.
 
Susan Hughes: That’s not true it can never be the same. I have already given you one of the example of being identical. However we all offers 100% money back rights in case of any dissatisfaction.
 
Visitor 7998474: The fruit example makes no sense. I am not blind or stupid. I can see they are the same sites with different names. If you can’t be honest with me, I can’t do business with you.
 
Susan Hughes: You can only be stupid if you don’t take that example seriously. Now dont say that I cant call someone stupid.
 
Visitor 7998474: Paying you to write my book requires trust. How can I trust you if you start off by insulting my intelligence? A book is not an apple. You can’t all have written the same six books.
 
Susan Hughes: Lets get down the business take that example seriously and let’s work together. A book is an apple. it just taste differents there are plenty of books just as apples. the categories are countable too just like an apple, it can either be life story, fiction or non fiction
 
Visitor 7998474: Either you wrote BURN BRIGHT by Patricia Briggs or you didn’t. Either you wrote ALEX CROSS by James Patterson or you didn’t. They aren’t categories. They are individual book titles.
 
Susan Hughes: They are termed as life story books
 
Visitor 7998474: What??
 
Susan Hughes: I meant obviously not these 3 books but what clients bring us is either from the above 3 category
 
Visitor 7998474: If you don’t know those books are novels, not memoirs, then you definitely aren’t the right writers for me.
 
Susan Hughes: I have corrected my statement above already. We can argue as longer as you want me to but you know that nobody can take your money and run away you always can dispute if any situation arises
 
Visitor 7998474: I want my book to be written by the writer of Patricia Brigg’s BURN BRIGHT. You all claim to be that writer. That is not possible.
 
Susan Hughes: being a US citizen you should trust your own bank and work
 
Visitor 7998474: What does my bank have to do with it? Why do you want to know about my bank?
 
Susan Hughes: your bank always secure you against any frauds.
so why would not you trust them. you can pay us and see the book that is getting delivered as we will be delivering it chapterwise
 
Visitor 7998474: I am not asking my bank to write my book. I want the writer of BURN BRIGHT to write my book. You all claim to have written her book. Which one of you did??
 
Susan Hughes: So at any point if you are not contended it will be refunded. Assigning the editor is our choice so you cant make a choice: Getting a professional book is our commitment.
 
Visitor 7998474: I don’t want an editor. I want a writer. I want the writer who wrote BURN BRIGHT. You say you wrote her book. Why can’t I have that writer?
 
Susan Hughes: I already answer that.There are 85 writers who work under the belt of this company. We can get you the best writer but you cant pick the writer because you are not meeting writer you ain’t seeing their profile either. So there is no point of making a selection. Not all companies will tell you that ever.
But I am honest and I am transparent and giving you all the reason to trust my team. My writing as well as editing team will be board from day one until the book has been launched. Is there any way I can have your name
 
Visitor 7998474: Well, that doesn’t sound like a wise way to spend my money at all. I think I will talk to the other Susan Hughes and see if she makes more sense.
*** Visitor 7998474 left the chat ***
I stumbled across another ghostwriting scam site, Ghost Writing Express, who claim to have written my friend Tim Tigner’s books …oh, and Anthony Doerr’s, too. So I got into a chat with them..
THEM: Hello, are you looking for a ghost writing service?
ME: I loved Tim Tigner’s books. Can I get the same writer to write my book?
THEM: Sure. Let me help you out with that.
ME: Would it be Tim Tigner?
THEM: You mean you want Tim Tigner to write a book for you?
ME: No, whoever wrote his books if it wasn’t Tim Tigner. I want the same guy.
THEM:
ME:
THEM: He wrote his books himself, but yes, we can match the quality for sure.
ME: I’m confused. You said I could get the same writer. I want my book to be just like his.
THEM: Let me guide you through that.
ME:
THEM:
ME:
THEM: The original draft was done by Tim and given to us for a thorough edit, proofreading, and cover design.
ME: Great. I’ll ask Tim for a recommendation and get right back to you.
THEM:
ME:
THEM: Sure thing.
ME: Please hold.
THEM:
ME:
THEM: You know him?
ME: Yes, I’m texting him now. Please hold.
…and I was disconnected.

If you’re looking for a way to procrastinate, I encourage you to chat with these imbeciles, test our one of your characters on them by conversing in their voice. It’s fun. My brother Tod can’t stop doing it.

Get to Yes, But Don’t Pay For It

Jane Friedman, the former publisher of Writers Digest, walked a tight rope in her “Getting to Yes” article in Publishers Weekly‘s Booklife self-publishing advertising insert, which is stuffed with positive reviews that self-published authors have paid for.
 
Her article says that authors marketing their work should start their campaign by making lists of “owned media, one of paid media, and one of earned media” to approach.

Owned media are existing resources and assets you control that can help spread the word about your book. This can include your website or blog, email newsletter, social media presence, or anything that reaches readers directly, whether digital or analog. Paid media are those you pay for attention or exposure. This includes advertising and paid reviews. Earned media refers to media coverage or attention that you secure for free.

 
I thought “earned media” was interesting and revealing phrasing.
 
She implicitly likened “paid reviews” in her article to a form of advertising. But what they actually are is a complete waste of money that nobody takes seriously…the opposite of “earned media,” or a review you’ve earned by virtue of your book appealing to critics on its own merits, not your ability to pay. An “earned” review is taken seriously, a “paid” review is not. That was the revealing part of the phrase. She was essentially acknowledging that real reviews are earned. Paid reviews are advertising.
 
But advertising what…and to whom?
 
The only thing a “paid review” advertises is your desperation, naivete, and ego.
 
Paying for a review is actually a huge mistake…for one thing, it negates the likelihood of you getting an “earned” review from PW or Kirkus (which also runs a “paid review” insert in their magazine for self-published authors). You’re better off, and will save money, by asking your Mom to post a positive review on Amazon for you…and you’ll accomplish just as much with just about the same level of humiliation.
 
But naturally, she didn’t dare say that, or dwell on the “paid review” aspect of a “marketing plan” in her article. In fact, she actually doesn’t mention paid reviews again…not daring to bite that hand that feeds her.

Self-publishing authors—or any authors who are pitching themselves—should seek alternative options to gain momentum. These include local and regional media, influencers in the relevant target market, and any person who is likely to answer your emails or pick up the phone when you call.

Note that she didn’t say, “buy a positive review like the ones in the following pages of this Booklife insert.” To be honest, I am surprised she didn’t.

UPDATE 2-12-22: Jane let me know on Twitter that she has, in fact, warned writers against paying for reviews, in an article she published back in 2016. At the time, she wrote:

Some of you reading this post may be looking for a quick and easy answer to the question of whether you should invest in a paid book review. Here’s what I think in a nutshell, although a lot of people will be unhappy with me saying so:

The majority of authors will not sufficiently benefit from paid book reviews, and should invest their time and money elsewhere.

She also noted that the PW piece that ran this week is actually a reprint of an article she wrote for them two years ago.

 
 

Movieland is coming!

The product description is up on Amazon for MOVIELAND, the 4th “Eve Ronin” crime novel, coming in June & now available for pre-order (hint-hint). Here it is…

Malibu Creek State Park is a beautiful locale for campers, tourists, hikers, and Hollywood. For Detective Eve Ronin, it’s a backdrop for murder in a riveting thriller by #1 New York Times bestselling author Lee Goldberg.

For decades Malibu Creek State Park was the spectacular natural setting where Hollywood fantasies were made. But when a female camper is gunned down, it becomes a real-life killing ground. Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department homicide detectives Eve Ronin and Duncan Pavone are assigned the case…which Duncan fears is the latest in a series of sniper attacks that began long before Eve came to Lost Hills.

Seven victims over fourteen months…and top officials still refuse to see a connection. Eve and Duncan are stonewalled, threatened, and ordered to keep quiet. But Eve won’t back down. She’s no stranger to intimidation or corruption—she’s had a target on her back from day one at Lost Hills station.

Despite finding no evidentiary links between the shootings, Eve and Duncan follow their instincts into the shadows of Malibu Creek, where it’s not enough to expose the secrets and break the conspiracy of silence. They also have to make it out alive.