Tsunami of Swill Makes News

The Los Angeles Times reports today about something I've been talking about for months…the tsunami of self-published swill washing over Amazon. The article refers to bad self-published books, but mostly discusses rip-offs of other people's work and books cobbled together from public domain sources.

Spam has hit the Kindle, clogging Amazon.com Inc.'s top-selling e-reader with material that is far from being book-worthy and threatening to undermine the company's entry into publishing.

Thousands of digital books, called e-books, are being published through Amazon's self-publishing system each month. Many are not written in the traditional sense.

[…]These e-books are listed for sale — often at 99 cents — alongside more traditional books on Amazon's website, forcing readers to plow through many more titles to find what they want. Aspiring spammers can even buy a DVD box set called Autopilot Kindle Cash that claims to teach people how to publish 10 to 20 new Kindle books a day without writing a word.

This new phenomenon represents the dark side of an online revolution that's turning the traditional publishing industry on its head by giving authors new ways to access readers directly.

[…]In 2010, almost 2.8 million nontraditional books, including e-books, were published in the United States, while just more than 316,000 traditional books came out. That compares with 1.33 million nontraditional books and 302,000 conventional books in 2009, said Albert Greco, a publishing industry expert at Fordham University's business school. In 2002, fewer than 33,000 nontraditional books were published, whereas more than 215,000 traditional books came out in the United States, Greco noted.

"This is a staggering increase. It's mind-boggling," Greco said. "On the positive side, this is helping an awful lot of people who wrote books and could not get them published in the traditional way through agents."

But Greco listed downsides. One problem is that authors must compete for readers with a lot more books — many of which "probably never should have seen the light of day," he said.

My Favorite Child

Copy of Watch Me Die_5   I’ve written thirty novels – eight of them Diagnosis Murder books and thirteen of them Monk tales – but my favorite out of them all is Watch Me Die, which was originally published in hardcover in 2005 under the title The Man with the Iron On Badge.

It’s about a guy who learns everything he knows about being a PI from reading books and watching TV shows. It's about the clash between fictional expectations/stereotypes and reality. The book is something of a spoof…and yet, at the same time, a straight-ahead crime novel full of explicit sex and violence. That shifting tone made the book a hard sell…because it didn't fit into a particular marketing niche. Is it a satire? Is it a PI novel? Is it a thriller?

Most of  the editors who rejected the book back in 2003 praised the writing but didn't see where it would fit in their publishing line.  There were two editors at major houses who loved it and wanted to acquire it…but  couldn't convince their superiors. Another wrote a LONG rejection letter, saying how much she loved it, that it was the best PI novel she'd ever read, and how it pained her not to be able to publish it. (In the mean time, I wrote a screenplay version of the book, which landed me the gig writing the Dame Edna movie. It never got made, but it was a very, very big payday for me and was my first solo screenwriting job outside of episodes of TV shows that I'd produced).

It was frustrating not being able to sell the book because I felt it was the best novel I'd ever written. I loved writing it and I very much wanted to write more about Harvey Mapes, the main character. I couldn’t complain too much, because I was having a lot of success with other books. Even so, this one meant more to me than the others. I approached my Diagnosis Murder & Monk editors at Penguin/Putnams about The Man with the Iron-On Badge…but as much as they liked me, and my work, they weren't willing to take the gamble.

Finally, after two years of  shopping the book, we took it to Thomson/Gale/Five,  which had a reputation for putting out fine mysteries…and for being a place  where  published authors can find a home for their "dropped" series and unpublished works.  It was an imprint run by writers (like founder Ed Gorman) and editors (like legendary book packager Martin Greenberg)  who truly loved books and appreciated authors. They produced handsome hard-covers that were respected and reviewed by the major industry publications. I had a great experience with them on The Walk (another book that was a hard sell that but went on, after it fell out of print, to sell 20,000 ebook copies in two years)  and I knew they would treat the book well.  6a00d8341c669c53ef00e553a33d7d8834-320wi

The downside with Five Star was that they paid a pitifully  low advance, primarily served the library market and had very limited distribution to bookstores.  Still, it was possible to win wide acclaim and impressive sales with a Five Star title. And I did. Here's a sample of the reivews:

"As dark and twisted as anything Hammett or Chandler ever dreamed up […] leaving Travis McGee in the dust." Kirkus, Starred Review

 “This was a witty, wonderful book,” Deadly Pleasures

“Goldberg delivers a clever riff on the traditional private eye novel, resplendent with witty and dark turns,” Knight-Ridder Newspapers.

“A fast paced, first person thriller about an under achiever who has to strive to be more than he ever thought he could be,” Permission to Kill

“Approaching the level of Lawrence Block is no mean feat, but Goldberg succeeds with this engaging PI novel,” Publishers Weekly

"Lee Goldberg bravely marches into territory already staked out by some fierce competition — Donald Westlake, Lawrence Block, the early Harlan Coben– and comes out virtually unscathed." The Chicago Tribune

"Goldberg has a knack for combining just the right amount of humor and realism with his obvious love for the PI genre and his own smart ass sensibilities. [The book] is a terrific read. Goldberg is the real deal and should be on everyone’s must read list." Crimespree Magazine

The book even got nominated for the Shamus Award for best novel by the Private Eye Writers of America (losing to Michael Connelly’s The Lincoln Lawyer)

And  although it sold well for Five Star, it failed to land a paperback or foreign rights sales…and went out of print in 2007. 

Last year, I re-released it as an ebook…where it has failed to gain much traction, despite several different covers,  lots of flogging on this blog, and a stage production by the legendary Firesign Theatre.

So now I have re-re-released it as Watch Me Die. And am doing more flogging.

I really, really want Watch Me Die to succeed.

I want it to be my bestselling book…by far. Not so much for the money, but because I am proud of it.

And if it does finally do well, I can justify to myself (and, more importantly, to my wife), investing the time to write the sequel. Or a string of sequels. I would like nothing better than to write as many Harvey Mapes books as I have Monks…or many more….because Harvey Mapes is a character and a voice and an attitude that I love.

So please, help me do that. Spread the word about Watch Me Die.   

 (Pictured: Orson Ossman performing as "Harvey Mapes"  in the Firesign Theatre radio play/stage production, at the RiverPark Performing Arts Center in Owensboro, Kentucky )

MWA Opens Active Membership to Ebook and POD Authors

The MWA membership committee, of which I am chair, has crafted a major overhaul of the criteria for Active Membership to embrace the new technologies that are changing our industry. These new guidelines, approved unanimously today by the MWA Board, opens the door to scores of authors whose books are published solely as ebooks or via print-on-demand, but they still exclude self-published works. An  email blast with all the changes went out to all MWA members moments ago. Here's the intro…

The publishing business is experiencing massive changes and if MWA is to remain relevant, we have to change, too.  That’s why we’ve revised our Approved Publisher criteria to make books published solely in e-book format or using print-on-demand eligible under certain conditions for MWA membership (and, perhaps later, for Edgar eligibility as well).  Self-published books, whether they are published in print or as e-books, still do not qualify for MWA active membership. [Note: The italics added by me for clarity in this post, they are not italicized in the actual guidelines]

In crafting the criteria below, we had to strike a balance between including books published using those new technologies while also  maintaining our high professional standards and our commitment to protecting our members (and writers in general) from the less-than-reputable publishers who seek to take advantage of them.

We hope you’ll agree that we accomplished our goal. 

There are a lot of tweaks to our existing rules, but here's the ground-breaking portion…the new section on Approved Publisher criteria for ebook publishers. If your ebook publisher meets these criteria, then your book qualifies you for Active Membership in MWA.

E-Book Publisher Guidelines:

Publishers interested in being on MWA's Approved E-Book Publishers List must fill out the affidavit and submit a sample contract. If all of the following criteria are met, contact the national office to begin the vetting process (the affidavit will be supplied if these requirements are met). The publisher must also meet all of the following criteria (the term "book" refers to all e-formats, "Publishing" refers to print, web, and other e-formats):

1. During the preceding year, the publisher must have paid a minimum of $500 in advances and/or royalties to at least five authors with no financial or ownership interest in the company.
a) The publisher must have paid a minimum royalty of least 25% of net revenue to authors.
b) The royalties must have been paid at least quarterly, with a detailed statement, breaking out books sold through affiliate sites, through the publisher's own site, as well as print books if applicable.
c) Payment must be in monies, not in barter for advertising or copies or any other considerations.
d) Payment must be actual – not, for example, a donation of writing deemed worth a given amount.
e) Payment must have been made and not merely promised.
f) A contract alone is not payment. Proof of payment may be requested by the committee.

2. The publisher must have been in business for at least two years since publication of the first e-book by a person with no financial or ownership interest in the company.

3. The publisher, within the past five years, may not have charged a fee to consider, read, submit, or comment on manuscripts; nor may the publisher, or any of the executives or editors under its employ, have offered authors self-publishing services, literary representation, paid editorial services, or paid promotional services. If the publisher is affiliated with an entity that provides self-publishing, for-pay editorial services, or for-pay promotional services, the entities must be wholly separate and isolated from the publishing entity. They must not share employees, manuscripts, or authors or interact in any way. For example, the publishing entity must not refer authors to any of the for-pay entities nor give preferential treatment to manuscripts submitted that were edited, published, or promoted by the for-pay entity. To avoid misleading authors, mentions and/or advertisements for the for-pay entities shall not be included with information on manuscript submission to the publishing company. Advertising on the publisher's website for any for-pay editorial, self-publishing or promotional services, whether affiliated with the publisher or not, must include a disclaimer that it is advertising and that use of those services offered by an affiliate of the publisher will not affect consideration of manuscripts submitted for publication.

4. The publisher must publish at least five authors per year, other than those with a financial or ownership interest in the company, such as an owner, business partner, employee, or close relative of such person. Those persons should be listed on the application.

5. The publisher is not a "self-publishing" or "subsidy publishing" firm in which the author has paid all or part of the cost of publication, marketing, distribution of the work, or any other fees pursuant to an agreement between the author and publisher, cooperative publisher or book packager. Among (but not all of) the situations defined as "self-published or cooperatively published" are:

a. Those works for which the author has paid all or part of the cost of publication, marketing, distribution of the work, or any other fees pursuant to an agreement between the author and publisher, cooperative publisher, website owner or book packager;

b. e-books published by a privately-held publisher or in collaboration with a book packager wherein the author has a familial relationship with the publisher, editor, or any managerial employee, officer, director or owner of the publisher or book packager;

c. Those works published by companies, websites or imprints that do not publish other authors;

d. Those works published by a publisher or website or in collaboration with a book packager in which the author has a direct or indirect financial interest;

e. Those works published in an anthology in which the author is also an editor, except an anthology for which the author is a guest editor;

f. Those works published in an anthology or magazine wherein the author has a familial relationship with the editor or publisher

6. The publisher pays for editing, copyediting, design, cover art, production, advertising, marketing, distribution, web design, graphics, and all other aspects of publication. They do not require authors to pay for any of the above.

7. Books must be available through major online retailers, like Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and the iBookstore, and not just through the publisher's website.

8. The publisher must not be engaged in the practice of wrongfully withholding or delaying the payment of acceptance fees to authors.

As the industry changes, you can expect the MWA's criteria regarding Approved Publishers will evolve as well.

In the meantime, now that the Board has passed these new rules, the issue moves to the Edgar committee (which I also serve on) to determine how these new criteria will impact Edgar Award eligibility, award categories, etc. for the 2013 Awards (for books published in 2012).


Buy THE WALK for 99 cents this week…and get THE DEAD MAN for free!

The_Walk_FINAL (2) It was two years ago this week that, at Joe Konrath's urging, I began my "Kindle Experiment" by making my out-of-print book THE WALK available as an ebook. I've sold close to 20,000 copies of THE WALK since then…and to celebrate, I am pricing the book at just 99 cents until June 7th.   

For the most part, the book has consistently ranked in top 2000 Amazon. I would be absolutely thrilled if this limited-time offer could propel the book into the Amazon top 100 for the first time.

As an incentive to help me reach that goal, if you email me proof of purchase of THE WALK at lee AT leegoldberg.com, I will email you, in return, a free copy of my new book THE DEAD MAN #1: FACE OF EVIL

That's two books for just 99 cents. You can't beat that!

Eisler Makes News…Again

There' s been a lot of talk lately about my friend Barry Eisler's decision this week, a month after rejecting a $500,00o offer from St. Martin's in favor of self-publishing his work, to bring out his new RAIN novel through Amazon's just-announced publishing imprint Thomas & Mercer.  

Some have said  that this means that he's returned to the "legacy publishing" world, simply opting for a different publisher than the one he had before.  Some have even said his talk about self-publishing his work was just a negotiating ploy and a bid for media attention. 

Of course, most of the people who've made those idiotic comments are so called "indie" authors who know little, if anything, about the nature of "legacy publishing" deals, and who see self-pubishing more as a cause,a religion, or a movement than a business. Take this comment from an "indie" for example:

"guys like Eisler already made their names the traditional route, then came into indie publishing not because they believed in the format, but to position themselves for future leverage.  They go on and on about how much better they have it self-publishing and get everyone drinking the Kool Aid, and then leverage their indie cred for a publishing contract.  […] They were trad authors who already had established followings and had the marketing savvy to use that to build credibility they didn't deserve as indies.  Because they were never indie in the true sense."

So Barry explained his thinking on their home turf:  a posting on the Kindleboards today. He said, in part:

I've said many times is that "publishing is a business for me, not an ideology" (Google it, you'll see) and that the right deal could certainly lure me back to the legacy world.  That remains true.  What's more important, though, is the nature of what could conceivably lure me back.  And what could lure me back is precisely what I've never been able to get from any legacy publisher — not the two who have published me; none that I've negotiated with, either.  Specifically:

1)  A *much* more equitable digital royalty split. 
2)  Full creative control (packaging, pricing, timing).
3)  Immediate digital release, followed by paper release when the paper is ready (no more slaving the digital release to the paper release).

As it happens, all these terms are available to a self-published author, so I decided to self-publish.  What some people might be missing in that simple statement, though, is that it's the *terms* that are important to me, not the means by which I achieve them.  If these terms are a destination, self-publishing is undeniably an excellent vehicle for getting there.  But it isn't the only vehicle.  And if another vehicle comes along that offers all these terms, plus a substantial advance, plus a retail wing that can reach millions of customers in my demographic… then, as a non-ideological businessman, I'm going to change rides.

[…]For a single title that doesn't incumber my ability to self-publish or otherwise publish anything I want, Amazon offered me all three of the items I list above (except for pricing, but regardless of what the contract says, we agree that digital books should be priced far lower than legacy prices), plus a massive, uniquely Amazon marketing push to its retail operation and otherwise, plus an advance comparable to what SMP had offered me (note, though, that the Amazon deal is for one book; the SMP advance was predicated on two books. When I say "comparable," I mean on a per-book basis, and sorry if I wasn't clear about that in my announcement at BEA). In exchange, I've given up certain digital retail channels because the Amazon deal is exclusive to Kindle platform devices. And Amazon will sell paper versions through its retail stores and through wholesale channels to other retailers. If any of this sounds like a legacy deal to anyone here, you've been talking to legacy publishers I've never heard of.

Although Amazon will be publishing his RAIN book, and more sooner and under much more favorable royalty terms for him than St. Martins Press offered, he still intends to self-publish his other work.

What his deal illustrates, as does the mulitple platform Joe Konrath publishes on ("legacy publishing," self-publishing, Amazon Encore, Thomas & Mercer), is that authors have more options now than we've ever had before…and that self-publishing is now, for the first time, actually a viable and realistic choice.

"And it's a great one," Barry says, adding "but as new possibilities emerge, I'll consider them, try them, and perhaps integrate them into my overall strategy. Why would anyone do anything else?"

That doesn't make him a hypocrite or a liar, as some inexplicably outraged "indie" authors have suggested, but rather a shrewd businessman trying to do what's best for his career.


0316 Goldberg ecover JUDGEMENT James Reasoner  first stumbled on my .357 VIGILANTE books in the mid-1980s when he was working in a used bookstore. Although he was a voracious consumer of pulp fiction, he'd never heard of Ian Ludlow, and the men's action adventure genre was dying, so he didn't bother reading it.  But now he's caught up with it again in JUDGMENT, my new re-release of the first book in the series. He says, in part:

This is a classic case of not knowing what I was missing. Now, of course, we know that “Ian Ludlow” was actually a college student named Lee Goldberg, who went on to become a top-notch novelist, screenwriter, and producer 

[…]You know right away that this is a little different from the usual men’s adventure novel because of the protagonist, Brett Macklin. [He] no superhuman men’s adventure hero. He screws up, he gets hurt, he’s lucky not to get killed several times, but eventually he uncovers an even bigger plot that puts a lot of people in danger.

This is a really entertaining thrill ride of a story with plenty of sex, violence, humor, social commentary, and great action scenes. When I think about what I was writing when I was in college . . . well, there’s really no comparison. JUDGMENT is the work of someone who was a solid pro, right from the first page.

I'm really flattered by James' review.  It's hard for me to believe that it's been nearly thirty years since I wrote those books. Some of the writing makes me cringe…and some of it is certainly dated..but mostly I'm amused by it.

What's really strange is that sometimes a sentence or a scene will bring back memories I haven't had in, well, thirty years. I can remember where I was when I wrote certain portions…or what was happening in my life at the time. The books are a time capsule for me in many ways. But I'm thrilled to learn that they are still entertaining to read for others.

Shoot for This

SHOOTERS-600x900-2 My buddy Terrill Lee Lankford's terrific first novel SHOOTERS is now available as an ebook…with a great cover by JT Lindroos, an introduction by T. Jefferson Parker and an afterword by Lev Raphael.

You may recall that Lee was one of the first authors to reject a lucrative book deal in favor of self-publishing. This reprint is his first foray into self-publishing and I predict it's going to be blockbuster. Here are the details on SHOOTERS…

Nick Gardner is a fashion photographer of the highest caliber. His erotically-charged photos grace every major magazine in the world. He is a superstar shooter in a town filled with supermodels, desperate wannabes, and burned-out has-beens. His peers consider him cold and impenetrable. A loner who will let no one see beyond his carefully crafted facade. See, Nick has a secret. Another identity, buried for more than a decade. An entirely different career that has been hidden and denied.

And a murder.

From the sun-bleached shores of Malibu to the pages of Vogue and the porno empires headquartered in the San Fernando Valley, Shooters reveals the naked truth behind the twin worlds of high fashion and hardcore, where the difference between the two can be a well-chosen shadow or a brazen shaft of light.

"Lankford breathtakingly tosses the reader into a Hollywood snake pit that is at once compelling and repugnant." -Dallas Morning News

"Shooters cooks! This is a blood thriller that will vibrate your vindaloo! Terrill Lankford has crafted a truly bitchin' novel that will keep you up nights howling at the moon! Read it or be deprived!" -James Ellroy

"Shooters is excellent. It grabs you on page one and won't turn you loose." - Robert B. Parker

"'Shooters' is a dark, speeding ride on LA's fast lane. It's like you're watching a car accident. Once it starts to unfold you can't look away. You're hooked." -Michael Connelly 

"Shooters marks a fine noir debut by Terrill lankford. Welcome to the land of twists and turns." - Gerald Petievich


The E-Book Gold Rush

The Washington Post reported today on how the rise of the ebook has been an overnight game-changer for authors…and has sparked a gold rush among them to get their back-list books and unpublished manuscripts on the Kindle as quickly as possible.

And for good reason.

The article leads off with the story of author  Nyree Belleville, who was dropped by her publisher early last year. Demoralized and desperate, she put one of her old books on the Kindle just to see what would happen. She earned $281 her first month…and couldn't wait to share the news with her other author-friends.

 “That moment is burned in everybody’s mind now,” she says. “It was not a tipping point. It was a turning point.”

She put her other old book online and figured out how to place both on other e-readers — the Nook, the Sony Reader, the iPad, Kobo. The next month, her royalties bumped to $474. Giddy, she self-published a new e-book in July. She made a jaw-dropping $3,539. It was like the best thingever!

“Every day, as the numbers ticked by, my husband and I were floored,” she says.

She got the rights to two more old novels. She feverishly wrote another e-novel, “Game for Love,” about a bad-boy pro football player and his unexpected marriage. She popped it online Dec. 15.

Earnings for that month? $19,315.

In January and February, she e-published a trilogy of young-adult novels she’d written years earlier. She called the first one “Seattle Girl” and chose a new author name, Lucy Kevin, to distinguish it from the sexually explicit Andre books.

Here’s what her first quarter looked like: 56,008 books sold; income, $116,264.

[…]There is no good comparison for what’s happening in the frontier world of self-published e-books, because there has never been anything like it in publishing history.

They're right…because her story is not unique. Just today I helped two friends of mine get their out-of-print backlists up on the Kindle.  But the Post article also acknowledges not everyone is making a fortune self-publishing ebooks…in fact, most aren't making anything.

The overwhelming number of self-publishing e-authors are consigned to the same fate as their print counterparts: oblivion.

“We have less than 50 people who are making more than $50,000 per year. We have a lot who don’t sell a single book,” says Mark Coker, founder of Smashwords.com, a Web site that helped launch indie publishing.

“When I load all our numbers on a spreadsheet, it’s the typical power curve,” he says. “On the left, there’s a skinny area of the chart where people are knocking it out of the park. And then we have a very, very long tail off to the right, where some titles sell very few at all.”

I'm impressed that Mark Coker is telling it like it is.  It's remarkable, and commendable, that he's not just making it easy for authors to get their books on Amazon, B&N, Kobo, etc, he's also being honest about their chances for success. He's not trying to trick them into thinking that publishing with Smashwords is all it takes to become a successful author.

Unfortunately, too many aspiring authors, giddy with greed and a desire to be the next Amanda Hocking, are more than willing to trick themselves.  They delude themselves into believing that all they have to do is put the raw manuscripts on the Kindle and the cash will start pouring in, which is why there is tsunami of swill is sweeping over Smashwords and, by extension, Amazon.

But those of us who were previously-published have an edge. We have a platform and, more importantly, a backlist.  You can't imagine how thrilling it is for mid-list authors to discover that our out-of-print books, something that we believe had no monetary value, are suddenly worth tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of dollars.

Any published author who isn't putting their out-of-print books on the Kindle, Nook, etc. is making a huge, and costly, mistake. But not just financially…they are missing an opportunity to establish a beachhead in the ebook world while having been previously published still means something and can give you a platform to rise above the tsunami. 



NY Publishers Terrified by Self-Pubbed Authors

89ae81ad280f6c268da494c354a389bd2adeb542 The Wall Street Journal reports that cheap ebooks from self-published authors are making NY publishers wake up in a cold sweat…a notion that self-published authors used to fantasize about and that I've scoffed at (and ruthlessly ridiculed) for years.

But the advent of the Kindle, combined with Amazon  offering their sales platform to all-comers for free, has changed everything. Now that self-pubbed  fantasy has come true in a big, big way:

"[Amazon is] training their customers away from brand name authors and are instead creating visibility for self-published titles," one senior publishing executive who asked not to be identified, says of Amazon.

As digital sales surge, publishers are casting a worried eye towards the previously scorned self-published market. Unlike five years ago, when self-published writers rarely saw their works on the same shelf as the industry's biggest names, the low cost of digital publishing, coupled with Twitter and other social-networking tools, has enabled previously unknown writers to make a splash

Now it's actually possible for an author nobody heard of to become a millonaire within just a matter of months. I'm not exaggerating. Everyone talks about Amanda Hocking…but perhaps the most astonishing success story of all is John Locke.

Mr. Locke, who published his first paperback two years ago at age 58, says he decided to jump into digital publishing in March 2010 after studying e-book pricing.

"When I saw that highly successful authors were charging $9.99 for an e-book, I thought that if I can make a profit at 99 cents, I no longer have to prove I'm as good as them," says Mr. Locke. "Rather, they have to prove they are ten times better than me."

Locke earned $126,000 on 369,000 sales on Amazon in March alone. That's a huge uptick from the 75,000 he sold in January and the 1300 he sold in November.

Wait, let's think about that some more. 

John Locke went from selling 1300 books to 369,000 in four months



Anyone who thinks the e-book market has peaked isn't paying attention….and any midlist author who signs another pissant three-book contract with a NY publisher (or any publisher) should check themselves into a mental institution right away. 

Don't look for Locke to follow Amanda Hocking's footsteps and take a NY publishing deal. He says he's not interested, though he has signed up with a high-powered agent to field movie offers and deal with foreign publishers. She sums up the whole ebook marketplace very nicely: "This is a Wild West of a world," she says.

Hot Sex, Gory Violence

0348 Goldberg POD The Jury Series Final CreateSpace
published this My Turn essay of mine back in mid-1980s, while I was still a college student and writing my JURY books, then called .357 Vigilante, under the pen-name "Ian Ludlow." Now that I have re-released the books, I thought you might enjoy it:


How One Student Earns Course Credit and Pays Tuition

My name is Ian Ludlow. Well, not really. But that's the name on my four ".357 Vigilante" adventures that Pinnacle Books will publish this spring. Most of the time I'm Lee Goldberg, a mild mannered UCLA senior majoring in mass communications and trying to spark a writing career at the same time. It's hard work. I haven't quite achieved a balance between my dual identities of college student and hack novelist.

The adventures of Mr. Jury, a vigilante into doing the LAPD's dirty work,  are often created in the wee hours of the night, when I should be studying, meeting my freelance-article deadlines or, better yet, sleeping. More often than not, my nocturnal writing spills over into my classes the next morning. Brutal fistfights, hot sexual encounters and gory violence are frequently scrawled across my anthropology notes or written amid my professor's insights on Whorf's hypothesis. Students sitting next to me who glance at my lecture notes are shocked to see notations like "Don't move, scumbag, or I'll wallpaper the room with your brains.

I once wrote a pivotal rape scene during one of my legal-communications classes, and I'm sure the girl who sat next to me thought I was a psychopath. During the first half of the lecture, she kept looking with wide eyes from my notes to my face as if my nose were melting onto my binder or something. At the break she disappeared, and I didn't see her again the rest of the quarter. My professors,  though, seem pleased to see me sitting in the back of the classroom writing furiously. I guess they think I'm hanging on their every word. They're wrong.

I've tried to lessen the strain between my conflicting identities by marrying the two. Through the English department, I'm getting academic credit for the books. That amazes my Grandpa Cy, who can't believe there's a university crazy enough to reward me for writing "lots of filth." The truth is, it's writing and it's learning, and it's getting me somewhere. Just where, I'm not sure. My Grandpa Cy thinks it's going to get me the realization I should join him in the furniture business.

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