I’ve been out-and-about a lot the last few weeks and I’m just getting a chance now to catch you up on all the latest news.
Two weeks ago, I was traveling in Memphis to research a new book, and visited Owensboro Kentucky, for a TRUE FICTION booksigning and a screening of the two short films, BUMSICLE and REMAINDERED, that I shot there. At the same time, I delivered the script for a new Hallmark Mystery Movie that I co-wrote with the amazing Robin Bernheim, whose many credits include REMINGTON STEELE, QUANTUM LEAP, and WHEN CALLS THE HEART.
Speaking of Hallmark Mysteries, my friend Phoef Sutton just scored raves, and big ratings, for his latest Hallmark movie, DARROW & DARROW: IN THE KEY OF MURDER. You can read an interview with him about it at Kings River Life magazines.
I was only hone for a few days before I had to jet off to New York, where I was shot some new TRUE FICTION promos for Amazon Publishing. While I was there, I got a chance to see Amazon Publishing honcho Jeff Belle (who has been a big supporter of me and my books for years), and Amazon-bestselling authors Robert Dugoni and Mark Sullivan, who has co-authored five books with James Patterson.
I learned this morning that Scott Brick, narrator of the five Fox & O’Hare books I co-wrote with Janet Evanovich, and HOUSE OF SECRETS (coauthored by my brother Tod Goldberg and Brad Meltzer), has been as the new voice of Lee Child‘s Jack Reacher! (The legendary Dick Hill is retiring). I’m very happy for Scott and hope he’ll still squeeze in time to narrate more of my books 🙂
And, in case you missed it last week, author/editor Steph Cha had the brilliant idea of assigning my brother Tod to interview me for Los Angeles Review of Books (LARB)….the result is probably the most personal, and indepth interview I’ve ever done. I hope you like it.
I’ve got lots of exciting news to share…so let’s get to it!
TWO THRILLERS COMING IN 2018
The big news is that I’ve signed a two-book deal with Amazon Publishing/Thomas & Mercer that kicks off with the publication of my new thriller TRUE FICTION in April 2018, followed by the sequel in the fall.
I’ve described the book as a cross between SIX DAYS OF THE CONDOR and NORTH BY NORTHWEST. So it was a real thrill when I finally got to meet James Grady, author of CONDOR at the Edgars in April.
TRUE FICTION takes place in Hawaii, Seattle, Los Angeles, Nevada, and Washington D.C…. and I finished writing it in a cafe in Paris on a rainy day in January. It’s about a thriller author who discovers that one of his fictional tales is becoming horrifyingly real. To say more now would spoil the fun. I’ll give you more details about the book, and my research and travels for it, when we get closer to the pub date.
CHASING FOX & O’HARE
Many of you have asked when the next Fox & O’Hare book is coming…especially since THE PURSUIT, which I co-authored with my good friend Janet Evanovich, was such a big success, hitting #1 on the New York Times bestseller list back in June 2016. Unfortunately, we’re still trying to work out a satisfactory agreement with the publisher for future books. As soon as I have news, I’ll be sure to share it with you. I took an extensive research trip to Australia and New Zealand for that as-yet-unwritten sixth book in the series and I’m eager to take Nick & Kate there for their next adventure.
THE WALK … COMING TO A THEATER NEAR YOU?
A movie version of THE WALK is in pre-production based on my own script. A terrific director has been signed and offers will be going out to A-list actors soon. I wish I could say more than that, but I am bound to secrecy for the time being. There have been false starts in the past but I am cautiously optimistic that filming could start in early 2018.
Brash Books, the publishing company that I launched with Joel Goldman, is going strong as we approach our third year in business. We’ve published close 100 titles so far! Our latest title is Patrick McLean’s new novel THE SOAK, a terrific thriller that evokes the best of Donald Westlake’s Parker novels. I think you’ll love it. I also heartily recommend the new audiobook edition of Jack Bunker’s TRUE GRIFT. Harry Dyson does a fantastic job narrating it and I guarantee that you’ll laugh your way through your next traffic jam or gym work-out.
LOS ANGELES TIMES FESTIVAL OF BOOKS
I had a great time, as usual, moderating panels and hanging out at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books. Here are a couple of photos from the event:
Lee with former Barnes & Noble events exec Lita Weissman and authors Gar Anthony Haywood, Laura Lippman and Megan Abbott
Lee with authors Eric Jerome Dickey, Chris Farnsworth, Gregg Hurwitz, and Daniel Suarez
“As writers–most of us not published by Hachette–we feel strongly that no bookseller should block the sale of books or otherwise prevent or discourage customers from ordering or receiving the books they want.”
But Doug, his co-signers, and the Author’s Guild haven’t shown that same outrage, or any concern at all, about booksellers boycotting books from Amazon Publishing, a practice that has been going on openly for years.
That’s a double-standard.
I believe that the Authors Guild, and guys like Doug and his co-signers, shouldn’t support one retailer’s right to carry whatever title they want…for whatever reasons they want…and not Amazon’s right to do the same thing. That was my point in yesterday’s post. Doug’s argument was disingenuous. This dispute is not about what’s best for either authors or readers.
My post sparked a lively and friendly debate on my Facebook page, where several people pointed out that booksellers aren’t going to stock books published by Amazon, a company they see as their competitor. Some people also pointed out that many booksellers feel betrayed by authors who signed with Amazon Publishing. Furthermore, some booksellers felt that authors who signed with Amazon Publishing showed a fundamental lack of concern for the future of the booksellers who’ve supported them for years.
I don’t think that’s a fair or accurate characterization. Many of the authors now published by Amazon Publishing were either dropped by their publishers (and thus radioactive as far as other publishers are concerned) or were offered terrible contracts that ultimately pay below minimum wage. Amazon Publishing has revived the careers of hundreds of mid-list authors who otherwise would be finished in publishing…or forced to take crap contracts that they can’t live on just to remain in print. I believe it’s wrong for any bookseller to see it as a betrayal if an author chooses to take an Amazon Publishing contract in order to continue supporting his family and to stay in print. By the same token, I can understand, emotionally and on principle, why a bookseller wouldn’t want to carry Amazon Publishing titles. I don’t resent any bookseller for making that choice.
And yet…there’s a double-standard among booksellers, too, about what constitutes “betrayal.”
Michael Connelly’s TV show BOSCH, based on his Harry Bosch books that booksellers have lovingly handsold for years, is exclusive to Amazon. You have to be a member of Amazon Prime, or rent episodes from Amazon, to watch it.
I haven’t heard any booksellers accuse him of “betrayal” or insensitivity to booksellers for taking his show to Amazon. In his case, making that choice wasn’t about paying his mortgage or saving his career. And I bet booksellers will continue to sell his Bosch books….and when tie-in editions of the Bosch books come out with actor Titus Welliver on the covers, bookstores will sell those, too, even though they will be promoting BOSCH, and drawing new viewers to an Amazon-exclusive TV show.
But those same booksellers won’t carry Amazon Publishing books by critically-acclaimed, award-winning mystery authors like Harry Hunsicker or Alan Russell or G.M. Ford.
Most Amazon Publishing authors are mid list. Michael is a huge, bestselling author, so they’d be taking a financial hit by not stocking his books…and would piss off their customers. Michael is also one of the nicest guys on the planet, who has supported indie booksellers for decades with in-store signings and drop-shipped signed books. I can’t think of anyone who doesn’t like and admire Michael. I certainly do. There’s enormous, well-deserved affection and admiration for Michael, so booksellers wouldn’t think of hurting his feelings by not stocking his books as a stand against Amazon. If anything, they have expressed nothing but happiness that Bosch is finally coming to the screen…though it’s exclusively through Amazon.
On the other hand, there’s Harry Hunsicker. He’s an award-winning, critically acclaimed novelist that booksellers enthusiastically hand sold.. and who, in return, has supported booksellers for years, both as an author and also as executive director of the Mystery Writers of America. And he’s also one of the nicest people you will ever meet. But most bookstores won’t carry him anymore, because he’s published by Amazon. The difference is, it’s easy to boycott Harry. Or Alan Russell. Or G.M. Ford. They are midlist. It’s not so easy to boycott Mike. He’s a superstar.
But if booksellers were to boycott Michael’s books because the BOSCH show is exclusive to Amazon, you can bet there would be widespread outrage from the Authors Guild, and all of the authors who signed that New York Times open letter today. But when booksellers boycott Amazon Publishing’s books, and hurt hundreds of authors, that’s okay as far as Doug Preston, his co-signers, and the Authors Guild are concerned.
That’s a double-standard.
I am not saying Amazon is right in the Hachette dispute, or that booksellers shouldn’t be able to choose what books to stock or how to price them. But I am saying that Doug’s stance, and Author United’s, and the Authors Guild’s, is hypocritical and disingenuous. And that booksellers who accuse authors of “betrayal” for signing with Amazon Publishing are wrong, too. It’s a complex issue, one that neither side can boil down to a simple argument…or simple villains.
A bunch of literary heavy-hitters have taken out a $140,000 advertisement/open letter, written by author Douglas Preston under the auspices of “Authors United,” that’s going to run in the New York Times tomorrow that sides with the publisher Hachette Group in their on-going business dispute with Amazon over ebook pricing. There are lots of points in the open letter that I don’t agree with, or that I believe are mis-represented, but one phrase, one example of hypocrisy, stood out and I had to call Doug on it. I believe it reveals what this dispute is really about. Here’s the letter I wrote to him:
You wrote in your ad: “As writers–most of us not published by Hachette–we feel strongly that no bookseller should block the sale of books or otherwise prevent or discourage customers from ordering or receiving the books they want.”
Does that same sentiment also apply to the brick-and-mortar bookstores, from big chains to indies, that refuse to stock paperback books from Amazon Publishing’s imprints Thomas & Mercer, 47North, Montlake, etc? If so, why don’t I see the same level of outrage from Authors United, or the Authors Guild, over this widespread ban, which has been going on for years and harms hundreds of authors?
The list of authors, many of them ITW and Authors Guild members, directly affected by bookstores refusing to carry Amazon-imprint titles includes Marcus Sakey, Kevin J. Anderson, Ray Banks, Alan Russell, Greg Bear, Ian Fleming, Ed McBain, Max Allan Collins, Stephanie Bond, Dana Cameron, Leslie Charteris, Diane Capri, Orson Scott Card, Sean Chercover, Deepak Chopra, John Connolly, Bill Crider, Ed Gorman, Peter David, Nelson DeMille, Aaron Elkins, Christa Faust, Stephen W. Frey, Jim Fusilli, Joel Goldman, David Hewson, Jonathan Maberry, Penny Marshall, Robert R. McCammon, Marcia Muller, Susan Orlean,Julie Ortolon, Tom Piccirilli, Daniel Pinkwater, Steven Pressfield, Robert Randisi, Christopher Rice, John Saul, Tom Schreck, Neal Stephenson, and R.L. Stine, to name just a few.
I have enormous respect for you and the authors who signed your ad. Many of them are also friends of mine. But the fact that you, and the other authors listed in the ad, are upset by the Hachette situation and haven’t shown any concern over Amazon Publishing titles being banned by bookstores speaks volumes about what the real issue is here.
The success of a Bouchercon has less to do with the venue, and the organization of the conference, than with the collective vibe of the people who attend…which is a good thing, because this was the worst location, and the most poorly organized, Bouchercon I’ve ever been to. That said, the people were great and I had an absolutely terrific time.
So let’s start with the good part. I’m long past attending the Bouchercons for the panels or the special guests…I rarely go to any panels or interviews anymore. I go to Bouchercon to see old friends, to get introduced to new authors and new books, to meet with my editors and executives from the publishing companies that I work for, to buy books, to talk shop, and to pick up the latest news in my little corner of the industry. I spend almost all of my time in the book room, or in the corridors of the conference center, or going to parties, or hanging out for hours in the hotel bar, talking with editors, authors, readers and booksellers. I usually come away from the event re-energized, full of new ideas, and armed with a fresh understanding of the marketplace. All of that happened this time.
What I like best is when I bump into people I’ve long admired but have never met…like Dexter producer Clyde Phillips and Law & Order SVU writer Jonathan Greene… or have a chance encounter with authors I’ve never met before that leads to long and interesting conversations….and that happened with Chris Povone and Jamie Mason, among others…or get to meet enthusiastic readers of my books…and I met many of them. I was especially thrilled to hear how much they liked The Heist. What really surprised me was how many of those fans were men.
There’s no question that the explosion of self-publishing, the emergence of Amazon’s imprints (two of their Thomas & Mecer authors scored Anthonys for best novel and best short story), and the Kindle device have changed everything…and authors trying to figure out where they fit in, where the best opportunities are, where the pitfalls are, and how all of this changes their approach to both the business and craft of writing. The big takeaway is that this is an exciting time to be a novelist…perhaps the best ever. Authors have choices they never had before, especially those of us who have been at this a while. But what about new authors? What is the path to success in this rapidly changing landscape? Where do agents fit into it all now? All of that is far less clear…at least from the vantage point of the Albany convention center last weekend.
Which brings me to the venue, which had all the charm of a bus station men’s room, minus the urinals. The windowless pit was buried beneath the Empire State Plaza, which looked like a matte painting from a busted, 1970s Gene Roddenberry sf pilot. Finding your way into that bleak pit required a sherpa… or directions from one of the many crack addicts, toothless meth-heads, smelly panhandlers or opportunistic drug dealers on the streets surrounding the far-flung hotels where everybody had to stay (the convention center was virtually inaccessible for the handicapped). The conference rooms where the panels were held had terrible accoustics and the ambiance of police interrogation cells. The only author who probably felt at home in them was Marcia Clark.
Because bleak, destitute downtown Albany revolves around government workers, everything shuts down early in the afternoon and is closed up on weekends…those few places that already boarded up or out-of-business… meaning there was no place to eat on Saturday and Sunday….unless you wanted to wander into crack alley for a soggy burger or go back to the understaffed, woefully unprepared Hilton Albany, the nearest hotel…where even if you got served, it was a crapshoot whether inedible meal that was delivered was the one you actually ordered. The bar was even worse.
What were the Bouchercon organizers thinking when they picked this shithole? Who knows. But I can tell you this, Long Beach next year will be a big improvement…and I’ve already booked my tickets.
Amazon’s Thomas & Mercer imprint brought their authors up to Seattle last weekend to meet with their executives and editors over dinners, parties and meetings…..and to talk shop at a conference entitled “On The Lam” that was open to invited members of the public. It was an amazing experience.
The best thing about the “On the Lam” conference were the numerous, and lengthy, opportunities we had to meet, and spend time with, the Amazon executives and editors. It gave us a real chance to develop personal relationships with them rather than the typical short encounters you have at Bouchercon, etc.
The first full day began with a breakfast meeting at Amazon HQ where the heads of their various departments gave us confidential briefings on the current status on all aspects of the Amazon Publishing program and the many initiatives they have in the works for the coming year. It was very interesting and I wish I could share the details…but we were sworn to secrecy. We were introduced to key department heads and went off to lunch aboard a yacht in Lake Union, where we got a chance to mingle with the execs one-on-one in a casual setting. We then broke up into groups for an afternoon cruise , a walking tour of the city , or a tour Seattle distillery tour. After the afternoon outings, we got back together for a terrific party at the Chihuly Glass Museum at the base of the Space Needle. There were a number of inspiring, short speeches by Amazon execs…and then we all mingled.
Saturday was spent in the “On the Lam” conference, where the authors in attendance were on panels moderated by Amazon editors and discussed many aspects of writing, marketing and the publishing business. The conference concluded with the authors breaking into several groups and going to dinners hosted by editors at some of Seattle’s best restaurants.
A lot of the authors and attendees have blogged enthusiastically about their experience at “On The Lam.” Author Max Allan Collins says the event was truly unprecedented:
[It]was unlike anything I’ve experienced in forty years of publishing. The T & M crew flew in 75 authors from hither and yon – “yon” being the UK, and hither being places like “Iowa” – simply to give those authors a chance to interact with each other, and the T & M editorial and marketing team. Editors have taken me out for lunch or breakfast many times, and publishers often have cocktail parties at Bouchercon and/or take authors out for a group dinner. But this was different.
For one thing, this conference was almost exclusively attended by one publisher’s writers. For the Saturday panels, family and friends and some local writers group members were in the audience, but mostly this was writers talking to other writers (and to editors). All weekend, the kinds of conversations usually only heard in secluded corners of bars at Bouchercon hotels was the up-front order of the day.
Barb and I both found it interesting and illuminating, and the generosity of T & M toward their authors was damn near mind-boggling. Everybody had a gift bag with a Kindle Paperwhite in it, for example…
The freebies went beyond that. There were t-shirts, notebooks, pens, umbrellas, and plenty of copies of the T&M books. Our money was no good at the restaurants and bars in the hotel. But it wasn’t the swag or meals that impressed me… it was the message that the gifts, and the event, underscored about Amazon’s attitude towards their authors: we appreciate you. We are in this together.
I guess you could say that in the 21st century with the advent (invent) of the Kindle, traditional publishing has come under siege. There is a war going on for eyeballs on screens. Authors are the ones who produce much that content that goes on the screens. It sometimes seems like the legacy publishers have forgotten that, but this is something that Amazon knows at the core of their corporate structure. I’ve been here 24 hours now and all I hear (and see) is how Amazon puts the author at the center of all business equations.
[…] all the talk among the authors was about how we, as authors, have never been treated so well by a publisher. They really want our opinions on covers, and when we say we think there should be changes, they go back to the drawing board and try again. They pay better royalties and they do so monthly. We have an online dashboard where we can see actual sales by the next day, so we always know how many books we’ve sold, and our final royalty statements are available online about fifteen days after the close of the month’s period.
Author Charlie Williams notes how lots of people like to depict Amazon as an evil empire …but that’s not how the company feels to authors or to customers.
You may have heard negative things about them, things about monopolies and doing the independents out of business and destroying the publishing industry. Well, all I can say is that they know how to treat an author. And if they treat you well too, dear reader, then that’s a pretty good deal. Right? See them as the dark overlord if you like, but I can assure you that they are a bunch of bright, imaginative men and women trying to find new and better ways of doing things. And they are book people. There is a new paradigm going on and they are at the heart of it, cutting unseen shapes from the rock-face. Lucky them. Lucky you.
Author Helen Smith says On the Lam was good business, for Amazon and for authors:
It was an opportunity for us to meet each other and spend time with the staff at Amazon Publishing, including Russ Grandinetti and Jeff Belle, as well as the people who work across all the Amazon Publishing imprints. I had met some of them before at various events in London and New York and it was a joy to spend time with them again in their home town.
The conference made author Jay Stringer give serious thought to why he writes…and the direction his career is going.
I’m three books into my career. I’m still figuring out what kind of writer I want to be. At On The Lam I got to talk to many different kinds of writer. Some have forged successful careers mixing their own work with work-for-hire, some like to sit and slowly work through their own books, one at a time, and supplement their income elsewhere. Some have long-term deals, some only worry about one contract at a time. Each of them took time to talk to me about their careers, their paths, and to help me along in deciding on mine.
“On The Lam” was even great for the attendees who weren’t Amazon authors. Erin Havel reports for the Huffington Post that she found the panel discussions packed with information…
By the end of the day I was completely inspired. I realize I could write a separate blog on each of the panel discussions, perhaps I will in the future. However, for now, this is a small glimpse at a world few beginning authors have the opportunity to see. Thank you Thomas and Mercer!
Amazon has worked very hard to make their authors feel like partners, not like outside contractors or, worse, as a necessary evil (remember Harlequin complaining a few weeks back that their profits are down because they have to pay royalties to authors?). I certainly can’t recall any publisher doing anything like “On the Lam” before…or being so open about sharing sales information (in real time!) or paying royalties so frequently and promptly (monthly!).
It’s very important to me to establish personal relationships with the people I work with. The “On the Lam” conference is just one of many examples that demonstrate that the executives at Amazon Publishing feel the same way.