The War for my Soul

I may have mentioned here that I was offered another series of TV tie-ins to write (in addition to my current gig writing DIAGNOSIS MURDER novels). It was a three-book deal for a show I love and I was eager to accept…

But I had to pass on the offer. And boy, did it hurt.

The TV geek in me desperately wanted to write the books, regardless of what I was getting paid.  The sensible  business man in me, the one with some self-respect, knew the deal was bad on every level and that to take it would be a big mistake. ..and set a bad precendent for the future.

The publisher was offering me a ridiculously low flat fee — a work-for-hire payment that included no royalties. Typically writers of  tie-ins, which are original novels based on a TV series, get an advance plus a 2-3% royalty. Novelization writers often get a flat, work-for-hire fee, which makes sense since the story, characters and dialogue are being handed to them. This deal required me to write an original novel and not share in any of the proceeds it might generate.

The TV geek in me didn’t care.  The TV geek was just glad to be offered the opportunity. The sensible businessman was considering my other committments to work and family and doing the math.

My wife was doing the math, too. It would take me three to four months to write the book.  By Valerie’s calculations,  I would make more on unemployment than I would writing those books. It made no financial sense…but she left the decision to me.

I passed.

The showrunner called to tell me how excited he was to learn I was offered the books…and how disappointed he was to learn later that I had rejected the offer. He didn’t blame me, though. He knew it was a rotten deal, too… 

And yet, I still feel pangs of regret. The TV geek in me didn’t care about money.  The TV geek wanted to do it to spend time with those characters.

But the sensible businessman in me won out. For so much of my life, the TV geek side of my personality has been in control. I wonder when the sensible businessman took over…

7 thoughts on “The War for my Soul”

  1. I’d rather not say, Mark.
    This is actually the second tie-in I’ve passed on…but the first one wasn’t a series I was passionate about and, besides, I didn’t have the time to do it based on my other committments.

  2. Hey, Lee, at least it means you’re wanted and respected for what you do. But I can see your decision. You’ve got a sweet deal for one series. You’re running an existing show that’s still on the air, and you have your own novels to write.
    I know it hurt when I realized I was going to have to give up or at least relegate to small press my current book series because I didn’t understand how publisher’s think about such things. Nonetheless, it’s been a productive reframing that I think will work better in the long run.


    I’m trying to hold onto the novelization rights to the various series I’m pitching to producers up here. If the shows go, I’d like to hire some novel-writing friends (you know who you are) so we can work up some more stories based on the characters a…


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