Today at the California Crime Writer’s Conference several writers sheepishly asked me “so, how do you get into this tie-in business?” as if they were asking me how to get into writing porn movies. Now that the book biz is tightening up, and mid-list writers are being dropped all over the place, tie-ins are beginning to look good to some authors who never would have considered them before.
The same thing happened to me during the WGA writer’s strike…writer who once gave me a hard time about doing the MONK & DIAGNOSIS MURDER books while I was also writing & producing TV shows would say to me that they were “interested maybe trying that tie-in thing, you know, just for fun.” Not because they needed a job, of course, but “just for fun.” Uh-huh.
For some reason, when times are hard for writers, tie-ins get a lot more respect. I don’t know why…for that matter, I don’t understand why writers regard them with disdain when times are good. But that’s one of the reasons Max Allan Collins and I formed the International Association of Media Tie-in Writers a few years ago…to educated people about tie-ins and to gain more respect for the genre. Slowly but surely, the organization is making a difference.
Speaking of which, there’s an Q&A interview with me over at Talking With Tim about the International Association of Media Tie-in Writers and tie-in writing. Here’s a taste:
the reason more creators don’t try to keep their TV series alive in print after cancellation is because publishers simply aren’t interested, which is no surprise if you think about it. The incentive for publishers to do tie-ins is to capitalize on the huge audience that a hit show draws and the enormous publicity that surrounds it. It also offers a level of confidence in what ordinarily would be a gamble. The book is, in essence, a pre-sold concept with a built-in audience and supported by millions of dollars worth of FREE promotion. The TV show itself, as well as the advertising and promotion that the network does, becomes free publicity for the books. Success, wide recognition, a strong concept and major promotion are what makes a publisher interested in tie-ins.
But once a show is cancelled, the incentive to do tie-in books instantly evaporates
6 thoughts on “Tied In”
What does that mean for your Monk books once the series is over? I was hoping you’d keep on going with them (and I am sorry you don’t still write the Diagnosis Murder books!).
I think a lot of the disrespect for tie-in work can be equated with how movie and theatrical people looked down on television in the early days. It was “beneath” them until they couldn’t find work in movies or on stage.
In the history of art and literature, new forms and styles and methods and genres have almost always had a hard time finding acceptance. It’s because we grow up with a certain sensibility that we have likes and dislikes, and then the world starts changing on us. The new generation grows up feeling differently and expresses new attitudes and new likes and dislikes. At one time, if you can believe this, the work of Monet was looked down upon. Even Shakespeare had a hard time breaking in. Similarly, tastes change, as at one time Byron was the greatest and most famous person in literature in the world and is hardly read now. So novels that flow out of TV shows are just experiencing growing pains. Furthermore, I can foresee a time when past TV shows, like the Addams Family, will find a new life in a series of popular novels, which could even be more popular than the original TV series. It depends on how the writers handle the stories and if they achieve a high quality of writing and story-telling. Success always takes a lot of time and energy, I think, whenever we do something new and different. But it comes.
Tie-in writers are authors writing novels with characters and universes created on another medium. They are true writers.
Your Monk books, from what I’ve been lucky to review for my blog, are true novels. I now watch Monk only because a friend of mine is the dubbing voice of Hector Elizondo.
The show itself is a self-conscious succession of “Monky” situations (like House MD is now basically only Hugh Laurie telling dry jokes). But your novels are brilliant extensions of the world of Monk.
Your a great storyteller, that’s why I like your shows as well.
You have run into the same prejudice that I experience when someone asks me about writing a movie for DVD or for the SciFi Channel.
Of course, most of the people who ask me have never had a movie produced or if they did it was a long time ago.
I found your quote very interesting. I wonder why a publisher wouldn’t try to use a property even if its TV incarnation has been cancelled. After all, sometimes shows with sizeable audiences are killed. Isn’t it reasonable to assume that part of that audience could be interested in a tie-in book? Likewise, wouldn’t the book need but a fraction of said audience to turn in a profit? I seem to remember that the V novelizations kept being published long after the short-lived series was cancelled.