Thursday, December 13, 2012

Alan Sepinwall, Hugh Howey, and the Death of "One Size Fits All" Publishing

My new Huffington Post blog just went live. Read it. Like it. Love it. Or something. (but please do read it)

Alan Sepinwall, Hugh Howey, and the Death of "One Size Fits All" Publishing

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

9 Things Not To Ask a Writer

1) Have you written anything I've heard of?
--This is like asking a plumber if he's worked on any toilets you've pooped in. Odds are unless you're quite a well-known author, like John Grisham or the Kardashians, you've haven't written something they've heard of. Plus, how the hell are you supposed to know what they have and haven't heard of? Just say 'yes', walk away and delete their contact from your phone.

2) Are you writing anything at the moment?
--At the moment, we're talking to you, so no. But we plan on drinking copiously, then going home to continue writing so that we may one day answer 'yes' to the above question.

3) Are they going to make a movie from your book?
--Again, this presumes you're published, have a film deal in place, and all the freaky things that can happen in the Go-Gurt machine of Hollywood work out so that Tom Cruise is one day being interviewed about what it feels like to interpret 'your' character. So unless this is currently the case, you'll have to explain that you have about as much influence as to whether or not a movie gets made from your book as an accountant has of rigging the Powerball for you. Once again the safe bet is to answer 'maybe', then follow guidelines from answer #2.

4) Are any characters based on people from your life?
--Odds are, yes. And if not fully lifted from your life, then certain traits are for sure. But you're not about to tell them that the main character's impotency stems from the confessions of your cousin Paul, or that the anxious, bed-ridden alcoholic thrice-divorced mess is based on your aunt Lorraine, so answer 'maybe' then ask if you can record everything they're saying for possible future use in one of your books.

5) How much money did you get for your book?
--You'd be surprised that, yes, people do actually ask this question. They're the same people who, when meeting a friend's baby for the first time, jokingly ask the husband, "Are you sure it's yours?" Simply ask for their social security number and to see their most recent bank statements, then laugh and say it's just for research. And if they're stupid enough to give it to you, steal all their money and give it to The Human Fund.

6) Where do you get your ideas from?
--Since most writers get their ideas from the exact same place--that netherworld known as 'I have no idea' and 'beats the hell out of me'--just respond with "from the Internet" and repeat the answer to #2.

7) Can I give you an idea for your next book?
--First off, nobody asked you. Do we walk into your job at the mortuary and ask if we can touch up deceased Uncle Walter? For some reason, people think you're constantly scouring the earth looking for ideas for your next book, waiting for a stranger to politely offer to lend you the story of the time they burnt their tongue eating a slice of pizza because it would be the perfect motivation for your villain's murderous rampage in the third act.

8) Will you read my manuscript and critique it?
--Sure! And let me guess--this request comes from your Aunt's friend's son who's been a corporate lawyer for the last five years but is tired of the grind and feels he wants to be creative? Never seen that before! Besides, we'd like nothing better than to curl up on our couch with a 500-page monstrosity written by a complete stranger, which will take 8-10 hours to read, then sit down with a red pen and give you an edit letter than Maxwell Perkins would have been proud of. Do you realize how long it takes to read a book? And that writers get paid based on their output and producticity? Ask this lawyer friend for 10 hours of free legal advice in exchange and see if he jumps at the office.

9) Have you read those 'Twilight' or 'Harry Potter' books?
--Because we all know those people who've never heard of a single book until the movie comes out. Tell them that you only read old papyrus scrolls, that the novel died in 84 BCE, and anyone who participates in witchcraft or vampiredom should be burned at the stake. (and FWIW you're team Jacob)

Thursday, December 06, 2012

Things I'm Not Thankful For

Things I'm Not Thankful For

A popular holiday tradition is listing all the things you're thankful for. A less-popular holiday tradition is listing all the things you're not thankful for. So here is my list of things I could most certainly, and would prefer to, do without:

People Who 'Endorse' You On LinkedIn

Assistants Who Were Born in the 1990's

People Who Tweet 'Good Morning!' to Nobody in Particular

People Who Wear Soul Patches

People Who Take Half an Hour to Make Their Coffee at the Fixins Bar

Bartenders Who Act Like They Have Something Better to do Than Take Your Drink Order


The Black Eyed Peas

People Who Like Either Nickelback or The Black Eyed Peas

Boy Bands

People Who Love Boy Bands

People Who Use Umbrellas That Could Fit the Entire Population of Guam Underneath

People in the Office Who Have Loud Personal Conversations

Guys Who Are Dickheads

Girls Who Date Guys Who Are Dickheads Then Complain About How All Guys Are Dickheads

Awful, Soulless Childrens Movies That Cost $200 Million to Make and Seem Like They Were Brainstormed by Accountants Stuffed in an Airless Laboratory

People Who Complain About "Traditional Publishing"

People Who Self-Publish Their Novellas of 'Cat Erotica' then List Their Occupation as 'Author'

People Who Write Blog Posts Giving Relationship Advice to Celebrities

People Who Ask Celebrities for an RT Because it's Their Birthday

People Who Request Your Friendship on Facebook Then Immediately Post a Link to Their Website/Blog/Cat Erotica on Your Wall

People Who Post Pictures of their Nail Polish on Instagram

People Who Post Pictures of Their Cats on Instagram (sorry, I think cats are weird)

People Who Post Pictures of Their Feet at the Beach on Instagram


People Who Sigh and Say, "Oh, you know" When You Ask How They're Doing

People Who Still Don't Know the Difference Between 'Their' and 'They're'

People Who Say e-Readers Are Ruining Books

People Who Say Print is Dead

People Who Use FourSquare to Check into Starbucks

People Who Defend Chris Brown

Chris Brown

People Who Watch Anything Charlie Sheen Does

Charlie Sheen

Donald Trump

Donald Trump's Hair

People Who Still Refer to Bloggers As Living in Their Parents' Basements

People Whose Twitter Profiles Refer to Them as a 'Child-Wrangler'

People Who Refer to Themselves as a 'Social Media Guru'

Anyone Who Unironically Calls Themselves Any Kind of 'Guru' Unless Their Name is Guru

What are you not thankful for?

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Why Publishers Hate Authors: A Response to an Article that Doesn't Deserve a Response

So what does it take to bring this blog out of mothballs for the first time in almost two full years? This article by "nationally acclaimed thought leader on the subject of the future of book publishing" Michael Levin, one of the most thoughtless, troll posts in this history of blogging: Why Do Publishers Hate Authors (which I link to while holding my nose and apologizing to my family). Aside from the irony of a 'thought leader' amassing a whopping 150 Twitter followers, or having a clearly self-written Wikipedia page, this Huffington Post piece is one of those delightful posts in which no real thought is used, no examples are cited, because the entire post is designed to get people riled up (consider me duped) without using any sort of critical thinking. I also chose to publish this response here rather than HuffPo, where I'm a regular contributor, because I didn't want this to be one of those 'flip sides of the same coin!' deals, especially since Levin did not present one side of a coin but rather a piece of ground up mulch he's presenting to you as currency. So let's go point-by-point through Mr. Levin's Opus:

Authors are admittedly a strange lot. There's something antisocial about retreating from life for months or years at a time, to perform the solitary act of writing a book.

What does this have to do with publishers hating authors? Nothing. Why is it included? No idea. And you know what? Some authors like to write books. Some enjoy the writing process. You don't want to write? Don't write. You don't want to exist in solitary while writing? Go write at a Starbucks. Nowhere in the non-existent writer contract does it say you have to retreat to a cabin in the woods and cut off all signs of life in order to pen your manuscript. Truth is the vast majority of writes have day jobs, many have families, and they don't shirk their responsibilities. Writing is a privilege.

On top of that, authors are flaky. They promise to deliver a manuscript in April and it doesn't come in until October. Or the following April. Or the April after that. This leaves publishers with several options, all of them bad: revise publishing schedules at the last minute; demand that authors turn in projects on time, regardless of quality; cancel books altogether; or sue the authors (as Penguin has begun to do) for undelivered or poor quality work.

So we're now three paragraphs in and it seems like the only one who hates authors is Michael Levin. Yes, writing is a creative endeavor, and creative endeavors are generally at odds with typical 9-to-5 work days. And no publisher wants to be put in a position where an author doesn't deliver on time, leaving them without both the manuscript they wanted (note: wanted) to publish, or out possibly thousands of dollars in advance payments. Publishing an author is inherently a risk-taking venture because you aren't always sure if the author will deliver, or if the book in question will make money. Generally you don't spend thousands of dollars in a risky venture with a class of people you 'hate'.

Authors are also prickly about their work. There are few jobs on the planet in which people are utterly free to ignore the guidance, or even mandates, from their bosses. Yet book authors are notoriously dismissive of their editors' advice. When I was writing novels for Simon & Schuster back in the late 1980s, my editor, Bob Asahina, used to tell me, "You're the only writer who ever lets me do my job."

Will you stop hating on authors already? First off, NO author is utterly free to ignore guidance from their editor. Nearly every publishing contract has a clause to this effect:

  • The Publisher shall inform the Author in writing whether the Work is acceptable within sixty (60) days of receipt of the complete Work. If the Publisher, in its sole editorial judgment, concludes that the Work delivered is unacceptable but could be revised to the Publisher’s satisfaction in a timely fashion, the Publisher and the Author shall agree on an appropriate period of time for the revision process and the Publisher will provide written editorial comments to the Author with respect to the revisions required. Should the Publisher find that the revised Work is still unacceptable for any reason, the Publisher may reject the Work by written notice to the Author.
The only authors who can ignore this kind of advice are the ones whose sales and/or influence at the house are at a level where they can get this type of clause stricken from their contract. And those types of deals are reserved for the mega-bestsellers who possess a rarified clout. Otherwise: ignore guidance at your peril. But here's the thing: if an editor asks for changes, and an author refuses them and gives a rational reason why they should be ignored, the editor will, far more often than not, concede the point to the author. It is the author's book after all, As literary agent Jonny Geller so succintly put it on Twitter: "A good editorial note should intimate a change, not prescribe it."

The three R's of the publishing industry, the strategy for survival, quickly became "Reduce royalties and returns." Returns are books that come back unsold from bookstores. Printing fewer copies typically ensures fewer returns. Reducing advances and royalties -- money publishers pay writers -- was the other main cost that publishers sought to slash.

When exactly were royalty rates reduced? Far as I can remember, standard royalty rates have been:
10% on first 5,000 hardcovers sold
12.5% on next 5,000 hardcovers sold
15% thereafter
7.5% on trade paperbacks
8% for first 150,000 mass market paperbacks
10% for every mass market paperback thereafter
In fact, ebook royalty rates (and audio as well) have gone nowhere but up the last few years. You could argue they're still not as high as they should be, but that's not quite the same as 'reduced'. Have advances declined? In some cases yes, in others, no. It's done on a case-by-case basis. Like, you know, any other industry.

More and more publishers moved to a minimal or even zero advance business model.

What publishers did this? Can you name any reputable publishers that moved to a zero advance business model? Vanguard Press, launched by publishing veteran Roger Cooper, was founded on a zero-advance, higher royalty model, but it did not 'move' to one. Certainly some independent presses offers lower advances than, say, a Random Penguin House, but it's not like indie presses were offering seven figure sums then suddenly said, "Here's five hundred bucks, take it or leave it. And by the way, we also hate you."

Zero advance combined with zero marketing to produce... that's right. Zero sales. And then who caught the blame for the book's failure? Not the publisher. The author.

I'm assuming Levin doesn't mean 'literally' zero sales, but the rest of his piece is no non-sensical he just might. First off, there are tons of books that receive large advances and don't sell. Similarly there are many books that receive modest advances then sell like bronzer to the Kardashians. And if a book doesn't sell at all? And that's an epidemic at that house? The publisher loses money. They then often have to reduce staff. And in the case of Vanguard, go out of business. But what was Levin saying? Oh, right, the publisher always blames the author. Go on.

Today, any time an agent or acquisitions editor considers a manuscript or book proposal from an author, the first place they go is BookScan to get sales figures. These numbers used to be proprietary to the house that had published the book; now they're out in the open for all to see. And if an author's sales numbers are poor, no one thinks to blame the house for failing to market the book. The author's career is essentially over. One and done. Next contestant, please.

Bookscan was NEVER proprietary, you nimrod. (trust me, I know this firsthand). Sales figures, yes. Bookscan, no. Anyone can purchase Bookscan access, and the press has access to it at any time. Book reporters use Bookscan figures all the time. Splitting hairs? Maybe. But since Levin makes no effort to delinieate or make any sort of thoughtful analysis (shocking, I know), it's worth pointing out. Oh, and career over? Anyone with Google or who pays attention to publishing knows dozens of cases where authors had meager sales, then wrote such a wonderful book that another publisher said, "damn the sales figures, this writer is worth publishing and we'll do right what the other publisher did wrong". I've acquired probably a dozen books from writers whose sales tracks weren't ideal. Some worked, some didn't, but we felt it was worth taking a chance. Is it tough to come back if a book tanks? Absolutely. But to say a career is essentially over is constipated thinking in an article that's full get the idea.

It's completely unfair, but destroying the options of a writer actually has some benefits for publishers. Which leads me to think that maybe publishers are actually happy when authors fail.

Also: lungs hate air.

As authors gain traction in the marketplace, their fees go up. They can charge a publisher more money for their next book. The problem is that there's no guarantee that the next book will sell well enough to justify the higher advance the publisher had to pay the author. So if publishers can turn writing into a fungible commodity, they no longer have to worry about paying more, or potentially over-paying for a book.

The second part of this graph has absolutely nothing to do with the first part. Publishers are still paying large advances when they are deemed justified, and I can send Levin links to all the times publishers were criticized for over-paying for a book but that would take more time than he took to write this article and we all have Google. But just in case: here.

If publishers can commoditize writing, they're no longer at the mercy of unruly, unmanageable and unpredictable writers.

Dude, stop with the writer hate. Seriously. It's getting weird.

The problem is that they destroy the uniqueness and creativity that readers expect when they buy a book. As the quality of books diminishes, book buyers are less likely to turn to books the next time they need to get information about a given topic. They'll go to Wikipedia, they'll do a Google search, they'll phone a friend. But they won't buy another book. Publishers have begun to hate authors. But seeking to squeeze out the individuality and admittedly the eccentricity of authors is just one more reason why book publishing as we know it is going over the cliff.

What in the blue bloody hell are you talking about? Destroying creativity? Do you have any idea the vast amount of incredible and brilliant works there are available to readers in nearly every format imagineable? This is one of those maddening statements that is predicated on absolutely no fact, not even the courtesy of a single piece of anecdotal evidence, but it thrown out there like a fistful of monkey poop just so people will recoil. Publishers want creativity. They need creativity.  Book publishing is going over a cliff? Listen man, if you used one shred of actual evidence, statistical or anecdotal, to prove your point, I'd consider. Happily. I've worked in publishing a decade and there are legit things about it that drive me crazy. But I don't stand on a corner naked under a sandwich board that reads 'The World is Ending!' because you know what, nobody will take me seriously. As nobody should take Levin's article seriously. The irony is that Levin describes himself (note: describes himself) as a thought leader, yet there's not one shred of actual thought in his putrid essay.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

FAKING LIFE: Jason's first ever ebook exclusive novel now available!

NEVER BEFORE PUBLISHED ANYWHERE! - Available for just $2.99 for a limited time!

How much is one life worth? In FAKING LIFE, internationally bestselling author Jason Pinter offers a ripped-from-the-headlines thriller that asks the ultimate question--that could cost three people their careers, their souls, and even their lives. John Gillis is a lifelong bartender looking to jump-start his stagnant existence after the death of a close friend by writing a raw, unvarnished memoir. Esther is an ambitious young woman searching for career inspiration and true love and believes in John she just might have found both. Nico Vanetti is a fading literary agent, a former King of Industry, who sees John Gillis as his meal ticket back to the top. Nico knows that in entertainment whatever bleeds, leads, and so in order to reap the millions he expects from John's story he'll do whatever it takes to manipulate John's life behind the scenes--even if it means forcing him to pay with his life. FAKING LIFE is high-stakes novel of suspense that shows just how far people will go to alter reality--even if it comes at the ultimate price.

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Friday, March 12, 2010

Coming in 2011: Jason's first book for young readers!

I'm thrilled to announce that I have just agreed to a deal to publish my very first book for young readers, tentatively scheduled to be released in late summer/early fall of 2011. I've been eager to write a book for children for a very, very long time and could not be more excited about this story, and must thank my editor and new publisher who have been enthusiastic about Zeke literally from the get go. Every time I talk to people about where my love of reading came from, I always say that it grew from the books I read as a kid. And with this new series I aim to write the kind of book that I loved when I was growing up. The kind of series and characters that I hope kids with vivid, active imaginations around the world will embrace and cherish. This is for them.

Here is the official release direct from Publishers Marketplace:

Jason Pinter's ZEKE BARTHOLOMEW: SUPERSPY!, a new series about a nerdy seventh grader who is mistaken for the world's most dangerous kid spy, and must save the planet with the help of some totally impractical gadgets, a mysterious young girl, and a little bit of dumb luck, to Daniel Ehrenhaft at Jabberwocky, in a two-book deal, by Joe Veltre at The Veltre Company.

Here's why I love Zeke Bartholomew and why I think kids all over the world will too: Zeke is just like me and you. Chances are that when you were 12, you were a little like Zeke. He's not all that popular, kind of dorky, not particularly brave, not particularly skilled, and must rely on the same things you or I might if we were tasked with saving the world (that's where the dumb luck part comes in). But perhaps there is a fire inside Zeke just waiting to be sparked...

These books will be funny and full of adventure and I can't wait to share more about Zeke's world with you. There will be action, humor, and a whole lot of gadgets that seem to serve no useful purpose whatsoever (but maybe Zeke will find a use for them). Because in 2011, the fate of the world will be in the hands of a 12-year old boy who tends to get the hiccups at the most inopportune times...which means we're all in big, big trouble...


Tuesday, January 12, 2010

A Note for Readers of THE HUNTERS

I recently went to and was surprised to find rampant criticism of my free ebook novella THE HUNTERS, criticism that nothing to do with the content but with the publication of the book itself. Most were upset that THE HUNTERS was not a full-length novel, others incorrectly assumed that THE HUNTERS was simply a republication of several chapters from another one of my books under a different name. Based on those incorrect assumptions, many felt the book was a "gimmick" and blasted me for "lying" to readers. This could not be farther from the truth.

Let me make this clear: THE HUNTERS is not a full novel. It is a novella, about 40-50 pages long. It takes place during one frantic night between THE FURY and THE DARKNESS.

However: THE HUNTERS has never been published anywhere previously. It is not a 'sample' from another book, or a collection of chapters from any other published book. THE HUNTERS is a wholly original work that cannot be found anywhere else, in any of my other books. I wrote it with the intention that it would be offered for free. I make this very clear in the Readers Note that accompanies the work--but it seems many did not read that section. THE HUNTERS was written so that readers who have never tried my work could get a free, unique taste, and so longtime readers could get a brand new story that fleshed out characters while offering some great suspense.

I am proud of this story. It contains perhaps my favorite Jack O'Donnell scene ever. I am surprised and saddened to hear people claim they were 'duped'. This novella is offered for free; nobody ever paid a penny for this ebook, which I put considerable effort into. If you dislike the content, fair enough, but it is and hopefully always will be free. If you enjoy THE HUNTERS, I hope you might try one of my novels. If you don't like the ebook, that is your right, but please base those criticisms on content rather than false assumptions. I happen to think it's a pretty suspenseful and even emotional story. Either way, please decide for yourself.

You can download THE HUNTERS on: