Wednesday, June 28, 2006

ThrillerFest 2006 Pre-Blog

I have a 6:50 a.m. flight tomorrow morning to Arizona for the first annual ThrillerFest. At 2:00 I'll be on a panel called TIGHTENING YOUR THRILLER: Editing to the Bones. It's about how to write three-dimensional space monkeys in your book. Actually, it's about editing your thriller. Duh.

A few links to keep you entertained:

Sandra Ruttan has a new post at the Killer Year blog

J.B. Thompson interviewed me for her website

The first teaser trailer for Spider-Man 3
This, folks, is why it's so smart to make people aware of releases well in advance. Not that Spider-Man 3 needed much advance hype...but how cool is the symbiote/Venom suit? And when Sandman attacks through the building? And even Topher Grace looks kind of bad ass (BTW a very cool and interesting casting choice for Eddie Brock, in my opinion). The over/under for the number of times I see this movie in theaters is 3.5.

Now, define irony: Writing a post about witnessing John Mayer's horrendous stand up comedy act, getting trashed (and called various names) by his fans for writing it, then sitting down last night to watch "Family Guy" and having it turn out to be the episode where Doug, Chris's demonic pimple, possesses him to spraypaint "That's Enough, John Mayer" on a brick wall. Or maybe it's not ironic, but noteworthy. Still pretty funny.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Tuesdays With...Whatever

I have a new post up a M.J. Rose's Buzz, Balls & Hype. Check it out. And then check out Brett Battles's post about the Killer Year House Rules (doesn't have the same ring as "The Cider House Rules").

Got a lot of feedback on Sunday's post about John Mayer's stand up routine, mostly from his fans telling me John can do whatever he wants because he's famous. Now that's tremendous logic. I don't care if he's the greatest musician in the world, he just wasn't funny on Friday. He was awkward and rambling and borderline offensive. When it comes to comedy, I'm a hell of a lot more jealous of guys like George Carlin and Chris Rock. I'm not saying Mayer's a racist, or a mysogenist. But I'm sure as hell not jealous of him either. Hell, he didn't even use any words that weren't used by other (funnier) comedians earlier in the night. But it's all about context, about content, and how you use it.

The other comedians who made racially or sexually charged jokes did it in context that made sense, that incited laughter either because they were so far off the wall, or because there was a hint of truth to them. There's always a second layer beneath the shock value. Mayer didn't have that. I don't know if he meant to simply shock, or if he just didn't have the timing or experience, but what other comedians made funny he simply made awkward. I'm not begruding any musical "talent" he has, but as a comedian he should stick to birthday parties before trying out the Cellar again.

Also note that twice he had to pull out the dreaded crib sheet to remember what jokes came next. Always the sign of a true professional.

And if I can quote a person who commented on the actual post:

I was at the same show and honestly had the same reaction that Jason had. I thought he was god-awful. I was sitting right in front and only really laughed because it was awkward being that close while someone was pretty much bombing. There were a couple of laughs in there, but most jokes either didn't have much of a point or were tough to relate to as a non-celebrity. For example, the "Don't you hate it when you go out to a really expensive and exclusive sushi restaurant and one of your friends tells you about another, more expensive, more exclusive sushi restaurant" bit. Yeah, who hasn't been there? That said, even though it wasn't very good and was awkward at the moment, I thought it was a cool thing to see. Its certainly been a great story to tell friends. It certainly didn't take anything away from my night out at the club.

Mayer had guts to get up on stage at 12:30 a.m. on a Friday night in front of a rowdy New York crowd, I'll give him that. And he certainly didn't ruin the night--the other comedians were too good for that. But I still think he should stick to the Wonderland stuff.

Monday, June 26, 2006

A Case of the Mondays

A couple of quick things...

I have a new post up at the Killer Year blog, so check it out. Also read the previous posts, including a fun one asking the Class of 2007 members about which rock bands best suit their lead characters.

ThrillerFest 2006 begins this Thursday, and I'm excited to be a part of it. I'll be on a panel called TIGHTENING YOUR THRILLER on Thursday, talking about the processes that go into editing a thriller and pitfalls to avoid. First pitfall, do not name your character Brick Hardcastle.

I saw "Cars" last night, had a grand 'ol time. Not as good as "Monsters Inc." or "Finding Nemo," but that's ok. Pixar is still second to none when it comes to making consistently great movies. And while "Cars" wasn't as great as the last two, it was still light years better than most of the homogenized crap in theaters during the summer. Not to mention a hilarious cameo by Jeremy Piven (who is damned to play variations of "Ari Gold" the rest of his career) playing the smooth-talking agent of Owen Wilson's car. And let's just say someone was a little teary-eyed by the time the credits rolled (another Pixar staple, GREAT end credit sequences). The only filmmaker I can remember being on anywhere near that kind of roll is Steven Soderbergh when he directed "Out of Sight," "The Limey," "Erin Brockovich," "Traffic" and "Ocean's 11" back-to-back-to-back-to-back-to-back. And even he wasn't able to cast George Carlin as a pothead minivan who still lives in the 60's and moans about the government conspiracy to prevent people from knowing about his "Organic Fuel."

And check out Sunday's post for an interesting story that will make you wonder whether "Wonderland" really is a nice place to visit.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Stay Far, Far Away From This Wonderland

So Friday night I went down to the Comedy Cellar, in my opinion the best stand up joint in New York. I go to the Cellar probably four or five times a year, and it's pretty much always a good show. I recognize a lot of the jokes by this point, but you can 100% count on a fun night. Plus sometimes the Cellar has surprise unannounced guest comedians, like a few years ago when Chris Rock showed up and did a terrific set.

Anyway, Friday's lineup looked pretty good. Sherrod Small, Dave Attell (one of my personal favorites), Jim Norton, and Kevin Brennan were scheduled. We settle in. Sherrod Small does a good set, as expected, and gets the crowd nice and rowdy. The next guy bombs on his first two jokes, so we're all anticipating an awkwardly quiet set, but he completely recovers and ends up being one of the highlights of the night. Another comedian or two, and then the M.C., Keith Robinson, announces a surprise guest. Immediately the audience perks up, and we can feel the electricity of anticipation.

Who could it be? we all wonder. Chris Rock? Adam Sandler? Jerry Seinfeld? Some other famous comedian?

So Keith Robinson continues. "Ladies and gentleman, you'll recognize our special guest from his mutli-platinum records, give it up for John Mayer!"

And everyone's reaction is the same. Uh...isn't he a singer?

But then there he is. John Mayer. Yes, that John Mayer. "Your Body is a Wonderland" John Mayer. And he's going to do stand up comedy for us. Um...what???

Mayer gets on stage. He's wearing a unibomber sweatshirt, and has long, scraggly hair. He's pretty tall and skinny. He's pacing around stage, leaning on the walls, slurring his words. It's pretty obvious the guy's drunk or stoned, maybe both. And he proceeds to give the most awkward, offensive, unfunny 15 minute comedy act I've ever seen. And I've been to amateur night. This was way worse. Mayer must have been the lucky recipient of some sort of Comedy Affirmative Action program.

Anyway, here's what we learned during John Mayer's rambling, disjointed "stand up":

1) Women are sluts (If you're expecting a punchline were we. Didn't come.)
2) Lots of sluts have "unlocked their Masterlock" for him. Ew.
3) New Yorkers aren't really bothered much by terrorism. Cause there's like "Missiles and shit" constantly being launched at us and we're used to it. Um...right. Might want to quit while you're behind, John.
4) He lives up on a hill "away from the black people." (Danger, Will Robinson, danger)
5) If white people were allowed to use the 'N' word, he would use it about 1,000 times a day. And yes, Mayer did use the 'N' word during his act.

It was so bad, that the comedians following Mayer made fun of him. Not just "tee hee" kind of ribbing, but, "Can you believe that guy can hold a job" kind of ribbing. Now comedians are always ripping on each other in jest (one night I actually ended up drinking with Dave Attell at about 4 a.m., and learned that comedians are about the tightest group of people you could ever meet). But these guys were letting Mayer have it for imposing on their stage. Kevin Brennan, who had the good fortune of following Mayer (with the laugh-starved audience thankful to once again hear funny material), said, "Man, this is the best reception I've ever had. I want John Mayer to open for me every night."

When his set ended, John Mayer left by saying, "Ok, I'm off to write more songs."

Good idea, John. Don't quit your day job.

Update (1/23/07)
I was just interviewed by Entertainment Weekly regarding Mayer's performance, so I just wanted to clarify something. In my original post, I stated that Mayer used the 'N' word "several times" during his act. Thinking back I know he used it at least once, but I am not 100% certain that he did more than once, so I removed that phrase. I don't want it to be misinterpreted that he pulled a Michael Richards. It was merely a case of using an unfortunate word which, in my view, was an ugly exclamation point to a subpar set.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

ThrillerFest 2006

Forget the past few days, let's concentrate on something really exciting...

ThrillerFest 2006

The very first ThrillerFest, and I'm happy to be a part of it. Not only will I be eagerly anticipating many of the panels, but I'll be on one myself:

A New York Editor covers the steps that go into editing a thriller novel, common mistakes and how to correct them.

As both an editor and author I hope I can give some interesting insight into the process that goes into editing a thriller. And try not to bore anyone to death.

Anyway, if you're going, you can look for me by the pool. I'll be the guy wearing SPF 60 and hoping his skin doesn't catch on fire.

Friday, June 23, 2006

A Conversation with Elaine Viets

Note: These are unedited emails exchanged between Elaine Viets and I on 6/23/06

From: Jason Pinter

To: EViets

Hi Elaine -

I thought I'd send an actual email since pretty much anything said now gets lost in the cacophony on the comment board.

First, I'm not and never have been belittling anything regarding the issue of sexism or gender-bias. It is a very serious issue, and I can't begin to imagine the hardships many women face because of it. I utterly sympathize with anyone who's had to overcome it, and don't pretend to be able to understand the emotions involved.

But in all honesty, I think your remarks on The Lipstick Chronicles are doing more harm than good. I agree that having all 15 nominees as men is noteworthy and upsetting, but to level charges of bias and say they don't care about works by women is incredibly presumptuous, and after seeing the fact and the remarks from the judges, irrational. If you've read the other comments, as well as the remarks by ITW co-president and co-founder Gayle Lynds, not only were half of the judges women, but only 29% of the works submitted were written by women. That, to me, is far more distressing.

But that is an issue that lies with the authors and publishers, not with ITW, since as Gayle says they made every effort to get publishers and authors to send their books. No doubt some fantastic works written by women were not submitted, and to me that's incredibly unfortunate and distressing.

ITW has only been in existence one year, and as Gayle says if you take such a small sampling from nearly any group, you can find groups (whether it be gender, race, or ethnicity) that were left out. But over time things do even out. Knowing several ITW members, both male and female, I sincerely believe they voted for the books they thought merited nominations. The fact that they were all written by men is certainly eye-opening, but I think leveling such claims and then defending them in the face of such overwhelming facts hurts the point you're trying to make. Forgive me for the vulgar comparison, but to me it's like a politician defending a policy long after it's been proven to be ineffective.

If you disagree with some of the nominees, that's perfectly fair. Nobody will ever unianimously agree on award nominations. I've had heated arguments about nominees and award-winners, but unless there's a long-term pattern of indisputable bias (like the Oscars leaving African Americans off the ballot) I would never think the judges voted because they had evil intentions in their hearts.

I'm all for having intelligent, rational discussions on this matter, and I'm fully in support of making an effort to have more books written by women submitted for the 2007 ITW awards. But bias is a very, very serious charge, and these are good people who love books. I truly believe they voted when their hearts told them to, not when their head put a gender or ethnic qualifier on it.

I think there are much more proactive measures that can be taken to right any wrongs, but saying ITW does not care about women is simply flippant mud-slinging, and undermines a very serious issue that deserves intelligent discussion.

I appreciate your taking the time to read this, and if there's a way to take these proactive measures or have a more involved discussion, I would be more than happy to take part and encourage others to do so as well.
Jason Pinter

From: EViets
To: Jason Pinter

Dear Jason:
First of all, thank you for your personal note. I really appreciate you taking the time to write. I think that both of us are focused on improving the mystery field. It's just that we are looking at it from different viewpoints -- and I am quite convinced mine is correct.
The ITW contest was ill-conceived and hastily put together, and ITW is reaping the consequences.

The organization was unable to come up with a viable definition of a thriller, and so could not judge the books properly. Its Website embraced a wide range. Its judges did not.

The judging process was further flawed by using reviewers, whom many news organizations, including the NY Times and Chicago Tribune company, consider unethical, and most organizations, including MWA, ban.
I was a reporter for many years. I can't tell you how many companies, when accused of sexism, said, "We can't find good candidates." I can tell you this. No judge in a court of law ever accepted that excuse.

Some 29 percent of the ITW entries are women, and many of those women are topflight writers with a string of nominations and awards from other groups. Yet the ITW judges still couldn't nominate one woman out of 15.

Don't blame me. Don't blame the authors and publishers for not submitting the books.

ITW has a problem. It needs to quit defending the indefensible, and fix it so it never happens again. That's when the mystery community will quit talking about this issue.
From: Jason Pinter
To: EViets
I completely agree that many of the women not nominated are topflight writers, and some of my favorite crime writers of all time as well. I think you raise some good points here, and perhaps some of the processes need to be reconsidered. I'm a member of ITW but not on the board or judging panel, but do know many who are and will be happy to discuss issues that can be remedied.

But I do think it's wrong to think the judges purposefully left females out of the nominations. We have every right to have our own opinions about who and who should not be nominated, but bias and sexism are very strong words, legally punishable if proven, and I think it was unfair to label the judges as such without a track record of discrimination, based on a sample from their very first year in existence.

I think everyone's heart is in the right place and desires the same thing--a completely fair and balanced system that rewards authors based purely on merit, male or female, black or white, etc... I believe the judges were acting in that regard, and I hope as much as you do that terrific female writers will be recognized in the future, and more importantly that the best works are recognized without any biases whatsoever.
From: EViets
To: Jason Pinter

Sorry, Jason, on this subject we must agree to disagree. Sexism is serious -- but so is eliminating an entire gender.
From: Jason Pinter
To: EViets
I'm sorry you feel this is something we "disagree" on. The judges did not "eliminate" an entire gender. This was not a conspiracy to leave women off of the nominations. Why would any organization, especially one made up of intelligent people who make their living via writing, an art form based on integrity, do such a thing?

I agree with you that sexism is a serious issue, one that should be dealt with severely. I do not believe the ITW judges--half of them being female--are biased towards women. There is a very poignant and heartfelt response on the blog by Ali Karim, an ITW judge who has experienced bigotry and prejudice, and is also a member of the Mystery Women group in the UK which promotes female crime writers. Ali took your post, which accused him of the very despicable acts he has been a victim of, quite personally as you can imagine.

I would like to share this conversation, as I think people on both sides of the issue would appreciate hearing more from the post's originator, and hopefully this can add intelligent discussion to both sides and result in an amicable resolution.
I appreciate your responses very much.
All best,

From ITW President Gayle Lynds

Reprinted by permission

My name is Gayle Lynds, and I'm co-founder and co-president of ITW, with David Morrell. I've been following with interest the queries that have arisen about the nominees for the first ITW Thriller awards. As an individual --- not representing ITW, its board, or its officers --- perhaps I can shed some light on the subject.

I was as surprised as anyone by the results of the ITW Thriller nominations. But then, ITW deliberately built a firewall around the award judges, so none of us knew the outcome in advance. At the same time, no panel of judges knew the results of any other panel's deliberations.

Let me tell you a little about the firewall: Any author or person speaking on behalf of an author who tried to influence any of ITW's judges would have had that author's books disqualified for two years. This was so that the judges could work in private and in secret. All board members as well as the chair of the Awards Committee --- James Rollins --- were ineligible to be considered for the awards. Again, this was to protect the judges and to avoid any accusations of favoritism toward ITW's leaders. This information is available in ITW's bylaws at short, ITW's board worked very hard to make certain the awards were as fair and as impartial as possible, and so did the judges, as you will see.

Since this was ITW's first year, the judges faced the monumental task of creating systems that would be the foundation for all future awards. Because of the boxes of books that arrived on their doorsteps to be read, several had to delay their own deadlines and make sacrifices within their families in order to fulfill their very serious responsibility to judge well. This sort of selflessness is to be lauded.I personally am proud of every book and film script that was nominated. All are excellent works from the thriller field.

Now about the accusations I've read recently about sexism in the awards....If you go to you'll see a list of all submitted books. Only 29% were written by women. For the Thriller Best Novel, only 17%. At the bottom of, you'll see a note to authors: "If your book is not on the list, please contact your publisher to remind them to submit your book as quickly as possible." So what happened? The chair and judging panels showed their concern that they be able to consider every thriller published in 2005 in several ways. The chair and several chief judges contacted all publishers --- both publicists and editors in each house --- to alert them that ITW was in the process of judging its first awards and to ask them to submit all thrillers. I stress that not just one person was contacted in each house, but several, to ensure that the house understood that ITW really wanted each and every book in all of the subcategories of thrillers, from adventure to medical, romantic to espionage, legal to historical, and every other permutation. No one should be left out of the race.

Still, books were not always submitted. The judges worked closely with the chair, alerting him when they saw new books coming out. At the same time, he was on the watch, too. He went back time and again to publishers. When it became apparent that few novels by female authors were being submitted, he redoubled his efforts, often contacting a house four times on behalf of novels that were clearly thrillers written by women. At the same time notices were sent to ITW members reminding them to check the website to make certain their 2005 novels had been submitted.In the end, the responsibility for having books submitted rests on the shoulders of the publishers. That's their job. At the same time, authors had the option of submitting copies of their books themselves. As an author (not as a woman who has spent her life battling sexism), I could complain that no women were nominated. At the same time, I could also complain that no people of color were. I'm not sure whether any Muslims or religions other than Christian or Jewish were nominated, but I think they weren't either. There also might be a preponderance of nominees from one section of the United States, which could be taken as a prejudice favoring that area.As long as awards are given in whatever field, there are always going to be those who say, "I wish it were otherwise. And because it isn't, it's prejudice."

The only time there's really an institutional problem, at least in my mind, is when there is a history of one group of people being disenfranchised. Since this is ITW's first year, the organization can have no track record of institutional prejudice. ITW has worked diligently to avoid prejudice. The judges by their actions have indicated they have also been diligent in trying to create a level playing field. My hat is off to ITW's judges, who worked very hard and read many fine books. All are excellent authors in their own rights, too. They did a sincere and worthy job, and they deserve not only our respect but our appreciation.By the way, the awards chair for next year is a woman. She is not a person of color. Her religious background is unknown to me. I'm not even certain where she lives. She is a fine author and a wonderful human. Her name will be announced at ThrillerFest. Anyone who would like to attend ThrillerFest --- it's going to be a blast --- should visit You can learn there at the Awards Banquet who the winners for the Thrillers are. ThrillerFest begins next week. As I said, all of the nominees are excellent. I congratulate them on creating superb works.
Gayle Lynds

Also, please read today's post from author J.A. Konrath, where he makes some excellent points about moral and ethical responsibility, especially in the blogosphere.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Gender Specific

This could be a powder keg, but I can't ignore it.

Yesterday, Elaine Viets over at The Lipstick Chronicles wrote a post accusing the International Thriller Writers organization of blatant sexism and bias in the fact that the nominees for their three major awards (Best Novel, Best First Novel, and Best Paperback Original) were all male. This sparked a heated debate with pundits appearing on both sides of the issue. I made my thoughts very clear, (noting that no Jews or African Americans were nominated either) and was consequently told to "shut up" and informed that ITW was in trouble if someone like me had to defend it. And I was HAPPY to be roasted like this, because in my opinion the roasts were as thoughtless as the accusations themselves.

All they did was prove my point, that these were rash comments made without any intelligent thought, and did more to harm the dialogue than help it. I can understand why women would be upset at these results. I honestly can. But there's a large gap between being upset about something, and spewing such venom.

Now ITW and their awards must be put in context. This is ITW's very first year in existance, and has not even had their inaugural conference yet. ITW is made up of approximately 227 men and 137 women (I counted off the website, apologies if I'm off a couple in either direction). They include Harley Jane Kozak, who blogs at The Lipstick Chronicles. The membership is open to all authors--male and female--who have published (or will be publishing) work by a mainstream press than can be defined by ITW as a "Thriller." So right off the bat, 62.4% of the membership is male. In total, 290 books were submitted for the awards (available on the public record here). Approximately 68% of the submissions were books written by men.

Now, the fact that 15 out of 15 nominees were male is noteworthy, and perhaps upsetting, but only if you argue personal taste. The fact is over 50% of the ITW judges are female. It's fair to assume that because the majority of books considered were written by men, the majority of books nominated would be written by men (but I guarantee you if the best 15 books were written by women as agreed upon by the judges, the results would reflect that).

If 68% of the books submitted were written by men, the odds state that 10 or 11 of the 15 nominees would be men. 15 out of 15 is an outcome that's interesting, but isn't that much of a statistical leap. There are many wonderful female thriller writers, but the fact is both female and male judges voted for those they felt were most deserving. If you want to argue Writer X deserved the award more than Writer Y, that's fine. I do that all the time. Awards at their heart are subjective, the judges voting for who they think are deserving. There has never been unanimous agreement over an award, and there never will be.

Gayle Lynds, a master of the genre and one of ITW's judges (and yes, a female), made these comments on Backspace:

"You'll note that at least half of the judges were women. I suspect that the fact that only men were nominated was a statistical anomalie. As an author (not as a woman who has spent her life battling sexism), I could complain that some women weren't nominated. At the same time, I could also complain that no people of color were. I'm not sure about whether any Muslims or religions other than Christian or Jewish were nominated, but I think they weren't either. There also might be a preponderance of nominees from one section of the United States, which could be taken as a prejudice favoring that area. As long as awards are given in whatever field, there are always going to be those who say, "I wish it were otherwise. And because it isn't, it's prejudice." The only time there's really an institutional problem, at least in my mind, is when there is a history of one group of people being obviously ignored. Since this is ITW's first year, we have no track record. We have done our very best to create a level playing field for all authors in which it is impossible for anyone to bribe, threaten, or somehow influence our judges.My hat is off to our judges, who worked very hard, read many books, and basically had to create their own systems from scratch, since they were the first. All are excellent authors. None has any prejudices that any of us know about. They did a sincere and worthy job, and I respect them for it."

I say shame on the Lipstick Chronicle bloggers and commentors who threw such a heinous label at an organization that seeks, at its very heart, to promote books and reading. They didn't try to learn about the issue or put it in context, they didn't bother to explore ITW as a whole or even consider who the judges were, what books were considered, or how long the organization had been in existence. They merely saw a chance to get up on their high horse and claim moral superiority, despite the fact that the horse was lame.

To me this irresponsible dialogue is far more damaging to the cause than anything ITW has done. Bias is never something that should be taken lightly, and if clear should be dealt with as severly as possible. But to slander with such impunity is reckless and merely weakens the point you're trying to make. I'd like to thank other authors and ITW members for making their points known in the posting, and I'd very much like to hear more from the other Lipstick Chronicle members who have remained suspiciously silent on the issue.

I can't begin to imagine what it's like to deal with sexism, and I truly sympathize with anyone who has had to overcome hardships imposed by it. But I will not stand for baseless accusations, where name-calling is used in lieu of rational thought, where venom seeks to counteract intelligence, and a self-serving agenda is argued despite all evidence that contradicts it.

UPDATE: Sandra Ruttan has a response directly from ITW co-founder and co-president Gayle Lynds on her blog.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Ten Bucks Says Somebody Might Actually Do This

I was all ready to write a post today commenting on Barry Eisler's remarks that in order to write a book, you have to turn off the television. I disagreed with Barry...but that post is for another time. Something far more important has come up. Something of such pressing importance that I had to shelve that post idea and write about it.

Every morning I sift through the newspapers (New York Times, New York Daily News, New York Post, USA Today), and this morning something horrifying made my breath catch and my heart skip a beat.

This couldn't be true, could it?

Paris Hilton, famous, Paris Hilton is about to hit the Billboard charts with her first single. Hey Kevin Federline, you might have a career after all.

I heard a bit of Paris's single this weekend. But I couldn't tell if it was good or not, because I'm pretty sure the hand of Lucifer was clawing at my brain through the airwaves and distracting me.

But then it hit me. If something like that could take someone like Paris Hilton, give her a hit television series, get her on the cover of Vanity Fair, and give her a successful recording career...why couldn't it work for someone else? I had an epiphany, a BRILLIANT marketing ploy that will surely rocket one lucky author's career to the stratosphere. Don't thank me now, but I do expect a cut of the royalties. Here's what I suggest:

Two midlist authors, a man and woman whose sales have been steady but never really taken off after several books, who've been the recipient of a strong marketing push that never took hold, who don't necessarily have to be photogenic in the least, must get together and, right before their respective books come out, release a sex tape.

How could they not hit the bestseller list?

Ok, I'm partially joking...but not really. Do you think for one second that thing wouldn't get passed around YouTube faster than "Lazy Sunday?" Do you think for one second that Howard Stern wouldn't play that thing more often than Z100 plays that new Nelly Furtado song? Do you really think it wouldn't get mainstream media attention and rocket both authors up the charts, and set their backlist on fire?

They could even take it a step further, maybe spread manuscript pages all over the bed, and call each other by the names of their famous characters (Oh, Harry Bosch!).

Laugh all you want, this is marketing gold. I predict that in five years publishers will start listing this on ARCs next to the other publicity plans.
  • Advertising in the New York Times and TIME
  • Major media campaign
  • Radio Interviews
  • Viral Marketing
  • Dimly-lit Sex Tape made with Green Nite Vision Goggles

Now that's thinking outside the box.

On another note, make sure to check out Sandra Ruttan's post over at the Killer Year Blog.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

How Do You Like Me Now?

Well, what do you think? I changed my template to fit in a little better with the Man in Black theme. Plus I accidentally screwed up my template over the weekend, so I figured fudging around might fix it. Something in my Friday post messed up the template so I had to delete it, many apologies if you used that post to sing your children to sleep at night.

But the blog is officially fixed, and there are a few new developments. Today I have my first blog up at M.J. Rose's BUZZ, BALL & HYPE. This will be a weekly event, and I'm very flattered that M.J. asked me to take part. She's done an incredible job and her website is an invaluable tool for writers, readers and industry pros, so hopefully I can live up to the high bar she's set.

Killer Year is off and running, make sure to check in every day for a brand new blog from one of our members. Today Brett Battles has a post about making an impression, something the Class of 2007 will undoubtedly do. Read it, or incur the wrath of Eric Cartman.

On another note...does anyone out there really want to see "Little Man," you know that movie starring the Wayans brothers where one of their faces is CGI'ed onto a midget? This is what I refer to as a "trailer movie," where the premise is so simple (i.e. idiotic) that you can watch the trailer and essentially see the whole movie. If there are any funny parts, they're in the trailer. But the trailer is still pretty dumb (Guy gets hit with a frying pan! Ha! I've never seen that in a movie before!), and if it does well I fear for the future of humanity.

I like the Wayans brothers. No, really. But these "paste-eating third grader" concepts like "Little Man" and "White Chicks" are tough to watch. I still think Marlon could have been nominated for an Oscar for his role in "Requiem for a Dream," one of my favorite movies of all time. And between "In Living Color," "I'm Gonna Get You Sucka" and the "Scary Movie" series, you can't argue with the impact they've had on popular culture.

Now excuse me while I go watch the "Look Who's Talking" trilogy for the 1,328th time.

Monday, June 19, 2006

It's Going to be a Killer Year

The wait is over. The Killer Year website and blog are fully active. What began as a fairly innocuous comment on this blog has metastasized ino a living, breathing organism with 14 members, boatloads of talent and drive, and enough devious plotting in their minds to make Oceans 11 look like an Olson Twins movie.

So check out the blog.
And remember to look behind you.

Meet the deadliest debut novelists of 2007.

This is gonna be huge...

The Killer Year Website

The Killer Year Blog

Thursday, June 15, 2006

A Few Things

First things first...yesterday I closed a deal for a novel trilogy I couldn't be more excited about. This is kind of a departure for us, but this author is going to be a HUGE star. There's absolutely no better feeling in publishing than reading a simply amazing book, then actually being able to buy it.

On that note, if you don't read CON ED by Matthew Klein when it comes out, you're insane. I read this novel in one sitting when it was on submission, and immediately ran screaming down the hallways wemustbuythiswemustbuythiswemustbuythis! It's just totally brilliant, out Leonarding Elmore Leonard and outoceaning Ocean's 11.

Brett Battles, J.T. Ellison, Sandra Ruttan and I have been hard at work prepping for Monday's launch of Killer Year and it's new blog. We've steadily grown our membership and are excited about all the possibilites the Class of 2007 holds. ThrillerFest is only 2 weeks away, and we'll be there to kick ass and chew gum (but sorry, we're all out of gum).

In more news, starting this Tuesday I'll be doing a weekly blog on M.J. Rose's fantastic Buzz, Balls & Hype. My weekly blog (on Tuesdays, natch) will shed light on the murky depths of the publishing industry, and also tell the story of a young boy who dreamed of one day becoming a writer, played the trombone in high school, worked as a lowly editorial assistant before he made good and met the girl of his dreams.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

The 20 Most Annoying People in a Bookstore

1) The sweaty guy standing at the New Paperbacks table blocking the one book you want, who appears to be reading the entire section in one sitting and eyeballs you as though you’re invading his personal space.

2) The couple with six children, including two in strollers, whose children run around the bookstore screaming like their hair is on fire and swatting themselves over the head with 700 page books like SHANTARAM.

3) The teenagers who sit down three deep in the aisle reading Manga and graphic novels, thereby preventing anyone from passing through or fleeing in case of a fire alarm.

4) The girls who pick up every chick lit novel on the table and talk about how much the characters remind them of their own lives.

5) The guy in the magazine section reading Maxim (or FHM or Stuff or Playboy) who flips to every pictorial, openly ogles the photos for ten minutes, then puts it back on the shelf and moves on.

6) The store clerk with the weird wheezy breathing who’s only restocking, but seems to be following you around the store like Darth Vader wearing a Borders t-shirt.

7) The book snobs who watch you browse, waiting to see what you pick up so they can scoff and shake their head as though you’re an idiot to even think about reading it.

8) The people who sit in the coffee bar hogging an entire table even though they finished their latté half an hour ago and show no interest in that copy of Architectural Digest.

9) People who tenderly rub the jacket of every single book on the shelf, either because the embossing makes them tingle or they simply must leave traces of their DNA on every conceivable surface.

10) The smarmy college kid in the Classic Literature section giving anyone within earshot a lecture about what Walden really meant to Thoreau (which he cribbed from SparkNotes).

11) The woman on the checkout line who picks up the little “Bonzai Tree in a Box” impulse gifts and adds four of them to her basket.

12) The checkout people who whisper "next customer in line" at a frequency lower than dog whistles, then glare at customers who can’t hear them.

13) The guy who knocks over a huge stack of books then scoots away before anyone notices (or so he thinks).

14) The elderly couple that picks up new hardcovers and voices their disbelief at how expensive books have gotten since THE GRAPES OF WRATH was first published.

15) The guy chewing gum loudly who takes a book off the shelf, flips through it, then puts it back in the wrong place.

16) Old ladies who appear to be leaving the store, but just stand motionless in the doorway and prevent anybody else from coming in or leaving and look like they might faint if you ask them to move.

17) The beret-wearing guy in the music section who seems to be having some sort of seizure as he listens to the Black Eyed Peas on those gigantic headphones plugged into the wall.

18) People who ask the clerk, “Do you have that book by that guy that just came out?”

19) People who stand in the humor section and read the books to each other while giggling like they just farted in a crowded movie theater.

20) People who sit in the comfy leather chairs in the history section and look like they haven’t moved since before the 19th Century European History shelf was built.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

The Truth About Literary Agents

If you're an unpublished author and can't handle brutal truth, skip this post. If you want the unvarnished truth about agent/editor/author relationships, read on...

A few weeks ago, the SFWA published a list of the 20 worst literary agents. Many unpublished authors took this as a chance to vent their frustrations at disreputable literary agents, even calling into question the validity of the entire business of agenting. Blogs filled up with vehement comments, authors and bloggers gnashed their proverbial teeth and mounted their High Horses and rode off into the sunset.

But in the publishing industry, this was a total non-issue. Nobody cared. Editors didn't bat an eyelash, agents didn't sweat through their shirts. As an editor, I have to know every agent out there who I'd ever want to receive submissions from. That's part of my job. If I don't know an agent personally, I know their agency or am aware of books they've sold. When I meet an agent I've never heard of, they're almost always a new hire at an agency I do know. Bottom line, editors know which agents matter. And I'd never heard of any of these 20 agents. Not a single one. And I'm willing to bet 99% of my colleagues would say the same thing.

So when we saw this list, it was no big deal. If an agent doesn't submit to us, doesn't sell any books whatsoever, 2+2 says they're full of crap. So why are authors all up in arms about this? It's like losing a game of 3 Card Monte outside a filthy bus station and crying foul when the dealer runs away with your cash.

Too many authors see literary agents in black and white. You either have one or you don't. If you have one, you win. If you don't, you lose. That's far from the truth. There are hundreds upon hundreds of literary agents out there, and you're fooling yourself if you think they all run their businesses the same way.

Some agents I consider friends, and even hang out with socially. Some agents, I trust their taste and their submissions go to the top of the pile. Then there are agents who make me slap my forehead, and their book goes to the bottom, never to be seen again.

This week I got a debut novel on submission where the agent irked the hell out of me. I'd never met this agent. Agent X did the following on the cover letter alone:

1) Got my name wrong
2) Compared the book to THE DA VINCI CODE
3) Compared the book to A CONFEDERACY OF DUNCES
4) Said it was a cross between THE DA VINCI CODE and A CONFEDERACY OF DUNCES
5) Referred to THE DA VINCI CODE as "historical fiction"

Let's just say the book isn't on my "Must read" list.

Editors put faith in agents to varying degrees. Some agents have reputations for having impeccable taste. If they submit a project in their proven genre, you can bet the farm it'll be pretty good. Some agents have reputations for sniffing out commercial projects, or signing up celebrities. Other agents have reputations for signing up every query that comes through their inbox, throwing 15 submissions out a month and crossing their fingers that one sells. Some agents will sell 9 out of every ten projects they submit. Other agents will sell 1 out of every 500. Hey authors, we know which agents are which. And so should you.

There are too many resources out there for authors for them to ever complain that they didn't know any better. There's Publishers Weekly. There's Publishers Marketplace, the bible for unpublished writers seeking out agents. If an agent shows interest in signing you, the first thing you should do is find out what books they've sold, and to what publishers. If despite tons of research and googling you can't find a single record of a sale the agent made, hey, guess what, nobody will ever find a record of your book being sold either. I have no sympathy for authors who sign with disreputable agents, because there are just too many resources available to anyone with access to a library or the Internet to claim ignorance.

Good agents generally only sign up books they believe they can sell. Therefore editors know that the books they submit have been heavily scrutinized and are infinitely better than the stuff that comes in unsolicited. At least once a week I'll get an email from an author who recently fired their agent because their book didn't sell. The emails always have the same message.

Now that I've dropped that extra baggage in my crappy agent, you can buy my book without interference from that incompetant piece of crap.

And the first thing I want to say is, "Way to go. That 'piece of crap' was the helium balloon that carried you above the slush pile. Welcome back to it, buddy."

When an author's book doesn't sell, their reaction 95% of the time is one of two things:

1) The editor is an idiot
2) The agent is an idiot

Very rarely does someone look inward and say, "Hey, maybe my book didn't sell for a reason. The next one I write will be even better." The average Editor probably receives about 500 submissions a year. Of those 500, they will probably buy 5-10, and perhaps acquire a few projects they sought out themselves. The truth is editors DO NOT rely on, or even read, slush submissions. There just isn't time. And the fact is if an author sends us an unsolicited submission, our first thought is, "Well I guess they couldn't get an agent."

Bottom line, if you're a good writer, odds are you'll eventually get a book deal. But authors need to be honest with themselves. If they have a good agent and their book doesn't sell, they can't blame it on external factors. An author can always get better. And note I said good writer, not merely 'ok' or 'competent.' 172,000 books were published last year. Let's just say you need to have pretty impressive chops to stand out.

We understand authors are sensitive, that every rejection is a punch to the gut, that every word of every rejection letter is scrutinized more intensely than the Talmud. Trust me on this, there's rarely a deeper meaning. And if you want to last in this industry, you need to have thick skin. Otherwise either you'll go insane or you'll drive your editor/agent/publicist insane. And nobody wants to work with someone who has to be babysat 24/7.

If you can't get an agent, the next step is not to submit directly to editors. The next step is to hone your craft, then do your homework. It's your career. It's your book you've slaved away on for hours on end. Books are newborn children, they need coddling and nurturing from the right people. Would you hand your newborn child to just anybody who asked?

Monday, June 12, 2006

Monday Randomness

First things first. Brett Battles, J.T. Ellison, Sandra Ruttan and I are hard at work designing the website. We have the skeleton ready, but I've found that me trying to create a fun, interactive website is like a penguin trying to make an omelet. Fortunately our collective brainpower will overcome this obstacle (either that or we'll start drooling and end up friends with the men in white coats).

We have set an official launch date, however, of June 19th, when the site will be fully active with the first blog posted. We're all incredibly excited and trust us, a lot of thought is going into this. Again if you are an author whose debut crime novel (i.e. mystery, thriller, romantic suspense, etc...) is being published in 2007, go to to see how you can become a member of the class of 2007.

Anyway a few random thoughts...

Finished Joseph Finder's COMPANY MAN over the weekend. Enjoyed it overall, moreso than PARANOIA, though it could have used someone taking a machete and lopping off 150 pages. The best stuff for me was the description of a regular guy, Nick Conover, who's the CEO of the biggest company in a small town. Because half the town has been laid off, Nick has been christened Satan, and his entire family is affected by it (think Gene Hackman's character in "The Quick and the Dead," only as a decent fella).

Started Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child's BRIMSTONE yesterday. I loved CABINET OF CURIOSITIES, and have been looking forward to starting the Pendergast trilogy (BRIMSTONE, DANCE OF DEATH, THE BOOK OF THE DEAD). So far so good. Pendergast is a very different protagonist than we see in most mysteries and thrillers, and Preschild (as I call them) imbue their books with the perfect amount of detail to make things interesting without bogging down the story.

Watched the season debut of "Entourage" on demand this morning. Really enjoyed it, and was disappointed when it was over. You know a show is good when the screen fades to black and you're like, "Damn."

Things I like about "Entourage":

All the characters feel lived in, the kind of characters that are written so well you honestly believe the actors behave like them off camera.

There's never a dull moment. Every episode is complete fun. Except for last season, when Mandy Moore's guest appearance nearly derailed the entire show. She was the ultimate wet blanket in a show that cannot exist with a wet blanket. Every time she was on screen, I imagined her agent cashing in all his favors saying, "We need to get Mandy on this show! It's hip! It's edgy! It'll totally change her image from a teenybopper into a hot young starlet!" No dice. She was horrible. Let's move on before I get angry.

I can only take one scene per episode where Vince walks into a ridiculously expensive store and says, "I'll take one of everything."

Don't you feel like 'E' sometimes? Having to play mediator to that one friend who's so impetuous that without you they'd probably walk into traffic?

Women are written pretty terribly on the show. Shauna is basically a female Ari (without the great lines). Though I kind of liked Sloane at the end of last season, I hope there's more of her. And when did Ari's wife get a trust fund? Their best banter was him having to answer the "Batphone" in order to pay for her 6-week vacations in the south of France.

I'm also hoping Lloyd gets an opportunity to do more than just be the racial/ethnic slur trash recepticle. After his great "Even guys in the mailroom have Wharton MBAs" speech last year, I think he could become Ari's version of 'E', always pulling him back before he leaps over the edge.

The James Woods cameo seemed a little unnecessary (though it is funny that Johnny Drama seems to have some sort of history with everybody).

Best exchange ever, in the first season when Johnny Drama is meeting his (young, inexperienced) agent for the first time:

Adam Davies: When Ari told me Vince's brother was looking for an agent, I assumed he meant Vince's younger brother.
Johnny Drama: Well biologically I am older, but physically and mentally we're the same age.

And now interactive fun...I liked that Penguin/Omelet metaphor, but there has to be better ones out there. Now everybody try, what's the strangest metaphor you can think of?

Sunday, June 11, 2006

The Hard Way

Interesting article in the Wall Street Journal this weekend about Lee Child's Jack Reacher series, how he's become an uncompromising post 9/11 hero, and how the author and publishers have done a good job courting female readers. Of course this might be a byproduct of simply writing good books rather than actively seeking out a different demographic, but the results are pretty obvious. I'm also curious to know how the Journal estimated Lee's income from the books, considering he probably makes different royalties on different cover prices in all 39 countries he's published in. Plus when an author gets to Lee's status, their advances are so high they rarely earn out, so you can't accurately estimate his income based on royalties.

But sometimes I worry authors and publishers try too hard to play to ill-defined audiences. There was a very well-known thriller writer who'd been a bestselling author for years, writing male-oriented action novels. But his career was beginning to wane. So rather than write a better or different book, they took his bread and butter and decided to repackage him as more female-friendly. In the end he didn't get the female audience he was looking for, and also lost his hardcore male demographic who felt they were being abandoned.

So the moral of the story is, spend more time worrying about how good your book is, and less time worrying about how you're going to package and promote in order to reach some audience. If your book is good enough, the packaging will take care of itself, and the audience will come. Stephen King says he always writes with a "constant reader" in his head. I have a feeling most successful authors do. And the better they are, the more constant readers they have. And that's a question I'd like to ask Lee.


I put up a post last night about the audacity of youth, and the more I thought about it, the more audacious it was. And not in a good way. It was pretty self-aggrandizing, and that's not why I'm writing here.

So now back to our regularly scheduled programming.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Weekend Update

Productive weekend so far. We've constructed more of the skeleton for the Class of 2007 at, and will be adding much more in short time. This is such a thrilling project, and will hopefully help the debut crime novelists of 2007 showcase their upcoming work. If you're a 2007 debut crime novelist and haven't joined, what's the matter with you?

Also, in the very near future I'll have some announcements of my own, regarding more writing I'll be doing as well as some exciting news on the ThrillerFest front.

Oh, and just wanted to throw this out it just me or is Julia Stiles the most irritating actress working today? Every time I see a commercial for the remake of "The Omen" I want to dive into a pile of thumbtacks. Julia usurped the Most Annoying Actress throne from Juliette Lewis, who gave me migraines until she got a sense of humor on "I Love the 80's."

Julia Stiles has this attitude, kind of like that snotty girl in high school who was in every school play, and considered herself above the lowly plebians because she was a "thespian." Her boyfriends were all unemployed painters in their 30's, and she inevitably ended up going to Vassar.

Rob Schneider owns the throne of Most Annoying Actor, and something tells me he won't be overthrown in my lifetime.

But I digress...

Friday, June 09, 2006

The Anatomy of Buzz

Where does buzz start? Is it when an advertisement makes people take notice? When an interview captivates? When something wholly unexpected happens?

Three days ago, The Class of 2007 didn't exist. Then, in a comment on a totally unrelated post, J.T. Ellison struck flint to steel. And something clicked. Soon J.T., Brett Battles, Sandra Ruttan and I began corresponding.

Hey, this isn't a bad idea! We can found a forum to spread the word about debut crime novels! This is going to be great!

Sarah Weinman made a very complimentary post about the "Class of 2007," how they were building buzz well in advance of their book releases. This further fueled the fire. And before we knew it, was registered, we began devising logos and designing t-shirts to pass out at ThrillerFest. We had the concept, had the man and woman power, and buzz was starting to build.

All because of one seemingly innocent comment. And trust me, I don't think J.T. had this in mind when she made it.

This is a perfect example of "buzz." It seems to me that when an idea takes shape, when a concept or product reaches its (pardon my lingo) tipping point, it's because of many factors that were more spur of the moment than spur of the marketing meeting. Nobody thought J.T.'s comment would lead to this, but it did.

I think of Anderson Cooper, the Silver Fox, whose book DISPATCHES FROM THE EDGE will be #1 on next week's New York Times bestseller list. Five years ago, Anderson was hosting "The Mole," and was known for little other than being Gloria Vanderbilt's son. Now he's a worldwide "celebrity with integrity," and has a #1 bestselling memoir to boot. How did this happen?

During the horrors of Hurricane Katrina, Anderson interviewed Louisiana Senator Mary Landrieu. He chided Landrieu and other smarmy politicians who were gladhanding each other while people were dying in the streets. And right there, a fuse was lit. An "unbiased" reporter had thrown off the cloak of neutrality and said what we all were feeling, that we were sick of politicians and their platitudes, because we all knew what was really going on. And in one unmprompted moment, a fire began to burn.

Video of Anderson's interview was forwarded around the Internet faster than a great "Onion" article. Within weeks, Anderson had gone from CNN reporter to The Voice of the People.

In entertainment, you can buy your way to the top. It's true. If a movie studio wants its film to hit #1, they can do it. If a publisher wants their book to hit the bestseller list, they can do it. But the price it comes at is rarely worth it. If a publisher decides to commit a $500,000 marketing campaign to a debut novel, I'd be willing to bet my next year's rent that the book at least scrapes the bestseller list. But what ultimately decides whether the book is successful is buzz. Can it sustain that level of "enthusiasm"? Or once the initial wave of publicity dies down, does the audience die with it?

Look at the recently released "Mission Impossible 3." The studio spent upwards of $100 million on promotion. That baby was going to hit #1 no matter what. But once that opening week of buzz ended, the fire smoldered. Audiences abandoned it. The movie will end up making around $130 million, but considering the $280 million it took to make and promote, that's a pretty big failure. "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" cost under $5 million to make, and less than that to promote. And it grossed well over $250 million. And something tells me the marketing team at Warner Bros didn't plan on that.

Many books have tried to catch "Buzz in a bottle." Offering consumers tried and true techniques to create and maintain buzz. The truth is, though, even if you follow those instructions to a 't', it's all up in the air. We never know when buzz is going to hit. We can't be fooled into believing "fake buzz," the buzz perpetrated by the creator or distributor of a product. There's a famous phrase in advertising, that the worst thing that can happen to a mediocre product is a great advertisement. When that happens, there's a backlash. It creates anti-buzz.

We don't know how to create buzz. But we sure do know when it's out there.

In other news, check out J.T. Ellison's post at Murderati today, about a chilling cold case.

And authors, make sure to join the Class of 2007. It's gonna be a Killer Year.

And have you picked up your copy of THRILLER yet? You have? You're lying, I can tell. What's wrong with you? Don't you have a soul? Buy it, or you'll end up with Kenny McCormick and Stan Marsh's grandpa in limbo.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

It's Gonna Be a Killer Year

I'm happy to announce that the Class of 2007 has officially begun soliciting new members. It began with a comment on this blog by J.T. Ellison, the fire was stoked by Sarah Weinman, and now J.T., Brett Battles, Sandra Ruttan and myself have opened up Killer Year, a brand new website for mystery and thriller authors whose debut novels are being published in 2007. Once it's up and running, the site will feature news, reviews, articles, blogs, info on all members of the class of 2007, and much, much more.

If you are a thriller/mystery/romantic suspense writer whose debut novel is being published in 2007, email with the following:

Your Name
Book title
Publication month
website/blog URL
Jpeg of your book cover
Contact info

We've already begun compiling a database of our members, and will be sending out blast emails and organizing fun events and promotions as we approach 2007. Editors and agents, please pass this along to your authors. This will be a great way to learn about exciting debut crime writers, and get exclusive content on upcoming releases.

So get ready, because 2007 is gonna be a Killer Year.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

The Class of 2007

Today Sarah Weinman spoke at greater length in response to a somewhat innocuous comment by J.T. Ellison on yesterday's post. Namely, about the "Class of 2007," or mystery/thriller writers who have debut novels scheduled to pub next year. And like all tidals waves, J.T.'s comment started as merely a ripple, but I'm hoping it grows to something pretty impressive and powerful.

I like the notion of a "Class" for upcoming novelists. For the 2007 debut authors, the months leading up to next year share a remarkable similarity to the members of a high school or college graduating class.

Hopeful. Looking towards a bright future. Very likely to get completely obliterated at various class functions over the next couple of years.

Hopefully the Class of 2007 will look back on that year as having launched our respective careers, doubled as a harbinger for bigger and better things, and motivated us to renew our keg-pumping skills.

Anyway, I propose this:

If you have a debut novel coming out in 2007, raise your hands. Post a comment to that effect. I say we make this (semi) official, keep tabs on our fellow classmates, and help spread the word about each other's work. Sarah mentions a few of these dignified authorial scholars (i.e. people who happily get paid to sit in their underwear at their computer), but I'm sure there are many more out there. If you are one, let's hear from you. If you know one, pass this message along.

If you are a member of the class of 2007, email with your name, book title, publisher, release schedule, and any other pertinent info (website, blog, etc...). I'm going to make a special page for the Class of 2007 on, link to it on this blog, and as we get closer to 2007 perhaps even start up a website.

So let's hear it, class of 2007!


Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Filet Mignon vs. Big Mac and Fries
(Sometimes They're Equally Delicious)

No, this post isn't about fast food. It's about the dichotomy between different book formats, the stigmas attached to each, and what drives a reader to buy one over the other. I'm going to talk about it in terms of debut authors, since buying a book from a first-time novelist is very much akin to a blind date. In each instance there's a lot of apprehension, it takes tremendous faith, and you have the chance to either meet your soulmate or run away screaming like your hair is on fire.

On a blind date, you've never met the person. You might have heard good things from friends. They might be particularly attractive. You might have met them in a public place, like a library or mall, or seen an ad in a newspaper or online. And then you suck it up and decide to take the plunge. You ask them out. And so begins your first night together. But where will you go?

Buying a debut author in mass market is like having a first date at McDonalds. It's affordable, familiar, and if it doesn't work you're only out $7. It might be the cheapest date, but if you can get past the presentation there might be some great conversation to be had. You can go there every night, scarf down a burger in minutes, and another will come right off the assembly line. Hey, there's a reason McDonalds has served over 99 billion people. Now if only you can get past the 80 grams of fat and the special sauce...

Buying a debut author in trade paperback is a little classier. You go out to a pretty decent neighborhood restaurant, maybe even get a glass of Chardonnay with dinner. There's something a fancier about it, a little more cultured. It says you're refined yet practical, somewhat youthful, a very appealing combination for your potential sweetheart.

Buying a debut author in hardcover, now that's a commitment, boy. You're taking your date to Nobu, Peter Luger's, the creme de la creme. You're saying you're willing to take a pretty expensive gamble that this blind date is going to go swimmingly. Because if it doesn't, you're out a pretty penny and cursing the fact that you didn't just take her/him to McDonalds and get that Quarter Pounder after all.

So what's the point of all of this?

In the end, each date is what you make of it. On a blind date, the food is almost incidental. A date is for one thing, and one thing only: To see if you have the chemistry to last past the first date (notice I'm talking about first dates, not booty calls, which are like downloading a pdf of a book from Kazaa).

The conversation can be just as good at Nobu as it is at Mickey D's. Sure the presentation is light years apart--there's a reason a steak at Peter Luger's runs north of $30 while a Big Mac is $2.99--but if the date is going to work, it's not because of the presentation. The presentation helps, no doubt about it, and not too many datees will be as impressed with a McShake as a McSteak.

But a date is a date. And if the two daters match, it's sure going to last beyond that first night.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Books Are Like Snowballs (No, really)

But before I get to that, last night I finished up my edits on THE MARK and will be delivering them to my editor tomorrow. I tightened up a lot of spots that were dragging, eliminated a few unnecessary scenes, and incorporated ideas that will flow into the next book. In all, I'm very pleased with it, and think I've created a solid opening chapter in what I hope is a great series.

Anyways, I've been lying to everyone.

The reason I say this is because, to be honest, I'm not blogging simply for the sake of blogging. I'm not bored at work. I have no need to vent/bitch/complain/rant/cry/whine, or think readers care what I had for breakfast (strawberry oatmeal, FYI).

I have three very specific reasons for maintaining a blog:

1) To build up interest in THE MARK prior to its publication next July
2) I like to write, plain and simple
3) Martin Scorsese will read one of my posts and option it for a movie

Ok, only 2 of those 3 are really legitimate.

I do blog because I enjoy writing. I enjoy writing serious posts, funny posts, posts about books and publishing, posts about pop culture, and some posts that are random (and probably incoherent).

So what does this have to do with a snowball? I'm getting to that.

As any author and publisher will tell you, getting a book noticed is pretty darn difficult. Last year, 172,000 books were published. Some of them were huge successes. Some of them were massive failures. And most didn't even show up on the radar.

As a soon-to-be debut author who aspires to have a long and successful career as a novelist, I want to do everything possible to make sure that THE MARK is on the radar as early as possible. And that a lot of people are tracking it on that radar.

One of my mottos is, "Hope for the best, but plan for the worst." Hopefully my publisher will do a great job promoting my book. Every indication says they really want to grow my career. But publishing is a long race. And every runner will tell you that they run faster and longer if they're warmed up before the race starts, not just dropped at the starting line and told to run.

I look at my potential audience as a snowball. If I start rolling the snowball down the hill now, by the time THE MARK comes out it'll be a lot bigger than if I started rolling it next July.

I don't want my book, my precious novel that I've spent hundreds of hours slaving over, to break from the gate ice cold. I want its muscles stretched, oxygen pumping, legs and arms limber.

When a movie comes out, millions of dollars are spent on promotion and advertising. Television commercials air constantly, often weeks, months or even years prior to release. Ads run in the newspaper every single day. Books are a completely different animal. Smaller risks, smaller rewards, and there are a whole lot more of them to compete against every week.

A book with a major promotional push will get maybe 5-8 ads over its lifetime. Most books won't get a single ad. Promotion and publicity usually only start when the book hits stores. There's very seldom a pent up demand, unless the author has a loyal audience waiting for their next book. Debut novelists don't have a loyal audience. Nobody is eagerly anticipating Jason Pinter's "Next Henry Parker" novel, because the first one hasn't even come out.

What I'm trying to do, and this blog is a means to that end, is get as many people as possible interested in my book before it comes out. If I do a good job, write entertaining and/or thought-provoking posts, maybe enough people will know about the book to make a difference. And if a few dozen, or a few hundred, or (knock wood) a few thousand people buy THE MARK that might not have, the time I spend maintaining this beast is well worth it.

I believe in giving books a running start. I believe in getting that snowball rolling early. But is 13 months (the time until my book comes out) too much lead time? Maybe. But I'll take my chances, and keep the ball rolling.

Saturday, June 03, 2006


Finishing up edits on THE MARK this weekend. All work and no play make Jason a dull boy.

Friday, June 02, 2006

A Thrilling Night
(aka the lamest post title ever)

Last night I went to the opening event of the THRILLER book tour at the Lincoln Ceter B&N. Present were the following authors:
M.J. Rose (author of The Delilah Complex and The Venus Fix)
James Siegel (author of Derailed and Detour)
Eric Van Lustbader (author of The Bourne Legacy and the Nicholas Linnear novels)
F. Paul Wilson (author of the "Repairman Jack" series)

They spoke at length about the new anthology and the inception of the International Thriller Writers organization (which I'm a proud member of). Good crowd, great energy, lots of interesting tidbits about how the stories were conceived and written. And thanks to F. Paul Wilson, I'll never look at a Duane Reade the same way again (and what's with his parents naming him 'F.'? That's just cruel).

The anthology was published by MIRA (which is also my publisher), and they were out in full force. I got to chat with my editor about my current revisions, met folks from MIRA's publicity and sales departments, as well as their editorial director. Everyone was incredibly nice, and I could tell they were excited about my book. That gave me a warm, fuzzy feeling.

And like any book signing, there were a couple of crazy people present to make it a little more entertaining. Like the first crazy guy (CG1), who looked like John Goodman in "The Big Lebowski", and had this insightful "question":

CG1: I'm sick of all these stories about white girls being stalked. What's up with that?

F. Paul Wilson: Um...I'm not sure what you mean.

CG1: It seems like every story is about some white girl being chased.

M.J. Rose: Actually, there's not a single story in the anthology like that. And I don't think any of the authors up here have written a book with that premise.

CG1: Yeah, but it's like all you see in the movies and on t.v. these days.

Eric Van Lustbader: Well we can't be held accountable for what they put on television and in the movies. We write novels.

CG1: But isn't there something we can do to stop it?

Everyone: Umm...

Or this great exchange with CG2 (Crazy Guy 2):

CG2: Mr. Van Lustbader, have you ever thought about taking your Nicholas Linnear books and setting them somewhere other than Japan? Like say, India?

Eric Van Lustbader: Well right now I'm writing the new Jason Bourne book, and to be honest I haven't had the desire to revisit Linnear. Japan just doesn't hold the same fascination for me it once did.

CG2: Yeah, but that's why you should set it in India. You know, the clash of cultures and everything.

Eric Van Lustbader: I don't have any plans to do that.

CG2: But it'd be interesting, right? Why not give it a shot?

Eric Van Lustbader: I'll think about it.

CG2: You do that.

After the event, I went to Shun Lee for dinner with the MIRA books crew, M.J. Rose and her agent, Sarah Weinman, and Book Reporter's Carol Fitzgerald. I heard a whole bunch of interesting/horrifying publishing scoop, learned that there are indeed salacious publishing trysts that don't involve Judith Regan, and also found out the REAL reason why Brad and Jen broke up (Jen, how could you???). Everyone was friendly, accomodating, enthusiastic, and it makes me even more excited to be publishing with MIRA.

All in all a terrific night. And I'll be done revising THE MARK over the weekend. Good times all around.

Oh, and buy THRILLER.

Read Wednesday's post to find out what terrible fate awaits you if you don't...

P.S. There's funny, and then there's Johnny Drama's "official" acting resume.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Silly Newspaper Articles
(And They're Not All From the New York Post!)

75% of Online Daters Do Not Find Their Soulmates
(In other news, 100% of construction workers who whistle at random women do not find their soulmates either)

Old Fogeys Don't Understand the Youth of Today

The Washington Post Discovers the "Wingman"
(In other news, George W. Bush discovers the Internet)

What, was the Jersey Shore Unavailable?

The Most Hard-Hitting Interview Perhaps Ever

What's Next, Serial Killers Demand Access to Cutlery Stores?

No Word on Whether the New Batwoman will also co-host "The View"

If you're free tonight because "Nothing" cancelled, stop by the Lincoln Center Barnes & Noble at 7:00, where M.J. Rose, Eric Van Lustbader, James Siegel and F. Paul Wilson will be reading and signing copies of the new anthology THRILLER. It promises to be a rollicking good time.

And make sure to bring a wingman.