Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Publishers and Pixar
(or: do imprints matter?)
(or 2: why are there no imprints for men?)

About 10 years ago, a little known movie studio broke onto the scene when they released a funny movie about a bunch of talking toys and the mischief and wacky adventures they got into. The movie grossed hundreds of millions of dollars, got fantastic reviews, and proved that both children and adults could enjoy an animated feature. I loved "Toy Story," loved "Toy Story 2," and adored just about every movie that Pixar has ever made. When I hear a new Pixar movie is coming out, I make it my duty to see it. The films are hilarious and poignant, more so than 99% of the live-action drek produced these days, and Pixar has my $10.75 for all enternity until Robert Iger goes insane and kills John Lasseter.

On the publishing front, a few days ago the New York Times reported that Hyperion was creating a new book imprint called Voice, aimed at women. Voice won't publish Chick Lit, but books aimed at real women, mothers, careerists. Imprints in publishing are hardly a new hat, but over the last 18 months a huge number of new imprints have sprung up. From Voice to Warner Twelve to Five Spot to Spiegel and Grau, each one with different mission statements and loads of editorial and authorial talent behind them. Most of them debut in 2007, so their success has yet to be determined.

Certain imprints resonate with readers, so much so that readers buy books based largely on imprint reputation. Harlequin Romance. Penguin Classics. Nan A. Talese. St. Martin's Minotaur. These are just a few.

Now with the exception of Pixar, I don't think there are any movie studios whose films I'd pay to see just based on the title card. It always amused me when I saw movie trailers that proclaimed, "From the Producers of..." as though I would buy a ticket just because the same rich people were writing the checks. I never felt that any one studio, with Pixar being the exception, made universally wonderful movies that convinced me to buy a ticket based solely on their reputation.

So I wonder, with all these new imprints out there, and all the ones currently in existence, do readers buy books based on imprint? Do you walk into a store and, without knowing much about the book, gravitate towards it because the imprint has a history of published books you loved?

I honestly don't think I have, but part of that might be because despite a large number of imprints aimed at women, there are absolutely none geared specifically towards men. I find this very curious, and if I thought about it for a while I might even be offended or upset. In fact, I have thought about it, and it does upset me.

Publishing is a very female-dominated industry, that's no secret, and many of the women in publishing are absolutely brilliant. But in a perfect world, the reading public would be closer to 50/50. Clearly it is not. But is that because men simply don't read, or they don't read because there isn't much out there for them? If 75% of television programming consisted of Lifetime Originals, The View, Oprah, and Sex in the City reruns, men wouldn't watch much television either. The other day a colleague told me so many imprints are aimed at women because women make up the majority of book buyers.

"True," I thought. "But it's not disproportionate to the degree that imprints aimed at women should outnumber imprints aimed at men by a score of 25-0. And maybe part of the reason women tend to buy more books is because their needs are being met to a far greater degree than men."

But I digress. End of inner monologue.

So I pose this question to the bookbuying and reading blogosphere: Do you buy books based on imprint? Have any imprints or publishers such made a significant impact--either positive or negative--that have influenced your buying or reading?

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

They've Been Marked

"Read THE MARK and you will be introduced to a terrific new talent, Jason Pinter, who has written a gripping page-turner you won't be able to stop reading."
--James Patterson

"THE MARK is a riveting novel with characters that leap off the page, a villain that truly chills the blood, and a story that grabs you from page one and doesn't let go. Henry Parker and Amanda Davies are two of the most compelling heroes in recent memory, and their fight for survival will have readers clamoring for the next chapter in this terrific new series. A first-rate debut from an author who dares to take the traditional thriller in bold new directions."
--Tess Gerritsen

"An excellent debut. You are going to love Henry Parker, and you're going to hope he survives the story, but you're not going to bet on it."
--Lee Child

"A harrowing journey--chilling, compelling, disquieting. A remarkable debut."
--Steve Berry

Saturday, August 26, 2006

I Hope They Remember The Donkey

Tonight is my bachelor party. Or as my friend Mike said, "I don't want to see you sober for the next 36 hours."

If you hear a quiet sobbing coming from the direction of Atlantic City, that would be my liver.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Death of a Non-Entity
(or: if a website with no visitors falls in the blogosphere, does anybody hear it?)

So it seems that, after just seven months of awkwardly lowbrow unfunniness, the Time Inc. frat boy humor website will be closing it's, uh, gangplank. Not too surprised by this, since the site was largely, how do they say it in Germany, not funny.

Office Pirates was Time Inc.'s big stab at getting a piece of the snark and frat humor market, which has been dominated by websites like College Humor and Gorilla Mask and to some extent Gawker. Yet despite a large marketing push (something you don't find too often for websites devoted to pictures of cleavage and "witty" commentary on popular culture) it never took off. By never took off, I mean nobody read it. It just wasn't funny. It was "Animal House" directed by Ted Turner, "There's Something About Mary" starring Tom Green.

The concept was flawed from the beginning. It was clear Office Pirates was aiming to mimic the College Humor template. And by mimic, I mean like a game of telephone where the middle phone is Helen Keller. There was no originality. No defining characteristic. It was, "Hey, these guys are successful, and they don't even wear suits! If we throw a bunch of money around and change the website template we can do even better, and then buy more suits."

See the big difference between marketing a website and marketing a movie, or a book, or a CD, is that you can't depend on initial interest to be a success. If a movie is hugely hyped, even if it sucks a big opening weekend can cause it to make a profit, or at least break even. Same goes with books and movies to some extent, though those media forms have longer shelf lives and are more apt to find an audience without a huge marketing push. There's more room for word of mouth if the product is terrific.

People tend to see movies once. Buy a CD once. Buy a book once.

Websites are a completely different animal. For a website it that to succeed, it must draw returning viewers on a weekly, if not daily basis. That's the whole idea behind websites like Gawker. Not only do they do what they do often, but they do it well. And every day there's fresh, funny content to appease its fans. They keep people coming back.

In my opinion, successful websites come from nowhere. They're not born in marketing meetings, but through word of mouth. They're organic. And organic in a natural sense, not in a "Grown in a hydroponic lab under strict supervision by dull white guys in raincoats" sense.

A couple of years ago, I, along with some colleagues, met with the creators of College Humor as they were pitching a book based on their website. The creators were three guys in their early twenties. They looked like they could have very well spent the previous night playing beer pong and eating off a hangover at their campus's 24-hour diner.

Their reason for starting College Humor? Simple.

"We started it as a way to make our friends laugh."


They didn't see advertising dollars, merchandise. They didn't expect to monitor their daily traffic on Alexa or Technorati. They just thought it would be funny. And other people agreed. It was only after it became hugely popular that the money started rolling in. They didn't have a corporation eyeing every hit, calculating every dollar of ad revenue. They started it on passion, and people responded.

Fortunately websites, unlike most frontlist books and movies, have a long shelf life to grow an audience. With patience, you can build up an internet audience over several years. Do you think a publisher or bookstore would allow a hardcover to stay in print for two years, waiting to find an audience? Fortunately websites don't have to deal with shelf space or co-op (just competition from the 40,000,000 other blogs and websites). But if you build it, and build it well, they will come.

But if you build the ship out of popsicle sticks and try to sail it in choppy waters, that thing will fall apart faster than Andy Dick at a Comedy Central roast.

So bon voyage, Office Pirates, we hardly knew ye. I bet those College Humor guys have a few job openings.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

ThrillerFest 2007

It's fast approaching, the biggest, baddest conference of 2007, ThrillerFest. Registration is now live, so make sure you get in for the early bird fee and reserve your hotel room, because it's filling up fast. As you'll see there's a simply astounding lineup of bestselling authors and spotlight presenters, including Jeffery Deaver, Tess Gerritsen, Lee Child, Michael Palmer, Lisa Gardner, Vince Flynn, Clive Cussler, and James Patterson. Combined they've sold somewhere in the vicinity of 9,372,437,174,193,603.976 books.

Anyone who was there will tell you that this year's inaugural conference in Arizona was an absolute blast, filled with great authors, fun and informative panels, and eager readers and fans. There will be a reunion of the Killer Thriller band, and if we're lucky, John Lescroart, M.J. Rose and Barry Eisler will host another "Sex and Booze" panel. With Joe Konrath heckling, of course.

Find out more at

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Dog Days

The month of August is generally considered the dog days of publishing. Many agents and editors go on vacation, sunning themselves on sandy beaches and reading actual bound books rather than looseleaf manuscripts. Letting all those papercuts heal. Agents don't submit a lot of books, as many of the publishing decision-makers are out of the office, but editors are always twitching and peeking at their inbox to make sure an August gem doesn't slip through the cracks. Plus it gives people a chance to recharge before the Frankfurt book fair and the always enjoyable Great Read in the Park. Come winter it'll be full steam ahead. Money will be spent. Dreams will come true. The dead will rise from the grave. Well, two out of three ain't bad.

For those of us, like me, who aren't currently on vacation, it's a great time to get some real work done. I have five books on my Summer 2007 (April-August) list. Of those five, one is already done and edited, one is currently being edited, two are being written, and one is a graphic novel for which the editing is very sparse, considering you can't really expand or contract all those speech bubbles, so my main job is saying, "Nice!" and "Add an apostrophe."

Plus I'm making good progress on Henry Parker #2, currently titled THE REGULATOR, which is due to my publisher in January. Oh yeah, and I'm getting married in less than three weeks. Did I say August was the dog days of publishing? Feel free to smack me in the head with a copy of THE CRIMSON PETAL AND THE WHITE.

On a fun note, I just noticed that Associated Content named "The Man in Black" one of the Top 10 blogs about writing and publishing. This is very cool, especially, since it's listed alongside other great sites like Miss Snark, Kristin Nelson's Pub Rants, and Evil Editor. It's still weird to know that actual people (other than my parents) read this thing. Though I would like to add several websites that AC missed, like M.J. Rose's Buzz, Balls & Hype and Sarah Weinman's Confessions of an Indiosyncratic Mind. Still the gold standards to which all book writing and publishing websites aspire to.

And in tSeptember, two books I edited at my old job will be released, and I think both of them have a chance to do quite well. Ironically they're both religious humor books, one a hardcover and one a paperback original, sure to offend and overjoy Jews and Christians alike. As their pub dates approach I'll give a little more insight as to how both were published, there were certainly some fun moments as well as moments where I nearly tore my hair out, but both books came out wonderfully, and hopefully they'll find an audience. Fingers crossed...

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

New post up at M.J. Rose's Buzz, Balls & Hype. Check it out.

Every Met fan just breathed a sigh of relief. Phew.

And in case you haven't seen it, Kevin Federline's Teen Choice Awards performance is officially the "Boom Goes the Dynamite" of live music performances.

Monday, August 21, 2006

How Much Do Looks Matter?

A few weeks ago, I went to have professional author photos taken for THE MARK, the first time I'd had any sort of professional photo taken since my sister's bat-mitzvah. Per the photographer's instructions, I brought along four shirts of varying color and a pair of jeans (there was no way I was wearing a suit). About 500 (literally) photos later, I had a newfound respect for women whose job it is to lie around on a beach half naked. Taking photos is exhausting stuff, and the psychology behind it is actually quite interesting (I can honestly understand why a photographer with more personality will get better shots). In the end we particularly liked four or five of the pictures, I sent them off to my publisher, and one of them will be used in my book.

But aside from my mom saying, "You look cute in that one!" or me being happy I don't look like John Mark Karr, how much will my author photos matter? Is somebody really going to walk into their neighborhood Borders next July, pick up a copy of THE MARK, compare it to the new book from this guy, and say, "You know what, that Jason Pinter doesn't look like a human ingrown toenail! I think I'll buy his book!"

On that note, much has been written about debut novelist Marisha Pessl. Much of what has been written has focused on her looks. Seems a lot of people were upset that her publisher paid "another pretty face" a reportedly large advance, feeling that in today's publishing world how you look is more important than what you say. Today's New York Times looks at the issue, and notice how the very first paragraph focuses on the promotion, how her publisher tried to steer away from her looks and focus on the book. Commendable...but again, the first paragraph is, in essence, talking about how good she looks, not how good her book is...

Now I haven't read Marisha's book. From a "guy" standpoint, no offense, she's relatively good looking, but if you stick her in most any Manhattan bar she's Just Another Girl. That's not a disparaging remark, but perhaps because the public doesn't think of authors as being particularly glamorous, anyone who has straight teeth and wears a halter top in their author photo passes the, "Wow, she's a hottie literati test!" So let's not overplay this SWEET JESUS SHE'S SO GODDAMN HOT, OH MY GOD HAS THERE EVER BEEN AN AUTHOR THIS HOT rhetoric. She's decent looking. End of story.

I've never bought a book based on how attractive an author is. Doesn't mean I don't notice author photos, but we're talking about books, not movies. You can't substitute Kathy Bates for Angelina Jolie in "Mr. and Mrs. Smith" and expect to have the same experience. But take Marisha's photo and replace it with, I don't know, Margaret Atwood, and page one will still read the same way.

Every publisher wants their books to get publicity and print coverage. Most of the glossy magazines prefer people in their pages to at least exist on the same planet as "Heather the Size Zero." So if a book's author is attractive, the better chance they have in landing in "Maison Derriere" or a similar glossy mag, the more exposure the book gets, the more copies it likely sells.

Now just because I haven't bought a book based on an author's looks doesn't mean nobody else has. In a New York profile of Judith Regan a few years ago, she was reported as fighting hard to get a full face cover photo of one of her authors, her reasoning being, "Women will buy this because they want to fuck him!" (pardon my French) Without a doubt, from a business perspective, Judith Regan is one of the most successful and influential publishers of all time. So something's working.

If I'm Marisha Pessl, I'm thrilled my novel is getting so much attention. Considering how publishers and authors fight tooth and nail for every word of coverage, I'd be thanking my lucky stars they took an interest in my book at all. But I'd also hope that the attention to the superficiality crosses over and sells a few copies. Her book has been getting very positive reviews. Next week it will debut on the New York Times extended bestseller list. Viking has a reported 80,000 copies in print, outstanding for a debut literary novel. So again, something is working.

In the end, of course, I'd like to throw it out there. Have you ever bought a book because of what the author looked like? Please be honest.

Full disclosure, I bought the autobiography of Dom DeLuise for that exact reason. He's just a big, hot slab of man meat.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Random Thoughts...

When was the last time Entertainment Weekly had an author on its cover?

Why exactly is Sienna Miller famous?

Why do newspapers still write about J-Lo's ex-husband "shopping" a book proposal, when every publisher turned it down months ago?

Sad to hear that actor Bruno Kirby passed away this week, I still remember his hilarious diatribe about Billy Crystal's technological ineptitude in "City Slickers." (even the cows can program a VCR by now!)

Is anyone else pissed that NESN removed the video of Denis Leary's impromptu Mel Gibson rant from YouTube? (p.s. if anyone has a copy of it, please email it to me)

You just know that 6 months from now, there are going to be about 50 new JonBenet books on the shelves, 17 from Catherine Crier alone.

What has Haley Joel Osment been doing since "The Sixth Sense"?

How despicable is Glamour magazine's ploy to have one of their writers live her love life via the outcome of reader polls?

Is Lindsay Lohan really that good of an actress?

I might have to watch Fox's "Celebrity Duets" just for Chris Jericho, former WWE Champion and lead singer of Fozzy, who remains one of the funniest and most charismatic people to ever enter your living room via a television screen.

Is it just me, or do only one out of every ten books mentioned in Page Six as being "currently shopped" end up being published?

Maybe having a 25-year old owner isn't such a bad idea, considering newspapers are desperately trying to reach 25-year old readers.

Who really wants to read another stupid interview with Britney Spears about her marriage and pregnancy? (raise your hands, I really do want to know, because People keeps publishing them so somebody must be buying)

I can't wait for Janet Fitch's PAINT IT BLACK, as WHITE OLEANDER was one of the most beautifully-written books I've ever read.

Is anyone still trying to figure out who John Twelve Hawks really is?

Is it just me or is Dane Cook really that unfunny?

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Long Time Coming

When I was a kid, I loved Terry Brooks. I was obsessed with the SWORD OF SHANNARA series, and back when I didn't know the difference between hardcover and paperback, I had to buy the new books in hardcover simply because I couldn't wait for the paperback. I usually finished the books the day I bought them and waitied eagerly for the next installment.

After my freshman year in high school, I went to UCLA for a summer to take a film production class (lot of good it did me). That was the same year Stephen King released THE GREEN MILE, a serial novel where each installment was published a few weeks or months apart. I remember waiting in front of the bookstore on Wilshire boulevard before it opened, pacing back and forth desperate for the manager to open the store so I could buy the next chapter, run back to Dykstra Hall, and tear through it.

These days there are a few authors I still feel this way about, who when I hear they have a new book I'm at the store that day (or bugging a colleague for a free copy). Dennis Lehane is one of those authors.

MYSTIC RIVER is among my top five favorite books of all time. I loved the Kenzie/Gennaro series, really enjoyed SHUTTER ISLAND, and have been salivating over his planned Boston epic. He just came out with a new book, CORONADO, a collection of short stories. The book came out last week. And I didn't buy it.

I can't really say why not, perhaps because I don't tend to buy many short story collections, but I wonder if the long layoff between SHUTTER ISLAND and CORONADO has quelled some of that hunger. Made me move on to other authors. Chances are I'll read CORONADO, but either I'll wait for the paperback or borrow someone's copy.

So I'm wondering if this is a common occurance, where an author you were formerly obsessed with suddenly became less of a "Must read." Whether a long layoff between books can actually make you less of a fan, or if, when their next book comes out, you read it with the same vigor you thought you'd lost.

I don't know why I'm apathetic about CORONADO, and whether that apathy will extend to his next novel. Somehow I don't think so, but it was a pretty dark feeling to know one of my favorite authors published a book, and I wasn't waiting in front of a darkened store, dying for the owner to turn the lights on.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

In Defense of Starbucks and Mitch Albom

At first I was a little upset by the announcement that Starbucks would be selling copies of Mitch Albom's new novel FOR ONE MORE DAY. This was to be the first book in a planned program where Starbucks would offer their customers a new book every month which they could purchase along with their half calf double caf mocha lattechinocaf. Putting aside any snark about just who buys coffee at Starbucks (and who buys books by Mitch Albom), many heads shook and teeth gnashed at the selection of Albom's novel.

"We don't like Albom," they cried. "He's sanctimonious, his books are manipulative, the book would have been a bestseller anyway, he doesn't need the help, and he has really bad hair."

Yeah, but damn do his books sell a lot of copies. So somebody's likin' 'em, whether the literati approve or not (I don't think these people like Dan Brown much either).

And that's why, the more I think about it, the Starbucks/Albombucks synergy is a good thing. Not just to add a few cents to their respective bottom lines, but because it could open up the possibility of other, lesser known authors reaping the benefits as well.

Here's why:

When a company starts a new initiative, they want to start with a bang, not a whimper. You want to entice as many customers as possible. By appealing to the largest number of potential customers, and making sure those customers go home satisfied by offering something familiar, they'll be more apt to try your next product as well, even if they're not as familiar with it.

So Customer A walks into Starbucks and buys a copy of FOR ONE MORE DAY along with their frappuwhatever. Customer A reads the book. Customer A likes the book. Customer A goes to sleep with a big happy smile, dreaming of Mitch Albom in a purple leotard.

One month later, Customer A (having been through intense therapy to get over an unhealthy obsession with Mitch Albom), walks into a Starbucks. Customer A is about to order a Mochaplopaccino, and notices a new book for sale. It's called A MONKEY NAMED PHILBERT.

The customer has never heard of the author, or Philbert. But Customer A says, "Hey, the last book I bought here was written by Mitch Albom and I really liked it. These people have good taste and seem to know what I like. I think I'll buy a copy of A MONKEY NAMED PHILBERT."

So if it takes FROM ONE MORE DAY to get a customer to take a chance on A MONKEY NAMED PHILBERT, that's a-ok with me.

And wouldn't you kill to see a "Joe Konrath Visits 10,000 Starbucks" tour?

Monday, August 14, 2006

For the Last Time

New post up at Killer Year, including recent developments on THE MARK and Henry Parker #2.

Last week I signed and mailed what might be my very last rent check ever. My fiancee and I recently bought an apartment in NYC. We're currently waiting to get approved by the co-op board, but unless they decide I look a little too much like a serial killer (doubtful) or that they just don't like the idea of a young, reckless, party-hearty couple living in their building (a little less doubtful) we should be moving by the end of the month. Which means I need to pack up about 300 assorted books and DVDs that won't be coming with me. I have to be picky about what books and movies do come. I promised I wouldn't cry...

"Evil Dead" trilogy? Check.

"Star Wars" trilogy? check.

Seasons 1-5 of "The Sopranos"? Check.

Seasons 1-4 of "The Shield"? No check.

Hardcover copy of MYSTIC RIVER? Check.

Hardcover copy of DAVE BARRY'S GUIDE TO CYBERSPACE? Boxed and ready to disappear forever.

This is going to be harder than I thought. I hope Vic Mackey and Dave don't hold it against me.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Great Moments in Literary Feuds

Jon Stewart vs. Tucker Carlson
One of the defining moments from this generation's defining commentator. In 2004, while promoting his massive bestseller AMERICA: The Book, Stewart appeared on "Crossfire" and proceeded to make a complete mockery of The Bowtied One. If you listen closely, you can hear Carlson's career going down the toilet. Watch Part 1, then Part 2. And you can totally thank Stewart for this.

Al Franken vs. Bill O'Reilly
Probably the most entertaining public spectacle relating to books, well, ever. Watch the clip here (scroll halfway down the page) from the 2003 BEA. Just check out that blowup of Franken's book LIES. Looks like O'Reilly's face is suffering from botulism.

Steve Almond vs. Mark Sarvas
Which all started over a blog where Sarvas took Almond (CANDYFREAK) to task for being infatuated with himself. Read Sarvas's comments first, then check out Almond's response in Salon where he chalks it up to Sarvas being, er, infatuated with him. Right.

A.J. Jacobs vs. Joe Queenan
Queenan ripped apart Jacobs's THE KNOW-IT-ALL in the New York Times, going so far as to call Jacobs a "jackass." Which led to Jacobs responding in, of course, The New York Times, taking the high road by noting that his book was much more successful than Queenan's. So there.

Sarah Weinman and Lee Goldberg vs. Otto Penzler
Legendary (and legendarily crotchety) bookman Penzler, founder of the Mysterious Press and the Mysterious Bookshop, has been penning a weekly column for the New York Sun which has come under fire for sexism, elistism, and many other "isms." First Lee Goldberg (Shamus-nominated author of MAN WITH THE IRON-ON BADGE and the MONK tie-in books) took Penzler to task for his "embarassing" statements. Then Sarah Weinman, book reviewer and writer for Confessions of an Idiosyncratic Mind and Galleycat, offered statistical proof that the public seems to care a great deal more for the books that Penzler has criticized than for the books he's published.

Joe Queenan (who else) vs. Donald Trump vs. Mark Singer and Jeff MacGregor
Singer wrote a snarky profile of Trump for The New Yorker in 1997. MacGregor reviewed of a collection of Singer's work in which he also made fun of The Donald. Trump then published a letter in the Times criticizing both of them for writing poorly, referencing an article by Queenan which Donald thought was quite complimentary. Little did He Of The Gigantic Weave realize that Queenan was actually subtly (or unsubtly) completely mocking The Donald. Tons of unintentional comedy abound.

Ed Champion and a Plate of Brownies vs. Sam Tanenhaus
New York Times Book Review editor Tanenhaus has been criticized for the Review's lack of attention paid to contemporary fiction, its gimmicky issues, as well as its lack of female reviewers. Blogger Ed Champion took the criticism a step further by instituting a Tanenhaus "Brownie Watch," in which he would offer Tanenhaus a brownie every time the NYTBR was fair and balanced, and withholding the scrumptious treat every time it skewed heavily towards non-fiction and wrinkly old white guys.

Dale Peck vs. Stanley Crouch (and Crouch's fist)
Peck, noted literary assassin and author of HATCHET JOBS (who once called Rick Moody "the worst writer of his generation") gave an unsurprisingly unkind review to Crouch's DON'T LOOK THE MOON LONESOME. Crouch responded in Salon by calling Peck "a troubled queen." A few years later,Crouch approached Peck, who was lunching at Tartine, and bitch slapped him across the face. Sadly, he was not holding a hatchet at the time.

Colson Whitehead vs. Richard Ford
Whitehead, critically accalimed author of THE INTUITIONIST, skewered Ford's A MULTITUDE OF SINS in The New York Times. Ford, taking a page from the Stanley Crouch playbook, approached Whitehead at a Poets & Writers party, and hawked a loogie on him. Wonder if Frank Bascombe would approve.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

From the Department of Smart Cross Promotion

(next door to the department of redundancy department)

Smart cross-promotion for Brad Meltzer's THE BOOK OF FATE.

You Take the Good, You Take the Bad

First the bad--but there's good following this...

Maurice Clarett's lawyers disgust me. Here's a guy who was arrested after being chased down, tasered, and maced by the police, who then found four loaded weapons in his car, along with a bottle of Grey Goose vodka, while he was wearing a bulletproof vest like he was going to a secret "Fans of Private Pyle" meeting (if you don't get that reference, watch "Full Metal Jacket"). It's been clear for years since his troubles at Ohio State that Clarett would rather star in "Grand Theft Auto" than at the Super Bowl. And now they're trying to turn the whole thing around and make it about poor Maurice.

Anyway, here is what Clarett's attorney, Nick Mango, said about the incident:

"He's been under a lot of pressure because of this case."
(What "case" is Mango referring to? Clarett's other arrest, for armed robbery, for which he was supposed to appear in court yesterday. Too busy Clarett was out seeing if he could get that sixth star and steal a tank.)

I'm going down to the jail to, "make sure he‘s OK emotionally and mentally."

And here are some statements his lawyers made after Clarett's first arrest, for armed robbery:

"This is a difficult time for Maurice."

"Mr. Clarett intends to fight this indictment with the same vigor and resolve he displayed in taking OSU to a national championship."
(Um, newsflash, Clarett was booted off the team for lying to the cops)

And by the way, this new round of charges will not, repeat not affect Clarett's status with his new team, the Mahoning Valley Hitmen of the Eastern Indoor Football League. Said head coach and owner Jim Terry, "We gave him a chance and now we'll wait to see what happens. I've seen far worse situations than this."

This poor kid with all this pressure who's been having a hard time emotionally and mentally. And after all, we've seen far worse situations than this. You know, maybe if his lawyers and owners stopped worrying about billable hours and ticket sales, they could actually get Clarett the help he needs without making him feel like a victim of society.

And now the good

Read this, courtesy of GalleyCat. Kinda made me smile. Remember the days when we used to write and receive actual letters? Anyway, check it out:

Can this carry over to the US, please please please?

Let's be honest here: in the age of email, IM, texting, mobile phones, Blackberries and whatnot, writing a letter seems like something from Neanderthal times. A pity, because they are fun to write and even more fun to get in the mail. Which is why Get On, a new government campaign in Britain backed by Jilly Cooper urges people to get back to that epistolary pleasures, bolstered by a survey showing that women would far rather receive a handwritten love letter rather than an amorous email or text. More to the point, 77% of women surveyed wanted to receive a handwritten love letter rather than a love text or email.

Cooper, whose bestselling novels include Rivals, Polo and Riders - said: "After my first date with my husband, Leo, nearly 45 years ago, he sent me a love letter saying he couldn't wait to see me again. I was totally bowled over that this cool, hunky, darkly handsome, incredibly witty rugby player could also express his feelings so enchantingly. I'm convinced women everywhere feel exactly the same way. So come, boys, get your pens out. All you need say to your sweet wife or partner is, 'You're the best in the world and I love you.'" Typical Jilly style, but she has a point...

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

World Trade Center

Today marks the opening of Oliver Stone's film "World Trade Center," which focuses on the story of survival by two Port Authority officers who were trapped beneath the towers after their collapse. The movie seems to be getting uniformly positive--if not cautious--reviews, with most praising Stone, one of the most provocative filmmakers ever, of staying true to the facts without editorializing.

I don't know if I'm going to see it. The first time I saw the preview, I felt if it had gone on another 30 seconds I might start crying. I wonder how the public will receive it, especially during a summer where we seem to prefer more lighthearted fare like "Talladega Night" and "Pirates of the Caribbean 2." Something tells me the emotions we felt on 9/11 are not ones we want to reawaken in a movie theater, if at all.

That said, 9/11 has been dealt with before in various forms of entertainment. From Pete Hamill's FOREVER and Jay McInerney's THE GOOD LIFE to Denis Leary's FX drama "Rescue Me."

"Rescue Me" is one of the most interesting shows I've seen, in that it portrays a group of firefighters still coping with the aftermath of the attacks where many of their friends and relatives died all around them. The firefighters live in blue collar communities where stoicism is assumed, and any sign of weakness is a crack in their masculinity, especially in a job that demands heroism on a daily basis. So they bury their emotions, the grief and the heartache, bottling up until it spills out like acid. Their friends, wives and children don't want men who seek therapy and write poetry, they want the Knights of the Round Table, men who bring home the bacon and leave the baggage at the door.

One scene in particular was fascinating, where one fireman, who's been writing poetry to cope with his grief, attends a counseling session with others who were affected by 9/11. Yet as he meets the other members of the group, he finds that none of them have lost anyone close in the attacks. They're merely suffering from the aftereffects. Grieving over the enormity of the sadness, just like many of us, including myself, have done. The fireman loses his patience, calling the others "babies," saying they don't know what real sorrow is. They were on the Upper East Side sipping mocha lattes while his friends were bursting into flames in front of him.

For those of us affected by 9/11, who thankfully didn't lose any loved ones, this scene hit close to home. It showed that as much as we might cry, we can never understand what others have gone through, that our tears aren't quite as heavy. And I think that's what makes Stone's film seem all the more real. Because for one of the few times in his controversial career, Stone realizes that this story, more than any other, is not his to tell.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Tuesdays With Starbucks

Yeah, like I'm going to touch that with a ten foot pole...

New post up at M.J. Rose's Buzz, Balls & Hype about one of the most remarkable feats of pre-buzz I've ever seen.

Over the weekend, I was the recipient of a pretty amazing compliment. Bestselling author Tess Gerritsen (who's also one of the nicest and most gracious people you could ever meet), and author of the upcoming THE MEPHISTO CLUB, participated in an interview over at Murderati. Here's the question and answer that blew my mind:

Question: Tell me who would be your ideal panel mates.

Tess: Neil Nyren, M.J. Rose, and Jason Pinter. They know everything there is to know about the business of publishing. All I'd have to do is sit back and let them talk.

Needless to say I was pretty stunned to be included on that shortlist, and unsure if I was worthy of such high praise. I mean, let's look at the other people on Tess's "Dream Panel": M.J. Rose, International bestselling author and marketing guru extraordinaire. Neil Nyren, Senior V.P. and Publisher of Putnam, who's edited everybody from Tom Clancy to Dave Barry to John Sandford to Garrison Keillor. And Tess herself, New York Times bestselling author multiple times over, with who-knows-how-many books in print.

To quote Lewis Black, "And then there I am. Schmucky the Clown."

I think I know more about publishing than my 4.5 years in the industry would suggest, but to say I'm on par with three people who are at or near the pinnacle of their respective establishments is pretty trippy, and not sure if it's deserved.

But of course once Tess made that statement, we emailed, got in touch with Neil Nyren and M.J., and are organizing the "Tess Gerritsen Memorial Dream Panel," hopefully to take place at next year's ThrillerFest. If I start drooling during the panel, somebody hit me with a microphone.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Monday Mourning

New post up at Killer Year, 20 Completely Serious, Non-B.S., Surefire Tips to Getting Published.

I had a great weekend, spent all day Saturday and Sunday in the sun,a nd remarkably didn't come back looking like a red George Hamilton. Saw "Talladega Nights," and though it wasn't quite as good as "Anchorman" (one of those movies, like "The Big Lebowski," that gets funnier every time you see it), it was one of the most enjoyable movies of the summer. (Boy, I will put you in a microwave!)

I also started reading Susanna Clarke's JONATHAN STRANGE & MR NORRELL, which I'm thoroughly enjoying. This is the kind of big, juicy 800 page read I used to love as a kid, when I plowed through Terry Brooks's SHANNARA series in hours. Ironically I'd bought the book in hardcover when it first came out (the package is just gorgeous), but wanted a paperback to bring to the beach with me this weekend in lieu of a 16-pound hardcover. I stopped by my local Borders and, lo and behold, it had just come out in mass market. Perfect! If there's a better use of $7.99, I don't know what it is.

Also, the official bulletin went out last week about next year's ThrillerFest . Yes, it will be at the Grand Hyatt hotel in NYC from July 11-15, 2007. Yes, I have the honor of chairing the event. No, you can't stay in my apartment during the conference. But anyone who loves thrillers should definitely come, this year's event was a blast, and by holding it in NYC we're opening the door for five days of unbridled mischief and mayhem...

P.S. JOSE REYES AND DAVID WRIGHT JUST SIGNED CONTRACT EXTENSIONS! HELL YEAH! This is like a young Doc Gooden and Darryl Strawberry signing extensions in the mid-80's (only hopefully without the crack and stuff). A couple of interesting factoids:

The combined ages of Jose Reyes and David Wright: 46
The combined age of Julio Franco, er, by himself: 47
The combined 2006 salaries of Jose Reyes and David Wright: $775,500
The 2006 salary of Julio Franco: $1,050,000

Friday, August 04, 2006

In entertainment news, Rob Schneider recently took out an entire ad in Variety stating that he will never work with Mel Gibson.

In other entertainment news, Kato Kaelin recently took out an ad in High Times stating he will never work with Martin Scorsese or Ang Lee.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Much Ado About Mel

At this point, you'd have to live on the moon (or Idaho) to not know about Mel Gibson's drunken, anti-semetic tirade. Mel was already on the verge of being declared a lunatic due to his family history, that little movie about Jesus, his new movie "Apocalypto," and his fathering of something like 43 children. Then he got pulled over, and he firmly crossed into "lunatic" territory that until now has only been populated by Anna Nicole Smith, Andy Dick, Naomi Campbell, Janice Dickinson, Ron Artest, and that guy who runs the tailoring shop next to my apartment who works 24 hours and day and looks like he hasn't showered since they invented water.

Now this got me wondering....

"Braveheart" is one of my favorite movies of all time. The "Lethal Weapon" films are some of the best action flicks ever and completely reinvented the buddy movie. Mel the actor/director is without a doubt one of the most iconic film stars of all time.

After the other night, it's easy to say that we'll never look at another movie Mel makes without thinking about those bloodshot eyes and the "heartfelt" press release from Alan Nierob (gotta love when someone offers a heartfelt mea culpa through their publicist).

But what about past Mel movies? Does this mean I can't enjoy Mel cleaving those pesky English in two during the battle of Edinburgh? That I can't hear Danny Glover say, "I'm too old for this" without thinking Mel might add, "And you're too Jewish too"?

Mel isn't the only entertainment figure whose personal views have overshadowed his professional life. Tom Cruise, who since "War of the Worlds" has officially spun off the face of the earth. Linday Lohan, who seems to have drank more alcohol by age 20 than Winston Churchill and Pete Coors combined. So do these public embarrassments take away from their screen presence, or are we able to separate the two? Can we loathe Mel in real life, but love when Martin Riggs busts some heads?

The proof might be in the pudding. "Mission Impossible 3" was by all accounts a failure, taking in far less money than the previous film. But interestingly, the reviews were actually pretty good. Not great, but on par with the first two MI movies. Now I really liked the John Woo-helmed MI:2, bought it on DVD, and thought the final half hour was one of the best action sequences in movie history. But when MI:3 came out, I had no desire to see it. None. Maybe it's because so much time had passed between the films--or maybe because I couldn't help but wonder whether Tom would rather be rather drown Matt Lauer in a tub of Ritalin than than battle bad guys.

I haven't watched a Mel movie since his arrest, and I'm curious to know whether I can watch one and distance my personal feelings from what's on the screen. Will I turn it off because I can't stomach watching such a degenerate slimeball? Or will I watch Martin Riggs kill that scummy South African diplomat with joy?

We'll see...but something tells me I won't feel quite as bad for William Wallace as he's getting filleted at the end of "Braveheart."

P.S. This could make a really great drinking game. When you're watching a movie with friends, find the most inappropriate moments where one character might ask another, "Are you Jewish?" And then you drink a shot of Goldschlager.

P.P.S. As a postscript to yesterday's piece, it turns out that the agent who inspired my mini tirade had submitted the same project to an editor at my current publishing house (remember he thought I was still at my old job). And the editor he submitted to at my current house had...wait for it...left the company six months ago. So right now the book is on submission to at least two editors who no longer work at their respective companies. Sigh.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Quick Bites

New post up at M.J. Rose's Buzz, Balls & Hype about how hype can often lead publishers to lose their minds (and empty their wallets).

Also, check out Brett Battles's new story post at Killer Year.

So...anybody seen Mel Gibson these days? Kind of makes you watch "Lethal Weapon" in a totally different light.

I also think it's fascinating--and real proof that the digital age is unstoppable--that Metallica has agreed to put their music up for sale on iTunes. Metallica, if you remember, was the most vocal opposition to Napster's file sharing program, and led the (heavily critized) campaign to shut it down. Which also led to one of the most hilariously ironic moments ever, when Napster founder Shawn Fanning appeared onstage at the MTV Music Awards wearing a Metallica t-shirt.

For one I'm excited, not just because I was a Metallica fan back in the day, but because it's only a matter of time before all the greatest bands ever have their music available. Right now, legends like Led Zeppelin, The Beatles and Radiohead have held out. I think they'll cave eventually.

And to quote Jon Lovitz in the Wedding Singer, "He's losing his mind...and I'm reaping all the benefits..."