Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Festival of Mystery photos

Apologies that most of these photos were taken from behind my table while I was seated. I was petrified that if I got up to take pictures, a swarm of 172 people would immediately come to buy my books, but leave because I wasn't there. Yes, I am a paranoid freak. I had a terrific time. The staff and volunteers of the Mystery Lovers bookstore couldn't have been nicer, and the fans were great and eager to try out new authors. In the literary sense.

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Sunday, April 27, 2008

Festival of Mystery

On Monday I'll be signing at the 13th annual Festival of Mystery, sponsored by the Mystery Lovers Bookshop in Pennsylvania. If you live in the Pittsburgh area, stop by to get your copy of THE MARK and THE GUILTY signed. And if you don't, I won't be your friend.


Friday, April 25, 2008

Happy Birthday!

The Man in Black turns two years old today. Though he still is not potty trained, he has taken a few baby steps. I promised myself I wouldn't cry...


Thursday, April 24, 2008

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

The Man in Black Turns Two
(Day 3)

Speaking in Tongues: What editors and agents really mean

(this should probably be updated)

In Defense of Starbucks and Mitch Albom: or How I predicted Ishmael Beah and David Sheff's books becoming huge bestsellers

Publishers and Pixar: or Why are there no imprints for men?

Down With the Sickness: or why not all viral videos go viral

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Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Monday, April 21, 2008

The Man in Black Turns Two!

On April 25th, The Man in Black will celebrate its 2nd anniversary. And since blogs can't actually celebrate (For now. I expect them to become sentient beings--a la SkyNet--by 2011), I hoped we could celebrate for it.

So every day this week I'll be posting links to my favorite TMIB posts ever. Some oldies, some goodies, some that probably should have never seen the light of day. Enjoy!

Report from the Black Orchid: This was the very first "event" I went to as an author. Didn't know anybody, so of course I made it my business to drop a lot of names.

Series Potential: A look at the positives and negatives of writing a series with recurring characters.

Filet Mignon vs. Big Mac and Fries: (or why consumers buy different formats)

The Class of 2007: see where Killer Year began

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Friday, April 18, 2008

Anarchy in the UK

My buddy Max took this pic at the London Book Fair. (if this is the best an iPhone can do in terms of picture quality...oh who am I kidding. I want an iPhone)

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Thursday, April 17, 2008

In Praise of Difficult Authors
(or: Bitch really is the new black)

I was reading Entertainment Weekly's article on the difficulties surrounding the release of the new "Hulk" movie. Apparently notoriously difficult star Edward Norton had a pretty major, and pretty public, disagreement with the studio over the film's runtime and direction. Marvel wanted the movie leaner and meaner. Norton wanted the movie longer and with more character development. Having lost the dispute, Norton has supposedly refused to publicize the movie. For a star-driven summer action movie, this is essentially a death-knell (can you imagine if Harrison Ford refused to promote "Indiana Jones"?).

From most reports Norton is a terror behind the scenes--yet brilliant in front of it. He's arguably one of the best--and most versatile--actors working today.

This got me thinking about difficult personalities, specifically in the world of book publishing. I've heard a lot of horror stories about difficult authors. Authors who demand outrageous amounts of time, money and effort from their editors and publishers. Authors who do everything but march down to the company themselves to ream people out (and some have done this). But one thing most of these difficult authors have in common is that an unusually large amount of them are massively successful. So what is it about difficulty that allows writers--and people in other mediums--to be so successful while everyone cowers when they enter a room?

I think a large part of it is that whatever a person demands from their publisher (or studio, etc...) they are putting a similar, if not greater effort into the work themselves. They're not sitting in an easy chair barking out orders, they're putting the kind of time into their work that Michael Jordan did into his jump shot. They're authors who started small, and worked themselves to the top. They didn't sit back passively, they demanded those in charge put effort behind them. And in return they showed the effort would be matched, and then some.

Crime authors, at least those I've met, at among the nicest people in the world. They support each other. Mentor young writers. I--as well as many other new writers--have been the beneficiaries of almost unfathomable kindness from our peers. Sure there are egos--as in any profession--but for the most part crime authors are an absolute pleasure to be around. 

Yet it's well known within the industry that there is very little correlation between the respect a person gets from one's peers, and success in their field. Some of the most beloved authors, the ones who never pay for a drink at a convention, who win the most awards and whose panels are constantly full, don't sell all that well. And many authors who simply don't go to conferences (unless they're the Guest of Honor) and don't schmooze are huge bestsellers. There is often a massive gulf between personal reputation and professional success. Fair? Probably not. True? Unfortunately so.

Yet nobody wants to be difficult. I doubt if you asked authors with the worst reputations if they considered themselves difficult, the answer would be unequivocally "no." Difficult? No. Passionate? Hell yes. 

Perhaps that's a fine line, but the most difficult authors seem to be the ones who, first and foremost, expect the most from themselves. They work harder, and most importantly they see the forest from the trees. Yes, there are many examples of authors who are gracious and kind and have comparable success. They are examples what we aspire to be: people whose books are as beloved as their personalities. And there are also those authors who are simply assholes, who treat others like dirt without offering anything in return (chances are they won't be published for long, as publishers rightfully tend to tolerate difficulty only when it is worth the effort). 

So maybe nice guys don't always finish last, but while most nice guys are buying everyone a round there's a difficult--nay, passionate--author hunched over his desk, with his editor, agent and publicist on speed dial. 

Writing is an art. Publishing is a business. And just like in any business, it's often better to be feared than loved.

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Tuesday, April 15, 2008 Interview Posted

I was interviewed on March 12th at Third Place Books in Seattle, where I discussed crime fiction, balancing editing and writing, the paperback/hardcover debate, and how I get my hair so silky-smooth. 

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Monday, April 14, 2008

The Point System

Unless they have social anxiety or are writing a fictional tale about a politician whose name does not rhyme with Gill Minton, new authors are desperate to aid their publishers in promoting their books. We spend money that we likely won't recoup, we join every social networking site under the sun (I think authors are almost singlehandedly responsible for raising the average age on Facebook), blog until our finger bleed, and run contests where we give away everything but our firstborn.

We build websites. Hire publicists. Send out newsletters. Do everything short of go door-to-door to sell our books (and I'm sure some do that as well). So how much does it all help? It's an impossible question to answer. The simple responsible is that it all helps. We just don't know how much.

As authors, we control certain aspects of our publication. Most importantly, the book itself. We control the quality of the manuscript. The subject matter. The timeliness in which we get it to our publisher. How easy--or difficult--we are to work with.

What we can't control are things like packaging. Co-op. Review attention (this may come with writing a great book, but more likely than not it will happen because either the book or author are particularly publicity-friendly, or because the publisher has declared the book a 'make' book and are pulling out all stops).

Yet for every 'make' book, there are dozens of books that aren't getting the red carpet treatment. They're being supported to varying degrees, and in most cases the author takes it upon him or herself to augment this support. 

One of the biggest questions facing authors right now is how much time--and money--to spend on self-promotion. How much each venture helps. And how much time is spent that could otherwise be working on their manuscript (right now I could be working on my fourth Henry Parker book, but I'm writing this).

I have a MySpace page. A facebook page. I bought a website, and am currently paying someone to redesign it. I belong to two writer organizations, and have considered joining a third. I have likely spent a few thousand dollars promoting my books, via travel, lodging, and other things.  I have no idea how much it all helps. I do know it doesn't hurt. Which is why I do it. 

At this point in my career, unless I know immediately the reward is not worth the risk, I'm more than likely to join a network if invited, take a speaking engagement if offered, and travel if an opportunity for a book signing or interview presents itself. Again, I don't know how much each of these helps. But they don't hurt.

So here's my point. I believe for every book there exists a point system. The higher the point total, the more books you're going to sell. Some variables which can be granted points are:

--The quality of the book
--The amount of publicity it receives
--Co-op placement
--Subject matter
--Packaging (cover, etc...)
--Attractiveness of author
--Active participation on social networking sites
--Review coverage
--Film deals
--Foriegn or subsidiary rights sales
--Author profile/platform

Each of these, and dozens of other variables, are worth a certain number of points. Some variables, obviously, are worth more than others. Co-op placement is more valuable than a book signing. A great cover is worth more than a lot of friends on MySpace. A terrific platform is more valuable than an ad in the NYTBR.

As an author, you only control so many of these variables. You can only grant yourself so many points. Some take copious amounts of time and yield few points. Some likely take less time and yield more. The variables outside of our control (co-op, jacket art) tend to be more valuable than the variables in our control (the exceptions being our platform, book quality, and subject matter). I just read a chapter in FREAKNOMICS regarding campaign spending which I believe is a fair assessment of publishing as well. An author can double their spending and sell barely any more books. They can halve their spending and sell the same, or even more. And some books, no matter how much money you put behind them, simply won't sell because they don't appeal to audiences.

I'm going to take some time and think about how much different variables are worth. Each gets a point total of somewhere between 1-100. If you're a 1, you can count your readers on one hand. If you're a 100, move over J.K. Rowling. Book quality, cover art, publicity and co-op rank very high on this scale, though probably not more than somewhere in the teens (those of you book quality should be worth more, consider how many terrific books are published that don't sell diddly squat, and vice-versa). On the lower end would be social networking sites. They're fun, but do you really sell enough books to justify the time it takes to sell them? Of course a flat out fantastic book might get more review coverage, get award nominations, get great word of mouth (which is probably the most difficult variable to quantify). So of course each variable itself can be worth more or less, depending on quality or lack thereof. Plus some variables, when combined, might be worth more than the sum of their parts.

So what do you think? What other variables should be on this list? And which do you think are worth the most? The least?

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Friday, April 11, 2008

THE GUILTY: Down Under Edition

I'll be back from vacation Saturday night, and resuming my regular schedule thereafter. But for now I want to share the cover for the Australian edition of THE GUILTY. This is the first foreign art I've seen for my second novel, and I have to say it's pretty darn cool. Plus it looks great alongside the Aussie edition of THE MARK.

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Tuesday, April 08, 2008

The Reason We're Here

I am in Arizona this week, on vacation with my entire family. As well as recharging our various batteries, we're on vacation to celebrate a momentous occasion for our family. Something we've been looking forward to for a long time. Something that serves as a catharsis, both physically and mentally for all of us.

And especially my mother, Cindy.

Six months ago, my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. This was a huge shock to my family, and it was a very difficult time for all of us, as her mother died from the disease over forty years ago. 

I was at work when I got the news. I remember going to meet my sister--who worked just a few blocks away--on a street corner, where we both cried. We couldn't believe it. And didn't know what the future would bring.

Her doctor discovered the tumor during a routine checkup. Thankfully my mother gets yearly mammograms. Because they detected it early, her chances of complete recovery were high. And now, after surgery to remove the tumor, and months of chemotherapy and radiation, my mother has been given a clean bill of health. 

We took this vacation to celebrate her recovery. 

Thankfully her cancer was caught early. This is not the case for everyone. Please, encourage your friends and family members to get yearly checkups and mammograms. The past few months have been very tough on my mother, and her friends and family, but thankfully the worst is over. She'll get her whole life back, and have many more years in front of her.

So because of that, we can celebrate. I can't think of a better reason to.

Friday, April 04, 2008

New Vlog!

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Thursday, April 03, 2008

(Blatantly Cute Wilson Photos)

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Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Sneak Peek at THE STOLEN

Subscribers to my newsletter got a link today for a sneak peek at the cover art for my third Henry Parker novel, THE STOLEN. If you want an early look, sign up either in the nifty white box on the right side of this page, or at (scroll to the bottom once you're there).

If you're not a subscriber, guess you'll just have to wait.

Retirement is over. Back to work. I'll tell you, April 1st can do funny things to people...

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

My Announcement

Friends and readers - 

As I come upon the two year anniversary of this blog, I've had time to put my 28 years of life and career in perspective. I'm proud of my two published books, and grateful to readers and fans. So it's with great sadness yet with great hope for the future that I announce my retirement. These wise old eyes have seen much over the years. Much they'd like to forget. Now, only time can erase those memories and create new ones in their place.

My wife and I will be moving outside of New York City. Somewhere quiet, perhaps a a state shaped more like a square. Somewhere we won't be bothered by the constant hustle and bustle. Somewhere we can walk the earth in peace. 

I've always wanted to run a farm, to dirty my hands in the bountiful soil of the earth. So this is my final writing. I will not be writing any more posts. Nor will I be publishing any more books. I hope THE MARK and THE GUILTY will stand on their own. Perhaps in time they will be mentioned in the same bated breaths as works such as Joyce's ULYSSES, Byrne's THE SECRET and Rand's ATLAS SHRUGGED. Only time will tell.

Thank you, and goodbye.
Jason Pinter