HarperStudios Closing

Goodbye, HarperStudios. I was pulling for you!

Damn!   Sorry to hear this news.  The experimental imprint of HarperCollins that I was sure would pave the way for more publishing companies duplicating their platform is going away.  HarperStudios is the brainchild of Bob Miller, and he guided the imprint from day one until March 17 of this year when he took the position of Group Publisher with Workman Publishing.

HarperStudios was a bit of a revolutionary platform because Miller cut the size of advances and paid his authors higher royalties.  To me it made sense.  You get paid for performance.  In an industry that is struggling to survive the onslaught of technological advances and competing mediums, reducing the publisher’s risk would seem to be the smart thing to do.  Miller was also able to successfully get rid of the ridiculous returnable program retailers currently have with every other publisher.

Apparently, HarperStudios couldn’t survive without Mr. Miller.  In my opinion, that sucks out loud!  I have no idea what the company did in profits or losses, but I’ve go to think that it couldn’t have done worse than a lot of fledgling imprints.  The imprint was championed by the former HarperCollins CEO Jane Friedman.  I’m guessing that was a major obstacle for Miller.

BTW – I wonder what happened to Gary Vaynerchuk’s 10 book 7 figure deal with HaperStudios.

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New Improved Submission Process – Now It’s Even Easier to Give Me a Publishing Deal!

So, I figured out why it’s been so hard to get a publishing deal. Obviously, I’ve been making it really hard on all the publishing houses by having my agent do all that submitting and schmoozing stuff.  That’s no fun and way too much work.  So, I’ve decided to make it much easier on everyone.  Here is a handy-dandy “Publishing Deal” button.  Just press it and make your best offer.  Man, I should have thought of this sooner. 

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Failing My Way to the Top – The Life of a Writer

Thank you, sir!  May I have another?

Thank you, sir! May I have another?

I have no idea how today’s post is going to be perceived because I’m just thinking out loud, and it’s really hard to gauge my mood.   For lack of a better phrase, I am emotionally numb.  I am a writer, which goes hand and hand with copious amounts of rejection.  In the beginning, you are genuinely hurt by it.  Then with each subsequent rejection it stings a little less.  I received word yesterday from my agent about another rejection from a major player.  This rather “mousy” company asked for a second look at the Takers, and for a second time they passed.

I should be upset, and trust me it wasn’t fun getting the email, but I was surprisingly detached from the bad news, and I’m trying to decide if that’s a good thing or a bad thing.  I spent most of last night wondering if I have very thick skin or an incredible ability to suppress disappointment.  Is it okay to not care if I’m rejected by the gatekeepers to the industry?

I’m in a position where I’ve gotten closer than I ever have before as far as breaking through to the major traditional publishers.   They are actually holding meetings about my books.  I’m told that I should find solace in that fact alone.  And the first time, I did.  The fourth and fifth time it happened it wasn’t quite as comforting.  It was confusing.  How can the book get so close with so many publishers only to be turned away at the last step?

I love my agent and this is no reflection on her.  Ultimately, I have to take blame for the reception my book has received by the people in the know.  The reception I’ve gotten from the readers has been the polar opposite and frankly, may be why the rejection by the mainstream publishers doesn’t bother me as much as it should.  And yet, it does add to the confusion.  How can it be so well liked by the people who buy books, but  so uniformly doubted by those in the industry?  What am I missing?  I know that publishing companies want more than manuscripts today.  They want books that come with a built in brand.  While I’m not a complete unknown author thanks to the POD world, I am a little-known author.  Through this blog and Twitter and Facebook, I am building a platform that I hope to use to change that, and maybe that’s the only thing missing from the equation.

This is not my first time at the rodeo.  I have 8 books and 12 screenplays under my belt.  I’ve been rejected for 20 years by producers and publishers.  I’ve gotten close on several occasions, but I’ve never been able to close the deal.  Each time it doesn’t happen, I care a little bit less.  The question is at what point does not caring translate into not trying.    That point is not in sight as of yet, but it’s only logical to assume that I will get there.

I’m not writing anything new here.  There are literally tens of thousands of writers, a lot of them more talented than me, who feel just as overlooked and unloved by the mainstream publishing companies.  We’re all fighting for a very small number of publishing slots.  What my fellow writers and I have to keep in mind is that the publishing industry makes the wrong decision 70% of the time.  Only 30% of books published in the mainstream world make back the advance money they pay the authors.   Yet another reason I don’t feel so bad for being passed over time and time again.

I guess what I’m saying is while I don’t like rejection, I don’t sweat it either.  Thanks in large part to many of you out there who have accepted the books as they are written.  To the mainstream publishing world, the longer you wait, the steeper the price is going to be because I am going to fail my way to the top.  Just saying.

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Book Four of the Oz Chronicles – The Land of the Dead – A Candid Look at the Publishing Industry

Book Four is coming.  I promise!

Book Four is coming. I promise!

Ok, I have been fielding questions now for about a year concerning Book Four of the Oz Chronicles Series.  First, I want you to know that I really appreciate your interest.  It means a lot to me that you care enough to keep needling me about the release of the next book in the series.  Second, I appreciate your tolerance for my cryptic answers.  I haven’t felt comfortable enough to tell you what’s really going on behind the scenes because it doesn’t just involve me.  It involves my agent and about a half dozen major publishing companies.  I have spent a lot of time responding to comments and suggestions from the big boys just to show them that I’m willing to play by their rules.  Don’t worry, I’ve pushed back on major plot points that I thought were essential, but I’ve also given ground on things that were more aesthetic in nature.  So far, I’ve gotten pats on the back for my flexibility, turnaround time, and skill at applying suggested edits.  What I haven’t received is a book deal.

Breaking down the doors of the mainstream publishing industry is the hardest thing I’ve ever done from a professional standpoint.   I’ve heard that getting a book deal is akin to winning the lottery, but I think it’s much easier to win the lottery.  Getting a book deal is as hard as winning the lottery, discovering a cure for cancer, and having your Youtube video go viral all on the same day.   I am in the fortunate position of having an agent who is my advocate in this process.  She’s been terrific, and I now know why they are necessary.

I have been at this for a long, long time.  I am one of those writers that has five manuscripts and 12 screenplays sitting in a drawer somewhere.  They’ve been viewed by an elite group of people, and by elite, I mean people who were willing to read something written by an unknown bum like me.   I’m not counting the three Oz Chronicles books in this count.  They’re not sitting in a drawer.  Thanks to the POD and ebook world, they have been read by literally thousands of people.   In fact, I have been perfectly content with offering my books through these low-cost, high-tech vehicles.  From what I’ve learned about the industry, I’ve made enough money and then some to cover the typical advance for a first time author.  I’ve done it with a marketing budget that hasn’t exceeded $1,500 since I first self-published in 2005.  I have what the mainstream publishing industry calls a working platform to get the word out about my books.  Essentially that means I’m an active blogger, Facebooker, and Tweeter.  In short, if you’re reading this, you’re a part of my platform.  Please, don’t feel used.  This is less a marketing tool for me than it is a release.  Call it my place to vent and make a fool of myself.  The marketing part is just a byproduct at that venting.

I have been asked repeatedly if I’m doing so well with POD and ebook publishing, why even try to get a traditional deal.  It’s a valid question.  I have a few answers:

  • There is no question the mainstream publishing industry can offer me a level of prestige that the self-publishing world cannot.  To be totally crass, this means more money coming in.  My platform will broaden, and other doors will open for me.   I consider my writing my career.  What I do to earn a living, supports my writing.  A mainstream deal means I am one step closer to my writing also being how I earn my living.
  • I have always seen the Oz Chronicles as a multi-media project.  It is not just a series of books.  It is a video game, a graphic novel, a series of films, action figures, maybe even an online role playing community.  A mainstream publishing company could give me access to all these different avenues for the Oz Chronicles.   I can publish a book on my own, but I can’t produce a video game on my own.  I’m not that smart or financially fluid.
  • I have to finish this thing.  I started this “publishing (or selling a script) as a goal” journey 20 plus years ago.  I have been rejected time and time again.  I have been told I am so close over and over again.  I have been ridiculed on a few occasions (very few).  I’ve even been called evil for my writing.  It may seem petty and pigheaded, but signing that dotted line will justify every turn I’ve taken and every word I’ve written.  It’s not like I’m dodging bullets to get published.  I’m just fielding a lot of no’s.

    What does all this have to do with Book Four of the Oz Chronicles?  Everything I’ve written in this post to this point has been one big excuse for why I haven’t published Book Four yet.  I’ve let it languish in limbo while the major publishers weighed in on Books One – Three.  I’ve placated my writer’s soul by writing another book in the meantime (which I’m planning to publish soon), but I’m not willing to wait anymore.  Book Four is officially on deck.  I’ve had a hard time getting back into it, but I had a breakthrough the other night that gave me the direction I needed.  I’m actually excited about getting it done.  Always a good sign.  I also realized that I have five other books I want to complete, and I have forbidden myself to get back to them until I’ve finished Book Four.  I will keep you updated on word count as I go.  Right now, I’m at 7,500 words.  My goal is 65,000.  So, you can see I have miles to go before I sleep, but the outline is done, and I’m ready to turn this march into a sprint.

    Thanks for your patience and if you’re wondering if there’s anything you can do to help.  There is.  Spread the word!

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    Stephenie Meyer and Stephen King actually agree on something!

    Stephen King, a vocal critic of Stephenie Meyer, has actually found common ground with the woman who didn’t write a series of vampire books (C’mon, those were not vampires. Vampires can’t go out in the sun. They have fangs. They can’t get near garlic… I digress) The two mega-author-gazillionaires agree that Catching Fire (the Hunger Games sequel) by Suzanne Collins is an excellent book. I was actually at BEA where Collins was doing a signing and giving out free Advanced Reader Copies (ARC), but I couldn’t make it to the signing. I could have thrown my blogger weight around with the publisher, but they would have laughed at me. They may have even held me down and given me a red belly. Who needs that? I’m sure I can find a copy somewhere. I smart. I can do things…Anyway, the book trailer has been released, and it is cool!

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    I Got a Publishing Deal!

    "The Singing Rodeo Clown!"

    "The Singing Rodeo Clown!"

    Well, it finally happened. I got an offer to publish my memoir. I had given up hope on ever getting it published because it is a 900,032 word document about my time spent as a rodeo clown/folk singer from March 1986 to later in March 1986. Because of the extremely controversial nature of the book, the publishing company wishes to remain partially anonymous. They said I can give the second and third letter of the second word of their publishing house name. So, let me just say that I am very happy to part of “ub’s” family. They have an almost stellar reputation, and have been known to have several books on the New York Times’ Bestseller list. To be clear, they actually own copies of books that were on the bestseller list. They didn’t publish them. They have already assigned my manuscript to the same editor that wanted to edit Paris Hilton’s memoir, and the marketing team has already started “Twittering” up the book. Here’s the latest “Tweet.”

    PartiallyAnonymousPublishingCompany: Just signed some clown to publish his dense and unreadable memoir. Buying gun and bullets tonight to end my misery.

    You can’t buy publicity like that. Dense and unreadable? They totally get me. They’ve asked me to cut the steamy scenes or as they call them, “the disgusting sex scenes that caused them to projectile vomit.” That means the book will now come in at an even 900,000 words.

    Yea for me, and APRIL FOOLS!

    Looking for Complete Authonomy

    Most writers spend their entire passion scratching, scribbling, and fighting for the ultimate confirmation of their writing genius, the book deal. It is an elusive creature that lurks in the shadows of all the major publishing houses in New York. To capture it, is at least temporary confirmation that we haven’t been wasting our time tapping out letters, numbers, and spaces on computer screens morning, noon, and night. We’ve all pictured the moment. There are minor difference depending on the dreamer, but by-in-large, it consists of an office space overlooking the Manhattan skyline, a huge mahogany desk, and a pleasant editor holding out an expensive Montblanc pen for you to sign the contract laid out on the desk in front of you. Your smiling agent places her hand on your shoulder and winks. You take a deep breath, and sign the contract. When you try to hand the pen back, the editor insists you keep it. “You’re part of the publishing elite now,” he explains. “No more Bics for you, and that parking ticket… taken care of.”

    Okay, so maybe everyone’s dream of that moment isn’t as specific and twisted as mine, but you get the point. I want a book deal not so much for the fame and fortune. In fact, you can keep the fame, and give me a very tiny part of the fortune. I mainly want the acknowledgment that I belong. Is it ego? Is it insecurity? Is it a desperate cry for attention? Yes, to all three. I’m a writer which means I have serious self-esteem issues. Comes with the territory.

    Turns out this is a bad year to be pursuing that first contract with one of the major publishers. They are struggling to keep their lights in some cases, and signing untested talent is not high on their priority list. True, I’ve been tested somewhat with my self-published offerings. I have a track record that includes fairly significant sales, awards, decent reviews, and a tiny bit of marketing acumen. Still, to them, I’m a small fish picking off scraps in a big ocean. They are looking for whales that bring their own gigantic current. Whoa… I carried that ocean themed analogy way too far. I apologize.

    Here’s the point, I was perfectly happy facing the sea (technically it’s a different theme) of traditional publishing discontent this year. I know the publishing industry because that’s my job. I knew coming into 2009 that the obstacles had increased exponentially this year because of the economy. And then, thanks to a Facebook friend, I stumbled across Authonomy.com, and hope reared its ugly head again.

    What is Authonomy.com? It’s a community created by HarperCollins made up of writers and readers. Writers submit their masterpieces chapter by chapter. Readers read the undiscovered tomes and rate them using their own set of criteria. The books that end up in the top 5 for the month, move over to the Editor’s desk where real, honest to goodness editors from HarperCollins read them and determine whether they are good enough to risk offering a publishing deal. Not only are the writers rated, but the readers are rated for the ability to spot talent. It’s really a marvel of online ingenuity. HarperCollins is using the power of Web 2.0 to minimize the risk of discovering talent. I admire and hate them for it. I find myself helplessly drifting back to that dream of the Montblanc pen again. How dare they make me think I have a chance at traditional publishing happiness!

    Now, it’s not as simple as uploading your manuscript and waiting for the praise to rain down on you. You have to participate in the community, and make connections just like with any pursuit of art and business. But the opportunity is there, and it feels more proactive than the strategy of submitting the old fashioned way and finding my way onto the slush pile. Thankfully, I have an agent who does that for me now, but still if I can backdoor this thing with a deal through Authonomy.com, she may yet be able to put her hand on my shoulder and give me that wink.

    Nine-Year-Old Gets My Friggin Book Deal!

    Youre Just Not that Into Me!

    You're Just Not that Into Me!

    It seems if I want a major publishing deal I have to up my cuteness factor. A nine-year-old kid by the name of Alec Greven has just signed a deal with HarperCollins – the very same HarperCollins that passed on me. I believed their cock and bull story that – get this – they thought it required more extensive rewrites than they were willing to invest in. Turns out, that’s just code for “you’re not cute, and we’re just not that into you.”

    I’ll have you know, HarperCollins, that I waited for your phone call for weeks. I thought we had something special. You said you liked the book. You said you were going to discuss it with the editorial review board. You sounded enthusiastic, euphoric even. You made it almost seem like I was special. I guess the jokes on me. I’m not special at all. You went with another…. book because you were more familiar with the author. You were comfortable with him. Never mind that you led me on. Never mind that you gave the other author the deal I wanted. I guess that means nothing to you.

    Just because I’m not cute doesn’t mean I’m not a person or a decent writer. I have feelings, too, and a laptop with MS Office. You should have just told me from the beginning. I could’ve handled it. I’m a big boy… But I guess that’s the problem isn’t it. I’m out of the fourth grade. You’re just like all the other publishing companies. You lead an author on, and then drop him as soon as the trends change, or the next freckle faced kid writes a 13-page book about how his cat likes string and shiny things. C’mon!

    Well, you can forget about ever calling me again. Lose my number. I won’t be your late quarter booty call anymore. I have options. You’re not the only big conglomerate publisher. There are at least five more. .. Sure you and I had something special. Sure I can’t bring myself to delete the last email you sent me. Sure I can’t help but get choked up every time I see your name on a book’s copyright page. That doesn’t mean I can’t get over you.

    This is my official good-bye.


    You blew it!

    We could have had something special!

    Have fun with the new author! I’m sure you’ll be very happy together!

    I’m keeping that ARC of The Graveyard Book you gave me… if that’s okay.

    Seriously, it was fun while it lasted.

    Remember that time you laughed when I asked if I could keep International rights?

    You have such a great laugh.

    Call me.

    Ever Wonder What A Royalty Report Looks Like?

    Wonder no more. I found an old report, and it made me realize how really extraordinary the Harry Potter series really is in terms of sales (400 million copies and counting). This is how the other half lives. Click here for the Nov. – Dec. report: royalty-report

    BTW – I obscured sensitive information in the report.

    400 Million Copies Sold

    My hat’s off to J.K. Rowling.  Her Harry Potter series just topped the 400 million copies sold mark.  I’m not that far behind her.  By my calculations I have about 399,996,500 to go – give or take a few hundred books.  Actually, I may be able to catch up by the weekend. 

    Bookseller.com has the full story: Potter tops 400 million sales