I read the article and, while I agree with Ray that I'd like to see the methodology used, things tally with my own experience and with things I've been told by other authors.
I may be naive, but I've seen domestic advances drop by 66% for original work—this coming while my original work is still being reprinted (or was, at the time of the last offer :) ). For tie-in work the prices offered to me have remained steady. Low, but steady, and the difference between them and mainstream contracts has shrunk significantly.
I may be fooling myself, but I put the reduction down to two factors.
1) With overall sales trending down, publishers have no way to value a contract for a trilogy over its life—a life which they have to project out over 3-5 years. They can't guarantee they'll make money offering a decent advance to a mid-list author like myself.
2) Concomitantly, since the advance they'd offer me for a novel would buy a dozen first novels, and one or two of them might hit, they spread the risk around.
Of course, investing in a known quantity and doubling down on that investment with promotion would seem to be a prudent strategy. When you're extremely risk adverse and in what you see as a hostile environment, the wisdom of this approach is discounted.
This puts me in the curious position, then, of taking more work for less pay, but work which has targeted and dedicated audiences. That raises my profile and exposes me to new readers, who then look for more books, and get to tag my digital backlist. The digital backlist subsidizes both the tie-in work, and gives me the time to generate digital original work.
Lordy, what a weird business we're in.
From the archives: We're recounting the films chosen by Otto Penzler for the 101 Great Films of Mystery & Suspense, published in 2000 but now out-of-print.
I've heard some good things about Jack Arnold's film noirs, The Tattered Dress and Outside the Law. Anyone seen them? The same goes for Arnold's western, The Man from Bitter Ridge.
More Overlooked Films here.
Exclusive to MysteriousPress.com: Author Wendy Hornsby talks about her books, her methods of research, and the imaginary purse she had as a child.
There was a time, I’ve been told, when people didn’t discuss religion or politics in polite circles. Propriety forbad it, because it led to uncomfortable situations and bad tempers and, frankly, resolved nothing, ever.
It STILL resolves nothing, but the guardedness we used to have about those subjects seems to have evaporated. I’m not saying that’s good or bad or indifferent, it’s just a fact. But the main stage it all plays out on seems to have become social media, and as it turns out, that particular stage is the most useless of all.
Every single day, without fail, you’ll find tons of posts on FB reflecting the poster’s political or spiritual beliefs, sometimes pretty aggressively. Just yesterday, I came across:
An atheist friend of mine posting a meme calling out religious faith as being childish and nonsensical.
A Christian friend of mine posting a dramatic montage of Jesus and some American soldiers, insisting that the Lord was protecting them.
A liberal I know bashing Newt Gingrich for being a hypocrite.
A right-winger I know posting a pic of Obama, calling him The Great Divider.
Oh, so many opinions. Which, as we know, are just like assholes… we all got ‘em.
Here’s the thing. I think I’ve had enough, thanks. Whether I agree with you or not, I’ve decided that I’m not interested in your opinion about these things anymore. If I agree with you, then you’re preaching to the choir. If I don’t agree with you, you’re just annoying me with your half-ass, ill-informed rants.
Now before you call me out as a hypocrite, I will concede that I have, on occasion, voiced my own political or religious views on FB. Guilty. But in my defense, I haven’t done it often. And over the last year or so, I’ve gotten better at censoring myself. Not out of fear that I’ll offend someone, but out of the realization that honestly, no one gives a shit about my opinion. And there’s no reason they should. I’ve never studied political science, so my insight into the subject is practically worthless. I don’t have a degree in theology or philosophy, so my theories about those things are irrelevant. Yes, you can be an informed citizen without those qualifications, but the people you’re spouting off to would have no way of knowing you’re anything other than a half-informed zealot picking and choosing whatever information best suits the positions you’re most comfortable with.
Also in my defense, there is a difference between religion/politics and causes. I don’t talk about religion much, but I DO occasionally spout off against anti-evolutionists. Some folks have mistakenly seen that as anti-religion. I will also occasionally speak out in support of the “Occupy” movement and protesters—and that is sometimes viewed as being a liberal position. I’m reconciled to the fact that those things will sometimes be misinterpreted. But it’s not the same thing.
If you’re a non-believer trying to convince believers that faith in the supernatural is idiotic, posting insulting memes on FB isn’t going to do the trick. Ditto if you’re a Christian trying to save the souls of us poor deluded atheists. Posting scandalous insults about commie pinko liberals serves no purpose other than pleasing the people who already agree with you for a minute, and ranting about America-hating right-wing dickheads is equally pointless.
None of this qualifies as conversation. It’s just grand-standing. Trying, trying, trying so hard to prove that you’re right and those who don’t agree are wrong.
If all of this eventually led to actual intelligent conversation, I wouldn’t be so annoyed by it. But it almost never goes that way.
I for one intend to refrain from spouting off about those things on FB from now on. I also intend to skim right over anything others post espousing a political or religious point of view, whether I agree with it or not.
I’m there to interact with friends, that’s all, and there's no reason FB has to be an annoying minefield of aggressive opinion-spouting.
Ronnie Bob lumbered his flab into the lead. His finger licked at the 30-06’s trigger. It had been since Stagger Lee had hauled Solly from the covered cab of the F-150, sliced his duct-tape bonds and told him to get running.
“Bout fucking time,” Ronnie Bob said, eyes already leaping for targets in the amber drift of the Kentucky forest. “Don’t see why we didn’t blast that coon soon as we got here.”
“The plans to make it seem a hunting accident,” Stagger Lee said, strolling after smooth-as-you-please, like he were promenading Transylvania Park, not stalking the coal-rich hills of East Kentucky.
“Sure seems a load of sweat just to give a black boy his due.”
“It’s suspicious enough that you’re shooting your daughter’s dark-skinned boyfriend.”
“Maybe in these enlightened times. Used to be that polite society understood such things.”
“Polite society expects you to at least pretend to not break the law.”
“He’s the one breaking the law,” Ronnie Bob jabbed his rifle ahead.
“Ain’t no law about getting a girl pregnant.”
“Should be. And there’s laws against pushing dope.”
“How you so sure Solly’s pushing dope?”
“I just know.”
“Southern Daddy ESP, huh? Solly’s colored, so it goes to figure. Is that it?”
“Nah, I hear talk,” Ronnie Bob was already wheezing and wiping his brow.
“Talk from who?”
“From Aubrey, for one.”
“Oh, you believe her when she tell you that Solly’s a drug dealer, but not all the times she said she weren’t banging him?”
“You got to use the word ‘banging’ in the same sentence as my daughter and a coon?”
“If you got another euphemism, try it on for size.”
“I just know, Stagger.” Ronnie Bob sagged his old, fat bones against a stump. “I just know.”
Stagger sidled up and set the six-pack of Pabst he slung in his hand on the stump. He patted Ronnie Bob on the shoulder and took a moment soaking in the forest: The quilted, smoky smell of the oaks and the sharp pine tar and the green-yellow drift of it all, cooling in the dying day.
“Well, that’s why I’m here, Ronnie Bob,” he said. “That’s good enough for me. Let’s set awhile.”
They sat and drank beer and talked of better times. Ronnie Bob talked of how easy it was to raise a girl until she was too old for pigtails. He talked of how the weight of the mixed-race baby in Aubrey’s belly was sending all that tuition money he’d saved for her right down the drain. He got to slurring his words and only then touched on how Stagger Lee was the sole, decent, white man left in Lexington—the only one who would step up and do the right thing by seeing Solly got the death coming to him.
“I always knew you were more to me than a bookie,” Ronnie Bob blubbered, mouth wet on Stagger’s shoulder. “You a stand-up man of the old school.”
“Rumor has it,” Stagger said and drank.
When the sky had mellowed from electric blue to Navy, they kicked their empties away and got to walking.
Ronnie Bob was as quiet as Stagger. He wiped his eyes for a final time.
They went into the forest with guns up.
They followed Solly’s city-boy trail.
Ronnie Bob was back to sagging when Solly’s voice came from the hash of the tree trunks.
“I figured this far enough,” Solly sounded bored and sad. “Let’s finish it.”
Ronnie Bob swept his rifle around. No target caught it. He yelled at the trees.
“You man enough to knock up my girl, you be man enough to step out and get what’s coming!”
“You really can’t live with Aubrey and me together?” Solly said.
“What gave you the clue, nigger?” Ronnie said.
Solly stepped from behind an oak, shaking his head. He’d dried his cheeks but his eyes were still wet. He opened his hands.
“Go ahead, then,” Solly said.
Ronnie Bob raised the rifle and crushed the trigger. The bang shook the woods.
Solly was untouched. He just looked at Stagger. Ronnie Bob goggled his gun.
“What the fuck?” Ronnie Bob said, then fired two more rounds.
“Blanks,” Stagger said. Ronnie Bob turned on him. Stagger had his rifle aimed at Ronnie. “These ain’t, though.”
“Why?” Ronnie Bob quaked. “Why, after all he’s done?”
“Reckon that is why,” Stagger said. “Dope pushers as industrious as Solly are hard for me to come by.”
Stagger’s bullet hit home and Ronnie Bob’s grimace exploded. His body flopped to ground. Ants and flies wasted no time swarming.
Solly hung his head. “Poor Aubrey.”
“Don’t you worry none,” Stagger patted his shoulder. “This hunting accident’s on me.”
The self-epublishing bubble
In August 2011, Ewan Morrison published an article entitled Are Books Dead and Can Authors Survive?. Here, he tracks the self-
guardian.co.uk, Monday 30 January 2012 06.08 EST
Unlikely to last very long ... a bubble rises. Photograph: Dylan Martinez/Reuters
The internet is full of ironies. I, for one, could never have guessed that writing about the end of books would generate more income for me than actually publishing the damn things. I've been on an End of Books reading tour since August and it turns out that what the internet gurus say about consumers being more willing to pay for events, speeches and gigs, rather than buying cultural objects, is now becoming true.
At the other end of the political spectrum from me, among the epublishing enthusiasts and digital fundamentalists, similar ironies are playing out: there is now a boom industry in "How to get rich writing ebooks" manuals, as well as a multitude of blogs offering tips and services, and a new breed of specialists who'll charge you anything from $37 to $149 to get your ebook into shape.
This all seems like a repeat of the boom in get-rich-quick manuals and "specialists" that appeared around blogs and etrading. Did anyone actually get rich from writing blogs, you may ask? Well, according to Jaron Lanier (author of You are not a Gadget) there are only a handful of people in the world who can prove that they make a living from blogging: it's entirely possible that more money was made by those who wrote and sold the how-to manuals than by the bloggers themselves. But who cares, right? It's all part of the euphoria of digital change, and technological innovation is as unstoppable a force as fate. Reports show that paper book sales are "tanking" – down a massive 54.3% while ebook sales are up triumphantly by 138%. The revolution will be epublished, and we're all going to be part of it.
All of this ebook talk is becoming a business in itself. Money is being made out of thin air in this strange new speculative meta-practice: there are seminars, conferences and courses springing up everywhere, even at the Society of Authors (a writers' union which, until recently, was largely against epublication). Television and radio programmes are being made about self-epublishing (I've personally been asked to speak about it on 12 occasions since August). Everyone can be a writer now: it only takes 10 minutes to upload your own ebook, and according to the New York Times "81% of people feel they have a book in them ... And should write it"
The Sharpshooter #5: Night of the Assassins, by Bruno Rossi
March, 1974 Leisure Books
Johnny "Sharpshooter" Rock thirsts for more Mafia blood in this Miami-based entry that takes place a week or so after The Worst Way to Die. With only his second contribution, author Leonard Levinson has already given the Sharpshooter series more of a sense of continuity than it's previously enjoyed. Once again Levinson delivers a fast-moving tale filled with the patented Johnny Rock sadism, while at the same time showing how boring the life of a lone wolf can get.
The novel mostly follows the pattern of Levinson's previous entry: Rock sizes up the competition, scouts the area, murders a few mobsters, wastes time between hits, and meets a few ladies. Just as in The Worst Way to Die, many parts of Night of the Assassins are composed of Rock checking out the local sights, buying supplies, hobknobbing with locals. One might complain that it's "boring" at times, but Levinson's writing is really good, and also it only serves to make the violent moments all the more shocking.
Johnny Rock, as everyone knows, is one sick bastard. Levinson's portrayal of the character might be a bit more human -- for one, he's yet to have Rock do anything as sadistic as in Blood Bath (dammit, who wrote that volume?!?) -- but Levinson leaves little room for doubt that our hero is insane. Again, Levinson's Johnny Rock thinks he's normal, when in reality he's sicker than the mobsters he kills. In this volume he shoots men in the back, guns down mobsters with a sniper rifle as they eat their pasta, murders two women in cold blood (for being "mafia whores"), and machine-guns a row of unarmed Mafia enforcers. Like an addict he gets the shakes if he goes more than a few days without "tasting Mafia blood."
After the events in the previous volume, Rock heads down to Miami to soak up some sun. He also decides to wipe out the local Mafia boss, checking into the man's hotel. Rock hobknobs with the bartender and the hotel's whore (she's on the payroll) in between mob hits. Setting himself up as a big spender, Rock gets wind of an offshore casino run on a mob pleasure boat. Hooking up with a lonely housewife (the first of three women Rock sleeps with in the novel -- as expected in a Levinson book, there's lots of sex here), Rock takes her along as camoflauge while scoping out the place.
Here we get another of those Levinson page-filling bits where Rock plans his mission, buys the equipment, and prepares himself for the next night. But again, the calm stuff is only there so that the storm will seem all the more fierce, for what follows is the best sequence in the novel. Outfitted in a wetsuit and SCUBA gear, Rock swims out to the floating casino, boards it, and blasts all of the mobsters to hell. Again though we have little "action," here; as usual with the Sharpshooter, Rock just blows away mobsters after getting them to drop their guns.
The Miami Mafia isn't as stupid as Rock expects. They get the drop on him and proceed to beat him half to death. Levinson's version of Rock gets worried and fears death, but is resolved to the fact that he won't live long. He figures this is the end, but is saved by the last-second arrival of the cops, who cart Rock off. They decide he must be a mob-hired assassin. In a bizarre bit he's allowed to leave Miami, but he quickly returns, holing up in Fort Lauderdale (where in another WTF? scene a stewardess hits on him in the hotel bar and then goes up to his room with him).
The stage is set for final payback, and Levinson doesn't disappoint. Rock buys a grease gun from a gun supplier and blitzes the Miami mob. Here we have a genuine action scene, with Rock fighting off an army of enforcers, even a helicopter. (In other words, Ken Barr's cover actually depicts a scene in the book! Too bad the same couldn't be said for his even-better cover for Blood Bath.)
Unfortunately the climax sort of spirals into nothingness; after killing his main rival, Rock finds out that one of the mobsters who beat him earlier is still around. He tracks down the dude, finding the keys to his apartment (which he gets from the two women he blows away), and paying him a visit. This is another unsettling scene as Rock beats the shit out of the guy before killing him in cold blood. Yep, that's our hero.
Levinson sat out on the next volume, which by all accounts is one of the worst in the series. I'll be reading it anyway, of course. Levinson returned for #7: Head Crusher; in fact it seems that Levinson was the closest the Sharpshooter series ever got to a main writer. I enjoy his work; as I said before, he doesn't achieve the wacked-out sicko mentality of Blood Bath, but he delivers better character, story, and prose, all with a refreshing sense of humor.