Saturday, January 30, 2010

Macmillian Talks to its Authors

To: All Macmillan authors/illustrators and the literary agent community
From: John Sargent

(John Sargent is chief executive officer of Macmillan in the United States. Macmillan is comprised of college publishers Bedford/St. Martin's, W.H. Freeman, and Worth Publishers; and trade publishers Farrar, Straus and Giroux, Henry Holt, Macmillan Audio, Picador, St. Martin's Press and Tor. Previously, John was president and CEO of St. Martin's Press. Before joining St. Martin's, he was CEO of Dorling Kindersley USA and publisher of the children's book division of Simon & Schuster.)

This past Thursday I met with Amazon in Seattle. I gave them our proposal for new terms of sale for e books under the agency model which will become effective in early March. In addition, I told them they could stay with their old terms of sale, but that this would involve extensive and deep windowing of titles. By the time I arrived back in New York late yesterday afternoon they informed me that they were taking all our books off the Kindle site, and off Amazon. The books will continue to be available on through third parties.

I regret that we have reached this impasse. Amazon has been a valuable customer for a long time, and it is my great hope that they will continue to be in the very near future. They have been a great innovator in our industry, and I suspect they will continue to be for decades to come.

It is those decades that concern me now, as I am sure they concern you. In the ink-on-paper world we sell books to retailers far and wide on a business model that provides a level playing field, and allows all retailers the possibility of selling books profitably. Looking to the future and to a growing digital business, we need to establish the same sort of business model, one that encourages new devices and new stores. One that encourages healthy competition. One that is stable and rational. It also needs to insure that intellectual property can be widely available digitally at a price that is both fair to the consumer and allows those who create it and publish it to be fairly compensated.

Under the agency model, we will sell the digital editions of our books to consumers through our retailers. Our retailers will act as our agents and will take a 30% commission (the standard split today for many digital media businesses). The price will be set for each book individually. Our plan is to price the digital edition of most adult trade books in a price range from $14.99 to $5.99. At first release, concurrent with a hardcover, most titles will be priced between $14.99 and $12.99. E books will almost always appear day on date with the physical edition. Pricing will be dynamic over time.

The agency model would allow Amazon to make more money selling our books, not less. We would make less money in our dealings with Amazon under the new model. Our disagreement is not about short-term profitability but rather about the long-term viability and stability of the digital book market.

Amazon and Macmillan both want a healthy and vibrant future for books. We clearly do not agree on how to get there. Meanwhile, the action they chose to take last night clearly defines the importance they attribute to their view. We hold our view equally strongly. I hope you agree with us.

You are a vast and wonderful crew. It is impossible to reach you all in the very limited timeframe we are working under, so I have sent this message in unorthodox form. I hope it reaches you all, and quickly. Monday morning I will fully brief all of our editors, and they will be able to answer your questions. I hope to speak to many of you over the coming days.

Thanks for all the support you have shown in the last few hours; it is much appreciated.

All best,

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Why Are You Here, Darling?

One thing about the internet, all of us get lots of spam, phishes, and plain old everyday cranks. But I want to know, who is this woman who keeps leaving strange comments on my blog, comments and pictures that really make me want to know.

Yes, yes, but darling, I don't even know your name.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Rigolosi A Star of Mystery

Back in May, I talked about a New Jersey mystery writer, Steven Rigolosi, who Library Journal called "a completely fresh voice in the mystery genre." No kidding. In Steve's current novel, the mystery includes figuring whether the narrator is a man or a woman. Anyway, I talked about meeting Steven two years ago at his first Deadly Ink, the annual New Jersey mystery fan convention, and how much The Famous Author and I were enjoying his novel, ANDROGYNOUS MURDER HOUSE PARTY.

"The protag, Robin, is a classic snobby bitch," TFA said, "but darn if we can tell whether Robin is male or female. Fun!"

Well, the news this week is that Steven's ANDROGYNOUS MURDER HOUSE PARTY is been picked by Agatho as one of the two best books of last year. "In 2009 I found two books so stellar, so magnificent, that I have decided to gush about them a bit, then discuss why I was so impressed," Agatho says on his popular blog, Mystery Matters. Of Steven's novel, Agatho gushes: "This tour de force is probably my favorite book of 2009. In many ways it defies description, but I will try...Androgynous Murder House Party is a marvel of language and authorial control. I can only imagine the effort it took to write a full-length novel with no gender-specific pronouns." "The technique Rigolosi uses to achieve this feat is an elevated, mock-heroic prose that perfectly captures the narrator's personality (and many, many quirks) while turning the book into high parody of New York Society."

Read Agatho's full blog by clicking here. Read more about Steven Rigolosi here.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Edgar Nominations for Gus and Stella

I met Gus Carpenter belly to the bar at Bouchercon Baltimore. Stella Hardesty, I've been chasing on an internet dating site for fictional characters. She says she just wants to be friends. Now, both of them -- Gus and Stella -- have been nominated in the Best First Novel category for an Edgar A. Poe Award, The Mystery Writers of America's annual celebration of the best in crime fiction. Luckily, I don't have to vote. How could I choose?

And actually, it's Gus's and Stella's creators who won the nominations, including a former Redhead of the Week. Gus and Stella won't get any credit, although you and I know each was the chief ingredient in these authors's success. I mean, if you don't like the lead character, don't care what happens to him/her, how are you going to turn a single page?

Gus's nominated first novel is STARVATION LAKE and his creator is Bryan Gruley, Chicago bureau chief of the Wall Street Journal. An award winning journalist (he and The Famous Author shared personal stories about working with a bigtime WSJ editor), Gruley shared in the Pulitzer Prize given to the Wall Street Journal in 2002 for coverage of the September 11 terrorist attacks.

Stella's nominated first novel, A BAD DAY FOR SORRY, is the work of Sophie Littlefield, former Redhead of the Week, who grew up in rural Missouri. Like Stella Hardesty, her heroine, Sophie enjoys quilting and sewing. She lives with her husband and two teenage children near San Francisco, California.

Here's a synopsis of A BAD DAY FOR SORRY: Stella Hardesty dispatched her abusive husband with a wrench shortly before her fiftieth birthday. A few years later, she’s so busy delivering home-style justice on her days off, helping other women deal with their own abusive husbands and boyfriends, that she barely has time to run her sewing shop in her rural Missouri hometown. Some men need more convincing than others, but it’s usually nothing a little light bondage or old-fashioned whuppin' can’t fix. Since Stella works outside of the law, she’s free to do whatever it takes to get the job done---as long as she keeps her distance from the handsome devil of a local sheriff, Goat Jones.

When young mother Chrissy Shaw asks Stella for help with her no-good husband, Roy Dean, it looks like an easy case. Until Roy Dean disappears with Chrissy’s two-year-old son, Tucker. Stella quickly learns that Roy Dean was involved with some very scary men, as she tries to sort out who’s hiding information and who’s merely trying to kill her. It’s going to take a hell of a fight to get the little boy back home to his mama, but if anyone can do it, it’s Stella Hardesty.

And here's a synopsis of STARVATION LAKE: In the dead of a Michigan winter, pieces of a snowmobile wash up near the crumbling, small town of Starvation Lake — the same snowmobile that went down with Starvation's legendary hockey coach years earlier. But everybody knows Coach Blackburn's accident happened five miles away on a different lake. As rumors buzz about mysterious underground tunnels, the evidence from the snowmobile says one thing: murder.

Gus Carpenter, editor of the local newspaper, has recently returned to Starvation after a failed attempt to make it big at the Detroit Times. In his youth, Gus was the goalie who let a state championship get away, crushing Coach's dreams and earning the town's enmity. Now he's investigating the murder of his former coach. But even more unsettling to Gus are the holes in the town's past and the gnawing suspicion that those holes may conceal some dark and disturbing secrets secrets that some of the people closest to him may have killed to keep.

May I suggest you give these characters and authors a try? The MWA's awards committee thinks they are special. We know Gus and Stella are, and TFA says Bryan and Sophie are pretty nice people, too. AC

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Robert Parker Dead at 77

Author David Morrell reports on Twitter this morning that his friend, author Robert B. Parker, died earlier today "sitting at his desk." Parker is the author of, most famously, the Spenser novels, which became a popular television series, Spenser: For Hire.

According to Wikipedia, Parker was born in Springfield, Massachusetts, married Joan H. Parker on 26 August 1956, and had two sons, David and Daniel. After earning a BA degree from Colby College in Waterville, Maine, Parker served in the US Army in Korea. In 1957, he earned his Master's degree in English literature from Boston University and then worked in advertising and technical writing until 1962.

Parker received a PhD degree in English literature from Boston University in 1971. His dissertation, titled "The Violent Hero, Wilderness Heritage and Urban Reality", discussed the exploits of fictional private-eye heroes created by Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler and Ross Macdonald. He wrote his first novel in 1971 while at Northeastern University.

Another of Parker's characters, Jesse Stone, has a new novel, SPLIT IMAGE, set for release February 23.

And here's a blog with a lot more information.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

TFA Sighting in Mexico

Enrique, the waiter who sent us this shot, swears The Famous Author was not alone this past New Year's Eve, but you have to wonder if even The Whip would stick with him in this condition. I mean look at those eyeballs!

Having been there before with TFA on one of his drinking junkets, I can tell you it's not easy getting to The Vista Grill in Puerto Vallarta. It's way up a hill, on a cobblestone street, and the taxi drivers don't know where to go when you say Vista Grill.

In Spanish, "i" sounds like an "e" but if we try to make it sound like they do, it comes out "Vee'stah Greeel," and they think you're making fun of their language, trying to sound like a pachuko or something. But the joint is well worth whatever trouble you encounter on the way. The margaritas are among the world's best. The food, spectacular. And the best view of Banderas Bay and PV imaginable.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Redhead of the Week Should Dump Him

Born in Deal, New Jersey -- about eight minutes from where I write -- singer Patti Scialfa first worked professionally as a back-up singer for New Jersey bar bands. That was after high school, back in 1994. Later, she earned a music degree from New York University, transferring from the University of Miami's highly-respected jazz conservatory at the Frost School of Music.

For many years, she struggled in the songwriting and recording industry in New York and New Jersey, playing at Kenny’s Castaway in Greenwich Village, as well as Asbury Park's The Stone Pony. Scialfa had a brief role in The Stone Pony's house band Cats on a Smooth Surface. These gigs won her notice and, eventually, recording work with Southside Johnny and David Johansen.

In 1984, Scialfa joined Bruce Springsteen's E Street Band, three or four days before the opening show of the Born in the U.S.A. Tour, either because Springsteen wanted to expand the emotional range of the band (Marsh, Glory Days) or because Nils Lofgren contracted mononucleosis, which made it impossible for him to sing his backing vocals. Nobody's telling.

Scialfa has recorded three solo albums, 1993's Rumble Doll, 2004's 23rd Street Lullaby and 2007's Play It As It Lays. Her first two albums received four-star reviews from Rolling Stone, while the third got three and a half. Her records are a mix of confessional songwriting, impressive vocal range, and traditional country, folk and rock music. Springsteen and fellow E Street bandmates like Lofgren and Roy Bittan contributed backing work.

Patti Scialfa and Bruce Springsteen met through the New Jersey Shore music scene. The two remained casual friends in the early '80s. In a September 2007 Rolling Stone interview, Scialfa stated her and Bruce's relationship at that time "would have to have been the real deal, or nothing at all."

During the 1988 Tunnel of Love Express tour, Scialfa took a central role in the sexually-charged stage performances, such as "You Can Look (But You Better Not Touch)," "Tougher than the Rest" and "I'm a Coward", thereby displacing Springsteen's traditional on-stage foil, saxophonist Clarence Clemons. Springsteen and Scialfa were later pictured together in tabloid photographs on a hotel balcony in Rome. Springsteen was married at the time to model Julianne Phillips.

Springsteen's divorce from Phillips was finalized in 1989. In 1990 Scialfa gave birth to the couple's first child, Evan James. On June 8, 1991 Springsteen and Scialfa married at their Beverly Hills home. Springsteen and Scialfa had two more children, Jessica Rae (1991); and Samuel Ryan (1994).

Patti might be best known as the woman who inspired Springsteen to write (the bawdy) "Red Headed Woman". He also dedicates his famous cover of Tom Waits' "Jersey Girl" to her in concert (although his initial performances of the song pre-dated his relationship with her).

Thanks to Patti, Bruce, and Wikipedia.