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So What Do You Do, Jackie Collins, Bestselling Author?

The Hollywood insider talks eBooks and self-publishing

- March 7, 2012

Photo Credit: Greg Gorman

With 400 million copies sold worldwide, 27 New York Times bestsellers, and nine movies and mini-series based on her work, Jackie Collins has become the public's go-to gal for a glimpse into the world of the A-list elite.

"If you have never been to Hollywood and you're going to write this expose on Hollywood, then it's going to be a flop because you cannot fool the public -- they know. They know that when I write the book, I'm not standing outside my mansion with my nose pressed against the glass trying to get in. I've already seen this, done that," Collins told us.

And the renowned author has no plans of slowing down anytime soon. Collins told us exclusively that she will be self-publishing the U.S. eBook of her previous title, The Bitch, on April 17, and there's also a young adult title and cookbook in honor of her most infamous character in the works. Lucky girl.


Name: Jackie Collins
Position: Author
Resume: Tinkered with acting in her early 20s but always considered herself an "out-of-work writer." Continued to write as a wife and mother but never finished anything until her first novel, The World is Full of Married Men, was published in 1968. That title landed her on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, and was later banned in Australia due to its racy content. Penned 26 more New York Times bestsellers, which sold over 400 million copies and spawned nine movies and mini-series.
Birthday: October 4, 1937
Hometown: London
Education: Expelled from high school at the age of 15
Marital status: Widowed
Media Idol: "Craig Ferguson, because he is a true entertainer and makes me laugh"
Favorite TV show: Shameless and Dexter
Guilty pleasure: Chocolate and TiVo
Last book read: Ali in Wonderland by Ali Wentworth
Twitter handle: @JackieJCollins


How do you differentiate your take on sex and romance from others in the genre?
That's a very interesting question because we all love romance, but we don't like romance. You know what I mean by that? We find romance, but we don't like a romance book -- it's so sloppy and stupid. But we love happy endings. So, I try to make sure my characters are strong, sexy and very erotic. I don't write lewd sex like men do. Sometimes men write like gynecologists, and you're thinking, "That's not sexy."

You've got to just get the feeling of what the character would do in bed and then let your readers' imaginations take over, so the reader actually thinks they're reading more than they are. But I don't plan sex. I don't assume my character is going to have sex today. They just happen like they happen in life or like they should happen. Everybody loves the sex scenes in Goddess of Vengeance because it's incredibly romantic, and yet it works.

What's something that you'd never write about because it's a little too wild, even for you?
Now, I would never write about cruelty to children, because I just think that encourages pedophiles. I really do think it gets their rocks off.

"I realized at the very beginning that I had to take control of what the publisher was doing as far as book covers were concerned."

Why did you think it was important for you to be involved in the business side of your career, rather than delegating those tasks to an agent or manager?
I realized at the very beginning that I had to take control of what the publisher was doing as far as book covers were concerned: the size, the print, the paper. So, I started to get on their case about what they were going to do for me because most writers don't know this. They publish a book, and they can't find it in the bookstore. And they go, "Oh, it's on the back shelf? Can't you get it on the front table?" They don't realize that their publisher hasn't paid for the front table.

So, there's a lot to learn, and I've learned it over the years, and I'm still learning. There are still things that I don't know that I find out with each book. What are they doing for the list? What promotions are they buying? Those are the questions I'd ask. It's all about the money, as far as the publishers are concerned, and usually publishers aren't that generous. So, even I have to fight for what I want. If I want a full-page ad in People magazine, I have to get it in my contract otherwise they're not going to give it to me. They would say it costs too much. So, what I have now is a lot of social media ads. And I think there should be one print ad because people still read magazines.

From the beginning, you've been in the spotlight. How do you think that has helped or expanded your brand?
I think it does help if you've got a face that can actually go on television and try and be a celebrity. I mean, I'm not that fond of doing it, but I've been doing it for so many years that I can do it at the drop of a hat. It's lucky for me, because not a lot of writers can get their books on television and talk about them. I realized that I'm very lucky to have that kind of brand. My name is kind of a brand now. In fact, I am eventually going to have things like desk sets, a Lucky [Santangelo] cookbook and other things.

If you were an author starting out in the business today, what would you do differently?
I was extremely lucky because my first book was accepted. And I keep on reading about these really famous writers who went through so many rejections, and I don’t know if I could have kept going if I had a lot of rejections.

I don't think I would change anything. If I were starting over, maybe I would have done it sooner because everybody told me I couldn't do it. I was thrown out of school. They said, "You can't. You've got to go to college. You've got to do this. You've got to do that." And I said, "No, I'm following my dream. This is what I want to do." And I came out on top in composition in school and bottom in everything else. So, along the way, I've learned to spell. Thank you, computer. I'd have to tell anyone starting out: Follow your dream. Girls can do anything and so can boys. Put your mind to it; follow your dream.

What are your thoughts on eBooks and how they will affect your readership and bottom line?
You've always got to be thinking ahead of the game, because the book industry is going the way of the CD industry. Nobody buys CDs anymore. They get music on iTunes. For example, with Goddess of Vengeance, I think I sold an equal amount of hard covers and eBooks. And in England, they just bought out all my books on eBooks and Lethal Seduction was immediately No. 2 on the bestseller's list. It's a book that's 10-years-old; I was quite impressed with that. That said, I personally love physical books. I love the feel of the book.

"They said, 'You can't. You've got to go to college.' And I said, 'No, I'm following my dream.'"

I've re-written The Bitch, and I'm publishing that myself as an eBook in a few weeks. It'll sell for about $2.99, and it's a nice thing to do for my readers. They can read a book that they hadn't read before, and perhaps I'll get new readers. I just looked at it the other day, and I thought it's not a really long book, but it was a really fun book. And so I decided to re-write it. I decided to publish it myself just to be innovative and also to give something back to the fans. I've got a fabulous cover for it and a letter to the readers that will go before it.

It's a fun experiment. It might sell two copies. It might sell 200,000. Who knows? If it ends up doing very well, I will continue to self-publish books probably because I've got a series of short stories that have never been published. And I've always said to my publisher, "I'd like to do a book of short stories." And he goes, "Oh, short stories don’t sell." And dealing with publishers, it might be fun just to deal with myself. I always say, "If you have faith in something, do it yourself."

Many of your novels have a ripped-from-the-headlines feel to them. What kind of research do you do to keep them fresh, but familiar?
I'm a little on the cutting edge as far as knowing what's happening. I don't mean to sound immodest. What I mean is that I keep my ears to the ground, for instance, if there's a new singer coming out like Norah Jones, a few years ago. I had written about her long before everybody knew who she was, and with actors it's the same thing. I've got a good eye for talent. When I made [the mini-series based on] Lucky Chances, a four-year-old Elisabeth Moss from Mad Men and a 19-year-old Sandra Bullock were in it. [Editor's note: When the show aired in 1990, Moss was 8-years-old and Bullock was 26.] As far as writers, I'm thinking of getting an imprint somewhere and encouraging young writers. A friend of mine wrote a brilliant book, and she's had the most fabulous rejection letters I've ever seen. And I'm saying to myself, "What the hell is going on? This book is fabulous, and they're rejecting it."

As a mature woman who has been in the business for years, what do you do to bring in young readers who may not be as familiar with your earlier work?
Well, it's interesting. I don't have to bring them in. They're there. What happens is, they take their mom's book and they read them under the covers. I have a huge fan base of like 15-year-olds, and they write to me all the time. And they say, "I know I'm a bit young, but I took my mom's book and I've never read a book before." I do have a huge, young audience. I am going to do a YA book about Lucky when she was 16. I think it'll be fun because she's a bit like me when I was that age: wild and out of control. So, I thought that would be fun. Instead of writing my memoir, which I will do eventually, I will write Lucky's wild years. It's my first YA book.

NEXT >> AvantGuildSo What Do You Do Jawn Murray, Entertainment Reporter?


Jeff Rivera is the author of Forever My Lady (Grand Central) and a GalleyCat contributor.

© WebMediaBrands Inc. 2012. All Rights Reserved.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity. The foregoing is the sole property of WebMediaBrands Inc. The opinions and views expressed in the interviews and/or commentaries are solely those of the participants and are not necessarily the views of WebMediaBrands Inc., its affiliates or subsidiary companies.



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