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So What Do You Do, Janet Evanovich, Bestselling Novelist?

'You could be the most fabulous writer in the world, but if no one is reading it, it isn't any fun'

By Jeff Rivera - November 3, 2010

When Janet Evanovich left her publisher of 15 years in July, word in the book biz was that she inked a new deal with Random House's Ballantine Bantam Dell for a cool $50 million. Although the author denies the reports about her huge payday, the truth is, her success as a novelist is already solidified: 45 books, millions of fans, and a Katherine Heigl movie based on her title One for the Money in the works. The New York Times also recently reported that Evanovich made $16 million in 2009 alone.

But Evanovich isn't in it for the money or the fame. The now bestselling author once languished in obscurity as a struggling romance writer for a decade, because, she says, she was unwilling to place business and financial needs over her craft. "I had the attitude that you create art for yourself and if someone else sees something in that, that's fabulous," she said. "But after 10 years, it wasn't getting me anywhere and it probably wasn't who I was. At some point you realize you could be the most fabulous writer in the world, but if no one is reading it, it isn't any fun."

With her latest release Wicked Appetite now in stores, Evanovich discusses with the challenges of being a woman in the business, her new co-author program and why she feels the media 'lies' about her.

Name: Janet Evanovich
Position: Author
Resume: Began her career writing romance novels under a pseudonym after failing to sell her first three novels. Gained international fame writing the Stephanie Plum mystery series, with 16 landing on The New York Times bestsellers list. Sold the movie rights to the first title in the series for $1 million.
Birthday: April 22, 1943
Hometown: South River, NJ
Education: BA from Douglass College
Marital status: Married
First section of the Sunday Times: Doesn't read The New York Times
Favorite TV show: Bobby Flay's Throwdown
Guilty pleasure: Mac 'n' cheese
Last book read: A Bold Fresh Piece of Humanity by Bill O'Reilly
Twitter handle: Doesn't use Twitter

With the eBook revolution threatening to overtake print books permanently, what are your thoughts about how this could affect your revenue?
Yeah, I love eBooks. I think they're great, and I'm not sure how they are going to affect my revenue. I'm not sure anybody knows. I think we're going to have to wait and see how it shakes out. What I know is that they are not going to go away. The kids have come up being so comfortable on the screen, and now even all ages are buying into the Kindle and iPad. eBooks are here to stay. I think that anything that expands the market, anything that encourages people to read, anything that enhances the reading experience, makes it easier, makes it cheaper, makes it more interesting -- fabulous, I just love it. I think we haven't even seen the beginning of eBooks. All kinds of great things are going to come out of it.

"I go to NASCAR races, and I hang out with my crazy relatives, and I prowl South Beach. I think that stuff kind of gets moving around in your head and helps to give you new ideas."

Today's authors stand to make dramatically more income by self-publishing and publishing directly on formats such as Amazon's Kindle. Have you given any thought to doing the same for your future titles?
Actually, I have given it some thought, and then I've said, "What? Are you nuts?" It's not that simple. I think that there are a lot of people out there self-publishing and who have the ability to get their work out now because of the Internet, but it has lots of limitations: distribution, publicity, marketing. There are just many, many components that for me, at least at my level, just don't work for me. I am actually really happy to have help from a publisher. It's enough to keep my ass in the chair and keep writing without taking on that also. And I mean, I have my whole family working for me and they're all doing their own jobs, and I can't imagine one more job added to the list.

You've written somewhere close to 45 books, some under a pseudonym. How do you keep your writing fresh?
I think that you have to continue to live and get new experiences that relate to the people you are writing about. I spend a lot of time in bars and shopping centers, and I go to NASCAR races, and I hang out with my crazy relatives, and I prowl South Beach. I think that stuff kind of gets moving around in your head and helps to give you new ideas. I have a family, we are very close, we are like a little herd. We all live together within three minutes of each other, and when I am running out of ideas, somebody always has one.

You recently switched publishing houses from St. Martin's to Random House. What were your former publishers not providing that you felt your new publisher will be able to?
Well, I don't know. We are going to wait and see, aren't we? I think that sometimes... just a change is refreshing. I loved St. Martin's; I could not say anything bad about St. Martin's. My editor, my publicist, my publisher are all my best friends and when I go into New York, it's girls' night out. We just loved each other, and I still do. I think they did a fabulous job for me, but we had some differences about moving forward, about the projects that I felt very strongly about in the future, and that really was not so much a matter of money, it was a matter of a vision. I just had a slightly different vision than St. Martin's. So, I just felt like maybe I needed a change, maybe I needed some new ideas. Sometimes you are the new girl on the block, and there is just a lot of enthusiasm and there's a lot of energy. You all of a sudden have this rush to do something fabulous.

"If you are a guy and you make a lot of money, you are a success. If you are a woman and you make a lot of money, you are a bitch."

Reports in media had you asking for more than $50 million for your next deal. For the record, is that what your new publishers gave you and how were you able to justify such a high asking price?
Yeah, I think the word was "demanding", and it was not true, I don't know where that figure came from. I have no clue, but that was not accurate. Now, having said that, I do make a decent amount of money, but not only was that not where the negotiations were stalling but the figure was wrong. Possibly at some point that was said in jest and floated out there. But no, it was not a serious accurate figure. Everybody lies about that. You can't put too much stock in any of those numbers that come out of that. Either they are inflated or they are lessened, because you know if you are a guy and you make a lot of money, you are a success. If you are a woman and you make a lot of money, you are a bitch.

You've made the 'Janet Evanovich' brand very much a family affair, with key members of your family, such as your son, acting on your behalf. How do you feel your family has better served you over those who are not blood-related?
First of all they are very, very talented. They are very bright and we're all very different. My son is brilliant, he is our finance officer. He also is my agent now. He is an amazing negotiator, he's just the nicest guy but very, very smart and Peter just gets along with everybody. He can ease you into a contract and everybody's happy with it. He also helps edit the books for me, and then my daughter is a little bit more on the other half of the brain. She graduated as a film and photography major and then came on board and created our website. Alex does all of that for me. She sits on top of the co-author program. She has an editor working under her, but she's the bottom line person for that.

Tell us more about this co-author program.
Several years ago I did some co-authored books with Charlotte Hughes; then Charlotte decided that she wanted to go off on her own and the program kind of died out. Then, last year we realized that we were missing the co-author program. We would like to have, maybe three or four co-authors that we're working with and bringing them out in hard cover. It's one of those situations that if you find the right person, everybody wins. There are tons of really good writers out there, but for one reason or another, they just have not had the support that allowed them to build audiences. So, for these writers out there, it gives them an opportunity to get a much larger market. If somebody's interested in being part of our co-author program, they should contact my son, Peter Evanovich or they can send me a letter. My post office box is on all my book covers.

Some have complained that the Stephanie Plum series just rehashes the same plots over and over. What do you say to those naysayers?
I ignore them. I think, first of all, you never go on Amazon and read the reviews because they're demoralizing, and I try to do the best that I can everyday. And sometimes I feel like I write better books than other times; that's just the way it goes, and sometimes it is true that the books are similar. Some people like it because it meets their expectations, some people get tired of them. If you're one of those people who are tired of them, you should stop reading them, move on. I am serious, move on to someone else. Maybe after a year or two you might want to come back, because it will be fresh.

It isn't that I don't listen to what critics say, it's just that you have to make up your own mind at that point if it's valid. Sometimes it is and you try to correct things, and sometimes you decide that it isn't. When I get up in the morning, I don't just sit down and say, "You know, they are paying me a lot of money. What the heck! I'm just going to knock out a hundred pages." I don't know of anybody writing a book, painting a picture, creating music who does that. We are all dying to do the very best that we can everyday.

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Jeff Rivera is the author of Forever My Lady (Grand Central) and the founder of

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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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