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Archives: August 2005

Bringing Back Bond

Once upon a time, James Bond was just a speck in the mind of a former intelligence agent who decided to transmogrify his experiences into adventure fiction. Now of course, he’s a phenomenon, even a punch line. But Ian Fleming’s estate wants to bring back some of the glory just in time for the centenary of the superspy’s creator:

Zoe Watkins at Ian Fleming Publications said: “To celebrate the centenary of Ian Fleming’s birth in 2008 we are looking at a wide range of different activities and one of those is a new adult Bond novel.

“We are still in the planning stages, but at the moment the idea would be to have it done by an established author – potentially a big name.”

Watkins says the new book will be a major departure from the light-hearted nature of the films and mark a return to the dark, complex character of the early novels.

She said: “The literary Bond is something we want to focus on and any work would have to be in keeping with the literary aspects of the books. If it was successful there could be scope for further novels.”

A dark, literary Bond would certainly be way cooler than what’s passed for later entries of the series. And so, taking the cue from Ian Rankin’s speculative “if I wrote James Bond” piece at the end of the article, I asked some well-known thriller writers for their own version of how they’d write Bond. Those appear after the jump.

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Working the monkeys overtime

I already mocked this mercilessly at my own blog a couple of months back, but with Library Journal trying to coax its member librarians into vying for the 25 grand offered to them, it bears repeating:

Are you a librarian who loves getting patrons jazzed about books? Then you might have $25K coming your way: the Time Warner Book Group (TWBG) and best-selling author James Patterson have created a new annual award “intended to single out and support people, companies, schools, and other institutions [i.e., libraries] [that] find original and effective ways to promote the excitement of books.” Dubbed the James Patterson Page Turner Awards, the annual prizes offer serious cash in three categories:

$25,000 to a person, company, or institution that presents books to the public in an exciting and original way.
$25,000 to an elementary school, middle school, or high school that inculcates the joy of reading for pleasure in its students. The winning school will also win a visit from Patterson for a day of reading, signing, and talking about books.
$25,000 in the form of 25 $1000 merit awards to individuals and institutions making notable contributions to promoting the excitement of books.

Full details about the award and nomination process are available here.

And remember, it won’t be Patterson judging but appointed delegates who get the honors.

Sometimes, it’s really not just a game

Agent 007 muses on the concept of “fantasy publishing” and why sure things, though great for the career and pocketbook, get boring after a while:

Winning when you knew you were going to win all along is Boring with a capital B. No one wants to play a game that they can win every time.

What really gets an editor’s adrenaline pumping is the book that she fell in love with at first sight, championed in-house, cradled all the way to publication, and watched burst onto the media scene. Books like WHY DO MEN HAVE NIPPLES?, FREAKONOMICS, THE KITE RUNNER (all currently ranked higher than The Historian on Amazon’s bestseller list, by the way)—those are what fuels an editor during long meetings spent debating the merits of Phoenix vs. Miami on the author tour or whether the typeface on the cover is blue enough, or while repairing the hurt feelings of the art director when everyone hated his cover.

And if you don’t have a sense of risk or daring, quit while you’re ahead:

If you no longer get fired up about something that doesn’t have “sure thing” stamped on the cover, get out. If you can no longer trust your instinct that tells you that you are right, get out. If you can’t have fun and take a few risks and re-discover the joy of publishing again, take a sabbatical.

You may be forced, as I was, to sit in a conference room and revisit every failed book of the year in order to determine “what went wrong.” But most of the time, there is no one answer, just as there is no one secret to the surprise hits. And I, for one, wouldn’t have it any other way.

Because scoring with a sure thing is fun.. but only for about 15 minutes.

Whether this catches on is another story

Tony Broadbent’s second crime novel, SPECTER IN THE SMOKE, will be out at the end of the year from St. Martin’s Press. It’s been a few years since his debut and naturally, he’s trying to find new ways to promote himself. As such, he’s partnered with a multimedia company for his efforts:

SVC Financial Services today announced the release of a new Mazarin Media Platform Template for authors and publishers. Mazarin AUTHOR is the new multimedia solution selected by Tony Broadbent to promote his latest mystery “Spectres in the Smoke. A creeping narrative.”

“I’ve seen Mazarin solutions at work for non-profit organizations, political campaigns, and other targeted awareness campaigns,” said author Tony Broadbent. “When SVC told me they were developing a new template for authors to promote their works, I was onboard immediately. And I’m working with SVC to provide content and media to build the first Mazarin AUTHOR application to showcase my new novel “Spectres in the Smoke” (St Martins /Thomas Dunne) and the new trade paperback release of “The Smoke.” (Felony & Mayhem Press)

“Using SVC’s Mazarin AUTHOR an author, new or established, can reach out to their audience in a compelling and immediate way, they can complement their publishers marketing efforts in a very real sense,” said Bob Peak, SVC Vice President of Marketing and Business Development. “With Mazarin AUTHOR, authors have the lowest cost method available to push out to an audience and really get the word out, hopefully accelerating sales.”

SVC has already done some promotion for Dick Guldstrand and Dave Friedman’s recent book on the history of Corvettes.

Janson-Smith gone from Transworld

Patrick Janson-Smith, the longtime publisher of Transworld, is ditching the company for the Christopher Little Literary Agency:

At Transworld Janson-Smith has worked with authors such as Bill Bryson, Jilly Cooper, Terry Pratchett and Mo Hayder and among other things helped found the Black Swan imprint. By moving into agenting he’s following in his father’s footsteps – Peter Janson-Smith was the agent for Ian Fleming. Gavin Maxwell and Eric Ambler.

Janson-Smith said that the move to Christopher Little was an ideal opportunity to return to his real passion – working directly with authors rather than dealing with the day to day demands of a large company.

No word on who will succeed, although a major promotion has already occurred within Transworld as Selina Walker became Editorial Director of Bantam Press and the Publisher-at-Large of all mysteries and thrillers.

Humiliation: it’s not just a drinking game anymore

Last week, Tess Gerristen described the singular pleasure of trudging through big box bookstores to sign copies of her new thriller, VANISH, and getting shot down left and right:

Store visit #2(to another national bookstore chain) is even more humiliating. This manager has never heard of me either. He finds eight copies of VANISH in the store. “But you can only sign two of them,” he says. “We need to be able to return them when they don’t sell.”

ONE day on sale, and he’s already talking about returning the books. And he won’t let me sign any of the paperbacks because… well, you guessed it. He needs to be able to return them.

It’s useless to explain to him that signed copies CAN be returned for credit. He’s been told “at a seminar” that they can’t be. I slink out, having driven an extra 30 miles to sign exactly three copies.

At Store #3, the manager doesn’t want me to sign ANY copies. She wants to be able to “return them all” if necessary. Then she looks in the computer and stares. “Wow,” she says. “We have a lot of your books in stock. I guess you must sell really well here.” Only then does she allow me to sign three copies of VANISH. I ask her if she has many authors come through her store.

“You’re the only one,” she says. (Do other authors know something that I don’t?)

Now Mark Billingham, in an essay for The Bookseller, relates his own experiences looking for people reading one of his own bestselling novels:

recently I have had the slightly disconcerting experience of sitting opposite someone reading one of my books on the Tube. (Them, that is, not me. Reading my own books would be silly.) Now, if you’re a comic novelist you might catch the odd smile, or glimpse a chuckle if you’re lucky, but when you’re a crime writer whose books are steeped in death and darkness, there’s not actually a great deal to see. How does someone look “gripped”? So, all you can do is sit there, and occasionally get caught staring by the person reading. And smile. And try not to look like a major-league nutcase.

Of course, you say nothing. Not ever. And here’s a perfect illustration as to why.

A well-known writer found himself sitting on a train opposite a woman reading the novel (his first) which he’d recently had published. Unable to contain his excitement, he leaned across the table, gave a small cough and told the woman that she was reading his book. She immediately lowered it and said how sorry she was, explaining that she didn’t know the book belonged to anyone, and that she’d just found it lying on the table. Before the writer could correct her misapprehension, the woman slid the book across the table towards him. “It doesn’t matter,” she said. “I wasn’t really enjoying it anyway.”

Sometimes, it’s better to simply look away…

Book review editors speak out

Over at The Book Standard, Adam Langer assembles a motley crew of newspaper book editors to talk about — oh, the usual stuff: how many books they get a week, how many get ignored, and what they really, really don’t want to see ever again:

Adam Langer: What sorts of books do you receive that you would never, ever, ever assign for review?

Arthur Salm: Self-help. Romance. Self-published (don’t EVEN get me started). Business guru. Thrillers with covers depicting a dagger plunged through either a swastika or a hammer & sickle.

Greg Langley: Self-help.

Sam Hodges: We get a lot of diet, health, exercise and business books, though we never review them. If the author is local, I might do a column or feature.

Jeff Salamon: I receive plenty of Harlequin romances and other tawdry-looking mass-market paperback romance lines, self-help books, business advice books and narrowly targeted religious books that I have never assigned and have no plans to assign. But I am loathe to say “never, ever, ever, ever, ever” because if one of my freelancers said to me, “Hey, I’d really like to look at the state of the modern Harlequin romance novel (or business advice book or ‘How to organize your life’ book),” I’d probably tell him or her to go for it.

John Mark Eberhart: 99 percent of self-help books evoke no critical response from me at all. I think many of them are poorly written and some are actually dangerous. Some people are interested in them, though, so what tends to happen at this newspaper is we try to find other ways to cover the high-profile ones, without doing a review. In short, though, I don’t spend my freelance money on them.

I guess the self-help romance novel would make their collective heads explode on sight.

The frustrations of publicity

Independent publicist Susan Schwartzman has started bloggingprobably the first in her profession book publicist to do so, to the best of my knowledge — and describes some of the pitfalls that can flummox even the best of publicists:

Dealing with the media can be very frustrating at times. Take [yesterday], for example, when I called various NPR producers of very high-brow, intellectual shows. “If you don’t have anyone from New Orleans, I can’t talk to you.” Click.

The hurricane preempted all the news media today, and monopolized producers’ time all over the country, but fortunately, I did get responses to my pitches from some producers, so the day wasn’t a complete exercise in futility. I was grateful I didn’t have any authors scheduled for a morning show today who would end up sitting in the green room as the hurricane coverage preempted their interviews. That happened to an author of mine many years ago when a blizzard was deemed more important than his book, and the morning show never did reschedule his interview.

No doubt that very question is on the minds of the publicity department of Bantam Dell right this moment, after Karin Slaughter’s scheduled interview on the CBS Early Show got bumped for Hurricane Katrina coverage.

The Gutter really is my new best friend

Or Publishers Marketplace is trying to mess with my head, as they’ve managed to top yesterday’s howler of a deal:

Kit Whitfield’s BAREBACK, presenting a society as civilized as our own — with the difference that 98% of the population “furs up” at the full moon each month, to Betsy Mitchell at Del Rey, in a two-book deal, by Sophie Hicks of Ed Victor Ltd. (NA).

Rejection Collection

Things recently noted on the whole writer/agent editor spectrum:

Just because you think you have a novel inside you, doesn’t mean you should inflict others with it. (link from Bookninja.)

Want to know how to get an agent to reject you? It’s really easy!

Miss Snark is back from vacation and skewering bad opening pages and query letters with hardcore vengeance.

Fellow blogging Agent 007 explains why just getting an agent doesn’t guarantee a sale — especially if said agent is on various editors’ blacklists.