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Sunday, 17 April 2011

A Tsunami of Swill or the one with the interview with the writer who looks a bit like Ross from Friends - The Archive chats with Lee Goldberg

Lee Goldberg's  mother wanted him to be a doctor, and his grandfather wanted him to go into the family furniture business. Instead, he put himself through UCLA as a freelance journalist, writing for such publications as American Film, Starlog, Newsweek, The Los Angeles Times Syndicate, The Washington Post and The San Francisco Chronicle (He also wrote erotic letters to the editor for Playgirl at $25-a-letter, but he doesn't tell people about that, he just likes to boast about those "tiffany" credits).Lee broke into television with a freelance script sale to Spenser: For Hire. Since then, his TV writing & producing credits have covered a wide variety of genres, including sci-fi (SeaQuest), cop shows (Hunter), martial arts (Martial Law), whodunits (Diagnosis Murder, Nero Wolfe), the occult (She-Wolf of London), kid's shows (R.L. Stine's The Nightmare Room), T&A (Baywatch), comedy (Monk) and utter crap (The Highwayman). His TV work has earned him two Edgar Award nominations from the Mystery Writers of America. 

Lee runs the excellent, A Writer's Life HERE

The Tainted Archive caught up with Lee for a quick question/answer session

TA - You've scored success in ePublishing,specifically self publishing, gotten yourself noticed but then it's not as if you were exactly unknown - you've an impressive backlist of work included screenwriting for several major TV shows as well as some pretty nifty novels. This profile obviously helped with getting your eBooks to stand out but what would you say are the important factors any writer looking at self publishing must consider?

LG - I think that having a pre-existing platform and some name recognition has given me an enormous advantage. Not only that, but I continue to have ebooks published by Penguin/Putnam of my print work, which feeds new readers to my self-published backlist of my out-of-print work and to my new books, like The Dead Man series. 

There's something like 800,000 e-books available on Amazon right now, a mix of new titles, scores of public domain classics, and tens of thousands of self published books, the majority of which are of inferior quality (to put it kindly). Standing out amidst all of those titles is no easy feat...and it's only going to get harder. 

One big advantage that authors coming from so-called "legacy publishing" have over authors who have never been published before is that we already have a platform, a body of work, and perhaps even a following to draw upon. And many of us still have books in print from those major publishers, which not only helps readers find us, but establishes trust. Because we have a history of professional publication, readers have faith in our ability to deliver high-quality books, regardless of who publishes them. We also have the advantage of established relationships with other successful authors, who we can network with for blurbs and cross promotion. We're going to have that advantage for some time to come. It's important for professional, published authors to get a beachhead in the eWorld now while they still have that advantage. Any author who hasn't put their out-of-print backlist on the Kindle yet it is not only leaving money on the table, they are making a mistake that will handicap their ability to be successful in the ebook marketplace in the future.

TA- Baywatch, Spenser for Hire and Diagnosis Murder are just some of the shows you've written for - how does each discipline - that's novels and TV scripting - differ?
LG - There is a big difference between writing for television and writing books. These are two very different mediums with very different approaches and methods of storytelling. For one thing, writing books is a solitary pursuit. You're by yourself, in an office, facing that blank screen. But in television, it's a collaborative medium. You are working with a staff of extraordinarily talented writers. You may write the script on your own, but you will craft the story ahead of time in the writers room. A screenplay is essentially a dramatic blueprint from which other creative professionals, like subcontractors on a construction job, work from to do what they do. It's written to perform that function. In a screenplay, story, character, just about everything has to be revealed through action and dialogue. If you don't see it, and if you don't hear it, you don't know it.  There are also budgets, shooting schedules, cast members, etc. to consider when crafting a screenplay, at least for a TV series.

A book is very different from a screenplay. You have the benefit of interior monologues and an omniscient narrator. You are the director,  the actors, the set decorator, the location manager, the stunt driver, etc. You can convey character and story through other methods besides action and dialog..but you also have to describe everything, which isn't necessary when writing a script.  You also don't have to worry about whether or not what you are imagining can actually be created in the real world.

TA - I've just bought the Dead Man eBook, Face of Evil (looking forward to reading this) - tell us a little something about this new series.
LG-"The Dead Man" began as an unsold television pilot written by me and William Rabkin many years ago. With "The Dead Man," we're attempting to recapture all the fun, action and adventure of the classic men's action-adventure series genre...but updated for contemporary readers. The genre is all but dead in print right now, but the Kindle and other E-readers offer the perfect medium for its revival. And we're approaching the writing of these books with a process that's a hybrid between a classic "house name" men's action-adventure series and the way Bill & I have written & produced our various television series. We are inviting other authors in to write books and we're giving them credit on the cover for the books they've written, unlike the house named series that pretend as if one author is writing them all and denying credit to the scribes who are actually doing the work. The "Dead Man" books are short novels, like the Gold Medal paperbacks of yesteryear, range between 20,000 to 30,000 words, come out monthly, and are priced at $2.99.

"The Dead Man" is about Matt Cahill, an ordinary guy who, after a terrible accident, is able to see evil and a supernatural world that other people don't. Now he's wandering the country trying to find the answers to who he is, and what he supposed to do, while the same time stopping evil before it strikes and helping people trouble. It's a simple format...but offers the opportunity for a wide range of stories. In many ways it's a modern-day western, which may be why so many western writers have been attracted to the project. 

Bill Crider, James Reasoner, Matthew P. Mayo and Mel Odom are just some of the western veterans writing "Dead Man" books for us. And although I've never written a western novel myself (unless you count "Mr. Monk in Trouble"),  I'm a huge Western fan and have devoured the works of Frederick Manfred, Richard Wheeler, Elmer Kelton, A.B. Guthrie, Homer Hatten, H.A. DeRosso, Ed Gorman, Larry McMurtry, William Hopson, Harry Whittington and Frank Bonham, to name a few. That love of westerns is reflected in "The Dead Man," right down to the name of our hero -- "Matt" is from Matt Dillon and "Cahill" is from "Cahill: US Marshal."

TA - Why have you decided to go the self publishing route for many of your books?

LG-Because it just makes financial sense. The mid-list in publishing has virtually disappeared. And what publishers are paying now in advances, and the 25% royalty they are offering for ebooks, just doesn't come close to what an author can earn publishing e-books himself. But don't take my word for it, look at Barry Eisler. He just walked away from a $500,000, two-book contract at St. Martin's press to self publish his books. I have no doubt he'll make more money himself than he would've made under that contract. Joe Konrath is earning $45,000-a-month on his self-published ebooks. Amanda Hocking earned over $1 million last year on her self-published book. Ebook sales are outstripping print sales for the first-time ever...big-box bookstores are closing and falling into bankruptcy....Wal-Mart & Costco are cutting back on the number of print books that they carry. E-books aren't the future anymore... the future is now.

I've been talking quite a bit about e-books on my blog ( and sharing from time to time my royalty statements. If I continue to earn what I have been earning since November, I will make $80,000 this year in royalties just from my out-of-print backlist. I would have to be insane to take a mid-list book contract right now. In the case of "The Dead Man," there just isn't a market or the book-shelf real estate to sustain that kind of series in print. E-books are the way to go for that genre.

TA-Where do you see the eBook market in say five years?

LG It will be the dominant format for books. Print books will become an ancillary market, keepsakes of books you loved in eformat. The bookstore as we know it today will exist to sell the readers. The print books will essentially be billboards for what's available in the e-format.

TA- Self-publishing has lost much of the stigma it once held and thanks to eBooks now as something of a cool indie edge to it. However given that so much is coming out is there a danger of the bad swamping the good?

LA: Absolutely. Now that it's possible to become published with a click of your mouse, everybody is doing it. Just because you can publish with a click, doesn't mean that you should. You only have one chance to make a first impression...and so many of the self published books out there are simply horrible. You can see for yourself. Just browse Smashwords or download a few samples from Amazon. It's cringe-inducing.

There is a tsunami of swill hitting Amazon -- tens of thousands of unpublishable, unreadable, unedited, badly formatted ebooks, many of them priced at  $.99 cents. In fact, that price point is quickly becoming's a signal to readers that the book is probably going to be amateurish crap. Yes, there have been some great books by professional authors and newbies alike priced at $.99, but the growing stigma associated with the price certainly makes me think twice about pricing my books, even for a short time, at $.99. (That said, "Dead Man #1: Face of Evil" is 99 cents right now, and so is "Judgment," the first book in my old Jury series from the 1980s, to introduce readers to my two series, but they will be going back to $2.99 in May)

There's going to be a backlash for all of us. You only have to be burned a few times by a bad self published book by an author you've never heard of before you decide to just rely on the familiar names and franchises that you already know and trust. 

That's one reason I banded together with eleven other authors -- Ed Gorman, Dave Zeltserman, Stephen Gallagher, Naomi Hirahara, Harry Shannon, Joel Goldman, Bill Crider, Paul Levine, Vicki Hendricks, Max Allan Collins, and Libby Fischer Hellmann -- the form Top Suspsene (, a site and a brand that readers can trust to deliver professional e-books, all from highly acclaimed, globally published, and award-winning authors.

RELATED - Over the years the Archive has carried out many interviews and in the best "let's make a quick buck",  fashion we have started to make these available in a convenient eBook format. Each collection will feature ten interviews with a diverse range of authors.

The eBooks are priced at an incredibly low price and by purchasing one, not only will you have these nuggets of wisdom close at hand, but you'll also be helping to support The Tainted Archive, the maintenance of which does take up a lot of this writers time.

Volume one HERE

From the pages of the Tainted Archive - ten interviews with a diverse range of writers:
1 – Pulp in the Blood – Laurie Powers talks of all things pulp
2 – Presidential Address – Johnny D. Boggs talks to the Archive
3-A Passion for Stories – Kelly Abell brings a little romance
4-Young Gun – Bobby Nash new kid on the western block
5- Man of the West – Matthew P. Mayo around the Archive’s campfire
6-On the cutting Edge – George G. Gilman
7-My father’s legacy – Beau L’amour
8- Master of terror – Shaun Hutson
9- London Confidential – Mark Billingham
10- Bond and Beyond – Raymond Benson

Find the eBook HERE

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Jennie said...
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