Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Mailing List

Over there on the right side, you'll see a new widget. 

This gives you an option to subscribe to my newsletter, which I will only send out when something really momentous happens. 

In my case, momentous will mean only one thing - the publication of a new book or story that was written by me. 

Given that this hasn't happened since May 2011, you can rest assured you won't be spammed by this newsletter. 

But if you would like to stay up to date on my new work, please subscribe. 

I will NEVER sell, distribute or otherwise disseminate your e-mail address to anyone. Period. 


Tuesday, April 1, 2014

My First Book Deal (With Surprise Twist Ending)

In January 2012, with my self-publishing venture lying in ruins, I enrolled my book, The Jackpot, in Amazon's KDP Select Program.

As you may recall, and as I documented here, this proved to be one of the smartest things I ever did for my writing career. 

Because the book had finally done well, my agent Ann and I decided to see if there were any foreign publishers that would be interested in the book. So in February 2012, Ann submitted the book to a number of overseas publishers. She warned me that foreign deals were hard to get, and that they could take a long time. 

The book toddled off to faraway lands, and we went on with our lives. The Jackpot's time in the sun came and went, and its carriage finally turned back into a pumpkin. 

That spring, I finished the manuscript I'd been working on only to realize far too late that the book was a total disaster and would have to be re-written, almost entirely from scratch. I documented that experience here.

I floundered about for a while. Then in November 2012, I returned to a manuscript that I had started but had not finished. I loved this manuscript, but had abandoned it, thinking it would not be marketable. Eff it, I thought. I loved writing it.

I worked on that book for the next year and sent it to Ann last fall. She loved it. We spent the last part of 2013 and early 2014 whipping it into shape, and it went out on submission about a month ago. 

There were a number of interested editors, but, as it turns out, I'm not the special quick-sale flower I was certain I'd be, and these submissions do really take time for all but the luckiest of authors. So we wait. And we wait.  

Then on Tuesday, March 25, I got an e-mail from Ann's co-agent and my fellow Wahoo, Penn, with this subject header: 

FW: THE JACKPOT by David Kazzie/ Bulgarian offer

As writers tend to do when they get e-mails like this, I looked at the words all out of order. Offer? The? Kazzie? FW? And I was like, what? 

I opened the e-mail to discover that one of the leading Bulgarian publishers had made an offer for the Bulgarian language rights to THE JACKPOT. 

A real, actual book contract. For a book whose heyday I thought had long since come and gone. More than two years after the book was submitted.

So here we are. My little self-published e-book, which I finished writing years ago, which I often worried should never have been self-published, is going to be a real book. The book that I'm most proud of is out there fighting for its publishing life right now, while its ancestor, The Jackpot, becomes the first one to kick down the traditional publishing door. A publisher is buying my work. My words. And hopefully, this bodes well for my new book. Hopefully, The Jackpot, old and wise like Mr. Miyagi, is establishing a beachhead for all my work to follow. 

Chuck Wendig recently wrote (I'm paraphrasing a bit here) that every writer tunnels his own way through this business and then detonates the tunnel behind him. I couldn't agree more. Everything about my career has been weird and nothing at all as I had envisioned it when I was a rookie writer. I've been at this a long time. I've had some bizarre experiences, some terrible heartbreak, and some weird successes. Nothing compared to the moment that I saw that e-mail. Life is weird. 

I'm beyond excited about seeing a print version, seeing a new cover (I'm guessing), seeing my words translated into a language I cannot read, and especially reaching a new audience that I wouldn't be able to on my own.

I'll post updates about how things go as THE JACKPOT marches along to publication in the next year.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Why Hugh Howey Is Wrong. Sort Of.

Like many other writers, I've been watching with interest the fallout from the publishing dirty bomb that Hugh Howey detonated this week with his Author Earnings website.

This is not a post about that site. 

It is a post, however, about something Hugh wrote today in a post titled "Luck and Lottery."

First off, I like Hugh a lot. I loved WOOL, and I'm now reading SHIFT, which I might like better than WOOL. I respect his work and his usually spot-on analysis about what is going on in traditional and self-publishing. 

Although I agree with much of what he wrote in "Luck and Lottery," there were a few points that I really took issue with, enough that I decided to write this blog post when I should really be asleep. 

He wrote that "[m]ost people will be happier getting their works out in the wild and moving on to the next project than they will reading rejection letters. We don’t see these stories."

 When I self-published The Jackpot, I was ready to become a professional writer. I had an agent. I'd had half a dozen short animated films go viral. I had more regular Internet exposure than the vast majority of writers (at the time, those videos were drawing 3,000-4,000 hits per day). I wasn't doing this just to get my work out into the wild. I was doing it to get my work in front of a lot of readers and to start making money. 

So the reason that I argue that Hugh's contention is wrong is simple, and it is this: there is one thing I've done in self-publishing that Hugh really hasn't. 

And that is fail spectacularly. 

Now hang on: I'm not saying Hugh hasn't struggled as a writer and doesn't understand the work and sacrifice it takes to become a good writer. His pre-WOOL work proves that he's been in the trenches and that he has seen his work not sell like he'd hoped.

But I'm talking specifically about self-publishing here. 

The Jackpot entered the world in the late spring of 2011 ... and crashed with a gigantic thud. It sold less than 300 copies in eight months (a good chunk of which went to friends and family). Believe me, no one was clamoring for more fiction from me.

Hugh further writes that: "...[Y]ou can self-publish, have the pride of having done so, hold a copy of a physical book you wrote in your hands, see your e-book up on Amazon, get a sale or two, hear from a reader, and want to write more."
I didn't feel pride. I felt fucking heartbreak. I felt sick. Seeing my book on Amazon ranked at #237,135 didn't make me feel very good at all. All my work. All my sweat. All for nothing. It was as painful as any rejection letter I'd ever received from an agent. Except it went on for eight miserable months. And I didn't want to write more. I wanted to take my Kindle out back and take a baseball bat to it, Office-Space style. 

Yes, The Jackpot ultimately did find great success thanks to Amazon's KDP Select program, but that was pure luck (a factor that Hugh is totally correct about and doesn't brush under the rug). Moreover, it came via a marketing strategy that no longer works, one that's as dead as the dinosaurs. Don't get me wrong, the day my book hit No. 1 in Legal Thrillers and the Top 100 overall was one of the great days of my life. But it was as much of a lucky strike as bestsellerdom via traditional publishing would've been. So, while I realize that without self-publishing, The Jackpot had a zero percent chance of becoming the No. 1 legal thriller on Amazon, it's tough to get unduly excited about a platform that gives it a 0.00000001 percent chance of that same success. 

It's like that line from Dumb and Dumber, where Jim Carrey's character says to his romantic interest: "So you're telling me there's a chance!" 

And I've never forgotten the misery of watching my book wither away on the vine. Without KDP Select, the book would have vanished. I mean, if I hadn't been able to draw readers when I had a huge audience for my videos, what hope would I have one or two or five years later? Virtually zero. The memory burns brightly as I pursue a traditional deal for my current book. 

So just remember that when you think about self-publishing. I think this is particularly applicable to those of you who can't manage the high-volume production that it seems to take to succeed self-publishing, those of you who are thinking about writing "merely" a book a year. 

Toward the end of his post, Hugh writes: "And what’s mind-blowingly-brilliant about this data is that it has already moved self-publishing into a position of equality (emphasis in original)." 

I agree, Hugh. Self-publishing is just as legitimate a way to succeed as a writer as traditional publishing. And it's just as legitimate a way to fail.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

2013 Worst Kids' Show Ever Tournament

UPDATE: The voting is closed. I haven't had time to write a second post yet, but I hope to at some point. 

In my years as a parent, I've been exposed to children's television programming like a hooker is exposed to syphilis. Over time, you begin to notice that nearly all these shows are truly awful, and like syphilis, they will eventually eat your brain and make you insane.

There is one kids' show I'm rather fond of - Phineas and Ferb is fantastic, and I will punch you in the face if you disagree with me because I like to solve disagreements peacefully.



The other night, while my kids were watching Bipsy the Climate-Changing Tank Jet or some shit, I started to wonder which show was truly the worst. I put out a call on Facebook for which shows my fellow parents hated, and they did not disappoint.

And I realized there's only one way to solve this.

A 16-show single elimination Worst Kids' Show Tournament! Two brackets of eight shows each. The Cartoon bracket and the Live-Action bracket. There are so many crappy shows that not all could make it, so I focused on the truly awful.





ANALYSIS: Thomas didn't just back his way into the No. 1 seed of the Cartoon bracket. We're two, we're four, we're six, we've gone completely batshit crazy! When I first became a dad, I was quickly drawn into Thomas-verse. Trains! What's not to like? And then I saw the show and the creepy anthropomorphic trains with their weird faces and a huge transportation infrastructure far in excess of what Sodor actually needs and I felt dirty inside. Also, is there any doubt that there's a dark corner of the island of Sodor where Sir Topham Hatt tortures trains? CAN YOU HEAR THEM SCREAMING?

In the other corner, upstart Lalaloopsy, the surprise winner of the Mind-Blowingly Stupid Shows Targeted at Girls between the Ages of Four and Six Division. I've tried watching this show twice, but each time, I've woken up in the backyard covered in vomit and cuddling a rabid raccoon.

FAVORITE: I predict a long choo-choo ride for Thomas the Tank Engine in this tournament.




ANALYSIS: Don't turn your back on Special Agent Oso, not for a second. As I Facebook-commented  a couple weeks ago, not only is he a completely incompetent intelligence operative, the show appears to implicitly support the use of surveillance drones via the cute little ladybug nanobot that spies on the children inside their home. Also, the driving theme for the day was that mediocrity and failing to learn from our mistakes is A-OK!

Sid and his three friends appear to be the only students in an elementary school designed to house at least five hundred kids. Where are the other kids? Is this post-apocalyptic vision a commentary on the American educational system?

FAVORITE: Oso is a legitimate title contender. Breathtaking in its crappiness.




ANALYSIS: SpongeBob pulled some heavy support for Worst Show on my Facebook call. This is a show that you feel like you should like. Sort of like the quinoa of children's television programming. It's quirky, it's about the ocean. All good stuff. But then you watch a handful of episodes and it's like your television screen is a 1/2-inch thick glass shell separating you from a underwater grave like in the movie Leviathan. Also, quinoa tastes burnt pistachio shell.

Curious George, the dean of children's cartoon characters. Themes: Lack of personal responsibility. Ethnic cleansing. Man exploiting the natural world for his own amusement. Hints of racism. What is going on here?

FAVORITE: Slight edge to Curious George, which is probably better (worse) than its No. 6 seed suggests.  Experience counts in this tournament.




ANALYSIS: Toughest 1st-round matchup of the Cartoon bracket. Little Einsteins features the cloyingly self-assured Leo, who almost makes you root for schoolyard bullies, and his conveniently diverse group of friends. June might as well be wearing a sign warning other little boys that she's going to screw with their heads after they all hit puberty. There's a magic wand and a self-aware rocket ship and cars and musical instruments and animals and just where the hell are their parents anyway? And that song. Christ.

Caillou is a bit of a dark horse in this competition. The classic definition of a complete team, it bears no no one truly awful feature. It's just consistently bad from top to bottom. From the title to the animation to the writing to the difficult childhood problems solved in less time than it takes me to break out my trusty combination of scotch and Ambien, it's got it all. If the Little Einsteins are off on their game, Caillou will make them pay, and pay dearly.

FAVORITE: Toss-up.





ANALYSIS: All parties involved in the production of Pair of Kings should be executed a la Game of Thrones-style beheadings. The show revolves around two teenage boys who appear to be co-monarchs of a small island. They might be brothers. It took me three episodes to distill that much information. The show is a catastrophe of historic proportions.

Good Luck Charlie follows the exploits of the sprawling Duncan clan. Dad's an exterminator who works about two hours a week, Mom's an on-again, off-again registered nurse, and they live in a house that must be worth about $2 million. Right, Bob. Pest control. You're the Tony Soprano of Disney Junior.

FAVORITE: With all due respect to Good Luck Charlie's crappiness, Pair of Kings is the kind of show that comes along once in a generation. It's championship or bust for POK!



7. H20

ANALYSIS: If you're wizard, are you going to be running a sandwich shop in Greenwich Village? Yeah, I didn't think so.  Papa Russo is turning his back on his wizard heritage, and for what? Instead of trying to break the long-standing Family Wizard tradition, they just accept it. NICE LESSON, WAVERLY PLACE. Mainstream! Conform! Mediocrity!

H20 bears the tough burden of working with the most difficult premise of any of our 16 title hopefuls. Three teenage girls get cursed with mermaidism. Any time they touch water, they turn into mermaids, something they're trying to hide. I guess they turn back to normal when they dry off completely. Whatever. Trying to accept the premise is like trying to swallow a mermaid, tail first.

FAVORITE: Wizards. It's hard to take down a giant like Selena Gomez.




ANALYSIS: Austin is a super-famous pop star who no one ever seems to recognize. Ally is his meek songwriter. They first met when he stole the lyrics to her song and passed it off as his own, which quite frankly is about as unforgivable a sin as there is in the arts. But he smiles his million-watt smile and they make up and become besties and I'm not really sure where the show is going except to tell me that you can get away with just about anything if you are as handsome as Austin and if your name is Austin. Naturally, Austin and Ally each have their own quirky sidekicks.

Dog with a Blog is pretty much what it sounds like. A dog writes a blog.

FAVORITE: The fact that Dog with a Blog is almost as realistic as Austin & Ally should really tell you something.  




ANALYSIS: Two girls living the dream in Chicago as backup dancers on a local teenage dance show called Shake it Up. An actress named Zendaya plays Rocky, the bubbly sidekick. Seventeen years old and she's already rocking the single name? Watching this show for entertainment purposes is on par with someone starving to death trying to fill up on cotton candy. 

Jessie appears on the Disney channel (where shows seem to premiere every hour on the hour with little or no human involvement) and follows the story of a young girl from Texas who moves to New York and becomes nanny to a rich Manhattan family. Wait for it, wait for it ... HIJINKS ENSUE!! Small-town girl trying to make it in the big city! I bet you could substitute the scripts for Mr. Belvidere into this show, and it wouldn't miss a beat. 

FAVORITE: Toss up. 

OK, that's our 16 shows. A number of truly crappy shows didn't make the cut, such as Yo Gabba Gabba, Hannah Montana, and Strawberry Shortcake. I guess they'll just have to be happy with being pretty crappy.

Now please vote. Or not. Whatever. (Note - when you vote, you'll be taken to the PollCode site, which tabulates the results. You can click back to come back and vote on the other matchups. I wish it tabulated it there on my blog, but that's what I get for using a free polling site).