Saturday, March 26, 2011

A Writer's Rant

I often tell people that the publishing of my first novel taught me a lot about the publishing industry and how I DIDN'T want my future novels published.

Trut be told, my first novel - North Coast Gothic: A Grim Fairy Tale - was for all intents and purposes self-published. My publisher, iUniverse, was at that time an oddity in the vanity press marketplace. They were actually owned by Barnes and Noble and Writer's Digest and they were making a name as a self-publisher that was trying to make self-publishing respectable. Unlike the other scams out there - and Publish America come to mind - they were selective in their acceptance and were actually concerned with providing an avenue for young authors to get their works out there.

In fact, I was a rarity in those days in that the majority of the books they published made the authors pay for their services. Since they were a young company, however, they were also looking for well written books to provide legitimacy. To that end - I paid nothing to publish my first novel and it was actually published under the Writer's Showcase imprint, and not iUniverse. In other words, they accepted it and treated my book as a traditional publisher would, with no fees. I was lucky in that respect.

However - the fact of the matter is that they weren't a traditional publisher... no matter how much I wished it so. Their relationship with Barnes and Noble allowed me to do a couple book signings, but any other marketing help fell solely to me. And, as I was a new husband and father, I had no time to promote myself or my work without any support.

Over the years, I've collected my royalty checks and been grateful that they helped me publish my first novel. I've never had a problem with them, considering that they didn't really do anything with my novel besides keep it available all these years later. Occasionally, they'd send me an 'offer' to include my book in a USA Today, or Entertainment Weekly ad (of course asking me to pay for part of it), but it was never a problem. I simply ignored it.

However, I recently called them and asked them for a copy of my contract with them and to ask them about Kindle publishing. It turns out that they've recently been sold by Barnes and Noble and a new company has taken them over.

This is what's pissed me off.

My contacting them and updating my information has obviously put me on their radar. Last night I received a call from a Lea who works with their newly developed Media Division. She called me and explained that the Media Division's mission was to look at the catalog of iUniverse novels and select works that they were certain would translate well to the big screen. Basically it was a sales call to get me to give them money to turn my novel into the NEXT BIG MOVIE IN HOLLYWOOD!!!111oneone!

I asked several times how much this venture would cost me and, after the third time of her not answering my question about cost, I started to get pissed off. She said that there 'would be an investment' but it would be worth it to see my novel as a screenplay and on the big screen. Of course, she'd only read the backpage synopsis - but felt it had sooo much potential!

After talking to her for twenty-five loooong minutes (she had an accent and an only rudimentary grasp on English), and listening to her very obviously read sales scripts to me, and have her even try an assumptive sales approach; I told her I needed to go... could she email me the information?

And she did.

So here's the two options they tried to sell me

Option one:
(1) A screenplay - They have another writer write a screenplay(!) and then enter it into the Hollywood Database(whatever that is) where HOLLYWOOD AGENTS, WRITERS, DIRECTORS, AND ACTORS (gasp!) have access to it (Cost = $14,999, or 3 payments of $4,999)

(2) A Treatment - Again, prepared by them. (Cost = $3,499, or 3 payments of $1,163)
(3) Coverage - Another ghostwritten review and pitch of the screenplay (Cost = 799, or 3 payments of $266.33

Option Two
The Pitch Festival - a weekend conference in LA where I can attend lectures and workshops to prepare my story and then pitch it with Hollywood insiders. It's headlined by someone dubbed "The King of the Pitch" named Robert Kosberg. A quick IMDB search actually shows he's produced quite a few successful films (Commando, Deep Blue Sea, 12 Monkeys). They will also register my story with the WGA. (Cost? Right around $4500. Not including travel expenses or hotel. They do have payment plans for the conference though!)

Of course, Lea recommended I go with Option One because it's the most aggressive for a book as wonderful as mine.

So I read the emails last night, laughed at them with my wife, and closed them with no intention of calling or emailing Lea back.

The thing is, the more I thought about it, the more pissed off I got.

The pushy sales call, the fucking ridiculous pandering to my ego, and the shameless manipulation of my art pissed me off. A lot.

This is the sort of scam and bullshit that gives publishers and vanity presses bad names. The worst part is that there are people out there who aren't as cynical and misanthropic as I am. There are delusional, gullible people out there who fall for this shit. iUniverse is taking advantage of people who may write as a hobby, and then con them out of money they very likely don't have. Or, worse, they go $20,000 or more into debt because they might get a big shot at fame and fortune!

It's fucking criminal.

It's no worse than a fucking Nigerian 419 scam.

The thing is -- the conference is appealing. If they had presented it as a genuine opportunity for me to pitch my novel - I might pay for that. As a writer - I get I may need to pay for some things. And an opportunity like that is still an opportunity. But don't insult me by trying to sell me all of the other crap. It's jackassery of the highest order. And don't assume that I need YOUR very expensive help to turn my novel into a screenplay.

I don't know which is more insulting - the transparent attempt to bilk me out of gobs of money, the blatant fuckwittedness that no self-respecting publisher would ever particpate in, or the affront to the brilliance of my writing.


So, after mulling it over, I wrote Lea back and graciously made her an offer I'm sure she'll be interested in. I've posted my response below.

Too harsh?

Thank you for the offer... but I am not interested in this 'exciting opportunity'. North Coast Gothic was my first novel and I learned a considerable amount about the publishing industry after I published this novel. Especially the self-publishing industry and its associated perils. As I have since had two novels published via more traditional routes, I've also learned that - as the author - I should not have to pay to have my publisher try to make my novel a success in other avenues beyond the initial publication. Our's should be a relationship of mutual benefit - in which we are both dedicated to the success of my novel; where we both should benefit and profit from that same success.

If you - as my publisher (or as a duly appointed subsidiary of my publisher) - feel that my novel would make an exceptional screenplay, as you seem to think, you should be working to make it so. If, on the hand, you are saying such things to persuade me to give your company money with no promise of success, that is - at the very least - disingenuous. At the most, it is predatory and borderline insulting.

In other words - I should not pay you to have it turned into a screenplay. Especially at the ridiculously, and laughable, amount of $15,000.

If you feel it would make a great movie - I would happy to work with you to make it a cohesive and marketable screenplay (I am a successful commercial writer after all, and it confuses me that your service would have someone else do that. But I digress...)

I'll tell you what - I am willing to renegotiate my initial publishing contract with you. I will turn North Coast Gothic into a screenplay and give it to you to enter it into any database you feel would provide it the best exposure, or present it to whatever Hollywood industry contacts you have. If and when it is optioned, and if it is actually made into a movie, I would have no problem allowing you to continue selling the novel version and will pay you the $15,000 your 'service' provides out of the first revenue or offer for the property. In other words, you can have an advance on the profits - but only after it has been successfully sold as a viable screenplay project.

What do you think? Would you be willing to take my offer?

Somehow, though - I don't feel you'll take me up on this. The truth of the matter is that you do not really believe it would make a good screenplay (a point on which we disagree - I think my novel would make an EXCEPTIONAL movie), but you are only trying to milk more money out of a naive self-published author. A real publisher would accept my offer and take the chance on my novel. Your company, however, sees my novel as only another way for me to pay you for a pipe dream.

I am grateful to iUniverse for publishing my first novel. and I am grateful that you continue to carry my work for me. I do appreciate the rare royalty checks I receive, no matter how small they may be. They - at the least - allow me to buy the occasional bottle of Irish whiskey, which relaxes me and liberates my muse whilst writing. However, I am under no illusion that you view my novel - and me as the author - as anything more that a mark to be fleeced with vague promises and a good con.

So - consider my offer and let me know what you think. Better yet, have one of your attorneys contact me and I'll be happy to discuss the renegotiation of the terms of our relationship. I will even discuss this sans an agent or my own attorney.

To reiterate:
-- I will not pay you anything.
-- We will make my novel into a screenplay
-- As my publisher, YOU will provide all the services listed below - at YOUR expense
-- Any profits of our mutual fruits of labor will be shared by your company and I, with the cost of the services below tendered to you at that time.

Thank you for your time, Lea. I look forward to hearing from you again (although I am doubtful I will). I should add that, as a media professional, I would seriously consider my offer if I were you. I'm sure you'd find my novel (if you actually read it, as opposed to glancing at the back cover blurb) exciting, well-written, and an excellent source for a screenplay. I am a humble man. I am not one to brag. However, in regards to my writing, I am a genius and a prodigy. IF you took my offer, I'm certain you would be surprised at the success of it.

Thank you,
D. Allen Crowley

Jack Torrance would have NEVER put up with this shit!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Disturbed Graves: Tales of Terror and the Undead

My newest Kindle collection of short stories, Disturbed Graves: Tales of Terror and the Undead, is NOW AVAILABLE for purchase on! Click the picture below, or click here to check it out!

With stories about zombies, vampires, and various chthuloids, and for the unbelievable low price of only .99, how can you pass it up?!?

Info: Disturbed Graves: Tales of Terror and the Undead is a dark, terrifying collection of short stories from up and coming horror author, D. Allen Crowley. From gruesome stories of the undead, to bizarre and eerie chance encounters, this haunting and harrowing assemblage of short fiction will chill the most hardened horror fan. Including several of his previously published works, as well as several new and disturbing visions, this Kindle-only collection is best read on a dark, stormy night. Disturbed Graves contains 10 short stories with short author commentaries and is the perfect introduction to the disturbed mind and writing of D. Allen Crowley.

Friday, March 18, 2011

The Dark Room Bar

I went to the COOLEST bar in the world this week!

The bar - called the Dark Room - is on the west side of Cleveland in Broadview Heights. In other worlds, it's a hell of a haul for old Doctor Zombie's Jeep of Doom. I ran out there on Tuesday to meet some guys from Zombie Squad... and am sooo glad I did.

But - the indignities of distance and the questionable locale of being on the West Side of Cleveland (a land populated - I've been told - by cannibals and vile sodomites)aside -- the Dark Room is well worth the jaunt.

The Dark Room is a themed bar, but entirely different from the myriad chains and franchises that seem to spring up every few months. Where most themed bars are variations on the same old theme (namely; wing joints, or gastro pubs, or Irish pubs that are only Irish by virtue of their name - preferably something with an 'o' and an apostrophe), the Dark Bar is unique because it appeals to everything that Doctor Zombie holds near and dear to his heart.

The Dark Bar - you see - is a HORROR MOVIE THEMED bar!

You can imagine my geekish, gore-hound delight upon entering this den of pure horror goodness!

I arrived at the Dark Room at around 7:30 - a half hour early because I can't seem to figure out the time change between the east and west side of the Cuyahoga River. I ordered some wings, which turned out to be very tasty, and had a Great Lakes Brewery Conway's Irish Ale.

My first impressions of the Dark Room are that it is exactly what my dream man cave would look like. It had horror movie memorabilia, Halloween decorations, and movie posters galore. It had shots with names like the Camp Crystal Lake shot, the Zombie Shooter, and the Captain Spaulding. They had several big screens that - true to their claim on the website - played horror movies all night. When I got there, they were playing one of the Final Destinations, and then they moved on to House 2 (a true 80's classic!), and Sleepaway Camp (Yeah! Hermaphroditic serial killers!).

Their website loudly proclaims that they are a hardcore heavy metal and industrial music spot - so you can imagine my surprise when I came in to find several bald, tattooed, metalhead regulars at the end of the bar with the remote to the jukebox -- gleefully playing and singing along to Depeche Mode, The Cure, OMD, Frank Sinatra, The Smiths and other assorted awesome, but decidedly NOT heavy metal music. I think there was also some New Order, Peter Gabriel, and Backstreet Boys. All I know is that I wound up singing along to most of the songs with the black shirted and tatt'ed regulars... much to my delight!

While I waited, I talked to Mary - the bartender. I explained I was meeting members of Zombie Squad and that we were investigating the possibility of doing a fundraiser/charity event. She said that they do host charity functions and fundraisers (in fact there was going to be a 15 year reunion fundraising this weekend for one of the local high schools.) She gave me the number of the person to contact about details... and told me she'd give her a heads up that I'd be calling.
Interesting aside - when I explained the disaster preparedness angle with the metaphor of the Zombie Apocalypse (If you can survive the Zombie Apocalypse, you can survive any natural disaster) she said that she and the bar regulars had their own thoroughly thought out zombie plan. Their plan involved coming to the Dark Room ala The Winchester in Shaun of the Dead. As it worked so well for Shaun and Ed, I found no fault with their logic and felt it most certainly would not 'exacerbate the situation'! Pig snacks for all!

Mary also thanked me when I complimented her on how incredible the theme was and how I was envious there was nothing on my side of town anywhere near as cool as The Dark Room.

She said that she loved the bar, as well as the regulars who had a fanatical loyalty to the place. Case in point - it was Tuesday night and there were probably a dozen or more people there. She said it's a sign of how great a bar is when she and the rest of the employees get off their shift - or come in on their night off - to hang out and drink there. I couldn't agree more. In fact, her shift ended while I was there, and she walked from around the bar to sit and drink with some of the regulars. She and they were still there when I left.

About this time, my wings arrived (from a kitchen with a morgue sign over it, and that had bloody meat cleavers, butcher knives, and various severed limbs hung from the ceiling on meat hooks). Again - tasty! I'm talking about the wings, not the severed limbs, by the way... although I'm sure they were quite delicious as well!

So, several frothy adult beverages in, and while bathing in the horror movie goodness of the Dark Room... I fell totally in love with the Dark Room. I continue to lament the fact that there is nothing like it here on the more civilized side of Cleveland. It's almost criminal!

So - to recap. Horror Movies. Tasty wings. Cool atmosphere.

That is all, besides the fact that it makes me very very very sad that we don't have a bar like this on the east side. I'd totally become a regular if we did...

I highly recommend this place!