I thought this might be interesting to some folks here. In the mid-1980s I wrote a book called “Punches.” It was a “lone” detective in Houston fighting the new “bastard” mix of the cowboy Mafia and the New York Mafia. Our hero Kellog was unmarried, but aging Texas detective. There were some true stories from that happening then that were amazing. Plus, while attending a police intelligence meeting, we learned that the New England mafia was recruiting police cadets to become spies, ala the Whitey Bolger era. (I was a police detective back then.) I thought this amazing also. Years later, this was used/revealed in the Departed movie. But, way, way before the Departed, I decided to combine these two themes into a police, thriller novel. (I had worked cases against the cowboy mafia in North Texas). I got an agent named Brown in New York and the manuscript made it to the upper editorial ring of St Martins Press in NYC.
They met about every 3 to 4 weeks to discuss new books. Mine was in the mix and they told Brown to tell me to make Jack Kellog married, This would create more tension and fear for Kellog’s crusade. This off the heels of the Costner movie the “Untouchables,” where Ness was married, etc. Brown told me this. And stupid, stupid, naive me told Brown that the whole point of the book was to have an unmarried, untouchable, loner take on the two mobs. He reluctantly said…okay. A month goes by. The next meeting occurred and they heard my reply and told Brown, “F__k him, he’s not Stephen King.” (I have come to learn that line was not an uncommon dismissal in the industry. )
Brown too, was done with uncooperative me. I regrouped and sold the book to a much smaller Michigan publisher. It sold some 6,000 copies back then, which for new novelists they claim wasn’t too bad, but I DID want to become Stephen King! So I kept on writing .
Fast forward to about 2012. My guy in “Hollywood,” seriously he is right in Hollywood and always pushing to make deals and almost none ever work. He is in the TV business. I do what he asks me to make but nothing much ever happens. (I shot a pilot show in Hollywood in 2013.) In a conversation about writing a History Channel series he asked me “do you still have that old detective book around?” He thought maybe we could make a low-budget movie about it. I told him yes, but I had gotten much better in 30 years and would rewrite the book. That Michigan company went out of business and the rights fell back to me. It’s now called “Be Bad Now,” still placed in 1980s “oil crunch” time in Houston, and it was picked up by a German company. It is much better than the 80s version. Oh, and no movie was ever made. Oh, and the pilot was not picked up.
You see, for 99.9999999% of us. Nothing gets done. I have a friend who had published several thriller paperbacks in the 1990s. They were pretty good. One day, he went whistling up the stairs of his New York publishing house for a meeting with his editor. She was coming down the stairs. Crying. With a box of her possessions. Fired, as was a slew of others in the house. He’s never published again. The industry is ripped asunder with Amazon and self publishing. Another friend of mine wrote a book and sold 181 copies on Amazon and made…81 cents. Amazon always has an algorithm to screw authors.
Some time ago, a person here wrote on my my Author Facebook page that he was so glad that “inde” writers could now “make a living” selling books on Amazon. Make a living? I tried to explain to him….no.
I have been lucky. Through wheeling and dealing in traditional publishing and through modern distributors (I’m in Walmart!), I’ve sold tens of thousands of my 18 varied books in the last 20 years and month-by-month, it doesn’t amount to much. Not a “living” much. Most others fare way worse.
All these “free” and “1 dollar books.” A while back on another FB book group, someone mentioned one of my westerns and when he saw that it was $15 on the web, he said it was “too rich for his wallet,” despite his initial, confessed excitement. In a world where books are free, or a dollar or two, and where good authors are lost in a sea of crap, it is very hard to enhance, develop, work on full time, the mastery, the art of writing. Good authors make happy readers, but somebody has to pay for it. The authors are otherwise too busy selling Italian shoes or selling cars, whatever – in other words, working distracting, full time jobs.
And entire genres die off.
Hock’s email is HockHochheim@Force Necessary.com
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