Tuesday, January 4, 2011
Guest Post: Vincent Zandri. From Zero to Hero.
From Hero, To Zero, To Hero: A Personal Publishing History
By Vincent Zandri
A year ago my career was in trouble.
No, that’s not right. A year ago, my career no longer existed. For a career to be in trouble, it’s got to at least exist in some shape or form. And for a period of about 5 years, I couldn’t sell a novel if I threatened to set off a nuke in the middle of Times Square.
That’s not to say I didn’t have agents championing my cause. At one point Suzanne Gluck of the William Morris Agency was in my employ. Arguably one of the best, if not the best in the business, the brass knuckle toting Ms. Gluck was extremely enthusiastic about my new offering, Moonlight Falls. But even she couldn’t sell me.
Why no sale?
Precisely because a few years before that, I had become a major literary success. Yes, that’s not a typo. You’re reading it right. I had become a rock star. My dreams answered, I’d scored a two book, hard and soft deal, with Delacorte Press for a quarter of a million dollars. My first novel, As Catch Can (now called The Innocent and re-published by StoneGate Ink), was so well received, The New York Post called it “Brilliant.” Movie studios like DreamWorks and producers like George Clooney were asking for reads, a record Japanese translation sale was recorded. I was partying like a 32 year old rock star in New York City every weekend and making more money than my dad, a successful construction contractor. The future looked so brilliantly golden that to look directly into it would leave you blinded.
Then it all went south. Fast.
Anxious over a corporate downsizing by the head business pencil pushers at Random House, my editors at Delacorte started fearing for their jobs. My novels were at best ignored by the marketing department while employees looked for new jobs that would keep them paying their rents on their lower east side apartments, and their glasses filled with pink martinis.
As Catch Can slipped below the radar even before the mass market edition was published. Then it was announced that Bantam/Dell was swallowing up Delacorte, and everyone in my publishing house got fired. I literally ran into my acquiring editor Leslie walking out of the Bertlesman Building in Times Square with her desk lamp in hand and tears streaming down her face. “Good luck,” she said to me, but what she really meant to say was, “Rest in peace, Vincent!”
My contracts with Delecorte, while technically honored by Bantam/Dell, were treated with an almost inhuman disdain. Bantam/Dell had originally passed on my work, and now here they were being forced to publish me. They basically tossed the remaining contracted book, Godchild, up against the wall and hoped it would stick. In any case, they showed me the door.
My books were quickly remaindered, yet my rights were not relinquished back to the author. How is it that a publisher can refuse to print, distribute, and sell you books yet not grant the rights back to you? Goes against basic logic doesn’t it? It’s also ethically immoral and a criminal act regardless of the law. You can’t make up advance money unless your books are being sold. In the words of my then editor, “You didn’t hear this from me, but they are preventing you from selling books!”
I thought about a lawsuit.
But being in the unenviable position of zero power, I would have had a hard time suing Random House. In a word, I got shafted.
Fast forward to one year ago.
A traditionally based, small press finally picked up Moonlight Falls and published it in both paper and Kindle. Paper first, and Kindle later on. I was finally back in the game, however humbly. Ironically, the novel was so well received it became my first book to hit the Amazon Bestseller list for Hard-Boiled fiction. What’s that prove? It proved that despite the business devils in NYC, there remained a market for my work. An audience who desired my novels.
What followed was interest by another larger “Independent” press that my agent swore was making lots of noise, especially with bestselling authors whose books were out of print. Curiously, StoneHouse Ink agreed to publish my newest novel, The Remains, in Kindle first and then paper.
I was skeptical. Shouldn’t a novel come out in paper first, followed by Kindle and E-Book later? At the time, I had pretty much no idea what an E-Book was. Only that it was a way to read a novel electronically. That was back in April of last year. Two months later when The Remains would be published in Kindle and E-Book, and it would not only become Hot New Bestselling Release on Amazon, it would shoot straight to the No. 1 spot on Amazon Hot New Bestselling Releases for Hard-Boiled Mystery. It would also chime in on the top ten for Romantic-Suspense. Go figure. Suddenly, this old dog had renewed faith in the system. The independent publishing system that is. The old publishing model that had nearly destroyed me (and it did in fact destroy my marriage!), was not only being overrun by this newer model which not only gave the author more control over his product, it gave him far more money per unit sold. An astonishing 50%.
Bye-bye paper, bye-bye book stores, bye-bye big corporate publishing conglomerates! Hello Kindle. Hello new publisher, and publishing partner!
What followed were several new contracts with StoneHouse Ink and a new imprint set up for noir cats like me called StoneGate Ink. My old first novel in the Jack Marconi series, As Catch Can, was re-published under its original title, The Innocent (Oh yeah, Delecorte made me change the title), and it too went to number 1 in Amazon Hot New Bestsellers. In a few days, Part II of the Jack Marconi series will be republished. It’s called, Godchild. And I can’t wait to see it climb the Kindle charts. As for the paper version, that will be icing on the cake. But I will be sure to send a copy to pencil pushers at Random House.
Do I sound like I’m gloating?
Maybe. But I at least have reason to be pleased and excited. Kindles are here to stay. Despite the belief of a local Albany independent book store owner who refers to the Kindle as a “toy,” a “gadget,” and a “fad,” these reading devices are not going away anytime soon. The only thing that will finish off the E-Book will be Armageddon itself. A lack of power in the grid. And by then we’ll all be back to writing on cave walls.
Not since the invention of the printing press all those centuries ago, has a more exciting period of publishing been at hand. I thank God I’m young enough to enjoy it. Not only has my career been resurrected, it’s just a matter of time until I’m back making my living as a fiction author. The covers of my new books now boast the header:
#1 Amazon Kindle Bestselling Author!
Can a hero ask for anything more?