Saturday, April 7, 2012

Hate Amazon? Well Read About What Random House Did to Me and My Family...

The third edition of As Catch what???? Or what's now better known as The Innocent....

I thought I was done writing about this particular subject... the subject of the old guard and establishment writers/MFA profs, publishers, and booksellers ragging on Amazon Publishing because, oh gee, they are doing something the old guard can no longer do: sell books.

This past week while I've been away, bestselling author and fellow Thomas & Mercer (Amazon) author, Barry Eisler, was invited to do a live chat with some Seattle Times reporters and the bestselling literary novelist, Richard Russo. Russo, whose books I like but who is also in that MFA-you-should-set-your-sights-on-teaching-at-the-community-college-don't-forget-to-pay-your-tuition is a huge hater of Amazon. And the ST has just run a scathing 4-part series on Amazon picking them apart like they are Satan.

Maybe they are Satan (if you believe in that kind of thing) but more than likely, they are not. They listen to both authors and writers and so, they now are able to offer great books at low prices. And yes, it's putting big publishers and bookstores out of business. I know, I'm supposed to cry for these people, but they had a chance to survive and in fact thrive in today's digital book publishing world, but they haven't. And now they are going the way of the 8-track.

 Bon voyage.

I'm not as knowledgeable about the ins and outs of the publishing industry as Eisler and say, J.A. Konrath are, and I've never self-published a book, although one of my indie publishers is entirely based on the self-publishing model even if my deals with them are agented. But I have also been published by the majors and once more, I've just signed a 7 book deal with T&M for a "very nice" advance, part of which I'm spending right now in Italy and Paris, where I've been for the past month. 

Ok, maybe you think I'm bragging? 

Maybe so. 

But while Eisler goes on to defend the obvious author/reader benefits being provided right now by Amazon publishing, try and consider for a brief moment just how Big Six Publishing not only tried to crush my career a few short years ago, they literally cost me a marriage.

Once more, I'll bullet my near suicidal relationship with the Big Six and, in particular, Delacorte Press...You know, the supposed "good guys" of the industry.

 --I was contracted in 1999 for mid-six figure two book hard and soft deal.

--I was told to change the name of my novel, The Innocent to As Catch Can, because another author in their stable was publishing one of the same title. As Catch what?????

--While the hardcover was being produced, talk around the office centered on Delacorte being swallowed up by another publisher. They more or less dropped attention on As Catch what???, and rushed a very poor front cover into production...Yup, an insider pulled me aside and admitted the cover was a total fuck up....Oops, it's just people's lives we're dealing with here...

--I was promised ads in The New York Times and support for a Northeast tour. I got neither.

--Delacorte shut down and was indeed swallowed up by the new publisher only weeks after the publication of As Catch what????

--I was suddenly the bastard child of the new publisher.

--They reneged on the contract and only agreed to publish the second book in the deal in paper. It was of course my right to sue them. But who in the world wants to sue a conglomerate cartel like Big New York? The big wigs laughed at me and went on vacation in the Hamptons.

--The second book was printed. Not published. Not even the B&N around the corner from Times Square had one in stock. It was around this time I met my then editor for a drink in NYC. In her words, "You didn't hear it from me, but they are preventing you from selling books."

--Now that I didn't sell out my 250G contract for no fault of my own, another publisher wouldn't touch me if a gun was pressed to his or her temple. And at one time, the most powerful agent in the world was repping me: Suzanne Gluck. I must assume that an agent of her caliber chooses only manuscripts she sees tremendous potential in.

--Delacorte (Random House) refused to release my rights...even though they remaindered my books. An evil, self-serving move if ever there was one. "We're not going to sell your books, but ahhh, neither can you!" Hitler comes to mind here...Too harsh? Okay, at least Uncle Joe Stalin.

--I went broke.

--I had to sell my house

--I lost my wife

--My children had to move, quit their schools, give up their friends

--I nearly lost my reputation and my sanity

--I could have quit writing

--But I didn't...

--I wouldn't let the motherfuckers beat me

--My new agent, after 8 grueling years, was finally able re-secure the rights to my two books

--An indie, StoneHouse Ink, took on As Catch what??????, changed the title back to The Innocent. It sold almost 200,000 E and paper Books. Plus they published several other novels of mine that have also sold in the hundreds of thousands, primarily in E-Book, of which I was making a 50% royalty as opposed to the 12.5% of Delacorte.

--My career not only shot back up, I could have easily made up Delcorte's advance plus plenty of change.

--Thomas & Mercer signed me to a seven book, "very nice deal."

--The Innocent (formerly As Catch what?????) is about to published in its third edition. 

--I got my wife back.

--I travel all the time and write fiction for a living.

--I make more in royalties per month than most editors in their paychecks--the same editors who went on to reject me after the Delacorte train wreck...Rejected me because they had too.

Of course, I could go on and on, but those old time writers like Russo who teach at the MFA programs and think that they themselves are not a part of a money making racket designed to lure would-be writers (or no talent writers) into a "literary writing program" that costs tens of thousands of dollars, had better take a good fucking look in the mirror.

You know who you are.

I've been taught by you, criticized by you, ridiculed by you and now I am feared by you. You are old and gray, teaching the same tired lecture. You're also short of breath while climbing the stairs to the next workshop you've been hired to preside over at one of those garden variety low residency MFA programs that are springing up all over the globe like reality TV and Pampers.

And for all you editors who couldn't take me on because I didn't sell out my advance while my rights were held hostage? You can work for me as a freelancer....if the price is right.

Pay back's a bitch ain't it?

Ok, off for some steak frit...It's Saturday in Paris...In the springtime.


  1. Sounds like a lot of the stories I've heard from the music biz. Glad things are going well for you. I remember this being one of the good bars in Paris.

  2. Thanks Paul, I'll check it out!!!

  3. Amazon are smarter than everybody else. That's what I keep telling everybody. But it's the cool thing to hate on them. They need competition to remain humble, but right now they're just acing whatever they do. They are one of the rare companies where the marketing majors don't get in the way of things. Especially companies that deal with art.

    Man, it must've been the nicest feeling in the world to see THE INNOCENT and GODCHILD sell like this after all these years. To finally display those killers that Random House kept under the rug.

  4. Vincent -
    I am so glad you got your rights back because "The Innocent" was one of the first books I read of yours. Congrats. I have heard both good and bad stories about the Big 6. IMHO there are more bad stories than good stories. You almost have to be related to someone nowadays to get a good publishing experience, which is why I went indie all the way.

    Glad you got your family back.

    Yours, Cyn

  5. Bravo, Author! You remind me of some of the finest Marines I have the pleasure to call my friends.
    As a traditionally published writer (22 books) and now as an indie, I'm so glad my past life, (and the attendant humiliation), as a traditionally published writer is in my rear-view mirror.
    I love Amazon - what I love most is the respect and consideration - being treated like a customer is the bomb!
    Again, bravo, Author. Thanks for sharing your tale. LT

  6. OMG! And people wonder why authors can be so bitter.

    I got screwed by RH but, even though I was a NYT bestseller at the time—the supposed reason they "loved" me & wanted to publish me—it was just a boring, run-of-the-mill shaft involving broken promises, non-existent print order, zero promo/pub. You know the drill. Still, nothing like what happened to you.

    Vincent, I am soooooo glad to hear you went on to triumph!

  7. Living well is the best revenge.

    Well done, sir.

  8. Way to show them, out last, keep writing, and live better Vincent. You are blessed.
    When I have time, I need to write the ugly dark side of the MFA programs, but for now I'm keeping my eye on my own prize- finishing the next novel.

  9. Great comments guys. I really appreciate it...

  10. I'm glad the good guys win in the end. I wish you success in your future endeavors.

    You might get a kick out of this "list."

    112 authors (and growing) who have sold more than 50,000 self-published ebooks.

    (sorry for the shameless plug)

  11. Great Post. I am currently self pubbing on Amazon among others, and am grateful for the chance they are giving me. My first ebook, The Deep Dark Well, was complimented by several publishers and some agents. One publisher that didn't buy it, and not because it wasn't well written (they said it was) with characters that weren't interesting (they loved the characters) or boring (they called in a page turner) but because it was too High (meaning too much real science that might confuse the more dense readers) and wasn't right for their market. That was harder to take than them saying that it was crap and not worthy of publication. I am still shooting for a traditional publishing deal with new work, but I couldn't stand to let stuff that was called well written sit on my hard drive because some people in New York didn't think there was a market for it. Now it is online and can live or die based on its merits, not someone elses sense of worth. I think there is a lot of crap on Amazon, poorly written with bad plots and horrible overdone settings (the Roman Empire versus the Space Huns), but there is also some very good stuff on there. And yours is not the first horror story I have read about dealing with traditional publishers. It is good to have another outlet. Now, when I get rejections letters I just think, your loss, now it goes out with my cover at my price online.

  12. Not an uncommon story. I went through St. Martins, Random House, Berkley, Tor, and some others and I never felt there was much interest in actually selling books.

    I now sell the equivalent of a "very nice deal" every month. And I'm working with Amazon on some titles now and it seems their only concern is "how do we sell it?" which is a refreshing change.

    The ones defending the traditional publishing world are the chosen few who benefit from it. The minute it turns on them, they'll change their tune very quickly.

    1. This!

      If traditional publishing is your bread and butter, then you defend it. Their hate for Amazon is based purely on fear.

      I make a "good advance" every month thanks to Amazon.

  13. F*** yeah!

    Happy for you, man.

  14. I am a very happy graduate of a highly regarded MFA program, but I found your take on this whole issue really fascinating. I love a good argument, anyway! What a horrible ordeal you's great you came out on top.

    I have found a home for my short stories with an epublisher, but in school I would sooner have died than not go the "ivy league" route.

    I learned!

    The notion that someone can actually make a living from writing fiction is as foreign to me as flying to the moon by flapping my arms...Good to hear it can happen!

  15. I have so enjoyed reading this and I'm very happy for you, especially you and your wife.

  16. That's a great story. What a comeback. Really happy that you were able to turn it all around. Enjoy it, man.

  17. Awesome story dude! My co-writer and I are aiming to be right beside you in that Parisian bar working on our next book!
    I was published by Penguin and humiliated too. Plus I don't trust their sales figures - how can I prove or disprove them? Like Amazon they don't open their books to their authors, even though it is the author's work and life which is at stake.
    Lucky for me I got my digital rights back before Penguin thought they wanted them!

  18. Can relate 110%! Thank God for Amazon. I would love to get my rights back from Penguin. I have a similar story, but am happy to say I earn more in a month now than I ever did in a year with the one of the big 6. I am happy I never gave up writing. I have finally hit bestseller lists including The Wall Street Journal. Demon or not, I am in on publishing with KDP. Enjoy Paris!!!

  19. Awesomeness is rare but you have it because that outcome is kick ass! Rock on, lol.

  20. Good for you! I very much appreciate Amazon and the opportunities it has given authors. I now love self publishing and the freedom in doing so. The Big Six cut their own throats with low royalties--yet they all want to blame Amazon. Amazon's Jeff Bezos is visionary...and NY is stuck with old ideas.

  21. What a horror story! Glad you got out of it in the end and with everything back, your writer's life, wife included. And from what I hear, yours is not a unique story: countless writers have been treated badly by the Big Six. Small wonder Amazon is doing so well...

  22. Great story, Vincent and congratulations! I'm trying to work my way in with Amazon right now since they seem to be the only ones who have a freakin' clue about publishing. My own experiences mirror some of yours with Kensington, St. Martin's, and more. It amazes me what passes for supposed professionals in this field.

    Anyway, enjoy Paris!

  23. Love ya bro! It is all worth it to see you happy and to be a part of all this. You rock!

  24. The best revenge is living well. You deserve every bit of your success, and those people can eat your dust.

  25. The book "The inocent" that's story is great.

  26. So many stories float around about why the Big6 are evil but they're generally 'Chinese Whispers' and hard to track. Thanks for sharing Vincent and cheers to keeping on.

  27. Vincent the way the big publishers operate is out of complete disrepect to writing, they are profit driven businesses. It is terrible the way you were treated but you came through it. You are a top writer and a huge help to fellow writers. I think the big houses deserve this revolution, they have monopolised things for too long. I speak as someone who is trdaitonally published. I am all for Amazon. Great post.

  28. Awful story for you but how awesome you conquered and rose far, far above...great fail and then success story. Let's just hope what goes around comes around. More success to you!

  29. Bravo Bravo! Love, love, love your story :-)

  30. A friend of mine worked for them briefly. She referred to it as "Ransom House." Possibly a good title for a book.

  31. Wow, I'm glad to know you were able to rise above it because you are like an amazing writer.

  32. An excellent, well-told tale that reads like a novel. Say, there's an idea ;) Enjoy strolling the Champs Elysees. Lift a glass of wine, or two, to the old guard who now must sit back and watch what they once controlled control a world they no longer can. Good going!

  33. Congrats on persevering. Sounds like you deserve a break your way. Enjoy the steak frites and have a nutella crepe from one of the sidewalk stands in the Latin Quarter for those poor sols who are not there with you.

  34. Good for you Mr. Zandri. I wish you and yours much success
    and happiness. I'm old fashioned, I like it when the good
    guys win.

  35. Thanks again...Funny how things turn out.