Posts Tagged ‘writers’

The Literary Life

Monday, July 27th, 2015

In the 1950s and 1960s, I grew up in Westchester County, thirty minutes from New York City (think Don Draper in “Mad Men” for the  typical train commute), and I was the son of a book publisher 9k=living in the center of the literary world.  My dad would have frequent parties with other book publishers including Sol Stein, the founder of Stein and Day; Max Schuster of Simon and Shuster; Jovanovich of Harcourt Brace Jovanovich; Nat Wartels, the founder of Crown; luminaries such as Bennet Cerf of Random House; and many others whose names have receded into the mists of publishing history.  I remember the parties and the characters, they seemed larger than life and enjoyed every aspect of living with great emphasis on fine food and drink.  After all these years I forget many of their names, but their companies (such as Sterling) live on, now owned by larger corporations which have changed the publishing world and which, no doubt, in fifty years will in many cases have disappeared as well.

The literary life itself has changed.  As a society we do not cultivate great writing; we really don’t.  I am not sure if great writing is still possible.  And this is not because of technology, but in spite of it. More people are writing more books more easily than ever before. There are more writer’s groups,  more writing courses, more “How to be a Best Selling Author” seminars, and more access to getting books published than in any previous moment in history.  So the problem with the lack of great writing is actually neither access nor time to the tools and the profession. The problem, as far  as I can determine, is with the times in which we live.

There is much focus on commercial success and seeming relevance that it is rare for those who read to take the time to cultivate great writing.  Great writing takes time. Great writing takes  rewriting.  Great writing does not ensure commercial success.  The recent release of Harper Lee’s  “Go Set a Watchman” is a case study that proves why there is little if any great writing or great publishing at this moment in time. “To Kill a Mockingbird”  is a great book, it has withstood the test of time.  It will still be read fifty years from now, more than one hundred years after it was published. But I doubt that even five years from now “Go Set a Watchman” will be read. It is not great writing. It was not meant to be published; it required rewriting.  The rewriting is what created the timelessness of “To Kill a Mockingbird”.  The editor took time, months of back and forth with Harper Lee, hundreds of hours of thought and comment from both editor and author.  This could never happen today.  Both publisher and author can not  take the time to have a book percolate. There is too much financial gain or loss at stake.  And besides, is anyone other than a few literary critics or erudite publishing industry or academic specialists going to notice the flaws in books not truly gestated, not truly edited, but published for great financial benefit?

I write books myself and they are well written. One, “The Twelve”, has sold more than 500,000 copies. My authored books however are not great writing.  I was not motivated to write a great book. I hired an outside editor. I had a wonderful editor provided by the publisher. They did as good a job as the time and money allocated justified. Readers have enjoyed my books, and I receive wonderful compliments from them. For some my books have changed their lives for the better.  They are good books, just not great.  In the fullness of time my books are unlikely to survive.  Only truly great works of art survive.

I recommend that those of you interested in writing strive for greatness. It will not be easy, there will be distractions. You will have to find great editors and you will have to pay them.  You will have to allocate time. You will have to be unattached to the financial results.  You will have to cut back on your social media and dedicate all of your creative energy to the book itself and not the marketing. You will have difficulty finding a major publisher. But if you write a truly great book, your words may live forever.

Now, that would be a true literary life.

Can You Hear Me?

Wednesday, October 23rd, 2013

You can if you purchase the audio version of The Power of Twelve. Just released and available on audible at and soon available from all online audio sites  I recorded the audio myself just a few feet away from where I wrote The Power of Twelve in my home here in Cardiff by the Sea, California. The audio for The Twelve was recorded by an actor and came out great, but with all the changes in marketing audios over the last five years it seemed wiser to just record the audio myself and publish directly through audible. One of my clients and friends David Wilson is a sound engineer who has created an incredible microphone and recording process that made it fun and easy. Although David had to go to a studio for final modifications, the actual recording was done in my home and only took about ten hours, not much longer than the final audio itself. I enjoyed the process of recording and think there is something special in having the author of a book do his or her own recording. Hope you get a chance to listen and share with friends and family.

Yesterday I did a livechat that was lots of fun. You can listen to that recording of questions from readers through this link . Livechat uses the internet to allow listeners to post questions in real time and records me giving the answers. Was special in some way since the camera caught me live and in this case displayed the desk behind me where I had manuscripts of recently-agented books about which viewers also asked questions.

With dozens of additional radio shows coming up or archived and linked through my web site you really can hear me quite easily and I hope you will. I am enjoying the increased interaction with readers of my novels and the opportunity to expand on the themes of The Power of Twelve and share my insights on book publishing with increasingly larger groups.

While most writers are generous with support of other authors, many writers are introverts. They write their books and find making themselves available to the public a bit difficult.  Not me.  Perhaps it is because I am also an agent, or perhaps it is because I just enjoy interacting with people, but I like being out there in support of my own works and the works of other authors.

This week I was out in support of author Greg Reid.  If you want to see me as well as hear me, you might purchase a copy of Stickablity the Movie by Greg. I attended the premier of the film on Monday night and it was a typical high-end Greg Reid event with plenty of media coverage, red carpet, cocktail party etc. etc. held at the Arclight theater in La Jolla, California. There were several hundred people in attendance and I did three additional  interviews to help promote the film as did many of the film’s stars ranging from Sharon Lector,  bestselling author of  Three Feet from  Gold and other  titles; Gary Goldstein, producer of  the  hit film Pretty Woman; the founder of  the Make a Wish Foundation, Frank Shankwitz;  to John Assaraf  and other bestselling authors. We were all there to support Greg who is evolving as a major voice for persistence and the ability to succeed and make a difference no matter what the odds. Greg’s book, Stickability, is just out from Tarcher/Penguin and is off to a great start. The movie complements the inspiring messages in the book and works as a wonderful forty-minute stand-alone film.  I have a cameo role, along with my good friend and publisher of The Secret, Richard Cohn. Was fun being in the film and it’s a fun film to watch. Watch and you will both see and hear me. Enjoy.

Dynamic Change

Wednesday, August 7th, 2013

In my role as an author, media consultant and literary agent I am often perceived as a catalyst for change. I have explorationinnovationchampioned many authors and ideas that were unknown or unexplored and that other agents and business professionals preferred to ignore. I have always been a bit of a risk taker in business; more importantly however, I thrive on the stimulation from exploring the unknown and taking on early-stage ideas and helping them to manifest.

There is some irony in that in my personal life I am change adverse. I like my routines and am content with following a set schedule for combining regular tennis, beach walks, golf and dining experiences with a basic core group of friends. When I find a restaurant I like I go there often, eschewing opportunities to try new dining experiences. I am even that way with golf courses, preferring my regular courses rather than going far afield.  Even the food I prepare at home is quite predictable, only differing based on seasonality or daily and monthly specials from my wonderful Deli at Seaside Market. Yes, in my personal life I am somewhat predictable. (more…)


Monday, July 22nd, 2013

Is that the question for today’s writers? If you ask any book marketer or publicist, the answer 4379144635_5ca490b381will be yes. In fact they would question the sanity of any writer who even asks such a question. And yet I have never believed in one size fits all advice of any kind. For some writers blogging would most likely sap their creative energy and have a negative impact on their creative process. There are also those writers who are true perfectionists who would not be comfortable with their words going out unedited, in the raw so to speak.

And yet the publicists are probably, in most cases correct. How will anyone know you exist as a writer if you are not blogging? Established bestselling authors can probably get away without blogging, but the really big names have fan clubs which blog for them and keep them in the news. First time authors, and what we used to consider mid-list authors, really have no choice. Blog or be forgotten.

So if most writers are going to blog what should they blog about? Should they blog about their families, their pets and the latest movie they saw? Should they pick a theme and stick with that theme? Should they be a niche blogger with a plan to develop a specific audience for their blog and perhaps in that way attract sponsors and turn their blogs into the equivalent of a mini online magazine with subscribers and advertisers? How commercial can they be in their blogs without offending their actual fans? (more…)

Unemployment and the Future of Book Publishing

Friday, July 19th, 2013

Life is full of surprises. Life is constantly changing. Good news often brings as many changes as bad news. Sometimes it is hard to know the difference between good news and bad news.images

My wonderful assistant Vanessa recently wed. No doubt this was good news. The bad news part of it for me is that Vanessa’s new husband was just offered a wonderful position in Northern California and she will of course be joining him. Although we continue to go digital, not every function of an assistant can be performed from three hundred plus miles away, so we need to replace Vanessa.

In this modern age the quickest way to find potential employees is to advertise with Craig’s list. Given how much of today’s business is actually digital, the hours required to be my assistant are down to no more than twenty per week. So we put out an ad and in less than 48 hours we got more than 100 resumes. Perhaps half were people fresh out of school, but at least ten were from highly qualified candidates with significant and meaningful work experience. (more…)

Interview with Mark Goulston

Wednesday, July 10th, 2013

I have spent my life as a literary agent, publisher, and filmmaker and remain delighted to continue to work with writers. My mother was a writer, book collector and literary scholar with a fascination for what she termed second-rate Victorian novelists. She loved the way those authors captured an era and brought it to life. My father was a publisher.  So you can see how I was hooked on books from birth.

Writers, good ones and even sometimes mediocre ones, often communicate through the written word some of the deepest thoughts, most compelling observations, and most innovative concepts to which we are ever exposed.   Successful writers capture the human condition with poignancy and empathy, reveal the true meaning of friendship and loyalty, take us to places we might otherwise never visit, and create worlds beyond what we ever might imagine.  Writers inform, create, provoke, and empower. They are often eccentric and rarely dull. I hope this series of interviews will allow you to enjoy, as IDebMark do, getting to know these talented and successful  authors.

My first featured author, Mark Goulston, is an extraordinary individual. His own blog is full of fascinating and useful insights. Read his bio below as well as his answers to these questions and reflect on the many different ways and reasons successful writers choose to write:

1.     What got you started writing, and what did it take for you to become a writer?

I have been keeping a journal since 1976, after finally making it through a tumultuous time in medical school, and I’m on volume 220 with more than 40,000 pages.  That morphed into writing books when I met my first co-author Philip Goldberg who told his agents that I had already been on Donahue, Oprah, Today, NY Times, Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles Magazine about the work I was doing helping divorced couples get back together with their ex-spouse and successfully remarry. I didn’t write about this “recoupling therapy” because I was also focused on suicide and violence intervention and treatment, which was more compelling to me at the time. (more…)


Friday, June 28th, 2013

More importantly, why does anyone write?

One of the unique aspects of being human is the desire to communicate with others. With the development of writing the 15704ability to communicate with people overcoming the obstacles of time and distance was magically created. No other animal species has ever been able to duplicate this magic. With the development of the Internet the incredible ability to overcome time and distance became instant. We can instantly communicate with people in any part of the world on any subject. We can store our communications for future reference if necessary, and we can leave a legacy for those yet to be born.

Quite amazing when you think about it; and from the perspective of human beings inhabiting this planet even a few hundred years ago, almost inconceivable. And yet the question remains: why do we write? Why is communication so important to us? (more…)