Monday, October 21, 2013

The Invention of Clay McKenzie--Delightful Romp Into Unique Publishing "Situation..."

"So you will help this author get discovered on your own time, not to mention mine, and for what? The satisfaction of finding a good book."
"She shrugged. "That is one way of putting it, I suppose."
"He laughed. 'And is there another way of putting it? Obviously I know little about publishing, but in my world a smart person does whatever it takes to put a deal together as long as the return is worth it--if the juice isn't worth the squeeze, then you drop it like a hot rock. In your world, it seems that those who have the least to gain do all the work, and that is, to coin a word, fucked. You are too smart to play that game for long."
"Publishing is an odd business. People get into it because they love books, and enjoy the publishing process."
"Is your love of books greater than your concern for yourself? It seems to be it is a vicarious way to go about things. You get the dog work and not the glamour."
"I have to learn to play the game before I can figure out a better way to go about things."
"Pablo sighed and threw up his up his hands. "Okay, I give. What kind of book is it anyway?" he asked. "Is it good erotica or something worthwhile like that?"
"I'd call it a contemporary Western mystery."
"Is that a real genre?"
"She laughed. "No, not really, but that is what it is."
~~~

The Invention of Clay McKenzie
By Ed Teja and
J. Reid Beckett

Writers across the world would love to have Stephanie Masters be the first reader of their manuscripts! She was ambitious, even taking the slush pile--unsolicited submissions from writers--home with her to read, hoping to find that one manuscript that would help both her as well as an unknown writer...

And she did!

Great, right? No, wrong...

The manuscript was indeed good--good enough to move it forward for the next reader...

But if she did that, it would be her one and only involvement with this great book she'd found! She wanted more!!!
"It is just common sense things," Stephanie said.
"The writer has to make his book an attractive
proposition for the publisher to consider it, and
without some of that, how do we know that we can
sell it?"
"Pablo laughed. "Yet for two days you've been
telling me that this book will sell shit loads."
"She winced. "It is one thing to convince editors.
But if the sales staff doesn't sign off on it, it won't
get published."
"To be fair to your cowboy writer," he said, "I
wouldn't have known that publishers need all
that stuff either. And I certainly wouldn't expect
to have to plan on doing all, or most, of the
marketing myself. If I sent a manuscript to a
publisher, I'd think of the process as similar to
that when an engineer develops a new product.
Someone has identified a need, he comes up with
a product to meet that need, and then the company
takes over, doing the packaging and marketing."
He scratched his head. "But you guys expect your
product designer to develop and execute the
marketing plan?"
"Sure. Why wouldn't they? They get paid royalties,
so the more books we sell, the more they make."
"Pablo  laughed. "I think I am in the wrong
business. What is it that Icon does for its share
of the money, which I presume is significant?"
~~~
If Stephanie had not been living with Pablo at the time, she may not have started it... But Pablo was rich, buying and selling businesses and he was quite willing to point out that Stephanie was intelligent but not making much money. Her bringing home manuscripts to read, rather than being available for sex whenever he wanted it, was just an example of the differences between them...

Personally I was glad when she left him...

But while she had listened, she began to dream a little, making money at what she loved doing was much better than working herself to death trying to succeed...

So she took the first step. She traveled to the home of the author, on her own time, money and without the knowledge of the company for whom she worked...

What she discovered forced the next step... 

Not only did the author know nothing about the business part of becoming a published author, he didn't want to learn!

You know, I have to believe that sometime in the past, publishers handled much more of the business part of getting a book out than they do now... But no matter how much is true in this book or another, the author is certainly not prepared and normally would never consider having to market his own book, including making all the arrangements, etc. Lots of good books are out there, believe me, that never get bought, simply because nobody knows about them...

Soooo, during the discussion with the author, there was many ideas floating around in her head... When I was working as an "author's representative" I was essentially doing what Stephanie planned... I was the individual behind the scenes submitting for authors, then negotiating with publishers on rights, etc. But Stephanie had one, much bigger problem, than most...

Her author not only did not want to do any marketing, business planning, and all the other myriad tasks that came with the actual publishing activity, he was also not an individual who "could" effectively market the book...

Clay McKenzie, author of The Sound of One Man Dying didn't exist. The author, Jerome Mortenson, had written under a different name, but had not included it in his submission. Clay McKenzie could be anybody, so I
Clay was probably younger, but I
thing Richard Boone would make
a wonderful author, don't you?
picked out somebody to play the part [on my blog at least]. Actually, an actor was hired to do just that--create the author, Clay McKenzie...

"He leaned against the back of the chair, smiling at the blonde, and thinking how pleasant the job had gotten once he mastered his fear of talking to people off the cuff about writing and being a writer. Even talking with writers and editors turned out to be far easier than he'd expected. Fun, even. Writers were a lot like actors and each had his own way of working so he couldn't really ever say anything that would mark him as a phony. As long as he knew the plot and characters of his own books, the rest was subjective. Fortunately, he had always been a reader and had a working familiarity with contemporary writers. That gave him confidence. Mortenson had given him a description of his writing process, including his goals and intentions for his books. Stone had nervously memorized every word. As his comfort grew he rephrased the information, putting his Clay McKenzie spin on things; these days he often spun things out of whole cloth giving his efforts a folksy twist. Even if he made a mistake or contradicted himself he'd learned that one of his practiced smiles earned him tolerance and forgiveness. It made him more human, therefore, oddly, more convincing.
"This scenario repeated regularly but never bored him. He imagined that it was like having a part in a long-running Broadway play only the pay was better and he got a starring role. I can't imagine ever tiring of his, Stone Thought. Lovely to have a run of the play contract...
~~~

Was all of this a scam? I think the major issue for me was that Stephanie had continued to work for the publishing company which ultimately bought the book... that was definitely a conflict of interest. Otherwise, it sounded like a process that just might work...

Except one bad apple in the planning... There were now five individuals involved, but it only takes one criminal, doesn't it... To say that the invention of Clay McKenzie started to fall apart was to trivialize what happens and the dangerous situation Stephanie was actually in! 

This is both a fun and uniquely different romp into book publishing. An ambitious individual who can look at an issue and figure out how to get things done is A future entrepreneur if...  But when it turns into one scam after another... For the reader, we sit back and laugh because of the "dumb" people who were involved. Well, no, not dumb--rather, the "trusting" people who get involved and don't immediately realize that if something does not sound right, there is, indeed, probably something that is not right. There's not too much mystery involved for readers; it's more an adventure watching to see how far this will go!

The key issue are the characters. The author, reclusive, remains true to himself. Stephanie is the main character and before long, you will be wanting to help her, maybe even slap her into recognition! Still, even if nobody slapped her, it is a wonderful and fitting ending that totally satisfies, even if it certainly is a surprising one! A totally enjoyable tale in the ever-changing world of today's publishing! Check it out!


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Ed Teja has worked as a magazine editor, poet, freelance writer, musician and boat bum. He grew up traveling the planet and never stopped. He currently is sitting still in Cambodia long enough to finish writing some new stories, learn a bit of Khmer and some tunes on traditional Cambodian instruments. Hiw previous books include The Legend of Ron Anejo, a novel about the world's very best Caribbean boat bum.


Jim Beckett grew up in a military household, living in Hawaii, Japan, Turkey and less exotic locations across the United States. After earning a degree in Organic Chemistry, Dr. Beckett began his career as a research chemist for Cities Service Company. Shortly after Cities was bought by Occidental Petroleum, Jim moved into the management and business functions, leading a group of talented professionals into developing the first commercial coalbed methane operation in Virginia among other innovations. Before retiring in 1999, Jim was involved in the environmental aspects, remediating Superfund sites for the company. Technical writing and executive communications were always an integral part of Jim's career.