Category Archives: James Patterson

Hot Air

The Amazon Reign

[I wrote this Monday and sat on it. Since then every news peddler on Earth has beaten the bejesus out of me on it but so what? Here it is, updated.]

I’ve got a couple of horses in this race, considering I work at Bloomington’s last independent bookseller, the Book Corner, and I’m a book author. When it comes to buying a book on Amazon or copping it at our humble establishment, you know which way I’ll nudge you.

Mind you, I’m not four-square against things like online retail or e-books. I buy eyeglass frames, shoes, undies, and — yes — books via my MacBook. In fact, I’ve even published an e-book. I don’t make a big deal about it, though, because it wasn’t very good. Nevertheless, I’ll e-publish again.

But Amazon? Bah.

The world’s largest online retailer — on which everything up to but excluding the air that you breathe (and don’t hold your breath that that won’t change soon) is for sale — is waging a very public, very bloody war with one of the world’s largest book publishing outfits, the Paris-based Hachette. The two gargantuan companies are battling over who gets to set the price for the books you want to buy through Amazon.

Meanwhile, all but a precious few authors continue to count their pennies and eat at least one meal of ramen noodles a week.


A Typical Author’s Midnight Snack

The book racket operates thusly: Let’s say the the Godly Press is putting out the latest bestseller, My White Heaven, the story of some bratty kid who claims he died and went to heaven while in surgery, survived the ordeal, told his preacher dad about it, and now the old man is making the rounds telling us Obamacare is a fascist plot and sodomy is being taught in our public schools. Godly Press sets the price for the book at, say, $16.95. The book is then offered through a national distributor like Ingram which offers little guys like the Book Corner a 40 percent discount. So, we pay $10.17 for each copy of the book.

We, then, can charge you the full suggested retail price for the book and make a tidy $6.78 for every copy sold. Or we can offer it at a retail discount, say 1o percent, meaning you can buy the book from us for $15.26. We used to offer nice little discounts like that at the Book Corner but then the attractive and charming staff threatened owner, Margaret, with bodily harm if she didn’t bump our yearly wages up over the six-figure mark. Now the Book Corner has discontinued its discounts and we booksellers dine on filet mignon and caviar nightly.

BTW: big retailers like Barnes & Noble and national grocery chains get much, much, much sweeter deals from Ingram and the publishers themselves, ergo their ability to offer 25 percent discounts and more on big bestsellers.

Anyway, the publisher sets the price but allows the retailer to charge whatever she or he wishes.

Oh, and another thing: the less distributors and publishers charge for wholesale product, the more the vast majority of authors suffer in terms of royalties. A penny may be an insult, but a half cent is an atrocity.

And that’s how things used to work in the e-retail racket. Hachette and other publishing houses would set prices for e-books and then Amazon would discount that figure as it saw fit. Only Amazon claimed it couldn’t bear to live anymore if forced to sell books at such low prices.

So now Amazon wants to be able to set prices even higher than the publisher’s suggested figure, ergo making the online retailer tons more dough while still snowing the consumer with 25 percent discounts. Amazon is so dead set on this course that it’s shunting Hachette’s books aside because the publishing house refuses to play along. In fact, Amazon has even gone so far as to advise customers to go somewhere else to buy Hachette books.

That’s serious, babies.

Amazon Corp. HQ

Amazon’s Proposed Corporate Campus Biosphere In Seattle

Acc’d’g to the Guardian US, millionaire Hachette authors like Stephen Colbert and James Patterson are screaming to high heaven at Amazon to be reasonable. Of course, the more Amazon charges for books, the more Colbert and Patterson make. Those guys are going to sell no matter what their books cost. If Amazon gets its way, though, lesser-known scribes will suffer even more than they do already because — let’s face it — who’s going to pay $18 for an e-book by Michael G. Glab?

Hell, I doubt anyone in my own family would pay that much for a book written by me. I would’t pay that much for a book written by me!

Anyway, the other day the LA Times ran a nice rundown of who’s who and what’s what in this pissing match. And the Guardian continues its coverage of the contretemps with the news that the two august firms are now badmouthing each other publicly.

When all is said and done, even after Amazon nukes all of Paris in order to destroy the rump state that is home to Hachette, 99 percent of the authors you know and love will be collecting their coins in a jar against the inevitability of one of those income-less months. So I don’t give a damn who wins.

If you do, and want Amazon to triumph, here’s a petition entitled Stop Fighting Low Prices and Fair Wages.

Run Him Out Of Town

Speaking of dough, if you want to kick in to the Mike Cagle kitty, he’s got a gofundme site up now. One of B-town’s most pop. bachelors, Cagle has given the raspberry to his former employer, Cook Medical, and will be setting off for the the Portland’s Lewis & Clark College to study law.

He’s hoping you’ll find it in your heart to pitch in so he can afford to move his yacht, his matching Bentleys, and his solid gold bathroom fixtures to Oregon where he’ll live the life of a poverty-stricken student for a few years.

I figger, Why not? The dude wants to practice do-goody-good law and, heaven knows, we need more shingles like that around these parts. Plus, contributors will get a piece of Cagle art for their largesse. C. has been a crackerjack cartoonist for lo these many years although he expects to lay the pen and the brush down while he hits the books.

Cagle Art

Cagle Scratch



Hot Air

Hoosier Hope

[Warning to loyal Pencillistas: This first entry is about sports. Read it at your own risk.]

My beloved Chicago Cubs last night selected Indiana University catcher Kyle Schwarber as their first pick in the 2014 Major Leaguie baseball entry draft.


Kyle Schwarber (Bleacher Nation Image)

Hey, maybe this’ll get me to start caring about Hoosiers baseball which, I understand, has been pretty good the last couple of years. My back-office (Soma Coffee) colleague Pat Murphy broke the news about Schwarber to me last night, seeing as how he knows about my Cubs “problem.” So, just to make small talk, I mentioned that IU lost a heartbreaker in the NCAA regional tournament the other day. That set Murphy off on a seemingly endless soliloquy about everything IU baseball. He spoke of the rain on Monday night, the Hoosiers’ injury problems, something about the coach’s son, Stanford’s triumphant performance after the rain delay, the unfairness of teams from California being able to play baseball all year while Indiana is pretty much limited to a week and a half in late May/early June, the IU leadoff hitter’s 0-for-5 collar in the ultimate game, Stanford’s mighty batting order, and a whole host of other minutiae.

I smiled nicely at him and nodded my head at what seemed appropriate times. Pat went on to tell me he’d gone home mid-game after Bart Kaufman Field officials cleared the place due to a threatening storm eight miles to the west. Murphy had to change his rain-soaked duds, which seems to me prima facie evidence that he, too, has a “problem.” He returned in time for the game to resume and for Stanford to overcome a three-run Hoosier lead.

Back to Kyle Schwarber. Man, the kid looks like a catcher, all squat and pug-faced. He won’t be a catcher as a pro because he’s not good defensively. He’ll be an outfielder and the Cubs brain trust hopes he’ll hit in the pros with the same jaw-dropping power he’s shown in the collegiate game.

Cubs director of scouting Jason McLeod says, “We felt Kyle was the best hitter, hands down, in this year’s draft.”

Should Schwarber turn out to be a star for the Cubs in a few years, I’ll consider my move here the turning point in his personal history. Don’t ask me to defend that statement; just keep in mind I have a “problem.”

Book Fair

Speaking of Chi., the Printers Row Lit Fest runs tomorrow and Sunday on Dearborn Street between Congress Parkway and Polk Street. It’s the unofficial kick-off for the Windy City’s summer fair, fest, and carnival season. If June seems a little late to be starting outdoor activities, keep in mind that winter just ended six hours ago there.

Anyway, here are some of the notable authors appearing this weekend at the PRLF:

  • Chris Albani, The Secret History of Las Vegas
  • Hisham D. Aidi, Rebel Music: Race, Empire, and the New Muslim Youth Culture
  • Tashe Alexander, the “Lady Emily” series and Elizabeth: The Golden Age
  • Jim Aylesworth, children’s author, Old Black Fly
  • Eric Banks, senior editor of Artforum
  • Lidia Mattichio Bastianich, Lidia’s Commonsense Italian Cooking
  • Elizabeth Berg, Open House
  • Ira Berkow, Pulitzer Prize-winning sportswriter
  • Paul Buhle, graphic novelist, Studs Terkel’s Working and The Beats (with Harvey Pekar)
  • Bonnie Jo Campbell, Once Upon a River
  • Katie Crouch, Abroad, Girls in Trucks, and Men and Dogs
  • Stanley Crouch, MacArthur “Genius” Award-winner, writes about jazz and the Black experience
  • Monique Demery, Finding the Dragon Lady
  • Anton DiSclafani, The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls
  • Barbara Ehrenreich, Nickel and Dimed
  • Joseph Ellis, Founding Brothers
  • John Feinstein, On the Brink
  • Gene Ha, graphic novelist
  • Chuck Haddix, Bird


The Official PRLF Poster By Tony Fitzpatrick

  • Paula Haney, founder, Hoosier Mama Pie Company
  • Christina Henriquez, The World in Half
  • Blair Kamin, Pulitzer Prize-winning architecture critic
  • Greg Kot, co-host, public radio program Sound Opinions
  • Malcolm London, TED speaker and poet
  • Gillian McCain & Legs McNeil, co-authors, Please Kill Me: The Uncensored Oral History of Punk
  • M.E. May, the Circle City Mystery series
  • Walter Mosley, the “Easy Rawlins” mystery series
  • Dana Norris, founder, Story Club storytelling shows
  • Jenny Offill, Last Things
  • Sara Paretsky, the “V.I. Warshawski” detective series
  • Brigid Pasulka, A Long, Long Time Ago and Essentially True
  • James Patterson, the “Alex Cross” series
  • Rick Perlstein, Before the Storm and Nixonland
  • Chris Raschka, children’s book author
  • Kimberla Lawson Roby, The Prodigal Son
  • Amy Krause Rosenthal, Duck Rabbit
  • Amy Rowland, The Transcription
  • J. Courtney Sullivan, The Engagements
  • Marlo Thomas, actor and author, Free to Be… You and Me
  • Jacinda Townsend, Saint Monkey
  • Sam Weller, The Bradbury Chronicles: The Life of Ray Bradbury
  • Colson Whitehead, The Noble Hustle
  • Beatriz Williams, Overseas and A Hundred Summers
  • Gabrielle Zevin, YA author, Elsewhere

This is the 30 anniversary of the book fair. Lots o’books, loads o’food, tons o’music and sunshine, the Loop to the north, the lakefront and museums to the east; you can’t go wrong at the Printers Row Lit Fest. If you’re feeling ambitious, take the road trip up to Chi. this weekend and enjoy.

The Pencil Today:


“At least Bank of America got its name right. The ultimate Too Big To Fail bank really is America, a hypergluttonous ward of the state whose limitless fraud and criminal conspiracies we’ll all be paying for until the end of time.” — Matt Taibbi


Gawker had this first, then Roger Ebert re-posted it. It’s a purported commercial for the Rick Santorum campaign.

Ebert says he can’t believe it’s real. And, quite frankly, neither can I.

I mean, Little Rickey is the altar boy who loved all the attention the priest lavished on him, leading him to become the world’s most prominent closeted figure. His resultant damaged psyche then led him to turn the Republican primary battle into a cheap Outer Limits episode, natch.

But this? For real?

Well, just watch. Someone out there has to know if this is legit or not. Lemme know, would you?


Here’s the definition of Paranoid Personality Disorder, as presented in the DSM-IV-TR, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, 4th edition, text revision, that is the bible (you’ll pardon the pun) of the psychiatry profession:

A. A pervasive distrust and suspiciousness of others such that their motives are interpreted as malevolent, beginning in early adulthood and present in a variety of contexts, as indicated by four (or more) of the following:

  1. suspects, without sufficient basis, that others are exploiting, harming, or deceiving him or her
  2. is preoccupied with unjustified doubts about the loyalty or untrustworthiness of friends or associates
  3. is reluctant to confide in others because of unwarranted fear that the information will be used maliciously against him or her
  4. reads hidden demeaning or threatening meanings into benign remarks or events
  5. persistently bears grudges, i.e, is unforgiving of insults, injuries, or slights
  6. perceives attacks on his or her character or reputation that are not apparent to others and is quick to react angrily or counterattack
  7. has recurrent suspicions, without justification, regarding fidelity of spouse or sexual partner

B. Does not occur exclusively during the course of Schizophrenia, a Mood Disorder With Psychotic Features, or another Psychiatric Disorder and is not due to the direct physiological effects of a general medical condition.

There you have it. Little Rickey is damned on at least five criteria: numbers 1, 2, 4, 5, and 6. This man who should be eating soft foods prior to being given his nightly mega-dose of Thorazine may well be your next Republican candidate for Vice President of the world’s only remaining superpower.


Believe me, I love the Book Corner but I’d jump at the chance to work in this palace in a heartbeat.

The painstakingly preserved 13th Century cathedral in Maastricht, Holland, is the new home of the Dutch Selexyz Dominicanen bookstore.

Dig this shelving under the soaring vaulted ceiling:

Meanwhile back in this holy land bookstores are closing faster than James Patterson and Nicholas Sparks can type out those disposable consumables they call novels.


Happy birthday, Leonard Nimoy.