My Birthday Wish

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Today is my birthday, and I’m not too happy about it. It’s a “milestone” birthday, for one thing, and that’s always difficult. But I guess I can live with getting older. Like the man said, “When you consider the alternative…” etc.

Traditional-Books-vs-EBooks-shutterstock_97218161-480x360What’s bringing me down today is my so-called career. I published six novels in quick succession back in the 1990s, when I was also working at Murder Ink®, so I had a day job and a growing list of titles. But things weren’t going so well in my life back then, and after a while I stopped publishing. It wasn’t until 2009 that I finally decided to try to reactivate my publishing career. I had a strong new manuscript, and I soon found a new agent who started sending the manuscript around. And that’s when the fun began.

My earlier books had all found publishers immediately, and they got good reviews and were optioned by Hollywood–one of them was even made into a movie–so I wasn’t expecting what happened with my new manuscript. From 2010 to 2012, it was turned down by what seemed like every editor at virtually every major house. And here’s the funny thing: It’s my best book. Ever. A PENNY FOR THE HANGMAN isn’t my personal favorite of my works, but even I admit I’ve never written a better one. Unfortunately, that didn’t sell it to anybody. My earlier books had been long forgotten, and I had no track record anymore. Finally, as I was giving up all hope, my agent called and told me that Random House was interested in acquiring it.

That’s when I discovered the world of ebooks. Random House has a new line of electronic-only titles, and the mystery section is called Alibi. Alibi wanted to publish A PENNY FOR THE HANGMAN as an ebook original.

And that’s when I discovered the New Snobbery.

Every day I log on to Facebook, and every day I see hateful posts from writers and readers alike, excoriating the new technology and loudly refusing to read electronic books. “I only read REAL books, darling!” “I will never, never, NEVER read an ebook, and that’s final!” “Who the hell wants to read THOSE things?!!” And on and on. For the first time in my life, I have a title out that even my friends and family haven’t read.

So here I am on my birthday, facing a new decade (ugh!) and facing the fact that a lot of people greet my life’s work with scorn and derision. My next ebook for Alibi, MRS. JOHN DOE, comes out October 6, and we’ll see what happens with that one, but I’m not holding my breath. I already know that many, many mystery writing colleagues and (former) fans will not be reading it, because NOBODY reads those tacky ebooks, darling.

My birthday wish is that everyone would please stop talking like that around me, and around my fellow writers who have only been offered ebook contracts. We didn’t plan it this way; it just happened. We apologize if we’ve offended your delicate sensibilities, but we had no choice in the matter. Our only alternative is not being published at all.

My other birthday wish is that everyone would give our electronic books a chance. They’re not the Spawn of Satan–they’re just books in a new format. And they’re good books. Who knows? You might like them.

Mystery Scene Horizontal Ad MRS. JD

7 thoughts on “My Birthday Wish

  1. First of all, Happy Birthday, Tom!
    Secondly, I really enjoyed your post and I understand your frustration with the whole publishing process and with people’s derisive comments. Take them with “a grain of salt.”
    I read paper books and eBooks and my Malone mystery series, published by Post Mortem Press, is available in both formats. So, I’m fortunate in that way. However, I once had a woman tell me that she only bought books in hardback – mine are trade paperback – and I have to admit it bothered me. You see, my dream has always been to have my books in hardcover. But, as you wrote, I had no choice in the matter and the alternative was not being published at all.

  2. First of all Tom, Happy Birthday! You have the honorable distinction of sharing a birthdate with my son!

    Several years back, I was talking to a Goodreads friend who shares the love of Gothic mysteries with me, and we got to wondering what became of you. I am a huge fan of your work. The Inheritance was a masterpiece that blew me away and so I sent out feelers around the book community to see if anyone might know how to contact you. As it turns out my GR friend managed to look you up and I was thrilled she was able to locate you. I was very sorry to hear of the many trials you faced, but I am so happy you are back in the writing community.

    I could not agree more with your blog post today! I have been fighting this battle for a long time.

    It’s print or electronic! Both of them are REAL books.

    E books, how I love thee, let me count the ways!

    Save a tree!

    Allows the vision impaired to adjust font size.

    Is much more comfortable to hold than print, especially if you have small hands

    I can read at night without a flashlight

    No allergies from moldy, dusty books

    Can carry an entire library in my purse

    Out of print books are brought back to life

    Books can be stored forever in the cloud to be read and re-read over and over

    I can keep every book I have bought without needing to rent storage space

    I could go on and on here, but, the thing I try to stress is this- Our country needs to encourage people to read more instead of splitting hairs over which format is best. Who cares? Read with whatever format you like the most , just so long as you are reading. What a stupid thing to be arguing about, and yes, there is a certain snobbery with people who stick their noses in the air, announcing they only read “real” books. Seriously? What am I reading then? A cheap back alley imitation? No, I read the EXACT same book they did. I experienced the same emotions and joy of reading with electronic books, because it’s not the cover of the book, or the binding that matters at the end of the day. It’s the words that count!
    This snobby attitude is a pet peeve of mine and I will continue to fight for the equality of electronic books and point out the many advantages to reading them. I think print books will always be with us, which is good, but I believe e books have a stronger future as the next generation is more apt to embrace them. I see interactive books on the horizon and many other really exciting developments that will engage the reader and encourage people to spend more time in books than binge watching on Netfix.
    Anyway, end of rant! I am so happy you found a publisher and I happen to do a lot work with Alibi and love this line of mystery suspense novels. Best of luck with the new book!

  3. Happy birthday Tom. Mine is tomorrow. My birthday wish is to get published. lol The real hold up is the fact that people are reading less, and that’s just sad, but take heart….
    Ninety-nine and one-half percent of the books I read are ebooks. I don’t see any sense in not saving a tree here and there. It only makes practical sense, and there are lots of other reasons I like the format. I love it. We’re out there, and its an industry that will only grow from here on out. Bank on it.
    Happy birthday,
    D.V. (Dave) Bennett

  4. First, happy birthday. Next, take heart, many of us read ebooks, and many of us are happy to find that you have new titles for us to read. My writing career had a similar arc. I was well-published until the real world intruded-a family to support. A decade later, I sold a book, agentless, to a small, independent publisher. No one’s getting rich, but I’m back out there. As I re-enter the publishing realm, I feel as Rip van Winkle must have after his long snooze. So much is different, including the very definition of “published.” So, congratulations for being back. Best of luck with the new books.

  5. Happy Birthday to a fellow St. Thomian and Antilles alum!

    As a former school Media Assistant I understand the concern over print versus e-book. We always wanted our students to have the joy of holding the beautiful book in their hands!

    With that said, I am a huge fan of the e-book format! Have an IPad full and that includes almost all of yours. Look forward to your next release!

    Have a great day!


  6. Tom, I don’t care what format your books are in, I will buy them regardless because they are good books! (By the way, every so often during your hiatus from writing, I would check to see if you had anything new out and was absolutely thrilled to find you were back! So there were those of us out here in reader land who missed your work.) Keep writing.

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