Tuesday, August 31, 2010

One of the Best Books You Never Read

by Leighton Gage

As people with experience of the entertainment industry will tell you, there is no truth in the adage a star is born. Stars aren’t born; they’re made. They’re constructed, role by role, sound bite by sound bite, press release by press release. The more famous an actor becomes, the more press coverage (and the more plum roles) he or she is likely to get.

Talent, contrary to popular belief, has little to do with stardom. Many unknown actors have talent, while many famous stars, particularly movie stars, have none at all.

It’s much the same with writers.

Take the case of Lenny Kleinfeld.

Lenny who?

Yeah, that’s exactly my point.

Lenny isn’t new to writing. He’s done plays and screenplays. He was a columnist for Chicago magazine. His articles have appeared in Playboy, The Chicago Tribune, The New York Times and The Los Angeles Times. And, a while back, he sat down and wrote a mystery novel, Shooters and Chasers.

The book is chock-full of witty one-liners, terrific dialogue and memorable characters. Lenny told a cracking good story and told it superbly well. It’s the kind of book any writer would be proud of.

His struggle to publication was the usual path-of-thorns. Rejection followed rejection. At long last, the happy day arrived. He got picked up by Five Star. Kirkus praised his work (spellbinding…wit, style, suspense plus all the authenticity of an Ed McBain procedural. Lose yourself in it.) and awarded him a star. The book went on to sell…wait for it…1,377 copies.

Yes, I’ll be happy to repeat that number.

One-thousand-three-hundred-and-seventy-seven, one of which was mine.

I have never met Lenny Kleinfeld face-to-face.

I hope to, someday, but he and I live on the opposite sides of the world.

When I read Shooters and Chasers, I thought it was so darned good that I wrote to say so. I did more. I shared my opinion all over the internet, as I’m sharing it with you now.

Lenny wrote back to thank me, which is how I found out about the 1,377 copies.

That kind of success, or rather the lack of it, is enough to make a grown man cry. As a matter of fact, two of them did when they heard about it.

Lenny and myself.

Undaunted, Lenny dried his tears and got to work on his second.

Which is as it should be. It’s the profession we’ve chosen, and it isn’t for wimps.

But, if you’re a reader do yourself a favor: try to score one of the few copies of Shooters and Chasers, most of which are in libraries.

But, if you’re an aspiring writer as well, take heed from the example of Lenny Kleinfeld: the fact that people aren’t buying your books doesn’t mean they aren’t good.
Lenny Kleinfeld was born in Brooklyn, became a writer in Chicago, and is now 24 years into a business trip to Los Angeles. In 2009 he became a first-time novelist, which in Southern California means: Screenwriter over 50. 

Leighton Gage lives and writes in Brazil. Every Bitter Thing, his next book in the Chief Inspector Mario Silva series, launches in December.


Book Bird Dog said...

Thanks for the tip. I have Lenny on my long, long list :)
Book Bird Dog.

vp chandler said...

Thank you so much for this piece. It reminds me of why we want to write.

Anonymous said...

I just typed in the book's title in all 3 local county libraries. The one in Queens has large print but doesn't specify which branch, Brooklyn doesn't own a single copy. Funnily enough Manhattan has this book.

2 Large Print copies on Staten Island

6 Regular Print copies

96th Street Fiction MYSTERY K AVAILABLE ---
Allerton Fiction MYSTERY K AVAILABLE ---
Kips Bay Fiction MYSTERY K AVAILABLE ---
Spuyten Duyvil Fiction MYSTERY K AVAILABLE ---
West New Brighton Fiction MYSTERY K DUE 01-28-10BILLED NEW
Westchester Square Fiction MYSTERY K AVAILABLE

Anonymous said...

Thanks. Sounds like a really good book. I've requested it from my library as an Inter-Library Loan.

Linda Leszczuk said...

Shooters & Chasers is also available through Barnes & Noble (I just checked). I think we should bump up that 1,377. Even if it's just a little.

Gayle K. said...

As author of a historical true crime book, Murder in the Metro, that came out with an academic press, I can tell you that I and my co-author have had to work very, very hard to sell copies of our book because we are operating at a higher price point than trade press books. We will be lucky to have sold 1200 by the end of this year, and double that by the end of next year. My point here is that neither Lenny nor I can rely on the press to market the book. i don't know what Lenny has done yet, but I and my co-author pressured our publisher to speed up the e-version of the book, constructed a web site for our book, have a Facebook page, a YouTube presence with videos, and marketing materials that we flog at every opportunity. I know I'm not alone in this because I learned how to do these things at meetings of writing groups like Sisters in Crime. Unfortunately, writers have to learn how to aggressively market their own work these days, and readers also increasingly expect a more interactive experience in reading. Even a really great book needs a lot of work to get out there. I wish Lenny the best of luck!

Anonymous said...

Sadly, Lenny was treading in my footsteps. My first mystery was with the same publisher, and everything that could go wrong, DID go wrong. (The book was bumped forward four months on the schedule, ARCs did not go out in time. Limited to the library market, with no Big Four Review meant sales of 632 copies.)

And, just today, I found someone has ripped off the e version of that same book and is selling it.

No one told me how much heartbreak could be attached to signing a book contract.

Mare said...

I've added Shooters and Chasers to my buy list for this month's book purchases. I do have a copy of Murder in Mind, I'm saving it for a treat. How else would we find these books??? Thank you

Anonymous said...

Gayle, I spent at least triple my advance to promote my book with the same publisher as Lenny, only for the book to go out of print in ten months.

The fact remains that a book published to only one segment of the market (librairies) is not going to do as well as a book that is discounted and available to booksellers. (Five Star only discounts the books if an author is doing a signing.) The $26 (hardcover) price tag was a turnoff to readers unwilling to gamble on an unknown name, and if readers can't find a book at a bookstore, it's hard to make sales.

I was lucky. I sold the paperback rights to Harlequin's Worldwide Library imprint (their mystery bookclub) and it had a decent print run. They did a great job, and offered perks (like a great cover and great back cover copy). But even that couldn't take away the lingering bad taste from my first publishing experience.

Lenny Kleinfeld said...

Wow. Thank you all for the spontaneous words of support, and for sharing your war stories.

Most of all, what this blog proves is that Leighton Gage isn't just a terrific author, he's a remarkably generous, and relentless, stand-up guy. Today's post is one of a series of efforts he's made to drag Shooters out of the shadows. He's put more effort into pushing somebody else's book than some authors put into pushing their own.

The downside of Leighton's sterling nature is that he refuses to start a rumor that Shooters And Chasers is the first in a series of crime novels that Jonathan Franzen is writing under the name Lenny Kleinfeld.

Jeffrey Siger said...

There's no better guy to have in your corner than Leighton Gage so I have no doubt "Shooters and Chasers" is terrific and a must read. I must admit, though, that I too am am somewhat surprised that Leighton failed to mention its original, working title,"Franzen's First."

Anonymous said...

I'll definitely put this book on my books to be read ASAP.

I have noticed that "Fresh Air" has too many t.v. shows' producers and too few novelists/nonfiction writers interviewed in recent weeks; some other PBS shows are falling in this category too. Let's everyone (writers and readers) suggest to "Fresh Air" and other review/interview venues our favorite novels and mysteries and maybe we can get more great books not yet known about out to the public. Thanks for alerting us to this book!

Anonymous said...

I was fasinated by this blog and the book, Shooters and Chasers. One of the best books I never read? Really? I doubted it, but--I ordered it anyway. It's great. Absolutely great. I'm ordering a couple more copies for Christmas presnts. I could give my copy, but I don't think so. Kathleen Delaney. And Murder For Dessert.

Leighton Gage said...

Kathleen (Delaney),
Would you be kind enough to send me your email address?
I have tried to write to you, but everything I send through your web site gets bounced back.
Murder Is Everywhere

Supriya said...

Fabulous post, and now I can't wait to read the book as well. Leighton, you're the best.