Wednesday, November 13, 2013

I'm a paperback writer

I love when TV networks boast, “The critics have spoken!” and as proof use a snippet of a review from a Podunk newspaper that hails WHITNEY as the next great comedy. Well, the paperback of my new novel MUST KILL TV is now available on Amazon, Create Space, and other online book sites. Here’s where you go to order. I too have reviews. They’re not even from real critics. They’re from readers like you who post them on Amazon. This doesn’t have the legitimacy of the Podunk Picayune-Intelligence but here’s one of the reviews:

Will a desperate television executive resort to murder to keep his top-rated sitcom on the air? And which LA hotel is it that only gets to host the humanitarian dinners of second-rung honorees? Ken Levine answers both in his deft and very funny mixture of darkly broad satire and wickedly observed minutiae of everything and everyone television. A fast, stinging novel, full of great throwaway comedy, about a group of entertainingly miserable people and what they'll do to hang onto that misery at all costs.
-- Rich

(For the record, Rich had trouble with WHITNEY.)

The truth is ebooks sell better than hardcopies today. (You can order the Kindle version here.) And although I love my Kindle, there’s still something cool about a physical book. As an author, to me it’s not a real book until you hold it in your hands. Plus, you can have book signings and there’s like the surprise of being on vacation, browsing through a vintage bookstore and finding your book on the one dollar remainder table. People ask why writers write? That’s why we do it.

And you can’t hide comic books behind Kindles. When I was in school I would often appear to be reading THE RED BADGE OF COURAGE or CANTERBURY TALES when in truth I was catching up on the latest edition of BATMAN or BETTY & VERONICA.

And then in 1982 I was on vacation at the Kahala Hilton in Hawaii. Michael Eisner was there with his family. I believe he was running Disney at the time.  I just remember he got better service than me.  There were also a whole group of CAA agents staying there. I guess to impress Eisner, or whoever else from the industry was sitting at the beach or pool they all were on lounge chairs reading scripts. But hidden inside the scripts were books. That kind of thinking is my book in a nutshell. It was more impressive to be seen reading a Pauley Shore screenplay than TALE OF TWO CITIES.

I hope you get my paperback. And it’s just the right size for hiding your smartphone inside so you can play videogames.

Okay, here’s one more review. I couldn’t resist.

MUST KILL TV is only about the television business the way CATCH-22 was only about war and CONFEDERACY OF DUNCES was only about hot dogs. Ken Levine has written what he knows, and it is not TV. It is satire. He has taken a savage leap into the absurdities of character, obsession, and excess. Nothing is sacred. Not even Westside youth soccer or that venerable institution, the in-office massage. A fast-paced finger swiper that only slows when you stop to laugh.
--Tom Straw

So seriously, how bad can it be?  Many thanks!


Hamid said...

Just ordered my copy from!

Looking forward to it!

Eduardo Jencarelli said...

If it was 1982, I'm pretty sure Eisner was still at Paramount, at the time, under Barry Diller.

Jeremiah Avery said...

As someone who doesn't have a Kindle (and no plans to buy one) and also prefers a physical book, I'm glad this book is available in printed form. Definitely ordering it when I get home tonight.

Carol said...

Tom Straw - isn't he the guy who really writes the Castle books?

I reviewed your book too! I honestly wasn't sure I was going to like it as much as I actually did I didn't think it was my kind of genre at first, but I couldn't put it down. I have the Kindle version, but if you ever come to Philly to do a book tour (hint, hint)I would totally also buy the paperback so I could get your signature.

Rodney said...

Friday Question: It seems that when a show goes into syndication while still being on the air it can have a very positive affect on that show's audience numbers for the original shows. Big Bang Theory is a show that I think benefited. Wings could be another example. My question is: have you ever seen the reverse be true. That when a show goes into syndication the audience just loses interest in the older shows as well as the new ones? I bring it up because of Modern Family going into syndication.

Howard Hoffman said...

I got the Kindle version on day one to read on my iPad. Big mistake. Mail alerts, texts, and endless rabbit holes play havoc with my ADD. I ordered the book and I can't wait to finish it.

Anonymous said...

Betty and Veronica?

Oi Ghey!!

Barefoot Billy Aloha said...

Ordered the paperback. I felt like such a dope not having a Kindle. I couldn't fulfill my promise of reviewing the book without reading it (upholding tradition of lame interviews), so I'm glad it's on its way.

Big shout out to Tom Straw - TV producer, author, painter and the NBC St. Louis weatherman who used a carrot as a pointer...and ate it during his forecast.

Pamela Jaye said...

wow, Billy, that's cool. I still vaguely remember our weatherman using a blackboard and chalk.
I'm assuming Ken only wrote, never acted and therefore may not know our local version of Jim Cantore, Shelby Scott, who was out in every blizzard (though she was not the weather person). I heard she was - I retract the actor thing - Ken was a radio announcer - president of AFTRA at some point.

It's true, mobile devices beep and ring (after a while offline, when I get near wifi, my Facebook pops sound like popcorn) . It's distracting - and yet, the Internet has finally done what TV never actually did - it has destroyed my attention span. Even when not online, reading will take me - make me want to discuss (hey! let's!) or look something up, and I haven't finished any of Ken's books yet. But I did buy them. I've been trying to decide whether I want this one on kindle or dead trees. Really. I'm torn.

Great reviews, even though you did kinda bribe people to write them I thought that was really a great marketing idea, though.

for the record, I don't have the baseball book. I barely started it. I got bored. The rest are great - just unfinished. Books are what you do with your tablet when you can't get near an open wifi connection. ;-) (last job, I watched Grey's Anatomy eps instead...)

Pamela Jaye said...

I cannot answer the Friday question but recall that Ally McBeal did not do well in "syndication" (FX), and by November, FX doubled up on the Practice and Buffy and shunted Ally to 2am. Was it cause we had every ep on tape? (my reason)

Are the Community reruns getting any traction? (show's not back yet)

richard said...

I just bought one of each of the paperbacks - was impressed that they can all be got on next day delivery in the UK. The wonders of the internet I suppose.

Lorimartian said...

I have a few books in the pipeline to read, but then I want to read your travel book and Must Kill.

Speaking of weathermen, does anybody remember Cliff Norton's "weather report" during the local LA newscast so many years ago? I was 13 or 14. I can't remember a thing about what he said but still recall how funny he was.

Stephen Robinson said...

I'm enjoying the book and look forward to posting my own review. What's interesting so far is how well structured it is plot wise.

Stephen Robinson said...

I use the Kindle app on my iPad (my wife has the actual device, but hers is almost 3 years old). I find that my lower back thanks me for moving to a less bulky method of reading. For instance, I am currently reading the Carson book, MUST KILL TV, a friend's manuscript, and just finished the Richard Pryor bio... and all on the same device I use to write, surf the Web, and watch movies. Not bad.

RCP said...

I really enjoyed your last book Ken and am looking forward to this one.

chuckcd said...

Ordered mine today!

D. McEwan said...

My current book has sold far more hard copies than eBooks. And, of the e-editions, only the Kindle edition sells. I've sold exactly ZERO "Nook" copies. But I've sold more paperbacks of it than all the e-editions combined.

Look forward to reading Must Kill TV shortly.

Postive reader reviews are nice, and certianly can't hurt, but I know I pay little attention to them. Many of the reader reviewers are disgruntled would-be writers who can only get printed as a Reader Reviewer. So while I have never had a negative review of one of my books by a professional book critic, I have received the occasional reader review saying stuff like "This is the reason people burn books" nestled snugly amid the ones praising it. Checking out this guy's other Reader Reviews, he apparently exists only to knock the works of people who did get published.

Chris said...

Quick question: was reading a book on M*A*S*H, and in it Larry Gelbart said that his problem watching reruns of the show is that he can't stop rewriting them in his head. Do you do that when you watch your old shows?

Anonymous said...

You read Betty & Veronica?

I knew somebody read it, but I never knew who, or why.

Johnny Walker said...

Reading this now.

Re: Distractions on iPads, phones, etc. that's why I bought an actual Kindle. No emails, texts, Facebook or Tweets. No temptation to go on the internet, watch a video, play a game. Just reading.

Of course, there's times I miss actual paper, but mostly I'm just absorbed by what I'm reading. Plus the thing weighs less than Clash of Kings.

The Mutt said...

Finger-swiper? Finger-swiper? Seriously? Is this some new term I have to use now? Fer cryin' out loud.

You know, I still use expressions like "cart before the horse" or "prime the pump." Even in the latest Star Trek movie Bones talked about a "flat tire on a getaway car."


Jesus wept.

Greg Ehrbar said...

Went there, bought that.

Greg Ehrbar said...

Betty and Veronica is a pillar of comic book literature. Don't be dissing Archie's girls.

Sure, it's easy to dismiss Archie comics because they aren't "serious" like graphic novels or "cool" like superhero books.

But they are sitcoms in comic book form. Granted, they're written and drawn in such quantity that there are many weeds among the roses, but there's also very funny character-based situations, albeit in a simplistic fashion, but remarkably clever in their own way.

There is repetition in the stories, but when you find a good one, it's amazing how they come up with so many variations on the teen triangle and the basic character personalities.

Archie's been around over 70 years and has been copied by Dobie Gillis, High School Musical and countless Disney Channel and Nick shows.

The Archies also had the number one song of 1969. Just saying.

Ken read them and he turned out okay.

Anonymous said...

"Betty and Veronica is a pillar of comic book literature..
Ken read them and he turned out okay."

I'm sorry, but... if you're a young male, and you enthusiastically read Betty and Veronica Comix, then more likely than not, you're gay. I'm not trying to take a cheap shot. I'm just sharing what I know. However, if Ken's old b&v comix are currently unreadable because some of the pages are stuck together, then that's a whole other set of problems, likely beyond the scope of this blog.

Rob said...

Ken, I'm about a half way through the Kindle edition and I have to say, the book is hysterically funny. I can't believe how often I've just laughed out loud. Was kind of embarrassing when I kept laughing looking at my cell phone on the doctor's waiting room yesterday.

I wish I didn't have to work or blog myself so I could get back to it, dying to see how you resolve it!

Excellent work!

Cap'n Bob said...

I finished it last night. It was stupendous. Colossal. Fantastic. Or nearly so. No, what it was was funny, cutting, deftly plotted, and chock full of real characters living unreal lives. You might have a new career on your hands, Ken.

Dale said...

Ordered mine. I am looking forward to it arriving in the post.

By Ken Levine said...

Seriously, people? Long discussions of Betty & Veronica? I read those comic books when I was a kid, not NOW. People. Really.

By Ken Levine said...

Thanks to all who already read the book and said nice things. Please say those in Amazon reviews. It really helps sales. Thanks again.

Wendy M. Grossman said...

Yeah, Ken, but you take *baseball* seriously. Everyone's pet interests sound dumb and childish to *someone*.

Sadly, I was never allowed comic books. My parents were of the generation who thought they rotted the brain. TV, however, was off their radar, so I got to watch as much of that as I wanted.


Hamid said...

Ken, I'd love to know your opinion on the news of a new claim that Andy Kaufman is alive, after a woman claiming to be his daughter attended the Andy Kaufman Awards.

Johnny Walker said...

I bet everything I own that Andy Kaufman is 100% dead. I wish it wasn't the case.

T.B.Z. said...

Re: Andy Kaufman, the joke is on us... the man's professional life was devoted to messing with people. Convincing people things were real when it was all a show -- that's why he loved professional wrestling so much because they perfected the whole "fake reality." The woman claiming to be his daughter is just an extension of Andy's life work. And did you notice this declaration took place at an event organized by Andy's brother? That's the set up. Enjoy it for what it is -- a way to keep Andy's memory and professional ideals alive. Alive! Signed, the Reel Bob Zmuda.

Rob said...

Took the evening off to finish the book, Ken.


Really, really funny. There's a plot twist near the end that put me in hysterics for a good three minutes.

And yes, I just went on Amazon and posted a review.

Hopefully you can write a follow up. I must say I really liked the lead character despite the fact that....well, you know.

And hopefully you can now sell the screenplay...and it actually gets made.

Would love to hear your casting ideas.

Johnny Walker said...

I think the movie MAN ON THE MOON did a great job of ruining Kaufman's legacy if you ask me. Lots of people now think that Andy made it so his work could only be enjoyed by those "in the know". Like some angry, exclusionary performance artist, and that it's only NOW that the joke can be revealed. (E.g. The lie in the movie that he once read the WHOLE of The Great Gatsby to an angry audience -- it never happened.)

If you actually watch his work for yourself, see the videos he produced in their original form, you see there was real humour there, that the audience was never dumb, and Andy didn't expect them to be. In fact, Andy thought they were enjoying themselves as much as he was.

Yes, he probably went too far a few times (like when he really wound up his TAXI cast members with the Tony Clifton prank), but phone calls to the producers he worked with (who helped set it all up) made it clear that he believed that everyone enjoyed it the way he did. And I'm sure they all laugh about it now, so in a way he was ultimately right.

Arguing that Kaufman hated the audience is like claiming that the guests on "Between Two Ferns" are actually angry with Zach Galifianakis, but it's stunts like this new one, that are apparently done in his name, that actually go against the actual spirit of his work. It turns a hugely talented and funny entertainer into a prankster with terrible taste.


Jason said...

Ordered it, read it.

Pretty good.. the final ending was clever :)

I would've preferred you removed the few lines in his trains of thought where he says, "hey, I should stop thinking about random TV stuff in a time of crisis", but otherwise great :)

Anonymous said...

Ken Levine Said:

"Seriously, people? Long discussions of Betty & Veronica? I read those comic books when I was a kid, not NOW. People. Really."

I believe I can put an end to this line of discussion to everyone's satisfaction.

Watch the video below, then ask yourselves, "would I be... at all... surprised... if this kid told me he had a "Betty & Veronica Comix" collection?"

Yes, or no?

Yes... or no?