Sometimes people pirate my stuff. Then sometimes they write to tell me they
pirated my stuff, because they feel kind of bad about it, and wonder if they
can pay me somehow. (Except one time when a guy said he’d pirated a compilation
of “100 Great E-Books” and he just wanted to let me know I was in it, as a compliment.
A kind of compliment.)
Now I had read your latest blog post about the movie the other day saying it had
been released on iTunes and some cable websites, so <pirate pirate pirate>,
so right now Syrup is 42% completed, and with my guilt (and procrastination,
as I’m still typing this email) growing with every percentage, I thought to ask your
I’ve been looking forward to the Syrup movie since I read the book and thought
“This would make a damn good movie!”, and then came the first rumours or it
actually becoming one, so of course I want to support the production company
and in turn future movies/series (I’m trying not to get my hopes up for Jennifer
Government), but I can’t wait.
Would there be a PayPal donation link I can use to throw you the cost of a movie
ticket? Or should I watch it now and when it eventually hits theatres and see you
as a waiter on the big screen? Buy the DVD?
What, as the writer of the source material for a movie, do you think is the most
beneficial method (to whoever you think deserves it. I of course, thought you)
of paying for my viewing pleasure?
The general answer is that you should tell people you watched it. Or that you read it,
if it’s a book. You should tweet, “Just finished <whatever>,
highly recommended,” assuming you liked it, or “Just finished <whatever>”
if you didn’t. Or post on Facebook. Or write a nice review somewhere.
If you do this, you are all square in my eyes. In fact, I’d bet most artists
and content creators feel the same way. Because the major problem they face isn’t
that people pirate their work; it’s that nobody knows they exist.
Getting people talking is massive. Enormous amounts of time and energy
are poured into getting people talking about every single book and film and song
ever released. You, talking about a book/film/song, is really valuable. I
can’t emphasize that enough. It can galvanize all kinds of great outcomes.
A Pirate Tip Jar (Jaarrrrr), on the other hand, would be a bad move.
Lots of people work on books and films, not just me; even on a novel, I’m
due no more than 15% of what you pay. I don’t want anyone thinking they can cut
those people out and pay me directly. Also, I suspect the number of
people who say they’d love to pay for X if only there were a more convenient
way of doing so is far greater than the number of people who would actually
pay. I mean, it’s a nice sentiment. But we generally pay for things because
we have to. That’s just how it works.
So instead of wishing you could tip an artist for something you pirated,
talk about it. That’s good for everyone involved. If you have nothing good to
say, even a simple mention is helpful. Not a bad mention. That’s not helpful.
But the difference between pirating something and saying nothing vs. pirating
something and mentioning it to other people is really, really huge.
Of course, piracy is kind of wrong. I feel I need to say that explicitly.
It’s kind of wrong because people who create something like a
book or movie or song should be able to decide if and how they’ll sell it.
Just because it’s more than you’d like to pay doesn’t mean it’s fair to pirate;
everything is more than you’d like to pay. If Justin Timberlake made a CD and
priced it at a thousand dollars a copy, such would be his right.
But it would be pretty silly of Justin to think people wouldn’t pirate that.
Especially fans, and especially if that CD was only released in one country
at a time and didn’t work on everyone’s players. I would be surprised if Justin
wasn’t fully aware that this situation would provoke quite a lot
of piracy. I have no idea why I’m using Justin Timberlake as an example.
That just happened. But what I’m saying is that while piracy is generally
bad for artists, and we want you to buy real books/tickets/MP3s/downloads,
I recognize that piracy happens sometimes anyway. And if it happened to you,
and you want to say thanks, you can do a lot of good by spreading the word.
People are about to watch my movie. Seriously. This is happening.
Until now, I’ve been able to say, “Oh yes, I have a movie,”
and no-one could say, “Yeah, I thought that SUCKED.” Because no-one had seen
it. That time is over.
Today, May 2, 2013, Syrup launches as a “sneak” on Video on Demand,
which is something I had no idea about until very recently, but I have since learned is
how you release an indie movie to generate buzz ahead of its theatrical
release. If you live in the US, you can
rent it right now from iTunes.
Also, if you have some kind of premium digital cable thing, you can
I’m not sure of the details there. I don’t live in the US. But it’s something like that.
The dream here is that Syrup breaks into the Top 10 Movie Rentals on iTunes.
That would be huge. So if you are in the US and want to help push it up the list, today is the day.
But back to me.
Over the last few years I’ve thought a lot about what happens if, like,
the movie turns out to be so bad that they write newspaper articles about it
and people come to my house asking why I would visit such an abomination
upon the earth. Also, what if it becomes the breakout hit of the year and
they write newspaper articles about it and people come to my house
asking can I help them sleep with Kellan Lutz.
Because movies get seen by a lot of people. And those people have strong opinions.
That’s a little daunting. Also, some people who read the novel have been
amazingly supportive of my career over 10 or 15 years, and I don’t want
them to be disappointed. Yet that’s kind of unavoidable, when adapting a book,
since a film can never match what’s in your head.
top of this, I still haven’t seen the movie. A while back, I decided to wait until I could
see it in a theater, since it’s kind of a big moment for me. But I didn’t anticipate
this on-demand sneak thing. I’m in Australia, where the film isn’t released until
November, and now I have this slightly awkward scenario where a lot of people will see it
So the movie is suddenly here and I don’t know what people will think.
Before I have a book published, I’ve at least
seen some early reviews, and the publisher has completed a print run (thrillingly
high or alarmingly small), which gives me a general idea of what to expect.
But today: nope. Which is kind of scary.
But I am going to try not to become lost in that, and remember to enjoy
how awesome it is to, you know, have a freaking movie. I’ve seen authors
do this: they dream of being published, but when it
finally happens, they’re so preoccupied with whether it will be
a hit that they don’t seem to actually enjoy the moment.
The reality is most books and movies aren’t breakout hits: they are read or seen
by some people, and some of those people love it and some don’t. And that’s it.
This isn’t very romantic, not the kind of thing you imagine about when you
dream of being an author or actor or filmmaker. But it’s still pretty great.
One of my favorite moments as an author is an email I received from a 14-year-old
who said Jennifer Government was the best book he’d read in his life.
It was so cute. I mean, obviously he hadn’t read that many books. But no-one
could be more gushingly, genuinely enthusiastic than this kid. I will never get a
more delighted email, no matter how many books I write, or how many people read them.
As far as creating something that connects with people, that’s as good as it gets.
This movie process has been awesome
all the way through. I got to write scripts, swap ideas with the director,
hang out on set, and try not to strangle Amber Heard with a necklace.
These are all amazing moments that I would have killed for as a 23-year-old,
writing the novel in my car during lunch breaks from my sales job. And
today is another one.
ONE MORE THING: How similar is the movie to the book?
Although I haven’t seen it, and don’t know how much of various scripts I wrote
are in the final movie, I do know I wrote a lot of stuff that departed heavily from the
book’s plot. I didn’t change the characters or the world much, but I changed what
they did. I mention this because I don’t think you should
go into the film expecting it to be exactly the same. I never wanted the film
to be like the book only with all the parts you imagined now filled in.
I wanted it to be something new.
I’m seriously losing the battle to Facebook and Twitter. It’s just
so easy to post stuff there. I hardly even need to think about it.
For a blog I actually have to spend time composing
my thoughts. I know that’s not really evident, but I do.
As a result, I have accumulated a COMPENDIUM OF NEWS, each item of
which failed to inspire a blog all by itself, but which nevertheless
requires mention. So buckle in, sparky.
Syrup Movie: Trailer & US Release Date
There was a
teaser, now there’s a trailer!
Those are different, trust me.
The film is out June 6, 2013 in the US. But there’s something called a “sneak
on demand” on May 2nd, which I think is some kind of Internet thing?
I don’t know. Will it be viable outside the US? I don’t know! But I’m excited!
I think that’s my shoulder at
I’m not sure. I didn’t think I was wearing
a jacket. But I was
standing behind Amber Heard while she made
sexy at the camera and no-one else was around. Don’t tell me I imagined that.
Lexicon: Early Reviews
My fifth novel,
Lexicon, comes out June 18 in the US & Canada and a few days later
in the UK, Australia, South Africa, and New Zealand. I’m not promising
this is the novel that will finally allow you to talk about me without
the other person saying, “Who?”, but the early signs are good.
There’s a big print run lined up, early reviews are very positive,
and awesome people are saying awesome things:
“About as close you can get to the perfect cerebral thriller: searingly smart,
ridiculously funny, and fast as hell.” —Lev Grossman, New York Times
bestselling author of ‘The Magicians’
“Lexicon grabbed me with the opening lines, and never let go. An absolutely
thrilling story, featuring an array of compelling characters in an eerily
credible parallel society, punctuated by bouts of laugh-out-loud humor.”
—Chris Pavone, New York Times Bestselling author of ‘The Expats’
“I don’t know how you could craft a better weekend read than this novel
of international intrigue and weaponized Chomskian linguistics.
It’s the perfect mix of philosophical play and shotgun-inflected chase
scenes. Like someone let Grant Morrison loose on the Bourne identity
—Austin Grossman, author of ‘Soon I Will be Invincible’ and ‘You’
“Dazzling and spectacularly inventive. A novel that jams itself sideways
into your brain and stays there.”
—Mike Carey, author of ‘Hellblazer’ and ‘Lucifer’
Also film rights to Lexicon have been optioned by
Matthew Vaughn, director of
a slew of incredible movies including Kick-Ass 1 & 2,
X-Men: First Class,
Startdust, and Layer Cake. Did I mention this already?
I don’t think I did. Anyway,
I think we’ve been down this road often enough
to realize that “optioned” doesn’t mean “there will definitely
be a film.” But it does mean there might be.
And I think Matthew’s record of turning optioned properties into films is
running at around 90%. That’s what he told me, anyway. So that could happen.
Book Tours & Events & Things
Melbourne, Australia: I’ll be launching Lexicon at an
Embiggen Books event on the day of Aussie publication (Tuesday 25th June).
They have a
running so you can always know exactly how many seconds you have to wait.
USA: So this is kind of awkward, because I have a film and a book coming out
a few weeks apart and I live a really long way away. I mean, it’s the good
kind of awkward. It’s the kind of problem you like to have. But at this stage it’s looking
like I’ll be in the US for early June, either in LA or New York, but won’t
come back for a whole tour. I’m thinking I might do some kind of pre-release thing
in whichever city I visit, where I read from the new book and then leave
you all frustrated and unable to purchase a copy.
UK & elsewhere: Sorry, you need to make me a lot more famous, to justify those air fares.
Do you want a Jennifer Government wallpaper? Of course you do! You’re not
Also these days Jennifer Government is looking less like a film
and more like a TV series. Just FYI.
Look at this Korean Machine Man cover. There’s a flamingo on it. Are
there flamingos in the novel? No! Not that I recall. But there it is. The back
of the cover has a whale and a stag as well.
On the right is the Japanese cover, which I think is super cool. That comes out
on May 10. I say this knowing full well that not a single person will
think, “Oh, that’s good to know. I’m an English-speaking Max Barry fan living in Japan
right now.” But still.
that Machine Man film
is still ticking along. You might have thought that since there has
been nothing announced for a year or two, that dream was gone. But no! FYI.
I was in a bookstore recently and there was a boy, about 10, who
wanted a book. His dad was not sure he should have the book. The
issue wasn’t the book itself; the book was fine. The issue was that
the book was #3 in a series, and Dad established that the boy had borrowed
the first two from a library.
“Why don’t you borrow this one from the library and I’ll buy you
a different book?” he said.
The boy mumbled something I didn’t catch but I’m guessing was
some variation of, “I want this book.”
I figured that Dad was seeing the book as an object, and feeling it would
be wrong to have book #3 sitting on the shelf without
#1 and #2. The boy was seeing the book as a story he wanted
to get into his head. He had already loaded books #1 and #2 into
his head and he didn’t much care how #3 got there.
E-books have made a lot of people think about whether they want
books or stories. Because you can get stories
cheaply and efficiently in e-book form, but you can’t put them on your
bookshelf. You can’t gaze lovingly over your collection, or hold
them in your hands and feel the paper speak to you.
Really, though, it’s only the latest manifestation of an old dilemma. There
have always been people who have treated books with reverence,
laminating their covers, turning their pages with care, and never
cracking their spines. And there have been people like me.
I don’t set out to destroy my favorite books. They just wind up that way. And
while I have no problem with people who take care of their books,
I have to admit I don’t quite get it. Sometimes people bring me a book
to be signed and they apologize because the book is dog-eared and
crumpled. I love seeing that. Those books have been loved. Hard.
P.S. The boy got his book. I saw him walking out with it.
My next book has gained not one but TWO covers: one for the US & Canada
and one for the rest of the English-speaking world. They’re super different.
This means either that one publisher is making a big mistake or that each
understands the tastes of its own market best and those tastes are quite
different. Or else that art is subjective. It’s one of those.
I am happy with these covers. I especially like the boldness of the American
version. Although maybe I’m biased because my name is freaking huge. It’s
hard to dislike that.
I would like to name and thank the cover designers, but I don’t know who they
are. I’m going to find out and update this post. I assume it’s someone.
Lexicon is due for publication in June 2013.
Update! The US/Canadian
cover is by Will Staehle,
who has a really amazing portfolio there, and
the UK cover is by Ben Summers.
Thank you Will & Ben! Unless my book tanks, in which case it’s all your fault.