That row of numbers on a book’s copyright page is called the printer’s key and tells you whether you’re holding a first edition or fourth or what. First editions look like this:
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
… and each time the publisher goes back to the presses for a reprinting, they delete a number. So this:
5 6 7 8 9 10
… is a fifth printing of that edition.
This isn’t really a secret. I just thought that was a funny blog title. But reprintings are great, because they mean the book sold more than the publisher’s worst fears. It’s a constant source of joy to me that while the Syrup hardcover was such a commercial disaster that you can more easily find remaindered copies than real ones, the paperback keeps getting reprinted, fourteen years on. Last month, I flipped to a Syrup copyright page and saw this:
I don’t care if they are running off eight books at a time; that’s awesome. It’s so sad when a book goes out of print. It’s like a little death. I hope e-books will save authors from those.
Also, Syrup just got itself a movie tie-in edition! As a reader, I’ve always disdained movie tie-in editions. I’m all, “If I wanted to see the movie, I would, like, see it.” But as an author, it makes me stupidly happy. I mean, movie tie-in edition. Who wouldn’t want one of those. And I’ve never really loved the existing Syrup covers. I don’t hate them. But I don’t love them. The US paperback in particular looks to me like an ironic comment on marketing, only without the ironic part.
Plus, these will make excellent gifts for people who have no intention of reading the book but will be impressed by the fact that it’s a movie.
My fifth novel, Lexicon, is out today in the US & Canada, so I’m going to spend some of today visiting New York bookstores, looking at it, and feeling weird. The early press on this book has been kind of shockingly good, like what you dream about as an author but never actually happens, so I’m daring to think that THIS COULD BE IT, the book that allows me to use the word “bestselling” without abusing its definition. Poor word. It has been so stretched.
But a few days ago I finally watched Syrup and I need to tell you what that was like! I’ve been building this up for about five years and then I did one tweet, so people have been asking HEY WHAT DID YOU THINK OF THE FILM. But I was traveling and not sleeping and didn’t get the opportunity. Now I’m writing this from a New York hotel room at 3:30am, so I’m making my own opportunity, like Tony Robbins.
I had been holding out to see Syrup in a theater, since that was what I’d always dreamed about. But then I realized I had a problem, because I could only see it in a theater in the US, and my wife, Jen, wouldn’t be there. Jen was a huge part of writing Syrup; she read the first draft one chapter at a time and got all excited about it in a highly motivating and sexy way that made me keep writing. Plus she’s an awesome person to see a movie with. But we could only get a DVD in Australia, not see a theater showing.
So I made an executive decision: The night before I hopped a plane (Melbourne to Sydney to Los Angeles to Houston to Columbus all in one 32-hour Friday), Jen and I dragged the sofa up to the TV and closed the curtains, so it would be like a real theater. We were both nervous and held hands and said things like, “Whatever it’s like, it doesn’t change the book.”
And! Then! We! Played! It!
I have trouble summarizing my reaction because I reacted in pieces. I would see a scene and think, “Oh! I wrote this one!” or “Wait that is different!” and I didn’t process it at all like a normal person watching a movie. It was all about individual scenes. But my first thoughts were:
“Oh no this is too confusing.” The first time I watched it, I was a little shocked at how little setup there was, especially at the start, and thought no-one would understand what was going on. Everything moved so fast. But I’ve since seen it again (in a theater in Columbus with an actual live audience, and ohhh, how amazing to watch it like a proper movie), and I felt this far less. I think my initial reaction was a novelist kind of thing; films can move faster and the audience still picks up the gist of what’s happening.
“This looks really good.” The visuals of the movie are really strong. I knew the filmmakers were very big on this, and had an experienced and highly skilled cinematographer in Julio Macat, but boy does that show. Every shot is beautiful and interesting.
“This scene I wrote is awesome!” My favorite parts, for completely selfish reasons, were scenes that played out just like I’d written them in some screenplay draft or other. And then they were on the screen! Some I loved because they were just like I’d imagined (6 making Scat breakfast, Scat shaking a dummy), and seeing them come to life was thrilling; some were awesome because they took my material in unexpected directions, elevating the scene beyond what I’d expected (the monologues, ZephCo’s corporate goons—which Josh Pais and Christopher Evan Welch play hilariously well).
I thought this must mean that I am an amazing screenwriter, but later the director showed me some deleted scenes, which included lots of stuff that played out just like I’d written and was really horrible, so I realized the truth was they just kept my good parts. The rest, which turned out to suck when filmed, were quietly executed. So that’s lucky for me.
“Amber Heard is amazing.” Holy crap. Amber Heard is amazing. I was always worried about how 6 would turn out, but Amber annihilated that character. In a good way. My favorite part of the whole movie is her monologue about marketing love; I think that’s perfect. I love Shiloh, too, and many many others, but Amber is amazing. You should make a note so that when everyone else catches on you can be all like, “I actually preferred her earlier work in Syrup.”
“How did they do all this?” I’ve thought this before, when I was on set, but I keep re-thinking it. Novels are easy compared to films. Novels, I just sit there and type and things happen. Films require people to painstakingly create every detail that winds up on screen. It’s so practical. They have to wrestle the real world into submission. They have to make decisions based on trade-offs and logistics. And it’s so easy to forget because the end result looks effortless.
“OMG ending.” I’d heard they changed the ending. I’m not going to say how, because, you know, spoilers. But I had written a particular kind of ending in pretty much every screenplay draft, and then the film went and did something completely different. And it’s better! I saw my original ending as a deleted scene and boy did it suck. It sucked a lot. The new one is actually thought-provoking and makes you want to go back and rewrite some screenplays. That may just be me. But I love the ending.
Overall, I think the film is very true to the book, not just in its tone and characters but in how they are both kind of raw and and messy but steam ahead powered by earnest, youthful enthusiasm, never worrying about whether they’re being too ridiculous. The film is an indie and if that was a thing for books, the book would be, too. They are a good match. As an author, that’s what you want your film adaptation to be. Well, also super successful. But most of all, you want it to be true. This film is true.
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 use that. 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.
On 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 before me.
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.
Here is the blog I wrote about filming that day, by the way, if you’d like to relive my gut-churning terror.
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 1:10. I’m not sure. I didn’t think I was wearing a jacket. But I was definitely standing behind Amber Heard while she made sexy at the camera and no-one else was around. Don’t tell me I imagined that. It happened.
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 franchise.” —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 Countdown Timer 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 crazy!
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.
Also 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.