Saturday, January 24, 2015

Is James Patterson the KISS of the Publishing World?

Scott D. Parker

I discovered some new friends this week. I'm a big fan of the rock band KISS and there are a good number of podcasts out there. Up until now, my two favorites have been PodKISSt and Kisstory Science Theater. To quote Yoda, there is another.

Pods and Sods is technically a music podcast (a podcast for the musically obsessed...) but Craig Smith and Eric Miller are avid KISS fans. As such, a good chunk of the 82 episodes involve KISS. A fun thing they did last month during the “12 Days of KISSmas,” was cover, in detail, the first 12 KISS LPs, one a day and one an episode. They know their stuff and I found myself nodding to points they made and disagreeing with others.

But what utterly surprised me was how funny they are. The key to their humor comes with the intimate knowledge of the subject matter. With that knowledge comes the ability to look at the absurd nature of some of the antics the members of KISS have foisted on the public in their forty years. Craig's impersonations of Gene Simmons is hilarious! Some fans, you can imagine, take lots of umbrage with any humor at the expense of their rock heroes. Not so Smith and Miller. They see the absurdity for what it is and laugh at it *while still being fans.*

Now, I understand that being fans of a rock band like KISS and being fans of authors are different realms but I couldn’t help think about the similarities of the two this week while devouring 21 of the 22 KISS-centric episodes (that’s about 20 hours of listening, by the way) and reading about the latest news from James Patterson. Evidently, he’s trying to garner interest in his new book with his so-called “self-destructing book.” According to his website, 1,000 fans get a code to download an advance copy of his latest PRIVATE book and have 24 hours to read the story before “the book self-destructs in a spectacular fashion.” You can follow readers’ progress. Three readers here in Houston got the novel. The website claims it’s a revolutionary reading experience.

Yup, it is. And I’m totally cool with it. Why the heck not? Is it a stunt? Absolutely. It is unique? Unquestionably. It is fun? Yessiree bob. It it for everyone? Nope.

Neither is KISS. I know many who discount KISS because of their make-up, over-the-top shows (“They only do that because their music isn’t good”--to which I say just listen to some of their songs), and their unabashed salesmanship. That’s all true, but I’m one who learned about rock and roll through their antics. They are my first favorite rock band. Sure, I’ve come to love Chicago, Bowie, Springsteen, Genesis, Sting, and others, but KISS will forever have a special place in my heart. And they have a particular outlook on music and their role in it. They are entertainers, pure and simple. As the guys from Pods and Sods point out, there’s a whole lot of positive messages laced in KISS songs...if you can get past the clunky lyrics and debauchery.

Might Patterson be the KISS of the publishing industry? He’s unapologetically commercial. So what? It helps him get product out that the public enjoys. He's not the #1 best-selling author for nothing. He uses co-writers. So what? As the December issue of Vanity Fair points out, he has such a heavy hand in the writing that’s it’s basically his work by the time the books are published. As I’ve piled up manuscripts, I’ve often thought it would be nice for someone to take my first draft and clean it up -- while I write a first draft of a new novel and then come back around to revise the cleaned-up draft later. But that’s just me.

Anyway, those are some of my thoughts for this week. I’ve also been working on my new website and I’m close to being done with it. News will be coming soon on that front.

What are y’all’s thoughts on Patterson’s stunt? And if y’all like KISS or just in-depth music talk, I wholeheartedly recommend Pods and Sods 

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