Visions & Voices

Subtext Interviews Novelist Warren Adler, April 25, 2001

Warren Adler has written 24 novels, including The War of The Roses and Random Hearts, which became hit movies. Major houses have published his books. His latest book, Mourning Glory, is scheduled to be released in August by Kensington Books.

Adler has created a complete e-book and print-on-demand library of all his previously published works, now available on all platforms, including Microsoft Reader, Adobe and Peanut Press. His print-on-demand books are in trade paperback and hardcover.

He is currently in the process of digitally converting all of his foreign language books in 25 languages in which they have been published.

Adler attended New York public schools and New York University, majoring in English literature. After graduating, he worked for the New York Daily News and was editor of the Queens Post, a Long Island newspaper. During the Korean War, he was the Washington Correspondent for Armed Forces Press Service in the Pentagon.

Prior to becoming a novelist, Adler had a successful business career. He owned four radio stations and a TV station, ran a large public relations and advertising agency in Washington, D.C., and co-founded the Washington Dossier magazine. In 1974, Adler published his first novel and gave up his business career to become a full-time novelist.

Adler lectures on creative writing, movie adaptation and electronic publishing. He is founder of the Jackson Hole (Wyoming) Writers Conference. He lives in New York and Jackson Hole.

Subtext: You are an avid believer in the e-book, yet your next book will appear in traditional print format through Kensington. Is it too soon for e-only publishing?

WA: At this point in time, viable authors must still be published by a traditional publisher who will get behind their work. I own the rights to most of my backlist, now reissued in all electronic and print-on-demand formats with sales availability through Ingram, and boutiques at online booksellers like Barnes and They can be bought and read on handhelds like Palm Pilots.

Subtext: So you believe it’s not either-or? E-publishing doesn’t really impinge on print publishers?

WA: Right. All my research so far has shown that when you put out an e-book in advance of the hardback pub date it increases the sales of the hardback. This is what they tell me at Amazon and Barnes & Noble and I’ve discussed this with Kensington. I am far ahead of the curve on this issue while the publishers are just dipping their feet in the e-book puddle.

Subtext: Publishers generally believe they own all the rights including e-rights, and have maintained that e-books are just another distribution channel. In fact, there is litigation pending between Random House and an e-publisher on this.

WA: Which proves that they believe that something valuable has slipped through their hands.

Subtext: What is at stake if the publishers lose their e-book case?

WA: When the e-book revenues start to balloon in a few years, they will be out in the cold as far as their backlist is concerned, losing considerable value and income. Sure they want to grab the rights and are willing to fight to get them. The danger for them is that these new technologies offer
the enterprising author with his own e-book backlist a unique opportunity. In my case, by owning all of my rights outright, I can attract readers worldwide, brand my name further, create greater and greater awareness of my work, introduce my books to new readers, and dialogue with them, an astounding opportunity.

Subtext: Why don’t more authors do what you are doing?

WA: It baffles me, but I think there is a myth of authors being ink-stained wretches who have no knowledge of business. I understand business and will bring a business sense to the table. Authors had better develop such business skills in this new world. They’ll need these skills to survive. It’s not brain surgery. Wherever I go I’m the only author doing what I’m doing. My many author friends don’t have a clue as to what these new technologies are all about. Still, the key is still marketing and promotion. Getting the digital infrastructure in place is just technical. It puts you in a giant telephone book. The challenge is to get your name in the front of that book, or at the least in bold face. I’ll figure it out and when I do other authors will follow just as I have followed in the brave footsteps of Stephen King who made the first big move.

Subtext: But isn’t what you are doing costly? You must have enormous up-front costs.

WA: So far I’ve spent 50K and have budgeted far more. To me, this represents promotion and advertising and will, hopefully, increase the revenues through my new novels. Money is starting to trickle in through my Barnes & Noble boutique, Peanut Press and other venues. I’m just embarking on my promotional campaign, Kensington will be doing their promotional number for Mourning Glory and the movie guys are already on my tail. I’m linked, wired and ready to rock and roll.

Subtext: Because you are up there on the Internet are you getting new opportunities?

WA: Absolutely. I’m only less than a month into my launch with my infrastructure in place and just beginning to get feedback in terms of awareness and interest. I have chat rooms just starting to get off the ground. I’m creating a book club, a newsletter. My books are now fully accessible and I am a value added factor for Kensington.

Subtext: So the bottom line is you need to be good at marketing what you create?

WA: Hell, I believe in my books. They were chosen once by fine editors and published by major houses. They’ve attracted many movie studios and foreign publishers and are selling in the used and rare book market for a lot more than they originally cost. Libraries keep my books in constant circulation. Now my beat-up library books will be re-bought by libraries. My foreign translations will have a new life. Where is the downside?

Subtext: What’s going to happen to publishers in the new e-book world?

WA: They’re going to have to enter into “creative arrangements” with their authors. The old publishing paradigm is expiring rapidly. Publishers are going to have to revise their business model. The new technology has empowered the writer and weakened the publisher’s hold over distribution and marketing. They are waking up to that fact.

Subtext: How long do you think it will take for e-books to gain consumer acceptance?

WA: Faster than anyone thinks. The ergonomics are improving rapidly. There are already lightweight plastic reading devices under $100 in process. There are nine million palm pilots in circulation and copycats rolling out all over the world. Digital paper and wearable screens are coming. Kids know computers before they’re three. Microsoft and others are spending multi millions on e-book projects. The future seems obvious.

Subtext: Won’t there be a lot of clutter if it’s that easy to publish electronically?

WA: Anybody who can put together a sentence can claim authorship. Disappointments will abound. Publishers will still have the edge on the screening process and marketing. In the end only the reader makes the ultimate choice.

Subtext: Should publishers be worried about their future?

WA: They know they’re playing catch-up now and will be looking at authors in a new way. They’ll figure out a way to survive. In this game, I believe the authors will gain more than they lose. Stay tuned. Oh yes, check my website and see if you can get a sniff of the future.