Now you can read Writing The Pilot for free!

Writing the Pilot. But if you’ve got friends or relatives or writing group members who’ve been thinking about it, but can’t bring themselves to invest the massive $4.99 for the Kindle edition or the almost doubly massive $8.99 for the paperback, I’ve got great news! Now they can read the entire book for free!

Well, they can read the book for free as long as they’re Amazon Prime members.  Because Writing the Pilot is now part of the Kindle Owner’s Lending Library program. Which means that Prime members can borrow it for free and read it at their leisure. Check it out today!

The Huffington Post Loves Writing the Pilot!

At least their blogger Jen Grisanti does. She’s got a terrific post today called Adding Character to Your Story, and in talking about The Shield‘s Vic Mackey she references a certain Amazon best-seller about pilot writing:


In Writing the Pilot, William Rabkin writes, “The most important thing about Vic Mackey was that he believed he was a good guy. Sure, he made deals with criminals but that was to keep worse criminals off the street. As for killing the other cop, that was required for his own self-defense, but even then he knew it was wrong and it tortured him for the entire run of the series.” Rabkin goes on “… Vic Mackey acted like a bad guy in order to be a good guy. And that was the theme as well: How much evil can you do in the pursuit of noble goals before you stop being one of the good guys?” Rabkin says that the heart of what defines a character is his goal and the choices that he makes in trying to obtain it. This book is excellent. It really is a brilliant discussion on what works on certain shows and why it works well as opposed to what didn’t work and why it didn’t work.

The whole post is worth reading — but I know what my favorite parts were!

The Dead Man is Roaring to Life!

I try not to use this blog for self-promotion — except, of course, for promoting  my Amazon #1 best-seller Writing the Pilot, available for the Kindle and as a beautiful new paperback, and also available for the Nook — but this news is too exciting not to share. As some of you may know, for the last few months Lee Goldberg and I have been self-publishing a series of supernatural action novels called The Dead Man. Today I can announce we’re not self-publishing anymore. We’ve just been picked up by the biggest name in the book business.

I could say more… but instead I’m going to quote from Lee, who has the whole story up on his great blog:


Okay, I can finally reveal some of big news I’ve been dying to share with you… 

I am thrilled to announce that Amazon’s Thomas & Mercer imprint has picked up THE DEAD MAN series in a unique and exclusive 12-book digital & print deal … with an option for more. But that’s not all. Brilliance Audio will be also be rolling out their own editions of the books.

The five books that we’ve already published — FACE OF EVIL, RING OF KNIVES, HELL IN HEAVEN, THE DEAD WOMAN, and THE BLOOD MESA — will be re-released in the days leading up to Halloween … so keep your eyes peeled for great offers.

The sixth book in the series will be released in November and will be followed each month by another new adventure in the continuing saga of Matt Cahill, a man resurrected from the dead to battle evil among us that only he can see.

Amazon will also be releasing three-book compilations of THE DEAD MAN series in trade paperback (as well as in specially priced digital editions). The release dates of the first compilation, and the Brilliance Audio editions, have not been determined yet … but we’re hoping they’ll be ready for Christmas.

Bill Rabkin and I will continue to run the series, which we’re writing with a terrific group of action, horror, mystery, SF and western authors, like James Daniels, David McAfee, James Reasoner, Harry Shannon, Joel Goldman, Mel Odom, Jude Hardin, Lisa Klink, Mark Ellis, Matthew Mayo, Joe Nassise, Bill Crider, Matt Witten, Marcus Pelegrimas, Burl Barer, and Phoef Sutton.

And we couldn’t have hoped for a better partner than Amazon’s Thomas & Mercer. I just returned from meeting with the Thomas & Mercer team (including editors Terry Goodman and Andy Bartlett) in Seattle and was blown away by their creativity, enthusiasm, and eagerness to see THE DEAD MAN reach its full potential. They get exactly what Bill and I are trying to do with this series.

And what is that, you ask?

We want to capture the spirit of the “men’s action adventure” paperbacks of the 70s and 80s – short, tightly-written books full of hard-boiled heroes, outrageously sexy women, wild adventure, and gleefully over-the-top plots – and reboot the genre for a new generation that maximizes the potential of the Kindle.

And with Thomas & Mercer behind us, I don’t see how we can fail.


Another Fun Thing To Do When You Buy Writing the Pilot at Amazon

Whether you’re going for the Kindle edition or the spiffy new paperback, when you stop by Amazon to pick up Writing the Pilot, you can now download a free Kindle version of the pilot script for ABC’s new drama series Revenge.

It’s a great — and rare — opportunity to see the pilot script before you watch the actual show. (There’s a link at the back of the script you can follow to see the filmed pilot, as well.)

The script itself is a modern day version of The Count of Monte Cristo combined with The Real Housewives of The Hamptons. Which is actually a lot better than that sounds. My own feeling reading it was that it would make for a great ten episodes or so, and I’d have absolutely no idea how to keep the series going after that. But I assume ABC asked — and received answers — to that kind of question.

Of course, it is the same network that thought they could get multiple seasons out of Life on Mars and Flash Forward

Writing the Pilot — Finally In Paperback!

Until now it’s only been available as an ebook from Amazon and Barnes and Noble, but now you can read Writing the Pilot without any kind of e-reader. Yes, thanks to the bold new invention of putting words onto paper, Writing the Pilot is available in a completely self-contained edition that will never run out of battery power. Even better, in its full 8.5 x 5.5 inches, you can treasure JT Lindroos’ brilliant cover as the work of art it is.


Write and Shoot Your Own – But Know Your Audience First!

I make a big point at the end of my book Writing the Pilot (currently available as an e-book from Amazon and Barnes and Noble, soon in paperback) that writing a spec pilot should not be an end, but a beginning. Technology for both filmmaking and distribution is so cheap these days there’s no reason to leave your script gathering dust on a shelf when your filmed show can be grabbing audiences on the web.

Of course finding that audience is always going to be the hard part. One quick shortcut? Find a bunch of viewers who feel like there’s nothing on that reflects their lives and write a show just for them.

That’s what Greg and Jennifer Willits are doing. They’re shooting the pilot for a new sitcom for and about Catholic families.

“There is a lot of Catholic catechesis out there but not a lot of Catholic entertainment. We want to prove that it can be done,” Greg said. “This is going to be a pilot, simply a proof of concept to hopefully inspire others in Catholic and secular media to push the envelope a bit creatively.”

I’ve got to admit, I’m not going to be going out of my way to hunt this down on the web, or to call DirecTV and demand they add Catholic TV to my channel list. But that’s exactly the point. I’m not their audience. They don’t need me to watch.

The Willits figured out who would want to watch their series and then set about writing and producing it for them. And even better, they found a large, wealthy institution that wants to reach the same audience, and seems to be providing the funding.

Will it work? Who knows? But it will have a chance to succeed or fail on its own merits… unlike a script that’s sitting in a drawer.

Writing the Sitcom Pilot – Great Video Series

My book Writing the Pilot (now available for the Nook!)tells you everything you need to know to write a drama pilot. But when it comes to sitcoms, there’s a whole different set of questions — and since I have no idea what the right answers are, I don’t even try. (I’m old fashioned that way…) Fortunately Ken Levine, whose decades of great work includes M*A*S*H and Cheers, as well as one of the best blogs around, now has a video series cleverly titled “How To Write a TV Sitom.” This is the first installment:

You can check out the rest of the series here.

What to Spec – Finding Your Genre Part 2

You can read all about conceiving, writing and selling your spec pilot in my new book, Writing the Pilot, currently available through for the Kindle and for the Nook, soon in the rest of the known universe…

Last time we talked about writiing a spec pilot in a genre that’s currently working on the networks. The downside of that, of course, is that you’re trying to stand out in a crowded field. It’s easy to get ignored that way.

So let’s look at the next category: Genres that aren’t working, but networks keep trying.

You might ask yourself why networks keep programming shows in genres that fail time after time. Usually the answer is lost in the distant past. Or, more specifically, the answer is Lost in the not so distant past.

What usually happens here is that someone created a show that became a monster hit, but so far nobody’s been able to duplicate it.

If you look at network schedules for the last couple of years, for example, you’ll see a long string of heavily serialized science fiction or fantasy epics: The Event, Life on Mars, Flash Forward, V, Heroes and on and on. What you’ll almost never see is the second season of these shows. (True, Heroes did keep gasping along for years, but that series actually had a successful first year, and NBC had absolutely nothing to replace it with…) But no matter how many of them failed, the networks kept developing them.

The reason they existed in the first place was because Lost was such an enormous international hit.  The reason networks kept trying to duplicate that success after so many failures was because no one really understood what made Lost so huge. Was it the eternally evolving mystery? The big puzzle? The serialized storyline? The promise of a big revelation around every corner? The skillful blending of reality and fantasy? It’s like trying to understand why, for instance, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo became the book everyone across the world suddenly had to read instead of any number of other violent thrillers. Who can know?

So every time one of these series premiered to enormous numbers – and most of them did very well in their opening episodes – and then nosedived, programmers could tell there was still a huge market for this kind of show. They simply hadn’t figured out how to tap it.

So where does that leave you?

In a great position – as long as you’ve got something that looks like it has the right answers. Because executives have already proven that they don’t, and they’re looking for someone who does.

Risks? Plenty. There’s going to be a point where the industry throws up its collective hands and decides that the big hit they’re trying to duplicate is unique and unduplicatable. And when that happens, your script will feel like a relic from a time that no one wants to remember… and believe me, they won’t be interested in the reminder.

A script in a standard genre has to be great if it’s going to get you anywhere. A script in a genre that’s not working has to be better than that. It’s got to excite your readers enough that they’re willing to ignore their awareness that this kind of show always fails. It’s got to be so good it actually makes them brave. If you can pull it off, you’ve got the kind of sample that will open doors all over town, that people will be talking about. But that target is really tiny, and if you miss by the smallest amount, you’ve got pretty much nothing…

Next time we’ll talk about the other two categories.