Filthy Lucre

Forever Twelve

This sweater was likely a hand-me-down and probably cost $1 AS ALL SWEATERS SHOULD.

This sweater was likely a hand-me-down and probably cost $1 AS ALL SWEATERS SHOULD.

ANYONE who knows me knows I have a distinct inability to comprehend that the universe evolves and changes around me. This is most evident in my attitude towards the prices of things: To me, everything should still cost as much as it did in 1980, and when I’m confronted with $3 coffees I am outraged, convinced I am being screwed. You don’t even want to know my reaction to discovering that a modest new car can cost as much as $15,000. My first car, the much mourned Laverne the 1978 Chevrolet Nova, cost me $1.

A moment of silence, please, for Laverne, best car ever.

Another aspect of this can be identified in my artistic identity, to an extent: As a writer I’m often still that 12-year old who feels ridiculously grateful when anyone bothers to read my work, much less actually pay me for it. When presented with offers and deals for publication or something else, I am a terrible negotiator because at some level I’m still that kid, and I think I should be happy just for the attention. On phone calls with people who want to do something with my work, I’m breathless, nervous, and supremely uncomfortable with the idea of insisting on getting paid. It’s not because commerce defiles art (Ha!) but rather because I immediately regress to that 12-year old kid who made his own book covers out of construction paper.

If Amazon-style self-publishing had existed in 1983, my friends, the world would be littered with my juvenelia (complete with my own cover art) and I would have earned about $50 in the ensuing 32 years. There would be regrets.

Kids: This is why you want an agent. This. Because if you’re like me, you need someone who will laugh in the face of piss-poor offers and fight tooth and nail for every right and every sub-right. If I were doing this on my own no doubt I’d actually owe publishers money simply because they half-heartedly published my work.

Now, writers do tend to be at the bottom of any entertainment budget, it’s true. Films that have budgets in the hundreds of millions will be paying a novel author a few hundred thousand for the source material. That’s a lot of money, but when you contextualize it, it’s a tiny percentage of the total. But of course, nothing happens unless a writer first creates a story and characters, does it? Slowly, I’ve come to realize that giving away work for free doesn’t make sense – it takes me time and energy to write this stuff, it will make someone else some money when they publish it or adapt it, so I should absolutely always get paid. It’s taken me decades, but I’ve come to own that.Still, put me in a meeting or a conversation about getting paid for some writing, and I’m instantly twelve years old again, demanding that a new pair of sneakers cost $10 and shocked to the core that books cost more than the $3 they cost in 1983 – and somehow conflating my writing career with the chores I did at the old Somers homestead in exchange for a $10 weekly allowance.


CHUM’s Cover

Designed by Frank Rivera

Chum by Jeff Somers

Here’s the Fab cover for my next novel, Chum, due out from Tyrus books on 9/18/13. Chum is a darkly comic novel about marriage, mayhem, and murder, told from multiple points of view and revisiting events from different POVs throughout the book.

When I first saw the cover I wasn’t sure what I thought, frankly – it seemed very stark and the roughness of the art on the bottles threw me. But then I got it, and realize how great this cover is.

It’s stark so it stand out as a thumbnail when people are scrolling on web sites or their phones.

It’s rough because the story is rough. The characters have jagged edges. The language is, er, salty (would you expect anything else from me?). There are literally – literally – no good people in the whole story. One or two people think they’re good, but they … aren’t.

And the off-center “U” in CHUM? Genius. It’s drunken and unpredictable.

So, my gratitude and respect to Frank Rivera who created this cover, and to Tyrus Books, for packaging my work so well. We’re gonna be good friends, I think.


And, without further comment:

Chum by Jeff Somers


Rookie Mistake: Juvenilia

Drunk Jeff Working Hard at "writing"

Drunk Jeff Working Hard at “writing”

You’d think that by now I’d have this writing game down pat. Six novels with two more due out soon, over twenty-five short stories published, a few anthologies – I may not be a genius, or a bestseller, but I’ve done this for a while now. You’d think I’d have figured out how to not humiliate myself any more.

You’d think.

You have to remember, I am a lazy man. Lazy, lazy, lazy. Like, seriously lazy. Lazy Men like me have a lot of really bad habits born out of this laziness and we’re always getting ourselves into pickles because we try to be lazy and shit gets real and then we end up working twice as hard in order to pull things back together. Lazy Men are probably pretty much responsible for every tragedy and horror in history, just a long series of guys who’ve been wearing the same pants for six days shrugging and neglecting to do something.

So, my most recent laziness-related humiliation came from submitting a story. I write a lot of stories. Most are crap, but a few linger in my memory as pretty good. Sometimes I go back through the archives and find a few gems — pieces I didn’t appreciate at the time, but which have something to them. A more mature, diligent author would revise these. I prefer to just submit them.

Sometimes this works out. I’ve sold a few, much to my surprise. But then I’m always surprised when I sell something. When my agent called to tell me we’d sold Trickster last year I spent several weeks chuckling at her excellent joke. When the advance check arrived I was puzzled for a while, then assumed it was a hoax. So selling a few pieces of juvenilia doesn’t rattle me: Sometimes I think the central idea is good, but the execution is kind of meh, so I can see how it happens.

Recently, though, I submitted an old story with a nice idea and I didn’t really read it through very closely. I’m far too Rock Star for that, as long as we agree to define Rock Star as very drunk. It was recently rejected, and the comments from the editors were … not kind. They were also: Not inaccurate. I re-read the piece and frankly I’m a little ashamed of myself. Note the emphasis on little. I remain pretty much in love with myself.

The story can be saved with a bit of revision, and I’ll be dumb enough to submit it again. Lessons: none. I make it my business to never ever learn anything. So far it’s worked out remarkably well. And if you allow yourself to learn lessons from your writing career you’ll end up giving up writing because the lessons are always along the lines of you will never be able to quit your day job or your author photo makes you look like a dweeb because you are a dweeb. Still, this could be a lesson for all of you: Be careful when submitting your juvenilia, kids. There’s probably a reason you let it rot all those years.


First Review of Trickster

Trickster by Jeff SomersThe author is always the last to know: Apparently there are real live galleys of Trickster out there, because someone just posted the first review. Five stars on GoodReads, baby!

“I loved the world Mr. Somers hsa created, and his perfectly IMperfect characters, and I WILL be reading any sequels the moment I can get my greedy little hands on them.”

Score! Go buy ten. Papa needs liquor monies.


Book Trailers

A few weeks ago, I started a little side business making Book Trailers (and writing and editing and picking up laundry – you know, FREELANCING! Hire me for something. Please. I’m begging you). I’ve made a bunch of book trailers for my own books over the years, as well as other videos, and I really enjoy it. Something about taking pieces of video or photos, some music, and some text and making a coherent thing out of it appeals to me (heck, I made an entire music video out of scraps of stock video). I figured, I enjoy it, people need Book Trailers made (I mean, seriously – have you seen some of the trailers out there?) – why not put out my shingle?

Since then, I’ve made 3 or 4 trailers for money and had a lot of fun doing it. This, of course, forces me to think about Book Trailers in a more specific sense. As in, what is my Philosophy of Book Trailers? There’s a group of words I bet you thought you’d never see. There’s a lot of debate about the effectiveness of Book Trailers, of course. Personally, I think Book Trailers are useful tools, but you can’t expect them to work miracles. They’re basically cheap, persistent advertisements. If you think of them that way, there’s no reason not to do a book trailer. For pennies you post a ad for your book, and it’s there for years and years, keeping your name and title out there.

Book Trailers can be very dumb, of course, and there’s a lot of miscalculation out there, so here’s my basic philosophy of Book Trailers:

1. Be short. I think going forward book trailers will be a replacement, in part, for the act of browsing through a book on the shelf, since there won’t be any books on shelves any more. No one spends more than a few seconds flipping through a book, so your trailer shouldn’t be much longer. A minute is a good sweet spot. Longer than that and people will just quit watching anyway. Shorter and you may not have time to set a tone and get some meat in there.

2. Be entertaining. Everyone wants a viral video, but Virals aren’t made, they just happen. Just shoot for entertaining. If you’re talking about a one-minute trailer you don’t have to be experimental or edgy or anything, just keep people interested. In fact, you probably don’t want to go too far out there in a quest to be cool, because

3. Be informative. Don’t mistake informative with dull, but people are watching your book trailer because they want to know about the book. Images and music can set the mood, the tone, the basic setting. Give your audience a taste. Actual lines from the book help, but a summary of the premise isn’t a bad idea either. You want to give people a reason to buy your book, after all.

Book Trailers aren’t an exact science. If they were I’d have a factory in Mumbai cranking them out and be a billionaire. They’re sort of a long-tail approach to marketing; your trailer may not blow up on YouTube overnight and get 30 million hits, but it will be there six months from now, getting hits, making people aware of your book on a steady basis. Keep them cheap, simple, and entertaining, and it’s well worth the investment, I think. Of course, I would say that now that I hope to make money from it. I’ve never claimed to be anything but a selfish, self-centered ass, so there.


The Sex Scene in “Lifers”

Lifers by Jeff SomersOn the insane assumption that any one cares, I thought I’d tell the story of the sex scene in Lifers, my first published novel.

It wasn’t in the draft submitted to the publisher (a cold submission, with no agent, pure slush to a tiny publishing company), which is amazing, because the final, published word count for Lifers was 39,616. Thirty-nine thousand words. This barely qualifies as a novella, much less a novel. So the fact is, the book was even shorter when I originally submitted it. The fact also is, I am a lazy, lazy man. If I ever become supersuper famous and powerful as an author, expect my novels to start being about 5,000 words long and written in bullet-point fashion, in huge 24pt type. Or possibly expect to be contacted by my people to write some novels for me, which might be better, if slightly more expensive.

But I digress.

When the publisher contacted me about buying the book, they were looking at it from a “Gen-X” point of view. For those of us too young to be Gen-X, this was back when being a twenty-something in the 1990s meant you were automatically a desirable market. As opposed to being middle-aged in the 2010s and realizing no one wants to sell you anything. YOU BASTARDS! MARKET YOUR AWFUL ENERGY DRINKS TO MEEEEEEEEE!!!

When I spoke to the editor on the phone about the book, he told me he thought the only thing the story needed was, in a word, sex. This was his sole editorial note. Looking back, this should have been some sort of warning sign for me.

Anyways, I was delighted with the offer to publish, of course. They were offering me $1000 as an advance, which in 1999 dollars was actually like $1003 today, and as a percentage of my gross annual income was about 75%. So, yeah, I was excited. Do you know how many packages of Ramen Noodles you can buy for $1000? LOTS.

I thus took his sexy suggestion seriously, though I wrestled with it for a bit. After all, I’d never been seriously edited before, and was generally convinced of my innate genius. The book was perfect! This clashed with my desire for the immense riches my debut novel was sure to generate for me (HA!), so I decided I would read the book over, see if there was a place for such a scene, and if so, write it. Then I could decide if I’d just ruined a perfect story, or improved it, or maybe just left it neutral.

In the end, I wrote a scene wherein the narrator has a one-night stand. It’s ridiculous and humiliating in that he’s almost not a voluntary player in it, and I ended up liking the scene a lot, as it speaks to the character a bit and it’s also one of the few scenes in the book where the narrator is apart from the other main characters. It ended up being a good addition to the story, though I don’t give that much credit to the editor at my publisher, who, I don’t think, even read the new manuscript when I turned it in. For him, he just wanted some sex in the story because young people like sex. End of story.

Of course, I was not put on this world in order to write erotica. Believe me – please! – this is not my purpose in life. We should all, in fact, take a moment to bow our heads and offer a moment of thanks that I have not been asked to repeat this experiment.

The lesson there, if there is one, is that any feedback or revision to a story has the possibility of improving the story. It doesn’t matter what the genesis of the note is. All that matters is what you do with it. That and that you can, apparently, sell a 40,000-word “novel” without an agent, a clue, or any clear idea of what a contract means. Incompetence, ho! And also, too, writing a sex scene involving stuffed animals, shame, and painful regret is not, apparently, sexy. At all. Or so I’ve been told.

Lifers is now available for $0.99 on Kindle and Nook, by the way. Just sayin’.


Sho’ Stories

Short Stories in HereSo, I write a lot of short stories. I enjoy writing them, and have a rule that I write a complete story every month. This doesn’t mean every story is genius, or even good: I’ve got plenty of stinkers. Some ideas were never that good to begin with (when pressuring yourself to write a story a month you sometimes have to go with whatever moldy inspiration you have), some good ideas aren’t handled well, and sometimes I have a good idea and a good beginning and just run out of time. On the 31st of the month (or the 30th, or 28th, or 29th) sometimes you just have to sculpt that Plane Crash Ending, or that Sub-O’Henry WTF ending, and go with it.

This is useful for me for three reasons: One, it keeps me on my toes, forcing me to work quickly and get ideas organized into a story fast. Sure, sometimes the story has a terrible ending, or a weak development, but it’s useful to be able to sketch out a recognizable concept in 3-4 weeks. Two, it serves as a meta-notebook of ideas. Instead of opening some small moleskin and finding something scrawled in there like MAGIC BABY MARBLES and trying to figure out what the fuck I thought would make a great story idea, I actually have the stories. At any time I can go back and revise, enlarge, or steal from them. Finally, sometimes by some miracle I actually write a story in 3-4 weeks that I think is good enough to polish and submit.

This year I managed 13 stories, actually, writing two in August. One or two have potential and might end up plaguing editors around the globe this year. The rest are kind of meh, but then you never know: Sometimes I go through the meh pile and find something that I can’t believe I didn’t think was great at first.

I submit my stories pretty freely; I write the damn things, I like to see them published, and I like to get paid for them when I do. Why not? This whiskey ain’t buying itself. As I’ve mentioned before I used to be a damn machine when it came to submitting stories: In 2002 I submitted 107 stories. One-hundred and seven. Jebus. How is that even possible? Of course, I sold 4 stories that year, so there might be a lesson there.

In 2011 I submitted 35 stories. Not 35 different stories, just 35 submissions. A slight improvement over last year’s 31. but I didn’t sell any of them. I got some interesting rejections, but no bites. This is the first year without a story sale since 1998, and officially made 2011 one of the worst Years of Jeff in recorded history. Sigh.

Oh well. For 2012 I aim to add 1-3 new stories to the submission pile, and try to hit 50 subs this year. And of course, 12 more new ones in the ole’ notebook, even if they all end with David Lynch Mindscrews.*

*I enjoy taking mild writing techniques and giving them names that could also be sexual acts a’la a Dirty Sanchez. Don’t judge me.


From the Zine

From The Inner Swine Volume 17, Issue 3/4 (Winter 2011)


Hoping the American Empire Lasts a Few More Decades: I Need the Book Sales

by Jeff Somers

“I’m just a regular Joe with a regular job
I’m your average white suburbanite slob
I like football and porno and books about war
I’ve got an average house with a nice hardwood floor”

- Denis Leary, “Asshole”

[Begin transcript of unaired interview conducted 7-26-11 in Manhattan. Present are


Sway Calloway Jeffy Somers
MTV Personality Sway Calloway Indigent Writer Jeff Somers


and several unidentified MTV staffers.]

SWAY CALLOWAY: So I’m sittin’ down with … wait, who the … Christie? Hey, Christie? Who is this guy? I thought we were doing the –
JEFF SOMERS: Take off your hat.
SC: What? Wait – thanks Christie, but – wait, what?
JS: I’ve never seen you without the little hat. Take it off. I want to see what you’re hiding under there.
SC: I never take off my hat, dude. Now hold tight while the PA gets the sheets for today. I have no idea who you are, or why I’m sitting here with you. I thought we were –
JS: Don’t worry, Jay-Z will be fine.
SC: Uh, what?
JS: He’ll be fine. He’s just unconscious and locked in the trunk of a car that’s probably in Bayonne by now. But we’ll release him as soon as I’m done here, no worries.
SC: No worries. You … you touched Hova?
JS: No worries. I just want you to interview me, and once that’s done, no one needs to get hurt. Would I hurt Shawn? No, I would not.
SC: Christie! How about calling the police, instead, babe, huh?
JS: That’s fine. Just get on with the interview.
SC: Interview? About what, man?
JS: I’m offering all my money to the Presidential Candidate who promises to increase the military budget the most and start the most new wars.
SC: Again: What?
JS: I’m going to sell off my entire zine-publishing empire and take all my book royalties and advances and such and offer the whole mess of cash to the candidate for President who promises to increase military spending and our involvement in foreign wars the most.
SC: Shit, do we not have any kind of security in this place? Is that liquor?
JS: Technically, it’s mouthwash. But it gets the job done.
SC: Holy shit.


Review of The Final Evolution

The Final EvolutionWhat are we thankful for? Positive reviews of The Final Evolution, of course. Pat’s Fantasy Hotlist has gifted us with a recommendation for #5 in the Avery Cates series:

“The multilayered storylines add another dimension to The Final Evolution, true, but they did not slow the pace of the book. This final installment is another shoot-to-kill thrill ride that will keep you turning those pages … I’ve been saying it for years: These books are addictive! Give this series a shot!”