arren Adler takes an entrepreneurial approach to high-tech publishing Warren Adler is one adaptable author. A successful writer for three decades, he is embracing the new technology of publishing with entrepreneurial enthusiasm, while younger writers remain cautious toward the development of e-books and print-on-demand services.
Perhaps Adler's flexibility stems from his string of successful careers. A reporter for several New York City-area newspapers, he served as a Pentagon correspondent for the Armed Forces Press Service during the Korean War. For many years, he ran a successful public relations and advertising firm in Washington, D.C. He has owned radio stations and was publisher of Washington Dossier magazine. He's a warm, conversive, positive-thinking gentleman.
He's also the author of 24 novels, two of which have been made into high-profile movies: Random Hearts, which starred Harrison Ford and Kristin Scott Thomas, and, more famously, The War of the Roses, the Michael Douglas-Kathleen Turner vehicle that turned divorce into an ugly physical battleground of black humor. "War of the Roses is part of my success," says Adler, speaking from New York City, where he prefers to be when he's not at his other home in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. "It plays at least once a week somewhere in the world. Random Hearts, on the other hand, disappointed me," Adler adds wistfully, "But that's Hollywood."Adler's first novel was published in 1974, which means he's written almost a book a year since. His latest is Mourning Glory, a tale set in what Adler likes to call the "ghetto" of Palm Beach, Florida, where people of money and extravagance coexist uneasily with the downtrodden and the have-nots.
Grace Sorentino is Adler's unlikely heroine. A single mother pushing 40, she works the cosmetics counter at Saks, waiting on wealthy WASPish ladies. The rest of her time is spent keeping an eye on her misguided, trouble-prone 16-year-old daughter, Jackie. Life takes a turn when Grace is fired for being less-than-accommodating to a haughty customer. Her boss' parting advice? Go find a rich widower, work your way into his heart and ride the gravy train into a comfortable, carefree life. This Grace does, though not without plenty of complications.
It's not unusual for Adler to write about people of power or money. Yet he always manages to find a different slant in approaching his characters.
"I can't write the same book twice," he says. "I'm not a formula writer. That wouldn't be enjoyable for me after 24 novels. I never repeat myself. I do, however, like to write about love. It's the one great mystery. No one knows why we are attracted to another. Love remains a mysterious emotion." Love is one thing, but setting out to "catch a man" is quite another. One wonders what kind of reaction Adler's book will induce in more politically correct readers. "When I wrote this book, I was aware that the feminist reaction might be strong, that I was implying that a woman must find a man to solve her problems. But editors and women love it. The old feminist caveat is out the window. Some people believe it's a solution for women. [Novelist] Barbara Taylor Bradford thinks I really understand women," Adler laughs. "I'm not so sure I do."True to his entrepreneurial spirit, Adler is now involved in a project that consumes as much time as crafting popular fiction. Faced with the reality that 20 of his books were out of print, Adler created an e-book and print-on-demand (POD) library of his previously published novels, with availability on platforms such as Microsoft Reader and Adobe Acrobat. "I own the rights to most of my backlist," he says. "Now these books will be reissued electronically, with sales availability through Ingram or online booksellers such as Barnes ∧ Noble. You'll be able to read my books on handheld devices like Palm Pilots."In some ways, what Adler is doing mirrors higher-tech approaches in the music business, where artists issue their own CDs, then use electronic means to market them independently. Adler explains, "With POD, a machine spits out a book, in trade cover or hardback, in a minute or two. It's in the customer's hands 48 hours after they order it."Adler has even taken his case to more formal arenas, recently addressing the Public Library Association on the future of electronic publishing. "It's very interesting to me that libraries know about POD and e-books more than anyone. They've been very helpful to me. They have a complete understanding of it."Adler's enthusiasm for this new means of promotion seems unquenchable. One wonders about the potential downside.
"There is none," he says confidently. "It's a promotional device. Never again will my books go out of print. They'll be available through a worldwide distribution mechanism. And what about publishers in the midst of all this new technology? Adler says they're going to have to adjust. He believes that the traditional publishing paradigm may soon become a thing of the past, especially as writers embrace the "no inventory" new technology and learn to harness it.
"I love my work," say Adler. "I write 300 days a year. But you've got to have people reading your product. The ecstasy's in the work, but it's still a one-on-one communication system. This whole project is designed to harvest my readership. I have a Web site www.warrenadler.com and I'll soon have a newsletter available. I want to communicate with my readers."In case any of those devoted fans ever wondered what happened after Oliver and Barbara Rose crashed to the floor in that chandelier, Adler's next book project is a sequel to his most famous novel. Like Mourning Glory, it'll first hit the stands in a traditional print format. "Publishing in all technologies is good," states Adler, "through the actual publisher, or e-book or POD. It's a synergistic approach. My strength is that I understand marketing and promotion. But right now, I'm the only author doing it. A lot of other writers are watching to see how it goes for me. But they should be in this game. It's the future."Martin Brady is an editor, writer and critic. He lives in Nashville.