Bookshelf: TIED IN: The Business, History and Craft of Media Tie-In Writing

TIED IN: The Business, History and Craft of Media Tie-In Writing
Edited by Lee Goldberg
First Published July 2010
Published by The International Association of Media Tie-In Writers
255 Pages

It should come as no surprise to anyone who has been visiting Television Obscurities regularly that I’m a huge fan of television tie-in novels. I’ve reviewed dozens over the past year and a half, primarily from the 1960s and 1970s. I have more than 100 of these “classic” tie-in novels and I continue to slowly add new titles to my collection every year. But I also read newer tie-in novels based on shows that are still on the air. So when Lee Goldberg sent me a review copy of TIED IN: The Business, History and Craft of Media Tie-In Writing, which he edited, I was thrilled (and not just because getting review copies is really neat).

Published by The International Association of Media Tie-In Writers (IAMTW), TIED IN is a collection of essays on a variety of topics about media tie-in writing, from those who know the business inside and out, including Lee Goldberg, Max Allan Collins, Greg Cox, Jeff Ayers, Robert Greenberger and more than a dozen others. You can’t buy it at brick and mortar stores yet — it’s only available as an eBook at Amazon.com and other websites — but a trade paperback version is coming next month. An official press release can be found at the IAMTW blog.

I should point out that TIED IN doesn’t focus solely on television tie-ins. It also covers movie novelizations, comic book tie-ins and computer game tie ins. But that actually makes it even more valuable and more interesting. Several of the essays cover the history of media tie-ins while others are personal accounts of working as a tie-in writer. There’s even a round table discussion about the business of media tie-ins that covers breaking into the tie-in business and dealing with deadlines, among other things.

For obvious reasons, my favorite essays were those that did focus on television tie-ins, especially David Spencer’s wonderful “American TV Tie-Ins from the 50s through the early 70s,” which delves into the history of television tie-in novels and examines several of the writers from those decades, including William Johnston, Keith Laumer and Michael Avallone. Spencer also offers an an in-depth analysis of Walter Wager’s I Spy novels. Plus, he recounts several intriguing behind-the-scenes stories. For example, there may be a “lost” novel based on Dragnet 1967, apparently pulled from shelves after Jack Webb complained. I would love nothing more than for Spencer to flesh this essay out into a full-length book documenting the television tie-in novel.

Other essays I found particularly interesting were “Learning on the Job,” in which Nancy Holder discusses her experience writing her first tie-in novel, “This Time It’s Personal,” an account of how Max Allan Collins managed to write the novelization for a movie adapted from his own graphic novel, and “How to Novelize a Game,” William C. Dietz’s reflection on what goes into crafting a novel out of a computer/video game. TIED IN also includes essays about writing young adult tie-ins, whether “real” writers should author tie-ins and the current state of soap opera tie-ins.

TIED IN is a fascinating exploration of the media tie-in business and the authors that undertake the complicated yet rewarding task of crafting original stories using characters they haven’t created or turning a blockbuster movie into a new work that both reflects and expands on the source material. There’s something for everyone in TIED IN and the essays that aren’t at first glance of interest to a particular reader may turn out to be the most informative. If you’ve always secretly wanted to write a tie-in novel of your own, TIED IN offers some sound advice (for example, incredible as it may seem, being a tie-in writer may require the ability to complete a novelization in just a few weeks). After reading TIED IN, you’ll never look at a movie novelization or a television tie-in novel the same again.

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