Monday, June 27, 2016

On Writing, Publishing, Making Money, and “Making a Murderer”

Photo by Brenda VanCuick
I was searching the web to see if Prometheus Books had posted any type of announcement about my forthcoming book, Convicting Avery: The Bizarre Laws and Broken System behind "Making a Murderer".  But before I could find anything, I came across a website called Reddit.  (At least I think it’s a website; it really just seemed to be a string of comments.)  There was a discussion of my recent Wisconsin Law Journal article about how the Denny rule prevented Jerry Buting and Dean Strang from putting on a third-party defense at Steven Avery’s trial.  Most people in the thread liked my article.  And so did a guy or gal named “Account1117” who wrote “not a bad column.”  (Given there is a lot of bad writing out there, I’ll take that as praise.)  However, he or she also wrote “$$$” and indicated that the dollar signs “were a criticism over the fact that a random lawyer out of Kenosha with no ties to the case is writing a book with ‘Making a Murderer’ in the title.”  I tried to post a response, but couldn’t figure out how.  (The problem, I’m sure, lies with my technological ineptitude; for example, I’ve never tweeted or snapchatted or pintrested, I’m not even on facebook, and I don’t even know what Reddit is.)  So instead, I decided to write this post to dispel some myths and offer some tips to would-be writers:

  1. Do not become a writer for the “$$$”.  My forthcoming Avery book is my third book.  On my first two, I earned less than $3.00 per hour.  It takes a very, very long time to research, write, revise, and footnote a 60,000-70,000 word non-fiction book that is good enough to be sold to a publishing company.  On my Avery book, assuming I don’t earn anything beyond my advance, I will likely earn about $8.00-9.00 per hour.  Even if the book sells amazingly, incredibly well and I earn money beyond my advance, I will likely never get to $40.00 per hour, which is what criminal defense lawyers can earn on public defender appointments in Wisconsin.
    1. A bonus tip: if you’re looking to make the big “$$$” you’d be wise to avoid criminal defense work, too.   
  2. Write for the love of writing — or don’t even bother because you likely won’t be successful.  Before I wrote my first book, I wrote many law review articles.  And I just finished another law review article after writing the Avery book.  I’ve written 16 such articles with one more outlined and another one brewing in my head.  For lawyers, writing a law review article is a good test to see whether you really love writing.  Why?  Because they are dry, heavily footnoted, long (up to 25,000 words), and, unlike books, you get paid $0.00.
    1. Another bonus tip: avoid writing empirical-based articles.  Those might even cost you money to collect the underlying data on which the article is based.
  3. If you are a lawyer and want to try your hand at writing to see if you love it, or if you’re a lawyer making so little money that $8.00-$9.00 would be a pay increase — don’t laugh; the job market is so bad that many new lawyers can’t find work at all and others are only making a few bucks per hour after paying their overhead — be careful what you write about.  “Account1117” is critical because I had nothing to do with the underlying Avery and Dassey cases about which I wrote.  However, Wisconsin SCR 1.9 would have prevented me from writing the book if I had anything to do with either of the cases.  That’s right, had I been involved in one of the cases, the Wisconsin State Bar and the Office of Lawyer Regulation take the position that I would be prohibited from writing even about the public aspects of either case, as that would be “information relating to the representation.”  I’ve written about the absurdity of this rule and how it violates lawyers’ free speech rights.  I’ve also petitioned our state supreme court to change it.
    1. Final bonus tip: I suppose you don’t have to write for the love of writing; you can also write for an underlying cause, like free speech or criminal justice reform.  But I still wouldn’t write with the goal of making money — unless you’re really good at writing about vampires or dragons or romance or something like that.
In the end, I suppose the best way to put it is this: I write because the alternative (not writing) is worse.  As the late, great Christopher Hitchens once said: “There’s nothing like not writing for making you unhappy.”

16 comments:

  1. Don't worry, that Account1117 guy is a complete troll.

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    1. Anyone who disagrees with the hive mind opinion formulated after MaM's release that Avery is innocent is deemed a troll. They are not, the just see the case differently than yourself.

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  2. "That’s right, had I been involved in one of the cases, the Wisconsin State Bar and the Office of Lawyer Regulation take the position that I would be prohibited from writing even about the public aspects of either case, as that would be 'information relating to the representation.'”

    Then how can Ken Kratz write a book about the case?

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    1. Good question. There are several possible answers.

      1. Kratz may not know about Rule 1.9. Most lawyers don't, and it's rarely prosecuted by the Office of Lawyer Regulation (OLR) because it's such an absurd rule.

      2. The OLR's interpretation of the rule could be wrong. A lawyer named Rob Henak joined my petition to "change" the rule, but he views it as "clarifying" the rule in order to disabuse the OLR of its absurd interpretation.

      3. Kratz was a prosecutor, and his former client was "the state." The state -- whatever that really means -- might not mind it if he writes a book. Even if they do mind it, they might not report him for an ethics violation.

      4. Finally, I don't know Kratz, and don't know if he's a good writer. But if he wants to write a book, he may simply want to take the risk and do it. That would be up to him.

      Thanks for commenting. MC

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  3. Although I didn't comment in the thread you've referenced, I am a Redditor subscribed to Tick Tock Manitowoc. Your original article was terrific, I wish you all the best with your latest book and you can count on my purchasing a copy.

    Having read the murder trial transcripts as well as the documents released regarding Gregory Allan, I can only be appalled at what I consider to be a blatant abuse of power invoked by the use of this so called Denny rule. Carry on with your love of writing, American justice needs you!

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    1. Thank you for the kind words! (And the Denny rule is a disaster.) MC

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  4. You're perhaps paying too much mind to this user account1117. There is a large group on reddit who are interested in this case, because it opened their eyes, and are mostly appalled by the conduct of the justice system. There is a small minority who just think avery and dassey are guilty and don't care how the system went about locking them up, they think it could never happen to an innocent person anyway. Those people will criticize anyone who disagrees with that stance, including strang, buting, zellner, etc (they and you have all been accused of being in it for the big bucks).

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    1. Thanks, Anon. But it was a fun post to write. And look at the comment below; Chasealmighty is filling me in on Reddit and how to sign up and join a tick tock manitowoc group. I think that's something I need to be on. Like you guys, I was sucked in by Making a Murderer. I was probably less shocked about it because of what I do for a living, but was sucked in just the same.

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  5. For reddit you create an account which just means picking a username, entering your email, and password. They don't use your email for anything or sell it. I'd be willing to bet those at tick tock manitowoc would love for you to join them or do an AMA (Ask Me Anything) where they can ask you questions.

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    1. Thanks. I will look into doing this. If I run into trouble I will ask my computer guy who actually posted that first response for me on the Reddit threat.

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  6. Looking forward to your book. Thank you for speaking out about our broken justice system and doing your part to bring about reform. I just wanted to point out how to comment on Reddit if you desire to do so in the future. It's really very easy you just need to "join" the Reddit community by choosing a username (can be anything you wish). Just click the "Log in or Join" button at the extreme top right of any Reddit page you are viewing to join.

    Reddit is the largest Internet Forum type site on the www. Millions of people daily gather to discuss topics of vastly varying interest. The site can be a valuable tool in spreading the word on topics of public interest and influence. We have a section set up to discuss cases involving injustice and the failings of the justice system and readership/ participation grows daily. Twitter can also be a great tool to further your viewpoints and disseminate information. Also very easy to join and use. Simply Google "how to join Reddit" or "how to join Twitter" for the easy instructions. You'll be very happy you did, I think.

    Fight the good fight and thank you once again. As a fellow Wisconsin resident, I can't thank you enough. Our state (along with many others) desperately needs drastic changes in our government and justice administration. Have a great day!

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    1. solunaView, thanks very much! I actually just signed up at Reddit. I even tried to post something on one of the threads; not sure if it worked. It doesn't feel intuitive to use, but I will study-up on the site in the near future and try to get more comfortable with it. Thanks again!

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  7. The fact that the system is exposed for it`s crimes against the people that happens every 6 minutes in Wisconsin. Police DA`s and judges violating children for personal gain. Each member of law enforcement in this case was advanced for violating a child. They all knew they were violating a child. The money makers a here are LE the judge and Kratz. This article was wrote by a syco liar,

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    1. Liberate Wisconsin First, I assume you're talking about the way they handled Dassey (who was, if I recall, a 16 year old child at the time of the investigation).

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  8. Hi Mr Cicchini,

    I took the liberty of tweeting out a link to your books page, I hope you don't mind. I am sure many people will be happy to support a local attorney standing up for our rights. I will do what I can to let people know of your books and articles and your practice.

    Link to the tweet here:

    https://twitter.com/Reform_Justice/status/747819445310074880

    If you look at our Twitter profile description you will see a link to our Reddit group. We would love to have you as a part of the community and to help you spread the word on justice system change however possible.

    Thank you again for your incredible work!

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  9. Thanks very much! That's incredibly kind of you. Also, I will join that Reddit group you suggest. I will check it out right now.

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