It's been a while since I've blogged. Kind of got off track with the break and now, at school, we're in full swing for The Little Mermaid, which opens in 3 weeks. I hope to have a Middle School Mondays post up on Monday.
There is also a great deal happening on the writing front. The Kindling sequel is now officially named Middle School Magic Volume 2: Penumbras. I did that big font in lieu of a deep announcer voice. Today, the ARC of Penumbras will be formatted and that will soon be out. In the meantime, compulsive reviser that I am, I am still tweaking and polishing and will continue until my editor insists that I stop sometime in March. Actually the thing I'm doing with the manuscript right now is one of my favorite things so I'll write more about that later.
But there's something I want to touch on for a minute. Actually, two somethings. I got my sales statement for The Kindling the other day and my first royalty check should come in a week or so. This incredibly exciting to me and also a bit solemn.
Now, please don't take anything I'm going to say as a complaint because it's not. But there are some realities of writing that most people don't understand. I began working on The Kindling in April of 2009. I have a full-time job and other responsibilities, so it's not like I was working on it for eight hours a day. I'm also fairly slow and OCD about revisions. Still, the fact remains that I typed the first words of that book just under 4 years ago and I am now anticipating my first check for that work.
I am thrilled to anticipate this and very grateful that the publisher published what I wrote and that enough readers cared to buy it that there are royalties at all. Thank you to everyone who bought a copy! I'm grateful beyond words.
Still--that is a long time to work on spec. That's hours and hours almost every evening and weekend. It also means I had to pay for paper and ink cartridges and postage and buy iTunes gift cards for giveaways and a wig for the book trailer and so on long before I saw any money. But it's what many, if not most, writers do.
Different publishers handle this in slightly different ways--mine pays the first check six months after the book is published. Other publishers might do it different. I know one publisher who waits a year! Most publishers have a delay between publication and payment of royalties, and there are reasons for that. Additionally, most small publishers don't give out advances (and, even with the big dogs in NYC, advances are happening less and less these days).
I was also happy to see that my second book sold far, far more copies than my first book. Other authors who have been at this longer tell me this is the consistent pattern. The more you write, the better you get and the more people read your books.
This leads me to the second thing I want to say. A number of people I know assume that, because I have published a book, I must be making good money. That is a common myth, I think.
Once again, different publishers have different royalty schedules. But for the most part, authors are going to make between 10-20% on copies sold. Unless you are a big author, probably 10-15 % net (that's the smaller number for those of you with math skills like mine). Sometimes on net, sometimes on gross. E-books generally yield a little more (incidentally, if an author sells books through their website, they probably make more on those than they would through Amazon or a bookstore. More on that below)--but the point remains that when you buy a book only a small percentage of that money makes its way back to the author.
Again, this is not a complaint. But I don't think most people realize this. Some aspiring authors I know need money and see writing a book as the ticket. That is just about as far from the truth as can be. Writing is not a get-rick-quick scheme. In fact, for most people, it is not a get-rich-anytime scheme. A comparatively small number of people are able to supplement their incomes. An even smaller number are able to live reasonably well by writing. And an even tinier handful make a lot of money. The reason that J.K. Rowling and Stephenie Meyer are big deals is because what they did--writing a best-selling series as a first time author--hardly ever happens. One should write because there are stories to tell--not to make money.
This is why many authors are turning to self-publishing--they get more money and the wait time is not nearly as long. But self-publishing is not a panacea--turning out a good product requires paying for an editor, a cover designer, and there are still no guarantees that people will buy the book in an increasingly crowded field.
In other words, writing is a bit of a gamble from the financial POV. If you want to write, then you need to realize that a) your first book probably won't sell many copies b) it could be years before you see any money from those the sales you do get and c) when you do see the money, it will likely not be all that much. Be prepared for that.
As long as I can remember, books have been precious to me. They have given me hours and hours and hours of delight, comfort, excitement, and satisfaction. Until the last few years, however, I didn't understand all that went in to producing that book for my enjoyment. And I wish I had known. So, I'm going to tell you what I've learned.
If you are a reader, not a writer, you might consider buying books to support authors you like. Of course budgets are tight and there is nothing wrong with using a library or borrowing a copy from a friend. Most writers I know want their stuff to be read no matter how the reader comes to the book (as long as it's not pirated). But when you can, and as you are able, buying a book is a nice gesture. I know sometimes people buy a copy of a book and then loan it out to every family member and friend. There's nothing dishonest or wrong with that. But if you can, buying a book is always going to be preferable from the author's point of view.
I mentioned above that many authors sell their own books through their websites or at book signings, etc. This usually is better for the author because they can buy the book at wholesale and then sell the book and make several dollars in profit as opposed to just the small royalty. I like it because I can sell copies through my website and sell them for less than you'd pay on Amazon or in a bookstore and still make more money per book myself. Woo-hoo for free markets!
Don't ask the author for free copies. One doesn't ask a dentist to give free root canals or a lawyer for free court filings.
A book costs money, but a lot goes into it. In addition to the author's time and work, there are editors and cover designers and on and on. It's not something that can be done on the cheap if you want a good product.
If you read a book you like, tell your friends. Talk about it on Facebook or Twitter or at church. Review it on Amazon and Barnes&Noble.com and Goodreads. You might also see if that author has a page on Facebook (most do) or is on Twitter, etc. Following them is another way you can help.
One last thought. I was recently part of an email conversation where an author talked about how scared she was to write. She's had some set-backs lately that had left her disappointed and not feeling confident. She needed to write a sequel but was paralyzed because she worried that her readers would hate it.
Writing is scary. It means putting yourself out there in a huge way. You spend years writing something, doing the best you can and then put it out there for people to like--or hate.
If you read a book you like, you might email the author and let them know you loved it. Some of the really big names get too much fan mail to respond, but most authors love hearing that readers liked their work. I'm friends with a lot of authors and even those who sell a lot of books will be thrilled to get an email or note from someone. I had a most enjoyable discussion the other night with a young reader who asked me some questions about the finer points of the Magi and some of their practices. That was a lot of fun.
If you read something you hate, that's fine. You certainly don't have to keep it a secret and I'm not trying to say you have to pull your punches. But, when you get on Goodreads or Amazon and start rating it, just remember that there is a human soul behind that book. A human soul with feelings. You can critique it honestly without being nasty or taking potshots. I actually study my reviews carefully and try to understand what I can do better, especially when they are articulated respectfully by people who appear to be thoughtful. Saying, "This book didn't work for me" or "I just didn't like such-and-such" or "In my opinion, the book would be stronger if..." is much different from making cutting, personal, and snarky remarks. You would be surprised how many authors are devastated from reading these reviews.
Okay, well, that's the end of my ramble now.
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