So has anyone been following American Idol? (Why, oh why am I publicly admitting to this???) I got sucked in this year thanks to the strike (nothing else to watch), despite not having watched in three or four seasons, and beyond the fact that I am slightly obsessed with David Cook, I am so tickled that the coronation song (chock full of those requisite "rainbows," etc) is called Time of My Life.
I was listening to it on virtual repeat on iTunes yesterday when I had what might have been the best professional day of my life: I got news from so many fronts that my head was nearly literally spinning - I still can't wrap my brain around everything, and I can't reveal all of the news (I know, I'm a tease - next week, for sure), but one thing that I can announce is that Random House sold the rights to Time of My Life in Australia, Spain and Germany, and beyond being awesome for a variety of reasons, these deals ensured that even before the book hits stores, I've sold out my advance. Which is so big, I can't even explain it.
But let me backtrack and try.
When you get an offer for your book, what you're getting is a lump sum of money upfront that is yours and yours to keep. You then spend the rest of your time trying to earn that money back for the publisher, and until you do (and there's a statistic out there which says that something like 4 out of 5 books - or a really high number like that - never will), you're not going to see another dime. Sure, royalties sound great, but for many writers, they're theoretical.
I'm not sure why the publishing industry is set up this way. Basically, when you're offered your advance, the sales and marketing team has done some research quantifying how many books they expect you to sell, how valued your book will be overseas, etc, but really, it's a crap shoot. This is why huge advances can be daunting: there is a very good risk that you'll never earn it back, but small advances can bring a different type of death knell: they mean tiny print runs and no exposure. I know that HarperCollins, for example, is exploring a different way of paying authors: no advance, higher royalties, and of course, a lot of authors aren't thrilled about this because it only benefits us (at least in the short-term) to get more money than we might have earned on royalties alone. But the publishing industry loses a lot of money, and really, objectively, it's easy to see why.
But I've digressed. My point here is that these foreign sales were so juicy that I've already earned out my advance. And I didn't realize it, but this is the biggest relief I could ever dream of. The pressure you feel once your book is out there in the world is enormous. But it's ever-present, so it's almost like you're unaware of it until you realize that there could be an absence of this pressure, that, in fact, I could sell nary a copy of this book and my publisher would still make money on it. And wow, knowing that? What a different experience this time around is going to be. I want to enjoy it, savor it now that there are no financial expectations to live up to. You forget about that when you're going through this process - really, you think the goal is just to sell your book to a publisher and have people read it, but that can't just be the goal. The goal, like it or not, has to be to be profitable. Or else your next advance will falter or worse, you won't get the chance to be published again.
Anyway, what can I say? I am flipping out. With relief. Relief from tension that I didn't even realize I felt. And I plan to continue to listen to David Cook's coronation song, cheesiness and all, the entire weekend, because really, this is the time of my life.
(And yes, more big news hopefully next week!)