Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Show Me the Money

Whoo-hoo! That's me celebrating after diving back into my WIP. Per my stated goals, I logged in 1k words yesterday, and intend to do so every day (barring weekends or emergencies) until it's completed. The thing about writing fiction - at least for me - is that I dread doing it, but once I'm actually doing it, I find that I love it. So it's just a matter of forcing myself to sit down and write the damn thing. Sort of like going to the gym. Once you get in the habit of it, it merely becomes part of your routine.

Anyone else want to set some goals here? We can hold a weekly tally (on, say, Mondays) and fill each other in on how we did.

Question of the day: You've convinced me on the necessity of an agent. So let me ask a totally newbie question -- forgive me if you've addressed it. How does the $$ relationship work out? They get paid if your book sells? Or what?

First of all, there are no newbie questions here! That's the whole point of this blog!! No question is too dumb. (Well, that's not true. I'm sure that there are plenty of questions that are too dumb, but if you're reading this blog, you're already smart enough that I'm sure you've passed the point of being capable of asking truly moronic questions.)

Yes, the agent ONLY gets paid if she sells your book. Thus, it's in her best interest to work her tail off for you. It goes without saying that you should NEVER pay an "agent" an upfront fee - that's a blaring sign of a scam.

Here's how the whole money thing breaks down: most agents (in fact, I think nearly all of them), reap 15% of whatever you make from your book. So, for easy math, if you get a 10k advance, your agent pockets $1,500 from the advance, leaving you with $8,500. Whatever you get on top of your advance - if anything - she'll also get 15% of. But don't count on that money. Publishers calculate advances based on approximately what they expect your book to earn. Thus, if they think that you'll sell about 10k worth of books (this calculation includes all of the book-seller discounts and various things that I can't claim to understand), you'll get an offer for a 10k advance. And it's not until you've earned that money back that royalties kick in and you start seeing another dime.

Your agent can also earn you money by selling other rights, if she's held on to them. (In many cases, the publishing house might have bought them, but this is something that your agent can and will negotiate.) Rights such as foreign, audio, film, etc.

Keep in mind that your advance is paid out in increments: mine came (or is coming) in thirds, which is pretty standard, though if you have some leverage, I think you can get it paid in halves. I got the first third upon signing my contract, the next third upon handing in the revised and accepted manuscript, and I'll get the last third when the book comes year. If the average advance for a debut author is in the 10k ballpark, you can easily see how authors aren't exactly having Indecent Proposal moments, rolling around in the bed with gazillions of dollars. Divide 10k into three, take out 15% and taxes, and well...very few debut authors quit their day jobs.

So if you're toiling away at your ms because you think it's a path lined with gold, this post is a wake-up call. If you're toiling away at your ms because you're possessed like the devil to tell a f-ing great story, then keep at it.

And with that, I'm headed to the gym. That's been part of my routine since college...I'm hoping my writing habits become as ingrained as my exercise habits. Experts say that you need 4-6 weeks of repeatedly doing a new task before it becomes inate, so I'm counting on you guys to hold me accountable: in 4-6 weeks, I should be nearing the end of my WIP. We'll see how I do.


Sara Hantz said...

I'm up for some goal setting. I'm doing 3 pages every day - if I don't then I'm not allowed any internet! Threats work every time!

Anonymous said...

Talk about being able to relate! Your first paragraph Allison, was a direct hit to my heart. ;o)

I'm also glad to have Sara posting today (letting me know for certain that she's here) because a major THANK YOU is overdue.

Sara: Your "heads-up" on Donald Maass' Writing the Breakout Novel has literally changed my entire thought and writing process. Not only did I purchase and read the book, I also decided to try the Workbook. My word, this has been what I've been seeking! Writing exercises have been something that I've totally skipped in the past, but -- especially now that I'm starting from scratch on a new work -- these exercises are my guidelines for building my story from the ground up.

There are thiry-four chapters and exercises, all of which have multiple parts. As of today, I'm on Chapter 8 and will set my goal to have completed Chapter 16 by Monday. Being halfway there by mid-August sounds good to me, then the second half and finally the outline will hopefully prepare me to begin writing my 3 pages a day in another month or less.

Thanks again, Sara and Allison. Nothing can compare to some friendly motivation and discovering HOW to make the actual writing process easier.

Good luck to all of us!

Anonymous said...

I'm up for the challenge. If I don't write 1K a day I'll never make my Dec. 1 deadline on my next book. Let's all motivate each other to keep up the pace!

Alyssa Goodnight said...

I totally related to your first paragraph too, Allison. When I sit down to write, I first have to check my email, write my own blog entry, check my must-read blogs, figure out if there's any little, insignificant thing that I might be forgetting...THEN I start writing. And then, I don't want to stop.

And Larramie, just picked Writing the Breakout Novel up from the library today, so I'm glad to hear such inspiring things! Thanks for the suggestion, Sara!

I think I'm going to try for 1K words a day too (at least today...I'll see how it goes) ;)

Paulita said...

When I saw your e-mail about "stymied writers," I thought, that's not me. I have plenty to write about. Then I read on. You were speaking to me. I don't make the time to write. I'm a procrastinator.
I try to write in the mornings before my husband and kids are up, but I also have to fit everything else into the morning slot. Early morning run. Time alone with my husband. The writing gets pushed aside.
I would love to write 1000 words a day before 9 a.m. Should I give up the running or the husband?
I'm working on my second novel, although the first is in editing mode with no agent, no publisher.
My WIP is about two women who decide hiking the Appalachian Trail is the ultimate diet plan. They, of course, know nothing about hiking or surviving in the wilderness. I even did some research when three friends and I hiked for four days along the Trail in June. No more excuses. I'd better write it while I can.
P.S. - In order to respond to your blog, I had to start my own blog -- an accidental blog.

Anonymous said...


Can you show us a sample query letter that you used to pitch freelance articles?

Sara Hantz said...

Wow! I'm so glad you love The Don as much as I do. If you get the chance to see his workshop in person, grab it with both hands.

The one exercise of his that I haven't done - but I know people who have - is to throw the pages of your ms up in the air so it gets all messed up and then read it in the order it falls. This is to ensure you get tension on every page..... that's way too scary for me, with my obsession on having everything linear. Plus, with my 20 second attention span it would take an age!

Amie Stuart said...

SAra FWIW I did the math--3 pages a day is 80k in four months. *insert evil laugh here*
THis works for me because my contract is for an 80k book due in January and this leaves me plenty of time to edit, muddle through the holidays and work on other proposals.

Sara Hantz said...

Yay, Amie! I think the 3 pages a day thing otally rocks. And my CPs are really impressed with my output!