Inspiration to one is depressing to another. Mom, don’t read this. Statistics depress you. I, on the other than, have enough of my hard-headed-I-WILL-do-it-if-someone-says-I-can’t of my father in me to read on. I’m just that way.
Last night, around 8:30 pm, my Arizona-based Swami told me just that. Hard-headeded-ness (a Sarah special), goes along with cancer, all things painful, and generally speaking, frustration-produced success. I’ll take the success part, but the cancer and pain I could do without. So it was that my Swami was talking me from the ledge last night, telling me what I need to do in order to address the rushing back of all things organically-growing inside my chest tissue. Sparing you the details (I personally get sick of every single retail outlet I enter asking me to buy a pink something-or-other, despite the fact I could personally benefit), let me just say, my Swami did good.
“Why do you doooo this,” he drawls, in his Eastern sort of way. The question is rhetorical. By “this,” he means, I
a) wait too long to call a doctor (I’m pretty sure us Swedes burned doctors at the stake, as the Vikings chased the dragons),
b) I didn’t return his call from 4 weeks ago, checking up on me (because I had being chased down by a person in authority. I know. I’m 42, and still a rebellious teenager) and
c) all this might have been preventable if I’d only cut out the ‘stress’ from my life, for stress is a non propigator of all things that are bad for the body.
I’ll get right on that last one.
After I take a massage dosage of what my Swami has recommended, I cry myself to sleep. Alone, for after Rog does his best to comfort me, he gives up, realizing after 12 yrs, I’ll be better in the morning. Sure enough, I’m better this morning, get on the treadmill as my own little version of toothless crawls around on the floor of the gym, alternately pulling P-dog’s nipples and chasing down white-bear (our cat). I can’t quite get the energy to run until the very end. When I picked up the pace, the endorphins released and I had an epiphany.
Writing makes me feel good, and even though my brother-in-law has expressed more talent in a single paragraph than I can in an entire book, it’s not the point. When stress relief equals writing even marginally readable materials (witness this blog), I’ll continue.
The second moment of realization was that hundreds, nay, perhaps thousands, of other stress-filled homosapiens might suffer from my, or similar illnesses. Since I’ve slogged through the marshes journeyed by an amateur writer and come out the other end, I should share with these very folks. You.
This next piece is an excerpt taking from a writer’s workshop I hold at my house every year. You’ll have to your best to envision the appetizers and desserts that accompany the content. It will make it a lot more satisfying.
Back to mom (are you still reading Linda-Lou?), the reason I put the statistics about the publishing industry, and writing overall, is this: knowing reality is a good level set. The way I see it, when the next great writer shoots the top, overcoming all odds, it’s a wing for everyone (me included). Thereby proving Swedes can be positive in the face of bad news.
At least 6 routes to market exist for books. The “traditional” route is the one most folks are familiar with, though publish on demand is fantastic. One can create a ditty, publish on line, or through a downloadable application. With all the routes, the most credible and, for now, one with the most exposure, is through a publishing house. I’m going to save all the particulars, ins and outs of money etc for on-line releases for another blog. This will get folks started.
Oh-and I must say–this information was never given to me. I’m not in NY, (WA is slightly outside the publishing scene). The school I attended was the one of hard knocks.
Time to market: 2-4 years
- · Month 1-6 first draft
- · Month 6-12: drafts 2-3
- · Month 12-15: final and pre-selling
- · Month 18-24: publishing and distribution
- · Month 24: in-stores and author marketing
- · Month 30-36: first royalty reports
- · Month 36-42: first payment
The Importance of Agents
As a side note, I truly lucked out with my agent. Here’s what happened. I bought every last Writer’s Guide
book available. Read each page. Bookmarked and tagged. The lists of who I “should” target was overwhelming, both for agents and editors. I was so stressed out, when I passed the book on my shelf, I’d get the runs. (Swedes have finicky stomachs).
I showed my list to Rog, who just told me to start calling. I did one better. I went to the website and read that none of the top 25 were soliciting manuscripts. One had to get a personal introduction.
My lucky break came when Rog offered to talk with the book group within his then-employer (Microsoft). He called up a guy, asked him what agents he liked, and the guy gave him a few names. The first person on the list returned my call, I gave him my pitch, and he liked. So much so, he provided a sample proposal template, a document I’d never seen before (the agent had used it to place over 200 books).
Over time, I learned from a editor that they read submitted manuscripts largely by the reputation of the agent. An “A” agent ensures the manuscript gets read in 3 months or less. “B” agents mean 3-6 months, and “C” agents are beyond six months. On average, and editor will have 50 or so manuscripts printed and stacked in their offices. Then, of course, when an agent has a superstar bestseller, anything that agent reps gets read immediately. New agents (ones w/out a title to their names) have a rough time. This then, is the importance of an agent in the traditional publishing world.
Once a publisher is interested, the terms and conditions come forth. Lots of wanna-be authors (and 10 year olds) who I speak to, are interested in the money, though it’s the shameless 5th graders that ask the questions.
Generally speaking, advances for business books (known as Trade) pay larger advances due to the fact the shelf life is longer. The average shelf-life is 5 years, whereas a paperback romance is 6 months or less (romance novels represent 48% of all books sold, or $1.5B/yr). The advances, and royalties, reflect this fact. 4 years ago, the average advance on trade books was $15K. 2 years ago, it averaged $5K. Now it’s $1.25K, unless the author is well known (e.g. Guy Kawasaki).
Fiction advances, by and large, by the least (again, exceptions exist). Cookbooks and romance pay well, since these tend to draw large crowds at bookstores and cookbooks can be franchised (a la entire brands built around the author, from spatulas to baking products). Childrens/young readers, pay the lowest (I don’t want depression to turn to suicidal tendencies, so I’ll omit that detail). Suffice it to say many receive zero advance $.
· Royalties range as well, fluctuations dependent on where the book is sold and the accelerator. For instance, if a hard cover book with a retail price of $29.95 is sold in the US, the royalty to the author will be $2.50 to $4.50, depending on volume. That same book sold overseas, say in China, will yield the author $.10 cents. Uh-huh. For a time, my first trade book was selling about 800 copies in China for every 1 in the US. Talk about depressing.
Hardbound and paperback romance novels
average a printing of 100,000 books, and the average royalty is $.20 cents, though the catch is it’s usually a 1 time printing.
An accelerator is a clause added to a contract that gives the author more money when sales hit a certain threshold. The royalty jumps up, and is a means to reward the author. The thresholds vary according to the type of book and market (as well as the expected sales as determined by the marketing department within the publishing house). For business books, it’s 2,500-5,000 or 5,000-10,000 books etc
. (this is what’s in my Trade contracts). The Accelerators will begin at the top threshold mark, and provide a higher royalty (usually in increments of either $0.10 or $0.25).
The update to the above facts is that an on-line book needs to sell about 60,000 downloads to be considered successful. Depending on the agent or editor I’m speaking with, the range goes from 30-60K, because that’s how many downloads the publisher needs to make a profit. However, self-publishers pocket that entire amount (less the Apple 30% whack. Still, it’s a lot less than the publishers 85%+).
With that in mind, I’m off to address my stress issues. I’m going to start by telling the studio it needs to make a film about Swedes keeping our cool in the face of adversity (PS Rog hid the golf clubs JIC).