“I Published My Debut Novel to Critical Acclaim — and Then I Promptly Went Broke”
The article with the above title from Marie Claire has been making the rounds on social media. It’s by an author who had one book published and then crashed on the harsh rocks of reality. The sub title is “On the dark side of literary fame.”
Take a moment to read it, then join me back.
Okay. Your reactions?
- Who cares about ‘critical acclaim’? As Ms. Tierce has learned, that doesn’t pay the bills. I’ve had some great reviews in my time and some terrible ones. I’ve noticed they matter little in terms of sales. Ms. Tierce spends time letting you know what these reviews are and also the awards won. Which means she still thinks those will sell books. We used to joke at the Maui Writers Conference that they give awards to literary books and checks to professional writers.
- She does finally accept publishing is a business. It has moved on. The problem is she hasn’t. She mentions that she probably should have taken a two book deal. She mentions quitting her day job. But what she doesn’t mention is what she did in the year while that book was in production. Apparently not write another book. I’m not sure what she was waiting on. Every author I’ve ever met who thought they had it made? That was the moment their career as a writer was over. I stayed alive in traditional publishing in a place they (they being the gurus who know all but don’t do it) said didn’t exist. As a midlist author for over two decades. How? By staying one book ahead of my contracts. I had a three book deal? I wrote four. I wrote under five pen names when publishers only wanted a book a year. A book a year didn’t pay the bills or the kids’ medical insurance.
- I went hybrid, actually sort of think I invented the term in a blog in 2010, when I looked to the future and revamped my business plan, forming Cool Gus Publishing. If I had not, I’d probably be gun slinging somewhere in the world, falling back on my previous career in Special Ops. Pays more than carrying letters.
- She didn’t ask for a two book deal because she didn’t want to owe “anyone anything.” As an author there is someone I owe everything to. The reader. They’re the ones who pay my salary. Not the publisher. Not Amazon. Readers. I owe them everything.
- She also felt writing a book under contract would cause the book to feel “contrived”. I call this the ‘black beret, cigarette-smoking, standing on the street corner, poet’ syndrome. Where one writes when inspired. When the muse is whispering sweet nothings in one’s ear. I got Cool Gus and Sassy Becca snoring at my feet right now. They need to be fed. They don’t get fed, they get ornery. That’s my muse.
- Missing in the article is what she was doing from the time she quit her day job to the time she went to hauling letters. She ‘wonders’ if her publisher considers the book a failure. Has she asked? Does she have an agent? She says she does, but one would think the agent is giving some sort of feedback?
- She didn’t earn back her advance. She didn’t want a two book deal, which is going against the norm. Here’s a thing– the publisher had less of an investment in her with a one shot deal. So she ignored the business, and didn’t think through another basic fundamental for a new author: earning back your advance is more a sign of success than total copies sold at that level. So sometimes it’s better to take less up front. I did that numerous times through my 42 traditionally published books. Take a $15,000 advance and earn $14,000 you failed. Take a $10,000 advance and earn $12,000 and you’re more a success than the first author who actually earned more. Crazy? Sorta. But publishing doesn’t make sense because it’s part of . . .
- The Entertainment Business. Entertainment is emotional. Business is numbers. They don’t mesh. But they do. I now have over 70 books published. That’s a number. It leads to emotion, which is my appreciation for the checks that come in every month.
- Even she realizes it when she says she’d sign a contract in blood for $40,000. These days, what one can do is earn $40,000 by writing your ass off and self-pubbing. Nowhere does she mention leveraging those great reviews and rewards (they actually could be useful, but not in the way she’s doing it, looking backwards, but moving forward) to become a hybrid author. One wonders if she even knows what that is.
To sum up the last paragraph with the real truth?
The reality about making money as a writer is your work your ass off, you write all the time, whether you’re tired, sick, or the muse is taking a crap, sometimes on your head. You learn the business and run a business.
Her last sentence is backwards and modified. Here’s mine:
YOU WRITE AND THEN YOU HAVE MONEY.
Originally published at www.writeitforward.com on September 18, 2016.