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C.E. Murphy explains the economic realities of a writer's life, e.g. contrary to popular opinion, most authors aren't spending their free time rolling around on piles of cash. Then Laura Anne Gilman chimes in to agree.

It takes courage to live the life of a freelancer. Many of my friends who are full-time writers are backed up by partners who have a more reliable stream of income, but even that is no guarantee of financial stability. All it takes is one health crisis, one natural disaster or family emergency and the whole house of cards comes falling down. And let's not mention the other perils of a writers life--publishers going bankrupt, checks arriving months after payment was due, option books being declined, series canceled, publishers merging and slashing acquisitions, being orphaned, well I could list more but frankly it's too depressing.

When coworkers learn I'm a published author, the first question they ask is generally "Why are you still working here?" The perception is that I'm rich, and no matter how much I explain otherwise, I'm not sure I've changed anyone's mind. Instead of accepting that this is the reality for most writers, they then assume that I'm simply bad at it :-)
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In a perfect world I would have an assistant who kept on top of these things for me. In the real world everything gets thrown in a folder on the theory that I'll deal with it when I have to. That time finally came, so this past weekend I excavated the folder so I could enter the numbers into spreadsheets and then fill out my taxes.

There were dozens of slips of paper to go through, but taken together it's pretty clear that a writer's most frequent destinations are office supply stores, bookstores and the post office, with the occasional trip to a convention or signing.

Advertising expenses are where things get interesting, whether it's a receipt for two pounds of candy for a book signing, or an order for several dozen lizard keychains. I've contemplated other ideas-- like renting the Goodyear blimp to circle San Diego during Comic-Con, or commissioning our own brand of Gilgamesh sanctioned UR-BEER, but the theory that advertising expenses should not exceed the advance tend to rein in my more extravagant fancies.

Then there are the things that aren't tax-deductible but should be, such as massages to relieve tension in shoulders/neck from being hunched over the keyboard, or the awesome jacket I bought to wear at WFC. And I'm pretty sure my critique partners qualify as dependents, or should that be co-dependents? I may need to give this more study.
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At WFC this past weekend I was chatting with an editor and expressed my admiration for the consistently high quality of the artwork that graces the cover of his magazine. He then informed me that one of the artists I admired had become so depressed by the rampant theft of his work that he'd stopped creating. I was saddened, but not surprised.

In that vein, I'm posting a link to Seanan McGuire's thoughtful post "As to hanging, it is no great hardship...": Internet Piracy, and Who It Hurts, and her follow-up post here. Most people reading my blog will have already read these, but it's worth boosting the signal.
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A few years back, a friend and I were at Worldcon listening to the Bantam editors describe their upcoming titles. After listening to Anne Groell talk about what excited her in the new books, my friend turned to me and said "This is why I could never sell to Anne--my books aren't dark enough."

Editors have their own tastes and biases. Editor A may rhapsodize over your CyberPunkMeetsJaneAusten manuscript, while Editor B is bored to tears by the same material. Publisher C can't get enough Military SF, while Publisher D has cornered the market on Unicorn tales. Even a great book will be rejected if it's not the right fit for that editor or publisher. When it comes to deciding where to submit your manuscript, this is where an agent's knowledge is invaluable.

But what if you don't have an agent? Then it's up to you to do the research. Locus Magazine has put together a list of 2006 books published by editor. It's worth taking a look to get a flavor for the editor's tastes. Note that the page is still a work in progress, so you'll want to bookmark it and check back for updates.
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In preparation for their upcoming annual conference, yesterday I went to the romance writer's bi-annual writing retreat, where [livejournal.com profile] jennifer_dunne and I gave our patented "How to pitch to an agent/editor" presentation, with Jennifer taking the role of hopeful author and I was the jet-lagged editor/agent-in-search-of-bar.

A couple folks who were just back from RWA National shared their stories of how their agent/editor appointments went, and this is the point where heartburn set in. One writer had multiple requests to see her manuscript, but wasn't sure if she was going to send it out. She'd heard a number of people saying that the market for that genre was weak, and in her mind this was reason enough not to bother trying. Plus one of the editors she spoke to is from Harlequin UK so she'd have the expense of mailing the manuscript to England. I bit my tongue rather than point out that she'd just dropped at least a thousand dollars to go to National, and now she's quibbling over a few bucks in postage.

Another writer had an agent request to see her work, but the agent wasn't wildly enthusiastic. She'd cut the writer's pitch short, not letting her finish her spiel before asking to see it. I would have taken this as a positive sign but this writer has decided if the agent wasn't in love with the verbal pitch then there's no chance she'll like the manuscript, so why bother?

In both cases the writers said they were considering submitting their manuscripts, eventually, but in reality they were just trolling for more excuses to put it off. I've no doubt that if I check in with these folks at the annual Christmas party I'll learn that both of them have allowed these opportunities to slip through their fingers.

Shame of the matter is that at least one of these women is a very talented writer. But after encouraging her for several years to start submitting her work, I've given up. It looks like she'll remain firmly on the professional virgin side, every now and then sending out a query or meeting with an agent, but never actually taking the emotional risk of incurring one rejection after another until she succeeds.

I firmly believe that the difference between myself and these women isn't a matter of skill so much as it is that I endured two years of rejections, and have the thick stack of rejection letters to prove it. Being a writer is as much about picking yourself up off the mat and trying again as it is about the ability to craft wonderful stories.

And if you happen to stumble across this and recognize yourself, please be angry. Go ahead and prove me wrong by sending your manuscript out. Whatever happens next, whether it's a rejection letter or an acceptance, I promise to be the first to hand you chocolates and buy you a drink.
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Was on Amazon.com this morning and noticed that they are no longer discounting new massmarket paperbacks. A quick search confirmed that there seems to be a new policy--hardcovers and tradepaperbacks are discounted, massmarket is not.

Anyone else noticed this? As far as I can tell this is a recent phenomenon.


Apr. 20th, 2006 09:28 pm
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Following the meme that's being passed around, a few public service links for anyone considering submitting their work to an agent.

First, repeat after me. "Money flows from the agent to the author." If an agent suggests that you need to pay them up front, walk away. Trust me, you're better off without them.

Now for the links.

A Who's Who list dredged from the bottom of the barrel Writer Beware's list of the twenty worst agents.

Preditors & Editors listing of agents (pay particular attention to the "Not Recommended" flags).

Association of Authors' Representatives. AAR members must subscribe to a canon of ethics and have a track record of sales. A good place to start your agent search.
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On this date in 44 BCE, Julius Caesar was assassinated. Give credit to William Shakespeare for the fact that anyone remembers the month and day of his death.

FWIW, the "Ides of March" was a phrase that had special significance for Americans during those years when their income taxes were due on March 15th, providing everyone with the obvious death and taxes jokes. Sadly in the 1950s the due date was changed to April 15th, and thus comedians had to start searching for their own material.

For those who haven't seen it, [livejournal.com profile] alg has a great post on publishing as a business.

Some of the advice may seem obvious, such as "Act like an adult" and "Do your homework" but it's sad to say that many writers miss these obvious steps and need to have them spelled out.

August 2017



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