Monday, March 02, 2015

So, you think you'd like to make some money?

A recent comment on an earlier blog post about how money flows to writers prompted this blog post.  This is a refresher course in how that "big book deal" actually translates to your finances.

For the ease of discussion, I'm going to use ball park, round numbers as the advance amount.

When your brilliant and sharkly agent sells your book she calls you up and you both whoop with joy. Then you get down to brass tacks on how much that offer is for:

$10,000 per book for a two book deal.  That means the offer is for $20,000 (2 books x $10k each)

When the contract is negotiated and signed, you'll get a check for a partial amount of that. Depending on how the payout is structured on the contract it could be:

1. 1/2 on signing, 1/2 on delivery
2. 1/2 on signing, 1/2 on publication

3. 1/3 on signing, 1/3 on delivery, 1/3 on publication

4. 1/4 on signing, 1/4 on delivery, 1/4 on publication, 1/4 on paperback pub.

The HIGHER the advance amount for each book, the more splits you're likely to have.

Using our $10K book, here are the numbers:

1. If it's half on signing, half on something else:
 $10,000 divided by two payments =$5,000 for the on signing payment.
Less: 15% for your brilliant, sharkly agent is minus $750.

Total to you for for Book One on signing is $5000 minus $750 which is $4250.

BUT, there's more!  You ALSO receive the on-singing payment for Book#2.

Thus the check you get for on signing is $8500.  ($4250 for each of two books!)
Wheee!

The next payment you see is $4250 (Book 1, less commission) either on delivery or on pub
depending how your contract payout is set up.

The next payment is on delivery or on pub of Book 2, and that's another $4250.  And this is where things get tight. If D&A is delayed, or publication is moved, you might go a year between these payments.

I've seen all those things, and other calamities as well, happen.


Here are some other things that can muck up the works:

You sign a three book deal, but you can't deliver the third book for some reason.

In this case, you have to return that on-signing payment you got for Book#3, way back when you signed the contract.

And here's the kicker: we don't return the commission. You're on the hook for the entire amount.

Generally we can negotiate with the publisher about this, but this is something to remember when you're planning your finances.  Don't spend the money received on a book you haven't written. Better to drop that in a savings account or a interest bearing instrument until you know for sure you get to keep it.

Obviously this is more important for big ass deals of $100K/book than it is for $10K/book.

This also applies to translation and audio deals. 

(Generally, you don't have to give the money back if the publisher cancels the book.)

Here's another thing to remember: the advance money may be the only money you see on a book. The higher the advance, the more that has to be earned before royalties are paid. Royalties are paid to the author ONLY when the book has earned back the money paid out on the advance. I rep books that have never earned out, and some that earned out within weeks.  You might guess that the lower advance ones earned out faster--that's not always the case.


The next thing to remember is that the money from the publisher is all taxable. When you start your writing career, you're esssentially starting a small business.  You'll need to file a Schedule C with your income tax forms, showing how much you earned and how much you spent. It's entirely possible you'll spend more than you earned. That's one (of many!) reasons you keep very good records and don't get cutesy with your deductions.  The IRS looks askance at people who deduct their living room couch as "home office" even if that's where you do your writing. Also deducting trips to France as "research"is a really good way to get a second set of eyeballs on your tax return.  You want to be careful, and follow the law scrupulously here. A good tax preparer is essential.

And you'll pay tax on the money as you receive it, so that first big chunk o'advance: you'll pay tax on all of that, even though it's income on a book that isn't written yet.

Very few writers are living on what they make publishing books.

Any questions? Fire away in the comments column.



47 comments:

Kitty said...

Bookmark this for future reference.

And thanks for my first laugh of the morning, Janet, with your hilarious typo "on-singing" payment :-)

Kelsey Hutton said...

Hi Janet,

This is a very clear breakdown on how advances work, etc, thank you! I just wish it didn't end in that same brutal conclusion: that very few writers can make a living writing.

(Next Singles Nite at Safeway: Doctors & lawyers, meet those romantic creative types you've always had a thing for! Also, please support them financially for the next 20 years.)

Are there basic improvements to this system you would love to see, or have advocated for, on behalf of your authors? How how the finances of publishing go if you were QOTKU?

french sojourn said...

I noticed you didn't include the amounts for movie deals...any reason?

And if it's a two book deal, how does that translate sequel wise in Hollywood...3 % gross?

cheers.

MB Owen said...

Kelsey--I second the questions in your last paragraph. I'll throw in a related question about the explosive rise in self-publishing and how it may (or may not) have effected publishers in terms of their finances. (More $$ in the pool??)

Probably not. We write because we're writers + we measure our world through words.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

At the risk of repeating myself (I’ve written about this before) I figured I’d share that there is often more to an advance then money.

Through no effort of my own I was paid a full-amount advance (small publisher then, huge now) for an unwritten book (yikes) twenty-three years ago. It was to be a collection of humorous drawings with captions. They loved it. They said it would make me famous and be one of those books which transcends traditional publishing. My head would not fit through the door.
With the advance I bought a white Cadillac and a pure white German Sheppard. I was obnoxiously living the writer’s image without an agent, without common sense.
I did not deliver the goods.
After nine months the publishing rights returned to me.
I did NOT have to pay the advance back because they canceled the contract.
I was depressed and demoralized by my own stupidity. Left with paying taxes on the advance, an expensive car payment, a dog that bit everyone, including me, it was not until a speeding pick-up ended the life of my beautiful, (but mean) dog, that I realized how out-of-wack my thinking was.
Regarding the chance I had, and the unbelievable opportunity which was literally dropped in my lap by fate, I have only one regret. That I didn’t love my dog and train him, still haunts me to this day.

stacy said...

I'd sing for a payment, but I don't think you'd want me to.

donnaeverhart.com said...

In some ways I've already "practiced" what you're preaching. I wish I could say it's b/c I've had an advance, but instead, it's because I spent a lot of time working spreadsheets and formulas relating to my bonus and severance pay when I left the Corporate world. I had to estimate taxes owed, and then hold on to money in order to pay when it came due.

I've also had good practice at squirreling away $, stretching it out to make it last as long as possible so I can pursue writing full time. I didn't realize I could be such a tightwad.

Thank you for passing along the nitty gritty on how it all works. The one part I didn't know was about paying back the "on signing" amount if book 3 isn't delivered. So, keeping with your numbers, this sounds like it would be $5K paid back to publisher by THE AUTHOR. (*b/c we would be responsible for full amt -including the commission you received)

I'm also assuming (God forbid) if the author doesn't deliver on two books, this means payback of $10K on signing money...

Julie Weathers said...

I was in real estate for a while and did very well selling for the largest new home contractor in Texas. While most Realtors turned up their noses at anything less than $60,000 and conventional loans with 10% down, I sold the hound out of those little $25,000 VA and FHA houses. I made myself such an expert on the FHA loans, lenders asked me how they worked.

It meant people like police officers, military people, and lower income people could qualify to buy homes more affordably than they could rent.

This was before the idiotic laws were passed making banks give loans to anyone whether they qualified or not. That was when I got out of real estate.

Anyway, I was selling houses right and left to working people and the occasional $100,000 house. There were a few young people selling houses who thought they'd died and gone to heaven and would never see another poor day.

"Put some of this money back, just because you sold a house doesn't mean it's going to close."

"Oh, you worry wort," hahahaha "I'll just sell another one."

Then mortgage rates and points started doing odd things. I had 30 plus houses under contract. You always figure on losing about 25% because someone forgets about bills they owe, income they don't have, credit that isn't as good as they said it was, or maybe mortgage rates will change a lot in between the time you sign and they close. Mortgage rates and points started jumping, as I said and the phones started ringing.

I lost 20+ contracts in one day. $60,000 in commissions. This was with me being a conservative Realtor. I didn't like nor recommend people buy the absolute max they could qualify for. Crap happens and you don't want to lose your home because it does.

If the offices hadn't been one story, I would have expected to see some of those others sales associates to jump out windows. "What am I going to do? I was counting on those sales?"

"I don't know. Sell another house?"

Second stupid story:

A publishing industry icon much like QOTKU does critiques. People send in queries, etc and he and his minions slice and dice, hopefully showing the slicee how to improve their work.

During NANO someone sent in a query letter for a book they were working on. I was trying to be kind, but it was a mess and the story was kind of a mess. I suggested the person focus on writing the story and get the kinks worked out and then worry about the query letter.

He had to get the query perfect because his entire family was depending on the success of this book. So, if he could get the query right, then he could finish up the book by the end of November and be set to publish.

I honestly didn't think stories like this were real, but there it was.

Julie Weathers said...

Carolynn,

What a sad story. I used to have a white German Shepherd named Lonesome. Our landlord took him out and shot him. I will never forgive him for that.

What an interesting turn of events in the life journey.

Julie

S.D.King said...

Reading this I wonder "Is that $10k what a mid-list author is looking at for each book?"
Some day I would enjoy seeing this taken a step further - what if foreign rights sold for that same book? Movie rights? (No, I have no personal delusions, but I am curious about the basic percentages)
If an author does not earn out the advance, is that person blackballed in the industry?

Colin Smith said...

Wow. Thanks for sharing your stories 1L and 2Ns. As always. :)

Hank: I'm not sure about the percentages, but my understanding is the author doesn't see money on movie rights until a budget has been set by the studio. I *think* that means if the studio sets aside a budget of $10M for the movie, the author gets a % of that. Obviously subject to negotiation by the agent that does the movie rights, which might not be the agent you signed with. *Janet--please confirm/correct!*

This was a great break-down of things, Janet, and a good reminder of why I should be grateful I have a good day job. And why you should never go into writing for the money.

Ardenwolfe said...

Wow, Carolynn, what a wake-up call of a story.

donnaeverhart.com said...

Time for...... the DAILY SIDEBAR!

2N's and Julie, not sure, but it sounds like your German Shepherds might have been Double Merles. I only learned of this when I read an absolutely stunning essay by Teri Carter, called TAKING LUCY BACK. (2n's - you know Teri I think from Averil's blog, etc.) It was published in the Tacoma Literary Review, and what a story.

Anyway, here's a link for your convenience. Maybe your dogs weren't, but all white dogs almost have the same stigma as all black dogs. Crazy if you ask me...being a dog lover, I'd give them all a home if I could.

https://www.google.com/search?q=double+merle+dogs&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8#q=double+merle

LynnRodz said...

Damn, I was hoping that on-singing wasn't a typo and I could sing for my supper. Then again, I couldn't sing in a roomful of people hard of hearing without eggs being tossed my way. Janet, this posts only goes to show I have a math impairment. You lost me after the singing part.

Two things I got out of this post are:

1. It's a good thing most of us here aren't writing for the money.

2. An agent needs a couple of bestselling authors on their roster to make a decent living.

Julie, your second story is so sad.

Julie Weathers said...

Donna,

German Shepherds don't have a merle gene, but they do trace back to a white working dog named Grief. They are not recognized in the breed standard even though he was the grandfather of a foundation sire though they can compete in performance. AKC snobs, which is why I stopped breeding Aussies when AKC recognized Auusies. I knew they would ruin the breed.

Aussies do have merle genes and can have the defective merle gene if you breed two merles together. That's why Gage the Wonder dog has so much white and is deaf. He's defective, but I don't tell him.

Dena Pawling said...

“(Generally, you don't have to give the money back if the publisher cancels the book.)”

Such a roller coaster. You endure all those rejections. Bummer time. And FINALLY get an agent. WooHoo! Party time! Then the agent doesn't sell your book. Bummer time. But then said agent finally sells the book. Party time! Then the publisher cancels the book. Bummer time.

No wonder people are self-publishing.

“The IRS looks askance at people who deduct their living room couch as "home office" even if that's where you do your writing.”

Would be fun to deduct our furry friends, plus food and vet bills, because they keep our feet warm and our sanity intact while we're slaving away. IRS probably won't allow that either, altho it sounds like a necessary business expense to me :)

Jenz said...

This is very much a "what the market will bear" thing. In that sense, the payments are fair.

Creative work has always been undervalued. Admit it, when you started writing, you didn't think it would be as hard as it is, did you?

Colin Smith said...

Dena:

Thinking about the roller coaster ride that is publishing made me consider something that Janet said that I think is perhaps VITAL to understanding why this is the case:

"When you start your writing career, you're esssentially starting a small business."

Talk to small business owners and ask them if owning a small business is a roller coaster ride. Signing contracts with suppliers who end up not supplying, getting a deal that turns sour, coming close to signing contracts on lucrative deals only to have people change their minds at the last minute, having to figure out what is and isn't taxable income, paying salaries and insurance and figuring out bonuses, wage advances, etc. And then you have fluctuating markets that can affect your product sales, and marketing, and all that stuff.

What we do is art, but it's part of a business: selling books. We create the product, the agents help us connect our product with manufacturers and suppliers (the publishers), who then mass produce our product and put it in the hands of retailers (book stores).

And what business has never experienced the roller coaster ride?

Just thought that was an interesting perspective. :)

Kitty said...

Before I met my husband, he had lived in Germany for 6+ years where he learned how to train German Shepherd dogs in Schutzhund. (That's why I nicknamed him DogMan.) The word means protection, but the training is actually a breeder's tool for deciding the best dogs for breeding. The training involves obedience, scent work, endurance and protection.

The first dog we got right after we were married was a white GS. He didn't want a white, but he took the dog because the owner beat him with a chain. He's the only dog I couldn't break with the chain, so I'll use him as stud. Klaus was a wonderful pet and loved his obedience training.

I'm terribly sorry for your loss, Carolynnwith2Ns.

Dena Pawling said...

Hey Colin

Yes, I had my own shingle for several years, form 1040 and schedule C, the works. [Not really keen on starting that again, but life does that to a person sometimes.]

Self-publishing is also a person's small business, with its own ups and downs. Yep, roller coaster either way, but the self-pub folks have at least *some* measure of additional control. That's why most of them in my local RWA group like it. They are in charge of their own destiny, for the most part, and they keep their rights. That's how it was when I had my own shingle also.

I think the "out of your control" nature of the traditional route is what's more scary.

Doranna said...

This is not a comment about GSDs. ;>

There's this:

"If D&A is delayed, or publication is moved, you might go a year between these payments."

An author can deliver promptly (and have an excellent agent to cover her back) and still wait for payments. Publishers delay by not reading/accepting the book within the contracted time. They forget to trigger the payment. They forget. They forget. They stall. They don't respond to nudges. And oh, don't you know it can take two months to process a payment even if submitted promptly?

There'd have been more to this post if there was an anonymous option. There's not, so I leave it to your imagination. The point is, none of it is money to be counted on as far as a schedule is concerned.

John "Ol' Chumbucket" Baur said...

The one part you forgot to mention is when you sign the contract, send it back and wait anxiously by the mail box for the check. Six weeks later, frantic because you'd planned to use that money for the rent, you call your agent who checks and discovers the contract has been languishing on someone's desk in the publisher's office and hasn't been signed yet. Three increasingly shrill phone conversations later, the person with the pen finally inks the deal, and a week to ten days after that you get the check. With any luck you haven't had to change your address because of an inconvenient eviction.
Oh, the glamorous life of a writer!

Colin Smith said...

I think there's a general life lesson here, one I've learned over years of family budgeting:

Don't count on money until it's in the bank.

I know that's easier said than done for some, so adapt according to circumstances. :)

Elissa M said...

Self-employed artist here. Boy howdy do I know how hard the gov'ment makes it to be a small business person. I don't even bother with the home office deduction because it's not worth the hassle.

Math makes my eyes cross and my head burst open. No, this isn't a "girls can't do math" comment. I moved around so much as a kid that I never was properly taught mathematics, and it was never instinctive to me. I depend on my tax lady, and my number disability is one of the primary reasons I'll be seeking an agent when my manuscript is ready. No way am I going to venture into the publishing jungle sans guide.

Thanks for the breakdown here, Janet. And double thanks for the easy-to-understand numbers. Fortunately I've always known that one doesn't get rich creating things. I'm happy when I make enough money just to buy more materials to keep creating.

Lisa Bodenheim said...

I have one friend/colleague who writes non-fiction and she calls her advances and royalties "pin" money or fun money. I have 1 non-fiction book published (2007) and it's still earning royalties but small amounts.

I read another person (can't remember if it was someone here in the comments who referred to this blogger) who wrote about the advances she received on her well-selling book and it amounted to around $20,000 a year, after taxes, after agent fees, etc. NOT a livable yearly wage.

While it's lovely to dream, I also want to keep my feet on the ground of reality. I like having a warm home, a comfy bed, a decent shower, and food in my tummy.

I have found out I can't write when I'm anxious about money. Don't know how JK Rowling did it.

donnaeverhart.com said...

Hey Lisa, that person you might be referring to was Kitty who shared the Cheryl Strayed interview on advances, when WILD was starting to get noticed. And that post prompted Ms. Janet's breakdown here.

Strayed received $100K for the memoir, I believe, but of course given Ms. Janet's tutorial, we all know that it probably broke down into four payments (Strayed said as much I believe) and that would be 25K each time - minus her agent's commish($3,750.) Then there's taxes. She would have received a 1099 form her agent, and I guess would file and her taxes would be at a different rate, i.e. maybe 15% (small biz tax?) vs 20% Federal and 7% State for personal. That actually wouldn't even equate to $20K, it would be more around $17.5K, but maybe she just rounded it up like was done here for the sake of not getting into all the varying tax %'s.

Lisa Bodenheim said...

Great, Donna! That's what I was remembering.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Sorry guys this is going to get a little personal and be a little long. Every detail is true.

Julie, his name was Bay, bred for color, certainly not temperament.

I remember the late night small gathering on my neighbor’s front lawn surrounding my beautiful Bay. Kneeling on the ground next to him as he gasped for air I gently stroked his beautiful white fur.
The pick-up driver, “He ran out in front of me, I couldn’t stop fast enough, I’m so sorry.”
My neighbor, “He’s in pain, don’t get to close, you don’t know what he’ll do.”
But I knew exactly what he was going to do, he was going to die.

He was going to die because I was petrified he’d break his chain and attack a neighbor’s child. He was going to die because I was afraid of him as were all of my friends. Only my cousin would visit. In my cousin I saw the kind of strength it took to be the master of such a strong and beautiful animal. I did not have that kind of strength in me. I knew Bay was going to die because I was being protected by a greater power who believed that tragedy and calamity would have been my undoing.

My father took Bay home to his house, to bury him in the morning. Just before I went to sleep that night I knelt beside my bed, something I had not done since I was a little girl, and pleaded with God to forgive me for not caring for Bay like I should have, for not loving him enough, for not being strong enough. I raised my head and stared at the sky through the window over my bed, forgive me God I said. A shooting star streaked across the sky. My tears instantly stopped because I knew that on that day, that night, at that very moment a greater force held me in the palm of his hand. I thanked God that Bay was taken before something more horrible than my own inadequacies happened.

It’s strange really, how the death of a species other than our own can sometimes imprint on our hearts something more lasting than the love of our own. He was beautiful, he was mean and yet as I knelt beside him and stroked his fur, he licked my hand as if he loved me. Bay sighed deeply and died a peaceful death. I was, at the very least, grateful for that.

Julie Weathers said...

Carolynn,

I am so very sorry. I'm sorry for Bay and for you. What a tremendous loss.

I used to train and show obedience. I had a man call me to train a Rott who was attacking his grandchild. I had the dog sit and when I turned to walk away the dog ran after me and tried to bite the back of my neck. This is a kill move. I turned and put my fist in his mouth to stop the attack.

The man fired me because I was being mean to his dog. I told him if he didn't get the dog under control he was going to be on the news.

It isn't your fault the dog was this way. Temperament is very much something that is inherited, just as color and working ability is, but temperament can often be trained as well. You didn't know this. Don't beat yourself up.

These things happen and they make marks on our lives. Just learn from it. Don't forget him. Let him be what he was supposed to be. Thank you for sharing.

REJourneys said...

Like Lisa mentioned, I would use publishing money as "fun" money. Even if I was a best-selling author, I can't live on inconsistent paychecks. I need to know that I'm being paid on a regular schedule (which is why working retail didn't go well for me).

Also, like Colin was commenting, the "like a small business" comparison was great. I majored in all sorts of business, including Marketing and Entrepreneurship, and I can tell you that I wouldn't create a start up. 80% of businesses fail for a whole boat load of reasons. Some people give up (like the writers after a few (5) queries), some people can not sustain the business for whatever reason, just watch Shark Tank and cringe when you hear how much people put into their businesses. Some people fail to plan. They march forward without a business plan, thinking they are a special snowflake in the market, but their not. Like anything, those who take the time, do their research (primary, secondary, etc), plan for possible scenarios, and who are relentless and passionate about their business, can and will make it.

Just like the writers who don't give up.

Thank you and have a good day,

Rejourneys

(Sorry, it felt like the end of a speech).

And all you GS people commenting, my heart goes out to you. I have two GS at home and I love them dearly. One is a pansy and the other is a puppy.

Christina Seine said...

What a brilliant and informative post. Thank you, Janet!

Carolynn, that story nearly brought me to tears. So heartbreaking, and so beautifully written.

Christina Seine said...

I will add this: I've owned my own small business for years. Started out with a virtual shop on Etsy and doing local craft shows and bazaars. I watched certain sellers on Etsy rocket to "stardom," (we're talking hundreds of sales per day). This was a few years ago when Etsy was just starting out, and it was a playing field that did allow a few people to make a boatload of money. I watched those amazing sellers, and got to know some of them. They were smart, they had business plans, they worked tirelessly, and above all, they were prolific. I kept my own creativity and individuality, but mimicked every successful practice of theirs I could.
Soon, Etsy sort of exploded. People read about the guy who'd quit his job and supported himself and his family selling soap. I can't tell you how many people spent a day or two learning how to make soap (trust me, there's a learning curve), opened a virtual shop, and then six months down the line complained that it was Etsy's fault they weren't raking in the dough. They failed to notice that the mega-soap guy promoted his product tirelessly, or that he worked to supplement his Etsy income with wholesale accounts, that he filled a certain niche, or that his labeling and photography were head and shoulders above anyone else’s – because he was an utter perfectionist. No, it was Etsy’s fault.
I’ve learned a lot from running a small business. If nothing else, it gives you a nice thick skin (although hey, I can recommend a lovely body butter for that!). I love the idea of considering a writer career like owning a small business. Someday, maybe, if you’re lucky and put a heap of blood, sweat and tears into it, you might be able to live off what you make. But don’t quit your day job.

Amanda Capper said...

2N's

QOTKU has a client by the name of Deb Vlock. Click on her name and read her animal stories. Hell, read them all. She's an excellent writer and her pet stories might make you feel better. It certainly worked for me.

One of the (rare) gifts of getting older is learning the value of compassion.

Cheers,
Amanda

Colin Smith said...

A heart-rending story, 2Ns. :(

I wonder what happen to that owner and his Rot, 1L--or maybe we don't want to know.

BTW, my blog's back up and running. Don't all rush at once...! ;)

donnaeverhart.com said...

I ought to mention my husband owns his own business and we are painfully aware of the intricacies of weathering the "feast or famine," mode of the business, and because I help when it comes to reporting income, listing expenses, etc for tax purposes, (you ought to see my spreadsheet!) I'll have the know how if/when I ever get to treat writing as my own small business.

Great way to view it, Mr. Smith. :)

Carolynn, that read like you might have extracted it from your memoir, but either way, it is a very sad story. I agree with Julie about trying not beating yourself up. You know I have my own horrible dog stories and it's hard not to do b/c guilt can be overwhelming. I let myself wallow in it when it decides to resurrect itself now and again. It's okay to do that, and then try once again to get past it.

donnaeverhart.com said...

Julie,

That's so interesting about the merle gene. I didn't take the time to research the possibilities when I brought it up here, b/c I just heard you both mention white GS and thought, wow, do those breeds also entertain the merle/double merle gene? I've seen chihauhua's, aussies (like you mention) pit bulls, and great danes, I think. Anyway, it's fascinating, but also understand that's why your boy, Gage, is deaf. They also can have eye issues along with the behavioral issues.

Angie Brooksby-Arcangioli said...

I just got home from a three-day painting shtick, a giant resin tiger for a zoo and three nights with a red cat named Zelda. Of course the first thing I did after dropping a suitcase of paint in my atelier was fire up Firefox and read the Shark's week in review, a day late. How cool that she likes to say my name out-loud. There is a story behind that, but I won't tell it here.

I'm with Elissa M. I've been painting professionally for 28 years. When people ask me what I mean, I say I've been a tax paying artist for that long. No one knows how to react. They shuffle their feet, artists tell me I’m stupid to pay taxes. I've done a slew of different venues. At the beginning, each new adventure seemed like the big truth. Each one had an epitaph. It’s part of the creative tide. Doesn’t make tax incomes easy but I wouldn’t change if for a steady day job. I think it is the death of a creative to stick to one image of how it works. Writers included. Take Jeff Somers, he said he quit his job and wrote anything. http://jeffreysomers.com/blather/?s=quit+day+job+&searchsubmit.x=0&searchsubmit.y=0

Everything I own, I bought with paintings. Creative income is tidal; when it's high tide it's champagne or a Cadillac and white GS, when it's low it's holes in the shoes and it bites. (Carolynn, so sorry about Bay. We had a few dogs that bit. Cats bite too.)

Low tide hurts and gets boring then high tide arrives and it's partytime. I think the rollar coaster metaphor is too emotional, too fast. It ends too quickly. I see it more like the tide, constant. Sometimes it deposits treasures on the beach, other times it ravages the dunes.

BTW March 21 there will be the biggest tide in 14 years in Normandy and the English channel....

Everyone knows that artists cut their ears off and launch themselves in the nettles when crises hits and they get rich when they die, or their heirs do if they see the treasure. Society dresses artists in a white suit and throws mud at them then criticizes them for the tainted threads. What a load of crap ! We pay taxes and little elves do not make our shoes, or write our manuscripts.

Van Gogh was the epitomy of marketing, his sister-in-law created his image, post mortum. She was a smart business woman. She got her 15% and deserved it.

It seems writing the bestseller is a lottery-ticket myth

Janet's earning breakdown is well appreciated. Maybe the slushpiles would be smaller if more writers knew the economical truth, especially the owing-taxes part. I haven't seen many articles or blog posts like this. I think it is the first one I've ever seen.

And Janet says when you started writing, "you didn't think it would be as hard as it is, did you?" I think she needs to add the word "writing well" or "kickass writing". Somers is kick ass and Patrick Lee is kick ass and so is Cameron.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

This community is amazing and we have Janet to thank for that.
Yes we talk writing, we weep writing, we write writing and yet we are able to talk, weep and write about life here too. Thank you all for your kind words regarding my beautiful Bay. Thinking about him today, and writing about him, has had me misty-eyed all day long. The poor guy never had a chance, not by birth, by ownership or by love. I often wonder why he came into my life only to live it and leave it the way he did. I have to believe it was for a reason beyond my own life-lesson. I am still searching for that reason.
Donna you are right, his story is part of my second memoir, the first I continue to query. Still getting the nicest rejections ever from that one.
Julie, Donna, Colin and Amanda plus all the rest, thank you again. I am convinced Bay did love me in his way, I just never knew how to love him back.

Sara said...

Months ago, I read an auhor's blog where the author recommended establishing yourself as a "business" (or at least setting yourself up with a tax ID number as a self-employed small business... Can't remember the exact details). She said this was recommended to keep your writing income separate from other income, thus making it easier to figure out taxes. She also said this would keep you from having to hand out your social security number all the time, since it's needed for contracts, anthologies, etc. Do you think it's a wise idea to set this up and get a tax ID number before getting published? Would it help with taxes and such? Also, is it normal for an agent to ask for your social security number when you sign a contract with hem for representation? (Guessing this is so they'll have it on hand for any future contracts)

Christina Seine said...

Angie, I just love that you have an atelier. I am jealous.

Also, you were right about the bestseller myth. I don't even have enough fingers and toes to count the number of times I've heard, "oh you're writing a book? I've always wanted to write a bestseller - how hard can it be?" And/or "why bother getting an agent? With self publishing now, anyone can earn a living as a writer." Riiiiiiiigggghht.

Amy Schaefer said...

I'll just pop in to add that non-US residents need to be particularly mindful of their taxes. If you aren't familiar with your local tax treaties, it is worthwhile to get some (proper) advice.

My worst tax season was when my husband and I moved from the US to Canada mid-year. As a result, I had to file eight tax returns to cover all of our federal, state and provincial bases.

Sam Mills said...

I had 2-3 part-time jobs at a time in the year following graduate school, 1-2 of which were contract work rather than good old W-2 employment, so I know the horror of the semi-self-employed tax return.

If I enter the realm of publishing, you better believe I'll be calling up an accountant, and setting aside 30%+ of everything in a tax savings account.

And I'll be keeping my day job. I've lived on as little as $12K a year in the past, but that doesn't mean I ever want to do so again.

DLM said...

2Ns, I'm so sorry. I've had that experience - indeed, I have it most days even with Penelope. I see her responses to me, and know I fall short for her. I wasn't the best forever home for her, but I try. She deserves better, but I try.

It's all we can do. Trying - and learning.

Writer of Wrongs said...

After reading this post, I'm thankful I chose this profession for all the right reasons: glamour and adulation.

....oh, damn.

Kelsey Hutton said...

I worry that we're excluding people with fascinating, diverse points of view because publishing is so difficult to make a living from, even after you get your first deal.

Patrick Rothfuss had some hilarious (and astute) advice to new authors: live somewhere cheap, because you're going to be poor for a long, long time. And because you can write when you're poor, but you can't write while working 3 jobs to pay the rent.

http://blog.patrickrothfuss.com/2010/02/fanmail-q-advice-for-new-writers/

But when you have kids to feed or ailing parents to care for, not everyone can live off paper bag soup. And I want to read those authors' stories, too.

Sunliner said...

Janet,

Would you please comment on royalties?

If a book sells, for example, $20, how much of that reaches the author's pocket?

Thanks,

V Brown said...

great post! it's nice to see the breakdown and get a realistic view on money from an agent. i especially like the part about not spending the advance until the book is actually published--smart!

thanks!