Magical Words and Amusement Parks


This post is about roller-coasters. Not the kind in amusement parks, but the kind in the writer’s life, where for a while what is usually a too-calm, often repetitive, boring lifestyle suddenly changes. My standard schedule is to get up in the morning and sit down to write, and write all week until Friday night when I get ready to head in to the lab for more work. In between writing and lab, I stuff in laundry, cleaning, paddling, walking the dogs, not-enough-yoga, groceries, and sometimes some jewelry making. Occasionally the birds will do something nice and different either out the writing window or on a paddle (like yesterday, when we paddled through the migratory stop-over of multiple species of water birds from buffleheads to Bonaparte gulls to mergansers to … okay, that’s another post.)  But the juggling schedule is always tossing the same unchanging smurf-balls around.

And then the things start to happen. The little-engine-that-could starts chugging up the hill, and I know it means that roller-coaster is about to take me on a ride. I’m not going to share everything about my past week, rather, I thought I’d share a compilation of things that have happened over my career, to give the unpubs out there an example of the short term roller-coaster of a writer’s life. The other regular posters here can add their own version—it will likely be more exciting than my own, but it’s all basically the same!

 For me, it usually starts on a Tuesday.

I’ve always supposed it started on a Tuesday, because Monday is an editor’s busiest meeting-day, and phone calls go out that evening or Tuesday morning. So, on Tuesday, the agent makes a phone call or sends an email. “Your book sold in Greece (or Germany or France or Spain or Brazil).” Followed by a flurry of tax forms to be signed and to have my banker fill out.

Followed by a series of emails between agent and writer about the pending US contract. It runs the gamut from: “What do you want?” to “As much as I can get. Can we get a 30% increase?” to “We can try,” to “What will the market allow?” to “Things are bad all over, so don’t expect as big a jump in money as you might have gotten two years ago.”

Then, with our basic hopes in place and clearly laid out, the agent goes to the publisher. And there is a lull. I try to write or paddle a lot when that happens. I try to stay away from the phone and from email, in a place with no cell service and lots of nature.

Finally (this time on the way out of a gorge after a day on the water) there is the call: “We have an offer. They are breaking it down this way:”

(These are not my numbers. This is based a new, 3-book deal, for a previously unpublished author. I hope my math is correct, but the numbers are pretty in line with the market right now.)

“They are offering you $5,000 for the first book, $5,000 for the second, and $6,000 for the third.

$6,000 on signing (attributed $2,000 to Book 1, $2,000 to Book 2, $2,000 to Book 3)

$1,500 on D&A Book 1 (D&A = delivery and acceptance. This is monies delivered *after* you have rewritten a book to suit the editor)

$1,500 on publication of Book 1 (in January, 2 years from now)

$1,500 on D&A Book 2 (in 12 months)

$1,500 on publication of Book 2 (In July, 3 years from now, six months after Book 1)

$2,000 on D&A Book 3 (in 18 months)

$2,000 on publication of Book 3 (in January 3 years from now, six months after Book 2)

“Shall we accept?”

If you want to consider what a seven figure deal might be like, just add the zeros. It’s all just math.

So far, (with the exception of Gwen’s six figure deal in the 90s) it’s never been a jumping up and down moment, but it’s been pleasant, like that glide down the roller-coaster’s downhill slope with arms in the air. Getting paid (not enough, but it is ever?) to do what I love is always joyful.

After basic terms have been agreed upon, then the agent and editor do a little more dickering behind the scenes—the agent usually trying to get more up front, the editor trying to get more on the back-end.

Then there’s the discussion about PR, which many editors will consider for established and growing authors but simply shake their heads at on 99.99% of new authors. (Not counting the very rare seven figure deal for an unpublished writer. That deal gets lots of PR.)

Then the agent calls back with a “We have a deal.” The editor writes an, “I am ecstatic that we will be working together!” letter, followed by, “Can you get Book 1 to me two months earlier than planned? I can get you onto the fall schedule if so.” And? “We have problems with the tile. How about, “Whatever Marketing Came Up With.” And the chugging uphill starts all over again.

When a writer hits the New York Times, it puts her on the publisher’s radar, in ways that I never expected. The publisher becomes proprietary about the writer, the series, and everything that comes out of the writer’s creative mind. Things change. The writer has to start thinking like a political being, being careful of her words, her actions, her plans, and her prospects. It means more phone calls with the agent, more careful wording, more … more everything. That gets added into the roller-coaster as well, and gives a writer an additional ball to juggle. The writing life gets better. And it gets harder. All at once. I am not a political being. I have a big mouth. I say what I think. I have learned the hard way that doing so is not always the smartest thing I can do! And I am still learning. It is a new uphill chug, followed by a brand new downhill rush.

That has been my life for the last 3 weeks. Up and down and all around and all the balls I’m juggling while riding the roller-coaster keep falling and bouncing away. And I love it. And now I need to yoga. And take a nap. 

It is never easy, this writing life. But it is fun!



22 comments to Magical Words and Amusement Parks

  • Sounds like the game is afoot! Hope it turns into something great!

    My rollercoaster is in the uphill crank right now. Will keep you informed as we go over the top!

  • Sounds very exciting, Faith. It’s always nice (and surprisingly rare) to see good people well rewarded for doing good work. As for my roller coaster . . . well, it feels as though it’s been mothballed for the time being. We’ll see how it feels a year from now.

  • AJ — it’s exciting and exhausting. I can’t wait to hear how your ride goes!

    David, been there, lived that. It is frustrating. But you are going to be rocking and rolling for months before Thieftaker comes out. Hmmm. Would Ethan accept an interveiw request from Jane and Beast? 🙂

  • Getting capital N Noticed by your publisher (in a good way) is what every writer dreams of. Appears it’s a double-edged sword. I have complete confidence in your ability to prevail though. Just remember to pull extra hard so those of us riding on your coattails don’t get left too far behind. 😉

  • Self-publishing sounds more and more appealing all the time. :\

    Don’t you sometimes want to just throw the damned thing onto the Internet and see what happens?

  • Pish tosh, Edmund. What good is life if your friends aren’t there with you? Besides, I’ve not found success just yet. But I do see it coming!

  • Yes, Wolf, I do. But I know how much work that takes and how limited one’s success can be. I am sticking with traditional publishers for as long as they exist!

    That said, I do have an AKA’s book that is going out as an E-book this summer, and my PR firm is in charge all the way!

  • Ooh, yeah, I love roller coasters! Especially Everest at Animal Kingdom in Florida…it’s so high it makes my head spin, and it’s super-fast and….oh. You were speaking metaphorically. Serves me for commenting before reading past the title. 😀

    Seriously, I’m a few cars back from AJ on the uphill crank. Actually I’m beginning to wonder if the ride broke. *laughs*

  • Misty, I remember the years between the huge sale of Betrayal (and others wrapped up in the deals). They were long and arid and miserable, when I wrote and wrote and *nothing* happened. Then the cars started moving forward again. Finally. Hang in there! We’ll speed downhill together!

  • You’re awesome, Faith. Thanks for breaking down some of the “behind the velvet ropes” stuff for us. I’m not a business person, so getting as much of the information about what I can expect if I’m ever published is vastly appreciated!

    And I love roller-coasters. I thrive on pressure. 😉


  • I think Ethan would love to do an interview with Jane and Beast at some point. Sounds fun!

  • I feel like I’ve been climbing forever and never building enough momentum to get over that hump and start going WHEEEEEEE!!! Then again, that kind of thing tends to sneak up on you while your climbing other hills. So, I guess I have no clue where I am. Then again, I’m sick right now, so my brain might be a little muddied.

  • I’m about to embark on my first ever REALLY big downhill run. (just signed – this afternoon – the contract for my first book) and I’m so scared and excited and, jumping about,and, and … everything … that there’s three of me! Please tell me this is normal…

    … P.S. I hate roller-coasters, can we just drive a really fast car from one side of the country to the other?

  • LSH — it’s handy to be able to see a contact too. We should have an actual (small press) contract on the reader downloads bar at the top of the page.

    David, I’ll make sure Beast is on her best behaviour and promises not to snack on Ethan.

    Stuart, that is so true. SOmetimes I am suddenly in the middle of a tummy-tumbling drop and I realize that the ride has picked up speed. Surprise!

    YEA WIDDER!!!! Excellent news! Details, please? 🙂

  • Faith – Glad to hear you’re on the big-kids ride!

    I’m still going around in loops on the kiddie-coaster. Little ups and downs revolving around the short story market. The downhill runs still cause butterflies, though. Give me time – I’ll be in line for the big coaster one day!

    Cool News, Widdershins! Like Faith said: DETAILS PLEASE!

  • Tom G

    Faith, congrats on your success. Well deserved it is. I’m not far enough along to ride on your coat tails, yet, but they are lovely coat tails. Best of luck to you.

    And way to go, Widdershins! Best of luck to you, too.

  • Widdershins, that’s wonderful news! Tell us, tell us, tell us!!!!!

  • Details eh? … where do I start? … the book is called ‘Mortal Instinct’ (Book 1 of a series)… the planned release date of end of June (3 months from now! Gulp!) in ebook and print.. I call the genre; Epic Lesbian Science Fiction/Fantasy. I just received the cover art and as soon as I finish here I’ll put it up on my blog… (just click on ‘widdershins’)

    … The story follows three friends who find themselves responsible for a mystical sphere that has the power to destroy or save the the mortal realm. Immortal beings interfere, lovers and ex-lovers intrude, egos and politics get in the way. And, in the face of all these distractions, they have to find time to actually achieve their destiny before the sphere achieves sentience and decides its own fate.

    Phew… that’s probably the first time I’ve written a short blurb that I’ve liked!

  • Congrats Widdershins!

    Faith, thank you for this inside look at things. I especially like your tactic of getting away from the computer and into nature. There’s this canyon I grew up near, and while I don’t paddle, it has an excellent natural pool, glacier-fed water, and cliffs to throw myself from in the summer. It’s a great sanity management tactic … well, that and swords, which I re-start on Saturday.

  • Lyn, thanks! I’m not yet on the big kids ride, but I have been shown to the platform. I can see the cars and the first drop. And my tummy is all, like, ulp.

    Tom, thank you for coat tails compliment. 🙂

    Widder, I think this is totally grand! Whoowhoo!

    Laura, I now envy you both the swords and that lovely canyon! It sounds wonderful.

  • Unicorn

    Roller coaster? What roller coaster? It’s gotta be around here somewhere… I’m blundering about just looking for the thing, probably missing it by a few inches.
    WIDDERSHINS!!!!! YEAAAH!!! Since I can’t reach Faith’s coat-tails, I might just hitch a ride on yours. 😉 Just got to find that danged roller coaster.

  • Unicorn – Anytime! 🙂