Full disclosure here, kids: I rewrote this article three times before hitting publish. The first time was written from a place of emotion and anger. Not a good head space to write from. The second was a little better, but still sounded too mean girl to me. Third time’s a charm, right? I hope so.
***takes a breath.
Okay, here goes…
Two days ago, this article was circling around the internet, twitter and facebook. It concerns a debut author, the advances she received on her books, and her claim that no one told her the real meaning of the advance and the true workings of the publishing industry when it came to money, promised money of the future, and the possibility of no money in the future.
Here’s the link so you can read it for yourself ( Warning – it’s kinda long, but you should read it all) : How To Lose A Third Of A Million Dollars Without Really Trying
The author makes ( or tries to make) several points in the article, that had she known the true workings of the publishing business with regards to marketing, author and book promotion, and royalties, she would have done several things differently when she received her advances for her debut novel and the series that came after it. The series she was contracted for and for which she received an ADVANCE.
Let’s look a little closer at those words: Her ADVANCES on her DEBUT novel.
She got an advance – a large one – on her DEBUT NOVEL. She was an unknown author and by the grace of GOD ( and probably a really good Agent) she received a sizable advance against the sales of her books. And she spends the entire article restating that no one told her what an advance really was and that the large one she received on her first book was not promised on future books.
Girl, for real? ( this is the part I had to edit because I didn’t say girl the first time, but something not very nice.)
It’s literally called an ADVANCE against Book Royalties. Even someone who isn’t in the writing/publishing business can deduce from that description that the publisher is giving you money BASED On the projected sales of your book. I find it hard to believe the author didn’t understand what that term meant, and because she didn’t, but thought she’d be making oodles of money in the future, she made some not great financial decisions.
She does admit, that’s on her, so good for that. But then she states that she grew up poor, and never learned the concepts of saving or investing. Well, I’m sorry, but that doesn’t wash with me. I grew up in the PROJECTS. We weren’t even able to live paycheck-to-paycheck because my mother had so many jobs when I was a kid, continual paychecks were never a guarantee. I grew up before social reform and there was no welfare, SSI assistance, or even a free lunch program in my public schools. But you know what? Even though my mother was barely literate, never finished highschool and could barely do basic math, she KNEW that when we did have a little money from a job that lasted more than a month, we saved it. Since every day was a rainy day, we saved it for a catastrophe day.
No one taught her to do this; it was basic common financial sense, something that this author states NO ONE TAUGHT HER.
To quote the author, “Did anyone working with me — agency, publishing team — tell me that a staggering advance was not something I should depend on or get used to and that, in fact, it’s extraordinarily common in the publishing industry for untested debuts to be paid large sums they will never see again? No. Did anyone in the publishing house take me under their wing and explain to me how the company made decisions about future book deals? No. Did the publisher tap a more seasoned author on their list to mentor me, as many major corporations encourage within their companies? No. Did the MFA in Writing program I was part of in any way arm me with the knowledge to protect and advocate for myself in the publishing world? No.”
She then goes on to state (blame) that no one in her publishing realm told her about how to market her books and the publisher didn’t really market them for her. Again, if she truly had an agent, I wonder why the agent never helped her with this or steered her toward the knowledge of how to do it. You can see where this was going for her: her sales weren’t great and future advances were lower than that $100,000 advance she got for her first two books.
$100,000. That amount is mind boggling to me. Why do I not feel sorry for her? Because I really don’t.
I’m a traditionally published author of 15 + books and have never received an advance of any amount on ANY OF MY BOOKS. Not one. Any money I’ve made has been solely royalty based.
And you know what? I KNEW THAT going in. I knew that was the way traditional publishing worked. No one taught it to me. No one sat me down and gave me a blueprint for how to make money with my books. No one had to tell me I had to hustle and sell my soul so I could sell those books.
The article’s author makes the point because she ASSUMED she would be getting more and more money and higher advances for future books, she never thought to save the advance she received. Instead, she spent it. She spent it and racked up more debt, almost to the point that she was bankrupt.
While I find her NO ONE TOLD me defense suspect and, let’s face it, whiney, it’s not an uncommon phenomenon. Athletes who come from humble beginnings and go on to sign multimillion dollars playing contracts, tend to spend their new-gotten money like no tomorrow. If they get hurt, fired, or if their careers end because of injury, and all that income now stops, they have nothing to fall back on either because they didn’t save for the rainy day that was sure to occur.
And we’ve all heard the stories of people who’ve won Lotto or Powerball who wound up penniless and in debt because of bad investments or hungry spending.
So, from that perspective, the author’s point about not knowing how to manage her money is correct. What I really find issue with is the fact that she thought she was all that and a bag of chips and would continue to ring in the cash with her books. To quote the article:
“After that second advance came through, I stepped into my dream life: quit my day job to write full time, moved to New York City, bought fifteen-dollar cocktails, and learned with astonishing speed to not bother worrying about the prices when I ordered at a restaurant.”
She goes on to state, “I said yes to travel (often book research I wasn’t reimbursed for), said yes to concert tickets, to new shoes, to finally being able to buy people the kind of presents I felt they deserved. I gave large sums of money as donations to organizations I cared about, delighted to feel like I was making a real difference. Did I pay off my student loans? No, just a few large payments. Did I set money aside for retirement? No. My reasoning was that the next book I sold, I’d take care of all that. “
I’m being 100% truthful when I say if I won Powerball tomorrow, or, if by the Grace of God I was given a $100,000 advance, I would SAVE SAVE SAVE and not spend with abandon. And you know why? Because I WAS that poor kid who never knew if there was going to be food in the cabinet come the end of the week, or if a paycheck was going to cover more than the rent with little else left for food. Once you’ve been without, once you’ve experienced real hunger, you learn to never take any money you get for granted, and, like squirrels storing nuts for the winter ( and yes, that’s a miserable analogy, but you know what I mean) you always ALWAYS save.
That’s just my opinion for the two cents it’s worth.
And just FYI, when the article hit Twitter, the twitterverse went nuts with people jumping on the author about her complaining and whining. The author tweeted that she received nothing but supportive comments OFF TWITTER from authors who told her that they felt just the way she did and they thanked her for her honesty in bringing this “problem” to the forefront.
Again, just my opinion here, but the only problem I could identify in the article was the author’s hubris, arrogance, and conceit in assuming she was going to continue to make oddles of money in an industry in which only about 0.001% make any real, livable money.
I know many people are going to disagree with what I’ve written, and that’s fine. This is still America and we are all entitled to our opinions. Since this is MY Blog, this is MY opinion.
Until next time ~ an-always-dreaming-of-an-advance-Peg