Sharon Lee (rolanni) wrote,
Sharon Lee
rolanni

The Writing Game: Part One, Rich Authors

Pursuant to yesterday's post pointing to this article and to those folks who have been weighing in on various discussions of the Amazon and Macmillan kerfuffle with the opinion that all writers are rich (and are trying to keep ebook prices high to protect their 500-acre estates).

We're going to have to do math, here. Sorry; I'll try to keep it simple and straightforward.

When an author goes to contract for a book, they receive what is known as an advance against royalties. The shorthand for this is "advance," and some people therefore forget that it's a loan against future earnings. Authors by contract receive a certain percentage of cover price on each sale as a "royalty." Before any royalties are paid to the author, the book must first pay back the money given in advance of its publication (aka "earn out").

So, using Carousel Tides -- because that novel is mine, all mine, and I didn't tell Steve I was going to do this, much less get his agreement -- as an example, this is what the math looks like:

Advance against royalties: $12,000
Pretty good, huh? Actually, it is. Most new writers can expect a much lower advance -- around $7500 for a first fantasy. Expect, wait! You don't think you're going to get that whole big lump of cash all at once, do you? No, no. We're going to break it into pieces. Happily, Baen only breaks their advance payments in half (I've heard of advances being broken down into as many as four pieces. Take into account that publishers as a race pay late, and this becomes...challenging... to any writer trying to live within budget).

Back to particulars: Sometime relatively soon after signing the contract, a check arrives:

on-signing: $6,000
less agent commission 15%: ($ 900)
less taxes 33%: ($1,683)
grocery, rent, and cat food: $3,417


Carousel Tides was submitted, and accepted, as a complete manuscript. However, there were editorial changes required. When the changes were complete, I sent in the corrected manuscript, a necessary step in triggering the second advance payment, called "delivery-and-acceptance" or, in shorthand, D&A money.

Some while after the revised manuscript is turned in, the editor accepts it (note: delivery alone does not trigger the second payment; delivery and acceptance are the trigger, and acceptance, depending on your editor's workload...could take a while.)

So, eventually, your script is accepted, your editor orders the check, and we do the same math:

D&A $6,000
less agent commission 15%: ($ 900)
less taxes 33%: ($1,683)
grocery, rent, and cat food: $3,417


Now, because Carousel Tides was an on-spec book, I didn't have to write it between signing and D&A; I only had to revise it -- with the happy outcome that I got paid both halves of my advance in the same year.

Which is to say that I saw an influx of $6,834 in the ol' house general account.

Not exactly going to Vegas on that.

But wait, you say -- you're not fooling me -- you got royalty payments during that year, too!

Oh, did I?

Now, in point of fact, I did in mid-2009-- as one-half of Lee-and-Miller -- receive royalties on books sold through June '08. Ebook royalties, exclusively. Duainfey, our first dead tree book with Baen, was published in September '08; the second half of the 2009 royalty statements were delayed, and only reached us after the first of 2010. For the curious, Duainfey has not yet earned out

So, here we have my half of the Lee-and-Miller royalties:

sales through June 2008: $4800
less agent commission 15%: ($ 720)
less taxes 33%: ($1346) [rounding down the forty cents]
grocery, rent, cat food: $2733 [ditto sixty cents]


If all I had done in 2009 was sold and delivered my novel, and collected royalties on past sales, I would have achieved for my own use a grand total of $9,567.

Geez, even the day-job pays better than that.

Also, regarding Carousel Tides -- it was, as I said, an on-spec book. That means I wrote it believing that, Once It Was Written, They Would Come (aka, "because I wanted to"). And that means that it was on submission to various publishers for 18 months before it was placed with Baen.

That math being: It took a year to write the book, 1.5 years before a sale. Two-and-a-half years before it began earning.


OK. That's probably confusing enough for one post. In a while, I'll try to break down the various author-tasks associated with getting a novel published.
Tags: carousel tides, money for nothin', the glamor!
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