Fantasies and Determinations

When I submitted my first novel to an agent, I spun this whole fantasy around it.

Yeah, you publishing types out there are rolling your eyes and you writers are cringing and nodding in sympathy.

You know the kind of fantasy I mean. The agent calls you up, all thrilled and excited to have discovered you. I’m embarrassed to admit, part of my little fantasy was that not only would they offer me a lovely advance, but that they’d ask me how much more I needed to quit my day job and write the sequel as fast as possible.

Yes, you can laugh now.

I wasn’t all that naive, either, relatively speaking. I’d had my essay collection published with a university press, which meant no advance, small print run. I’d published in magazines for ten years. I had a pretty decent idea how publishing worked.

This still did not prevent me from imagining they’d go into a frenzy, exclaiming “She’s the next Stephenie Meyer – we must pay this woman to write!”

It could happen…

At any rate, it didn’t. I got the polite thanks, but no thanks. David took me to the bar and bought me a margarita. Since then I’ve had more rejections and some maybes and some lovely yeses. But no one is begging me to quit my day job.

One of the things I’ve come to realize, in my newfound maturity, is that no one ever will.

At RT I noticed how many authors referenced their day jobs. Even award-winning, best-selling authors with name-recognition and sizzling cache. Courtney Milan, for example, still works full-time as a lawyer. A lot of us would like our books to be doing as well as hers. A number of other authors have a spouse who pulls in a decent salary, so the writing money is gravy on top of that.

The reality of it is, a day job provides a number of things that advances and even decent royalties do not. Things like health insurance, 401Ks, and a reliable salary. Advances are finite. You get a chunk of money and you might not get another for six months or a year. An author doing really well might get a $10,000, but if you compare that to half your annual salary at your day job, not counting benefits, it’s not so much. Royalties fluctuate and are impossible to predict. In order to rely on writing income, you have to have enough of an established backlist – books that keep selling more or less on their own at a steady rate.

I’m obviously not the first person to point that out. But it recently occurred to me that this is much like the scenario laid out by people like Robert Kiyosaki of Rich Dad, Poor Dad fame. You gradually build your passive income – money from investments that pay out without you having to actively work on them, e.g., already published books vs. writing new books – until you reach a level of comfort. For many of us, this level of comfort includes being able to pay for health insurance and save for the future.

It’s back to the whole “slow and steady wins the race thing.” It’s not the glamorous fantasy, no. It’s good to have those dreams, I think. They keep us revved and excited. It’s also good to recognize the reality, and plan accordingly.

Wait! Is that the phone?

RT 2011 – the recap

In no particular order, because it’s all a blur at this point. I really thought I’d keep up, but no. I blame Twitter this time. So easy to tweet pics in real time.

At any rate, this is me (duh) at the eBook eXpo signing. (No, that’s not their capitalization, it’s mine – but wouldn’t that be cool?) I went with roses, for the Petals & Thorns theme. One guy stopped and told me I’d done a great job and that he does product placement for movies, so he knows of what he speaks. This is what you get when you have a gig in Los Angeles.

Still I was pleased and it went great.

I love this pic of Tessa Dare, Victoria Dahl and Courtney Milan, who kept cracking up while posing.

I put in a little pool time and, sweet serendipity, there just happened to be a shirtless photo shoot for Mr. Romance.
My toes, for verisimilitude.
Marcella received her trophy for Best Futuristic Romance. The trophy is super-sexy.
And here she is, chatting it up with readers and booksellers at Club RT.
Allison, doing likewise.
Marcella in Faerie mode, offering advice.
Here’s Danielle Poiesz, formerly of Pocket Books, now with the Sekrit Projekt at Penguin, which she revealed at the conference to be xxxx. Oops, I can’t say online yet. If you’d been at RT, you’d know. Just saying…
Here she is giving a demo to a bunch of potential beta testers.
She arrived at the Vampire Ball as Buffy.
And demonstrated her mad staking skills.
Danielle met up with agent Suzie Townsend for dinner. They both had to finish urgent tweeting before they could be fully social.

Brass Ring

As some of us shuffle off to the RT Convention today and others stay home to actually get work done and live their lives, it’s probably worth giving a nod to the business end of writing.

A big reason people go to conventions like RT is for business. They go because their publishers tell them to, because they think they’ll sell books and “connect with readers.” I’ve heard people say they won’t go until they have a published book to sell because it’s wasted time otherwise. I’ve written before about how going to writers’ conferences is an opportunity to learn from the big sellers in the field. But one of the very most important reasons to go is to connect with other writers.

Over the next few days you’ll see a lot of photos from RT. Partying, hanging out, lots of smiles for the camera. The business-oriented will call this networking. Another phrase for it is making friends.

The support network of other writers can’t be overvalued. People often mention the very supportive online community. Getting to meet those people in person is even better. And there are – *gasp* – writers out there who aren’t on the interwebz (yet). They must be found and indoctrinated, I mean, coaxed into the virtual world.

This is on my mind this morning, not just because I’m packing up to go see some of my friends, people I see maybe once a year or once every couple of years. It’s on my mind because of a couple of recent articles. This seems to be the season for jealousy and meltdowns. There’s this rant, from a self-pubbed author who’s “retiring” from professional writing in a rage at the lack of support her books have received. Then there’s this honest and heartfelt letter on book deal envy (via Galley Cat – thank you!).

Both stand out to me as examples of writers who’ve let the inevitable disappointments of this very competitive business breed into bitterness, anger and jealousy. These aren’t writer problems so much and human being problems. I think “Sugar” puts it well in saying the author of the letter is conflating “book” with “book deal.”

We all do this. We all want to be Cinderella at the ball or Michael Jordan on the ball court. We want to be King or Queen and have all the specialness that entails. We want the pick of the babes, to marry the prince, to be loved, admired and, and, and…

I suspect part of why we want these things is because we believe our lives will be better once we have them. “If only I had………., I’d be happy.”

But the deal is, happy comes from within. We repeat the adage that “Money doesn’t buy happiness” for a reason. (Though I still love David Lee Roth for saying that money does let you buy the big yacht that you can park right next to where the happiness is.) The point is, how happy or how bitter we feel doesn’t depend on whether or not we have these things we want. It’s just easy to pick those out as substitutes.

The other thing that struck me about both of those articles is the relationship with other people. Both with the “jerks” and the “true friends.” Despite the wildly different grips on reality, both writers saw their circle as competition or customers. Which I found troubling.

So, today I’m off to see my friends. To spend some time with people who love to talk about what I love to talk about.

It doesn’t get better than that.

Unreal Books and Sales Figures

Our spring here is being a lion one minute and a lamb the next. The grape hyacinths bloom in serene splendor even as the wind whips away the patio furniture cushions.

Yesterday I went to this costume shop to get a few things to supplement the RT wardrobe. I went in Saturday and the gal said most of her stuff was at home and she’d bring in possible pieces and meet me with them on Sunday. When I got there yesterday, she had a friend there waiting to meet me. I’d explained I’m a writer, about the RT Booklovers Convention and the costume balls. In the course of introducing me, the shop owner said “And you write real books, too, not those ebooks, right?”

I said I write both. Technically true.

It amuses me, though, that I’ve now sold more copies of my unreal ebook, Petals and Thorns, than were ever printed of my real book, Wyoming Trucks, True Love and the Weather Channel. I know it will still take time for the concept of ebooks to permeate through the population. The shop owner also asked me to bring in photos of the convention and, since she already had my card, I told her that I’ll be posting photos all week, if she wants to look at my blog. She said she’d have to get someone to show her how to do that.

Meanwhile I flipped through my alumni magazines for my sorority and my alma mater last night. I might be a few months behind. Both magazines are glossy, full of rah-rah articles and hopelessly boring. They seemed to focus on things that I simply don’t think about much. Such different worlds we can live in now.

I know that people will adjust their ideas about what a “real” book consists of. They already are. Over and over I see people comment online that they received an ereader for a gift, weren’t sure about it at first and now love it.

I haven’t shared stats on Petals & Thorns in a little while. The numbers keep going up, which continues to astonish me. Each month I open my royalty statement expecting a crash like back in October or January. But no.
As you can see from the percentages, Fictionwise has sold the most copies. It looks like All Romance eBooks and Loose Id are neck and neck, but that’s a bit of artifact – most of those Loose Id sales were back before October. In fact, all sales through October were Loose Id’s. The All Romance sales were after that. It will be interesting to see what happens from here!

Posting will be sporadic this week, but I’ll try to throw up photos, at least, from the convention.

The Strangely Dramatic Tale of Miss Hieber’s Victorian Wardrobe

A special treat for Friday – another Day in the Life!

This time our special guest is not a book, but an outfit. For those of you who know author Leanna Renee Hieber, you’ll know that her fashion sense is larger than life. In honor of her newest book in the Strangely Beautiful series, we have a special dispatch – a day in the life of… a dress.


Greetings. I am one of the company of Miss Leanna Renee Hieber’s late-19th-century finery. She utilizes the likes of me to celebrate and promote her novels, the Strangely Beautiful series, set in Victorian London, and her upcoming Magic Most Foul saga, set in Victorian New York City. She has obtained the like of me from places like Gallery Serpentine and Gothic Renaissance. She is a professed “goth girl” as she calls it in this day and age. Please note she does not call me a “costume” for if she had the means and ability, she would wear me every day of her life, having loved my style since she was a child.

I begin my journey in my lady’s closet, where she places me in the fore.

I then move ignobly into this pile (she does so hate to wear the same regalia two days in a row, thusly one mere weekend at a convention requires practically a steamer trunk)

I then take this horseless carriage – or, at times, magic of magic, I fly in an enormous metal bird!

I then arrive at any number of destinations. This time, it so happens, is New Hampshire, where my lady is in state as the Literary Guest of Honour at the Steampunk Industrial Revolution. I relax for a moment on the luxurious hotel bed before the bustle (pun intended) begins.

She has chosen me for her featured reading this evening, I’m very pleased. (I received many compliments)

And then I return home, rather exhausted and in need of a good press. But she’ll have me back out again on release day of her prequel in the Strangely Beautiful series, The Perilous Prophecy of Guard and Goddess, on May 3rd. In the meantime, while reading the first two isn’t required as this is a prequel, if you’d like to join in the series… Visit her webpage and interact with her via the following venues: Twitter, Facebook, her blog (with a psycho bunny pic!) (She’ll also be wearing the likes of me a great deal in the fall when her Gothic Victorian Paranormal series Magic Most Foul, a classically spooky, romantic tale of trapped souls and black magic, releases from Sourcebooks Fire!)