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Your Money is Your Business or Keep a Lid on How Much Money You Make

I think it is a huge mistake to reveal how much money you make as an author. The details of your royalty advance on your latest deal should not be shared with other authors. It is similar to finding out the salary of the co-worker in the office cubicle next to yours. When I was a retail store manager we had major problems when salaries were discovered…I had to stop a near fist-fight between two people who had been friends.

Money Can be a Measure of Worth

Money is viewed by many as a measure of worth; i.e. a measure of the worthiness of your work. Consequently if you contract for a $5,000 advance with AlphaGammaDelta publisher and a month later, your best writing friend, who is at the same stage in her career as you are, contracts for a $8,000 advance with the same publisher for a similar project…what is your reaction? Sure, at first, it is excitement and joy for your friend. But later, in private, you will naturally begin to wonder about your publisher’s commitment to you. You think, “They must like Sally better than me!” Jealousy and bitterness can set in.

I’m not saying that this will happen to you, but I caution you with every ounce of my being, be very careful about ever revealing monetary details of a book contract with anyone. It can become a form of gossip that does no one any good. I know of an e-mail trail among authors that was very free with this kind of information and consequently there was tension towards a particular publisher for not paying everyone the same. This is unreasonable and unfair…and doesn’t help anyone.

Over the years I’ve seen a few thousand book contracts. Those deals have landed all over the board. The timing of a publisher’s economic situation and certain management directives can change quarterly (even weekly!). The relationship the author has with the publisher, the relationship the agent has with the publisher, the perception of value that the publisher has of a project… They all influence each situation uniquely.

But we tend to compare contracts as if all contracts are equal. Trust me, they are not.

Also be aware that some contracts have a non-disclosure clause in them for this very reason.

A Major Blunder in Etiquette

Years ago I was sharing the stage with a number of faculty at a writers conference for a panel Q&A. One author took the microphone and, without thinking, blurted out the amount of money they were paid on their last contract. There was an uncomfortable silence in the room since no one really knew how to react.

Afterwards an editor turned to me and said, “I never want to work with that author. There’s no filter nor is there any common sense.”

I Just Want to Help Others Know 

As far as sharing your successes as an Indie author? Again, be careful. You may want to help others succeed like you have. That is admirable. But at least limit your information to things other than your income.  Sharing what you spent on editorial, production, cover design, and marketing can be helpful for comparison. But declaring that you made a million dollars last month might not be the right message for your audience.

How Am I Supposed to Know What’s Normal?

One cannot analyze or compare their own income, contract, advances, or royalties with absolute accuracy. Recently I was asked, “What does the average author make in a year?” Instead of answering I asked in return, “What do you think?” They responded, “$45,000 per year?” I had to blink a few times and said, “That might be an average if you include a number of bestselling authors in the formula. But that also means there are a lot of others who would have to drop a zero from that number (down to $4,500) to create an average of $45,000.” I then told the story of a writer who had a day job unrelated to writing but wrote 10 published books by getting up at 5am every morning to write for two hours…and then helped the kids get ready for school and then went to work. For that writer, the books were a supplement to his income, not the primary source.

One author may get a one time deal for $15,000, but never write another book. Another author may write one book every two years, with each getting a $5,000 advance, but also publishes 30 paid articles a year. A third author may write a novel once every five years and nothing in-between, but their advance for their novel is $100,000. A fourth author may be prolific and publish eight novels a year, four with a traditional publisher and four as an Indie author…with an annual combined income of $60,000. Which one is normal?

You see the problem? There isn’t a straight answer to the question of what is normal when it comes to a writer’s income. Your agent is the best source of information. The agent knows what is typical in a situation and whether your deal is a good one or not.

Meanwhile, the Bottom Line is to keep your bottom line to yourself and be content with it being normal for you.



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Bland on Facebook?

Recently I posted a photo of roses my husband had given me. One of my daughters said, “Mommy, you know you’re desperate to be noncontroversial when you post a picture of roses.” She has also observed that part of my workday is posting “noncontroversial” updates on Facebook. Guilty as charged. But …

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Arguments to Abandon on Facebook

The expression “choose your battles” is a good one, especially in this time when authors must use social media to engage with potential readers. In fact, at a recent author gathering, one mentioned to me that she abandoned Facebook because she was tired of negative comments. I can understand that. …

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My Amazing Fake Day

I’ve been intrigued by some blogs and articles about how Facebook makes people depressed because everyone else’s lives seem so perfect. I hope that no one thinks the sum of my life is reflected in two recent Facebook posts that my uncle killed a bear on our family farm in Southern Virginia and here in Northern Virginia, we are host a family of walking stick bugs. I took great comfort in the support from my friends through social media, and our blog readers, after the Navy Yard shootings. So yes, everyone knows my life isn’t perfect. But what if I could have an amazing fake workday just to post on Facebook? Here’s mine, a mixture of truth and fantasy:

4 AM: Rise to read and ponder passages of my Schofield Bible, followed by prayer.

5 AM: Polish furniture, remembering the Benedictine rule to dedicate each task to God.

6 AM: Eat breakfast with Hubby before he goes to work. Afterwards, meditate upon a maxim of St. Teresa of Avila. Today’s Maxim: Never mention anything concerning thyself which men account praiseworthy, such as learning, goodness, birth, unless with a hope of going good thereby, and then let it be done with humility, remembering that these are gifts of God.

6:30 AM: Continue reading Tozer: Mystery of the Holy Spirit.

7 AM – Noon: Catch up on business emails, blogs, and calls, including fielding several contracts with healthy offers for clients. Take a break to touch base with both daughters, Hubby, Momma and Daddy, and mother-in-law. On some days, this time slot may also include church work.

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News You Can Use – April 10, 2012

Pew Research Findings on E-Reading – If you want a sense of what’s happening, read this article. Then once you’ve digested it, read Mike Shatzkin’s evaluation of the data. Together the articles may take an hour to absorb.

The Perfect Elevator Pitch for a New Job – Interesting article with applications for a writer creating the perfect pitch for their book idea

Five Best Bluetooth Headsets – A link for you techies out there. If you have a favorite vote in the comment section.

Judging a Book by its Cover – A 17 minute lecture from the TED conference by a book cover designer (Chip Kidd has been a designer at Alfred A. Knopf since 1986). At turns amusing and enlightening. If you are an author and want to get inside the head of a designer in an entertaining way, consider watching.

Five Great Movies about Writing – Have to admit never seeing any of these. Am I an uncultured sloth? Don’t answer that question. Instead add your two cents in the comments below.

Infographic on how the Internet is ruining our brain:

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News You Can Use – Mar. 20, 2012

Why Finish Books – I loved this essay! He had me at the picture of C.S. Lewis…

Why Your Book Isn’t Selling – Suggestions from a book marketing expert.

The Publishing Industry May Not be Falling Apart After All – One author suggests that today’s crisis sound awfully familiar. And underneath all the talk of seismic changes and Amazon, she has a valid point. If you click all the way through to her original article you will find a “Live Journal” site that is hard to read on screen.

Free E-book on How to Attract Customers with Twitter – From Hubspot. Must submit registration info to get the free e-book. They offer a number of these papers on a regular basis.

Is Your Facebook Account Part of Your Estate? – Facebook says that if you die your Facebook account must be closed. So all your writing, pictures, etc. will disappear. And they don’t like it if someone else simply uses your password to keep it online. Goes to the heart of what you “own” and do not “own” on the Internet.

How One Man Started Writing for “Sports Illustrated” – He worked on his craft for six years before submitting something to an editor.

The Making of the Hunger Games Blockbuster – Whether you like the book or not is beside the point. Read the article to find out how this YA phenomenon grew via word of mouth and intentional marketing. Fascinating.

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News You Can Use – Mar. 6, 2012

Your Average Facebook Post Only Reaches 12% of Your Friends – Exposing yet another challenge to the world of marketing, either through traditional means or through social media.

New French Law Seizes Digital Rights – “Any book published in France–which would include translated foreign-language books–that went out of print in France–not necessarily elsewhere–before 2001, can be scanned into a database.” And then be made available without compensation.

It Has Come to This in Hollywood – GCB. Fire up the TiVo for that one… Good grief.

From Idea to Store Shelf – I love these kind of stories. Shows the incredible “curation” it takes for a good idea to become great and then what it takes to bring it to market. There are many parallels to the writing and publishing industry here.

Give it Five Minutes, Then React to an Idea – A good reason why appointments at a conference are 15 minutes long.

Free Mac Tools That Make Writing Easier – Agree or disagree? What tools do you use? And if you are on a PC, what do you use?

Anatomy of a Successful Press Release – Try writing one for your own book. Discover that is ain’t easy.

Eight Basic Don’ts for the Beginning Novelist – Steve Moore provides some great stuff. Good reminders for those who think they know this already.

This is a very clever ad for the British newspaper, “The Guardian.”
Click to view “The Three Little Pigs.”

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7 Ways Agents Measure Social Media

Guest Blog by Thomas Umstattd

In the old days all you had to do was tell an agent or publisher “I’m on Facebook, Twitter and I have a blog” and they would be impressed with your online presence. Now publishers are getting more sophisticated in measuring your online presence. They are realizing that not all blogs are the same and that the size of your Twitter following does not directly correlate to influence.

This post goes over 7 ways agents and publishers will measure your social platform in 2012. You may also want to check out 7 Things Agents & Publishers Look for in Author Websites (2012 Edition).

1. Number of Facebook Likes

What is it?

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