Tuesday, January 15, 2013

How You Get Paid: The Mystery of Advances and Royalties Revealed

Excerpt Craft from "The Break-Up Activity Book, 
Crafting Your Way Through a Broken Heart"

Unless you have no need to win the local Power Ball or be the next Publisher's Clearinghouse winner, the likelihood is that you're curious - how do you make money if you publish a book? The answer is really quite simple when you realize Publishers are a business - like any other business. In fact, I have found publishers I have worked with (Chronicle Books, Andrews McMeel, Prospect Park Books and Universe) to be actually a little old-fashioned in how they conduct business. They tend to be very strict in their business dealings and base many decisions on the basis of the good, old fashioned Profit and Loss Statement (P&L).

An advance is what you get paid upfront to finish your book. The concept is, you have enough to live off of while you're struggling to complete your masterpiece. In media you hear of the big advances, the ones in millions of dollars which, generally the person receiving doesn't really need because how many Herm├ęs Birkin bags to you really need? But there are many advances paid every year on books with less than spectacular advances but that does not equate that your book is not worthy or that is won't be financially beneficial to you.

One thing that is important to remember, is that although there is a romantic notion of writing a book, where the author or authoress languishes in something silk, with some debilitating illness or or going to countless literary cocktail parties with something frothy in your hand and witty remarks on your tongue, Publishing is actually a business. When a publisher purchases your book, they believe your book will make money for them.

How Your Advance is Determined
Every month or so, there is a meeting where editors get around a big table and bring in submissions. If your editor is successful, your book comes out of that meeting with your book earmarked for a purchase and literary success. This editor, generally the same one who championed your book will then run a Profit and Loss Statement (P&L) with a high, low and medium scenarios with the finance department on your book. They will base their scenarios with like books, their intuition, some speculation and a dash of leap of faith. After some internal haggling, one of the P&L scenarios will reveals itself as the correct choice and whatever quantity of books on that P&L is the number in which your advance is determined. Some people believe amount of your advance is pulled out of thin air. It is not. It is definitely based on a P&L. 

How to Work Out Your Advance
If the run is 10,000 books, the book retail is $10 (generally publishers work on the retail price of your book) and your royalty is 8% - then your advance would be 10,000 x $10 x 8% = $8,000.

How Advances are Paid Out
Advances are usually paid out in 2 - 3 payments; upon signing, upon delivering the first galleys and upon delivering the final book. The actual schedule is also tied into the payment as the publisher needs you to finish the book based on an internal schedule - not when you feel it is ready which clearly is when your planets are being ruled by Venus. They will be strict on delivery dates, and often if you cannot make the dates, you can lose your advance. It is, I think good advice not to be a prima donna on your first book unless you are already a prima donna, with a huge fan base and in a position to call the shots.

If you are lucky to sell through your first print run, the publisher may decide to go into a 2nd printing (and hopefully a 3rd, 4th and 5th printing). The payments you receive after your advance are called royalties. If you receive royalties after your advance it is called "outliving your advance." Royalties are generally paid quarterly or if the Publisher is smaller bi- annually. The Publisher will also always withhold a percentage of your royalty for returns for the next statement. This is because bookstores can return books and basically the Publisher wants to CYA. Unlike the advance are only paid to you at the start, you will only receive royalties when they Publisher "sells through" the subsequent printings. Sell through means the book has been purchased by highly, intelligent consumers at a retail outlet (ie Borders or Barnes and Nobles).

The Second Printing

To determine the quantity of subsequent print runs, the Publishers will run P&L scenarios in what the believe can sell. This will be based on more concreate information than the first printing. For example, how many books sold through certain retail channels and how fast and demand from new venues like gift boutiques or retailers such as "Urban Outfitters" that don't fit into the typical bookstore mold. At this point, even if your editor is your biggest champion and brings in a brass band and baton waving cheerleaders - the determination of the second print run will likely be based on sales data from your first run.  Sometimes there is even a strange internal formula or rule of thumb. It will in general not be based on what you, the author thinks should sell and it is unlikely you will be consulted for your opinion.

Example Royalty
In a second printing, the Publisher decides to print another 5000 books. 1000 sell through and the 4000 now are in remainder purgatory. You will only receive a royalty of 1000 x 8% x $10 = $800 (minus the withholding for the returns).

Why you don't receive a royalty on every book printed?
A Publisher is actually a real business (see first paragraph). They need to pay their lease, keep their lights on and ensure their employees paid and hopefully give them some health benefits so they don't end up with black, disgusting teeth or missing limbs. Their goal is not to hold your hand and other writers hands around the world and sing Kumbayah. While there is nothing wrong with the goal of people all around the world singing Kumbayah, this is not the bottom line objective of a Publisher. They are actually very interested in making money - just like you.

When the publisher takes on your concept, they take on the risk. In the example above, where the Publisher prints 5000 books on the second run and only sells 1000, the loss on the remaining 4000 books (a cost of $10,000 to just print them alone) is their loss based on their poor business decision. They will not pay you royalties for the 4000 remaining books because they are a business and they have already been literally "taken to the cleaners" with a loss. It does not make any business sense for them to pay over and above their loss. However, you will though, still make royalties on the 1000 books sold.

Life is Unfair
There may also be differences in this basic rule of thumb if you are Kim Kardashian, James Patterson or the King of France where you might have a stronger weigh in on what decisions are made and what you are paid - but if you're not one of these people - this is the likely scenario for you. It's true, life is completely unfair.

Don't knock outliving your advance. While the Publisher continues to go into additional runs with your book, you will be back listed - which is still shown in their catalogue and better yet still receive checks in the mail which is like manna from heaven or shoe shopping time, whichever comes first. Quite a few people seem to be focused on the advance. Big advances definitely give you bragging rights, and possibly a mention in a literary magazine that you can leave casually lying around your home to impress your friends and family - but not getting a big advance does not mean that you book will not be financially successful for you.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Get Started. Just Write.

The Break-Up Activity Book, Crafting Your Way Through a Broken Heart

Whenever people find out that I have been published I invariably get a lot of questions on how one does this sort of thing. Over the years, I have sent out many emails and sat with people over tea so long ago Starbucks didn't yet exist. But this year, 2013, in coordination with the launch of my book, "The Break-Up Activity Book: Crafting Your Way Through a Broken Heart," Prospect Park Books (which was officially launched today), I have decided writing my thoughts on publishing is in order. Then I can point all queries to my blog because what is the use of technology if you can't use it to be as impersonal as possible?

I do want to start with a caveat, which is - the following are my opinions and what I have done but, they are by no means the only methods in which to get published. I fell into publishing completely accidentally and learned from there. There are many authors out there who are more prolific and seasoned than myself. So, I encourage you to seek them out, especially you are a fan of such authors in which case you should find out where they may be speaking and come prepared with lot of questions so you can pepper them after they are done. After you have done this once or twice, you may consider some costume changes so they will still let you in the door.

All my posts are going to be short (and hopefully digestible) but this is possibly going to be the shortest post of them all because the biggest, most singular thing that you must do if your dream is to to be a writer is simple. Write.  You need to get a writing utensil and something to write on. It can be a real piece of piece of paper with a real pen or using something like a Notes App on your Smart Phone or if you are one of the millions of lucky adults in the US to snag an iPad this holiday season, even if you had to beat someone with a stick at Walmart to get it, you can pull that out and write (after you have prudently purchased some more Apple stock of course).

It is very tempting to continually go to lectures and listen to someone speak and read every book and article available on how to get published, research the best possible tools to use whether it be a special notepad or pen, or tablet but, you must remember until you commit to a sentence, you aren't really a writer. An analogy I like to use is sports. You can read every book on tennis, watch every tournament, call the shots better than the sportscaster -  but until you tie on those shoes, get into the court and swing, you are not a tennis player. So if you want to write - get on the court - and write.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Do You Want to Touch My Monkey?

Lynn Chang's Tin Monkey

Lynn's Subversive Monkey

This past week I was finally able to go see the Aaron Kramer exhibition at CAFAM (Craft and Folk Art Museum). I was particularly intrigued by his motto: "Trash is the failure of the Imagination" as I come from a proud family of garbage collectors. Although eventually we did move up to garage sales as my immigrant parents achieved the American dream, old habits die hard. I still can't help want to paw through my neighbor's trash on garbage day for the kind of "good stuff" only a garbage afficionado can ascertain and then storing it in my my garage, turning my garage into a fire hazard and then becoming the neighborhood pariah who is bringing the home values down when your garage is so full with junk things start spilling onto your lawn--just like my dad did. Isn't heritage a wonderful thing?

The exhibit did not disappoint. Everything was so delightfully creative and whimsical plus we had the bonus of all the Food Trucks parked outside, although the Sprinkles Van drove off early despite people pounding on the sides as it was departing. No matter, the point was the show even though I busted a nail on the van. Anyway, after going through the show, I found they had a Kinetics Kreation class taught by the artist himself! I was somewhat hesitant because they used alliteration and spelled Creation wrong (which has been a pet peeve ever since I worked in the Toy Industry and this was the methodology of naming almost every toy). However, I couldn't turn away from an opportunity to make something cool out of garbage. So I decided to take a chance, $40, a coat hanger and a old can to CAFAM this past Sunday.

Lynn's Tin Monkey, Aaron Kramer's Class

Notice all the subversive details like the hat and the buttons.

You may wonder who goes to a class like this. The answer is not pretty. Kids of course, and then a bunch of "crafty" femme d'un certain d'age like myself - the latter being not so nice. Lots of creative haircuts and earth mother outfits (anything to detract from the fact our faces are beginning to drag on the ground) and a lot of talk about things like master beading and joining a craft circle. You know, the things that don't matter to you when you are young and cute. They only matter when you get older and it's the only thing that's remotely positive that defines you.

Once we were settled in, and the master beaders had identified themselves, Aaron went through how to make our Kinetic Creation and we got a simplified review on bearings, cranks and fulcrums. We were then set loose. Our class was very noisy and chattery because of all the women. So noisy I wonder if Aaron questioned the wisdom of having so many women in a class or if he is ever going to do it again. Anyway - we all started making stuff and doing the blow by blow of what we are making. Why it is important to have a narrative when you're making something I don't know, but it does make it more satisfying somehow, even if no one is listening. There were many cool things. Birds were popular, but there were some flowers, a running man, a cat head, a boat, a dancing girl with cornrows and a few very cool abstract thingys. I initially wanted to make a retro robot but I lost patience and decided to make a subversive monkey. When you turn the crank he moves back and forth and up and down.

All in all - a very, very fun class I would highly recommend. I am already saving tin cans for my next Kinetic Kreation.

Whooaaaa! It moves back and forth!

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Not Selling It

Found this ad in the paper the other day and these guys are clearly not McLovin' their photo op. For some reason, I find this incredibly funny especially the ambivalence on their faces.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Rose Bowl Float Viewing

This was one of three floats I liked
(Kaiser Permanente's "Magnificent Tales of Health").

This weekend my husband and I went to see the Rose Bowl Floats. The best thing is that after you go once you actually never have to go again because you can say - "I already went once." The bad things include you have to go on a shuttle to the "viewing" and shuttles never forebode a good time - unless it is the LA Open, it's hot like the devil with no shade, and there are a million people - a lot of them in strollers, and lastly without the context of the parade, the floats are generally disappointing results of design by committee. It starts with the basic concept being weak and the sculpts making it worser. I don't like to use the word worser often but it is really appropriate here. Not to say there weren't some good floats - and quite a few decent ones - but there are some ones that make you wonder how there was any possible way to ever get consensus on something so awfully conceived. Well, I guess if you think about the DMV it's really not so hard to believe.

What's neat though, is when you get up close - you can see the amount of work that goes into making the floats although there is always irony is using flowers to create a larger, fake looking flower.

You can only see the floats for two days and as you can see
by the poor wilted roses here, there's a reason for that.

You do have to take your hat off to the level of detail
on the floats and the personal sacrifice people made
to achieve it. Who ever glued all these seeds down will
probably never be able to look at bean soup
the same way ever again.

This float (not one of my favorites but a nice float
photographed nicely) won an award.

One of my objections I would raise if I were the Queen Witch of the Rose Parade is to only give meritorious floats awards. At the viewing, it seemed that almost every float except the very most heinous ones won an award - except one heinous one did win an award. Plus it also seemed like a float could only get ONE award. I think this is because otherwise there are not enough awards to go around. But this just doesn't seem right to me. It's clearly not in the spirit of Capitalism and just so un-American.

Here is a detail of the Cal Poly float that depicted a lot of jungle animals getting their hair done in a salon that was run by monkeys. It was cleverly named "Jungle Cuts." It won the Bob Hope Humor Award. We thought it was really funny - we laughed and laughed and laughed. Honestly, we thought we would never stop laughing, because it was so humorous.

On a more serious note, all the monkey's looked curiously like Curious George. I am not sure if the Curious George people know about this and whether this resemblance was "by accident" or "by accident - on purpose." Perhaps the Curious George People and the Cal Poly Float People need to have a little talk.

Do we really need another float with a man with balls?

This was my favorite float by the Downey Rose Float Association called "Jewels of the Pacific". It was featured in the LA Times and is what made me want to see the floats. I thought this float was really creative. I especially liked the jellyfish - but I am always partial to jellyfish. I am even known to eat jelly fish when it is sliced thinly with some sesame oil but that is another post. The effect of this float was somewhat diminished as I overheard a gay couple getting a snapshot say afterwards - "Well we had to, they were BLOW fish after all."

This was my husband's favorite float by China Airlines called
"Taiwans Gardian - the Third Prince" (spelling courtesy of
the Chinese). He liked it because of the use of scale and movement
to create drama and majesty.

He also liked how leaves were used to create the
scales of the dragon and how they created depth.

I personally liked the wisdom in putting bicycle shorts
underneath the warrior although was somewhat disappointed
that the warrior was not anatomically correct.

Another Year Another Resolution

I am a firm believer in not making any New Year's Resolutions - except ones that I know I will keep. I mean, there are so many things I procrastinate about now - so why add one more thing to the list to end up feeling badly about not doing? That is what is behind this year's resolution. A Library Card.

Why a Library card you ask?

1. I am not a big TV watcher, in fact, I think I may actually one of the very few people in North America that can almost qualify as not watching TV "at all." This is mostly because it is too difficult to watch TV at our home. To start, we have about a thousand clickers. OK. There are not a thousand but there are at least three I am aware of. Each of them has dozens of buttons - and my understanding of their functionality is limited. They are all tiny buttons and they just don't make sense to me. I just want to turn the TV on, and change the channel and volume. Honestly, is this too much to ask? When on occasion I have actually been able to turn the TV on - the only show I want to watch - COPS (the greatest show ever made) is shockingly not always on. Hence I read.

2. Economic Reasons. I read about 2 - 3 books a week. This gets expensive, even if you, like me purchase your books used through Amazon or my favorite used bookstore, the Brand Bookshop and resell them or go to the Goodwill near my home where some book club dumps their books. I've gotten some real goodies here - including the Guernsey Potato Peel Society when it was still on the NYTimes best seller list.

3. I miss the library. When I was a kid we used to go there all the time and peruse all these great books. It's where I found Corduroy, Where the Wild Things Are and Snow White and Rose Red. Back in the day, there was a little pocket in the back of the book where they kept a sign out card that the librarian ran it through a machine at the end - which was very satisfying. Plus as kids we got to sit a this hexagonal table and each slice of the table had a little cubbie so your could stash a ton of books so the other kids with couldn't get their grimy paws on them while you were there - and no one said anything.

4. Monrovia, the town I live in, just got a new and quite handsome library, the aptly named Monrovia Public Library.

5. Library Card - that would be an easy resolution, right?

Being the doofus I am, it took me two tries to get my card. The first time, I browsed, got all my books and went to get my card at ten to closing. An aide was about to make my card until another librarian - one of those mean, pinched women who hates other women (or maybe they just hate everyone) said it takes at least 15 sometimes 30 minutes to make a card and therefore I would have to come another day. The next day was Sunday and they're closed Sundays. Isn't that weird? Shouldn't a library be open on Sundays and keep people out of mischief- especially after painting the town red Saturday night? I would think a library would be a good place to nurse a hangover, nice and quiet.

I found success the next day, Monday. This actually worked out for the best because the entire staff was happy and helpful and pinched face lady was nowhere around. After getting my books, I got my card in less than 2 minutes. Yes, they just copied my driver's license and printed it out - it may have actually taken less than 2 minutes. I wanted to say something about the mean lady but I refrained myself as it is a library and I was afraid if I did say something she would somehow appear and take my new, hard-earned, library card away from me.

Here is what I got:

Magical Thinking, Augusten Burroughs - This great. Clever, funny and yet somewhat disturbing - a mix that is very much a Burroughs signature - although in one of the true stories he kills a rat which I think is cruel. Of course, I feel homicidal toward the raccoon that killed my duck Walter even though he was an ungrateful duck, 4 of my doves and recently the goldfish in my pond.

Sellevision, Augusten Burroughs - (not yet read- and when I finish this and You Better Not Cry comes back into the Library, I will be very sad because I will have read everything Mr Burroughs has written. That is of course if he doesn't write something in the meantime and publish it immediately for my convenience in which case, I will be happy again.)

The Dead Girl, Melanie Thernstrom - I started this but I might not finish it. I read about it in the New Yorker as being "as good" as Truman Capote's In Cold Blood.

The Honk and Holler Opening Soon, Billie Letts - Letts is the author of Home is Where the Heart Is - where the mousy, overweight and pregnant protagonist was immortalized on film by Nathalie Portman - who to me is the epitome of mousy and overweight. Can you think of anyone mousier than Nathalie Portman? I certainly can't. It's just another perfect literary casting by Hollywood.

July, July by Tim O'Brien- I just finished The Things they Carried. I wanted Going after Cacciato but that wasn't in.

Heir to the Glimmering World Cynthia Ozick - because a friend Bethany has it - and I have to do everything she does.

Unaccustomed Earth, Jhumpa Lahiri - which after bringing it home I realized I read it already. These short stories are just so good you feel sad when you're done because there is no more to read.

The Botany of Desire, Michael Pollan. I think his last name should be Pollen but that's just me. I am pretty excited about this one.

I am happy to report that I not only did I accomplish my one New Year's Resolution and I also got that same feeling about hitting the motherlode when I walked out with my stack of books. Now the hard part - not dropping any of the books into water when I am reading in the bathtub.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Thanksgiving in Sedona 2009

Each Thanksgiving Fox and I make a pilgrimage to Sedona - the land of Redrocks and Polar Fleece. We use a timeshare that belongs our friends Dr. Alan Rothblatt and Dr. Sima Kahn who are both gynecological surgeons. Alan is the one who removed 24 of my fibroid tumors over a year ago. There's something poetic about that but I just can't quite put my finger on it.

As you can see from the picture above, the views are breathtaking. It's hard to take a bad picture, unless of course it is something that starts off being bad - like the sign to our timeshare below.

It's hard to pinpoint what makes this sign particularly awful but I feel most would agree it's the little painting of the mountains really takes it over the top. Surprisingly, most of the signage in Sedona is awful - not artful as you might expect. There is liberal use of turquoise and Kokopelli, use I feel should be outlawed. However, this is countered by strict regulations and ordinances. For example, there is very limited lighting permitted at night - so it gets really, really dark. As I see it you get two benefits from this: you can see stars you've only read about and you thankfully can't see the signs. This makes navigation challenging if you're from any major city where you're used to it being bright night and day, large billboards, flashing neon and someone dressed in a banana suit twirling a sign - all in the name of marketing, for the purpose of guiding you to your destination but as usual I digress.

Another surprising thing about Sedona is the scarcity of fine dining. There are a few nice restaurants - but much less than you would think. This is why I believe a Javelina took a bite out of the center of this cactus.

Isn't this cool? I love guessing what happened to the plants when we're out hiking.

Fox and I take a 3 - 4 hour hike each day we're in Sedona and this year the weather was perfect. Not too hot, not too cold--although because it is a desert it gets cold shockingly quickly. Once the sun goes down you want to be off the trail as it becomes pitch black and I mean pitch black. Not, there is a glow from the city and a street lamp (because these are no street lamps at the trails) and I can kind of see and poke my way around. No. It's like, you're absolutely going to get lost probably by walking down a wash that looks like a trail, trip on a cactus, fall on it and then end up being dinner for a Javelina--or freezing to death because you didn't wear enough layers of Polar Fleece.

Here we are. I would have included more pictures but I am ashamed because we were gross and pretty much wore the same thing everyday. This became somewhat unpleasant on our sixth day.

We're wearing hats in honor of our Dermatologist Dr Alex Khadavi. He'd probably be pleased to know there were lots more hats on the trails in general this year. I think it's because people are becoming more aware of the perils of sun damage.


These are my favorite gloves. I like to wear them
because I think if people see me hiking with them on
they know not to mess with me. And why, yes this is another day
even though I am wearing the same clothes.

Here's Fox again. Happier because he's not shaving. And yes, this
is another day and yes he's wearing the
same clothes again too.

The mountains have an obvious beauty but in the last few trips I have gotten really fascinated by how tortured the plants are - trying to grow in such a harsh environment.

Of course, nothing would be more predictable for humans than to try to improve on nature itself.

Troubling Shape
This is a small knoll near Bell Rock, a well-known vortex.
It's like a mini Bell Rock.

I love to make these piles - lots of people do. You see them all over the trails. I call them "troubling shapes" but some call them cairns and others maize. Last year, there were a bunch of people that were in a circle around this rock table and they had crystals and amulets in the center. We said hello but they didn't answer us which makes me believe they were really aliens, charging their crystals for their mother ship - similar to the movie District 9.

Path to Nowhere
Mini Bell Rock

The seed of this idea started with someone who left one stone on it's edge that Fox noted was the perfect shape for Iowa. I decided to make a long undulating (I've always wanted to use that word in a sentence) row of them. Although the concept that one stone was shaped like Iowa got lost in this new incarnation, I think it still ended up looking kind of cool.