Thursday, July 30, 2009

Pre-Vacation Vacation, and Rejection Humor

I didn't post anything last week. This is my quiet time before my vacation, which starts next week. I need a break before my hols. I need to unwind in preparation for them. It's all very well to say that's what the vacation is for, but it doesn't work that way for me.

Away-Vacations can be tiring. I prefer sleeping in my own room, especially with my own pillow. I have a quirk about pillows. The not-always-enthusiastic early jumping out of bed to go and see something (usually something quite old) doesn't happen at home, either, nor do I have to visit people out of duty. That's what living in the country without a car is all about. I won't even dwell on the stress of airports, planes, and jet lag, as that's a given.

Anyway, this is my pre-vacation quiet time. Don't expect too much from me.

I came across this agent-related article that perhaps you'll find equally amusing, bemusing. Times have changed in Agent-Land over recent decades - we all knew that - but here's the proof. I haven't read anything by Stanley Middleton, and the Booker awards can be alarmingly disappointing, but let's take the view that Mr Middleton wasn't a bad writer, and certainly more than worthy of publication, to say the least. This cheeky test by the Times of London, then, was a bit embarrassing, surely. Or perhaps Mr Middleton's writing was just too good, perhaps there was no fantasy, no vampire, no sex or violence, no teen protagonist? I must be a literary snob, because I still like to read books that include none of those things, from time to time. Carbon-dating myself, perhaps...

The following is a famous Chinese rejection letter to a writer. Perhaps you've read it before. In any case, it's always good for a smile, and the style of writing will make you slow down your internet-skimming brain just for a moment, like a bit of meditation, almost.

"We have read your manuscript with boundless delight. If we were to publish your paper, it would be impossible for us to publish any work of lower standard. And as it is unthinkable that in the next thousand years we shall see its equal, we are, to our regret, compelled to return your divine composition, and to beg you a thousand times to overlook our short sight and timidity."

Now you know why those rejections are still coming.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Summer Reflection on the Query Process

I received a rejection for Hafan Deg yesterday, from a New York Agent. Here it is - succinct and concise - "Sorry, tough to sell here, in my view." Well, I think she said it all with that 'here'. Considering the amount of interest I did receive, I think I wasted my time with all those New York queries and should have approached Britain in the first place.

For your interest, I've now received 15 rejections, 13 haven't responded after 90 days, 1 offer of representation, 1 request for the full manuscript received after the offer, and there are still 3 pending, for a total of 33 queries since February 16. I suppose I could email the pending ones and tell them I have an agent now, but that would defeat the purpose of keeping a statistics summary. Of the ones who never got back to me, 2 were the only online form submissions, and 9 accepted one page queries only. They were also my earliest queries, and I improved as the weeks went by, became more confident, less tremulous in my approach. I hope all of this makes you feel a bit better about your own query experiences, if you're there yet.

Thankfully, Strachan's Attic is now safely with my agent, too, and perhaps I'll get a verdict on it before I take my vacation. I am now in a strange no-man's land of wandering my apartment finding odd things to do, little tasks that get put on the back burner during my normal day. It's the summer of course, making my brain slow down, and allowing me to appreciate this short, short time of easy strolls, and outdoor meals. Not that our summer has been so great; it's more reminiscent of an English summer the way things used to be over there, before their weather patterns changed.

Speaking of vacations, I think my cats know I'm leaving soon. They are strangely quiet and contemplative around me. I believe they sense my plans, somehow, even though I've only pulled my rolling bag out once, to clean the wheels. My friend up the street will come in twice a day to tend to them over the two weeks, and to sit with them and have a chat. Not that Jeevesie will come out from under the bed while he's here, although it's possible. It will be an opportunity to teach him that I'm not the only one in the world who cares about him. Perhaps by the time I'm back, Jeeves will be sitting on Larry's lap. I do hope that happens. I have huge guilt about this, you understand. But a cattery would be worse.

Have a quiet, easy weekend. It's that kind of sticky weather here where nothing too physical gets done, and that's fine.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Agent Just Requested Full Strachan's Attic.

This is short and very sweet. I'm in the middle of all kinds of domestic chores that were absolutely necessary, but I just checked my emails.

My agent has requested the full for Strachan's Attic. Fingers crossed, guys. It makes sense for them to take it, too, but who knows how the agently mind works?

I've been longing to set Strachan winging on her way. Hope this is the right flight for her...

Monday, July 20, 2009

Where Do Your Characters Come From?

I've finally relaxed into this no-work-in-progress state, and I'm relishing the quiet with no characters babbling in my head. Time to do some serious spring cleaning - in the middle of summer! I had a pile of sewing and ironing, dustbunnies hiding everywhere, even some impressive cobwebs adding some textural interest to a couple of corners. Of course, if I don't put my glasses on, I don't even see the cobwebs. It's the same with wrinkles, so I don't put on my glasses very often. My own daughter refuses to use a magnifying mirror and shudders at the idea. What you can't see can't hurt you, I guess. Ignorance is bliss.

Come the fall I'll be getting back to serious writing, and, in preparing the seed bed for that next book, I've been wondering about my characters. Where do they come from? Are they, as most suggest, little pieces of ourselves constructed as separate personae? Is even the bitchy, unpleasant one a reflection of the less charitable aspects of ourselves? I don't write villains very well, and certainly could never write about murder, so, if the above is true, I'm obviously not digging deep enough to find that evil bit of me. If I write about a rather ditzy person, is this because it's fun to be naive and unaware some of the time, able to avoid serious analyses of world events? If one of my characters is incredibly promiscuous (lovely, old-fashioned word) is this because I long for a bit more rumpy-pumpy (really, really old-fashioned word) in my life?

The reason we must write (or paint, for that matter) is because we have something to say, want to somehow affect the world around us, to reach out to others. The most humble of us want to share our own modest views (some perhaps grander than others), our own dissemination of the craziness out there, and know that we are not alone in our beliefs, and that we are relevant. This is not an ego trip, because we writers are so often full of self-doubt. We are, quite simply, looking for connection. We feel it when we read, as well, overjoyed at recognizing ourselves in other lives, fictional or otherwise, empathizing with situations we'll probably never experience. Through all the chaos, the emotional swings in our lives, we aren't alone, and that's a huge comfort.

Even as we prefer to deal with like-minded people, we're challenged by less agreeable ideas and arguments which can open us up to a deeper awareness, even understanding. It seems to me that our fictional characters, on the whole, are facets of us with all our ideals and unexamined prejudices intact.

And so I'm about to start that search for new characters again. New identities, speech patterns, physical styles and behavioral quirks will be made up of people I know or see on the street, or from the news, but the depths of them - how they feel - must come from those bits of me I haven't explored yet.

My child wants to say a thing or two, it seems, and I've started listening for her. Harper Lee and Betty Smith both produced amazing children's voices, and I'd like to attempt that, too. Not that I'm implying that I'm in the same league, but we never know until we've tried. (Oh, as an aside, did you know that Harper Lee and Truman Capote were childhood friends? How's that for an unlikely alliance?)

I have a very old lady who wants to be heard, as well. Curmudgeonly and blatantly honest, she wants to set the record straight on many things I've been too timid to address. Perhaps my child and my old lady will be juxtaposed in a coming novel. Just an idea fluttering about, you understand.

Where do your characters come from? Are they purely fictional constructs, developed from your amazing imagination? Or, upon reflection, how much of you is in them? How many of your own values (and perhaps darkest thoughts) are exposed there?

Friday, July 17, 2009

The New Book Journey - Are We There Yet?

I've completed the 150% magnification proofing of Strachan, and she's looking good. I'll put it aside for now, before running off the hard copy. My writing buddy, Melissa, suggested a couple of valid points, and they're now reflected in this final draft, and I am still thinking of just one or two tiny pertinent things that I'd like to say, but that's normal. I don't think I've been so excited about a book before. It's strange, because Hafan Deg was a huge investment for me, and took ages to complete and forever to revise. Strachan's Attic was the 'easier' book - if writing is ever easy - and yet satisfies me more. Perhaps it's still a case of loving the one you're with.

Of the couple of new story ideas floating around, I am nervous at this stage. Melissa said the time wasn't right to start hers yet, even though her story was firmly in place. I echo that, in that I could sit down now and begin, but something is telling me to wait a bit. Once that urge is allowed free reign into our days (and our nights, damn it!) we'll be once more at its mercy. So we tend to hold off just a little longer, to grab some time for ourselves, to recuperate, to refresh, to rest (as Sally suggested), before jumping into the deep end.

But one of those ideas? Oh, wow, it's strong! I want to tell you about it now, but I can't. The important thing is the where. England, Canada, Australia? Each presents its own amazing backdrop for the kind of story I have in mind. Switching genres? Maybe. Upset my agent? Undoubtedly. But what writer truly wants to be predictable? Many well known writers deliberately use different names for their different genres - and not because it might otherwise upset their agents - but because they care about their readers' expectations. As a Newbie (possibly even a never-will-be) I have the luxury of deciding what I want to write, like building that baseball diamond in the cornfield: with luck, they will come.

I have another manuscript at around the 25% stage, started some time ago, for which I lost my fervor; one of Life's Challenges interrupted the original first draft, and I just didn't get back to it. I re-read it yesterday, and it's good. I'm thinking of incorporating the plot into my new book, intertwined through the main story, but I'll be careful before rushing into it. It could sound weird, but my characters are still getting to know each other. I'm going to leave them in peace.

Meanwhile I try to stay busy doing other things. I'm not much good at shopping, but did a little of that yesterday. I caught up with my upstairs neighbor as well, who sometimes phones me to see if I'm still alive. I didn't do the Wine-by-the-Bay thing, but will wait, I think. I have a feeling that the overwhelming need to get this story going will present itself at this restaurant, because of its beautiful setting.

In my personal life, I am a huge planner, and can - more or less - tell you what I expect to be doing in five years. I believe in cash flow spreadsheets, long-term monetary forecasts, lists for just about anything you can think of, and I'm ridiculed by my kids, who think my need to start researching stuff years before I intend to take action on them is just plain obsessive.

I mention this because I don't do this with my writing. I plan nothing except my ending. I come up with the basic idea, mentally mull it around for a while, and then just go for it. All research is done as I work. Over the previous period, prior to the actual writing, I probably have made some notes, snippets of dialogue I want to use, but nothing else. If I decided my hero would be a biologist, and then couldn't find enough fascinating information on that, I'd just switch his profession. That's the wonder of writing. Like children, we get to make it up as we go along.

My question of the day? Are you heavily into research before you start, like Melissa, and, if so, is your life equally planned out in advance (in as much as any life can be)? I have a strong feeling that one practice voids the other. Just curious.

Have a great weekend. I think we are having a spot of summer up here tomorrow, although I'm not sure about Sunday.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Starting a New Book. Careful what you say around me...

What do we writers do when our latest book is finished? We sit around a lot, staring at walls, waiting for a flash of new insight. I don't sleep well - still! Now I'm writing in my sleep! These nocturnal wanderings are brilliantly thought out novels, all the characters in place, doing interesting things, busy as usual. Then, when I wake up, there's nothing.

I didn't have such a dead zone after Hafan Deg was finished, because Strachan was just waiting for the re-writes, and was all ready to go. This time, once the final proofreading is over, I am faced with a New Challenge.

What on earth will this book be about? I have several ideas, but none that are bursting to be told. I read with interest that Melissa has jumped right in again - overjoyed at her latest idea, while I sit, staring at the walls, waiting.

It finally occurred to me that I'm not much good without my writing. When I'm painting, I'm happy enough, pleased with most of my pictures, absorbed for hours as they grow into something worthy of sale. But it doesn't involve me to the same extent that the writing does. Come the fall, I have a couple of custom orders to fill for an old client, and I look forward to that, but without the extreme excitement I feel when I have a new book ready to go.

I go shopping, or take myself to lunch, and I study the people around me, and I'm waiting for that little spark that says I'm ready to begin again. These poor folk have no idea what's going on in my head as they meet my gaze, greet me on the street. Will they be the trigger that gets me racing home to my computer to get those first tiny thoughts down? Does so-and-so across the road realize that I'm considering her as a major character in my next story? Chat with a writer and the chances are your conversation is being memorized for later use. The most insignifant piece of gossip can lead to real suspense and intrigue.

I believe I have the setting in place, and a flirtatious hint of a plot, but not enough to cry, to use one of my father's favorite expressions, "Right, let's have you!" But it will happen this week, I think. I'll be away in August, but sitting around airports and on planes is perfect for mental-writing. I'm certainly not taking my lap top.

Considering I grouch about this tiny town, where I can't order pizza on the phone, must pay bank fees on cash withdrawals because my own bank is twenty miles away, and generally plan for a day of shopping because of the distance to the nearest major shopping center, it is a perfect place for a writer. The city tends to crowd your thoughts, overwhelm with ideas. Here, when a light is left on in a foreclosed house, shining out onto the night in a street where few lights are seen after 10 pm, the nub of an idea can take hold without distraction. Of course, I've already done a book about an empty house with a light left on, but what's the big deal if I decide to do another? Others may write "It was a dark and stormy night..." I like to write, "It was a dark and empty house..." You know I love houses, especially vacant ones.

So this meandering post today is to just to fill you in on my thought processes between books. I'm going to take myself to that lovely restaurant today, the one that overlooks the water. The weather is perfect, and it's midweek, so it shouldn't be crowded. I'll sit out on that patio with my glass of wine, and consider the sun sparkling on the water, and listen to the call of the seagulls. Perhaps my next book will begin there. Or over there, beyond the treeline, where that new housing development was recently finished. Some of those houses are still empty...

You'll be the first to know, once I set that first line down, which - as usual - will be the final line in the book. You know how I work.

Monday, July 13, 2009

"Strachan's Attic" is Finished. Now, where's that agent?

At 8:34 pm Eastern US Time, Saturday, July 11, I finished Strachan's Attic. I don't know why it had become such a big deal to me, closing that final chapter, but I was more than a little irritable at the prospect and kept stalling for more time. In fact, when I finally sat down to complete it, once and for all, it came very quickly. I grabbed a sandwich at noon, and I remembered to feed the cats at 5 pm, but I was driven, as they say, and way too high on success to have an appetite.

After I'd had my really good closing-line weep (think Joan Wilder at the beginning of Romancing the Stone, or are you too young?), I phoned or emailed everyone who'd shown the slightest interest (and was in the right time zone) - best friend, writing buddy, sons, sister, niece, Larry up the road, that enthusiastic supermarket checkout girl. (Well, this last is an exaggeration. The checkout girl wasn't really enthusiastic - just being polite.) I didn't eat until around 9:30 pm, when I made toast. You didn't really expect me to cook then, did you? (And, no, we don't even have pizza delivery - this is a very small town.)

I'm now reading it at 150% screen size for typos, obvious errors, but I was very thorough with my daily revisions, so it shouldn't be too bad. Finally, when I can face it, I'll run off a hard copy for that final proofing.

Hope that British agent wants Strachan as well, because I'm itching to get rolling with it, and I'll find someone else if there's too much delay. Who says we can't have two agents? I love this novel, and want to share it.

Of course, as with anything that you're over-excited with (including men), you tend to make silly errors, and my friend quickly emailed me to say that a character who was married to my 1940s protagonist, had suddenly re-emerged sixty years later in the final chapter, and was rubbing my modern-day protagonist's feet! (Of course, I might have just been testing my friend's proof-reading skills.) Anyway, while we're being so picky, how come no one noticed that another guy had one name in the first half of the book, and another in the second? Do I have to do everything myself?

Let me say it one more time: I've finished Strachan's Attic.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Mature Approach to Writing, or has your alter-ego brat taken over?

Because I am in such a blue funk over this final part of Strachan, I'm neglecting my usual post today. It just wouldn't be right for someone in my irritable state to suggest to you guys how to approach writing, how to secure representation by a lovely agent, and to finally get published - all the while maintaining great joy and gratitude in your heart, when I'm anything but joyful and grateful right now.

I am just too bratty today.

I will finish Strachan this weekend, and I'll be all the nicer as a result, but, in the meantime, I'll sulk over the pages (this is not how it was meant to be in chapter thirty), and narrow my eyes at my heroine's latest thought processes (she's turning into a whiner - a bit like me, really). I long for the day when I shed no more tears over it, with all the loose ends tied up (but there are so many of them!) and can print the whole thing off for that final proofing. Whoever thinks writing is a great escape is crazy.

Oh, sure, at the start, creating all those interesting people, allowing them to weave some magic into your outline, letting them amuse you, surprise you - well, of course, that's fun. But the winding down part, the resolution of the story, the saying goodbye - this is not my happiest time.

So that's it for today. I'm not apologizing. I'm sure you've experienced variations on this theme at various stages of your own writing. I know my usual maturity and common sense are missing, but that goes with the territory this late in the game. All that's left is this demanding-child alter ego, wanting everything her way, stamping her foot for attention. I got news, kid. Come Monday, you're in bed without any supper...

For those of you at the I-can't-wait-to-see-what-happens-next stage of your book, have a wonderful weekend. For those struggling with closure, I hope you have icecream in the freezer.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Ending Your Novel - Do You Resist It?

I've done no writing for five days! This is unusual for me, you probably realize. But I just couldn't quite face the last three chapters. After the rather wild ride of the past few months, where my characters jolted me, surprised me, irritated me, they are about to be herded towards the ending. From here on in, I'm the boss. This is where I must take the helm, so to speak, but being solely in control, knowing where the story is going, is far less fun for me. However, it's necessary, although I rather wish the story didn't have to end at all, because I've so enjoyed being with these people.

I said on Friday that I could be finished by Monday. Well, I took those days off, deliberately avoiding my computer, finding other things to take up my time. I could almost hear everyone clamouring at me when I passed by, but I ignored them. Thing is, if I want to be finished by the end of the month for sure, I should get back to it today. It helps to know that my friend is reading this as it becomes available, and she nags me for more all the time. Without her, perhaps I would have taken this last month off.

It's a kind of avoidance, of course, but legitimate at this stage, I think. Once the book is done, I'm in that "here we go again..." mode with agents. I don't suppose anyone truly enjoys that exercise. It's the equivalent of standing on a street corner, trying to sell my paintings, as far as I'm concerned...well, somewhat less public that that, I guess. (Although my Hafan Deg agent could want it and that would be great.)

If you sense my bad mood, you're right. Other than the final cleanup of the manuscript, that final, really final, dusting (in preparation for Typo Imp's eventual visit - remember, however many times you proofread, he'll still come a-calling), I won't have anything to do for a bit. I'll be too emotionally depleted to begin on the next book right away, and too cranky from proofreading to be any kind of fun for socializing. So I'll probably just sit, crabby and sulky, watching CNN or the BBC - which will make me even more crabby and sulky, albeit thankful I have two cats who love me regardless.

I hate ending my books. How do you feel? Does it make you happy? Perhaps this is why some of the Greats wrote such gigantic books, because they couldn't bear to say goodbye. But I am reminded of that wise adage - 'If you love them, let them go.'

Oh, and I hear you. Get over yourself, you're saying. But you're wrong. It's not me I need to get over. It's them - Strachan and Celia and Jay and Nell and Pam and Katie and Stephen and Harvey....

Hang on a minute...I can always make up some more. We writers are such a fickle lot.

Friday, July 3, 2009

The How of Your Writing? - Stop Analyzing

Writer and writing teacher Darcy Pattison, on her site, Fiction Notes, said that she'd be interested in seeing a posting on how we write kissing scenes. I questioned her about it, because she's so clever and certainly more than capable of writing about The Kiss. I blithely didn't wait for her response, but simply threw some ideas down and pasted them into her comments box. She responded that she wasn't looking for samples, but a detailed description of the how - the technique involved in producing those words.

So today I have a confession: I don't have a technical approach to my writing. I understand all those lovely sites that talk about flow, voice and rhythm, but when they suggest the premeditated analysis and explanation of the words, discussions about character development and plot structure - well, this, for me, would discombobulate my work, and my head, and I can't do it.

My plots rarely follow my original rough (two-page) outline, because my characters develop as I go, and they take over the plot. I'm often surprised at where they take me. At times, of course, I have to dig them out from where they're mired, but not too often. The only certain thing is, and I've said it before, I always have my ending in mind from the start, and I know I'll get to it eventually. It's always been this way for me.

I don't know how I write, nor do I need to know. If I were to rush off now and take writing courses, I believe it would spoil my approach, not improve it. I took just one writing course in my life, some time ago, and that was because the final parts were about how to get your book published. No doubt, Prof. Hans Ostrom would shake his head at this, if he were to see it.

Which brings me to your writing. If you're writing properly - have the very best knowledge in matters of spelling, punctuation, general grammar - then the flow of your writing is unique to you, and shouldn't be overshadowed by worries about the technique you use. Take writing courses, by all means, if you feel you need improvement and believe, passionately, that you are meant to write and that this will cinch it. If you're brave and rebellious, you can even break those very rules - but at least know the rules you are breaking before you try this. (Think James Joyce.) However, over and above syntax, please just get on with it.

Reading good books and poetry is still one of the best ways to hone your craft. No one begins from a vacuum, writer and artist alike. This is the apprenticeship from which you'll never graduate; we never stop learning, do we?

The act of writing is a world apart from analysis and critiqueing. This is why we have such a hard time doing the revision work, because we're using another part of our brain. The hard-nosed editor in you is unrelated to the soft, overly-sensitive soul of your writer.

To do your very best work, listen to it as you write, let it sing to you, feel the rhythm of your words, sense when things are out of place, or missing entirely, and decide, sadly, but firmly, when you've said way too much. Do, for pity's sake, READ IT OUT LOUD. If you're honestly satisfied, and not just making do with that weak bit of dialogue in chapter ten, you can safely leave the criticism/praise to others - be it writing buddies, agents, editors, and - soon, I hope - your book-buying public, reviewers and critics (the last two, with luck, from the New York Times).

I love Darcy's work, and follow her posts avidly. I've learned some interesting things from her, but not the 'how' of writing. I said at the start that I didn't want to know. Like analyzing love, it spoils things. Just let it be.


Strachan is about three chapters from the end. I haven't been sleeping a full 7 hours this last few weeks, knowing how close I am. If I get completely carried away, and no one visits, I could be finished by Monday. It's heaven to know the book will not be playing on my mind when I go to England in August. I would have made lousy company over there, head-writing the whole time! When I'm doing it, I get this weird, blank look on my face, I'm told. Like I'm high...

Have a wonderful 4th of July weekend!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

You've Found an Agent - NOW What Happens?

My friend in Oz asked me what happens next with Hafan Deg. I had to get my head straight to think this through. I've never been published before, but I've read everything I can get my hands on to help with the clarification process. So this is what I believe happens, once you've found an agent. Keep in mind that the writer's lot is often tragic, and perhaps nothing will happen. (I could still be blogging on about it, with query stats in the hundreds, years from now.)

Anyway, this is my take on it:

The agent contacts publishers - in fact they approach EDITORS; the editor is the first point of contact, and will have to fall in love with your book. Then she (we'll call her 'she') has to persuade the publisher's editorial board - over several stages - that the publisher should offer the agent, on your behalf, a contract, so that review board will have to believe in your book, even if they don't love it. The final decision is based on their confidence that your book can easily find a niche in bookstores; there will be a good market for it; the writer is a good candidate for the promotional work required to generate sales; and that the book has enough merit to at least make back its advance.

Let's say you've made it through the various board approvals stage, and the publisher has completed the contract with your agent and now pays the agent your advance (if there is one - publishers are getting tighter) - with luck, about 5% to 15% of the value of the print run, which can be large or small. The agent takes 15% (usual) commission, and gives you the change.

If the print run is modest - say 10,000 - and the book was worth, say, $20, you'd get $10k advance based on, say, 5%, less 15% for your agent. If the book barely sells, you'll never see another penny, but you don't have to repay the publisher that shortfall; this is their cost of doing business (and they won't love you for it). Obviously big sellers have 100,000s of books printed.

Now the editor is totally in charge. She will probably want re-writes, things that may appal you, but that you will have to approve because she's now the boss; the publisher owns the printing rights (U.S., English, Foreign, Film, whatever you agreed to). She could insist on a new title. What she says goes.

The art department is brought in to design the cover and the writer has little or no say in that. (I rather like my own, but they won't use it.) You'll have little input as to the font used, the paper, hard or soft cover. You've sold those rights.
The book is printed perhaps a year after the publisher gets hold of it, because it sits in a print queue behind others.

In the olden days, the publicity department now would be involved, preparing to launch you and your book to fame and glory. No more, it seems.

You will be expected to promote the book pending that launch date, at your own expense, probably, because publishers are beginning to frown on these expenses. I have no idea what's involved in publicity. I'm currently finding out as much as I can online. I know it's early days, considering my book might not even find a publisher, but I believe in being prepared. I want to know everything I can about this business.

The book is distributed to stores. You arrange to do book signings, interviews, etc. Again, the cost of travel, business cards, little promotional gifts, e.g. bookmarks, is your expense against any revenue.

From all sales, Royalties of 5% to 15% are calculated, the advance is deducted, and the balance is sent to the agent, who subtracts 15% and again sends you the change. Royalties are calculated about every 6 months only. As I said earlier, if the book never makes enough to cover that original advance, you still get to keep it. Perhaps the publisher will play nice if he thinks your next book will recoup these losses for his company, or he could choose not to deal with you again.

Regarding how little control you have over your book once it's picked up, this undoubtedly becomes more relaxed with any future work, as and if you become more important as a writer. Obviously the likes of Harlan Coben, Dean Koontz, Stephen King, et al, have a huge say in the final product. I can't imagine any publisher telling them what to do.

As I said at the beginning, this is purely my understanding of the process. If any of you can offer more detail, or need to correct me, please do.

As writers poring over our work, hoping against hope that this time we're going to make it, we see the path ahead a bit like the Yellow Brick Road. We finish our amazing story, polish it to a shimmering wonder, and start the query process, already acknowledging that it's not going to be easy. We've read that much, at least. But we hardly know more. It seems to end there, and we ecstatically jump all the next steps to the point where we are standing on some community stage somewhere, giving a reading to a rapt audience. Ahem, wait a second. Not quite yet.

So that's why I wrote today's post.

I've added a couple of associated links here, that you could have missed. They're pertinent - one very funny, Intern Spills, and the other a fascinating look at the Michael Stanley Kubu journey at Anne Mini's blog. I notice that the advance here was split into three, one on signing, one on manuscript acceptance (unsure what that means) and one on publication. Everyone's different.

Please tell me how your Yellow Brick Road is going for you.

Hey, Happy Canada Day, eh!