Saturday, June 28, 2008

Potential Earnings From A Novel

Trying to assess the potential earnings from selling a novel can be an exercise in futility. Advances can range from nothing into six figures, depending on the novel, the person negotiating the contract, and the publishing house. The "typical" advance quoted for first time novelists is generally between $2000 and $5000 but that is only the beginning of the payment process.

Publishers pay advances based on their sales expectations and the size of the print run. An advance against royalties is received upon acceptance, delivery of the manuscript or publication (or some combination thereof). This advance is considered the first royalty payment, and the author will not receive their next until they have sold enough books to "earn out" their advance.

A typical contract will pay the author between 5 and 10 percent of the sales of his or her book. To land a deal with a major publishing house, which will have better channels for distribution and marketing, you will need an agent. The agent works for a 15% commission and is more than just a salesperson. They have connections with editors and can get your book into the right hands. When a contract is offered, the agent will negotiate it and help you understand the details.

A good agent can find many other ways to make money from your novel. For instance, your agency may be able to negotiate sales of foreign rights or movie options. This is one of the major perks of working with an agent instead of negotiating contracts on your own. They know the proper avenues to earn the most money from your novel.

The bitter truth is that most published writers need a day job, or to do freelance work for magazines, journals, websites, and newspapers to pay the bills. Only about 5% of writers can make a living on their writing alone. J.K. Rowling and Dan Brown-level success stories are rare.

It also would be a wise move to reinvest some of your earnings into additional marketing. While your publishing house may do some publicity for you, authors are expected to work on getting their name out as well. Many authors choose to hire their own publicist to work with the house publicists.

Pushing your first novel is especially wise, because if you do not sell out your advance it can be more difficult to sell your second novel.

However, don't let that stop you from writing your novel and attempting to find an agent or a publishing house. The sense of accomplishment from seeing your work on a bookstore shelf is worth the effort. Happy writing!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

The Importance Of Books

I feel blessed that my parents made a point to read to me from birth. I learned to read at a young age, and have had a lifelong love affair with books. Books are of the utmost importance to society as well as to individuals.

Books preserve history. How much would we know of the past without the literary works and historical records that survived into modern times? They give us a glimpse into societies that are long gone. Fiction can provide us with many of the details of everyday life that official paperwork, such as governmental documents, cannot provide. It tells us what people ate, how they spent their leisure time, and what values were important.

Books help us learn. When many people think of books and education, they think of their textbooks from school or outdated encyclopedias. However, there is a wide world of nonfiction out there to educate us on every subject imaginable. When I want information on something new, it only takes a trip to the public library. Books spread ideas and philosophy, from Plato to Wittgenstein and everyone in between.

Books take us to places we may never have the chance to visit. In books, I can walk the plains of Middle Earth, comb the forests of Narnia, or explore the secret passages of the Hogwarts castle. I can visit the polar icecaps, the Great Wall, or the Egyptian Pyramids. Whether real or fantasy, books can be my own personal travel agent and whisk me around the world.

Books engage our imagination. When we watch movies or television, we are given the entire scene in front of our eyes. When we read, however, we get to picture the characters and the scenes. We get to fill in the details and daydream. Books allow us to be the director. They provide us entertainment and joy.

Many people seem to do their reading solely on the internet nowadays. However, I will always enjoy the comfort of a good book. They are easier on my eyes and I can curl up in front of the fireplace with one on cool winter nights. I love bookstores and libraries, and could spend days there. Books are like an old friend that I can always go back to.

The written word was one of the major advancements leading towards modern civilization. Without it, where would we be today?

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Tips For Finding Story Ideas

Story ideas surround us every day, but when a writer gets blocked it can seem like there is nothing new in the world. There are an infinite number of ways to shake up your routine and get the creative juices flowing again. Many of my favorites involve writing prompts or observing the world around me.

The best part about ideas is that the more of them you use, the more you seem to have! The simple act of sitting down with your computer or notebook and free-writing can trigger a flood of ideas.

Try your hand at writing exercises and prompts. Many websites and message boards have a list of these for writers. A quick Google search for "writing prompts" can bring up more than you could finish in a lifetime of writing. There are also entire books devoted to writing exercises to help stimulate your mind and improve your writing. My favorite is "The 3 A.M Epiphany" by Brian Kiteley. This book contains over 200 exercises focused on every part of writing.

My favorite prompt: Spend ten minutes writing about your favorite food. Use all five senses when you describe it. When do you normally eat it? Is it from a restaurant, or homemade? When was the last time you had this meal? Food is a universal experience, and everyone has something to say about it. If your writing meanders during this exercise, run with it! You never know where your brain is going to take you. You may remember an experience that triggers a great idea.

I like to keep a pocket-sized notebook nearby as much as possible. Have you ever been out running errands and been struck by a great idea, only to have it disappear before you reach a computer? Jotting down notes, even if it's just a few words, can help you keep these ideas in mind. I also have one computer file devoted solely to future ideas. They range from one sentence to several pages, and are there to browse through whenever I am ready to start a new project. Many writers tend to find ideas right before they go to sleep or in their dreams, so keeping your notebook by the bed couldn't hurt.

Spend time people-watching. If you have a friend who is a writer, this can be a great game. Get a cup of coffee and find a public spot to sit down. Pick out someone from the crowd, and make up a story about them. What do they do for a living? Do they have a family? What is their average day like? Just try not to get caught staring!

Art museums can be a wonderful place to come up with ideas if you are fortunate to live near one. When you have a free afternoon, grab your notebook and sit down in front of a work of art. Whether you choose abstract paintings, sculptures, or photography, ask yourself questions. I once did this exercise with an exhibition of photographs of homes. I spent time looking at one, then asked myself who might have lived there and what kind of life did they lead.

Find your characters first, and let them tell their own story. Often, if a character is well developed, they seem to have their own ideas about how the story should go. Plot points that might have been planned out suddenly don't seem natural for their personality. If your characters seem to be leading things in a different direction, run with it. It means that you have done your job well and created realistic people to inhabit your world.

Ask "what if" questions about experiences in your own life, or about stories you hear from others. What would have happened if someone made a different choice? How would things have changed? By looking at old experiences with a new perspective, you may just stumble upon a gem.

Happy writing!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Why Writers Write?

Why do we write?

It's difficult to assign one opinion to an entire group of people. There are as many reasons to write as there are writers. Each person brings their unique talents and history to the page when they sit down to work. So I will try to explain why I write. Maybe you share some of these reasons, and maybe you will add your own to the list.

I write because I have something to say, but I'm shy around groups. I stutter when I speak and I get distracted in the middle of telling stories. Despite numerous attempts to improve my public speaking, I just can't get the hang of it! However, on paper I can suddenly say what I was trying to say.

I write because I feel like I have a story to tell. The first time I tried to write fiction, I was in kindergarten. It was just a few sentences about a girl I made up (who was quite a bit like me). Since then, I have continued to pursue fiction with all my heart. I have ideas that need to be expressed. They say that everyone has a story to tell, and I am just trying to put mine down on the page.

I write because I love the power to create worlds and people, and to communicate information to others. Words are powerful. Words allow the reader to immerse themselves in fantasy and entertain their minds. Words can teach and convey information.

I write because I love the challenge. Writing is rarely easy. Sometimes the words seem to get stuck in my mind or I stop finding new ideas. Once I do complete a draft, it needs to be edited and rewritten to make my words shine. Then came the rejection letters. You have to have passion to write professionally because otherwise, the struggles will stop you. However, for me beating those struggles are exhilarating. The first acceptance letter I received was one of my biggest achievements. I had done what many people wish they could. I was a published author.

I write because I love being able to earn a little extra money doing something I have passion for. While money was never why I began to write, and it isn't why I write fiction and poetry, I have been developing my skills as a freelance writer in recent years. From Helium contributions to magazine articles, there are a wealth of opportunities out there for talented writers. I love my day job and have no intention of quitting, but the extra cash helps!

I write because I want my parents to be proud of me. I come from a family that values books and education above most other things. Our house was filled with shelves full of stories. Sometimes I wonder if my passion for writing didn't develop out of a desire to impress them.

I write because I have to. It's no more complicated than that. Writing is something that I have done as long as I can remember, and will hopefully continue to do for the rest of my life.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Analyzing the Writer's Market

A writer's livelihood depends on their ability to analyze the available markets and find work for themselves. With the advent of the internet there seem to be more opportunities opening for writers daily. Taking advantage of the market is about research, patience, confidence and persistence.


The single largest key to breaking into the market is spending time doing research. There are more available magazines and newspapers out there than most writers might think. Search the internet and you may turn up the perfect place to pitch to.

There are many books out there on the business aspects of freelancing that could be of service. One of my favorites is "Make a REAL LIVING as a Freelance Writer" by Jenna Glatzer. Glatzer is a well known author of books and magazine pieces, and covers subjects from pitching to interviews to invoicing.

Even small, local public libraries tend to have a few back issues of a variety of magazines. Take the time to study publications that you are considering pitching. Study the tone and length of the articles and think about where your idea might fit best. If possible, get a copy of the magazine's editorial calendar. This will let you know what the themes and topics of future editions will be, so you can send appropriate ideas.


The process can be time consuming. Editors are often notoriously slow to respond to queries. Do not expect an immediate response to your email or letter, although they do happen sometimes. Editors are busy people and reviewing pitches is a low priority.
After a month has passed, if you haven't received any response to your email or letter, it is appropriate to follow up and make sure that the editor received your query. Make sure you are professional in all future contacts and "nudging."


Many writers limit the growth of their career because of self-doubt. If you have a proposal for an article that would be perfect for a major, national magazine then find the appropriate editor and send it!

Also, have confidence when it comes to your pay rates. Too many writers continue to write for free or very low pay when they have the opportunity to move on. If you have previously written for a magazine and have proven that you do good work and get it in before the deadline, then try asking for a slightly higher rate. There are freelance writers out there making more than $1 per word - wouldn't you like to be among them?


Inevitably, writers will face rejection. No matter how talented you may be your style will not be the right fit for every magazine or website that you query. This does not mean that your idea isn't worthy. Continue to pitch other magazines! If you believe that your story is good, there will be someone out there who wants it. Develop a tough skin and be tenacious.

Spend time learning as much as you can about the market, and you will be rewarded. Good luck and happy writing!

Thoughts On Writing

For several years, I have been writing on the subject of writing. I suppose this is what I get for spending so much time reading about writing.

As a freelancer, poet, and hopeful future novelist, I seem to spend all the time that I'm not at my day job thinking about writing. I thought I would share them here in conjunction with book reviews. I would love to get feedback from my fellow writers about their thoughts on the topic!

Some of these articles have appeared on other websites, while some come from ideas formed on message board posts.