Mark Terry

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Dear S

Dear S,
Congratulations on  your book offer. It's definitely worth celebrating.

That said, and particularly since I have experience with that publisher, I think I know a little bit about what's going on in your head. Let me see if I can address some of those issues, prophylactically, if nothing else.

The advance.
Not very big, was it? No, but then again, most book advances really aren't. The word "token" comes to mind and although I'm sure you'll find a way to spend it, as the expression goes, "Don't spend it all in one place." When I got started in this biz I kept trying to get other writers to admit that they made a living totally off their novel writing--or not. A lot of novelists hold that they want readers and would-be readers to believe they make a terrific living just from writing novels. It's part of the mystique. I'm a shitty liar, so I tell the truth. I'm a freelance writer and the novels are only a small part of my writing income, which is pretty decent.

My advice to you? Lie through your teeth. My friend, you don't need to tell them anything specific, just say it was "life altering" or "significant" or if you want to go another route, turn around and ask them the size of their latest paycheck was. I mean really, this is a rude question. I used to argue that I thought writing novels would change my life. It did. What I actually meant, though, was I wanted it to change my "lifestyle." I wanted to be able to have a second home, a Porsche 911, and take trips all over the world. Okay, maybe with the next novel.

Negotiating a contract.
Good luck. If you have an agent, lean back and watch in fear and wonder. You'll learn a lot and some of it will terrify you. Because, as hard as it is to remember this, you can't negotiate if you're ultimately not willing to walk. Your agent knows that and probably is willing to walk. The editor for damn sure knows it. Most writers aren't, which is why it's better for an agent to negotiate. They can be as hardnosed as they want. That said, there's only so much wiggle room in a publishing contract and for a first-time novelist, even less. Relax and enjoy. Future contracts will be (a little) better. No author likes every aspect of their contract. None. If you're negotiating for yourself, well, good luck. Been there, done that, it sucks. But it can be done.

What now?
Ah yeah, what now? What now or what next is usually a whole lot of waiting. The paperwork goes out, gets churned, eventually gets returned, churned some more, a check eventually gets cut and eventually makes its way into your hot and sweaty hands and pretty soon the government is your partner in your writing business.

But aside from that, you'll have to deal with rewrites, which aren't usually all that horrendous to deal with because it makes you feel like a real writer. Your publisher may or may not be talking about marketing and publicity. I recommend you at least talk to PJ Nunn, a pretty reasonable and successful book publicist, who might be able to give you some idea or help.

Adjust your expectations.
If the advance and the contract didn't already do that, it's not a bad time to think seriously on what your book is likely to do instead of what you hope it will do. Most first novels disappear from the shelves almost as fast as they appear. There are things you can do to slow that vanishing act down, but much of it is out of your hands. Maybe your novel will gather steam and fly off the shelves. It does happen, just not most of the time.

Start calling yourself a novelist.
For real, dude. Congratulations.

Mark Terry


Blogger Erica Orloff said...

Add . . .

Be working on your next novel.


5:06 AM  
Anonymous s said...

You're in the acknowledgements. If you hadn't read the opening of the novel and told me I was fucking up, and showed me how to stop fucking up, I wouldn't have a deal. Thanks for taking the time, thanks for being brutal, thanks for acting like a fellow writer and Human Bean.

5:49 AM  
Blogger Mark Terry said...

Yeah, working, working, always working. I think Lawrence Block jokingly write, "Though a writer works from sun to sun, a writer's work is never done."

Word verification: traptop

6:05 AM  
Blogger Mark Terry said...

--Kewl. Hope it sells a kazillion copies.

6:06 AM  
Blogger Tena Russ said...

Dear S,

Heartfelt congratulations! Now will you please return to blogging?

6:52 AM  
Blogger LurkerMonkey said...

Dear S,

Congratulations! I can only think of one S who recently stopped blogging, so if I'm right, then woo hoo! I love to see someone break through. It gives the rest of us slobs hope.

May you sell a gajillion books ...

7:17 AM  
Blogger Jude Hardin said...

Awesome, S.


11:00 AM  
Blogger spyscribbler said...

Congratulations, S! Mystery-person, LOL.

Man, if I lived near an agent, I'd totally intern and learn the business. There is nothing I love better than the thrill of negotiating. I'm actually really good at it, which is sort of bizarre. Even for my own stuff, except your heart is in your freakin' throat, but don't tell.

2:09 PM  
Blogger Mark Terry said...

--I've thought about that myself. I don't actually like negotiating that much, but I've wondered with so many agents basically running virtual offices these days if it would be possible to intern from a distance.

2:17 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home