Mark Terry

Monday, May 23, 2011


May 23, 2011
25 years or so ago I started writing my first novel, convinced I was going to sell it and get some $400,000 paperback deal like Stephen King did in 1972 for "Carrie." I mean, really, why not? It was 1985 or 1986 or so and everyone knew that authors made big bucks, and for God sakes, if King got that kind of money in 1972, then why wouldn't there be more money in the late 1980s? Besides, my first real job out of college paid a whopping $8.75 an hour as a research assistant working in pediatric infectious disease research, so how much money would it have required to change my life?

Reality eventually set in. No $400,000 paperback deal. In fact, to this day I'm fairly rueful that in 1971 or 1972 or so Stephen King got a hardcover advance for "Carrie" that was $2500, and 30+ years later my biggest advance has been $3000. My last one (for fiction) was $1000. I've done significantly better with nonfiction projects, but this is all fiction we're talking about today.

Well, you can say, you're no Stephen King.

Nope. That I'm not.

But I think I - and probably most writers except the most literary starving artist type - do their scribbling thinking they've got the winning Lotto ticket. If JK Rowling can do it, why not you?

I know I have had at least some of that attitude, at least until recently, where I've been taking a harder look at my track record and started discussing logic and rationality and the finite quality of my life with myself and wondering what the f**k am I doing with my time?

Anyway, my agent contacted me last week about some business-y things that more or less irritate the crap out of me (don't ask, you'd cry, you'd howl, you'd gnash your teeth), but did drop the bomb that three separate production companies are looking at various Derek Stillwater novels and my agent seems optimistic about this. Why she's optimistic about this I have no clue. I've given up on holding my breath about Hollywood movie deals, but she needed a one or two-page summary of The Devil's Pitchfork ASAP to give to them...

Well, I took care of that, but you know what, Hollywood ALWAYS wants whatever they want ASAP as if they're going to make the deal RIGHT THAT FREAKIN' MINUTE AND IF YOU DON'T DO IT NOW, NOW, NOW YOUR SHOT IS GONE, OVER, FINITO!

But it's all about potential, isn't it? The odds of making it rich by penning a bestseller or getting a hot movie deal are probably STILL better than buying the winning lottery ticket.


What do you think? Fame and fortune or whatever passes for it in modern society?


Anonymous Jim said...

Well, having finished reading Devil's Pitchfork a few days ago on my kindle, I've got to say that I could see it being turned into a good thriller movie.

Yeah, okay, so the odds are not stacked in your favor -- it's like the various state lotteries, they may be viewed as voluntary taxes on people who do not understand mathematical probability, but on the other hand, somebody has to win the prize.

8:35 AM  
Blogger Mark Terry said...

Thanks, Jim. Who knows? Maybe it'll fly.

9:26 AM  
Anonymous Eric Mayer said...

Hey, at least you've got your lottery ticket which is something most of us can't say! I can see a Stillwater novel making a great action picture. It could happen. That would be great.

9:27 AM  
Blogger Robert Carraher said...

I think Stillwater would translate well to the silver screen. I'm about 100 pages into Valley of Shadows, and I'd pay to see it. Even if I ended up crying, howling,and gnashing my teeth. But I am reminded of a Chandler quote: “They don't want you until you have made a name, and by the time you have made a name, you have developed some kind of talent they can't use. All they will do is spoil it, if you let them.”
Still, that kazillion dollar advance would be nice....old buddy ;-)

10:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

J.K. Rowling wasn't writing for the money. She was writing because she had no choice; born a writer, always a writer, etc.

You write for the money. And secondarily, because you like writing.

Maybe it shows?

10:38 PM  
Blogger Mark Terry said...

That stings, perhaps because there's some truth to it. It is also a gross and naive oversimplification.

I write for a living. I didn't for years. About 18 years, as a matter of fact, and I'm not going to apologize for being concerned about how I'm going to pay my bills.

My time and energy is finite and the older I get, the more conscious I am of its limitations.

5:34 AM  
Blogger Robert Carraher said...

"However toplofty and idealistic a man may be, he can always rationalize his right to earn money.” Chandler again...

10:15 AM  

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