Yes, it’s one of five printed and bound copies of the completed manuscript of Zoe’s Tale that exist in all the world. One copy is mine, one goes to my wife, and two are gifts. As for the fifth copy… well, some of you will recall that I auctioned off a bound manuscript copy of The Last Colony in late ’06 to benefit the John M. Ford Book Endowment for the Minneapolis Public Library. That auction did pretty well, and as it happens I have a couple other charities in mind that I think could use some cash. So the fifth copy of ZT here is very likely to be auctioned. And soon.
But not yet. Details, as they say, are forthcoming. Patience.
Of the $164,000 I made from writing last year, about $120,000 of it was from writing fiction. The rest is from other sources, including non-fiction book advances and royalties, blogging for AOL and various one-off projects.
Of the fiction money, the most significant chunk came from royalties from Old Man’s War and The Ghost Brigades (The Android’s Dream and The Last Colony are too new to have contributed in terms of royalties). After that was income from foreign sales (sales in 10 foreign markets, mostly of OMW and TGB, but also TLC, TAD and Agent to the Stars). After that were royalties from The Sagan Diary (!), an advance for the trade paperback version of Agent, a final advance installment of TLC and then short stories.
This was the first year my fiction was a clear majority of my income (in 2006, it was about half), which is why I’m planning to devote most of my time to it for the next couple of years at least — it makes sense to build out this particular income stream as completely as possible. I do intend to in non-fiction — I have two non-fiction books this year, after all — but fiction is the primary focus.
In any event, since people were curious what the breakdown of fiction/non-fiction was in ’07, there it is.
Also, since people ask why I write about money at all: Well, why not? The income taboo is silly, especially when silence about money hurts writers, who are typically in the dark about what other writers make, and about what is reasonable for them to expect for their work. We’ve gotten a good conversation about writers and money going, and others in the field are chipping and speaking about their own experiences. If talking about what I make helps to get that conversation going, I’m happy to talk about it.
* First, dig this: The super-mega-ultra deluxe versions of Old Man’s War and The Ghost Brigades:
These things are wrapped in so much leather that when I took them out of the shipping box, I thought I’d stepped into a boot store. The insides of the tray cases you see here are covered in buttery-soft suede, so again I spent some time petting my books. And to top it off, green and black are my favorite colors. There’s nothing I don’t love about these things. Yes, some animal had to die for it to get to me, but I like to think that up in cow heaven, this cow is happy that it didn’t just get processed into some convenience store heat lamp hamburger. There’s at least some dignity here. In any event, it’s a very nice presentation for the books, and it ought to be, because these particular editions of OMW and TGB go for $250. There are still some of this version of TGB available, if you feel splurge-y.
* As another quick follow-up to the money advice entry, I do see online that people are now complaining that my “20 cents a word” lower bound (see tip #9) is unrealistic. I agree it’s unrealistic in the SF/F genre, where that rate is on the upper end, but then I don’t think people who want to write full-time should be confining themselves to genre. I disagree that it’s unrealistic elsewhere, and I’ve got a Writers Market with at least a couple hundred magazines and markets that pay in the 10-to-49 cents per word range (that book’s “$$” tier of markets) to back me up on that, and this doesn’t count corporate or other sorts of writing gigs. There’s a reasonable amount of opportunity for a writer to get work in that range of pay.
That said, fixating on a specific per-word rate is kind of missing the point. The point is that writers need to understand that their work and time has value, and that, particularly if they want to write full-time, they have to exercise some judgment as to what is going to be worthwhile exercise of both. Personally speaking, if a gig is below 20 cents a word, I have to ask if there isn’t a better use of my time. Other people’s lower bound may be lower than this, or (gasp!) higher. But I think establishing some sort lower bound is useful for a writer, particularly those of the full-time stripe, because then they don’t get suckered into doing work they can’t afford to do. They can just say “sorry, not worth my time,” and look for something else. This lower bound can be fluid based on a realistic assessment of one’s experience and the state of the market, but it needs to be there.
(Also, and to be clear: Yes, I do sometimes write for less than 20 cents a word. Because it’s a project I want to do, for reasons other than money, or at least money is not the primary reason to do it. I’m not purely income driven, nor, for their sanity’s sake, should anyone else be. But you have to make sure you have the balance right.)
* Speaking of the money entry, my fellow writer Jim C. Hines adds his perspective (and outs his own writing income) here. It’s worth reading.
* Obama wins eight straight primaries and he’s only now ahead in the delegate count? How many “superdelegates” are there, anyway? Also, if anyone doubts Clinton’s going to push to get the Florida and Michigan delegates counted (they were disqualified because they pushed up their primaries), this state of affairs is going to make it inevitable. Fightin’ and scratchin’ all the way, folks. It’s that kind of year. Unless she gets hammered in Ohio and Texas. Then, as I understand it, it really is all over.
That said, there wasn’t a contest last night where Clinton, who didn’t crack 40% of the Democratic vote, didn’t get substantially more votes than McCain on the GOP, who swept all three primaries and didn’t get less than 50% of the GOP vote last night. Overall the turnout was incredibly lopsided, even if you throw out DC, which you should (McCain got 3,900 votes there; Obama, 85,500, which tells you just how Democratic-leaning DC is), and has generally been lopsided all the way through the primaries, even when the fields were better populated, and the GOP field hadn’t been narrowed down to a candidate whom conservatives loathe and one who has no chance of winning. I don’t expect the disparity to be so great in the actual election, regardless of who is nominated. Even so, GOP strategists can’t be happy with this state of affairs.
* Today is the second straight day school has been canceled here in Bradford, and for the second day, the weather really isn’t that bad. The school is closed because of “road conditions,” but I suspect that translates to “we decided to save a little extra money by keeping everyone home today.” Yes, I’m cynical. They did this last year in February, too — there were like 10 snow days. At least then there were actual snowdrifts. Not that Athena is complaining. Of course, now she’s bouncing off the walls because she’s bored and I’m working. Go us.
Here’s the thing that you, the would-be fiction writer, have to understand about writing and publishing: it’s a big conspiracy. It’s a cabal. There are probably robes and secret handshakes and driving around in tiny cars while wearing fezzes. You can tell because every published writer denies it, and if there’s stronger proof than that, I don’t know what it is.