Tuesday, September 28, 2010

I Make My Own Soundtrack

When I'm not writing, or having fun with my growing family, or reading, or getting lost on the internet, I'm playing guitar.

My wife and I have a band. We're pretty good, i suppose. I like us. Lots of other bands like us. I bet your mom likes us too. Unless she likes Justin Bieber.

That being said, I watched "Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon" one too many times and made this.
I'd say it's a mix between Sigur Ros and Yo Yo Ma.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Advances and Royalties De-Mushified

The publishing world is changing, but author payment schemes so far have stayed relatively the same. If you get a traditional book publishing deal you are looking at an Advance/Royalty pay structure.

I’m not going to get all technical and cover the minutiae and vagaries of how publishers account and/or abuse royalty payments. This is a De-Mushify, not de-mystify.

An author earns $0 for writing a book. He’s spent the last 5 years agonizing over scenes, characters and whether the papyrus font is cool.

He then spends countless hours trying to find an agent. If he’s lucky enough to get one, she offers to represent the manuscript for $0. (and tells the author to stick with Times New Roman font under pain of death.)

The agent then beats down the doors of publishers, pitching the book, schmoozing, calling, emailing, kibitzing, and generally working her tail off to sell this book.

No money has changed hands yet. The author and agent have done all this work for $0.

Then they find a publisher crazy enough to pick up a book about the stormy passions of two taxonomists who have discovered a new gastropod in an endangered estuary.

My cat also edits my work. (The cone is to deflect alien thought-rays)

The publisher offers the author an advance. (ooh, money!) The advance isn’t really a loan. The author doesn’t have to pay it back if the book tanks. It is the author’s to keep forever. (Or until he spends it on a plasma TV)

However, it is a loan in the sense that the author won’t see royalties until the sales of the book have recouped the advance. (There are various accounting methods that may disguise this fact, but it is a fact: the publisher recoups the advance from the author’s royalties.)

The agent takes his commission from the advance, usually 15% or so. This is how she gets paid. That’s it. 15% of the advance. If she’s a good agent, she ekes out a big advance. (Or she might negotiate a % point with the author. This is a small % of the royalties. Rare, but not unheard of.)

Now both the author and the agent have received a little bit of money for their trouble.

Then there are royalties. Every quarter, or year, or bicentennial of the Hindenburg Disaster (however the publisher computes it) the author receives a royalty check.

The amount, naturally, depends on the number of units sold during that period. But, naturally, the publisher has various obfuscating accounting methods to shake down royalties. Such things as returns, breakage, vaccinations, vacations, monkey training, cabbage farming supplies, etc.

Suffice to say, authors who get a traditional book deal usually get an advance and then royalties.

But always remember that you write for free. There is no guaranteed pay. It certainly isn’t a get-rich-quick scheme. Heck, it isn’t even a get-rich-slow scheme. My dad’s written something upward of 40 books, but I’ve seen his quarterly royalty statements to the tune of $5.

There is no guarantee. You have to be in it because you love it, not to win it.

*But what about cover art? Allow me to digress.

The publisher usually scoffs at an author who suggests an artist. In most cases the author is left to bite their nails as the publisher commissions an artist to make them a cover. The artist gets paid a flat fee for the art. No royalties, no kickbacks.

If they did the art for $500, and the book becomes a mega-seller, they still get only $500.

Bummer. So if you are an artist, try negotiating a smaller commission fee for a percentage point of sales (royalties). Or, you might have to forego the commission fee for a % point. It’s a risk, but royalties are nice.

If the publisher will go for it.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Inside Jokes Are Fun #243 - Battle Bunny

My critique supergroup, The Illiterati, are a bunch of oddball pop-culture misfits and I'd have it no other way.

That's the only explanation you're gonna get for what happens next...

Battle Bunny

Monday, September 13, 2010

Dance Battles and Short Story Contests

Or, Is That a Flash Drive In Your Pocket, or Are You Just Happy To See Me?

This weekend I got a chance to compete in a flash fiction contest put on by the City of Las Vegas for the Vegas Valley Book Festival.

To make it more awesome, billie the girl and Mercedes M. Yardley from my super-awesome critique group, The Illiterati, joined in and we strolled into the place like the three amigos.

It was fun to meet other writers, see some familiar faces from the local writer’s group meetup (Las Vegas Writers Group), and try to write a winning 500 word short story off a prompt for the chance at $500. (Dude, that’s a buck a word.)

But the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry. When the 90 minutes of write time was up we had to turn in our pieces to be judged. There are many possible ways this could have been accomplished, but the way chosen was to load your story onto your own personal flash drive, turn it into the contest coordinator to keep for several weeks while they figure out the winners.

Someone offered to let everyone use their flash drive and put all the stories onto one. I suspected a sabotage attempt. Mercedes aptly dubbed it the Syphilis Drive. That made me think of someone holding out their used Kleenex and saying “Hey, anyone else need to blow? I don’t want this to go to waste.”

Flash drives. Yeah, I can picture the logistics planning meeting:

“How’re we gonna collect the contest entries?”

“Oh, I know. They can just turn in the Word files on their personal flash drives with no distinguishing personal features. I’ll give them back at some indeterminate time.”

“But… it seems that things could go a little wrong there. They might get lost; computer viruses are transmitted by flash drives; or people might have personal files or data on them…”

“Relax, we’re the government. What could go wrong?”

At least after the contest Mercedes and I had an epic Dance Battle in the parking lot. Video evidence was confiscated and destroyed in the interest of national security.

But it looked something like this:

Oh yeah, we won't know if we won for another few weeks, so stay tuned (all three of you)

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Turning the WIP into a Real Draft!

I did it!

For all of you wondering where I've been (yeah, all three of you) it's been an awesomely crazy end of the summer.

There was the coolness of WriteOnCon, as far as I know the only online writing conference. I met loads of interesting people there, even if a server glitch kept me off the site for part of the time! (That's part of life on the interweb, folks.)

And then a blitzkrieg business trip to Fort Collins, CO, land flowing with beer and more beer, where I got locked out of the pilot's quarters at 2am and had to sleep on a couch in a strange house full of 10 dogs. 10. I'm a cat person. One was one of those wooly mammoth sized great danes who kept coming up and whuffing in my face as if to say, "Dude, you are so in my spot."

But then came more awesome in the form of daughter #2, aka, the Ravager, aka Cinnabun. She's a cute little bundle of joy and sleeping and pooping and eating. Daughter #2, Lil'bun, loves being a sister. Besides lack of solid sleep, all things are well on the home front.

Last is the news you've been waiting for. (again, all three of you.)
I finished the rough draft of my sci-fi novel!

Yay! Now it's time for typing the second half into the computer (did I mention I write everything out LONGHAND?) and filling in any of the spotty parts. (makes it sound like my book has the measles)

The sad truth is that a large percentage of people who want to be writers NEVER finish a manuscript. (and then there are those who finish them but never go back and revise. It's the same as.)

What about you?

You always hear people say it, but I repeat it again: turn off the internal editor and just write.

Once you get to "The End" you should do nothing but write everything that you can think of. Go on the bunny trails, write the whole backstory of each character into the narrative. Go ahead, write.

So, as I adventure through making the first draft I'll share my adventures with you. (yes, I'm benevolent)

Now, time to turn off the computer and get back to typing!