Thursday, September 27, 2007

Milestones

Throughout the course of a career, a writer reaches many milestones. These milestones have a certain order, more or less, and each time one is reached is a cause for celebration.

Today I reached one of those milestones, which got me thinking about the past ones, and the joy I've gotten from them. They include:

Writing my first novel. Few things in life offer the satisfaction of finally writing "The End" when finishing a book. I've written fourteen others since then, and it's still always a thrill for me.

Selling my first short story. The first time I was actually paid for my words, and saw my name in print, felt great. I still get a kick out of this when it happens.

Getting an agent. It's so hard to find an agent, especially a good one. I'm going on seven years now with mine, and I'm still lucky to have her.

Landing my first book deal. This is perhaps the biggest milestone of all. One day I was a normal guy. The next day I was a novelist. I've had subsequent book deals since then, but nothing will ever beat the first one.

Earning out my advance. As of today, my first three books (Whiskey Sour, Bloody Mary, and Rusty Nail) are officially in the black. My first contract was basketed; a joint accounting clause which stated I wouldn't earn a dime until all three novels earned out the entire advance. Well, now they have. I'm actually earning royalties. And it feels wonderful.

According to my sources, earning out an advance isn't easy. One out of six books published makes money, sometimes quite a bit. One out of six earns out, just breaking even. And four out of six never earn out.

My books are making money, and seem to be on the path to keep making money.

I'd love to attribute this milestone to my tireless efforts at promoting, or the stellar quality of my writing, but in truth it really comes down to luck. Sure, I tried to write good books, and I've certainly worked hard to promote them (as has my publisher.)

But there are also authors who work their butts off and don't earn out, and there are a lot of authors who are wildly successful without doing much promotion at all.

Right now, though, I'm not thinking about hard work or luck. I'm simply happy that, nearing the fourth anniversary of me signing my first three-book deal, I'm actually getting a check, and a decent one at that.

Hopefully, there are other milestones ahead. Besides new books, and new contracts, I'm hoping to one day crack the bestseller lists, sell a movie option, sell more foreign rights, and sell book club rights. And, if I ever reach those milestones, I'm sure more milestones will replace them.

In the meantime, drinks are on me. If you've never seen me before, I'm the guy sitting there with the big-ass grin on his face.

44 comments:

  1. Congratulations, Joe. You rock!

    Martel


    ps. Hope you'll make it to the last night at The Red Lion next Monday (10/1)

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  2. Congrats!

    You deserve it, brother.

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  3. Sweetness. Congratulations.

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  4. Joe, this is FANTASTIC! Congratulations!!! We are so going to celebrate.....

    : )

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  5. Congrats Joe! I'll bake a chocolate cake on your behalf!

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  6. Congratulations... :-) Cyn

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  7. Way to go, that's wonderful.

    Aren't you supposed to be drinking, I mean speaking, at some conference in Alaska this weekend?

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  8. Anonymous9:57 PM

    Congratulations, Joe.
    Excellent, excellent news.
    Happy for ya.

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  9. That's wonderful news, Joe. You have worked incredibly hard toward this moment. Congratulations ;]

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  10. FANTASTIC news, Joe!! Mega Congrats!!

    Darcy

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  11. Anonymous7:24 AM

    Schweeet!

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  12. Anonymous8:44 AM

    Congratulations, Joe! I raise my glass to you. Well, coffee cup. It's still kinda early.

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  13. What you have, and what's probably lacking in those other writers who try hard but don't earn out, is plain old fashioned story telling ability and an understanding that it's all about entertaining the reader.

    Don't sell yourself short, JA. Yeah, there's luck, but a writer also needs to understand the story-telling basics.

    And, yeah, how come you're not in Alaska?

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  14. Anonymous10:04 AM

    CONGRATULATIONS! That's fantastic.

    I'm sure there is a lot of luck involved, but you would never have gotten to this point without plenty of hard work as well, and without writing stories that people actually enjoy.

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  15. Hi Joe,
    Congratulations on these milestones! I hope you arrive at the others you mentioned.

    I think about similar milestones all the time with my writing career and so far I've reached the one where I wrote, "The End" three times now.

    Lots of luck!

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  16. Hey Joe,

    Earning out...lovely words, huh?

    I think luck plays a role in much of what we do, but when you books have enough staying power to earn out and go into royalties, that's not luck. It means readers are liking your stuff and going back to get the backlist titles.

    Congrats.

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  17. Thanks for the kind words, everyone!

    Martel--I'll be there.

    Jude--Thanks! But I don't feel anyone deserves anything. I just got lucky.

    Tash--Since I know you've also earned out your advance, we should start a club.

    Maria--I'll send you my address for that cake. :)

    Dana--I promised my wife, after the tour last year, I wouldn't go anywhere this year that didn't pay for my travel. So no B'Con.

    Ann--It's never too early. ;)

    Josephine--I'm not big enough for B'Con to pay my way. But, oddly enough, 15 other events this year have. :)

    Barbara--I'm all for writing good books and working hard to promote them. But I know other writers who have done the same thing, but haven't been as lucky as I've been. I can't take credit for luck.

    Anthony--Congrats on finishing three books, man!!!!

    PJ--Thanks, PJ. Since your a bestseller, and I'm not, I'll take that to heart. :)

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  18. That's a great post--way to smell the flowers! And congratulations. It's kind of nice when dreams come true :)

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  19. Anonymous12:43 PM

    I didn't say what was in my coffee cup, Joe. ;)

    Congratulations on your good news, too, Tasha!

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  20. Anonymous12:58 PM

    Joe: I'm curious what's left. Take Whiskey, for example. The HCs were either sold at full price or remaindered at this point, I assume. So are the HCs basically gone?

    Are the royalties now based on MMP sales? Does the publisher keep a stock of MMPs on hand? Or are they all out in the bookstores where they will either be sold or stripped?

    In other words, can your publisher expect much more income from this book or has it pretty well run its course?

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  21. Anonymous1:35 PM

    Woo hoo! Congrats, Joe!

    I no longer have a blog, so I'll sign my name. :-)

    -Sonya

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  22. I'm curious what's left. Take Whiskey, for example. The HCs were either sold at full price or remaindered at this point, I assume. So are the HCs basically gone?

    They're close to gone. They were remaindered last year (2 years after the pub date.) But my publisher didn't rmeainder all of them--just overstock. It can still be ordered at regular price, though I don't know how many are left. I've only seen it ont he remainder shelf twice, and both times I bought all the copies.

    Bloody Mary was also recently remaindered. Again, it took two years, and they're still continuing to sell it, just getting rid of overstock.

    Are the royalties now based on MMP sales? Does the publisher keep a stock of MMPs on hand? Or are they all out in the bookstores where they will either be sold or stripped?

    Actually, all of my books are still selling in hardcover, so those royalties continue to accrue, but not at a quick rate.

    The paperback for Whiskey had its original run when it was released in 2005. Since then it's had a few reprintings. Many stores have it "modeled", which means the computer automatically reorders a copy every time one sells. Here's hoping it will stay on shelves forever.

    In other words, can your publisher expect much more income from this book or has it pretty well run its course?

    The goal is to keep putting out new books while the backlist stays in print and continues to sell. So far, that's what's happening.

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  23. Congratulations on your books being in the black!

    I bought Whiskey Sour at the Printer's Row Book Fair, and I still need to read it. Some days my to-read list is too long. ;)

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  24. Anonymous7:23 PM

    Congratulations! I'm delighted for you.

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  25. Anonymous9:03 AM

    "Actually, all of my books are still selling in hardcover"

    Joe, thanks for your answer. But now you raised another question. If the HC has already been remaindered, where are the HCs coming from that are still selling for the publisher? My understanding of remaindering is that the publisher sells all existing HC copies to a 3d party source for minimal money, and then has no more money coming in from that version of the book.

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  26. Fantastic news, Joe.

    Good for you!

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  27. If the HC has already been remaindered, where are the HCs coming from that are still selling for the publisher?

    The inventory manager looked at the books still at the warehouse and sold off a portion of the overstock, allowing for it to still be sold at full price for X amount of time.

    Apparently there's an equation that tells you what number of books can still make a profit being warehoused.

    So a few went to the remainder table, the rest can still be ordered at full price.

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  28. Anonymous11:25 AM

    Joe: Thanks for the answer. I'll try sell one of your books at my booksigning this afternoon.

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  29. Excellent news, Joe! And excellent point--all us writers must celebrate the milestones!

    And, to a certain extent, you do make your own luck--if you hadn't persevered and written and written more and written well...

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  30. YAY JOE!
    Love your work. Pat yourself on the back, you deserve it. I've followed your career since the first book and its great to watch a rising star with such talent.
    Go, Joe, Go!

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  31. Wonderful news, Joe! Proud of you, man!

    Barb

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  33. Congratulations! I bought Dirty Martini for my sister's birthday. She liked it so well she's going back to buy your other books. And so it goes!

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  34. Congratulations, Joe. That's awesome.

    Adam

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  35. A little late to the party on this, but congratulations, JA. Your constant support, inspiration, and entertaining information has been a great help to me (and thousands of others).

    Keep up the great work!

    Stacey
    www.howtopublishabook.org

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  36. Congrats, Joe!

    I think I've reverse-engineered your formula for success:

    Hard work + talent + unique writing voice + editing out every ounce of the fat + endless promotion + a little luck = SUCCESS!

    Thanks again for your blog, as well as your other site. Your writing tips have been particularly helpful to me.

    Keep it up!

    RobertBurtonRobinson

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  37. Congrats, Joe!

    I'd never heard of basketing a trio of books before royalties start paying out. Do you have the same deal on the next three?

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  38. one out of six books makes money.

    What's the line from Lord of War?

    "There's one gun for every 12 people in the world. the question is how do we get to the other 11?" (I'm paraphrasing of course, but I was reminded of that.)

    Congas, J.A., to you and Jack. Best of luck loadin' up the truck and movin' to Beverly next :)

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  39. Joe,

    Couldn't happen to a nicer guy!

    Slan, Pat.

    ...and I expect an invitation to the premiere of your first film

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  40. So, do we have to start calling you Edward now?

    Congrats on the new deal, JA!

    This'll be fun to see how you market this one.

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  41. Anonymous4:51 PM

    A famous British agent once said: "I've failed miserably if one of my authors ever earns a dime of royalties."

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  42. "I've failed miserably if one of my authors ever earns a dime of royalties."

    What an idiotic thing to say. Is the goal to get so high an advance a publisher can never even hope to recoup the cost?

    I know several authors who got big advances, didn't sell through, and now can't get another book deal.

    Publishign is a partnership. Both partners should make money, not one at the expense of another.

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