Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Planning a Future Income

I read somewhere that romance authors are some of the lowest paid, and $30,000 per book was the example given. But to me, that is a lot of money. I'm sure the pay varies greatly between authors, but is there a certain range for solid authors who develop a decent following?

I have to admit that I had to read this carefully a second time to make sure you were saying $30,000 and not $3,000, which is what I was expecting. While there are certainly surveys and reports out there on how much authors make, I would look at it all with a bit of skepticism. Have you ever seen the Publishers Weekly report on salaries? I don’t know about you, but from my first day in this business I always wanted to know where those people were working, because for some reason or another I never managed to be making as much as PW said I was. When salaries are reported, like anything else, they tend to be inflated. How much can you reasonably expect in this business? It’s so hard to say. Are you selling a debut novel or your 20th book? Are you writing in romance, mystery, or YA? Is it such a brilliant idea that publishers will go to auction for it or one that one publisher alone makes an offer for? Or how about this twist on things: Is the $30,000 quoted an advance or the total earnings on a book, subrights, and royalties included?

Advances for a debut author in genre fiction can range from $3,000 to $300,000, and sometimes less and sometimes more. The important thing isn’t so much the advance, in my mind, but how well the book does following publication and how much you’re making then. A $300,000 advance isn’t going to do you any good if you only earn out $10,000, while a $3,000 advance might be the smartest decision made when later you’re getting royalty checks totaling over $50,000 every year.

The range of an advance depends on your numbers, on how many copies of your book are selling. That’s what publishers will look at, that’s what your agent will look at, and that’s what you should be considering. If you want to be making $30,000 a year in either trade paperback or hardcover, you need to be selling (and this is by no means a true mathematical figure) roughly 30,000 copies a year. If you’re looking at mass market, plan on selling about 50,000 copies a year. These are definitely rough estimates, but it does give you something to shoot for.



Rick Daley said...

This was a great post, thanks for addressing the topic. One other thing to consider is when you get paid. For some people, $30,000 might be equivalent to a year's pay, but don't many publishers pay the advance 50% on signing and 50% on publication (which can be between 1-2 years away)?

If that's the case, you're looking at $15,000. Then there's taxes, so the number goes down again. And you should set some aside to invest in your career (pay for expenses if you go to local/regional readings and other self-promotion, like a good website).

CKHB said...

Here are some reasonably accurate numbers re: romance advances..

DebraLSchubert said...

In other words, I'll be able to retire to a bungalow in Tahiti after my first book sale?.....NOT!!!

Great post, Jessica. I do think many people come into the business seeing only the Stephen Kings and James Pattersons and Stephanie Meyers of the world and think, great! I can write! I'm going to be a MILLIONAIRE! However, that is far from the truth.

You have to love to write and have a burning desire to improve your craft. The money may or may not come, and even if it does, it most likely will not be anything close to that of the blockbuster best-selling authors. You have to love your work. Period.

And, CKHB - thanks for the link!

Mark Terry said...

Rick Daley makes a great point. I once wrote a blog post describing what happens to a $10,000 book advance after your agent, the government, and marketing costs kick in. In the end you're lucky to have 0$ and not be in the hole.

I also want to point out: if you have one foot in boiling water and one foot in freezing water, ON AVERAGE you're quite comfortable.

If, on average--and it's maybe accurate--a first book advance is $5000, and you know a bunch of first novelists get huge advances, then it's clear that a majority of book advances are going to be under $5000 to create an average of $5000.

Liana Brooks said...

Jessica- Is it better to take a lower advance with the expectation of larger royalty checks or to take the larger advance and run?

Laurel said...

My question is similar to Liana's. I've been in sales for so long I am conditioned to being paid on performance, which is fine.

My concern regarding an advance would be more related to the commitment from the publisher. It stands to reason that if they put forth a larger advance they plan to support the book. Is this true?

Anonymous said...

Jessica, this bit is nonsense:

"A $300,000 advance isn’t going to do you any good if you only earn out $10,000."

That happened to me. Not quite 300, but six figures. It did me a -world- of good. It was the single best thing that's ever happened to my writing career. Now I can work for a few years without desperate panic about money.

I've had $10,000 advances not earn out and I've had $195,000 advances not earn out, and let me tell you: the latter did me much, much, much more good than the former.

It only looks bad if you compare it with a fantasy: a $10,000 advance that then pulls in $200,000 in royalties. But if you compare it with reality--a $10,000 that pulls in $765 in royalties--you get a better sense of the matter. I could've worked for 15 years to make that much money. Instead, I made it in two years. That's good.

Anonymous said...


One reason to push for the biggest advance possible is to ensure the most support from the publisher. They don't care so much if your $5k book fails to earn out, but if your $500k book tanks, that's v. bad news.

And royalty checks are like winning lottery tickets. They happen, but you don't wanna plan your finances around them.

Marshall Buckley said...

I've seen this written in at least a couple of places, and there does seem to be a good deal of disagreement on which is the right approach.

To Anon (09:45) - as a debut novelist, if you are lucky to get a decent advance and don't earn out, does that cast you in a bad light for future work with that publisher?

This, I think is the crux of what is making many new writers wonder if a low advance is a better approach. I can't help but feel they may be selling themselves short if it really is the case that a publisher is likely to throw more weight behind a novel with a large advance - but do they, really?

Ian said...

Thanks for this post, Jessica. Numbers are something people in the industry are cagey about, and it's nice to get some more concrete information (even if, as you say, you're only estimating).

Anonymous said...


In my (limited) experience, yes, if you fail emphatically (most books don't earn out, I'm talking about big advances that crash and burn), that casts you in a fairly bad light. But Jessica would know much better. I'd love to hear her answer to your question.

On the other hand, if a publisher doesn't want to work with a writer whose book failed miserably: a) there are other publishers and b) there are pseudonyms and c) if a new novel screams 'bestseller', they'll get over it.

I suppose the bottom line is: what is our primary goal as a writer? The most copies sold? The best reviews? The happiest publisher? The most money?

Obviously, those things are interrelated. But I'd still choose 'lifetime earnings' over 'friends with publisher'. If someone offered me five million for a crappy book that I knew reviewers would hate, readers would refuse to buy, and would lead the publisher to blacklist me, I'd take it in an instant. I'm not otherwise gonna make five million in my lifetime.

But other writers feel differently.

Mr. McGreedy

Rick Daley said...

Mark- Awesome analogy for averages, I like that!

I think Jessica's point about the large vs. small advance is predicated on a modicum of success. Steady income / cash flow is oftentimes easier to manage than one lump-sum payment. Especially when you don't know if/when the next lump-sum will arrive.

Anon- Congrats on getting such a nice advance and being able to focus on your writing! Knowing that that does happen is inspirational, even if the rational side of me keeps saying "yeah, but not to you!"

WORD VERIFICATION: itypn. What a two-year-old does at the keyboard.

Laurel said...

Thanks, Anon 9:45! That dovetails with my instint.

Laura Cross said...

Thanks for the enlightening post Jessica. I'm wondering if there is an average for nonfiction book advances?

Anonymous said...

ROFLMAO at making 30K a year on a single romance novel.

First off, advances are usually low for debut authors. From what I gather, for a single title romance (not category -- their advances are lower), $15K to 20K is about normal for most --for a TWO-book deal

That advance is not delivered at once, but broken up: part on delivery of the first MS, part after final revisions of the first MS and maybe (it varies from house to house) the final bit at publication of the first MS. Rinse and repeat for the second MS.

Keep in mind that it takes a LONG time for all that to play out. Royalties, too, don't come for at least six months after the book sale, if then. Don't even get me started on that nebulous concept of RESERVES.

For the run-of-the-mill romance novelist, to make $30K a year ON ANY NUMBER OF BOOKS after self-employment taxes, you'd better have a backlist and foreign sales and a new book out every six months.

Even then, unless the spouse has health insurance, I'd advise keeping a day-job. I've heard of authors who wind up with some major illness and with no insurance -- and unable to write because they're slogging through chemo or radiation or with casts on both wrists from a fall.

But hey, I'm not knocking it. People pay me to make up stories (not $30K a story, but they pay me). What's my cost? My time, some paper if my editor/agent doesn't let me send things via e-mail (most do), and some postage/shipping? Maybe a conference fee and dues to RWA and your local RWA chapter?

I'll take that. Pretty low investment, and nice work if you can get it.

Anonymous said...

CHKB -- as an author with one of the publishers listed on that page, I'm afraid I have to say that they're not all THAT accurate. One big advance skews all the little guys. My suggestion - if you are a first time author, look at the low number on the range and bank on that.

As for the first anonymous who told Jessica that her advice was nonsense - after your six figure contract did not earn out, did you get another from that publisher? You never said, and I think the omission speaks volumes.

My advance is small, but my publisher continues to work with me. And I'm in this for a career, not a lucky windfall.

Mira said...

This is really interesting. I definitely think that making a living at writing is extremely hard for the writer. Which, of course, is teribbly unfair. Everyone else in the publishing industry can do this for a living - but not the writer. Something is very wrong with that picture.

Another interesting side issue here is the idea of books not selling out. One thing I've been thinking about is that I'm really going to wait. I'm not going to try to get published until I have something that I really think is good and will sell. Why rush it? I could get all excited because I finally got an agent, and got published, and then find that my book didn't even sell. That's a hard thing to control, but still.....From what I understand it's actually harder to be a mid-list author than a debut author in terms of finding industry interest.

I am just not going to rush this process.

Anonymous said...

Anon at 11:22:

No, they didn't offer another contract. They very much didn't offer another contract! I've got one with another house now.

I'm in this for a career, too, and I find it odd that people think that getting six figures for two years' work is a) a windfall and b) a *bad* sign for a career.

Our choice is almost never between a six-figure deal that goes nowhere and a five-figure deal that launches our career. Our choice is between a $200,000 deal (if we get v. lucky) that helps us muddle forward and a $15,000 deal that helps us muddle forward.

In other words, there are at least as many pitfalls in working for little money than working for big money. And the nice this about the bigger money is, well, the money.

My career is in no worse shape than if I'd written that same book for $20,000 and earned $15,000. On the contrary, it's in better shape. I don't need to get a day job.

Lily D said...

Mira, the problem is, you never know what will sell--too much of it depends on luck. Suppose a big-name author comes out with a similar book the same time yours appears, and your rival hogs all the media attention. If you send out into the world the book you're proudest of, and it gets published and bombs and you can never publish anything again, at least the one book you got out there was a good one.

Anonymous said...

My info is anecdotal, but from what I hear, very few writers ever make enough to support themselves. Most novel advances are very small (1-3,000), and some publishers only offer a single payment, say 1,000, with no possibility for royalties. On the flip side, I've known of authors who received 6-figure advances for a book that ended up sellign poorly, and were never able to get another book published b/c they were now considered a poor risk.

We keep hearing from agtents and publishers how this is a business, think of this as a business. Well, it may be a business for you, but for most of us it's an economic loss. I actually think we're taken advantage of b/c they know they can do it.

Anonymous said...

11:22 again, responding to 11:37 :)

We might have to agree to disagree. *ggg*

I think that was my initial point - that your career is not necessarily better simply because you received a larger advance. It depends on the angle that you look at it from.

Yes, you have a very large advance and do not have to find a job because that money supports you. But you will no longer be able to work for your old publisher because you are too big of a liability. And now you have a new publisher. And if you do not earn out for them and get dropped, your chances are *extremely* slim that a third publisher is going to look at your past comps without severe prejudice.

I'm going to have to disagree that not earning out on a 200k advance is the same as not earning out on a 20k advance. The publisher having to eat 5k is very, very different than the publisher having to eat 50k. It's just numbers and margins are very slim nowdays.

Unless, of course, you have an amazing agent (like Jessica! /shameless plug)

Anon 11:22

Anonymous said...

My question is - what is better for the author: a $200k advance that doesn't earn out, say $100K or a $20K advance that earns $100K?

In the short term the $200K is better but what about for the long term?

Mira said...

Lily - I agree. You can't control whether your book sells or not. But I think so many people rush this - you write something, you finish it, you try to get published.

Maybe it's better to sit back and think for awhile. Is this really the best I can do? Or maybe this would sell better if I were an established name, and I should wait to market this one for later.

I don't see many debut authors really taking in that if their first published work doesn't sell, they've moved to a much more difficult category: mid-list author.

Slow down and think about it, that's my main point. And what I plan to do.

Anonymous said...

If you're looking for a career as a published writer as opposed to a one, or if you're luckiy, two-time windfall, you are always better off with a book that makes money for a publisher rather than the opposite, b/c they are the ones who "Hire" us when we "do a good job" and fire us when we don't. It is a business for them. Period. (Not to imply they don't love books, etc as wello as the money they make from them).

Jennifer Jackson said...

Mira said:
"This is really interesting. I definitely think that making a living at writing is extremely hard for the writer. Which, of course, is teribly unfair. Everyone else in the publishing industry can do this for a living - but not the writer. Something is very wrong with that picture."

Not quibbling with the fact that making a living as a writer can be hard and may not seem fair. However, I do know a number of people who start at editorial assistant jobs or agent assistant jobs that are not making a living wage (particularly if they live in NYC) and have to have a second job or a supportive spouse. Just sayin'.

Kate Douglas said...

One thing that didn't get mentioned regarding that $30k advance would be expenses--off the top, 15% goes to the agent who got you the sale (and in Jessica's case, she earns every penny, including the chocolate I use on occasion to bribe her, but it IS a plus to have an agent who can be bribed) Then there's the cut the government takes, which means you really need to set aside about 30% of your actual earnings, to be on the safe side. The reserves against returns will eat a big chunk of that money before your agent even gets into the mix, and you also have to consider expenses.

I go to at least two conferences a year which are not cheap--air fare and hotel rooms, plus the conference itself can push expenses well over $2,500. There's the cost of overnight FedEx for copy edits and page proofs, video trailers if you use them to promote, bookmarks or other handouts to send to readers and all the typical expenses of running a home office. Point being, that $30k advance, which you may not see all of for up to two years or even more, doesn't go far.

Typical payment of an advance now is a percentage on signing, more on delivery and acceptance of the manuscript and the remainder on publication. Royalties aren't paid until six months AFTER the pay period after the release, so a book that comes out in January won't start paying out until the second royalty period after release--for instance, I'll see royalties (if I've earned out my advance) on my January book in December. Which is why I write at least four books a year and work seven days a week, year round. This is not a job for sissies.

Anonymous said...

To Kate Douglas:
All I can say is WOW. How on earth do you write 4 books a year? How long are they? Do you do your own editing or only write 1st drafts? (I imagine hiring someone to finish your books, ie, to do the later drafts, costs more than most of us could ever hope to make).
Hey, there's an idea.

Mira said...

Jennifer - Yes - but paying your dues is a normal thing when you get your first job in an industry. So, having to work your way up the ladder until you get a decent salary is to be expected.

That's a very different thing than having to have a full-time job and write until 3 in the morning to end up with a measly 10% return on your work - which you not only share with your agent, but are expected to spend on marketing your book nowadays.

The percentage of writers who can make a living off writing is miniscule.

The percentage of people who start in the mailroom and work their way up to a living wage is probably pretty high.

I'm sorry - I'm sticking to my guns on this one. It is a very unfair system. Remember - the publishing industry is making their living off of the writer's work. The very person who can not support themselves with writing.

It's not only an unfair system, but it's not a very smart one either. If the writer could write full-time, they could write more, and people would make more money off of their work. It's win-win.

Anonymous said...

I totally agree with you, MIRA. I truly believe we are exploited b/c we can't help writing, want so badly to be published, and are willing (b/c we're given no choice) to put up with making nothing for all our efforts. It's appalling. Artists of all sorts should be able to create and make a living wage from it. And I'm not saying we should be rich. I don't even care if I'm rich. If I could pay, from a writing income, for room,board, insurance (yeah, right), and all the other basic expenses without having to worry myself to death about where my next meal would come from, I'd be satisfied. But VERY few of us can even do that.
I realize that agents and even people in publishing, when starting out, don't make much either, but that doesn't make this any mjore fair.

Anonymous said...

Speaking as a reader, not a writer, it makes me sad to hear that a writer has to write four books a year nowadays to get by -- because I am not going to buy any of these. I'm too suspicious: four books written in one year can't possibly be as good as those from a (full-time) author who writes one novel every year or year and a half. Just the other day I thought about trying out this new author (none that posted here) and almost did, but then I saw she has published 11 books in 3 years (or some such number) and I passed.

I love debut novels. They are often the author's best. (The only ones not rushed. The ones that really got whipped into shape until they were good enough to convince a publisher.) They are usually followed by several weaker works before the quality (sometimes) improves again. Fresh ideas take time to develop. I often wonder what great works of fiction we are missing out on because authors can no longer afford to revise their novels as long as they might like to.

Lily D said...

Anonymous 1:36. I'm with you on the debut novels. Often written over a period of many years, sometimes put through an MFA workshop (sometimes a good thing, sometimes not, but definitely a good thing for the last debut novel I read) often they do have a certain freshness and passion. And then the books don't break out, or the author really only had one book in him or her, and we never hear from that author again.

Laurel said...

Anon 1:36: I've observed the same phenomenon. Debut novel have several advantages:

1. Author gets to cherry pick from the dusty stack under the bed. Presumably she leads with her best work.

2. Author was writing from passion and instinct. It was still FUN!

3. No pressure. If it sucks, no one will ever know. If it sells and the next one sucks, the whole world will know.

4. This one doesn't apply to every author but for the charmed folks who wrote a book and struck gold the freshness stands out. They weren't so scared of cliches and obsessed with originality that the joy of it got squelched. Some of them are downright bold because they just didn't know any better.

Lily D said...

One should hope that after the first book, writing should still be fun. If not, there are many easier ways to make a living.

wonderer said...

Anon 1:36, if that author you were considering reading was Elizabeth Bear (14 novels published between 2005 and now!), she's worth it.

Mira, I'm with you on not jumping in too early. The novel I'm currently editing is good (IMHO), but not *that* good. I know I can do better, so probably won't query that one. Instead I'll keep writing and improving until I have something that really stands out. I *will* be querying, eventually but I won't rush it.

Anonymous said...

@ wonderer: No, it wasn't Elizabeth Bear. I've just bought two of her novels (must have missed that number somehow :o) but haven't gotten around to reading them yet.

Watery Tart said...

I guess I've got 2 points. First, I totally agree on debut novels, but attribute the reason a little differently. These novels have had simmering time. It gets done, edited--an attempt is made, feedback, it's not ready... it is set aside a while, rewritten, edited... maybe 3 or 4 times while the writer tries to learn the the art of marketing herself to agents. By the time someone TAKES that first timers book, it is polished to remarkable smoothness.

I think all novels should go through that polishing process, but the marketing system would rather crank out any name that has proven successful--something consumers reinforce, by the way, or it wouldn't happen. The only GREAT later novels I find, are off genre, and probably put off for all that polishing time also...

My second point, and sort of a snarky one (not offense to anyone), is that I think writers are paid so little because we are a dime a dozen--there are SO MANY people who want to be published writers. Now only some small subset of these people actually has the whole package (great stories, and skill to tell it), but some of the not as great get through and fail. Many very good get through and STILL fail (financially) because of timing, or luck, or some such nonsense... so the publishing houses can't put as much up on the typical gamble. If there were a magic button we could push so only the 'worthy' got through then all the worthy could make more...

It is possible I am part of the rabble. I don't believe so, or I wouldn't keep going, but I think THAT is the reason for the low pay--too many people vying to fill the few available jobs of bestseller.

Anonymous said...

Well, counting all my online contacts from social networks, I've got 20,000 friends/followers/fans. So if each one of those buys the book (lol),I would STILL need to sell another 30,000 copies to make the 30K from this one book. Jesus! How to sell all those copies?! I guess I need like a million contacts.

Anonymous said...

Just remember, writers:

Amateures talk about "craft." Professionals talk about money.

DebraLSchubert said...

Wow! I just stopped back by to check in and I have to say I've never seen so many Anon comments! Clearly this one is stirring the pot a bit.

BTW: Congrats on the agent news, Rick!

Chris said...

The figures would almost seem to be a deterrent to writing niche fiction. How sad if that stops a writer from writing to an albeit small audience. Such creativity lost.

Kate Douglas said...

anonymous 1:01: I'm in my office around seven every morning and write until I break for lunch, write again until I break for dinner and am usually back in my office until ten or later. I write all my own work from start to finish...some days I'm good for 10k words and it's all good, other days I'll struggle to get a thousand I can keep, but I love my fantasy world and it's a career I've wanted all my adult life. NO ONE else writes for me--even my editor doesn't always know what she's going to get until I turn it in, but somehow the stories always seem to come together the way I want. My Wolf Tales run around 80k words, my DemonSlayers are between 110k and 120k each.

Kate Douglas said...

Anonymous 1:36--I beg to differ with you. I write very quickly, but I'm a damned good writer. My books do extremely well--something I can assure you would not happen if I was turning out poorly written work. My first book for Kensington, published less than four years ago, is currently in its ninth printing and all of my titles are in extra print runs. The last novel was in reprints one week after release. That's not indicative of a bad book. All I can say is, by keeping to a rule like yours, you're probably missing some excellent reading.

Anonymous said...

I think the publishing industry makes writers feel so insecure and inferior, that they do indeed exploit and underpay us. But to offer a measly advance of $3000 is insulting for a year or more of work. If only these writers would stand up for themselves and refuse to be paid so poorly, then maybe we'd get somewhere. It worked (somewhat) in Hollywood!

Why is it mainly women (e.g. romance writers) who always seem to be the most abused and underpaid? And why do those women put up with it?
I know a romance writer who churns out 5 books a year just to pay the rent--why do they have to work so hard if the quality (not to mention their health) often suffers?
What's strange is, these are often the same gals who oppose a national health plan but they let their friends auction their services on ebay to pay their bills. What's wrong with that picture--and why don't publishers offer these writers health insurance, like they do their employees? Why not work smarter, not harder?

DebraLSchubert said...

Anon 5:36

I think Stephen King might disagree with you. He wrote a whole book about the CRAFT of writing. "On Writing" happens to be a favorite amongst both amateur and professional writers.

Anonymous said...

Read On Writing. Discussing "Craft" is still the hallmark of an amateur.

Anonymous said...

Kate, I know that I probably miss a lot of excellent reading. There are too many excellent books out there to have any hope of catching them all. I did not comment on the quality of your writing (not having read your novels). As a writer still dreaming of publication, I am in awe of your achievements. Ninth print-run, wow, congratulations!

I was just saying that as a reader with too little time to read, when I'm trying to find a new author whose work I might enjoy, discovering that they write 3-5 books is a year makes me a little skeptic. Plus, you write faster than I read! I only read a novel a month or so. So it also feels intimidating (like a teacher setting me a list of required reading). Sometimes I still decide to give the author a try (if the first pages pull me in), but not often, especially if it's a series the author is writing.

That is my other frustration: those never-ending fantasy series. There was a time back, fifteen years or so, when suddenly everything was a series. Some of these took their writers 11 years or more to finish. I never* got past the 4th volume. What can I say, I love trilogies ;o) I like stories with a satisfying conclusion.

(*Since then, I have read four series past the fourth part, but these are more loosely connected, nearly stand-alones.)

Anonymous said...

A second comment to Kate: What a daunting schedule--I'm exhausted just reading your post.
Seriously, since you're dong so well, why push yourself SO hard? I doubt your agent (Jessica?) wants you to kill yourself writing so many books. Why not *just* write 2-3 books a year, which is more than most of us can possibly achieve?

Maybe your readers could wait a bit longer for your gems while you take a breather. Whew!
Not trying to tell you what to do but as one who has suffered health issues as a professional writer, I'm only making an observation and a suggestion. In any case, congrats on your success! Hope you have time to stop and smell the roses and drink the coffee...

Anonymous said...

Is there such a thing as getting too large an advance? Yes, every once in a great while. If a publisher offers you a big advance, should you take it? Yes, except for every once in a great while. The fact is (a) publishers are so cheap that this is unlikely to be a problem for you; (b) money in the hand (the advance) is ALWAYS more valuable to you than money you might or might not get later (the royalties); and (c) while a large advance is not a guarantee of a successful novel, it is almost certainly a guarantee of motivated marketing by your publishing house, which can very much help you be successful.

I sold my first books for not much, and have been happy with the royalties since. I sold my next books for much more, and I am not counting on seeing a dime in royalties. I am, on the other hand, free from a day job for the next several years -- during which I can work on writing and selling OTHER books.

Kate Douglas said...

Anon 8:17--Please don't feel sorry for me! I'm doing exactly what I want on the schedule I want and I'm making a better income than I ever imagined, so I have absolutely no complaints. I happen to be a type-A type who struggled for twenty frickin' years to get published. I didn't sign my first NY contract until I was 55 years old. At my age--60 in a couple of months--I don't intend to waste a second. I'm living a dream and loving every minute. I can walk into any book store and see my books on front tables and end caps and on the shelves, and believe me, it's worth every minute of the struggle to get published to be where I am now. And yes, I owe that first sale to my fantastic agent (thanks, Jessica!) but the hours I put in and the number of books I agree to write have been entirely up to me.

Anja said...

Twenty years! That does give a person reason to hope. I've been trying for 11 years. OK, so I give myself another 9 years. Ha!

Thanks for sharing.

Anonymous said...

To Kate Douglas from anon 1:01:
I believe you and am totally impressed. You must have super inate story-telling ability and well-honed writing skills. I, on the other hand, though I've written 7 novels, struglle to come up with a good story and need to re-write so many times that I could never write more than one novel a year (and that's something I rarely achieve nowadays). One of my biggest problems is I can't get my word count to reach the minimum requirements. I never see advice on that problem b/c, it seems, nearly all writers have the opposite problem. You probably aren't reading this now b/c it's 9/25, but if you are and have some advice on that topic, I'd really appreciate it. (And I plan to look for some of your books. Do you write under the nameKate Douglas?)

Anonymous said...

A P.S. from anon 1:01. I just read what you said about getting your first contract at 55, etc. I LOVE you. You have made my day (year?). I'm 56 and have been worrying myself to a frnzy about never being accepted again b/c I'm too ol. Of course, I have the added problem of not having submitted anything for over ten yrs. But still, you give me hope and courage. Thank you for being so candid!!!

Kate Douglas said...

Anonymous 12:56: Fwiw, I just got a note this morning from Anne McCaffrey. For those of you who read science fiction, you may be familiar with her Dragonriders of Pern series. I met Anne because she's a fan of my series and the woman is amazing--and at 83 1/2 (and yes, she does add the 1/2!)she is still writing, both on her own and in collaboration with her son. Now THAT is inspirational!

As far as being an older author--I really believe we can bring our years of life experience to our writing. As long as the brain still works, I hope to keep doing what I'm doing now.

Kate Douglas said...

Anonymous 1:01--yes, I do write under the name Kate Douglas, but I always warn new readers that my Wolf Tales series pushes a lot of buttons for some people, and unless you're really into boundary-pushing erotic romance, I don't recommend them. If you're interested in seeing what I do and prefer "regular" stories, I've got a new series debuting in March, first book DemonFire, which is paranormal but not erotic...and, there are always the excerpts on my website for both erotic and non-erotic stories at

As far as getting word count--so often our first draft tells the story, but in fairly terse black and white. Once I get the framework of the story down, I go back with my imaginary crayolas and add the color. What do your characters see? What does the air smell like, the sky look like? How is the room arranged or what season is it? Are the leaves beneath their feet crunchy or damp with morning dew? Get into their heads--become your characters and experience their feelings, their thoughts about whatever acts they're involved in. I always know my characters when I start a story--if they have brothers and sisters, where they went to school, what their favorite sport is, how they spend their down time. These things may never show up in the book, but they do affect the way the character observes the world around them, and those observations, when sprinkled throughout the story, bring up your word count and add life to the book.

Anonymous said...

Kate from anon 1:01:
Thank you AGAIN! Just recently it occurred to me (yes, I admit it) that I might just try to get the basic story down in my first draft without thinking at all about length. That is exactly what I'm going to try to do this time. It's been so difficult for me NOT to obsess about length while I'm writing b/c I have such a problem with attaining it, but I think that obsession interferes with my writing and sometimes almost blocks me. Thank you again. (And I will look for your new series.)

me said...

oh, where do i sign up? i don't really care about the money. this is my dream job and if i made $30K a year i'd quit my job in software sales in a heartbeat. it's not about winning the lottery or becoming famous. it's about being able to help pay some bills doing what i was born to do.