Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Yog's Law

The first rule of the professional writer, so wonderfully encapsulated by James MacDonald as Yog's Law is this: The money flows to the writer.

Wonderful. Simple. Ummm... also impossible for the time being.

And by this I do not mean the "Sign up with me, pay me X dollars, and I'll get you a publishing contract scams." (The agent pays you. The publisher pays you. If they want you to pay them, it's time to find a new agent/publisher.)

No, by this I mean that in order to get an agent, I need to shell out some dough. Research shows me that agents seem to like certain things, like actual physical letters sent in the actual physical mail. So, paper, ink, envelopes, postage. Not too bad, after all how many of these query letter things am I looking at writing anyway? (Sound of Elise researching away...)

You've got to be kidding me? Yeah, some people are lucky and get an agent on letter number one, or number five, but I've got one source telling me that it might be letter number 100. So, if I actually have to write 100 of these things, I'm looking at almost $100.00. And that doesn't attempt to put a price on my time for finding 100 possible good agent matches.

Then comes the whole: How do I find agents to query? Well, some agents are nice enough to keep up blogs about their lives and projects. Some writer's are kind enough to mention them in the acknowledgments of their books. I can google them. I can spend some more money and sign up with Publisher's Marketplace, or a similar service where Agents list their services, contact information, and what sort of things they want to represent. I can spend more money and start heading to writing conferences and meet Agents in the flesh. I can hang out online at AbsoluteWrite and chat with other writers and see who they've got representing them.

Lots of options. They all take time or money.

So, once the list of agents to query has been drawn up, and the letters sent out comes the next step, waiting.

Okay, yeah. But after that comes the important bit, getting responses. Now, with any luck some of them won't be "Dear Elise, Thank you for your query, alas as of this time we are not..."

With any luck some of them will ask for a manuscript. Great! Happy Dance time!

Wait a minute. A manuscript is an actual paper document. A very specifically formatted paper document. And... yep... let me reformat a bit here... Bloody Hell! My manuscript is 920 pages long! (In the background I hear my hubby say, "Write a shorter book!")

So, obviously this isn't something I'm going to just whip off a copy of on my home printer. Time to check out FedEx printing. Enter this... download that... and, oh wow! One manuscript is $68.85. Hmmmm.... how's the bulk discount? After all I may have to send out a bunch of these things. Fifteen manuscripts is $481.95.


And I still have to mail it to an agent? At least it fits in the USPS $12 Priority Mail box. So, if I end up sending out all 15 of them it'll cost me, $661.95.

Hmmm... Well, Mr. Yog, now what?

Sunday, June 27, 2010

The First Step

So, what is step one on this great adventure? I mean, besides write the book? The great publisher or self publish debate? Agent hunting? Looking for what publisher I want? Dreaming about how to spend the advance?

No on all of those, except the dreaming bit. (Mexico here we come!)

First up: Get a business license. Writers are artists. While writing is all you’re up to, you don’t need a business license. Published, selling authors are business people. They have a product they are trying to sell. Furthermore Authors are not employees. J.K. Rowling is not an employee of Bloomsbury. You will not be an employee of your publisher. Which means you need a business license, and you need to figure out how to organize your company. The days of you get a check, you deposit the check, and then round about April you fill out a basic 1040 are over.

I'm going for a sole proprietorship. I don't have partners, so there's no reason to do a partnership. I'm writing a book, not selling chainsaws, so my liability is already pretty limited. An LLC won't do much for me. Right now the amount of money we're talking about is so small that any sort of corporation isn't worth the effort. All of these things may be different for you, and it's worth your time to figure out what will work best for you. Quick example, if your book is about how horrendously cool it is for young adults to get high and have unprotected sex while driving stolen cars, it's just possible that an LLC might be a good idea.

You might wonder why you need a business license before you've sold the book. The easy answer is this: As a business you can write off your expenses. The paper, ink, envelopes and stamps that'll be used in the Agent hunt, you can write them off. All those manuscript copies, write off. Or, if you go the self publish route, the money you spend to get your book online can be written off.

Why do you want to get write offs? It works like this. If you sell fifty copies of your book, and you make $200.00 at it, you pay taxes on all $200.00 if you don't have any write offs. If you're set up as a business, you can deduct the money you spent on stamps ($25.00) the money you spent on manuscripts ($65.00) and the money you spent on shipping ($12.00). Now you only pay taxes on $98.00 of the $200.00 you made. $200.00 is little enough money without you having to pay taxes on all of it.

So, for me the next step is to go to my local county government and sign up as Elise Hecht, Writer. Come Tuesday I’ll once again have my own business, and this time it’ll be writing.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

In the Beginning

So, I wrote a book. Or an epic fantasy spanning multiple dimensions, with a deeply layered plot, sympathetic characters, a magical system that makes sense, and smoking hot romance. Whatever...

Anyway, the book, version six (yes, six) has just finished it's final proof read, and then I'll be sending it off to the gamma readers. Gamma readers would be beta readers who actually read the whole thing, gave me comments, and now I want to see what they have to say about the fixes I made.

Which means I'm on the verge of the next step, figuring out how to get my book into readers' hands.

Here's the deal. I love telling stories, but I also want to make money at it. I do not want to be the starving writer who crafts a masterpiece, slogs through eons of work carefully crafting each sentence and then sells nine copies of the book.

Me, I want to make at least enough to cover the cost of writing the book, and preferably enough to vacation in Mexico. And now a days there are lots of ways to do that. That's what this blog will be about, working my way through the ins and outs of the publishing world, eventually deciding on trying to find an agent, or on self publishing, and then what happens when I go down either path.

I'm obviously not an expert on this. But my guess is if you're reading this you're also looking at your finished book and trying to figure out what to do with it, and maybe you'll find the adventures of someone else who did it helpful.