What would I do if I was fortunate enough to receive a seven-figure advance for my next novel? Yeah, I know I'm getting ahead of myself, but we can dream, can't we? Would I quit my job? Would I pay off the house?
Not likely. Last week John Elder Robison, author of Look Me In The Eye, visited a friend's blog and offered a detailed account of an authors's life after the seven-figure offer. I'll condense it into a nutshell.
Say you're offered a $1,000,000 advance:
Well, 35% of the sale price goes to taxes. Writers have few deductions. 15% goes to the agent. And finally, the deal is paid out over four installments - 25% on signing, 25% on manuscript acceptance, 25% on hardcover pub, 25% on paperback pub.
This might take three years. It will likely work out to about $125,000 a year, which is nice, but rare. What if you got a $100,000 advance? Pretty nice change, huh? Well, that would only work out to about $12,500 to $18,000 per year depending on income tax. If in my case you have debts and a mortgage, this kind of money will just be another means to survive. It won't be an automatic excuse to quit your job unless you have a wonderful spouse who'll take up the slack.
In John's case he had a seven-figure advance, but he is already successful with his car business. In promoting his book, he must take time away from his business and has hired extra staff to cover for him in his absence. His case is also very rare, since only about 100 authors make that kind of money on one book.
So my question is, why do we do it? Most of us aren't going to get rich through writing, but we do it anyway. I do it because it feels good. It feels great to bring characters to life on paper or the computer screen. I get a warm feeling when a reader tells me she stayed up till 1 a.m. to finish my book. I love the camaraderie among the many authors, agents, editors and readers I've met over the last couple of years.
Why does an artist create lovely paintings, only to have them hang on his own walls, never to see the inside of a gallery? Why does the semi-retired housemate join the local theatre group, knowing that she'll get reviews only from the local paper?
We do it for ourselves, for our family and friends, and for the love of the craft. If all we expect from our efforts are fame and riches, we'll die unhappy.
Picture - a nice little bunch of violets I encountered while walking with my daughter today. Spring has finally sprung! I'll post trilliums when they pop out, which will be soon.