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Johne

For Those Who Have Ears To Hear

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The sum of $375,000 (the combined total of my two big advances) less my agent’s commission of 15% and taxes is about what a teacher in the New York City public school system makes over the course of, say, four years. Since I lived in Brooklyn, one of the most expensive cities in the world, I knew I’d have to be careful — this money would have to last me until I sold another book. While I was buoyed by the very small, very occasional foreign book deal, this was it until there were more books in the pipeline, which was why I opted not to pay off loans or invest the money.
 

Let’s take a pause. What could I have done differently?
 

  • I could have opted to move to a city that was less expensive, certainly. But I’m an artist, so throw me a bone: I’d wanted to live in New York City my whole life and that was always the plan, even before I got my book deal.
  • I could have chosen not to quit my day job, but it would have been tough. I had five books under contract at once, plus the enormous task of building and maintaining an author brand. I began a two-year MFA program two weeks after I got my first book deal — a program I entered in the hopes of ensuring I’d always have work as a writer, even if book deals were low or slow and coming. I had no idea, and was not told upon entering the program, how it’s almost impossible to find work as faculty in any college or university, regardless of how qualified you are. To say my writing plate was full would be an understatement.
  • What I wish I had done, more than anything, was pay off my student loans and put myself on a strict budget — a budget that assumed I was never going to make money I could live off of as a writer again.
  • I wish I had saved a down payment for a house.
  • And I really wish I had at least put money aside each year for retirement.


I didn’t do those things.


https://medium.com/page-count/how-to-lose-a-third-of-a-million-dollars-without-really-trying-d3c343675aca

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Wait minute.  This guy got $375,000 dollars and has five books under contract and you guys are concerned for him?!

Edited by suspensewriter

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A lot of aspiring writers think they’re going to be the next JK Rowling and make a gazillion dollars. While this guy got some good deals, he does live in the most expensive area in the US and it looks like made some non-forward-thinking decisions with his money. This is a guy with 5 book deals and he is not rolling in money. I just think it’s good perspective.

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The link leads to the whole article, which is even more interesting.

 

I suppose it showcases one of those ironies of life. To her credit, the author is trying to warn other writers to be careful, because it won't all be smooth sailing. The biggest irony comes from her not realizing that almost every other writer will have found this out from the very start. Most will never get the kinds of book deals she was getting, and won't come close to being able to make any kind of a living off their writing, I'm not sure she sees this.

 

Nonetheless, her heart seems to be in the right place...

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My uncles took their inheritance and bought many acres of woods on the outskirts of Charlottesville, VA. The plan was to develop it into a upper-middle-class/lower-upper-class development house by house. And they did in the course of 25 years of hard work. One uncle struck out on his own once the land was sold off lot-by-lot and house-by-house, but other uncle was still managing and reselling when the owners moved away. That included having other real estate agents working for him.

 

One of those agents had the deal of a lifetime land on his lap. Some South Africans made a fortune during the gas-shortage in the 70s by negotiating deals between takers of oil in the ocean and refineries who needed that oil. All they did was find who wanted it and who had it, and got their 10% finders fee. They made enough money that they wanted to  invest it by buying GE and by buying a thousand acres of woods in Virginia, so they picked the county alphabetically, (Albemarle), and then picked the real estate company alphabetically. (Alcova, which stood for Albemarle County, Virginia.) So it was all by happenstance, but this 20-something year old, with a wife and two kids sold them 1000 acres. Holy Cow kind of numbers.

 

My uncle told him to count it as a nest egg, not as if that is how life would be from then on. The kid didn't listen, but, instead, bought a mansion.

 

And lost it, and his marriage, 3 years later.

 

 

That lesson never left me. I've also never met a writer who made a whole $17,000 in advances. I know the ones who get between $0-$3000. 

 

One friend has 18 books to his name. Could be more now. I've known him for a few years, and he had 13 when we first met. He was a panelist at writing conferences then, (and taught fiction writing at the university level), but drove to and from in the family station wagon. It died on the way home, so he had raise the $2500 to fix it before he could get home. His writing doesn't afford him a living, it gives him a reason to live. Always figured if someone at that level can't make a living, I never deluded myself into thinking I could. 

 

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4 hours ago, suspensewriter said:

Wait minute.  This guy got $375,000 dollars and has five books under contract and you guys are concerned for him?!

She. "Had." And yes. Might want to read the article. $400,000 isn't enough to live on in Brooklyn... or anywhere in the US.

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I don't know, if you spend it wisely, Spaulding.  And that isn't all- he has a deal for five books!!

 

And, you know, there are plenty of places in the US where 375,000 goes a long way.

 

By the way, I don't think that is all the books that are in her!

Edited by suspensewriter

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17 minutes ago, suspensewriter said:

I don't know, if you spend it wisely, Spaulding.  And that isn't all- he has a deal for five books!!

 

And, you know, there are plenty of places in the US where 375,000 goes a long way.

 

By the way, I don't think that is all the books that are in him!

Click Johne's link. Johne quoted about 10% of the story. She does tell what happened next and what she's doing about it now.

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For all the writers who haven't made it yet, who plug away in obscurity, I still feel some sympathy for her, but not a lot.  She's made a lot of money off of writing, more than the vast majority of writers make, and she should be thankful for that.  It sounds like she's just hawking a course, truthfully- and I don't mean that badly. She's found a niche to sell to and that's good- other writers.  

 

I'm sorry, because you and the others seem to have a lot of empathy for her, and that's good.

 

I just don't feel the same way, is all- and that's after reading the full article. 

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At at writing conference here in Indiana, I learned that any advance paid by a publisher is meant to cover living expenses, rent, utilities, groceries, internet,car insurance, medical insurance, The author also told us that the author does NOT receive any royalties until the publisher recoups the amount of money that it paid in royalties.  Something all aspiring writers need to understand.

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7 hours ago, Wes B said:

The biggest irony comes from her not realizing that almost every other writer will have found this out from the very start.

This times 100. I sympathise with this writer in the same way I feel sorry for people who win millions in the lottery, only to blow through the money within two years because they never had the skills to manage the fortune that fell into their lap.

 

This author won the equivalent of the literary lottery and, living in that bubble, never learned what seems obvious to many other authors. Her experience shows how important it is for writers to understand the publishing business. I wish I could point her towards Dean Wesley Smith's blog. That will teach her way more  than her MFA about the business side of being an author.

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19 hours ago, quietspirit said:

At at writing conference here in Indiana, I learned that any advance paid by a publisher is meant to cover living expenses, rent, utilities, groceries, internet,car insurance, medical insurance, The author also told us that the author does NOT receive any royalties until the publisher recoups the amount of money that it paid in royalties.  Something all aspiring writers need to understand.

Was the person teaching that from a Big 5 publisher? Because, considering the average now is about $3000, we'd have to live in a cave in a swamp for that to "cover living expenses." o_O

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20 hours ago, suspensewriter said:

For all the writers who haven't made it yet, who plug away in obscurity, I still feel some sympathy for her, but not a lot.  She's made a lot of money off of writing, more than the vast majority of writers make, and she should be thankful for that.  It sounds like she's just hawking a course, truthfully- and I don't mean that badly. She's found a niche to sell to and that's good- other writers.  

 

I'm sorry, because you and the others seem to have a lot of empathy for her, and that's good.

 

I just don't feel the same way, is all- and that's after reading the full article. 

I thought she was older than she is. "Older" as in didn't-have-access-to-the-Internet-back-then. Now that I realize this all happened in this decade, much less sympathy.

 

I am "older," yet didn't start "writing a book" until this decade either. And, yeesh, when I'm stuck on setting a scene, I spend my time learning the industry. This is very much like the story of my friend/uncle's real estate agent. It's always up to the person to realize what it means to get a one-time-offer for great money. Especially the one-time-offer part.

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Financial literacy is low all over this continent.  Debt is growing and is not managed correctly at individual, family or corporate levels.  

I am grateful for my business minded husband, but I still know that debt is bad!

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On 9/17/2019 at 6:21 PM, suspensewriter said:

I'm sorry, because you and the others seem to have a lot of empathy for her, and that's good.

 

 

My thoughts on this article were not sympathetic or empathetic towards this author, My reason for sharing the information was to point out what I had learned at a regional writing conference. Did someone even care enough about her work to tell her those facts?  Did she listen? Would she have listened if she had been told?

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