Saturday, November 7, 2009

Fragile: Contains Dreams. Please Do Not Bend, Fold, or Crush.

Do children's book editors know that they hold children's book author's dreams in their hands?
Yes. But long acquaintance with the slush pile has convinced us that we are also holding authors' crack-induced fantasies and psychotic delusions in our hands.

Also: No.

Here's the thing we'd like more authors to be aware of: we don't hold your dreams in our hands. You do.

What we hold in our hands--what you've sent us-- is your work, not your dreams.

Any reasonable person expects to work hard to make their dreams come true, right? Getting rejected and writing and rewriting and writing some more and getting rejected some more is all part of that hard work.

No editor should be able to crush your dreams by telling you the piece of your work they looked at wasn't good enough. Because it's just one piece of your work! And you have lots more, right?

When you receive a rejection letter and feel your dreams being crushed, BE AWARE: it's you crushing your dreams.

That's what happens when you forget that dreams are achieved through your hard work, and not through the miraculous intervention of others.

We are not your fairy godmothers; we are your colleagues. We will be so grateful if you will treat us as such.


Grumpy McPumpy Pants said...

I'm actually sick of all these moonfaces and their goddamn dreams. Truly.

Here's a wake-up call for you all: so you do get published. Guess what? Your dreams likely still won't come true. Because you realize that your incredible accomplishment of getting to even this point puts you in the company of a thousands upon thousands of children's books debuting each season, and you're like a single firefly in a field, lighting up its minute ass.

Think you felt like crap being rejected by an editor? Wait 'til you're rejected by the buying public!

It's a sad irony that children's publishing attracts such easily wounded, sentimental types. In reality you need to an incredibly thick skin at every level.

Andrea Cremer said...

Well said. Kiersten White had a great post recently along the same lines that is wonderful advice to we writer/dreamers

wordver: louncid - everything would be so clear if you could just get your bum off the couch

sarah mccarry said...

Mmm hmmm. SACK UP, babies.

Unknown said...

some uncommon common sense. Well said, colleague.

Anonymous said...

I was with a group of "aspiring" children's authors this past week. They kept talking about how impossible it was to get an agent and to get published. Then, I heard one after another admit that she didn't submit her work and didn't know how to find publishers. Some of these people said they had written things for years, yet weren't published. Come on! How can you say it's hard when you won't get your work out there?

Oh, and I had the same responses from an old critique group I was in, where most of the writers didn't write for children.

Translation - it's so hard, I won't try.

I think it's just an excuse.

Fleur said...

As soon as you (the writer) start submitting your work, it becomes business. So you need to act like a professional.

Dreaming is for first drafts and first dates.

Jennifer said...

Yeah, and please don't self-publish your dream and then force it on your local librarian. Even if you tell me in great detail how creative you've been from the moment you first spit up, I'm still not going to force your dreams on an unsuspecting and innocent child. That's what your own kids are for!

Rachel Stark said...

I can't remember where I read the advice to writers that they should think of themselves as concert pianists. How long has a world-famous concert pianist practiced before getting on stage to play a single, important concert? A whole lifetime. Every day. All day. So why expect your path as a writer to be different?

It's unfortunate, in a lot of ways, that "practice" for a writer can mean "practice picking yourself up and trying again after rejection" rather than "practice developing characters" or "practice turning a phrase," but that's how it is. And in every area of life, those who achieve their dreams are the ones who won't let anyone crush them, or who keep gluing them back together every time they break.

Thanks for the great post - I'm going to pass it around!

Cassidy said...

Well put.

Marc said...

I always figured editors were doing me a favor by rejecting substandard pieces. By doing so, they're helping me maintain my writing quality and reputation. I've had a few things published that I realized were terrible once I saw them in print, and I couldn't understand why they were accepted!

shelley said...

Add to that the persistent idea that children's picture books are somehow 'easier,' and not like real writing. Plus, if you get somebody to illustrate it, it'll give you a leg up with editors. (See relevant post below)


Anonymous said...

It's like American Idol. A lot of those people dream of being famous singers, but dreams and reality sort of have to meet up at some point. Most people don't watch that and blame the judges for kicking off people who can't sing.

Anonymous said...

Has my vision improved or is the text now a lot bigger on the blog page? :)

And by the way, excellent post, EA. Writers bitch and moan way too much.

So, writers: sit down and write. Then rewrite. Then revise. Then find good beta readers. Then revise. Then submit to agents or editors (and not both at the same time, people! Seriously!). And while you're waiting for responses, write something else!

I wish you all good luck. I really do. And I'm happy to support my writer friends. I just don't want to hear you whine. Margaritas on me, though. :)

Anonymous said...

Has my vision improved or is the text now a lot bigger on the blog page? :)

And by the way, excellent post, EA. Writers bitch and moan way too much.

So, writers: sit down and write. Then rewrite. Then revise. Then find good beta readers. Then revise. Then submit to agents or editors (and not both at the same time, people! Seriously!). And while you're waiting for responses, write something else!

I wish you all good luck. I really do. And I'm happy to support my writer friends. I just don't want to hear you whine. Margaritas on me, though. :)

Editorial Anonymous said...

Anon: you must have changed something on your computer. The text's the same size it always was.

Rhombus said...

This struggle with dreams (my perfect life, as it will be when THEY discover me) vs. the hard work of struggling through the obstacles is common to the western human condition, where we expect success as an external validation.

When things feel too hard, and the vertical climb seems insurmountable, I remember that I have put some really good work down on paper, and that I have made people smile and weep with recognition of something true.

Kate said...

I'm sitting here rolling my eyes, because this notion that success takes hard work is so sadly absent in the minds of so many. This is especially true in fields that don't require specialized degrees.

People who haven't known me long look at my (non-writing) career success and make comments about how *lucky* I am. It makes me want to punch them in the face. THIS IS NOT LUCK, YOU LAZY P.O.S., THIS IS THE RESULT OF TWO DECADES OF HARD WORK. Occassionally they want to know how they can get a gig like mine, and I take great pleasure in explaining it to them at length.

Valerie Geary said...

Amen amen. I think I'm going to print this and put it up on my inspiration board. Anytime my annoying "but it's too hard" voice tries to make an appearance, I'll have something with which to squash it back down.

Debra Lynn Shelton said...

Excellent post! We writers need to write, then write again, then write some more. Then, we need to get out our laptops and keep on writing.

To make it easier for writers everywhere, I scientifically calculated the exact steps needed to increase daily word count. No need to thank me. If you follow these easy steps, you'll improve your craft, find an agent, and get published. Satisfaction guaranteed or your money back: (What? You didn't pay anything?)

And to all the cry babies out there: Quit crying, you babies!

Sarah said...

"We are not your fairy godmothers; we are your colleagues."

I cheered when I read that. So true!

Good writers work to make sure the characters in their stories are active- affecting the story and not just waiting for another character to save the day. What's good for our characters is good for us as well.

Anonymous said...

On her MySpace page, actress Jenna Fischer, who plays Pam on "The Office," once answered at length a fan's question about her path to success. I was impressed both that she would take the time to share those details, but also by how evident it was that she had really paid her dues. She had had gone to school to hone her craft, had moved far from home to be where the work was, had been humble enough to take almost any acting job, and had worked other jobs to keep herself afloat until more acting jobs came. I think when someoene's worked that hard at developing their craft, it must be a pleasure to work with them because you know they can do the job.

I have relatives waiting to be discovered in L.A. who make little dabbles at working, but in my perception are not really going about it in a diligent, patient, humble manner. Their "dream" of being famous and successful appears to be more important to them than the day-to-day work of honing their craft, or of doing what it takes to become the kind of colleague anyone would enjoy working with, and who could do any job in their field.

Also, I was once asked to read a draft of a 'tween fantasy novel by someone who was full of passion and imagination, but who couldn't string two sentences together without making some rather egregious errors, so that the text nearly incomprehensible. I didn't care enough about her dream to persist in trying to make sense of it. (I told her I hadn't found time to read it, and gave it back.)

Elizabeth Lynd said...

..."you're like a single firefly in a field, lighting up its minute ass."

Okay, that was hilarious, and apt. To extend the bug analogy further, please do realize there is more than one queen bee in the world, sure. But most of them are workers (and some drones--this analogy is getting more imperfect as I write, as I now have Stephen King being inseminated by midlist writers, and I've basically just called the most important people of the whole industry--the readers!--"worker bees"), and seems to me they are pretty satisfied with their lot anyway. (You don't see a lot of Ikeas or Neiman's in the hive, now do you?)

Yes. The dream is in our hands. No one can crush it for you if you don't let them. Agents and editors are just doing their jobs. Which, by the way, allows us to do ours.

onelowerlight said...


Webcartoonist Howard Tayler gave an address on this subject as the guest of honor at CONduit in Salt Lake City this past summer. If you care to download the mp3 of the talk (or any of the other convention panels that I recorded), you can find it here.

Mary Hoffman said...

But it is a sad truth that a writer needs to have more sensitivity than most to the human experience.

And then on top of that needs a really tough skin to handle rejection and criticism.

It's a paradox.But I agree with the post. It needs saying from time to time. Especially since some people have the misguided idea it's easier to write for children.

Anonymous said...

These are sweet words of truth indeed. Writing is a business, just like any other industry. To think it is anything less is foolish and naive. Once I started submitting I made a decision to treat it as such and learn as much as I could about how the business side works.

My dream is to have a long-term career as a children's author. A rejection from an agent or editor doesn't crush that dream; it tells me I need to keep improving, keep writing and never settle for anything less than spectacular. Agents and publishers alike are always looking for brilliant writing. And I'm the only one who can put in the hard yards to make sure my manuscripts rise to the top of the heap.

Deirdre Mundy said...

But it would be really NICE to have a fairy Godmother..........

I think something else new writers need to realize is that they are NOT their writing. The editor does not know you. She has never MET you. You have not just asked her out to dinner and a movie. She is not judging and rejecting YOU.

What the editor is rejecting is the words on the page in front of her. When you go to the store and choose a nice apple over a bruised one, you're not rejecting the fruit-picker, you're rejecting THE APPLE.

Daydreams are nice. But they tend to interfere with reality and hard work. (And I say this as a compulsive daydreamer.) Instead of daydreaming about the success of your probably not-ready-for-primetime work (and I say this as the possesor of MANY such works), daydream about what your characters are doing next. More efficient, and probably more interesting.

After all, how many "sitting on Oprah saying how you never dreamed you'd be the next Rowling!" daydreams can you REALLY have before they get stupid and dull?

(Actually, that one is by it's nature stupid and dull, since you're lying to Oprah.... after all, you clearly ARE dreaming about being the next Rowling. Now cut it out, and get back to work!!!)

WV-rotgabst -- what I write when I'm sleep, energy and food deprived!

Christine Tripp said...

The comments have been great!
I really loved the "American Idol" analogy!!
I have been to conferences and seen authors, clutching their one and only manuscript, occasionally already illustrated by their friend, come out of a critique fuming. They rant about how the editor is nuts, didn't like the book and what does he/she know about it anyway!!!!
These are the authors that have a dream (and amazingly you can not crush it, no matter how hard you stomp:)
We all day dream, it can keep you going and get you through the rough patches, but most of us learn the reality of work.

Redhead Writing said...

Colleagues: indeed. If you're looking for fairy tales, pick up a copy of Brother's Grimm. Being a writer isn't going to suit you well.

As a writer who opens herself to daily critique by posting prolifically online - in multiple venues with varying audiences - dear sweet baby Jeezus - STOP AGREEING WITH ME! Reject me. Tell me to up my game. Remind me that I can't get away with passing of shite as thought-provoking. Kick me in the ass every now and again. Please. Writing is a business. While it may be your passion, it's not a fairy tale. It takes more than just a completed manuscript or book proposal to open doors: it takes the humility to know that you need other professionals in the industry.

For inspired reading, go pick up a copy of "How I Became a Famous Novelist" by Steve Hely. A rollicking read, it's a fine (while fictional) reminder that writing isn't a game of Chutes and Ladders.

Nancy Coffelt said...

The faster the writer sees their work as WORK and not dreams, the less shattered they'll be when the rejections come streaming in - and they most likely will if that writer actually submits their dreams, um, work.

I think I was fortunate to start my career as an artist. I got to see rejection of my work up close and personal at the galleries. But it was so clear that acceptance or rejection was based on whether the art was a fit for that client or not.That's all folks.

As much as I'm still kind of disappointed by rejections I'm grateful for them. We're all a little in love with our new projects. And just like with a love life, we don't always pick a Mr. or Ms. Right.

If some of my rejected projects HAD been accepted, it would be like being haunted by bad ex-boyfriends that just won't go away.


Anonymous said...

I agree that writers bitch too much. In fact, they bitch about not getting published ALMOST as much as editors bitch about the damn slush pile.

This is why I won't "encourage" anyone to become a writer, or to "continue" writing when they are stuck on that first draft or haggling helplessly with revisions. People don't get it -- writing, even though it is hard, is the EASY part. If you can't survive it you'll never survive all the rejections and shitty editors getting back to you seven months after the fact on an agented submission. Nor will you continue on when your own agent dumps you because they can't sell your book -- both of which has happened to me.

You know what? Screw them. I'm good at this, and I will continue until I succeed. I will continue to learn, to write, to find a new idea, to write better, and stronger and more interesting prose. If that isn't your attitude, then god help you, because it's way too tough out there for anything BUT that attitude.

Sarah Laurenson said...

You mean I can't have something for nothing? But that's the American Way, isn't it?

What if I cry on the pages before I send them to you so you know for sure how important this is to me?


Deirdre Mundy said...

Sarah-- maybe if you include a scrapbook showing important events in the 'life' of your manuscript? You know, first word on page, first spell check, first print-out, first time you shared it with your friend's cousin's nephew's 2 year old brother who absolutely ADORED it, first envelope and stamp, first trip to the mailbox.........

Then the editor will KNOW it's your baby, and give it the commensurate level of love and respect! ;)

Note to EA: If anyone actually takes me up on's NOT MY FAULT. HONEST!!!!

Michael Reynolds said...

I'm basically with Grumpy.

But just to be contrary. . .

Editors have no better idea what's good and what will sell than anyone else. If they did then the vast majority of books would at least earn out. Do they? Do most of them get starred reviews?

Editors are a bunch of self-important, 24 year old Seven Sisters grads with delusions of infallibility. And how many times was Harry Potter rejected? Hmmm? By how many alumni of how many MFA programs?

Like every other part of the arts world it's a crapshoot, a guessing game, a judgment call, a bluff, a steaming pile of bullsh*t and speculation. No one knows what the hell they're doing, they're all making it up and telling themselves it's all hard work and quality and blah blah blah.

Name the three biggest hits in the recent history of kidlit: Harry Potter, Twilight and Goosebumps.

That's one for three on the "it's all about the quality" standard. The truth is crap sells pretty well. I've sold a fair amount of crap myself, so I speak with some authority.

Yes, it's hard work. Yes, its luck. Yes, it's connections. Yes, it's the big DNA crapshoot that gives some people talent and denies it to others. Yes, it's unfair. Life sucks. Sorry.

Anonymous said...

I love how it's writers who are the moonfaces, who need to work harder, who need to be realistic.
Did I miss something? Did publishing suddenly become a profitable business? Are books selling like mad?
Did agents suddenly find a way to pick from the slush only writers who work hard everyday, who don't just scrap together what's already been done? What is this newfound method? Are you able to scan the query letters with a special machine that spits out figures for how competent a writer is? Amazing! My dreams are safe!
AGENTS: Face it. Your method FAILS BY AND LARGE TO PICK THE BEST WRITERS and because you are too lazy or too close-minded or too comfortable or because it worked for Stephanie Meyer and company, you keep at it. That's fine (and I'm not being ironic). That's how most businesses are. Find something that seems like it works... and repeat. Just don't dream that you are finding the best of the best. Or for that matter, not wasting at least some time with the worst of the worst.

Anonymous said...

Gee, do you give this speil to the celebrities or the editors who write their crappy books? And the excuse to "write a better book" is a cop out. If a book doesn't do well, maybe the editor should have been paying more attention to the manuscript and nurturing that author's best. The responsibility is two-fold.

Anonymous said...

Such great comments!

I too have witnessed the writers at conferences who are dissed by their critiquer and piss and moan about the bad taste of that particluar editor/agent/writer. They are like those horrible singers on American Idol -- the ones they don't edit out because they are such an entertaining kind of crazy.

I would like to say this to those who are drowning in rejection (we may sound like whiners, but we're only human!) -- when I started writing (novels for teens) some 7 year ago -- maybe 10% of what I wrote had merit. But I really did immerse myself in learning the business, in writing daily and also reading many books in my genre (and out of it too). I still feel like only about 17% of what I write in a first draft is any good -- but now I have the tools and skill to make it better before submission. I've learned enough to sign with an agent and am celebrating my first book sale. Luck? No way. Hard work? 100%.

Nick Donnelly said...

Good point - just because the story is sentimental doesn't mean the author should be.

It is a business, stick with it....

Ruach said...

I doubt that their dreams are crushed but their egos...I could see a fragile ego crumpling under repeated rejected,

Deirdre Mundy said...

Cranky anons- Yes, a lot of bestsellers are not works of 'great literature.' Do you know why? Because most people read for the same reason they watch movies--- to escape and relax. So it makes sense for publishers to serve THOSE needs as well as the need for 'important' books.

And some of us read both. But the 'crummy' stuff succeeds fopr a reason. Jim Butcher may not be especially thought provoking, but he DOES have interesting characters and thrilling plots. I wouldn't read him as the basis for a PhD thesis, but as a Saturday afternoon treat? He beats most of the movies I could be watching!

Michael Reynolds said...

Anonymous 9:35:

Congratulations on the sale!

I don't mean to pick on you, but pretending that all that matters is hard work and luck plays no role is nonsense. Luck plays a role in every aspect of life. So does free will in the form of hard work. But telling people that all they have to do is work hard is misleading and not really helpful.

Would you tell a little person that all he had to do to get into the NBA was work hard?

Why are we so reluctant to admit the importance of talent and natural ability when it comes to writing? Do you think Van Gogh just worked harder? Or do you think he was born with a gift that he learned to use effectively?

I've written and published about 160 times more books than you have. I dropped out of high school, dropped out of college, never took a writing class, never joined a writing group, and I didn't even think about writing until I was in my 30's.

Yes, I worked hard. But I also had talent and that didn't involve any effort on my part. It came from DNA and perhaps the events of my life. Talent is the necessary-but-not-sufficient precondition without which hard work is just a waste of time. And talent is just luck in the big game of DNA lotto.

I just don't know why we have to pretend things follow some predictable, manageable moral curve when they so clearly don't.

Loretta Nyhan said...

GREAT post. I'm amazed at the degree to which some writers hone their sense of entitlement instead of their writing.

dawnmetcalf said...

"No one can make you feel inferior without your consent." - Eleanor Roosevelt

Well said in post & comments. It's a shared responsibility to suck it up and continue to learn. Publishing is, and should be, a humbling enterprise.

As it is, *headdesk*!

Christine Tripp said...

Anon 8:32, of course Publishing is profitable! It's a huge industry pumping millions into tax coffers and employing thousands and thousands of people, not counting any authors and illustrators.
I don't know if EA would have any actual stats on this but I would be curious as to the actual number of people working at, say, Random House. Fromt he mail room, to reception and on up the floors of the building. It's no different then any other corporation.

>But I also had talent and that didn't involve any effort on my part. It came from DNA and perhaps the events of my life. Talent is the necessary-but-not-sufficient precondition without which hard work is just a waste of time. And talent is just luck in the big game of DNA lotto.<

Michael, yes! It's something we tip toe around though, because to say it out loud sounds arrogant... why is it that speaking the truth sound boastful?
I have heard some illustrators say, "anyone can learn to draw". What the???? If that were true, then the same I guess could be said for singing, dancing, acting, writing, brain surgery....
Well no matter how hard I could WORK at it, no matter all the trying in the world, I know I could never be the next Judy Garland (insert any singers name here)
Talent IS something you are born with and the stepping stone for any career. I too just always knew how to draw and did so for my own amuzement from the time I could pick up a pencil. Failed art in high school (would keep drawing cartoons when the project was landscapes... how boring) and never college nor any art courses.
Determination and having a goal were far more important for me then working at it. Luck was a factor when one of my promotions landed on an editors desk just as they needed someone to do a series.
The art (and I am sure the writing) EVOLVES with time and work, but the talent, raw or refined, has to be there first.

Vicki said...

Although I don't write children's books (okay, so I've written one, but it was a story for my niece and nephew), this is a fabulous and well put post.

I write romance and yes, I submit and yes, I've been rejected. They've been really great rejections, but still the book(s) wasn’t bought. So I keep writing and keep submitting. I learn more and more with each book as well as my fabulous RWA chapter.

I'm in this for the long haul and really if I can't handle rejections now, then when a reader hates my book (because you know someone will), how would I be able to handle that. Yep, thick skin is what is necessary in this business. At least that's my 2cents. :)

Anonymous said...

Even some of the authors we consider greats (and I mean from the Victorian era and before, not the five minute wonders of today) bemoaned profusely about the stupidity of the publishing industry in their era. If you look at it that way, authorial venting is just par for the course. Writing is an art, artists get testy now and then. I don't think that's likely to change any time soon.

Anonymous said...

I've had hundreds of rejections but I've also published 54 books from publishers like Harlequin, Grand Central, Tor and Simon and Schuster. And my skin is fairly tough. But I have to say that YA editors have definitely set back my dreams when I get rejections such as we love the writing, the characters and the plot. However, your submission doesn't fit our list at this time. Why? Because I'm trying to sell a science fiction YA. Yet, almost 50 million younger viewers watched V this weekend. There's a market out there but editors don't see it. They still want vampires and only vampires. So yes, editors can crush dreams.

working illustrator said...

I don't disagree, EA, with your answer the way you've framed it: authors - like everyone else - have to be stable enough in themselves to deal with the world's bumps and bruises. Rejection is part of submission, part of the process, and bearing up under that is absolutely part of the job description.


I think your answer as framed isn't quite answer enough. The 'desperate psychotic needy wannabe' trope isn't quite sufficient. I don't know whether this questioner fits into this category or not but here's little devil's advocacy, just for fun:

At the end of the day, authors are dependent on editors: not only for the initial acceptance but also for all the follow-through on that book and whatever others may follow. For in-house advocacy, for guidance on developing manuscripts, for doing... well, all the thing that are in your job description that we can't - and shouldn't be expected to - do for ourselves.

We are all too aware of the power imbalance in this relationship: you are our only editor on a given project; we are but one of god-only-knows-how-many authors on your list.

We know how easy it is for you to let us slip; we also know that the cost for such slippage is entirely on our side.

Can you blame us for being worried?

"We are your colleagues," you say. "We will be so grateful if you will treat us as such."

Sure thing. Will you do the same?

Too many editors don't.

Michael Reynolds said...

Anonymous 2:11

You are right. It's an article of faith with YA editors that they can't sell science fiction. They cling to this despite Cory Doctorow, Scott Westerfeld, Suzanne Collins and many, many others.

My series has sudden disruptions in the laws of physics, superpowers, mutants and monsters. But shhh. . . don't call it science fiction. We call it fantasy horror and put a romance cover on it.

Jane Smith said...

Way upstream Michael Reynolds wrote,

"Editors have no better idea what's good and what will sell than anyone else. If they did then the vast majority of books would at least earn out. Do they?"

I think you're confusing "earning out" with "making a profit". The first refers to the point at which an author's royalties due exceeds the advance paid, and if I remember rightly this point is reached only in about 30% of published books; the second term refers to the point at which a publishing house will have recouped its investment in the book--and that happens MUCH earlier than the earn-out point.

In my experience, most books turn a profit for their publishers. It has little do to with earn-out.

Christine Tripp said...

It's all a Rose by any other name right?
Publishers do not call them comic books, they are Graphic Novels. They do not say the illustrations are cartoons, they are edgy graphic or whimsical.
There are any number of pic books featuring what would only be called cartoon art by anyone else other then the editors... cartoon sounds far too common and lowly, as do comic books:)
I'm guessing calling a novel SF would have that same stigma, though I am only guessing.

Marinka said...

Jane Smith, could you just explain your last comment a bit more? At what point then does a book make a profit for the publisher? I too I guess if I'd thought about it had assumed it was when the book had "earned out" its advance. Apologies for my ignorance, but I'd really love to know the actual way it works.

Jane Smith said...

For Marinka, re profit vs earn-out:

A book is said to have earned out for an author when the amount of royalties earned from sales of the book exceeds the amount of the advance against royalties paid.

A book goes into profit for a publisher when the revenue it's generated (minus the costs of sales--eg distributor's and booksellers' discounts), exceeds the publisher's investment in the book, such as editing, design and printing costs.

There's not a direct relationship between the two: on a novel, printing costs are going to be relatively similar across all novels (assuming the same number of copies are printed of each title); but the advances paid will vary wildly, and some books need a lot more editing than others, etc.

Does that help?

Christine Tripp said...

>The first refers to the point at which an author's royalties due exceeds the advance paid, and if I remember rightly this point is reached only in about 30% of published books<

I would not hold Jane to the 30% figure but say it's close... then that figure MUST be based on only those large advances most of us hear and dream about but never get. I've illustrated a number of books with a small publisher that have earned out over double the small advance (and with a pic book my royalty is based on 5%, not the 10% of an author and a novel of any kind).
I find it hard to believe that MOST books don't earn out when most advances are quiet low (and when the author's advance is often lower then mine)
Wonder too, if that low percentage has anything to do with the larger publishers remainering (am I using the correct term here?) a new book too soon after it's release. I have heard only heard this from authors, not sure if this is a fact.

JS said...

pretending that all that matters is hard work and luck plays no role is nonsense

Here's the thing.

You have no control over your luck.

What you do have control over is how hard you work.

So there's no point giving someone advice about getting luckier, but there IS a point in giving someone advice about working harder.

Full stop.

V. L. Smith said...

The most encouraging things that happened to me was a detailed rejection letter that I received when my partial didn't cut it. The agent said, "it doesn't have this, this, or this." Sure, I was sorry that I couldn't get any further, but he thought enough of my writing to tell me WHY. Sometimes you have to fail to succeed!

Marinka said...

Thanks Jane - much appreciated.

Maggie Stiefvater said...

OHMIGOSH YES, THIS. One of my big schticks at my school talks is that you will hear no your entire life, especially if you're getting into a creative pursuit. And none of them matter except for the no you tell yourself. Nobody out there is the bad guy, trying to trample you -- they're all just trying to do their job. It's YOU in charge of getting to yes and cradling your little fetal dreams and getting them old enough for braces.


gabrielle said...

An important reminder, and very well said. I don't go into my day looking for dreams to crush, but for books that people will love. I try to reject in as business-like a way as possible, because it is a business. It's not a personal statement about the author, simply a statement that a particular manuscript isn't a fit, for whatever reason. People pour so much of themselves into their creative endeavors, though, that it can be hard to maintain the distance necessary to see that.

Unknown said...

@Christine Tripp "It's all a Rose by any other name right? Publishers do not call them comic books, they are Graphic Novels."
Not exactly. "Graphic novel" is not just a fancy name for comic book—although it had been in the past—it's a specific term which means something different than "comic book." But what the term refers to exactly is still a matter of contention. One school maintains that the graphic novel is a format: so graphic novel is to book as comic book is to magazine. The other school maintains that it's a matter of genre or even intent: so to them, graphic novel is to comic book as literary fiction is to book.

Anyway. On topic. I liked Debra's advice (way up above in the comment stream). The BIC (butt-in-chair) method is the way to go. Work every day. Don't fire your muse. Focus on mastery.

steeleweed said...

The problem is that what many writers call dreams are really just fantasies and they don't know the difference.
Fantasies make you feel good. Dreams make you work.

Mary said...

Dream are what drives us to work harder, but let not these dreams give us the limitation.

One writer may think that a book editor may "crush" their dreams. But the crushing thing may be the way for you to give your best shot. The crushing may be painful, but if it works for you, so you can get those stories in, BE CRUSHED!

Mary said...

Indeed, an editor does not crush your dreams. It's actually his role to help you do more and give your best in every work you submit...

Anonymous said...

But then on the other hand there is that truth that editors don't want to tell, like it depends on who submits the piece, on how cute or how big much of a big deal the agent is, ect;, and all those things that have little to do with the writing. Answer this please: if only good writing gets picked,then how do celebrity picture books fit into this mix?

Yes it's true that you need a tough hide to be in this racket, but you also need to have the right agent, the right amount of celebrity and the right timing.

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