Thursday, January 22, 2009

What's Wrong With This Picture?

Okay. Help me out here ‘cause I must be missing something. Those of us who write—whether published or not—understand the odds against making enough to support ourselves solely from our writing aren’t that encouraging. Who among us hasn’t dreamed we’ll be the next Nora Roberts, Janet Evanovich, or Stephen King and be offered a hefty advance for that ‘break out book’.

And written a nice long list of just what we’ll do when we hit it big.

We dare to dream. And dream big. That’s what writers do.

But in addition to the dreaming, writers put in the work—the hard work—of learning the craft of writing. They pay their dues. Writing courses, workshops, conferences, contests, drafts one through ninety-nine, query letters, synopses, rejections, new projects, more rejections.

It’s brutal, baby.

And after all that work and sacrifice and dedication, if you’re one of the lucky ones, you might just win that contest, or receive a request for a full from an agent or editor, or nab an agent, or receive a publishing contract offer.

If you’re lucky…

And it doesn’t happen overnight. It can take a LONG time. It took seven years for me to finally get published. Seven very long years.

So, it was with a certain feeling of—shall we say—consternation (I love that word!) that I received the recent news about Joe the Plumber being offered a book contract to pen his memoir, ‘Joe the Plumber, Fighting for the American Dream.’

American Dream? Uh, he’s a plumber. Or not. Depending on who you listen to.

Now ‘Joe’ might very well be a wonderful writer. I have no way of knowing one way or the other, but it’s a pretty safe bet he hasn’t paid his dues (no, not the plumbers’ union dues) as detailed above. With so many writers working day jobs, writing at night, and caring for a family (uh, yeah, that would be me, Joe) and after an endless erray of short nights, big sacrifices, and jarring disappointments, the idea that ‘Joe’ can bring something to the table relating to the struggle to achieve the ‘American Dream’ that many of us who write and write faithfully haven’t experienced firsthand let alone present it in a compelling way on the printed page leaves me a bit, uh, skeptical.

Still, he'll almost certainly be paid for his literary efforts.

All I can say is, WHAT A COUNTRY!

It gets even better. This evening I turned on the TV only to learn that Britney Spears has signed her own book contract. Her deal? FOURTEEN MILLION DOLLARS for THREE BOOKS.
That’s right. $14,000,000.00! Britney plans to pen her tomes from her journals.

Does that scare you as much as it scares me?

Laura Bush recently shopped her memoir around and Scribner, an imprint of Simon and Schuster, acquired the as-yet-untitled project. Although financial terms were not disclosed, it’s believed that the former First Lady will receive a sum similar to Hillary Clinton’s pay day for her book, or a paltry $8,000,000.00.

At least I feel confident that Laura Bush, a former teacher with a Master’s Degree in Library Science, is capable of writing a pretty decent book.

Maybe it’s just me, but with the publishing industry hitting hard financial times and facing tough business decisions, with publishing houses reorganizing and reshuffling, advances shrinking, lists shrinking, and less resources to go around, I tend to get a little irritated when I hear about these beaucoup buck publishing deals offered to non-writer celebs while thousands of dedicated, intensely committed, highly driven and focused writers will never get ‘the call’ and, regrettably, eventually give up. Or mid-list authors’ already low advances will drop even lower. Or co-op bucks will dry up even more.

It’s hard not to get down, isn’t it?

Still the constants that don’t change--outrageous pop culture book deals notwithstanding--are the deep sense of satisfaction and accomplishment all writers feel when the words are flowing and result is satisfying and the sense of community we share with fellow writers--writers who understand the compulsion to create worlds and characters and stories and who are willing—even eager—to pay their dues in order to ‘live the dream’. That's a high the well-paid celeb 'authors' probably won't experience.

Still, I suppose depositing that advance check is probably some consolation.

Now, what do you all think of the huge advances still being paid to ‘celebrities’? Are they appropriate or outrageous? As a writer, how do you stay focused, upbeat, and keep putting words on the page when the industry is beset by economic woes that affect your ability to sell or earn a reasonable amount for your efforts? Are publishing houses being irresponsible with these gy-normous advances or just conducting business as usual? Weigh in!

Oh, and in the interest of full transparency here, if any publishing houses out there are thinking of offering me one of those hefty advances…I’d sign on the dotted line in a heartbeat.

As Tressa Jayne would say, “My momma didn’t raise no dummy.”

~Bullet Hole Bacus~


Bookmobiler said...

Be at peace!

With the probable exception of Laura Bush the other two are either going to be ghost written, or written with. And those writers should get a hefty cut of the pie.

But if you want to worry about obscene advances just contemplate what George W is going to be offered.

If he can find 20 people to write it for him!

Terri Osburn said...

Since I'm a business person, I totally get the big price for the book that in some cases is a sure thing. Silly or unreadable as some of those books are destined to be, people will buy them. The same people who keep the tabloids in business.

But it still sucks.

Kathy Bacus said...

I guess what truly troubles me, Bookmobiler,is the percentage of acquisition dollars available to publishing houses that is reserved for these types of books. It's a huge hunk of the total pie and necessarily reduces both the amount and numbers of book advances a house can offer.

As far as 'W' goes, I'd be happy to help him pen his memoirs if he hasn't selected someone already...

I actually think, as was the case with Harry Truman, history will be kinder to George W. than contemporary society was/is when the true scope and nature of the challenges he faced during his two terms in office have been objectively examined.

Just my two cents' worth.


~Bullet Hole Bacus~

Kathy Bacus said...

I dunno, Terrio. I understand many of these honking book deals don't come close to earning out and they often wind up discounted or on the clearance tables way too soon.

And I guess I suffer from a severe case of 'don't give a crapitis' when it comes to the private life of celebrities. And it's ridiculous how much money paparazzi are paid for photos of these people.

Sadly, I think it is also indicative of the decline of our society when the only way you can get folks to read a book or magazine is to stick a 'star' on the cover. Arrgh!

~Bullet Hole~

Anonymous said...

I think it sucks too. Well, maybe not Laura Bush's because she probably CAN write. Of course, if somebody wanted to pay ME that much, it would be another story. *g*

Leslie Langtry said...

I KNOW, right??? And all we hear lately is how publishers are freezing submissions, laying off staff, etc. Makes me want to consume a giant martini. Or two!

Kathy Bacus said...

Like I said, Tori, I wouldn't turn down 7-figure advance. Ah, heck, who am I kidding? I could be bought for MUCH less.


~Bullet Hole~

Kathy Bacus said...

Make that two giant cyber martinis, Les!

Thank God for my day job!

~Bullet Hole~

Terry S said...

I personally think the continued payment of these types of advances are one of the primary reasons we are also reading stories about the troubles publishing house are experiencing in today's economy. With the possible lone exception of Laura Bush in that list of huge advances, those advances will be a loss to the publisher while all those other struggling writers whose books we readers actually still shell out our hard earned dollars for are the ones with their fingers in the dike keeping the industry afloat. It's a time of change in the industry as they struggle to balance what worked in the past to what will work to keep them in business in the future.

I hope you still persevere with your writing. I know the money isn't what you deserve for your hard work and daily struggles to bring us the finished product. For what it's worth, thank you.

Keri Ford said...

I think of 3 you listed, Britney's will reach her sell out, at least her first book will. After reading about half a book of her ramblings, the reader would grow tired of trying to sympathize with her. JMO

Laura will probably come close, but hers will always be available and get it in the long run. Presidental stops and all that.

I dont' know anyone who would give a toot about Joe the Plumber and his lucky chance at insta celebrity that he's now calling the American Dream. I thought he was just hired on as some overseas anchor? He should experience THAT and then write a book on his travels. That sounds like something a little more worthwhile.

Kathy Bacus said...

You make some good points, Terry. I do think that, with all consume-driven businesses, corporations will be taking a hard look at the way things were as opposed to the reality of today's business climate and be forced to change some aspects of the way they do business.

Given the pop culture and 'self' driven mentality of society at present, we'll, no doubt, continue to see a disproportionate amount of resources funneled in that direction until the demand for something more substantive takes its place.

I admit to feeling discouraged at times with the inequities. However, my love for writing continues to compel me to keep at it.

Thanks for the encouragement!

~Bullet Hole~

Kathy Bacus said...

I saw that about Joe's gig as an overseas reporter/anchor, too, Keri. I suspect seasoned, career, professional journalists (you know, those with degrees and years of experience) feel somewhat the same way as we writers do about the book deal.

The term 'flash in a pan' comes to mind.

And 15 minutes of fame...

You're probably right about the Bush and Spear books. And as Bookmobiler pointed out, Brit will, no doubt, require the use of a professional author to produce a coherent manuscript.

Thanks for weighing in!

~Bullet Hole~

Bookmobiler said...

Brit will, no doubt, require the use of a professional author to produce a coherent manuscript

Bookmobiler said...


Wrong button.

Let's try again.

"Brit will, no doubt, require the use of a professional author to produce a coherent manuscript"

Is J K Rowling available? It might take a little magic to make that book coherent.

Kathy Bacus said...

'Is J K Rowling available? It might take a little magic to make that book coherent.'

LOL! Ain't it the truth, Bookmobiler!

~Bullet Hole~

Suzan Harden said...

But seriouly, how many books does Joe have in him? One? If it's ghost written?

I want to be in this profession for the long haul. And I hope you do too, Kathy. You KillerFiction gals are keeping my spirits up right now. I learned last week that I'm losing the bill-paying day job. It sucks, but my little make-believe worlds keep me going.

Kathy Bacus said...

Big bear hugs on the job situation, Suzan! It's so terrible what's happening on the job front for so many people. Our state, like so many others, is looking at a huge budget deficit and ordering departmental cuts. Part of my going back to school was to enable me some flexibility if/when a job move became necessary. I love my present job, but want to enhance my resume and keep my options open just in case.

Hope you find something soon! In the meantime, I join you in taking refuge in those 'make believe' worlds.

~Bullet Hole~

Jenyfer Matthews said...

You know, I could have lived without knowing about these deals. What the heck does Brit have to say that could fill *three* books???