It’s Not About the Money
Awhile back I received a query from a gentleman who told me a drawn-out tale of his personal tragedy, culminating in the fact that if he didn’t come up with a very large sum of money very soon, he was going to be imprisoned. The point of his query, if I got the gist correctly, was that he wanted me to represent the book (which would be his tale of woe), sell it to a publisher quickly, and get him an advance in the tens of thousands of dollars so that he could pay his debt and avoid prison.
First, I’m happy to report that I did manage to avoid feeling guilty about my possible culpability in sending this guy to jail. But other than that… I think I need to make a couple of things clear.
(1) The odds of a first-time writer obtaining an advance in the tens-of-thousands are, uh, very low. It’s not impossible, of course, just unlikely.
(2) Publishing a book is a really bad way to attempt to bail yourself out of a financial jam (excuse the pun).
Now, I know on the surface, most of you know that. But I still hear it all the time. Someone’s afraid he might be laid off so he’s looking into “options” to make some extra cash. People want to quit their boring day job so they’re trying to sell a book. ACK!!! You can’t quit your job after selling one book! Or two, or even three, most likely.
And even if you’re just looking for a little extra moolah, well, you should know the wheels of publishing move v-e-r y s-l-o-w-l-y. From the time an agent agrees to represent your book until the time a check arrives at your mailbox from a publisher, it could be three months in the very best circumstances, to six months to a year or more. (Or never, but let’s not be pessimistic.)
Honestly, most people are in this business for love as much as for money (if not more), and believe it or not, that applies just as widely to people in general market publishing as in CBA.
So listen. If you’re about to go to jail and you’re desperate for funds, please call your mother or your ex-girlfriend or those people who advertise they’ll buy your house for cash. Leave me out of it.
P.S. Chip MacGregor has a couple of terrific posts about making the transition from part-time to full-time writing, a.k.a. quitting your day job. Click here and read the January 20 and 29 posts.