Friday, January 11, 2008

Those Crazy Authors

Authors I know, even Leigh Anne Jasheway-Bryant have been telling me for years that you don't get rich off of royalties, and they sell the most books when they give speeches.

Of course I didn't want to believe that, hoping that I would be an exception and my books would be out there selling like hot cakes without any effort on my part.

Sigh. Not gonna happen. I just got my annual royalty check for Ordinary Days along with the disappointing revelation that book sales generally drop precipitously in the second year because everyone places their big orders right when the book comes out and then what doesn't sell over Christmas gets returned. In fact, Mr. Accountant at Good Books acted like I should be happy that I at least had something, because many authors post a negative number the second year.

Paul for all his practicality gets a bit dreamy about book sales, picturing the warehouse paid off by then and the house by then, but I keep my air castles in the maybe-remodel-the-kitchen-next-year level, which is simply not going to happen with royalties, it turns out, as with this latest check I can maybe buy a new stove but not one with that cool flat top.

However, my personal-appearance sales have been good enough that we are starting to design the layout of the new kitchen and talk about cabinet styles, so I guess all those other authors were right after all.

You know, there's this funny thing about authors. We always say our books are doing well. Always. No matter what. Last summer I had a signing where I sold four books, and when people asked me how it went I showed my teeth and said, "Oh, pretty good. Yeah, just fine. I talked to quite a few people."

And at the last book sale I was at I sat beside this woman who writes quasi-feminist novels. That poor woman sat there hour after hour talking to people about her stuff and was hardly selling anything that I could see. Toward the end she staunchly insisted that she had actually had a good day, quite profitable, mmm-hmmm, really, making connections and all, you know. Then at the end we had to tally up our sales because a percentage of our profits went to the library. "This won't be hard," she muttered, and it turned out she hadn't sold a single book. Ouch. Just then my old friend Linda from our writers group came by and bought one of her books, bless her.

So yeah, just so you know, we authors, even when we are good truthful Mennonites, find ways to convince ourselves and you that our books are doing well, really they are, I mean, we won't pay off the warehouse tomorrow, but the word is getting out there and the publisher is going to bat for us and a library in Kansas just bought a copy and we're happy with how things are going. Really.

[Seriously, I really and deeply appreciate all the Shoe readers who have coughed up their hard-earned money for my books. I will think of you when I cook on my new stove.]

Quote of the Day:
"If I bit you, would you get West Nile?"


  1. Oh now you've gone and burst my bubble. In the Christian Leaders, Authors,Speakers Seminar (CLASS) I took, they said Speakers really don't make any money. You have to have a written a book to sell. Hmmm

  2. And then there are those of us who can't write, speak or otherwise and enjoy spending money on books by those who do! I am so busy trying to civilize my boys just to "buy" myself a brief moment of sanity! But this sanity thing is so costly. A new stove would be a more realistic goal, I guess.

  3. Just so you know, I bought your 2 books and enjoyed them immensely. I read some aloud to my family and my 14 yr. old daughter read both of them as well. Many times I was laughing out loud. It was just the stress reliever that I needed during a busy winter getting ready for a daughter's wedding, now only 3 weeks away. Eldest daughter got married July, '07 next daughter in Feb. '08. There would be lots to write about except I'm not a writer. Your turn will come and then I will buy that book as well. God bless you. I am also a pastor's wife and homeschooling mother of 4.
    P.S. I will buy your books to give as gifts. Enjoy your stove. :)

  4. Welcome to the real world! Writing is like farming. By the time all the middle men have reached into the bag, the one who has done the work winds up with the smallest share of the profits. That is true whether you are collecting a royalty or self-publishing. I've done both. Some misguided people think being an author is an Interstate to riches and fame. How little they know! If we didn't have good husbands to see we are fed, our bare bones would be rattling in the breeze. The little checks we get periodically are a nice bonus but not the main reason for writing. There are certainly easier ways to make money, but we write because we are hopelessly in love with words and find great satisfaction in producing a well-turned phrase.
    Someone recently sent me this quote: "Authors are doomed to hard labor working out long sentences." Ain't that the truth!

  5. I know this won't buy you a new stove, but you should have seen how my grandma's face lit up when she opened her copy of "Upstairs" the other day...quickly followed by an apology for not returning my copy of "Ordinary Days" yet!

    Don't forget the intangible riches, of sharing, entertaining, encouraging, and adding something positive to the world of literature.

    But I hope you get the flat top stove after all.

  6. well,I hear that you're not supposed to do canning on a flat-top... But they ARE cool.

  7. If it makes you feel better, Dorcas, my 20 month old daughter sat down in the recliner beside me the other day and opened your newest book. The lack of pictures didn't keep her interest long, but she started the book anyway! =] I bet she's your youngest reader!

  8. I heard you CAN can on a flat top, but you're to have the special 'canning burner' on it.......?