The Last Taboo: What One Writer Earns

20 January 2015

From author Cara McKenna via Wonk-o-Mance:

When I was a new writer, there was only one place I knew of that offered a sense of what money there was to be made in this gig, and that’s the famous Brenda Hiatt blog post, Show Me the Money! Even now, I don’t really know what my closest writer friends make—and we blab in excruciating detail about nearly everything when sequestered late at night in conference hotel rooms, with our Costco merlot swirling in plastic tumblers and our achy dance-floor feet dangling off the edges of our overpopulated beds.

. . . .

[T]oward the end of 2014, I met what I’d always imagined was a ridiculous, pie-in-the-sky professional goal—a dream more than a goal, really. I set this goal when I sold my first book, just over five years ago. I was infatuated with writing, and I told myself that I would feel satisfied and proud and legitimized forever if I could manage just this: to one day make as much money in one calendar year of writing as I’d made as my salary when I stopped being a full-time graphic designer. And this past year, I did it. With a couple thousand dollars to spare.

. . . .

Now, let’s get the figures out of the way, because in all honesty they’re probably not going to blow your mind and so I don’t want a big build-up. At the time my old office in Boston closed in 2009 and I lost my design job, my salary was $44,000 a year. I wasn’t raking it in by some standards, but hey, I went to a state art college. The kid done all right. And now my “Book Earnings 2014” spreadsheet tells me that, from January through December of last year, I earned from royalties and advances $46,517. And eighty-six cents.

. . . .

I’m comfortable writing about this because in all honesty, I don’t care what anyone thinks of what I make. Money to me is strictly about security and freedom, not prestige or worthiness or even success. I want enough money, but not much more than that. Having much more money doesn’t seem to bring people much more peace of mind. Some might think the amount I now make is great, while some others will probably try to draw me aside in the lobby at RT this spring and murmur conspiratorially, “You know, you could be making so much more by self-pubbing. Let me share with you my secrets.”

. . . .

“Woman Writes for Several Years, Eventually Makes a Living Wage” is not a headline that’s going to inspire thousands to quit their day jobs.

. . . .

I have been writing seriously for 6.5 years.

In that time, I have sold 39 original books and novellas to 5 publishers. (I’m not counting anthologies featuring previously released stories, foreign editions, or re-releases.) Of those 39, 6 titles are not yet released.

My first title was published just under 5 years ago, with Ellora’s Cave.

. . . .

My first royalty check was for $141.00. (Always one to keep my expectations low, I had been hoping for $40, enough to pay for some celebratory drinks, so I was stoked to surpass that by a hundred and one bucks. I’m pretty sure we got Indian food that night.)

In 2010, my first year of being published, I made $11,000 from my writing, with 7 titles released and 1 more contracted. (A large chunk of that came from my first advance, with Harlequin Blaze.) That’s a lot of titles in one year. I wrote short, and quickly. I was intoxicated by this new job that I ached so badly to keep. I was on unemployment, so money wasn’t too much of a stressor between me and my husband. I was very excited to have made five figures in my debut year, considering my initial hopes of getting $40 out of that first royalty period.

. . . .

The healthiest chunks of my income arrive as advance payment checks, not individual books’ royalties. I would not be surprised if my yearly income takes a dip in 2015, if only because I’m contracted and on deadline through the spring of 2016, and don’t imagine I’ll be seeing any juicy signing checks for selling new proposals this year.

Of my 8 books that came with advances and have been out for 12 months or more, only one has yet to earn out its advance—and even that straggler’s getting very close. Modest advances aren’t a bad thing, provided you don’t like a lot of pressure and you’re not too vain.

Link to the rest at Wonk-o-Mance and thanks to Mike for the tip.

Here’s a link to Cara McKenna’s books

Bite Me

9 January 2015

From Nora Roberts:

[A]t the end of the year I did a blog post about positive virtual space, and resolving to maintain this blog and my Facebook pages as such.

It didn’t last a week. I don’t often make resolutions for just that reason, but in this case I’m determined enough to see it through to do this follow-up.

The title of this post is what I often wish to say to posters who come on those Facebook pages, into a thread where everyone’s pretty happy, and feel entitled or compelled to drop some negativity bomb. Moreover, if I–or other posters, or Laura–address the explosion, said bomb-dropper gets defensive or increases the charge. The most-used defense is:

It’s just my opinion.

Recently Laura announced there would be a new trilogy, The Guardian Trilogy, starting at the end of this year. Most who come on my Facebook pages enjoy getting updates like this, finding out what’s coming up, engaging in the discussions Laura springboards. Nowhere in any of that is the phrase: So, let’s have your opinion on Nora’s work.

. . . .

In the middle of the excitement over a new trilogy, someone comments all my trilogies are the same. (One of the given reasons is they’re always about three men/three women, and I can’t argue about that. But . . . duh.)

. . . .

Readers are absolutely entitled to opinions, and there are a zillion places on the internet to express any dissatisfaction. I’m not going to go onto those sites and debate with a reader over her opinion on my work. But these are my pages.

. . . .

Constructive criticism. The reader is not my employer, my teacher, my mother. This is not my hobby, this is my profession, and in this profession I have an editor. I welcome her constructive criticism. I have an agent. I welcome hers. Readers, having those opinions that will vary dramatically from one to another? Not welcome. Not asked for. Not accepted.

Because you use a sink do you get in the plumber’s face and advise him how to fix it? Do you walk into a shop and tell the owner she needs to shake up her stock?If the plumber isn’t doing the job to your standards, find another plumber. If the shop doesn’t have what you’re looking for, try another shop. That’s your power as a consumer.

A book doesn’t come with a suggestion box, and the writer is not obliged to sculpt a story to your specific needs.

Readers read. Writers write. Readers can voice their opinions in appropriate areas, to their friends, to their bookclub and so on. But those who insist on coming into my spaces with their negativity are going to be called out for it.

Those who get huffy because they were just expressing an opinion or offering me constructive criticism? Bite me.

Link to the rest at Fall Into The Story and thanks to Kristen for the tip.

Churning It Out

8 January 2015

From Kristine Kathryn Rusch:

Toward the end of a pretty good Entertainment Weekly article about the romance side of the publishing industry, this sentence appears:

[Bella Andre]’s a naturally fast writer — on average she churns out four to six books a year — and she released the first one in June 2011.

Before we get to the reason I’m telling you about that sentence, let me say one thing that might or might not be related: There’s a slight snobby tone to EW’s romance article. What’s that all about? The magazine’s called Entertainment Weekly, not The New York Times Book Review. EW sings the praises of The Walking Dead and video games, and everything in between, for heaven’s sake, but somehow romance fiction doesn’t meet the high standards of entertainment?

Sorry. I had to get that off my chest.

. . . .

So why am I objecting to that single sentence?

I’m not, really. It’s a common sentence from any media that covers books. And I’m not even objecting to the entire sentence. Bella Andre does write fast by most writers’ standards, and she does so comfortably.

What I’m objecting to is the phrase “churned out.”

It’s become a cliché. Any writer who writes fast “churns out” material. Or she “cranks out” or “pounds out” whatever it is that she writes. Because clearly, no writer who writes fast can think about what she writes.

There are other implications in that phrase. The material “churned out” isn’t very good. It’s also an exact copy of what has come before. It has no real value, primarily because of the speed with which the writer “churns” the material out.

In the olden days of traditional publishing, those of us who “churned out” a lot of books did so under a lot of pen names. Here’s how it worked in my case: Kristine Kathryn Rusch might, at best, put out two books per year; Kris Nelscott one every two years; and Kristine Grayson one every six months.

. . . .

While reading a midlist thriller novel in bed one night several years ago, I laughed so hard that I woke Dean up. What made me laugh? The author’s bio, which stated that the byline of the novel I was reading was a pen name for a “well-known #1 New York Times bestselling author.” Ballsy and hysterical. That writer wrote so many books that his publisher refused to publish them all under his bestselling name.

. . . .

Think about this, people: How many other industries that have megaselling products demand that the producer of popular, high-quality material slow down? What happened to providing the consumers with what they wanted?

When Nora Roberts started out, she was fortunate to begin with Harlequin, which could publish as many books as she produced. She stayed with Harlequin even after she moved to a bigger publisher (Bantam for a once-per-year hardcover, which then became a once-per-year hardcover and twice-a-year mass market paper, and then became twice-a-year hardcovers and three-times-a-year mass market paper, and finally, she had a big fight with Harlequin, and started up the J.D. Robb pen name (twice per year) and her publisher (by then, Putnam) threw in the towel. The publisher finally agreed that Nora could put out a lot of books. But not the publisher’s other writers.

Her speed didn’t matter to that publisher because the publisher had no expectation of quality based on the genre. As we all know, and Entertainment Weekly’s snobby tone confirms, romance is trash anyway. No one expects quality fiction from writers who crank out cookie-cutter books for women.

. . . .

Romance has a lot of respect now compared to thirty years ago—and still writers see phrases like “churned out” and that slightly school-boyish tone that every Literary Critic uses when discussing romance.

It’s about love and mushy stuff. It can’t be good. It might include kissing and touching and actual irony-free emotion. Anyone can churn out that crap if they put their minds to it. But most people are sensible enough to want respectability instead of…whatever it is that these romance people have.

Oh, yeah. Money.

And readers.

Who actually like the books.

Link to the rest at Kristine Kathryn Rusch and thanks to Deb for the tip.


6 January 2015

Those who have persevered on TPV for awhile know the introduction by heart.

1. TPV isn’t a book blog. PG has nothing against book blogs and thinks they’re delightful, but that’s not what he wants to do around here.

2. Since TPV isn’t a book blog, when PG receives a request to talk about a book, he politely declines, hoping not to hurt anyone’s feeling.

3. There is one exception to this pattern of behavior – Mrs. PG and her books.


Exile Cover - ebook


When Mrs. PG releases a Regency romance, PG prepares a smartypants plot summary.

But her latest book, Exile, isn’t a regency. Instead, it’s a historical romance set during the waning years of the short peace between World War I and World War II, so smartypants is probably not appropriate.

Exile is a stand-alone sequel to The Last Waltz, which begins not long before the commencement of World War I. You can read a bit more about The Last Waltz and its Viennese setting here.

Mr. & Mrs. PG would each appreciate your consideration of her latest work.


The Last Waltz – A Novel of Love and War

How fangirls changed the future of publishing

11 November 2014

From The Kernel:

Fifty Shades of Grey was one of the biggest book phenomena in history. Before it became the fastest-selling book of all time, if you’d tried to market a work of incredibly explicit BDSM erotica that started out as a form of vampire-less Twilight fanfiction, you’d’ve been laughed out of publishing.

Instead, Fifty Shades became headline news around the world, outsold Harry Potter in its home country, and ushered a year-long conversation about “mommy porn” into our lives, whether we wanted it or not.

For fandom, which was suddenly and irreversibly dragged into the limelight thanks to Fifty Shades’ fanfiction origins, the cultural shift has been even more significant. The publishing industry is now learning how to contend with fanfiction, while fans are learning how to contend with the attention of the outside world. But what has largely gotten lost in all of this hubbub—in the endless think pieces about women’s fiction and erotica and endless debates about whether it’s ethical to take a work of fanfiction and adapt it into original fiction—is that Fifty Shades wasn’t alone.

In fact, Fifty Shades author E.L. James was actually only one ofhundreds of fanfiction writers and supporters within Twilightfandom who created this new erotic publishing phenomenon all by themselves.

These fans, most of them women, began by claiming ownership of their fanworks to an unprecedented degree. Then they spent the waning years of Twilight fandom forming small publishing presses and setting up shop as editors, designers, marketers, and writers to publish and sell the works of fanfiction they loved.

. . . .

The Twilight fandom publishing houses were born in controversy, and they have been mired in it ever since.

For decades, fanfiction was everyone’s dirty little secret. Fans often lived in fear of the discovery of their hobby and frequently saw their work pulled or deleted off the Internet at the request of the original copyright holder. Out of this culture of shame and secrecy arose fandom’s most binding ethical code: As long as fanfiction, or fic for short, remains strictly not for profit, it can reasonably be deemed fair use under the protection of current U.S. copyright law. Fanfiction’s free, just-for-fun status is its biggest protection against claims of copyright infringement, and it also helps create a unique and thriving gift-based fandom economy. Anything that breaks that code is met with scathing criticism from both fans and professionals, as was the case whenFifty Shades’ fanfiction roots were made widely known.

But “fanfic can only exist if it’s free” is a murky rule to abide by, particularly given numerous questions about what actually constitutes “profiting” and what constitutes “fanfic.” And most importantly, the idea that for-profit fanfic is illegal isn’t actually true. Under current U.S. copyright law, if the argument can successfully be made that a work of fanfiction “transforms” the original work, then it’s perfectly legal to sell it and profit from it.

. . . .

At San Diego Comic-Con in 2009, an audience member attending a panel on Twilight fanfiction asked the panelists if they’d tried to be published outside of writing fanfic. One of the panelists was Elizabeth Andrews, better known in Twilightfandom as psymom, owner of the then-major fandom hub

Andrews answered with an explanation of the ease with which you could take a Twilight All Human fic and turn it into an original fic. The idea is that all it takes is a find-and-replace on names and places in fanfiction to magically change them to original characters and settings. The practice Harper described has long been known to fandom. Older fandoms refer to it as “filing off the serial numbers,” implying that the only thing about the story that’s really changed is its alleged point of origin.

Traditionally, filing off the serial numbers on fanfiction was done in secrecy and solitude. Authors often acted with the illicit partnership of agents and editors who would quietly seek out fandom authors whose writing they admired to ask them to submit works that could be easily adapted to an original setting. This practice went on for decades, entirely under the radar. At the 2010 gathering of Book Blogger Con, which brought together book fans, publicists, and editors from around the publishing industry, keynote speaker Maureen Johnson polled a room of about 500 people to ask how many had heard of fanfiction. Less than half raised their hands.

Fanfiction was at the publishing industry’s back door, and few people knew it except the fans.

. . . .

On Jan. 1, 2010, Andrews dropped a bombshell on She and a group of other well-known Twilightfanfic writers had gotten together to form a new publishing company, Omnific Publishing, made with the express purpose of publishing “authors with a proven track record of online success in transformative works”—that is, fanfic.

Omnific’s proposed publishing model seemed to essentially cut out the role agents traditionally play in the industry, instead going directly to the authors of popular fanfics in the Twilightfandom and providing publishing services to convert those fics into original novels. The same day a discussion about the announcement on Journalfen provoked censure and ridicule.

“What could possibly go wrong?” snarked one commenter. Early on, there was speculation on publishing watch forum Absolute Write that Omnific was “an author collective.” Baffled users tried to figure out whether it was a legitimate publisher or not. But with a staff of editors, designers, marketers, and more, Omnific was legit, and over the coming months it followed up the announcement with the acquisition of new titles and the release of new anthologies. It pounded the pavement at romance conventions, fandom conventions, and publishing conventions. People took notice.

Link to the rest at The Kernel and thanks to Anne for the tip.

Top Harlequin Editors Fired

10 November 2014

Former Harlequin Executive Editor Mary-Theresa Hussey has tweeted that she was let go. She also says that HQ Senior Executive Editor Tara Gavin has been terminated.

Various tweets have also reported that Wanda Ottewell, another HQ Senior Editor has been fired.



Thanks to Sharyn for the tip.


In Loving Color: Romance 2014

9 November 2014

From Publishers Weekly:

Readers of all ethnicities devour romance novels, but the books on offer haven’t always reflected that reality. Here, we look at how publishers and authors are meeting the growing demand for multicultural romance.

Once a bastion of blonde, blue-eyed heroines and tall, dark (but not too dark) heroes, romance novels are increasingly featuring people of color on their covers and in their pages. “I think the genre has evolved as society has evolved,” says novelist Lori Bryant-Woolridge.

. . . .

“The number of multicultural romances you could find on bookshelves was limited because not all publishers were—or are—offering these types of romances,” she says. “But once authors could start uploading their own stories onto Smashwords, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble, it blew the door wide open.”

Those stories, Bryant-Woolridge says, are finding an avid audience. “Black women, in particular, are hungry to see themselves portrayed in a positive, loving light,” she explains. “Multicultural romances also allow the growing biracial population representation and validation.”

. . . .

In the 1970s, self-publishers and micropresses began releasing romance novels featuring African-Americans. But it wasn’t until 1980, when Dell Candlelight published Rosalind Welles’s Entwined Destinies, that a mainstream publisher issued an African-American romance by a black author. Harlequin published its first African-American romance in 1984: Sandra Kitt’s Adam and Eva. Such titles were relatively rare until the early 1990s, when the success of Terry McMillan’s Waiting to Exhale(Viking, 1992) woke up the publishing world.

“For many, many years, African-American, Latino, and Asian women didn’t see themselves reflected in the novels they read,” Ellis says. “It wasn’t until the early ’90s that it started to change. Now we have Brenda Jackson, Beverly Jenkins, Caridad Piñeiro, Jeannie Lin, Nalini Singh, and many, many others. The voices have gotten much more diverse, and I think readers of all cultural backgrounds really appreciate that.”

. . . .

 As with all of publishing, the retail landscape for romance is changing rapidly. Of the brick-and-mortar retailers doing a good job of stocking multicultural romances, big-box stores win the praise of several publishers. “Walmart and Target are the driving force in African-American book sales,” Kensington’s Zacharius says. “They have dedicated space for this genre, which has proven to be the most effective way to draw attention to these books.”

. . . .

 “Readers desperately want diversity in romance novels,” says Suzanne Brockmann, whose Troubleshooters and Reluctant Heroes military romances for Ballantine feature gay and straight characters of various ethnicities. “We read romance for two basic reasons: one, to see a reflection of ourselves in stories of hope and redemption, and two, to escape from our own lives—to walk a mile or a thousand in someone else’s shoes. People of color make up a huge portion of the romance-reading population.”

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly and thanks to Barb for the tip.

On Silence and Singularity and the Romance Novel

7 November 2014

From Judy Tetel Andresen:

On October 20, 2014, a symposium on the romance novel was held at Duke University entitled “Unsuitable #1.” It was organized by Katherine DuBois and Laura Florand, both of whom write romances and teach at Duke, as do I. The presentations were wonderful and the discussion lively.

One of the recurring topics was the silence that surrounds the romance novel. Despite being a billion-dollar-a-year industry, romance novels are absent from high-profile book reviewing venues, literature course curricula, and general discussions of literature.

Several people at the symposium commented that romances are also invisible. They are put in bedside drawers and not displayed either on coffee tables or on bookshelves. Sometimes they sit in paper bags at the back door, waiting to be taken to be taken somewhere such as the local library swap shelves or the used bookstore.

Indeed, the silence surrounding romance novels is deafening. In his 2011 book The Program Era: Postwar Fiction and the Rise of Creative Writing, Stanford professor Mark McGurl approaches fiction as if genre fiction didn’t exist. His goal is to explain the kind of fiction that has come out of MFA and creative writing programs.

. . . .

On October 31, 2014, another symposium, entitled “Story as Evidence,” was held at Duke. I went as both a novelist and a linguist interested in the symposium’s goal to investigate the differences and similarities in the approaches to narrative found in the humanities and the sciences.

While there, I was much struck by the presentation by a doctor from the School of Medicine at Columbia. She is a physician who wants to elicit from her patients the singular narratives about their lives as a way to understand their illnesses and how to treat them. She spoke of the singularity of each patient’s experience and how important that singularity is.

. . . .

This doctor spoke convincingly of how both scientists and artists walk into the doubt and that this walking into the doubt is a creative act. She spoke convincingly of how both scientists and artists walk into the doubt and that this walking into the doubt is a creative act. Her examples were Bach and Shakespeare and Rothko who wandered, hands outstretched, into unbearable freedom, to return and to give us an account of where they’d been. She said that this account is not so much the resolution of doubt but rather the recording of it.

I thought her descriptions were beautiful and applied to how I might begin to raise understandings of the romance novels whose whole reason for being is the investigation of individuals experiencing the mysteries of love: that plunging into doubt and delight, fear and elation when facing the power of this most basic experience of human connection.

Link to the rest at Judy Tetel Andresen and thanks to Barb for the tip.

Here’s a link to Julie Tetel Andresen’s books

Ellora’s Cave: No COO?

28 October 2014

From Sounds Like Weird LJ:

Ellora’s Cave Lost Its COO?

Behold the current LinkedIn profile of Susan Edwards, who was Ellora’s Cave’s COO.

Note that it lists “Writer and Editor” as a job from “1980 – Present”, but Ellora’s Cave from “January 2005 – October 2014″, meaning she’s no longer there.


Link to the rest at Sounds Like Weird LJ

Class Action Suit against Harlequin by its Authors Moves a Step Forward

23 October 2014

PG has just learned that the judge hearing Keiler et al v. Harlequin Enterprises Limited et al, a class-action suit brought by a group of Harlequin authors against HQ alleging a massive underpayment of royalties, has formally certified the authors as a class.

This means that the lawsuit, which was previously dismissed then reinstated in part by an appellate court, can move forward.

Here’s the order docket entry:

U.S. District Court

Southern District of New York

Notice of Electronic Filing

The following transaction was entered on 10/23/2014 at 3:00 PM EDT and filed on 10/16/2014

Case Name: Keiler et al v. Harlequin Enterprises Limited et al
Case Number: 1:12-cv-05558-WHP
Document Number: 49

Docket Text:
STIPULATION AND ORDER REGARDING CLASS CERTIFICATION:… Pursuant to stipulation of the parties, and based on the allegations in the Fourth Claim for Relief of the First Amended Complaint filed November 5, 2012 (“Complaint”) and submitted by proposed class representatives Barbara Keiler, Mona Gay Thomas, and Linda Barrett, the Court hereby certifies the claims and issues in the Complaint for class treatment under Fed. R. Civ. P. 23, as more fully set out in this Order. When fashioning an order under Rule 23, the Court must satisfy itself that the prerequisites of Fed. R. Civ. P. 23(a) have been satisfied… Once the prerequisites of Fed. R. Civ. P. 23(a) are satisfied, a class action may only be maintained if the action falls within one of the categories enumerated within Fed. R. Civ. P. 23(b)… Accordingly, the Court makes the following findings and conclusions as stated herein. THE COURT HAVING READ AND CONSIDERED the Stipulation of the parties, and finding that the requirements of Rules 23(a) and (b) are satisfied, IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that the class is certified, defined as follows as set forth herein. IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that Barbara Keiler, Mona Gay Thomas, and Linda Barrett are designated as Representative Plaintiffs for the class; IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that DavidWolfLaw PLLC and Boni & Zack LLC are appointed Class Counsel; and IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that Class Counsel are directed to submit within thirty (30) days of the entry date of this Order, a proposed plan concerning Notice of Pendency of Class Action to be given to the members of the class. (Signed by Judge William H. Pauley, III on 10/16/2014) (ja)


It’s not the end of the lawsuit, but, as mentioned, this is a major step forward for the authors.

The class covers authors from the US, Canada, UK, Republic of Ireland, Australia and New Zealand who signed standard HQ publishing contracts between 1990 and 2004 that included the following language in the All Other Rights clause:

On all other rights exercised by Publisher or its Related Licensees
fif typercent (50%) ofthe Net Amount Received by Publisher for
the license or sale of said rights. The Net Amount Received for the
exercise, sale or license of said rights by Publisher from a Related
Licensee shall, in Publisher’s estimate, be equivalent to the amount
reasonably obtainable by Publisher from an Unrelated Licensee for
the license or sale of the said rights;

Which contracts also provide that New York law will apply and include no arbitration clause. The class covers those authors whose works have been published as ebooks.

The full order is set out below (click the four-arrows box in the lower left corner for a larger version):


HQ Order (Text)

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