Did you plan to include any advice in your advice?

by Rich on June 20, 2013

Yesterday I started listening to a new writing podcast. It features interviews with writers and covers fiction, non-fiction, screenwriting, and probably anything else you can scribble down.The first episode I pulled down was on “Selling your work”.

Unfortunately, it lacked a critical subtitle: “We know nothing about this.”

I’m dramatizing here, but it’s remarkably close.

Host: How did you sell that first novel?

Interviewee: Well, it was associated with a TV show, so I called up an agent, and a week later he called me back and said it was sold.

Host: Wow, that seems fast!

Interviewee: Does it? Cool.

Host: How was the advance?

Interviewee: Small, but it was my first novel, so I took whatever they offered. [NB, this is the only part of the discussion with actual content.]

Host: And how about royalties? What’s your rate? 15%?

Interviewee: I don’t think so. It’s probably more like 8%. Is that right? Maybe 7.5% I don’t really know.

Host: Can you renegotiate? I don’t know what’s standard. Is that right?

Interviewee: No clue. I get a statement every six months that says something about royalties. It probably explains things.

I had to stop listening there. Can you imagine anyone peddling advice doing that?

“Hi, welcome to Car Talk. We really don’t know anything about your car, so take it to your mechanic and pay him whatever he wants — that’s our advice. And now, the puzzler!”

“‘Dear Abby, how do I fix my problem with my family?’ Wow, that’s a tricky one. Did you try hoping that it will get better on its own?”

“Well, Mr. Jones, I’ve reviewed the contract. In my professional opinion, I think you should probably read it before you sign it. There might be a problem in there, but I couldn’t really say?”

“Your test results came in, and I have them here. Does that seem normal to you for a kidney?”

If your goal is to discuss how to treat writing as a business, you need to at least pretend to treat it like a business. A kid mowing lawns for the summer is more rigorous. Working the numbers is not shameful, it’s your responsibility.

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