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April 2014

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don't have to speak anymore

Somebody just emailed to ask me, in light of Amazonfailers saying how overpaid (and wealthy and greedy) authors are, how long it takes me to write a book. She phrased it in terms of 40 hour work weeks.

I had to answer, I have no idea.

My schedule for today:

6:30 am: wake up, roll over, push cat off laptop and start writing Grail.
8:30 am: 771 words! Good enough. Time to quit and go for a run, do some yoga, shower, eat breakfast. (While running, work on plot elements for Shadow Unit.
9:30 am: back at the laptop, reading a book for review, answering business emails, waiting for mailman, proofreading galleys
12:00 pm: Run errands--bread, dental floss, vitamins, kitty drugs 
1:00 pm: Go to gym, swim, think about a scene for The Steles of the Sky.
2:00 pm: Eat a heck of a lot of sushi.
3:00 pm: Home, working. Write that scene for The Steles of the Sky (already written in my head.) Write another portion of the scene for Grail. Damn character still not dead.  Maybe tomorrow morning.
6:00 pm: Fuck this, I'm starving.
7:00 pm: Brush dog and watch Memento
9:30 pm: take out trash, take dog out, feed dog (OMG we need dogfood yesterday), crap cats have no water, can nobody in this place but me wash a dish?
10:00 pm: answer work emails, pet cats, back to reading that book for review. I thought I might get the review written tonight, and I still might, but I wrote this blog post instead.
Midnight: fall the hell over.

I get paid somewhere around $12,000 for a book. That's before my agent and the IRS get their cut. If you want to know how I write three books a year? That's how. If you want to know why I write three books a year....

Yeah.

You know what? It's a great job, but I'm in it for the love, not the money.

You know, publishing runs on tiny little margins. I happen to think a book that takes me something like three years of my life to write (albeit intermittently) is worth $15.99 if you want to read it as soon as it comes out. (And I also think $4.99 is a fair price for backlist.)

See, only about 10% of the cost of a book is paper and ink. There's all that effort that goes into it, too--the effort of people like me, and my editors, and my copyeditors, and the cover artists, and the book designers.

Every single one of those people has to pay rent and eat. Some of them, poor sots, live in Manhattan, because that's where they keep the publishing industry these days.

I'm a professional, with years of experience and practice behind me. I have a shiny rocketship or two and a couple of cheeseboards that say other people also think I'm halfway good at my job.

I am not a bestseller. I am a midlist author with no spouse, no means of support other than writing, and no family money. I work hard.

(I'm not actually interested in discussing this topic; nor am I interested in arguing it. As far as I'm concerned, the current slapfight is exactly as boring as every other slapfight I've ever seen, and I don't have time to moderate a slapfight. But I did think it would be nice to give a solid answer to the question "So how long does it take you to write a book?" So here it is, and I am taking the unusual step (for me) of screening comments from non-friends.)

And if you excuse me, I have to go read this book so I can turn in this damned book review.



ETA And it's one AM and I finished that book finally. Night, guys. </b>

Comments

I write fiction pretty quickly -- lots of time thinking before I type, admittedly -- so the wages work out okay for me, but then, I have a day job I enjoy, too, and novel money has mostly gone to paying down debt and buying used cars and having a wedding and such, rather than to keeping the lights on and buying food.

Alas, my novel career seems to have stalled with my editor's layoff last year, etc. I've admired the way you diversified across multiple publishing companies, creating something more like job security, which I haven't managed. I'm hoping to get a bite on one of the books or proposals I've got out now, but who knows. In the meantime I'm freelancing as much as possible, doing work for hire stuff, and selling short fiction... and, since my wife was out of work for six months, that writing money *is* necessary to buy food and keep the lights on lately. It was a perfect storm of suck -- my career hit turbulence just as my family's economic situation went bad.

But, still, best job in the world. I love it. I love it more when I get lots of readers and lots of money, but I love the writing regardless, even when it's hard. I do laugh when people point to me as a "successful" writer, though. Really, really depends on how you measure success. I measure it by being able to write whatever I want and find an audience for that big enough to support my efforts. Still working toward that.
Yeah. I'm not a very fast writer. My best days are around 6K and I get maybe one or two of those a year--1500-2000 words is more typical. And for that, I work pretty much all day.

I diversified because I kept getting rejecting. *g* And it worked out well, because at least one of those publishers has since dropped me.

And yeah, that's how I measure success as a writer, too. That and being able to eat. Eating is nice.