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September 2010

September: Ravens

Gallery

Columns

  • Behind the Art:
    Ink Washes and Crosshatching
  • Artist Spotlight:
    Interview With Brenda Lyons
  • Wombat Droppings:
    On 23-Book Deals
  • EMG News:
    News for September
  • Ask an Artist:
    Colours Tests

    Features

  • Ravens

    Fiction

  • Poem: Asking Lenore How to Write
  • Fiction: Remaking The Raven
  • Fiction: The Messenger
  • Poem: When Raven Alights
  • Poem: Birdtale
  • Fiction: Oskela's Raven


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  • On 23-Book Deals
    Wombat Droppings
    by Ursula Vernon

    Apparently--and thankfully I missed the first incarnation, although now, a week later, the fact-checking has caught up--there was a furor or flurry or flurror on Twitter some days ago about a six-year-old signing a 23 book deal for childrens' books.

    I know how the internet works, I pretty much live on it, but I cannot for the life of me fathom how this one spread. I know, with the bleak knowledge of one who has PMS at the time of this writing, that humanity does include many probably-otherwise-worthy individuals who would retweet anything, but still...no. Just...no.

    However. Realizing that the world is full of people that do not have the faintest idea how publishing works, and that I only think this is weird because I'm in the industry and thus assuming that everybody knows it, but most people really don't...here's the truth: six year olds do not get 23-book deals.

    No one gets 23-book deals. God does not get 23-book deals. 23-book deals, to the best of my knowledge, do not exist, unless one wished to get technical with the licensing of properties like Star Trek and Star Wars, in which case the holding company might possibly get a contract that could, with a little squinting in a bad light, look something like a deal that somebody not in the industry might then call a 23 book deal, but otherwise? No. It doesn't happen.

    You might get a deal for a couple of books. It might turn into a deal for a couple more. (Case in point--I got a deal for two Dragonbreath books, which extended, by ones and twos, to a seven book deal.) But you generally don't get a huge number off the bat, because publishers aren't idiots, and they don't want to be locked into some enormous number if it turns out that your book has all the popular appeal of leprosy.

    There are exceptions. I've heard four, five, six volumes on a first deal. But there are not exceptions that I have ever heard that involve numbers like "twenty-three."

    Now, that doesn't mean you couldn't have twenty-three books in a series. People do it all the time, particularly mystery writers. But the publishers don't buy them all up front. They buy a couple, they see how they do, they buy a couple more and this is the way you, the author, want it to be, because if they HAVE done well, you can start getting significantly larger advances, and if they did terrible, you can go do something else with your life instead of spending the next twenty-three years turning out a book a year which your publisher will put out five copies of and never promote because, again, they did terrible.

    That wouldn't be a book deal, it'd be indentured servitude. To somebody who thought they were buying a pony.

    Believe it or not, an enormous book deal is not the chief goal of the writer's life. It probably should not be the chief goal of your life. You want a nice, sane goal, a goal that has you gainfully employed for a couple of years, provides a nice chunk of change, and hopefully does well and then lets you do something else. Or do the same thing for more money, if such is your desire.

    Six books? Great number. Know a lot of people who have six book deals. Four? Perfectly respectable. A trilogy? Fantastic, graceful number, some genres a trilogy is practically a given. (Fantasy, I'm looking in your direction.) Two books? Been there myself, was delighted to have it, it turned into more, and that was great too.
    Twenty-three? No. They wouldn't offer, and you wouldn't want it if they did.

    And this doesn't even address the bit with the six-year-old, particularly since it turns out to have been some weird publicity thing by the real writer (his mother) to try and promote a series in which a single book exists, "published" (and I use the term loosely) by a morally bankrupt, sued-for-fraud vanity press, and really, guys, I know we live in a wild and crazy new marketplace of publishing and self-publishing sometimes does work and there are very respectable self-published independent authors, some of which I count as friends,and but dear god this is not how you do it.

    Ursula Vernon
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