This week - a guest post by Jess Lourey and Shannon Baker:
“I don’t really like talking about money. All I can say is that the Good Lord must have really wanted me to have it.” –Larry Bird
That’s two more things Larry Bird and I don’t have in common. I love talking about money, and the Good Lord has yet to get around to dousing me with it (I await patiently). I know talking about money is supposed to be tacky, and apologies to you if you’re in that camp because that’s exactly what Shannon Baker, author of the latest Kate Fox mystery, Dark Signal, and me, author of the recently-released humorous mystery March of Crime, are here today to talk with you about. (Shannon here: Yikes! Jess is yanking me so far out of my comfort zone my repression shorts are chafing me.)
Shannon, do you remember how much your first advance check was for?
Shannon: It’s like sex, you always remember your first time. You ought to sit down, because this will shock you. My first advance was for Ashes of the Red Heifer, a thriller I published with L&L Dreamspell in 2010. It was $200. That’s two hundred whole dollars. I went back and asked them to please make it $250 because then I would qualify for the published author’s group for Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers. They graciously did.
Jess: So that stereotype about all writers being rich is obviously true. My first advance was $1500 for May Day, my 2006 inaugural Murder-by-Month mystery, and I tell you what, I would have sold that book for $10, that’s how happy I was to be offered a publishing contract. Why you think writers are so loathe to talk about how much (little) we make? Wouldn’t having that information help us to be better negotiators?
Shannon: It’s like if you ask a rancher how big his ranch is. He’ll likely say, “Big enough to run the cows I have.” Ask how many cows he owns, and he’ll tell you, “Enough to eat the grass I’ve got.” For writers, it’s probably two-fold: shame, because if pay reflects quality we don’t want people to think we aren’t valued very highly, or, self-preservation, because if you’re making a bunch, everyone expects you to pick up the bar tab.
Then there’s just natural squeamishness. I mean, in polite company, you don’t ask a stranger at a dinner party how much they earn. If they’re a doctor or teacher, you put some clues together and ball park it. With writers, though, there’s no ball park. It’s a vast wilderness.
Jess: That is so dang true. Well said. Can I ask what your biggest writing check to date has been?
Shannon: *Gulp* I just… well. Sorry. I feel comfortable saying my latest contract was five figures. It is not enough to live on, especially when you factor that a good chunk of that went right back into promotion and conferences.
Jess: Fair enough. I received a $11,517 royalty check in 2012 for my Murder-by-Month mysteries. That was fantastic and unexpected. The highest advance I’ve ever received was $6000 for Salem’s Cipher, and it’s my understanding that that’s a pretty standard advance for midlist authors such as myself. Or am I lowlist? Today, I’m just lowbrow.
Shannon, how much do you think a writer needs to make, and for how long, before they can quit their day job?
Shannon: I never imagined I’d make money from writing. Like you with your first book, Jess, I just wanted someone to offer me a contract. With every book, every contract, I get a little more successful, my expectations rise, and I take the money side of the business more seriously. I am lucky enough to be aged-out of the day job so I can keep writing AND eating.
Jess: Yep, I need a sugar daddy. But I would prefer to be a sugar momma. I refinanced my house in 2013 so I could afford to take a year off and write full-time. Based on that experiment, I’d calculate that I’d need to make $60,000 a year for three years, plus have that much in savings, before I could risk quitting the day job, at least while I still have kids living at home.
How about you, dear readers? Do you see full-time writing in your future, and if so, do you have an income threshold you’d need to meet before you’d be willing to quit your day job?
Please join Shannon and Jessie as they continue their blog tour. They will each be giving away three books this tour, and every comment you leave at a blog stop gets you one chance to win. For another chance to win a book, sign up for Jess and/or Shannon’s newsletters on their websites (links below).
Jess Lourey (rhymes with "dowry") is best known for her critically-acclaimed Murder-by-Month mysteries, which have earned multiple starred reviews from Library Journal and Booklist, the latter calling her writing "a splendid mix of humor and suspense." She is a tenured professor of creative writing and sociology, a regular Psychology Today blogger, a sought-after workshop leader and keynote speaker who delivered the 2016 "Rewrite Your Life" TEDx Talk, and the author of Rewrite Your Life, the only book out there which shows you how to turn your facts into healing, page-turning fiction. You can find out more at www.jessicalourey.com
Shannon Baker is the author of the Kate Fox mystery series (Tor/Forge). Set in the isolated cattle country of the Nebraska Sandhills, Kirkus says, “Baker serves up a ballsy heroine, a colorful backdrop, and a surprising ending.” She also writes the Nora Abbott mystery series (Midnight Ink), featuring Hopi Indian mysticism and environmental issues. Shannon makes her home in Tucson where she enjoys cocktails by the pool, breathtaking sunsets, a crazy Weimeraner, and killing people (in the pages of her books). She was voted Rocky Mountain Fiction Writer’s 2014 Writer of the Year. Visit Shannon at www.Shannon-Baker.com