The Weird World of Traditional Royalties

A blue outlined book with a blue question mark hovering over it.

Last week, I got my very first (post-advance) payment of royalties for Polaris Rising! 🎉🎉🎉 Thank you all so much for your support because this means the book “earned out,” a publishing term that means I’ve earned enough royalties to cover the advance the publisher paid me.

Traditional publishing accounting is interesting, so let’s talk about it!

First, having an agent who will explain your contract and answer questions is an enormous help, if not a requirement. I usually don’t lay down laws because everyone’s situation is different, but personally, I would not sign a publishing contract without an agent (hi, Ms. Sarah, I love you!). But that’s a whole other post, and today we’re talking about getting paid.

If your eyes glaze over at numbers and you’re not an aspiring author, you may want to skip this one. :)

When an author signs a contract with a traditional publisher, the publisher generally pays an advance. They calculate the advance based on how well they think the book will do, and where it fits in their lineup, and what phase the moon is in (okay, maybe not that last one, but there’s a lot of things involved I don’t know about). This advance is an advance payment on future royalties—hence the term advance.

Advances range from almost nothing to millions, depending on the author, their audience, the number of books contracted, and the author’s previous publishing history. Publishers Marketplace even has a coy little key for deal news so everyone can tell where the deal fell in the range without actually coming out and saying it:

“nice deal”:$1 – $49,000
“very nice deal”:$50,000 – $99,000
“good deal”:$100,000 – $250,000
“significant deal”:$251,000 – $499,000
“major deal”:$500,000 and up

So someone who got a “good deal” made an advance between $100k – $250k, which is a pretty big range.

Once the number is nailed down by your agent and the publisher, then you get paid—yay! But you don’t get the whole thing at once.

The Ridiculous Bread Pan That I Love

Last week, Sludge (my sourdough starter) celebrated his one-year birthday. That means we’ve been in a pandemic for over a year at this point, but let’s not dwell on the negatives.

For the past year, I’ve mostly been baking sourdough in round boules in a dutch oven. A round boule is pretty easy to shape, and it bakes up nice and tall in the dutch oven without a lot of fussing, but it’s a bit harder to cut than a nice loaf-shaped loaf.

So after a year of baking, I decided to try my hand at loaves. The problem is, sourdough likes to have steam to really get that nice oven spring that gives it its height and airy texture. Professional bakery ovens have a steam setting that does the work for you. Home ovens, not so much (at least not mine).

There are a myriad of ways people try to get around this: pans of hot water, cast iron skillets filled with lava rocks and boiling water, spraying the oven walls with a squirt bottle, and so on and so forth. All of it requires fussing, and I am anti-fussing.

I tried a few things and none of them worked as well as a dutch oven, which traps the bread’s own steam in the vessel. So I set about finding a loaf-shaped dutch oven equivalent.

Enter the Emile Henry Italian Bread Baker. This ridiculously priced piece of ceramic seemed to be exactly what I was looking for.

But that price. Ouch.

So I waffled for weeks. I looked at every other option in the history of the world, most of which weren’t that much cheaper and some of which were way more expensive.

Finally, in a fit of retail therapy, I gave in and bought it, and a few days later, my new ceramic precious showed up.

Shaping a long loaf is a bit weird, and I’m still in the learning stage, but I made something vaguely log-shaped, plonked it in the bread baker just like it was a dutch oven, then deposited the whole thing in the oven—no fussing required. (If you’re looking for a no-knead recipe, I highly recommend King Arthur’s.)

A crusty loaf of sourdough bread on a wire rack.

Fifty-five-ish minutes later, out came a beautiful, light, crusty loaf. I didn’t quite get the scoring right, so there was a bit of an explosion, but the bread still tastes fantastic.

The same loaf in the Emile Henry pan, after we'd sliced some off for sandwiches.
My preciousssss…

And the best part was it was very low effort, which, really, is my favorite kind of baking.

Was the pan ridiculously expensive? Yes. Am I glad I bought it? Also yes. Will I get my money’s worth? Ehhh… that remains to be seen, but I’ve baked bread for a year already, so it’s possible.

But even if it wasn’t the most financially sound decision, it’s already made me happy, and that’s worth a lot. :)

A Tale of Two Shots

A selfie of me in the car wearing a mask and holding up a "I got my covid-19 vaccine!" sticker.

This week, I got my second dose of the Moderna vaccine, so now I’m fully vaccinated! 🎉

I was in group 1B, but with a lot of the country expanding eligibility to everyone, I thought I’d tell you about my experience so you know what to expect if you haven’t gotten your shots yet.

I got the first shot about a month ago and it gave me a sore arm for a few days. The first twenty-four-ish hours were really sore, then there were a couple of days of just lingering soreness. Otherwise, I didn’t have any other symptoms. Easy peasy.

Shot two was a whole different beast. If you don’t have a flexible work schedule, I recommend getting the second shot when you have the next day off. I got my shot Wednesday afternoon. By Wednesday night, my arm was once again sore, but this time the pain was bad enough to interrupt my sleep.

So Wednesday night I didn’t sleep well. By Thursday morning, I was feeling achy, but I got up and tried to work. I spent two hours staring at my computer in a fog, wrote a grand total of seven words, and decided that maybe the couch was a better option.

I spent the rest of the day dozing. I ran a low-grade fever (the highest was 100.3F) and my bones ached. Specifically, my thigh bones and hip joints. Why those? Who knows! In the evening, I went for a slow walk with Mr. M, then promptly returned to the sofa.

By 9:30, I decided to move to the bed, “to read.” By 9:35, I was asleep, which is kind of a miracle on its own. I slept eleven hours and woke up this morning feeling pretty good. My fever is gone, I can no longer actively feel my bones, and while my arm is still sore, it’s a lingering pain, not an intense one.

Could I have powered through it yesterday and worked anyway? Probably. And if I was on deadline, I might’ve tried harder. But I’m doing my best to be kind to myself this year, so I took the day off.

Would I get the shot again if I had it to do over? YES, YES, A THOUSAND TIMES YES.

I hope everyone gets their shots. Selfishly, I want to be able to return to normal and go out and see my friends and travel and do things.

But I also don’t want anyone else to die. I don’t want the virus to have enough hosts to continue to mutate into something that will once again kill hundreds of thousands. I want to be able to stop worrying about my parents, and my friends, and my brother, who is on the front lines as a fireman.

If you can get the vaccine, please do. And encourage those around you to do it, too. :)

Book Rec: Taming Demons for Beginners

For the past year, reading has been kind of hit and miss for me. My Kindle is a graveyard of half-finished books, many of them books I was really looking forward to, but they just didn’t work for me for whatever reason (spoiler: global pandemic).

Usually, if I can carve out time to read a book straight through, I’ll make it to the end, but if I have to stop for any reason, the book becomes dead to me, even if I was enjoying it up until that point.

Don’t ask me how my brain works, it’s a mystery.

So when I find a book that pulls me to the end through a pause, it’s a bit of a miracle right now. And when I find a series that does it… well, the light from heaven shines down and angels sing.

Taming Demons for Beginners (The Guild Codex: Demonized Book 1) by Annette Marie Cover

This week, that book was Taming Demons for Beginners by Annette Marie. I’m a little late to the party on this one because it came out in 2019, but I glommed the whole four-book series SO! FAST!

And when I did have to put it down, I picked it right back up the next day. It’s compulsively readable in the best possible way (aka not because of cliffhangers, etc).

Set in a world where magic is common but secret, a grieving young woman discovers her uncle is into illegal demon summoning. Unfortunately for her, the demon is imprisoned in a magic circle in the library, but books, so she ends up spending time there because the draw of books is stronger than the fear of demons.

And then she starts taking to him.

And feeding him cookies.

And realizing maybe he’s not the mindless beast she’s been led to believe.

The book is a delight from start to finish. It’s available in Kindle Unlimited, so if you have a subscription, you can try it for free. If not, I recommend reading a sample before purchase, as per usual, because books are subjective. This was exactly what my brain needed this week, but that might not be true for you. :)

The next three books, Slaying Monsters for the Feeble, Hunting Fiends for the Ill-Equipped, and Delivering Evil for Experts are also available in KU, and I recommend them all.

Happy reading!

Keep On Keeping On

The pandemic quarantine is a year old now, at least around here, and I’ve somehow yet to adapt. We’re luckier than many because Mr. M and I can both work from home. But there’s been a lot of at home time now.

Don’t get me wrong, I like my home. I’m a homebody, so I prefer it to most places. But finding creativity after staring at the same walls for twelve months has been… difficult. I’m starting to write New Shiny 2: EVEN SHINIER, and it feels more like the working title should be Dread: The Dreadening.

I was going to write a sekrit indie thing, too, but I just don’t know if it’s going to happen. I was supposed to start on it in February, but February got swallowed into the void, so no dice. I need to write it, both for career and financial reasons and because I want y’all to be able to read something new this year since Hunted (aka New Shiny) doesn’t come out until early next year.

But the motivation is… bleh. I sit down to write and bleh. Bleh bleh bleh.

Same thing for New Shiny 2, which I am under contract to write, and if I don’t, they will ask for their money back with many angry lawyers.

And the thing is, I *love* Hunted. Re-reading snippets of it, I think it turned out great, even if a quarter of it was written in a caffeine-fueled haze in December. Edits are due to land this month as the publishing machine creaks to life, so hopefully my editor likes it as much as I do, lol.

I love the characters and the world, and I want to tell the next story.

Right up until the point I sit down to write.

This is a lot of words to say: if you’re struggling with creative work, I see you. Everything is very bleh, and creative work is hard when many of the things that spark creativity (overhearing conversations in the grocery store, seeing people on the street, having drinks with friends) have all been put on hold for a year.

But there is light coming. I’m in group 1B, and last week I got my first dose of the vaccine. The weather is warming up, so more outdoor activities are available. We just have to keep on keeping on. We’ve got this! :)